WWE attempted the ultimate “go home” programming this week as Monday Night Raw presented its “season finale” and Smackdown Live broadcasted on the USA network for the very last time.
After the creation of All Elite Wrestling and the eventual announcement of their TNT television deal, many fans were left anticipating how WWE would react to being confronted by legitimate competition for the first time in decades.
As AEW began establishing themselves as a viable alternative to the WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment seemingly ignored the fledgling company. However, now that we are only a week removed from the television premiere of AEW’s Wednesday Night Dynamite, it certainly seems as though the old “war horse” mentality of the WWE has finally been awoken.
Next week, not only will AEW go face-to-face with WWE’s latest primetime program NXT, but they’ll also be sandwiched between a Universal Championship match Monday night and a WWE Championship match on Friday night.
With war on the horizon, WWE spent their last week as the only primetime wrestling program stacking the deck. From the Fiend apparently gaining more control of Monday Night Raw, to Daniel Bryan turning babyface again on Smackdown Live, it’s safe to say that WWE has finally decided to draw a line in the sand.
That all being said, and as excited as most of us are for what next week holds, we still have one very important question to answer THIS week! On the final week of Raw and Smackdown serving as each other’s direct competition, which show was better?
Ladies and gentlemen, every week it is my task to watch both Raw and Smackdown Live. I make notes about the positives and negatives of both shows, and then I determine which show was the better overall. We call it “Red vs. Blue”, and with the introduction out of the way, it’s time to jump right into the pros and cons of this week’s programming.
Starting off things with Monday Night Raw, it’s undeniable that WWE are completely behind the Fiend gimmick. This Monday’s Raw was saturated with nods to Wyatt’s continued seizing of power from beginning to end. The “Then, Now, Forever” opening glitched with quick images of the Fiend’s mask, a new Firefly Funhouse was pushed throughout the night, and the final moments saw Bray interrupt the main event match between Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman by rendering the “Monster Among Men” helpless with the Mandible Claw.
Honestly, every other aspect of Raw could’ve been terrible, and I’d still be praising it for this angle alone. The heavy emphasis on the build of Bray and Rollins’ upcoming Hell in a Cell match created the perfect back drop for this week’s Monday Night Raw. Great matches like Nikki Cross facing Sasha Banks and Chad Gable and Baron Corbin’s rematch shone through as pleasant distractions from the ever present thought of what was coming next from the Fiend.
WWE knows that Wyatt’s latest gimmick is the biggest thing drawing viewers right now, so they’re running with it. That’s just smart business.
Next up in the positives department is this week’s Smackdown Live. It’s the end of an era as the blue brand bids farewell to the USA network. Following a Monday Night Raw that left most fans asking “what’s next?”, Smackdown instead seemed intent on hearing fans say, “Yeah, knew that was coming.” Be it Daniel Bryan turning face to team with Roman Reigns against Harper & Rowan at Hell in a Cell, or Kevin Owens’ wrongful termination lawsuit with Shane McMahon evolving into a match, Tuesday’s Smackdown was full of expected revelations.
Now, before this starts sounding like we’ve already jumped to the negatives portion of this article, allow me to clarify. Predictably can be a good thing in the world of pro wrestling. Old school fans like myself enjoy knowing the business well enough to be able to call the inevitable outcome of an angle, especially when that conclusion is the one that makes the most sense.
Currently, the two biggest storylines Smackdown has going into Hell in a Cell are the Roman/Bryan angle and Owens facing Shane, so it’s completely understandable they’d be the biggest pushes of the night. Especially when Lesnar challenges Kofi for his WWE Championship next week, and there has yet to be a WWE Championship match announced for Hell in a Cell…
I know what you’re thinking, after singing the praises of this week’s Raw, how could I possibly find any negatives?! Well, I won’t say it wasn’t slightly difficult, but there were a few moments this week that left me shaking my head.
First off, why are talent like Ember Moon and EC3 being reduced to jobber status? This week’s Red Brand offering saw Moon and EC3 eat definitive losses to Lacey Evans and Rusev respectively with the presumed intent being furthering angles involving the latter superstars.
After all I’ve said about WWE preparing for an upcoming war, they’re still faltering in the department of pushing younger talent. Sure, you can cite Chad Gable’s recent push as a direct contradiction to what I just said, but don’t forget how long Gable has been with the company in some form or another.
Booking like this feels like WWE sticking to the old method of not investing in talent they didn’t create. My only other criticism of Raw this week has to be the over choreographed opening to the 5-Way title shot match. In a match that featured some of the best pro wrestlers working currently, I shouldn’t be able to notice talent standing off to the side waiting for their next spots.
Up until the first elimination, this match couldn’t help but feel clunky. And three of the competitors being current champions didn’t help the believably of this either. As soon as Roode and Mysterio became the last two combatants, everyone watching knew Rey would be facing Seth next week.
Moving on to Smackdown Live, for the final episode of the blue brand to be featured on the USA network, this week’s edition undoubtedly felt underwhelming. If Raw was leaving USA, the final episode would be a tribute to everything that’s ever happened on Raw while being on the network, but if it weren’t for the continued discussion of the FOX move by the commentary throughout the night, I highly doubt most fans would’ve known anything was different about this week’s Smackdown.
It’s easy to think that the lackluster finale may have been a result of WWE and USA not being on the best terms after WWE opted to deal with another TV network, but USA will still be the home of five hours worth of weekly primetime WWE programming, so why did we get the same typical Smackdown we’re used to getting? Is there the possibility that next week’s Smackdown on FOX will be an absolute game changer? Only time will tell.
With the dawn of a new era of professional wrestling only seven short days away, WWE sought to make a stand with their programming this week. However, once again the blue brand failed to meet the standard set by the WWE’s flagship show. USA’s final Smackdown Live just couldn’t hold a candle to this week’s winner…
There you have it folks, the Red Brand’s dominance continues as the curtain closes on Smackdown Live. Next week promises to be possibly one of the biggest weeks in wrestling history, but until then, it’s time for me to bid you fine readers farewell the only way I know how.
So, until next time, may all your kicks be super, and every frog splash five stars!
You can find me on Twitter @DirtSheetDandy. Thanks for reading.