It’s “go home” against “what’s next” as the SmackDown before Survivor Series faces off with the Raw after in this week’s Red vs. Blue!
From quasi-united rosters complete with matching shirts to butt hurt blame appropriation, it’s crazy how much difference one weekend can make! Survivor Series has come and gone with NXT handily establishing themselves as the new dominant brand within WWE, however, this is one of those rare weeks where we’ll be comparing the show immediately prior to Sunday’s pay per view to the show immediately following said pay per view.
No two shows could be better situated on opposing ends of the spectrum than these. Friday night was all hype and circumstance whereas Monday consisted mainly of finger-pointing and head hanging. NXT’s victory changed the perceived landscape of the WWE overnight, the unintentional (albeit advantageous for your’s truly!) result being two shows that are perfectly suited for comparison!
You know the schtick, ladies and gentlemen. Every week I watch the shows, make the notes, and then finish it all up by supplying you fine readers with my semi-informed opinion on which was the overall better program. So, with the introduction and explanation handled in the usual fashion, it’s time for us to jump right into things with the positive aspects from this week’s shows!
Friday night’s offering may have kicked off with a lacklustre segment featuring most the Blue brand’s roster squabbling amongst themselves, intent on stopping any possible invasion from Raw or NXT, but the storylines outside of the Survivor Series elimination matches are what kept SmackDown watchable this week.
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m a sucker for championship belts, so it should come as no surprise that Sami Zayn’s presentation of a brand new Intercontinental Championship definitely made the plus column this week. Truthfully, it doesn’t hurt when previously mentioned championship looks absolutely beautiful, but this positive point goes a little deeper than that. The white strap IC title, introduced by then-champion Cody Rhodes in 2011, was a retro reference to the design originally worn by the likes of Shawn Michaels and the Ultimate Warrior.
Although it definitely wasn’t without it’s the classic charm, the relevance of the former Intercontinental design has undoubtedly diminished over the past few years. Applying a fresh coat of paint not only establishes a sort of “brand new” chic to the classic championship but also gives it a reason to become more sought after. Oh, and keeping the word “Heavyweight” included as a subtle nod to the title’s original name….so good!
Moving right along, the past months have not been the kindest to Daniel Bryan. From the eco-friendly, hemp WWE Championship to a rather confusing tag team championship reign with Erick Rowan, it’s safe to say Daniel’s heel turn has been less than successful. However, Bryan’s recent tweak from eco-terrorist to no-nonsense tweener certainly seems like a positive step in correcting the course of the “New” Daniel Bryan character.
I’ll admit that Bryan being currently involved in an angle against Bray Wyatt may sway my opinion slightly, but I couldn’t help but think of Dean Malenko as I watched Daniel’s segments both this week and last. The long sleeve shirt with his wrestling tights, the cold demeanour, the unwillingness to embrace the “Yes” moment, all of it comes together to form the perfect visage of the atypical “grizzled old vet” tired of everyone’s crap. This is where Daniel needs to stay for a while. Not “Yes”, not “No”, just Daniel Bryan.
Segueing from Daniel Bryan to the man he challenged for the Bl-Universal Championship at Survivor Series, I am still marking out over Bray Wyatt’s appearance at the end of Friday night’s show! I know that arena lights going down only to reveal a surprise upon their return is a fairly played-out trope in professional wrestling, but the unique spin of Bray appearing in the exact same position that the Miz previously inhabited made this moment all the more memorable as well as unnerving. Why did such a subtle change make all the difference during SmackDown’s closing segment? Because it was something we hadn’t seen before and that’s exactly what pro wrestling needs right now. Don’t agree with me? Then explain to me how Orange Cassidy is one of the most over wrestlers currently working…
Well, turns out NXT was a pretty credible threat, and Seth Rollins is set on letting everyone know who’s fault it was that Raw came up short at Survivor Series. It’s been a long time since Vince and company booked a successful “all night” storyline, but last night’s ongoing feud between Rollins and Kevin Owens definitely proved to be the exception. Starting off as a tounge lashing from kayfabe “locker room leader” Rollins, Seth laid mountains of blame at the feet of several roster members in attendance resulting in all but Kevin Owens eventually returning to the backstage area.
Confronted by Owens, Seth would go on to criticize KO’s involvement in NXT’s War Games match Saturday night as well as labelling Owens as a “lazy piece of crap”. After an inevitable scuffle broke out between the two, a one-on-one main event match was made to settle things. Kevin Owens delivered a scathing promo declaring his intention to make “Monday Night Rollins” the “Kevin Owens’ Show” leading to a great match between the two that ended after AOP interfered, attacking Owens. This is a great example of booking done right based solely on the fact that it made sense! Rollins has lost faith in his brand, he then questions the loyalty of others, clashes with the one person who’s allegiance lies most on the fence, then Seth is “saved” by a team he chastised earlier only to have them refuse to assault him. Throw in that little bit of “stomp ’em while their down” at the end to drive the point home….yeah, that’s how you book a heel turn.
Speaking of AOP, they actually wrestled last night! After week’s of bilingual backstage vignettes, Akem and Rezar returned to ring action. Rocking a new “sans shirt” look, AOP quickly dispatched of Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder. Normally, I’ll be the first person to jump on the anti-squash match bandwagon, but this tag match, as well as the matches featuring Andrade against Akira Tozawa and Buddy Murphy facing the returning Matt Hardy, were all exquisite examples of how squash matches should be handled. I’ve said it before, you don’t have to make me believe the underdog is going to win, but it’s still nice to see them put up some semblance of a fight.
Finishing off the positive highlights of the week, Asuka and Charlotte Flair delivered an excellent match during last night’s Raw. With Asuka currently reigning as WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion alongside partner Kairi Sane, it’s easy to forget how dominant the former NXT Women’s Champion was during her previous singles runs. Last night’s match allowed Asuka the opportunity to remind everyone why she’s made it to the level she has, while also pushing the nefarious ways of her recent Great Muta inspired heel persona. Hell, I watch just to see her spit the green mist! But I’m watching, and that’s what matters.
Switching over to the negative aspects of this week’s show, the opening to Friday’s edition of SmackDown finds it’s head on the chopping block first. Is it really that crazy to think NXT might have a chance of taking Survivor Series when the SmackDown roster can’t stop bickering long enough to explain why they’re all gathered around a parking garage door?! Since this whole invasion angle started both the heels and the face personas of NXT have coexisted behind the penultimate goal of bringing the fight to the main roster. Raw and SmackDown? Nope, apparently too busy fighting with each other because every NXT talent that showed up on this Friday’s show came down the entrance ramp! Why were all those people guarding that one garage door?!
Next up, it’s becoming increasingly noticeable that Kofi Kingston isn’t happy with his current place on SmackDown’s roster. Honestly, who can blame him? Going from possibly the most well-received world champion in recent history
Well, that went darker than intended. Let’s lighten things up with a few examples of Raw’s ridiculousness!
Rusev got served, and then he attacked Bobby Lashley and got arrested, and then Lana talked, and then…NO ONE CARES!!!! I would rather preform dental surgery on myself than suffer another second of this hell spawn of a storyline! The only thing I can acquaint this angle to is the experience of getting sick on a roller coaster, but the coaster never stops and you keep getting sicker. Please, God…Satan…Vince McMahon, make this end!
The time it takes WWE to make me eat my words is becoming astoundingly shorter. In the span of three hours, I praised their booking strategy just to have creative allow Ricochet to come out and start making matches! Now, I know that four random wrestlers booking a number one contender fatal four-way match was purely kayfabe, but the fact that AJ Styles could only break his rage long enough to utter Orton’s name after losing his United States Championship cements the fact that talent making matches will be brought into question. This isn’t the territory days, kayfabe is an extremely thin veil that WWE makes thinner every time they release an “Untold” or “Chronicle” on the network. If the idea is to embrace realism in today’s writing then you have to fully embrace it.
Lastly, I have to touch on Rey Mysterio’s capturing of the United States Championship. If you think for one second that everything from Rey’s near retirement announcement to this exact moment is anything but a prolonged angle building towards Dominik’s debut… you’re a fool.
I’m not going to say that Rey isn’t deserving of one last share of the spotlight, but this feels way too much like WWE brokering young talent. There’s a reason second and third-generation talent used to be reluctant about making their wrestling heritage known. Once you find yourself stuck in someone’s shadow, it is indescribably hard to free yourself from it. Just ask David Sammartino…
As I said in the introduction, the difference just a few days can make is staggering. Both SmackDown’s final stand before Survivor Series and Raw’s sombre show afterwards were worth watching, but only one can be declared the best of the week and that’s going to be…
The Blue brand might have pretty new titles and “The Fiend”, but this week goes to Raw for an amazing angle playing out through the show and Charlotte taking the green mist for a second time!
Well, with Survivor Series behind us and yet another winner “expertly” decided by your’s truly, it comes time once again for me to bid you fine readers farewell the only way I know how.
May all your kicks be super and every frog splash five stars.
You can find me on Twitter @DirtSheetDandy. Thanks for reading.