Smackdown leans heavy on Otis’ popularity, as Raw redefines the term “killing off” in this week’s Red Versus Blue!
The world of professional wrestling is an ever-changing beast. Unlike other sports, wrestling is almost completely dictated by a fanbase that is always in a state of flux. Fans of professional wrestling range from early thirties diehard “smart marks” like myself to the more casual viewers of the younger generations, to much older viewers that have been watching since the territory days. Pro wrestling is the one sport that is forced to bend and shift based off the current whim of an extremely diverse audience.
Sure, I and the older territory guys pop for a Hulk Hogan spot or the Miz and Morrison reunion, but a fair amount of the teen and younger viewers couldn’t care less about the guys I grew up watching. On the other hand, a talent like Ricochet gets a huge pop from the younger fans, while people like myself pine for his less watered down indy work, and the older audience labels his style as “flippy” nonsense. This vast variety of what people want to see has resulted in wrestling companies adopting a kind of “spaghetti method”, constantly throwing ideas at us in an attempt to see what sticks.
Although, we’ve seen this mentality prove successful, more often than not the ideas that stick are pushed to the point of fans turning against them. Over recent weeks, both Raw and Smackdown have had angles heavily pushed just to be changed or ended completely once the fan reaction becomes outspokenly negative. This week, in particular, gave fans the opportunity to see the exact moment a storyline falls victim to being overly pushed. However, before we get too deep into that, we have to ask the question we gather each and every week to answer. When it comes to the shows WWE starts and ends the week with… which one was better?
You know the drill, 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 long-winded introduction and the usual explanation handled, it’s time to jump right into the positive highlights of the week.
Kicking off the Blue Brand’s good list is the impromptu, “live via satellite” interview of Hall of Famer, Hulk Hogan. What could’ve easily been received as a retired legend blowing smoke up our collective butt about Goldberg quickly became the most entertaining moment of the night the instant Bray Wyatt made his presence known. Wyatt’s NWO inspired Firefly Funhouse interruption was perfect from top to bottom. Whether it was using the Bluniversal Championship as an air guitar, or hinting at Hogan being the Fiend’s next victim, it was obvious that Bray is absolutely invested in whatever role his new gimmick is cast in. Even his transitions from the unnervingly chipper Funhouse host, to the ominous persona that emerges at the mere mention of ‘The Fiend’ have become nearly seamless. My only complaint is that Bray did a whole NWO themed vignette without mentioning his father being in the group at one time.
Smackdown’s other positive moment could fall on the negative column, but I have to praise the talent involved for making the best of what they were given. Sami Zayn and Cesaro were exactly the right guys to deliver the “Anti-Elias Musical Protest”. Pairing Sami’s overly serious heel shenanigans with Cesaro’s natural charisma made a promo that could’ve been received as cringeworthy entirely enjoyable. Even the fans in attendance seemed to change their opinion of this spot midway through as the ever irritating “what” chants evolved into chants for Cesaro’s cowbell and Elias once the drifter got involved. My highest praise goes to whoever was smart enough to keep Shinsuke Nakamura as far away from this as possible. Shin’s involvement would’ve only served to hurt the King of Strong Style’s current standing in the WWE even more.
Raw’s first positive of the week may be the closest we’ll ever get to Vince and company pulling a “Being the Elite” style killing of a character. If the recent rumours of Matt Hardy’s departure from the WWE are true, then this was a brilliant way for creative to tie it into the building Edge and Orton program. In my opinion, this attack may have resonated more with the fans in attendance than the previous one against Edge solely due to Orton’s lack of hesitation. The internal conflict that was visibly noticeable during his assault on Edge was nowhere to be seen as Randy decimated Hardy. Whether this emotional difference was due to Hardy’s leaving, or just for kayfabe sake, it’s safe to say that Orton reminded everyone of why he’s called “The Viper”.
The Red Brand’s next positive came shortly after the announcement of the six women taking part in this year’s elimination chamber match. Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch made her way to the ring to deliver a sizable stack of cash as her “down payment towards violence” concerning the hypothetical fines she’ll be getting once she gets her hands on Shayna Baszler.
Lynch’s opening statement and the Baszler video rebuttal that followed were some of the most well-delivered promo work I’ve seen on WWE television in a while. Both women were firm, to the point, and quotable as hell! Although starting this rivalry ahead of Elimination Chamber makes the winner a foregone conclusion, I personally think it’ll be well worth it after we see the match these two put on at Wrestlemania.
Finishing off this week’s positives is Seth Rollins first public sermon. Now, I know I’ve been pretty critical of the entire “Monday Night Messiah” storyline so far, but last night gave me a tease of what Seth’s current gimmick could be. By leaning more into things like public sermons, eccentric clothing, and calling the fans “brothers and sisters”, Rollins’ is spinning this “Messiah” gimmick more towards a Jim Jones “false prophet” style angle.
A cult-like leader that answers disobedience with violence. Yes, the stained glass Seth is a little too on the nose, but whatever “phase two” is could be the turning point for this gimmick. Also, what if Seth invoking the “Straight Edge Society” mentality is WWE creating a window for CM Punk’s eventual return?! I’ll just be over here drinking my Kool-Aid while you all consider that highly improbable possibility…
Starting off what could have potentially been a lengthy negative list for this week’s Smackdown is the show’s opening “Moment of Bliss”. This segment was bad from beginning to end. No one involved, save for Nikki Cross, seemed interested whatsoever. Involving Carmella and Bayley’s real-life friendship only made the angle feel further played out, and added more pointless heat to a still absent Sasha Banks. My biggest take away from this opener is that Bayley works great as a heel in the ring, but awful as one on the mic. Oh, and did anyone else catch Cole mocking Nikki’s accent? Guess we can assume Vince still isn’t a fan of Irish or Scottish accents…
Next on the Blue Brand’s negative column is the handicap match pitting Sheamus against the team of Shorty G and Apollo Crews. In what universe does Sheamus winning this match make sense?! We all know Crews and Shorty are more than competent, and they got an early jump on Sheamus! By the way, anyone else finds it strange that the two babyface wrestlers were the ones to pull the pre bell ambush? I’ll give Vince and Co credit for making the stakes slightly higher for Sheamus, but in the end, this was just a nonsensical squash match.
The final negative for this week’s Smackdown is a big one. How in the hell did WWE dedicate the majority of a two-hour show to Mandy and Otis’ Valentine’s date?! Not only did this bring down the entire show, but it also focused enough time on Otis for me to realize his gimmick is a Macho Man reboot! As if centring entirely on this angle throughout the night wasn’t bad enough, the whole thing ends with Otis allowing Dolph to block him! You’re going to swoon over this woman for months just to let another man steal the date you worked to get?! Bad form, Dozer. Bad Form.
Switching over to Raw’s bad column, first up is the match between Erick Rowan and Aleister Black. What was the point of this? Neither wrestler had their current storyline advanced, we still don’t know what’s in that damn cage, and no one watching thought Rowan had a chance against Black. This is the issue you get when a featured wrestler does nothing but local talent squash matches. No one takes Rowan seriously because he’s had zero serious matches. Even Aleister has his recent feud with Murphy to somewhat establish him as a viable competitor. The best move for Erick at this point is to show us what’s in the cage and move on to something more substantial.
Wrapping up the negatives for the week is the triple threat match for the 24/7 Championship. It’s becoming painfully obvious that WWE has no idea what to do with the 24/7 Title. For a fleeting moment, it seemed like Mojo holding the championship might actually mean a decent storyline was coming, but here we are. I’d ask how WWE convinced someone from NXT to be called up to hold that butt ugly belt, but I assume Riddick Moss is thankful to just be on TV at this point. I will say that R-Truth being given more time to shine in the ring is definitely a good thing, but even that isn’t enough to make the 24/7 Championship worth caring about.
C’mon, people! You know how this is going to go. There was an incredibly stark difference in the quality of this week’s shows. With that said, I think it’s fairly obvious that this week is going to…
Seriously, if I almost fall asleep ten minutes into Smackdown, it’s not likely that it’s going to match up with Raw! All of Friday night’s show felt, for lack of a better term, undercooked. It’s possible that with a good amount of Smackdown’s storylines currently focused around Super Showdown, WWE is just going through the motions until the Saudi show is over. So, with another consecutive victory awarded to 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. Thanks for reading.