Suspicious Saudi sabbaticals, an NXT invasion, and Rey Mysterio discovering the importance of an “equalizer”… it’s emergency booking brand warfare in this week’s Red vs. Blue!
Pop quiz, hotshot! You’re the owner of a multimillion-dollar wrestling company that out of the blue decides to do a little business with a less than conventional country, possibly known for inflicting certain levels of oppression on both their own people and tourists alike. Shady, I know, but they’re offering lots of money, and you LOVE money! Now, let’s say that four shows into this business venture your partners are a little behind on payments. Not only that, but you’ve got a show scheduled for live television in seventeen hours, with a fourteen-hour flight between your current location and your final destination…oh, and that possibly oppressive country’s government just put most of your active roster on lockdown. What do you do? What…do…you…do?
If you answered with hop on your private jet, prepare for a fourteen-hour flight, and figure out that whole “kidnapped employees” thing out on the way, with the reason why being, “I’m Vincent Kennedy McMahon, damnit!!” Then congratulations, you’re a psychopath who shouldn’t be responsible for other people’s well being…
All hostage situation hearsay aside, the unforeseen delay in return travel for most of WWE’s main roster following Thursday’s Crown Jewel event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia prompted Vince and Co. to call upon the multitude of talented individuals currently working under the NXT banner. Just days removed from the announcement of NXT’s involvement in this year’s Survivor Series, the yellow brand launched a full-scale invasion on both Smackdown and Monday Night Raw. In a rare case of “who got invaded better?”, this week’s Red vs. Blue will primarily focus on which show benefited the most from NXT’s participation.
You know the drill, folks! I watch the shows, I make the notes, and then I give you my semi-informed opinion of which brand did better overall for the week. With my need to criticize the alleged business decisions of Vince McMahon dutifully handled, it’s time we jump right into the positive highlights from this week’s offerings.
Credit where it’s due, continuing to promote a live, two-hour show despite being so understaffed, most people are tuning in just to see how you’ll pull it off…A pretty effective method of securing those viewership ratings for at least the first hour. After a lackluster opening promo from one of the few roster members to actually make it back from Saudi Arabia on time, Brock Lesnar, the rest of Friday’s show quickly became a romp through the unexpected.
After the final shot of Brock’s departure from the arena revealed NXT founder Triple H and his long-time friend Shawn Michaels tentatively watching the WWE Champion exit, it quickly became apparent that WWE’s newest primetime brand had infiltrated Smackdown. From NXT Women’s Champion, Shayna Baszler demolishing Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Nikki Cross to Tommaso Ciampa and Adam Cole both claiming victory in respective singles matches, the yellow brand definitively made their presence felt throughout this week’s edition of Smackdown. Although this entire angle was a result of rushed booking due to an unexpected dilemma, it undoubtedly felt like one of the most original things WWE has produced in years.
Did you enjoy NXT’s invasion of the blue brand? Well, strap in, because it’s Monday night and Triple H’s army has their sights set on Raw! Picking up where Smackdown ended Friday night, Raw would serve as the next stage for NXT’s declaration of war. Although slightly overshadowed by the continuation of Lesnar and Rey Mysterio’s ongoing feud early on in the show, NXT continued their impromptu invasion as Shayna Baszler interrupted a Becky Lynch interview to confront the Raw Women’s Champion, while Triple H sought to sway the allegiance of former NXT Champion Seth Rollins.
While not featured as prominently as it was on Smackdown, the NXT invasion angle still served as an attention grabber for WWE’s flagship show this week. And if that wasn’t enough to keep you watching, how about that attack from Mysterio on Brock Lesnar?! How refreshing is it to see someone like Rey finally pushed to the point of full-on assault and battery when it comes to dealing with the bully character of Brock? But couldn’t this have worked just as well with Kofi Kingston? Just saying…
Moving right along to the negative aspects of this week, while also keeping with the subject of “The Beast”, Brock’s opening promo may be the only bad part of this week’s Smackdown. Despite answering the question that Bray Wyatt’s Universal Championship victory at Crown Jewel created with both brands’ world titles being held by Smackdown roster members, Brock’s quitting of Smackdown serves no other purpose than making him look like a spoiled child.
You’re supposed to be an apex monster, man! Not a guy who gets butt hurt over a few chair shots, and decides to switch shows. Not only is this an obvious tactic for switching the main titles of both shows, but it also makes all the importance put on this most recent draft completely pointless. A draft means nothing when your main champion can just walk out if he so chooses. Thankfully, Brock’s resignation opened this week’s show, so we had the entire NXT invasion angle to cleanse our communal palate.
Next up in the negatives is Monday Night Raw. Let me start off by saying that part of what made NXT’s involvement on Smackdown so well received was how organic the entire thing felt. Talent emerged from the crowd or made surprising entrances during interviews and promos. Starting Raw off with a convoy of black SUVs pulling up outside the building, followed by Triple H emerging from one to cartoonishly sneak into the arena does not inspire the same organic feeling! In fact, Raw’s variation of the NXT invasion felt so planned, it actually made me aware of the strange duality behind this entire NXT angle.
Sure, this was touched on early in the night when Triple H seemingly tried to reference Seth Rollins’ time in NXT in an effort to recruit him, but as champion triple threat matches continued being announced for Survivor Series, I couldn’t help but notice how many members of the current main roster are former NXT talent. I mean, the tag-team triple threat match scheduled for later this month is comprised entirely of former NXT Tag Team Champions! Noticing something like this always has the potential of ruining the suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy pro wrestling.
If Ricochet and Becky Lynch are both former NXT stars, does it really make sense that they’d have such disdain for the current NXT roster making their voices heard? Convoluted storylines aside, I’d also like to quickly touch on two matches that inspired major head shaking from yours truly. A match between Buddy Murphy and Cedric Alexander should be amazing but comes across as clunky when at least one of the men involved is obviously jet-lagged and beyond frustrated with the company, and stop booking your tag team champions in squash matches! It doesn’t make them look strong, it makes it seem like you have no idea why you put the belts on them in the first place!
After all is said and done, both Raw and Smackdown definitely were of an above-average quality this week, thanks largely in part to the inclusion of NXT. Survivor Series is already quickly building anticipation, but before we rush towards the WWE’s Thanksgiving tradition, we still have a winner to declare this week! I think it’s painfully obvious that this week’s winner has to be…
Once again, the blue brand has kept its win streak alive another week. Sure, both shows featured a decent level of unpredictable moments, but in the end, Smackdown’s handling of the NXT invasion inspired memories of Scott Hall jumping the barricade on WCW Nitro, while Raw’s version made me remember Shawn Michaels wearing an NWO shirt…
With another winner declared, the time comes once again 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!
You can find me on Twitter @DirtSheetDandy. Thanks for reading.