As Smackdown builds a rivalry five years in the making, things look poised to become a little more “ungovernable” on Raw! All that, and more in this week’s Red Versus Blue!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the WWE is one of the most adaptive companies in the world.
With weeks of empty arena shows emanating from the Performance Center already in the books and an indefinite amount still to take place, many of us assumed that the best we could expect from Vince and company was the continued “holding pattern” we’d seen instituted since the global spread of COVID-19 turned the world upside down. However, it would seem the WWE have decided to use these unsettling times as a reason to alter the creative choices that may or may not have made them the “tired norm” of the professional wrestling world over the past decade.
Being forced to work crowd-less with a skeleton crew of a roster has caused the WWE to focus heavily on more attention-grabbing storylines while also featuring a multitude of talent that wouldn’t have seen their time in the spotlight otherwise. In an almost poetic form of pure irony, WWE has been reduced to a mirrored version of what All Elite Wrestling brought to the table last October, and it’s made their overall product better! Instead of trying to develop an angle for each and every member of an extremely overcrowded locker room, creative can now focus on a few main storylines, while the rest of the timeslot is filled out by talent the likes of The Forgotten Sons and Akira Tozawa giving us athletically based pro wrestling.
Even the mind-blowing news of Florida’s governor deeming the WWE as an “essential business” serves as more proof that come hell or high water, Vince’s show will always go on.
It’s undeniable that this latest format change is yielding much more positivity towards the WWE than we’ve seen in years, but there is still an overwhelming amount of negativity that could be needlessly thrown at a company that is legitimately doing the best that can be asked of them right now. Over the past few weeks, I’ve made a point of focusing on the positives of each program as the sole factor in determining which was better.
This week’s article will follow the “which show was best by what they did best” style in a continued attempt to shed some positive light on an absolutely negative situation. As I’ve said before, we’re all in this together, and there’s no point in kicking a company when they’re already down. So, with the idea of positivity in the front of our minds, the question we gather every week to answer once again begins to linger. When it comes to WWE’s “essential” programming, which show was better?
You know the schtick, 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. With the introduction and explanation handled in the usual fashion, it’s time for us to jump right into the highlights of this week’s shows.
Kicking off this week’s offering of Blue Brand highlights is the Wrestlemania rematch of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross facing the Kabuki Warriors. Not only did this feel like the definitive end to the feud between these two teams, but it also may have been the best match we’ve gotten from them. There’s no denying that these two teams have done the best job of legitimatizing the Women’s Tag Team titles since their inception.
Asuka and Kairi have turned what could’ve been easily received as just another stereotypical pairing of two Japanese talents into an extremely enjoyable real-life personification of over-the-top anime villains, and the oddball team of Bliss and Cross have made the fledgeling tag titles feel like something actually worth pursuing. Truthfully, these four women have done so much to establish the Women’s Tag division that I’m inarguably excited to see what the next championship defence has in store, and when a storyline legit gets me excited for a Dana Brooke and Carmella match, it deserves all the praise in the world!
Next up on Smackdown’s highlights is the overly produced vignette centred around Jeff Hardy’s career. Although most of us are more than familiar with the “extremely” decorated history of the high-flying Hardy brother, this earned a mention on this week’s list because it seems WWE is intent on giving Jeff yet another serious push. With a roster that includes talent the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan, and Bray Wyatt, Hardy could deliver some outstandingly enjoyable matches. Sure, Jeff’s possible push could easily be perceived as Vince McMahon’s knee jerk reaction to a certain other Hardy brother finding new life on AEW television, but I’m choosing to see this a positive based on future match possibilities alone.
Wrapping up this week’s Blue Brand highlights is the exchange between new WWE “Bluniversal” Champion, Braun Strowman, and his former mentor, Bray Wyatt. Holy crap, this is going to be a great angle! Not only do Bray and Braun have a well-established history with one another, but Braun may be the first opponent Bray’s faced that can match his charisma. Unlike the men we’ve seen fall to The Fiend over the past months, Braun truly knows Bray and what he’s capable of. Speaking from a less kayfabe point of view, putting a wrestler against the person who more or less polished him on the way up always delivers spectacularly. Bray and Braun’s ability to play off of each other is going to make Smackdown the show to watch over the coming weeks, and their eventual match the must-see event.
Switching over to the Red Brand’s highlights, this week’s list starts off with the inclusion of Money in the Bank qualifying matches. This felt exactly like the old King of the Ring qualifying matches we used to see take place weeks before the pay per view. Yes, they’re absolutely being used as a time filling tactic, but that’s how they should be used! Instead of forcing us to sit through another replay from a past pay per view, WWE is giving underused talent a chance to shine on tv for a few minutes with a decent enough goal on the line.
Anyone with a semblance of wrestling knowledge will tell you that’s good booking. It also should be said that this shows that WWE is still capable of focusing on the pure wrestling aspect of their product. With the first round of men’s qualifiers taking place next week, I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to what we can expect from the talent involved.
Next up on Raw’s highlights is the outstanding tag team match between the Viking Raiders and the new team of Cedric Alexander and Ricochet. Now, I’ll admit that when it comes to talent like the Raiders and Ricochet, I’ve always had the “I was a fan before they went mainstream” mentality, but even that didn’t stop me from enjoying this match. After a decent amount of time off-screen, the Raiders don’t feel completely over-pushed anymore, and the pairing of Cedric and Ricochet perfectly match each other’s level of athleticism.
This was a match you could’ve easily seen six years ago at some minor league indy show, and that made it even more watchable. All four of these guys know what it’s like to put on a “barn burner” in front of crowds of less than five hundred people, so performing in an empty arena isn’t really going to slow them down. At this point, it seems like a global pandemic may be the event big enough to make Vince start seeing the value in workers that he didn’t create.
Finishing off this week’s Raw highlights is the unbelievable formation of what may be WWE’s own version of the “Los Ingobernables” stable. After weeks of Andrade being away from the ring, and Zelina Vega seemingly collecting clients like a female Bobby Heenan, it appears as though the endgame was the United States’ Champion forming a new variation of the stable that launched the careers of himself, Rush, and Tetsuya Naito.
The trio of Andrade, Angel Garza, and Austin Theory spent most of last night’s show establishing a “pack-like” dominance over their fallen opponents, flashing the upraised fist known universally as a gesture of “Los Ingobernables”. Truthfully, reforming this legendary group is an idea that WWE has arrived to a bit late, but with the solid amount of focus that was given to the growing Lucha libre inspired storyline involving Rey Mysterio, Humberto Carrillo, and Andrade before circumstances took the U.S. Champ away from the ring, it’s safe to assume that WWE has plans to handle this new faction properly. This truly was the storyline of the night!
It certainly seems as though Vince and company have finally nailed down the formula for delivering a highly enjoyable show under less than desirable circumstances. For two weeks, both Raw and Smackdown have been more entertaining than either has been in years. Although the world-changing events that inspired it are unquestionably terrible, this forced change of focus for the WWE serves as yet another silver lining to the storm cloud that is COVID-19. So, when it comes to yet another pair of above-average flagship programs, I have to say this week’s winner is…
One stand out promo between Braun and Bray doesn’t hold a candle up to a gangland style takeover of Raw! I’m always going to side with the show that resulted in the biggest “mark out” moment for me, and this week had to go to “Los Ingobernables de Raw”. Yes, Ring of Honor and New Japan have already created their own versions of the original stable, but the fact that WWE is willing to follow suit shows that the company is finally starting to think outside of it’s own creative box. And with Raw snatching a well deserved victory from it’s Friday night counterpart, the time has come 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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