Over the past number of weeks, WWE has been a tale of two main roster brands. Unlike the start of 2020, Smackdown has turned into the A show. At the same time, RAW has begun a slow downward turn, with poor writing and booking decisions. This past week, it has become more evident than ever, and at certain points, I am surprised that both of these shows are produced the same company. Meanwhile, NXT is thriving on Tuesday nights under the tutelage of Triple H. Let’s compare all three shows this week, and see how each stacks up against each other.
One storyline that I am somewhat intrigued by on the red brand is the feud between Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman, and WWE Champion Bobby Lashley. McIntyre and Strowman are constantly trying to one up each other against former RETRIBUTION members Mace and T-Bar, each coming up short. I don’t know if either Mace or T-Bar will get a push from these back to back wins, since they were by countout and disqualification, but they have to shed their former names. The face paint can stay, but Dominik Dijakovic and Dio Maddin need to come back in some form. Plus, are they aligned with MVP and Bobby Lashley? That question still needs to be answered. A triple threat for the title is scheduled for Wrestlemania Backlash, but it feels lackluster considering we just saw a triple threat world title match at the last pay per view, which happened to me in the main event of the biggest show of the year. Do not be surprised if Lashley loses the title by not being involved in the fall.
Another bright spot that I have seen on RAW is Humberto Carrillo’s return to the main roster to feud with Sheamus and the United States Championship. This is a pleasant surprise for sure, as Carrillo has floundered in the cruiserweight division for what has felt like eternity. In case there was any doubt, I do believe Sheamus comes out on top and eventually feuds with a bigger name, but it’s nice to see Humberto get his shot.
One final plus that I saw on last week’s RAW was the formation of RK-Bro, the new team of Riddle and Randy Orton. They picked up a nice win over Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander, and they may be a team going forward. This reminds me of Team Hell No in 2012, with one member being over the top silly while the other is the serious force holding the team together. You know what, give them a shot at AJ Styles and Omos’ RAW Tag Team Championships. We have not seen the pair since they won the titles at Wrestlemania, and I expect it to be a few months before they get a shot, but it would be a fun title reign for sure. I’m all in on these two working together. Sign me up.
Unfortunately, RAW takes a bit of a downturn after that. I was not a fan of the segment before the tag team match with John Morrison, The Miz, and Elias. Tomatoes? Really? There should have been no segment at all before that match started and it would have been much better. Thank goodness Damien Priest and The New Day picked up the victory. It would have put a rotten taste in my mouth otherwise. I want more serious storylines on Monday Night Raw. I know, Riddle and Randy Orton is pretty goofy, but I’d leave it at that. As long as Priest continues to be booked strongly, he should be fine.
The RAW Women’s Title picture is getting pretty convoluted as well. Charlotte Flair made her return after a lengthy one week suspension and inserted herself back into title contention. She did pick up a win against a very game Mandy Rose on Monday night. I like that Sonya Deville punished her former tag team partner by putting her up against The Queen. Nice little touch there. Asuka is the clear face in this feud, Ripley is the tweener, while Charlotte is the heel. Is another triple threat match coming to Wrestlemania Backlash? It sure feels like it.
Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler finally picked up a pinfall victory over their opponents, as Jax pinned Lana in a six woman tag team match. The WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions teamed with RAW Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley while Lana teamed with Naomi and Asuka. Smart move not to have Asuka take the pin here. Meanwhile, Jax is beginning to draw romantic interest from Angel Garza, who we have not seen in months. I have no idea where that storyline goes, but I do not think it is going to end well for Reginald, Jax’s current manager.
Friday’s edition of Smackdown was built around the titanic clash between Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan for the Universal Championship. It was the first time the belt was defended on free TV since December. We saw multiple interviews throughout the night with various WWE Superstars picking who they thought was going to win the championship bout later in the night. Many of the heel wrestlers, such as The Miz and King Corbin, picked Roman Reigns to come out on top, while Cesaro and The New Day picked the Leader of the Yes Movement. One pick that surprised me was Seth Rollins picking Daniel Bryan to come out on top over Roman Reigns. This actually tells me a couple of things. First, there may be a face turn coming for Rollins sometime in the not-too-distant future. Smackdown has a strong amount of heels with names like Sami Zayn and Corbin. Also, Seth still has bad blood with Roman from years ago that is still unforgivable. I wonder if I am the only one making a big deal out of Rollins’ pick, and if WWE will respond by turning the Messiah into a fan favorite.
For the match itself, it was a clean encounter, with no interference from the outside, ending with Roman Reigns retaining his Universal Championship with a guillotine submission. After the battle, Reigns was going to hit Bryan with a Con-Chair-To, but was saved by Cesaro. However, Jey Uso attacked Cesaro and tied him against the ring ropes, while Roman sandwiched Bryan’s head between two steel chairs. That does not feel like a way to write D-Bry off of just Smackdown. It gave me the impression that Bryan was done with WWE. I would be shocked if he showed up on Monday’s RAW or Tuesday’s NXT. If this is the end of the road for the five time World Champion, he has to go out with his head held high. Bryan has established himself as one of the greatest underdogs in WWE history, capturing the hearts of the WWE Universe in 2014 en route to the main event of Wrestlemania XXX. From his days as The Miz’s protégé on the first season of NXT, to his run as the Planet’s Champion in 2019, Daniel Bryan is a lock for the WWE Hall of Fame, and I wish him nothing but the best if this is truly the end of the road. Also, I’m a fan of Roman’s new theme music. It sounds like he’s the final boss to some video game. It does not fit his character the best, but it’s very easy to get used to and it fits him as a heel much better than the old Shield theme does.
Elsewhere on the card, we had a second title match, with the Intercontinental Championship being defended. Current champion Apollo Crews put the belt up in a rematch against Big E. There were some cool spots throughout, such as Crews hitting a moonsault onto the outside, but in the end, the former New Day member won by disqualification after Commander Azeez got involved. Crews kept the belt, and Kevin Owens made the save from the 2 on 1 beatdown. Sami Zayn came out to attack KO before raising the hands of Crews and Azeez. Zayn was put down quickly, and Apollo and Azeez stood tall. I would be stunned if there’s not a Fatal Four Way for the championship at some point, maybe as soon as Wrestlemania Backlash. It’s not hard to merge the two different storylines into one, and revolve it around the championship. Unfortunately, this means for a lot of multi person matches down the road.
Another match on Friday combined two feuds into one. Smackdown Women’s Champion Bianca Belair teamed up with the Street Profits to defeat Dolph Ziggler, Robert Roode, and Bayley. With their pinfall victory over Roode and Ziggler, I would be shocked if the Street Profits are not the next challengers for Roode and Ziggler’s titles. They have had a consistent feud since January, and it would throw a monkey wrench in the plans of the Mysterios if the Profits win. I do not expect that happening, but I have been wrong before. As far as Belair and Bayley go, it’s a good first feud for the new Women’s Champion. These two have worked with each other before, and their matches have been excellent. Again, I’d expect the champion to retain here and feud with Sasha Banks later on. I’m more confident about Belair retaining than I am about Roode and Ziggler keeping their belts.
Natalya and Tamina picked up a win over Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler on Friday’s show. The pair should be the next WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. The two workhorses would make great tag team champions, and it would allow Baszler and Jax to move on to singles competition, particularly Baszler. There’s nothing that would add a jolt to the Women’s Division more than Baszler back to her NXT form. As far Natalya and Tamina, if they win the belts, I’d like to see them make some defenses on NXT as well, even though they have their own forms of the tag titles.
Two other things were notable about this edition of Smackdown. Aleister Black cut another vignette, explaining that he was alone in school and that nobody wanted to be his friend growing up. It provides sympathy for Black, but based on these two vignettes, I think he will be a heel going forward. It makes sense too, as Black’s character has the feel of a villain. Also, next Friday’s episode of Smackdown will be “Go Back” Smackdown, complete with vintage graphics. Does this mean we will see the return of the Smackdown fist? I know it’s still in WWE storage in Stamford. Could they ship it down to the Thunderdome for next week? That would be a fun surprise.
Could we see Adam Cole interject himself into the rivalry between Kyle O’Reilly and Karrion Kross? It sure seems that way after his latest promo, where he laughed at the possibility at KOR facing the NXT Champion. With all of the multi-person matches taking place on the main roster, it would be a letdown for one to happen in NXT. With that said, O’Reilly should take the belt off of Kross and have an extended feud with Cole. Kross could then move up to the main roster, but that may just be me spitballing. I like Kross a lot, and he seems due to be the next big superstar to come out of NXT. I also don’t want his reign to be short, however. Either or winning would be great, but Adam Cole seems next in line, no matter who wins the rivalry between Kross and O’Reilly.
Tuesday was a great night for Legado del Fantasma, as they picked up an important six man tag team match victory over the makeshift team of MSK and Kushida. Since the breakup of the Undisputed Era, Legado del Fantasma has been arguably the top stable on the black and yellow brand. They will most likely contend for MSK and Kushida’s respective championships sometime soon. Escobar is due a rematch for his Cruiserweight Championship, while Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde have looked quite strong against the relatively new NXT Tag Team Champions. A win in the main event solidified themselves as major players on NXT, and both matches should knock out of the park, especially Escobar and Kushida.
Bronson Reed is once again the number one contender for Johnny Gargano’s NXT North American Championship. Of course, Dexter Lumis and Indi Hartwell both got involved, which allowed Reed to pick up the victory. My only question is whether or not people within WWE are high enough on Bronson Reed to make him North American Champion. He’s one of the most over babyfaces on the roster, and before we know it, he may be wearing gold around his waist.
I like the team of Killian Dain and Drake Maverick. It’s a very similar situation to RK-Bro on the main roster, where it’s one serious and one not-so-serious wrestler teaming up. However, WWE made the right call having Imperium win this match. Fabian Aichner and Marcel Bethel were able to pick up the victory, but it was the post match antics of Alexander Wolfe that caught my eye. He did not attack Dain and Maverick with a steel chair, which could mark the beginning of his departure from Imperium. Wolfe has always been a tag team wrestler, so hopefully he gets his shot in the singles division soon.
Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher are about to start a feud with the Grizzled Young Veterans, and I am here for it. The NXT tag team division is one of the biggest strengths of the brand, and I like to see an established name like Ciampa work with some of the younger names on the brand. It’s even better when he’s in the tag team division and building up many of the teams on the roster. Overall, it’s a great start to a feud, and I’m glad that this is taking time to build instead of wrestling on the same night.
Could Mercedes Martinez be the next challenger for Raquel Gonzalez and her NXT Women’s Championship? It sure seems like it after her match against Dakota Kai was interrupted. The best thing that could have happened for Martinez was her departure from RETRIBUTION back in the fall. She is much stronger in NXT and only made a handful of appearances for the group, so she did not suffer the same fate that some of her other NXT counterparts did. She is being rewarded for that decision by entering a feud with the NXT Women’s Champion. I’d love to see Martinez win the belt, but the smart move is to keep it on Gonzalez for now.
Throughout the rest of the women’s division, Toni Storm was the victim of a shocking upset loss at the hands of Zayda Ramier. This is the defining moment of Ramier’s career in NXT. It was huge for her to beat one of the more established names on the brand. It seems like the feud between Storm and Zoey Stark will continue, leading to a singles match sometime soon. Meanwhile, Franky Monet stirred the pot between the NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart. However, I’m not a fan that Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell are the only challengers for the titles. I would like some fresh faces challenging for the championships, but that may be all for naught if Moon and Blackheart split, which is possible after they were bickering backstage.
Photo Credit on Featured Image: WWE