Red Vs Blue

Before And After WWE TLC | Red Vs Blue (SmackDown 13/12/19 & Raw 16/12/19)

Benjamin Clem looks at the latest episodes of SmackDown and RAW, deciding what brand came out on top this week.

There’s nothing quite like a wrestling weekend, am I right?

In recent years, WWE has taken what was once easy to digest, a three-hour pay-per-view followed by two hours of Raw the next night, and turned it into a complete over-saturation of their brand of professional wrestling. The current television schedule, coupled with a pay-per-view, results in no less than ten hours of WWE programming within three days. Most fans will tell you that this is an overwhelming amount of content to have to absorb, and usually, I’d be the first to agree with that sentiment, but something was different this week…

You guys should know the shtick by now! I watch the shows, make the notes, and then deliver unto you fine readers my semi-informed opinion of which show was better overall for the week.
This week’s RvB is another battle of before and after, with a rather lacklustre TLC taking place Sunday evening. So, with the introduction and explanation dutifully handled, it’s time to jump into the positive aspects from this week’s offerings.

The Good

Last Friday’s Smackdown was the absolute definition of hit or miss. The Blue Brand’s TLC “go home” show saw boundaries pushed to a near obscene level, while also hosting a fair amount of ridiculousness.

First off, we have to talk about how over Otis Dozovic currently is. Early into Friday night’s show, Heavy Machinery was shown backstage, presenting Sami Zayn with a Christmas present. Sami’s look of confusion soon turned to one of disgust as Otis and Tucker’s gift was revealed to be a baked holiday ham. Zayn quickly launched into a scathing rant, questioning the audacity of Heavy Machinery to even offer him such a thing before Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro stepped in to prevent any retaliation from Otis and Tucker. This exchange would lead to Heavy Machinery eating a hard-fought loss to the team of Nakamura and Cesaro, but even a losing effort wasn’t enough to overshadow the undeniable pop coming from the crowd every time Dozovic hit the ring. In a rare case of “so strange, it’s cool” Otis has won fans over with his uncharacteristically timid voice and childlike mannerisms. It certainly wouldn’t be shocking to see this hype carry into a tag title shot and possible reign for Heavy Machinery, but the penultimate result could very well be a single’s run for Otis in the near future.

Moving on, it looks like all it took for those Dana Brooke and Elias promos to get better was Drake Maverick’s swift exit. In fact, you might even say Friday’s promo was a bit risque… After interrupting an interview featuring Bayley with a strum of his guitar, Elias was shown chatting with Dana Brooke offset. Bayley immediately confronted WWE’s resident drifter, only to be informed that Elias was her Secret Santa and his gift was a song. Imagine the surprise the fan’s got when said song included a reference to Bayley asking Santa for a threesome with Sasha Banks and Elias, as well as a lyric saying the champ’s new haircut makes her look like a man!

I’m not going to lie, folks. This felt like the Attitude Era, or as close as we’re ever going to come to it. Was it politically correct? No. Did it sexualize female talent? Very possibly. Was it expected? Absolutely not, and that’s why it’s making the positives. This isn’t Trish Stratus on all fours, barking like a dog. In fact, this feels like it could very well end with an intergender angle as Bayley could seek to put Elias in his place. Bayley’s heel persona has something to prove, and a personal war against the men’s locker room would be the stuff of legend.

Rounding out the Blue Brand’s positives is the main roster inclusion of female referee, Jessika Carr. Although WWE may be playing catchup to AEW’s Aubrey Edwards, it’s still always refreshing to see a female talent succeed in a primarily male-dominated role. Jessika’s move from NXT to the main roster proves that she is undeniably talented and I know I’m not the only one looking forward to watching her work every Friday night.

With a negatively received TLC in their rearview, the Red Brand hit the ground running. Last night’s show kicked off with Seth Rollins coming to the ring to defend his actions from the week prior. Seth spoke of giving the fans everything they wanted only to have them turn on him later, eventually inviting the AOP to join him in the ring. With all three members of this new faction accounted for, Rollins mysteriously apologized for what would come later in the night before the group made their exit.

The event Seth referenced would be an attack on Rey Mysterio later in the night for coming to the aid of Kevin Owens during the events of last week. Seth’s promise of retribution set the evening up perfectly. We don’t know what’s coming or when it’s coming, but anticipation is built! Truthfully, I did kind of hope this would’ve ended up being more than just set-up to a match between Rollins and Mysterio next week, but it still shows that WWE isn’t completely inept at booking.

Next up, it’s the gauntlet match for a shot at Rey Mysterio’s United States Championship. It would seem that someone on WWE’s booking staff is paying attention to this article because the mid-card finally got some time to shine this week. Both Matt Hardy and Akira Tozawa found themselves featured prominently in last night’s gauntlet match. Although both men would eventually end up eliminated from the match, they were given adequate in-ring time to show that they’re not just squash match jobbers. Hardy even showed signs of a more heel mentality,  possibly hinting at what’s to come for the formerly “Broken” legend.

Finishing up the positives for this week, let’s talk about Deonna Purrazzo. Does anyone else think it’s slightly odd that last night’s Raw featured an unexpected appearance by an NXT roster member? Well, you may not think it so strange when you consider that Deonna is dating independent star Marty Scurll, who just so happens to be a free agent as of this past Sunday night. Coincidence? Probably, but it does seem weird that Deonna would find herself featured on WWE’s flagship show not twenty four hours after her boyfriend worked his last Ring of Honor match. Speculation aside, it’s always nice to see fresh faces pop up on the main roster, and Deonna would certainly make a great permanent addition to Raw’s Women’s division.

The Bad

Switching gears to the negative aspects of the week, first on the chopping block has to be the “go home” build to The Miz and Bray Wyatt’s match at TLC. With Brock Lesnar on hiatus, Bray’s Universal Title was the biggest belt going into TLC, and although it wasn’t going to be defended, you’d think that the champion’s current feud would’ve gotten more coverage than two pretaped vignettes!

Don’t get me wrong, I still sing the praises of the Firefly Funhouse every time a new segment happens, but Miz’s interview turned suspense movie scene was almost unwatchable. What parent is going to stare blankly at footage of their kid instead of busting into that room the second they see said kid playing with Ramblin’ Rabbit?! And don’t even get me started on the new doll! It was obviously Bray’s twisted idea of a gift for Miz’s daughters! Y’all realize Liv Morgan is on Raw, right?! Moving on…

I think it’s fairly clear what the most negative moment from last Friday’s Smackdown is, and I’m just going to say this: I, in no way, try to make any of my writing political in nature. Wrestling is, and should always be a safe place for anyone who needs it to be. That being said, there is no place in this business for someone who thinks it’s okay to air an African American in chains on national television. I truly doubt there was any racial implication considered when the segment was thought up, but that still doesn’t change the fact that someone should’ve stopped it before it happened. Joking about threesomes is pushing the boundary, what happened to Kofi was crossing the line.

Moving on to something almost as awful, Lana and Bobby Lashley! On this week’s edition of “Please, God! Make it stop!”, Lana bragged about Bobby beating Rusev at TLC and then made “The Almighty” propose to her. Seriously?! Why is this still going? Lashley won at TLC, he gets Lana, story over! You’re killing three careers for the sake of a terrible angle!

Lastly, I know I praised Seth Rollins’ opening segment for building anticipation correctly, but I feel I also have to mention two cases of it being built wrong. I truly couldn’t care less about Liv Morgan destroying herself or what’s in Erick Rowan’s cage! There’s a slow build, and then there’s giving us little to nothing every week until we cease to care. Rowan is getting no push whatsoever, and the only thing keeping eyes on Liv’s new gimmick is the fan hope that she’ll be tied to Bray Wyatt despite her being on a different show. If creative can’t pull the trigger on a gimmick within the first three weeks, then the gimmick shouldn’t be getting seen on primetime television.

The Verdict

All things considered, this week’s Raw and Smackdown were both of the above-average variety. However, we came here to find out which show was better than the other, and this week I’m going to say it was…

A tag match between two former IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, A gauntlet match for a title shot, and getting to see Kairi Sane recovering well from Sunday’s main event debacle?! Yeah, I’ll definitely take that over whatever the hell happened on Smackdown this week.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, with the Red Brand taking the victory this week, the time has come for me to bid you farewell the only way I know how…

Until next time, may all your kicks be super and every frog splash five stars!

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