From bloody contracts on Smackdown to tear-jerking returns on Raw, it’s a heavy hitter as “go home” faces off against “Rumble rebound” in this week’s Red Versus Blue!
Ah, the Royal Rumble! The second-oldest, and possibly most anticipated event in the history of the WWE. In my opinion, this is the perfect event to use as an introduction to wrestling. The concept is simple enough, 30 competitors enter in ninety second intervals, eliminations take place when someone is thrown over the top rope with both feet touching the ringside floor, last person standing main events Wrestlemania. Truthfully, the simplistic nature of the Royal Rumble may very well be the secret to it’s long-standing reign as one of WWE’s most popular shows.
As of late, I’ve become increasingly enamoured with the idea of simplicity in professional wrestling. It’s undeniable that there are certain things within the wrestling world that will always work. Any older fan can tell you what they thought the moment Shawn Michaels turned on Marty Jannetty, and most younger fans can tell you exactly what went through their minds when Thomaso Ciampa turned on Johnny Gargano.
Although these are two very different moments, the simple idea of a friend betraying another resonates with anyone and therefore will always work. Over the last few months, both WWE and it’s fledgeling competitor AEW have found themselves criticized by fans for being overly complicated and increasingly convoluted. Yes, most of your diehard professional wrestling fans watch Being the Elite and can see the storyline blueprints the WWE works off of, but the “casual” fans are left scratching their heads more often than not.
All Elite Wrestling has made a point of being the alternative to WWE since their debut, emphasizing heavily on appealing to the more seasoned fans. However, the WWE has chosen to try to appeal to the entirety of the wrestling community with less than stellar results. The point I’m trying to make is that the key to making everyone in the professional wrestling world happy is simplicity. Look at everything the NWA has accomplished while utilizing an extremely basic style and tell me I’m wrong.
With the idea of simplicity firmly cemented in our minds, we now turn to this week’s offerings of WWE programming. It very much seemed like my new “mantra of simplicity” was in full effect as Vince and Co. delivered two above-average shows this week. But with Smackdown riding the high waves of Rumble anticipation, and Raw feeding off the buzz that the Rumble left in its wake, the question we gather every week to answer slowly begins to come into focus… Which show was better?
You know the shtick, folks! Every week I watch the shows, make the notes, and then deliver unto you fine readers my semi-informed opinion of which show was better overall. So, before I launch into another near nonsensical fantasy booking inspired rant, let’s jump right into this week’s positives!
Opening in an unusual manner, this week’s Smackdown started off with a 6-man tag team match pitting Roman Reigns and The Usos against Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, and Robert Roode. This match absolutely embodied the simplistic idea I preached about in the introduction. Corbin’s team utilized an old school heel mindset as they methodically broke down both Jimmy and Jey, effectively turning the match into a three on one handicap.
Eventually, Jey Uso would shift the momentum of the bout, perfectly executing the tried and true babyface comeback finish as Roman and Corbin fought amongst the crowd to tease their upcoming Rumble match. The highly controversial Jim Cornette is quoted as saying, “You always start a great wrestling show with a great tag team match.” Well, they don’t get much better than this.
Next up in Smackdown’s good column has to be the New Day’s promo and the single’s match that followed. Firstly, can we all go ahead and agree that Big E is a comedic genius? Sure, most of us have seen AEW’s Michael Nakazawa using baby oil as a major part of his gimmick, but Big E’s expressions and mannerisms bring a new level of ridiculousness that you can’t help but chuckle over. I have to admit that finding out that the New Day and Miz and Morrison would all be competing in the Rumble rather than facing off for the Smackdown Tag Titles was disappointing, but Kofi and Morrison’s match was a great consolation.
It legit felt like Vince looked at both men before the match and said, “Go do flippy shit, damnit!” and if that’s the case, then the old man still has some idea of what his fans want to see. With a tag match undoubtedly in the future of these four men, this was a nice tease of what we have to look forward to moving on from the Rumble.
Finishing off the Blue Brand’s positive list is the macabre signing of Daniel Bryan and The Fiend’s strap match contract. This… was… FANTASTIC! The setup of Daniel defiantly looping the strap around his wrist while challenging Wyatt to show himself only to have The Fiend appear with the other end of the strap around his wrist was beyond perfect. The brutal attack that followed was only outdone by the final shots of The Fiend maiming his own hand before leaving the now blood-stained contact next to Daniel’s head.
It’s great seeing WWE being able to ramp the gimmick of The Fiend back up this easily the moment there are whispers about it becoming stale. Even Bray seems to be fully set on keeping The Fiend fresh, as his mannerisms under the mask now seem to be made with the intent of making it look like the mask is actually moving. It’s anyone’s guess what’s next for Bray Wyatt after the Rumble, but I’m going to say we might just see Taker versus The Fiend at Wrestlemania.
Switching gears to the post-Royal Rumble Raw, it’s safe to say the WWE’s flagship show picked up right where the rumble stopped! Kicking off the show was Men’s Rumble winner Drew McIntyre declaring his challenge for Brock Lesnar’s WWE Championship before taking on Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows in a 2-on-1 handicap match. This open beautifully established McIntyre’s face turn. Even the eventual ambush from Brock Lesnar felt fairly well done with only one F-5 being dealt before the visibly shook champion stalked away. It’s more than likely that this year’s Wrestlemania will see the former “chosen one” capture his first main roster world title, and I personally think that means the lead up is going to be the stuff of legend.
Next up on Raw’s good column is a moment that could’ve earned a negative mention, but due to the match it lead into, I’m counting it as highlight. After Drew McIntyre left no questions about who he’d be facing at Wrestlemania, Women’s Rumble winner Charlotte Flair cut her own promo stating that she’s “still thinking about” who she’ll be challenging at Mania. Infuriating as this was, the egotistical second-generation talent was quickly interrupted by Women’s Tag Team Champions, The Kabuki Warriors, as former Rumble winner Asuka challenged Flair to an exhibition match. What followed was easily the best match of the night.
Asuka and Flair are possibly the best female wrestlers currently employed by the WWE and never is this more apparent than when they’re facing each other. With the match ending in a disqualification due to outside interference from Kairi Sane, and Flair’s promo emphasizing the word “championship”, it’s very likely that we may see Charlotte partner up and challenge the Kabuki Warriors for her Wrestlemania match. Truthfully, I think more fans would be into that than yet another Becky and Charlotte match.
Finishing off this week’s positives is the heartwarming/heartbreaking return of Edge. After returning during the Royal Rumble to what may have been the loudest pop I’ve ever heard, Adam “Edge” Copeland made his highly anticipated return to Monday Night Raw. Edge spoke of what if’s and ending his career on his terms before being joined by his former tag partner Randy Orton. The two men embraced, and Orton quickly suggested the idea of a reunion match for “Rated RKO”. However, the “Apex Predator” soon showed his true intention as he delivered an RKO out of nowhere on the unassuming Edge.
What followed was possibly one of the most emotionally palpable attacks I’ve seen in professional wrestling. Orton launched into an assault with a chair but seemed distraught throughout. Several times Randy set up one attack, only to seemingly change his mind and reposition the chair. Even the closing moments emphasized Orton’s mental duplicity concerning the attack, pushing his heel status with his trademark pose before wiping tears from his face after he exited the ring. This is undoubtedly the best storyline to restart Edge’s career with. Edge’s elimination of Orton during the Rumble perfectly sets up Orton being resentful of Edge and the immediate love he received from the fans. For the first time in a long while, WWE is finally giving us stuff to look forward to.
Although it was admittedly harder to find faults with this week’s shows, it goes without saying that neither was perfect. Starting off Smackdown’s negatives is the Lacey Evans interview. Holy crap, everything this woman says makes my eyes roll! All this talk about “defeating bullies” is really hard to take seriously when she was one of those “bullies” about six months ago! Also, we all know she’s former military personnel! It doesn’t have to be stated every single time we see her. Seriously, I can’t see Lacey Evans now without thinking “former military” and “mom”. Why is this a problem? Because she’s a wrestler! If the first thing that comes to mind when you see a wrestler isn’t wrestling, then maybe all that other stuff should stop being pushed! I’ll admit that this whole segment did eventually lead to a great tease for the Women’s Rumble, but that isn’t going to keep it off the bad column.
The second negative for the Blue Brand is the latest vignette from Sheamus. I am so glad they showed clips from past weeks during this because otherwise, the entire thing would’ve made Sheamus look like a mad man. “Greasiest Rat”? “Enjoy that cheese?” What the hell was he talking about?! Oh, and isn’t it kind of funny that Sheamus talked about targeting the “weak” members of the roster and now he’s feuding with one of the smallest? That seems like profiling to me! This return could’ve been so good for Sheamus, but instead, it looks like he’s on preshow duty with a guy Vince dislikes so much that he named him “Shorty”.
Moving on to Monday Night’s negatives first up is the Tag Team Championship match. There’s really not a lot of positive things to be said about the state of Seth Rollins’ new stable. The group serves no real purpose, the members make little sense if any, and the fact they’ve been immediately opposed by Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe makes it feel like there’s nowhere for this group to go! That being said, the actual match was nothing to sneer at, but the entire storyline can’t help but feel flat. Hopefully, the next few weeks will see this angle become something truly enjoyable, but for the time being it’s staying in the bad column.
Next up for Raw’s negatives is yet another backstage spot from the Street Profits. Remember when these guys used to wrestle? I really hope this is over for someone because I personally find it completely pointless. I would much rather watch a great tag team match featuring the Street Profits than listen to them badly beatbox other wrestlers theme songs. If spots like this are the only reason Dawkins and Ford were called up to the main roster then please do us all a favour and let them go back to NXT.
Wrapping up the negatives for this week is Aleister Black’s squash match and subsequent promo. You know, if WWE really wanted us to believe Black is this “dark warrior” they might consider putting a title on him. This angle was already half dead before Buddy Murphy left it to become Seth’s disciple! After successfully feuding with Murphy, it makes zero sense for Black to say he hasn’t been challenged and is now actively seeking an opponent. This absolutely feels like creative dragging their feet due to lack of material. WWE in no way wants to lose talent the calibre of Aleister, so instead, we get squash matches and open-ended promos.
It’s undeniable that the past four days have been host to some of the best content WWE has delivered in a very long time, but when it comes down to Raw against Smackdown I’m going to say this week’s winner is…
I’m not going to lie, this was a hard decision to make. Both shows were of an above-average quality that I hope we can look forward to seeing more regularly. At the end of the day, it was the emotional roller coaster of Edge’s return that earned Raw the victory. Bray’s bloody signature definitely made me mark out, but it pales in comparison to Randy’s systematic assault on his former friend.
Well, with another winner in the books, the time comes once again for me to bid you fine readers farewell the only way I know how.
Until next week, may all your kicks be super and every frog splash five stars.
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