As Survivor Series takes shape, NXT UK joins the fight, and Lana teaches us the importance of safe sex… It’s brand warfare and more in this week’s Red vs. Blue!
Ah, World Wrestling Entertainment, a company progressive enough to air the United Kingdom variation of NXT in a time slot that correlates with Greenwich Mean Time, but still forces viewers in that same timezone to conform to American time schedules to watch shows that were taped earlier in their country. Vince McMahon’s horrid international affairs aside, this week’s English editions of Smackdown and Raw continued the build towards Survivor Series. Matches were announced, teams began to form, and NXT remained steadfast in their mission to make their presence felt amongst their fellow brands.
However, brand warfare is nothing new to the avid readers of this weekly article! Survivor Series may annually determine the penultimate show within the WWE, but here at TWM, we feel like brand supremacy is in question every single week! With that thought in mind, my task is to watch the shows, take the notes, and then make a semi-informed opinion about which brand was the better of the week. So, with the introduction and explanation expertly handled, it’s time we jump right into the positive aspects of this week’s offerings.
I am fully aware that praising anything that involves Baron Corbin is undeniable grounds for my expulsion from most wrestling fan communities, but I have to admit that his opening promo on this week’s Smackdown was pure heel gold. If making Roman’s ridiculous “Big Dog” Tron effect bark like a chihuahua, and effectively telling fans their buying dog crap when they purchase Reigns merch is the direction we’re going to see King Corbin continue to be pushed, then WWE may have finally made Baron the heel we love to hate.
Moving right along, look everyone! It’s Ring Kam-…er…Imperium! NXT continued making their presence felt Friday night as NXT UK’s German centric stable launched a full scale attack on Heavy Machinery. Although the assault was quickly over when several other blue brand roster members arrived to even the odds, this was one of those rare moments that was absolutely unexpected, but made all the sense in the world. With both Raw and Smackdown taking place in the United Kingdom, NXT enlisting the aid of their UK division was a no-brainer! The only thing that would’ve made this segment even better would’ve been NXT UK Champion Walter cutting a promo or actually competing in the ring…
Finishing up Smackdown’s positives, it seems The Fiend has chosen his next victim. Friday’s show featured an ongoing angle throughout the night concerning Sami Zayn offering his managerial services to Daniel Bryan. Zayn started the evening appealing to Bryan, citing Shinsuke Nakamura’s lengthy current Intercontinental title reign as unshakable proof of Sami’s ability to help. Later, Daniel would spectate a tag match pitting Nakamura and Cesaro against Ali and Shorty G, with the former easily demolishing the latter.
With Bryan’s reaction to Nakamura and Cesaro’s victory being less than obvious, the final segment of this storyline would see Daniel and Sami meeting backstage. As Daniel appeared to embrace the idea of accepting Zayn’s assistance, the lights suddenly died within the locker room area. Nearly as quick as darkness overtook the room, it was replaced by an eerily familiar red-tinted light. Immediately noticing the appearance of The Fiend behind Daniel Bryan, Sami Zayn bolted from the room, leaving Bryan to fall victim to the mandible claw.
The use of the Sami/Daniel angle through the entirety of the show was the perfect distraction technique to keep fans from realizing that Bray would eventually make his presence felt. Dabbling with the “will he/ won’t he” idea most of the night just to have Bray show up and render the entire argument moot was genius booking. Yet another rare case of WWE delivering something we didn’t know we wanted.
With the good of the blue brand covered, it’s time to move to Monday Night Raw. Remember how Walter and Imperium’s appearance on Smackdown left us with a certain degree of wanting? Well, the red brand apparently saw where the ball may have been dropped Friday night, picked it up and ran with it! After Seth Rollins delivered a promo making his allegiance to Monday Night Raw unquestionably clear, he immediately followed his pledge to the red brand with an open challenge to the “United Kingdom’s best”. Imperium appeared to answer Seth’s challenge with Walter cutting a scathing promo focused on the group’s ideals of the ring being sacred and Rollins being unfit to stand within it.
A quick skirmish between Rollins and Walter eventually broke down once the rest of Imperium interfered, only for the entire segment to evolve into a multi-man tag match between Imperium and a Raw roster team led by Seth. All cross-brand shenanigans aside, seeing Walter compete on Monday Night Raw was definitely a “mark out” moment for the inner Indy fan a lot of us possess. It’s beyond refreshing to see WWE treat a non-in-house created talent with the same level of hype he achieved while working the independents.
Finishing up Raw’s positives with two quick highlights, I’ll take a half-decent match featuring The Viking Raiders against Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster over the usual Raiders squash match any day of the week. Sure, I in no way thought Mandrews and The Modfather stood a chance against the Raw Tag Team Champions, but it was still nice to see the Raiders face a legitimate team for once.
Lastly, I gotta applaud WWE for keeping current booking decisions loose enough to incorporate brand rivalry between Raw and Smackdown despite both being actively invaded by NXT. It would’ve been incredibly easy to have the focus of animosity fall completely on NXT, but having the red and blue brands clash while dealing with the inclusion of NXT creates an atmosphere of anything being possible.
Jumping to the negative aspects of this week’s shows, Smackdown finds itself on the chopping block first. Once again The New Day have captured the Smackdown Tag Team Championship, but how this is supposed to perceived as anything but WWE fumbling to deal with Xavier Woods’ recent injury as well as being unwilling to pull the trigger on a New Day break-up angle is a complete mystery to me. I get it, everyone loves the New Day, but another tag title reign after so many previous ones only makes the level of stale this stable has become even more apparent. And I’m not even going into how much this ruins what could’ve been an amazing triple threat tag match at Survivor Series.
Staying on the topic of the blue brand’s tag division, apparently, Braun Strowman and Tyson Fury are a tag team now? Admittedly, this is a perfect way to get Fury more in-ring experience while not having to risk him constantly botching, but didn’t Strowman just straight up jump Tyson after their match at Crown Jewel? Now they’re shaking hands and taking out the B-Team together? Listen, it’s cool to change a storyline midway through, but you gotta at least try to have it make sense! However, I’ll be completely invested in this angle if the team gets named the “New Skyscrapers”.
Lastly, I’d like to make the point that having a qualifying tag match for spots on your brand’s Survivor Series team feels absolutely pointless. You’re leaving your opportunity for brand supremacy to chance? If you’re really gonna be that lazy about how you’re choosing the representatives of your brand, why not just go full Taboo Tuesday and let us pick them?!
Wrapping up with the shortcomings of the red brand, I think this whole section needs to be dedicated to what could possibly be the biggest negative of the entire week…Lana’s pregnancy announcement. You know, anyone can go into the archives of this site, pull up one of my previous articles from a few months back, and read how infuriated I, and most of the wrestling fan community was concerning the Mike and Maria Kanellis storyline. So why, when that previous reaction is readily accessible and overly abundant, would WWE think we would receive this angle any better with a cast change?!
Watching this every week is becoming borderline painful, and most of us felt this way before Lana started detailing the when’s and where’s of her most recent exploits! Who gives a damn about Lana being pregnant or whether it’s Bulgarian or some sort of Ninja Turtle/Human hybrid?! Cody Rhodes is cutting promos that make Jim Cornette take notice and you’re giving us Lana baiting Rusev into yet another sneak attack with a fake pregnancy schtick?! You’re better than this, WWE.
It goes without saying that Survivor Series is shaping up to possibly be the best event WWE has put on all year, and although the NXT invasion feels fresh and unpredictable, storylines like the Lana “menage a blah” remind us that the Thanksgiving tradition could still be full of disappointment. With all that said, it may come as a shock when I tell you that this week’s winner is…
Crazy, right? Sure, the Lana segment left a taste in my mouth that still hasn’t gone away, but I can’t pick an above Smackdown over Walter’s very first match on Monday Night Raw! And I will absolutely deal with Lashley and Rusev-average fighting over the queen of accidental accents if Erick Rowan reveals that he’s carrying his pet possum to the ring now! Seriously, a possum is probably way less ridiculous than whatever is actually gonna be revealed.
Well, with another Red versus Blue in the books and Raw finally bringing Smackdown’s reign of dominance to an end, 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!
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