With Survivor Series done and TLC on the horizon, both Raw and Smackdown look to rebound from the morale crushing loss to NXT in this week’s Red versus Blue!
There’s a unique dynamic that comes from WWE beginning and ending the week with their two “main roster” shows. Last week it created the rare opportunity to analyze the before and after effect that results from a pay per view taking place between the two. Smackdown was full of pomp and vigour, whereas Monday Night Raw was more remorse and blame. This week, however, saw both brands attempt to push forward despite the sting of their loss at Survivor Series still being felt.
Although this week’s Smackdown was the first since WWE’s Thanksgiving tradition, it was still four days removed from the event, making the “agony of defeat” feel a little downplayed in favour of pushing storylines. Similarly, last night’s Raw seemed to steer further away from the week prior’s three-hour blame game. Last week we compared two very different shows, so it makes all the sense in the world that this week’s Red versus Blue would feature two near-identical offerings!
You know how it goes, folks. Every week I watch the shows, make the notes, and then I deliver a semi-informed opinion of which show did better overall to you fine readers. With NXT’s roster finally staying on Wednesday nights, it’s time we reignite the real brand rivalry by jumping right into this week’s positive aspects!
It was all face turns and face titles on last Friday’s Smackdown! Firstly, I have to cover the continued feud between Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan. It’s obvious that Vince and Co. are aware of how popular this current rivalry is based solely on how much coverage it got throughout Friday’s show. Bray started the evening off early with a Funhouse vignette that featured him debuting yet another variation of the Bluniversal Championship…which we’ll get to soon enough. Following that, several backstage segments featured Daniel Bryan appearing increasingly stoic despite the intervention of The Miz and a second Firefly Funhouse that doubled down on the strange factor. With Bryan’s next move in question and tension at a palpable level, the night concluded with Daniel coming to the ring to address the fanbase. As Bryan finally embraced the thunderous chants of “Yes”, thus cementing his face persona as well as accepting the challenge made by Bray earlier, the Firefly Funhouse opening suddenly interrupted the feel-good moment.
On-screen, Wyatt delighted in the revived energy from Bryan but spoke of the upcoming match changing Daniel before acknowledging that he had promised a new face in the Funhouse. With that, the arena lights began to glitch and suddenly the Fiend emerged through the ring canvas to lock the Mandible Claw on Bryan. The final moments of Smackdown saw Bryan pulled through the ring and his hair seemingly ripped from his scalp by The Fiend. This is, by far, the best angle currently happening in WWE. Custom titles aside, resurrecting the underdog shtick for Daniel Bryan shouldn’t have been this well-received, and probably wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for The Fiend being such a destructive force. Bray’s latest gimmick is so over that it makes it challenging to keep him viewed as a heel, but a feud with someone as universally beloved as Daniel in the face role not only creates the question of who will win but the question of where fans loyalties will land when all is said and done.
Keeping with the face turn motif, it seems as though Lacey Evans will be the next challenger for Bayley’s Smackdown Women’s Championship. After Bayley and Sasha Banks came to the ring to deliver their own version of Seth Rollins’ blame speech to the Blue Brand’s female division, Evans appeared intent on pointing the finger right back at the heel pair. Evans continued to dress down Banks and Bayley with vaguely southern insults based around Thanksgiving, resulting in the fans in attendance chanting for the sassy belle. The segment ended with Sasha Banks laid out by the “Woman’s Right” and the seeds perfectly planted for an upcoming match. Sure, most of what Lacey said was pretty cringeworthy, but it didn’t make the end result of Banks getting taken down a notch any less satisfying.
Finally, I’ve got to give a positive mark to the return vignette for Sheamus. Not only was this spot short and sweet, but it’s also great seeing Sheamus closer to making his much-anticipated return. Whether it’s his return to his debut look, or the strong heel presence being felt through this vignette, it’s safe to say the fans are definitely looking forward to what’s next from the “Celtic Warrior”.
From expletives to arrests, this week’s Monday Night Raw dialed the “Attitude Era” whispers up to eleven. Is anyone familiar with comedian George Carlin’s famous bit about the “Seven words you can’t say on television”? I won’t go into the list, but imagine everyone’s surprise when WWE allowed Kevin Owens to utter one of those forbidden words, uncensored, not thirty minutes into their flagship show!
In what may be the biggest turn away from the “PG” era we’ve seen recently, Owens answered an opening segment featuring Seth Rollins apologizing for his actions the week prior by labeling Seth’s apology as “bullshit”. No bleep, no sudden drop in audio, just KO calling b.s. and the crowd roaring in agreement. It’s hard to assume that this could’ve been an error made by the production truck, especially knowing how diligent the television crew have always been in the past. So, what was the motivation for letting this naughty word slip? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see for now. But, before moving on, I have to give props to Kevin Owens for completely embodying the fans when it came to dealing with Lana. Owens made it crystal clear that he’s not on Raw to take part in shoddy angles, he’s there to wrestle.
Speaking of Lana, the Lashley/Rusev storyline is still a thing… but, this week did see Lana and Bobby’s kayfabe arrested for assaulting their own “police” escorts! Why does this land Lana and Bobby on the positive side despite weeks of being declared a negative? Simply put, this one cringe filled segment meant we wouldn’t have to see any of the three talents involved for the rest of the show, and that is worth all the praise in the world. If you’re going to continue to force-feed us this angle until it’s over, at least have the decency to get the segment done as quickly and as early as possible.
Finishing up this week’s positives, I have to touch on how visually captivating the Kabuki Warriors are as well as the more positive spin squash matches have been given on Raw recently.
With the exception of “The Fiend”, I think that Asuka and Kairi Sane are currently the most visually entertaining talents on WWE’s roster. The recent subtle changes to Sane’s attire and Asuka’s makeup have created a sense of intimidation reminiscent of the legendary Bull Nakano. Coupling this with the fact that both women expertly embody the old school foreign heel persona, and you end up with possibly the biggest tag team to come together since the creation of the Women’s Tag Division.
As for the squash matches, it’s nice getting to see guys like Tony Nese, Eric Young, and Akira Tozawa all getting to enjoy some of that Red Brand spotlight, even if it means they’ll be jobbed out. The major advantage of using guys like this to push other talent is the fact that they can make it believable. It’s undeniable that Rick Rude was a better wrestler than the Ultimate Warrior, but when it came to the Warrior getting an Intercontinental title run, Rude wasn’t just willing to do the job, he also made Warrior look like a million bucks in the process. You may sit back and think Vince is doing your favourite wrestler dirty, but the truth is that wrestler is putting their ego aside to help another talent look good. Wrestling needs more of this.
Let me give you readers a quick glimpse behind the curtain. Have you ever wondered why I start each Red versus Blue with the positives of the week? It’s because it’s usually so challenging to pull good things from WWE television that I’ve opted to do the hardest bit first.
Take this past Friday’s Smackdown, for example. Yeah, it was great to see all the Wyatt/Bryan stuff throughout the night, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that we had to sit through nearly thirty minutes of Baron Corbin and Roman Reigns’ angle before Bray’s first vignette! And the end result of Corbin and Roman’s opening segment is Reigns literally burying Robert Roode under an announce table?! He’s not the Undertaker! A face only gets by with burying someone if that person is bigger than them! If this is the beginning of a heel turn for Roman then it needs to happen before more people stop caring.
At least if you suffered through all that you were rewarded with a Firefly Funhouse, right? Well, “rewarded” might be the wrong word to use…Sure, this early segment set the entire evening in motion when it comes to the back and forth between Daniel Bryan and Bray, but the introduction of “The Fiend’s” Universal Championship may have taken something away. Emblazoned with the champ’s masked face as well as the words “Hurt and Heal”, the macabre title was quickly boasted online as being a creation of horror effects icon, Tom Savini. Truthfully, Savini’s studio is responsible, with Tom himself most likely only overseeing the design. That small correction aside, the big negative about this new title has to be the price tag attached to it. Almost immediately WWE posted one of a kind duplicates of Wyatt’s new title in the Shop section of their website with the hefty price of more than seven thousand dollars after tax and shipping! Seriously, I don’t care who made it, I’m not paying seven grand for something that looks like it’s eyes are gonna follow me around whatever room it’s in! And that’s not even taking into effect that it absolutely looks like someone made a title belt out of a Halloween mask, or that we’ll most likely not be seeing that beautiful blue belt on pay per view anytime soon.
Lastly, what was the deal with that Dana Brooke backstage segment? Is it wrong to think that the entire thing was predicated on her possibly romantic recent back and forth with Dave Bautista via Twitter? I mean, it did start with her smiling at her phone…Nevertheless, it was nice to see the return of Elias, even if it was the result of WWE thinking we’d already forgotten that Drake Maverick is married.
Starting off, go ahead and forget everything I said about the quality of Raw’s squash matches earlier because The Raiders are back to eating jobbers! This right here is why the current Raw Tag Team Champions didn’t have an onscreen rebuttal while Seth was running down his roster mates last week. Can’t really brag about being the one Red Brand victory during Survivor Series when you’re wrestling about five minutes every other week. You’re building towards AOP challenging the Viking Raiders, we get it. We just don’t care anymore.
Next, let’s talk about Erick Rowan and his cage. I’ll admit, I’m still very much interested to see what exactly it is that Rowan is bringing to ringside with him, but was it really necessary to revive No Way Jose’s conga line just to get the point of no one touching the cage across? Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded this match if everyone involved didn’t seem so bored by it. From commentary to referee John Cone, no one sold the implied brutality of Rowan’s attack. Vince and Co better hope that whatever is in that cage is storyline worthy because it’s not going to be much longer before they have to show it.
Rounding out the negatives from this week, Kyle Busch is your newest WWE 24/7 Champion! That’s right, Nascar driver Kyle Busch…So, is the 24/7 Championship a complete joke to everyone or is that just the gimmick behind it? I mean, I get that it’s supposed to be funny, but this isn’t. Not to mention incorporating Kyle Busch and Michael Waltrip into this debacle creates an exclusive reference all received by southern America. Truthfully, I wouldn’t know who either of these guys was if it weren’t for the fact that I’m from Virginia! Please, do everyone a favour, and kill the 24/7 Championship! Throw it off a bridge, that could be cool…
In the wake of Survivor Series, both brands came to the table with the future in mind. Smackdown left us wondering what Daniel Bryan may look like come this Friday and Raw made us speculate about Seth Rollins’ motivation. But, the question of which was better still remains! This week, I think it’s safe to say that our winner is…
Kevin Owens may get a chuckle out of me by saying bad words and telling Lana that no one cares, but that doesn’t hold a candle to the actual tension I felt between Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan Friday night. It’s WWE’s version of Batman fighting the Joker, you just can’t go wrong with that.
Well, with this week’s winner decided, it’s time 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.