Smackdown celebrates twenty five years of “The Game”, while Raw doubles down on the Money in the Bank hype.
All that, and more in this week’s Red Versus Blue!
After weeks and weeks of pandemic inspired format changes and generally negative news revolving around the world of professional wrestling, I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to get through seven days without some tragic development taking place. Coming off of events like the death of Howard Finkel and WWE’s mass layoffs, I seriously doubt I was the only one in desperate need of a week that didn’t get much bigger than the news of Rick Steiner’s son signing with the NFL and rumors of Zack Ryder’s possible future in wrestling.
Even this week’s offering of WWE primetime programming seemed geared to a slower pace, with the idea of quality of quantity very much shining through. Smackdown made the most of their time quietly building the current mid-card storylines before ending the evening with the highly promoted celebration of Triple H’s career, and Raw focused mostly on Money in the Bank and the upcoming WWE Championship match with an almost Nitro-like sensibility.
Truthfully, with the exception of a moment or two that may have resulted in a fair amount of head-scratching, these might be the best shows we’ve seen WWE produce since the world was forced to embrace a “new normal”. Yes, the world is still upside down and Vince McMahon’s business practices are still highly suspect, but this week proved that the WWE is still capable of delivering a quality distraction from the real world when we need it the most.
So, with all this unusual praise openly flowing from yours truly towards the product, the question we gather to answer each and every week slowly begins to become more apparent. When it comes to this week’s offerings of above-average WWE content, 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. Like all my recent articles, this week’s RvB will follow the “Victory through Positivity” method of determining a winner based solely on the highlights of each show. With our introduction and explanation handled in usual fashion, it’s time for us to jump right in to this week’s highlights!
Kicking off this week’s Blue Brand highlights is the tag team showcase that was Friday night’s opening segment. Now, normally I’d be the first to gloss over a New Day championship promo, but the shine given to Lucha House Party and the Forgotten Sons makes this one worth mentioning. Truthfully, Smackdown’s current tag team division consists of three established teams, so this is exactly the kind of attention that should be paid to guys that could easily fill the gaps.
After seeing LHP and The Sons put their time in with 205 Live and NXT respectively, it’s great getting to watch both these teams going over on a flagship WWE show. With The Sons getting the upper hand over Smackdown’s Tag Team Champions and Lucha House Party stealing a win from the former champs, it very much seems as though one or both of these teams could find themselves in title contention soon.
Next up on Smackdown’s highlights is the short and sweet vignette centered around the history of Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt. This segment proved that vignettes can still be expertly used to keep an angle over, and showcased how creatively perfect Braun and Bray’s current feud is. Braun’s ascension from ”Black Sheep” to a Bluniversal Champion confronted by his former mentor is a story that anyone can understand and pretty much writes itself. With neither Braun nor Bray featured on this week’s episode, this was the perfect way to keep their storyline fresh in everyone’s mind. It’s safe to assume next week will see the “live” continuation of this angle, and personally, I’m hoping that means a new Firefly Funhouse!
Finishing off this week’s Blue Brand highlights is the highly polarizing Triple H Anniversary segment we saw close the show. Honestly, with the exception of Vince’s somewhat nonsensical ramblings towards the end, I thought this was an all and all decent spot. Yes, you could call the entire moment “campy” or “smarky” but at the end of the day, this promo showed that despite having one of the most decorated wrestling careers in the business, Triple H is still not above poking fun at himself.
Similar to a certain trio of fledgling EVPs in Florida, Hunter is a wrestler in charge of producing wrestling. Triple H went from being jobbed out to the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania to the man poised to inherit the WWE from Vince McMahon. Making the leap from just “one of the boys” to the guy who many would consider the most powerful man in wrestling absolutely requires an extreme amount of humility and this was just another shining example of Hunter handling that balance masterfully.
Seriously though, if you didn’t at least pop for Stephanie calling HBK “cross-eyed” or Road Dogg’s quarantine beard, you’re just not human!
Switching over to the Red Brand’s highlights, this week’s list starts with the “VIP Lounge” segment that opened the show. This was a fantastic, old school way of kicking off this week’s episode while also establishing a narrative that would carry on throughout the night. Sure, Teddy Long made most of us diehard fans pretty gun shy when it comes to six-man matches, but when you can spin it into an angle that involves Apollo Crews getting injured due to his over-eagerness to prove his abilities, there’s just no way it’s not getting a mention on this list. In my opinion, this is going to be the start of Mysterio feuding with “Los Ingobernables de Raw” after Andrade’s inevitable entry into the Money in the Bank results in neither winning the briefcase. Fantasy booking aside, this was a brilliant use of an opening segment setting up the story of the night.
Next up on Raw’s highlight list is what I’m calling the Women’s Money in the Bank “preview” triple threat match. You just can’t go wrong with a spot that leaves the three heel talents involved all looking dominant. After a botched buckle bomb from last week’s show stirred up rumors concerning Nia Jax’s safety skills, turning her match into a rather short, no contest brawl was probably the smartest course of action. Nia still stood tall by the end of this segment, but not at the price of more possible ring rust being on display. It’s all but set in stone that Shayna Baszler will be the competitor walking away with the briefcase come Money in the Bank, but this spot did an adequate job of showcasing Nia and Asuka as credible threats to that claim.
Wrapping up this week’s highlights is the contract signing for Seth Rollins’ and Drew McIntyre’s WWE Championship match at Money in the Bank. As far as contract promos go, this was one of the better ones we’ve seen. Drew has to be the absolute best pick for WWE Champion during this current empty arena era. The man exudes pure charisma every time he opens his mouth whether it’s in front of thousands or face to face. Coupling that with Seth’s commitment to his “Messiah” gimmick makes this feel like a rivalry of wills. It doesn’t get more old school booking than a show that ends with the face champion looking like a million bucks and the heel challenger looking like a rat-faced punk. It’s safe to say that Drew’s first pay per view title defense might end up being one of the best of his reign.
As I said in the intro, both shows were absolutely of an above average caliber this week. After the sudden spread of COVID-19 left Vince and company scrambling to make some sense out of the lead up to the first-ever Wrestlemania to take place without a crowd, it seems as though things are slowly getting back on track as we get closer to Money in the Bank. That being said, you folks are still expecting a winner for this week! So, when it comes to this week’s editions of flagship WWE programming, I’m going to call in it favor of…
Sure, this week’s Smackdown was a decent enough show, but there’s no way a Triple H anniversary segment was going to overtake a Raw expertly built around one major storyline. Zelina’s trio is quickly becoming the foundation of Monday night’s program and it’s easy to see why. Well, with Raw claiming this week’s victory, the time comes 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.
You can find me on Twitter @DirtSheetDandy