Big dogs, Blue titles, and Punk’s return, oh my!
It’s full-on brand warfare as Raw, Smackdown, and NXT seek to establish dominance in this week’s Red vs. Blue!
What a week, am I right?! From the highly unlikely return of CM Punk to WWE programming to the overly expected palette swap of the Universal Championship, it’s safe to say this has been one of the most newsworthy weeks of WWE’s recent history. This year’s edition of Survivor Series is quickly becoming the most anticipated event that Vince and company have hosted this entire year. Undoubtedly, most diehard NXT fans (myself included) would chalk this level of hype up to the inclusion of the yellow brand in this year’s Thanksgiving tradition, but it very well could be the veil of the unknown that’s come along with NXT’s involvement that may be keeping eyes fixed on WWE’s product.
With Triple H’s darling developmental brand finding itself as the main talking point going into this Sunday, the responsibility of giving the “old guards” of WWE their time in the light falls in the lap of your’s truly. You know the drill, people! I watch the shows, make the notes, and then give you fine readers my semi-informed opinion on which show was the better of the week. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into the positive aspects of the week!
After the shocking debut of former WWE Champion CM Punk on last Tuesday’s edition of WWE Backstage, fans clamoured for what Smackdown could include just three short nights later. Of course, what we received within the opening minutes of the show most definitely resulted in the majority of fans changing the channel, but we’ll get to that in due time! If you were one of the few viewers to make it through what is now being reported as “Vince’s Favorite Segment of the Week” then you were lucky enough to have your pallet immediately cleansed with a new edition of the Firefly Funhouse!
In this week’s Funhouse, Bray Wyatt opened the segment by expressing his cartoonish displeasure with the current design of his Universal Championship. A quick second of thought, resulting in a literal “lightbulb” moment, lead to Wyatt suddenly donning a magician’s hat and cape. After Bray recited a comical, albeit haunting spell, the crimson strap of Raw’s former top title changed to a beautiful shade of blue in a puff of smoke. Quickly expressing his satisfaction with the transformation of what I will now be referring to as the “Bluniversal” Championship, Bray ended his segment by declaring that an edition of MizTV featuring Daniel Bryan was scheduled next. MizTV would go on to feature a heated promo between Wyatt and Daniel with a championship match announced for the upcoming TLC event being the conclusion. As much sense as it made for the character of The Fiend to sport a blood-red championship, you just can’t deny how much better the belt looks in blue.
Moving on, Friday’s show also featured one of the very few instances of a squash situation working perfectly. After a recap of last week’s events involving Tyson Fury and Braun Strowman, the B-Team and Drew Gulak were shown in the ring demanding an audience with the “Monster Among Men”. Upon his arrival, Strowman was subjected to a scathing promo from Gulak concerning Drew not being selected to lead Smackdown’s Survivor Series team. Braun’s response was the immediate systematic destruction of all three men.
The idea of a squash victory is to oversell the pure strength and ferocity of a larger than average talent, which becomes more believable when said talent is against overwhelming odds. No, I don’t think that Gulak and the B-Team stood any better of a chance against Strowman than the plethora of jobber teams the Viking Raiders have ploughed through lately, but it’s still more believable that three men could get the upper hand over one.
This week’s “go home” edition of Monday Night Raw was undeniably packed to the gills. Storylines were pushed, stipulations were announced for Survivor Series matches, and “The Man” punched a security guard! But was all that enough to make the red brand the winner of the week?
Firstly, I have to touch on the excellent way both Ricochet and Erik Rowan are currently being pushed.
Not only has the addition of Rowan’s mystery cage made him a talent to watch, but last night’s 24/7 championship interjection during his match cemented him as a current favourite of the fans. Rowan has found himself in position to capture the 24/7 title multiple times, yet the former Wyatt Family member seems completely uninterested in the fledgeling championship. Last night was no different as Rowan levelled both Singh Brothers before the two even had a chance to insight the usual 24/7 scramble we’ve grown bored of seeing over the last few months. Booking like this creates the idea that Erik Rowan cares for the 24/7 title about as much as your average fan. Sure, he could hold it, but why would he want to?
As for Ricochet, I can honestly say I never expected WWE to push the former Lucha Underground Champion as much as they have recently. Everyone is aware of the treatment we can usually expect when it comes to wrestlers WWE didn’t have a hand in creating, however, Ricochet has fast become the one exception to that troupe. Although he’s found himself in numerous multi-man, and exhibition matches, it truly feels like this is Vince and Co. trying to keep Ricochet fresh in our minds rather than their lack of knowing what to do with him. Mark my words, it won’t be long till we see WWE’s resident superhero in world title contention.
Wrapping up this week’s positives, I have to mention that Triple H’s promo on Kevin Owens undoubtedly proved why he’s the man that should be running the company altogether. Sure, we’ve seen the temptation angled played out between Seth Rollins and Triple H previously, but knowing the personal influence Hunter has had in making Kevin Owens the star he currently is definitely made this entire segment more realistic. Seriously, when the promo is so good that I’m completely willing to forgive the fact it created a no-contest finish to a fairly decent match, that’s saying something.
Well, it didn’t take long for WWE to make me eat my words concerning Baron Corbin’s promo last week. In yet another case of WWE receiving positive praise only to turn around and beat us over the head with what they think we like, Baron Corbin opened Friday night’s show with one of the worse promos I’ve ever witnessed. Criticizing Roman Reigns’ “Big Dog” moniker is going to get a positive reaction because most fans hate the heavy focus put on that nickname, dialling that up to include a barking rendition of Roman’s theme and a bulldog mascot is overkill!
Now, I know that we’ve seen Gillberg, and countless “mini” variations of wrestlers used to poke fun throughout the years, but anyone can tell you that there’s no way this should be acceptable in current wrestling. The impact is promoting a woman competing for the company’s world title, and WWE is force-feeding us bad dog jokes…How can that not be taken as being completely out of touch with your audience?
As bad as Corbin’s segment was this week, I feel it wouldn’t be fair to have it be the only negative mark on the blue brand, so… What’s with the current state of Smackdown’s tag division? I am fully aware that Heavy Machinery, Lucha House Party, and The Bar are all currently signed to the Smackdown roster, so why do we keep getting championship matches between the Revival and the New Day?! Don’t get me wrong, both teams are uber-talented, but that still doesn’t mean we want to see them face off every week! Roode and Ziggler couldn’t be taken away from their mute roles in Corbin’s debacle in the interest of keeping things fresh? Sure, NXT’s roster getting involved helped break up some of the monotony, but this is still a perfect example of WWE attempting to juggle too many angles.
As negative reactions to Baron Corbin’s segment on Smackdown flooded the internet, Monday Night Raw stepped up to prove it’s not to be outdone when it comes to bad promos.
Has anyone made Denny’s aware that they are sponsoring Rusev’s divorce? I feel like that may hurt their family restaurant aesthetic…Listen, no one cares about how long it’s been since Lashley competed on Raw because you prefaced his match with Lana rambling about divorce papers and restraining orders! Then you slap your current sponsor’s logo on a recap of what could very well be the worst storyline ever written?! If Vince and Co are keeping this whole thing going based on the “Too big to fail” mentality, it won’t be long till they prove themselves wrong.
Lastly, I have to touch on the overuse of the brand invasion angle. I completely understand that with all three brands at odds it makes total sense to keep the “anything could happen” theme going night tonight, but you can only end so many shows with a multi-brand scrap. In the last two weeks, nearly every primetime WWE program has ended with a chaotic brawl. After the first time, it starts making less and less sense that any of the brands would continue exercising the gang war mindset. Throw in some match costing interference, or more backstage attacks, or maybe give someone other than Triple H time on the mic? I know this is the first time we’ve ever seen a true war being fought amongst the three brands, but it absolutely feels like it could be handled better.
With both NXT and another edition of Smackdown still to happen before this Sunday’s show, it goes without saying that WWE could easily rebound from the few missteps they’ve made. But, when it comes to the subject of which show was better this week, I have to say the winner is…
When it comes to the better of two evils, I’ll take the Denny’s divorce segment over chihuahua Reigns any day of the week. Storylines aside, it was matches like Rollins/Andrade and Owens/McIntyre that secured the red brand’s win this week. If you can’t keep my attention with storylines, then the least you can do is deliver some decent wrestling.
There it is, folks. Another week of shows over and another victory for Raw in the books. So, once again, the time has come to bid you fine readers farewell the only way I know how.
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.