The Fiend fears the spear, and Raw ends in utter chaos, all that and more in this week’s Red Versus Blue!
As most fans will tell you, there’s nothing quite like the build to a major pro wrestling event. The combination of organic anticipation from fans and companies like WWE going all in to fully cement angles creates a level of hype that is unrivalled. It’s an undeniable fact that shows like the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania get fans buzzing. This is a point that becomes even more apparent when WWE tries to spark the same level of hype going into a show like Super Showdown.
Vince and company desperately want the Saudi events to feel as huge as Wrestlemania while maintaining cards that are equivalent to house shows. Sure, we’ve seen The Fiend begin his ‘Bluniversal’ Championship reign at past Saudi shows, but we’ve also seen a multitude of pointless tournaments and Battle Royals take place as well.
Coupling this with talent being seemingly detained after the most recent Saudi event leads to fans being more anxious than hyped going into Thursday’s show. Along with a general feeling of unease, this most recent iteration of Super Showdown has created a sort of “holding pattern” amongst the storylines taking place on both Raw and Smackdown. Although most of our focus is being directed at the angles going into Showdown, we’re simultaneously being given small tastes of what’s to come.
Three shows being promoted at the same time is enough to leave any fan with a fair amount of questions, but the purpose of this series is to answer the one question that continuously plagues us on a weekly basis. So, when it comes to a week that saw Super Showdown, Elimination Chamber, and Wrestlemania all pushed… 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. So, with my usual long-winded introduction and adequate explanation dutifully handled, it’s time to jump right into this week’s positive highlights!
Kicking off the Blue Brand’s positives is the opening eight-man promo that started Friday’s show. You can’t go wrong with beginning your show with a match that features this much talent. Truthfully, this was one of the few times that combining the hype of multiple shows made the most sense. Teasing a future tag team championship match for the Usos while also featuring the Showdown feud between The New Day and the team of Miz and Morrison worked perfectly. Even though the tag tactics in this match were enough to make the Young Bucks blush, the overall match was further proof of the fact that Smackdown currently holds the best tag division in the company.
Next up is the “Symphony of Destruction” tag team match. This was a level of controlled chaos we haven’t seen produced since the Attitude Era! Table spots, guitar shots, and even a knee to a gong! Woo! If someone would’ve told me that this Elias/Strowman/Cesaro/Nakamura storyline was going to eventually lead to a late 90’s style hardcore match, I would’ve been sold from the start! This is exactly how you grab viewer attention mid-way through a show. The premise made sense, the match was excellent, and the finish added to the build-up of the rematch between Braun and Shinsuke. You just don’t get segments better than this in modern wrestling.
Wrapping up the Blue Brand’s good list is the short and sweet exchange between Goldberg and The Fiend that closed out Friday’s show. Now, I’d normally be the first to criticize the WWE for allowing a current champion to be perceived as weak in comparison to a part-time, Hall of Famer, but after giving this moment some thought, I’ve decided that it’s a positive. Yes, you can easily see Bray’s hasty, post spear disappearance as a moment of weakness, but you can also say that Wyatt now knows the full impact of half of Goldberg’s move set!
Hell, if Bray had stuck around long enough to eat a Jackhammer, he’d know exactly what he needs to be prepared for going into Thursday! Let’s also not forget the widely accepted belief that the talent going over on the “go home” always ends up doing the job at the pay per view. All that speculation aside, finishing Friday’s show with an unexpected retreat from The Fiend was a great way to build some much-needed hype for Super Showdown and that alone lands it on the good column.
First up on Raw’s good list is the opening promo between Randy Orton and Kevin Owens. The emotion that both Orton and KO exuded during this spot was palpable. Owens felt connected to the absent Edge and Orton continued to prove why he’s probably the best at extracting an emotional response from the crowd. Having this all take place in front of a Canadian audience only furthered how well it was ultimately received. Starting off a show with this kind of setup for your main event is how you guarantee eyes on the product for the duration.
Moving right along, the Red Brand’s next positive is the outstanding singles match between Angel Garza and Humberto Carillo. This felt exactly like watching Chavo Jr. and Eddie Guerrero feuding in WCW! There’s no denying the exquisite dynamic two family members create when they’re put in a right together. The fact that Garza and Carrillo are both incredibly talented individuals only makes their combined in-ring work even more satisfying. Seeing these two tear the house down definitely made me all the more excited for what’s in store once Andrade and Rey Mysterio get back in the picture.
Wrapping up this week’s positives is Drew McIntyre’s pretaped interview with Charly Caruso. This was absolutely what Drew needed to seal the deal on his current face turn. Putting the slight kayfabe spin on Drew’s journey from “chosen one” to where he is today beautifully set him up as the returning hero, finally claiming what was promised. This spot, along with the fact that the men’s Royal Rumble winner currently isn’t scheduled for Super Showdown or Elimination Chamber, makes it feel like Drew’s complete focus is on his match with Brock at Wrestlemania. Hopefully, we’ll see more stuff like this moving on from Thursday’s Saudi show.
Starting off this week’s bad list for Smackdown is what could very well be the first reboot of a gimmick we’ve seen on WWE television. As auspicious as that claim may be, it seems that Drew Gulak is back to his mentoring ways as this week’s Smackdown saw him trying to inspire the likes of Daniel Bryan and Heath Slater. This was terrible! I know a lot of people didn’t watch 205 Live during its fledgeling days, but that doesn’t mean you can just reuse a gimmick that’s already been done. Sure, Gulak shouting at Slater for going aerial is chuckle-worthy and I’m sure we’ll get powerpoints soon, but Drew is a well established technical wrestler! Wouldn’t he be better off bolstering Smackdown’s seemingly dismal mid-card? I can’t help but think this is yet another case of smaller talent not being taken seriously.
The Blue Brand’s next negative falls mostly on the personal qualms side of the fence. Am I the only person who gets butt hurt when a relatively modern talent gets inducted into the Hall of Fame over an older wrestler? I’m not going to belittle the accomplishments of Brie and Nikki Bella by any means, but why are two superstars who are still effectively in their prime getting inducted before Christian? I guess it’s just hard for me to see legends still not getting the recognition they rightfully deserve, but I personally think we need another decade to go by before the Ruthless Aggression era startups get inducted.
Smackdown’s final negative of the week is the cringe-fest that is the Mandy and Otis storyline. This is quickly becoming one of the most convoluted angles I’ve seen in a while. Mandy thinks Otis stood her up, but Otis got a text from Mandy before he saw her with Dolph, but Mandy says she didn’t send a text. Stuff like this is why wrestling gets labelled as a male soap opera!
Based solely off the few awkward interactions we’ve been shown between the two, no one in their right mind would think Mandy would be interested in Otis! In fact, didn’t WWE try to make us think Mandy might be gay a year ago?! This is just another example of what happens when creative tries to get behind a talent that’s gotten themselves over with the fans.
The Red Brand’s first notably negative moment is the rather random singles match between Ricochet and Luke Gallows. I get that Ricochet has a long-standing rivalry with the O.C. and putting him against Gallows proves his competence against bigger opponents, but are we just going to ignore the fact that Brock Lesnar was at last night’s Raw?! These two have a championship match Thursday and they can’t be bothered to face each other three days before?! This is why no one believes Ricochet has a chance at beating Brock at Showdown! He feels like a random mid-carder that’s been given a shot just to fail. Speaking of Brock Lesnar…
Raw’s second negative of the week is Paul Heyman’s promo. Everything about this speech felt cut and pasted from Heyman’s past promos. If reusing the “spoiler” schtick while referencing how his spoilers had been wrong before wasn’t bad enough, Paul E. ended up going on a strange rant about his Aunt having balls mid promo! This was a perfect example of why people don’t take the Saudi shows seriously! If the man who’s known for inspiring the ECW roster to work without pay can’t manage a decent enough promo to get us into this show, then it’s a lost cause.
Finishing off this week’s negatives is the chaotic sequence of events that was Raw’s main event. Remember how much credit I gave that opening promo between Orton and KO? Well, looks like all that emotion was meaningless! Right from the start of this match Seth Rollins and his disciples made it clear that this was just another overplayed chapter in the ongoing Rollins/Owens angle.
Not only did the now inevitable brawl break out mid-match, but by the end, we even had a referee who’s apparently sympathetic to Seth’s cause. The worst part of all of this is that WWE swerved us into thinking that KO and Orton’s match had zero to do with the “Monday Night Messiah”. We legit got tricked into watching three hours of a show just to have the pay off be the same old thing! This was the definition of diabolical!
Although our final Red Versus Blue before Super Showdown has afforded us the opportunity to compare two “go home” shows, I’m thankful that next week’s focus will be firmly centred on the road to Wrestlemania. But, before we get there, I’m going to say that this week’s winner has to be…
With incredible Lucha libre inspired matches and impassioned promos, Monday Night Raw continues it’s winning streak over Smackdown. Yes, Monday night’s final moments left a lot to be desired, but it’s still more entertaining than a 53-year-old Spearing the current Universal champion!
Well, with another win going in favour of Raw, the time has come 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