Red Vs Blue

Wrestling Classics & Stable Switcharounds | Red vs. Blue (SmackDown 15/5/20 & Raw 18/5/20)

Benajmin Clem reviews the latest episodes of Raw and SmackDown, deciding what brand is better.

Smackdown puts on a technical clinic while Raw plays heel faction musical chairs…

All that and more in the latest edition of the brand battle series we call Red Versus Blue!

More often than not, professional wrestling is referred to as a male oriented soap opera. In many ways, this sentiment is true. Like it’s daytime television comparison, professional wrestling is a highly dramatized form of entertainment. Throughout the history of wrestling, we’ve seen intense rivalries built around over the top storylines; ranging from the theft of a significant other to securing a Japanese shampoo sponsor.

Though the similarities between the two are extremely noticeable, pro wrestling’s roots in actual athletic competition remain the stark difference separating these unique forms of television content. Sure, we’ve had to cringe through soap opera-esque events like “Katie Vick” and countless in-ring weddings, but when all is said and done, wrestling fans are always rewarded with the payoff of a match.

Wrestling’s use of physical confrontation as a method to continue or conclude a storyline not only sets it apart from most of its drama based television equivalents but also stands as the source of the “sports entertainment” moniker attached to modern-day wrestling.

Last week we delved into the origins and entertainment aspects of the Vince McMahon coined umbrella term. This week’s editions of weekly WWE programming seemed primed to steer the collective conversation more towards the sport portion of “sports entertainment”.

Whether it was Monday Night Raw kicking off with a promo centred around the actual word, or Smackdown delivering an absolute technical showcase, WWE appears intent on suddenly reminding their fans that the third word in the company’s name is “wrestling”. So, in a world where the WWE has seemingly strayed from its overly theatrical blueprint in favour of in-ring competition, the question we gather each and every week to answer once again starts to come into focus.

When it comes to WWE’s weekly flagship programming, which show was better?

You know the schtick, ladies and gentlemen! Every week, I watch the shows, make the notes, and deliver unto you fine readers my semi-informed opinion of which show was better overall.  Again, this week’s victor will be determined solely on what each show did best. With, the introduction and explanation dutifully dealt with, it’s time for us to jump right into this week’s highlights!

The Good

Kicking off this week’s Blue Brand highlights is the Otis angle that served as the focal point for most of Friday night’s show. Although the opening MizTV segment was a bit cringeworthy, the overall story of unlikely tag partners and temptation made it easy to see why this was Smackdown’s feature of the night. Despite being well past the size of most people, both Braun and Otis fill the “everyman” babyface role which makes their teaming as well as the tension between them completely understandable.

I will say that this needs to be Otis and Braun’s only interaction for the time being. If Otis does plan on cashing in for the Bluniversal Championship, then he needs to hold onto the briefcase for an indeterminate amount of time beforehand. Otis has proven he can get himself over without cashing in on another babyface. Better to have him pull a surprise victory off on a heat heavy heel down the road.

Next on Smackdown’s highlight list is Charlotte Flair’s perfectly executed promo on Bayley and Sasha Banks. There is no denying that Charlotte takes after her father when it comes to mic skills.

Like Ric’s promos from the early JCP days, Charlotte starts every one of her segments talking herself up before proving her ability when she’s inevitably interrupted by someone who’s tired of hearing her boast. Charlotte’s self-promotion skills aside, this spot earned a mention because it finally seems as though we’re heading towards the end of the Bayley and Banks bully storyline.

Charlotte has officially planted the seed that will undoubtedly lead to Sasha and Bayley facing one another for Bayley’s Smackdown Women’s Championship. Not only would a babyface Banks fill a somewhat empty spot on the Smackdown roster, but a series of matches featuring her and Bayley could reach main event level if handled how their first rivalry in NXT was.

Finishing off this week’s Blue Brand highlights is the highly technical contest we saw between Drew Gulak and Daniel Bryan in the first round of the Intercontinental Championship tournament. I honestly can’t remember seeing a match this technically sound since the golden era of WCW’s Cruiserweight division.

In an age of professional wrestling where the word “tope” is said no less than five times during most shows, Drew and Daniel reminded us all that a skills-based hold contest can be just as entertaining as dives to the outside of the ring. As with most good things in life, this match even had it’s bittersweet side when the news of Drew Gulak failing to resign with WWE came to light shortly after it took place.

Personally, I’m hoping this amazing example of mat-based wrestling means that Drew’s departure will result in him refining his skills in the indies before making his eventual return. Gulak has never quite found his place in the house that McMahon built, so a new coat of paint might be exactly what’s needed.

Switching over to the Red Brand’s highlights, this week’s list starts off with the ludicrous celebration of Asuka’s Raw Women’s Championship…victory?

Although Asuka’s sudden face turn seems to be brought on by her apparently legit reaction to Becky’s pregnancy announcement, I think this will lead to a great match when Kairi inevitably turns on her tag partner. Logically, Shayna Baszler will be the one to dethrone the “Empress of Tomorrow” in the near future, but a quick feud with Nia Jax and the eventual implosion of the Kabuki Warriors will create a fantastic backdrop to Baszler and Asuka’s top tier rivalry.

Shayna and Asuka could give us the female equivalent of what we saw from Gulak and Bryan on Friday night, and that’s why this balloon covered, Japanese rant fest earned a spot on this week’s list.

Next up for Raw’s highlights is Austin Theory’s adoption by Seth Rollins. After a six-man tag loss resulted in Theory’s expulsion from “Los Ingobernables de Raw”, the “Monday Night Messiah” recruited the young upstart as his newest disciple. This was exactly what we should be seeing from factions like Seth’s and AEW’s “Dark Order”. Just when a talent seems like they don’t have a friend in the world, Seth flies in and offers the strength and comradery that comes with his group.

People need to be drinking Seth’s “Kool-Aid”, not watching him look completely dishevelled after his girlfriend announces her pregnancy. I have to assume that Austin’s departure from Zelina Vega’s Latino centric stable is the door being opened for someone like Humberto Carrillo to step in, but I’m still looking forward to what we can expect from Theory in the future.

Wrapping up this week’s highlight list is the resurrection of Bobby Lashley. The past few weeks have seen Lashley slowly become a more dominant force on Monday nights and it seems we finally have the answer about were this quiet push has been headed. After forming an alliance with WWE veteran MVP, Bobby has positioned himself as a credible heel challenger for Drew McIntyre’s WWE Championship.

In my opinion, Bobby will make a great “one and done” opponent for Drew. Even a loss, if handled properly, could set Lashley up as a top level heel who could conceivably chase the United States Championship shorty after. As long as Bobby continues to be used like the overbearing physical force that he is, this could be the push that finally makes up for all the false starts he’s had in the past.

The Verdict

After weeks of record low viewership numbers, WWE appears to be pulling out all the stops when it comes to appealing to as much of the fanbase as they can. Although last week’s earth shattering announcement from Becky Lynch unquestionably stole the victory from last week’s Smackdown, this past Friday’s show set the bar when it came to what a WWE show can be during the current pandemic. So, as far as this week’s winner is concerned, I have to call this one in favor of…

It just doesn’t get much better than the match we saw from Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak this week. Honestly, when one match and a promo from Charlotte Flair is enough to win the week without Bray Wyatt being involved, you know the show was something special. With an extremely above average showing from the Blue Brand taking the win this week, the time comes once again 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!

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