War for Brand Supremacy Rings Hollow Without Any Stakes; More WWE Raw Fallout
With Survivor Series approaching, WWE Raw had one last chance on Monday to prove why the red brand should be feared. However, it did not find much success on that front.
Friday Night SmackDown took the first shots by attacking Raw stars in the ring and in the back. NXT finished the job by putting down both the Superstars of the flagship and the invaders from the blue brand.
It was a night of fighting before a show in which one win or loss could determine the dominant brand in WWE, and it was easy to feel the tension inside TD Garden in Boston.
While the matches never got a fair shake and certain stories fell by the wayside, the core of Raw was to begin a week of pure chaos.
It's hard to judge the success of the show as the brawling began early and never stopped, with everything focused on the war for brand supremacy.
Raw Threw Away Matches to Get People to Tune into NXT
Seth Rollins vs. Andrade ended in a disqualification following the interference of Lucha House Party. Kevin Owens vs. Drew McIntyre stopped abruptly when Triple H arrived to ask KO to join the black-and-gold brand at Survivor Series. A three-brand fight broke out to end the main event prematurely.
After the fight, NXT stood tall, and The Game cut a backstage promo inviting anyone to come to NXT on Wednesday to pick a fight with the developmental brand.
All three matches were strong before their abrupt endings, especially the fantastic clash between KO and McIntyre, but it was entirely unnecessary to have so many non-finishes. The point was to get people talking about brand warfare, and plenty of other ideas could have accomplished the same thing.
It was effective for Triple H to end the show calling out Raw and SmackDown. It sells NXT on Wednesday as a must-watch show and builds more toward Sunday's Survivor Series. Even if the red brand's three hours felt somewhat wasted as a hype piece, at least the ending worked.
From the start, NXT's stake in this fight has been far more interesting than Raw or SmackDown. This is about proving NXT is a third brand rather than remaining a developmental one.
Wrestlers considered not ready for the main roster made their mark for the first time since the initial invasion of the blue brand. Now the follow-up must deliver.
Samoa Joe Well-Suited for a Commentary Role in the Short Term
Samoa Joe took the injured Dio Maddin's spot for the week on commentary and elevated the show with his insights.
The Samoan Submission Machine is unable to compete in the ring due to a broken thumb, but it makes sense for WWE to use him in a non-wrestling capacity. He's a fantastic mic worker and well-suited to the smooth style of commentary.
This cannot be a permanent move given Joe's importance to Raw when healthy as well as Maddin's reliability behind the announce desk. However, it's the right role for now.
It may actually be a good idea to test Joe in a variety of roles. Much like with Sami Zayn, he could be a manager. If WWE wants to sell the brands better, he could be a GM or enforcer for Stephanie McMahon.
It is well-documented that Joe, 40, has a history of injury concerns. Eventually, he will have to step away from action, and WWE should leave plenty of openings for him to stick around.
Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy Can Elevate Each Other
Buddy Murphy knocked on Aleister Black's door as a prank before heading out for a match with Akira Tozawa. After he won, he did it again, but The Harbinger of Fury answered. The two stared each other down.
The two men have been on the rise on Raw since the brand split, and it looks like they are on a collision course. Black has been in need of a real rival, and Murphy has been looking for someone to elevate him to the next level. They can help each other.
They should also have stellar matches together. Just imagining the fast-paced action is enough to get excited. They are among the best on Raw right now and still have so much room to grow.
It is time to let Black and Murphy show what they can do as competitors and storytellers. They can keep having good matches with random opponents, but it will not make them feel worthy of challenging for gold.
The WWE Universe still may not quite understand how good Murphy truly is. That will come into full view as these men got to war.
Randy Orton and Ricochet Continue Building Quiet Feud
After The Authors of Pain made an example out of Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder, The Viking Raiders were left without challengers.
Randy Orton accepted the opportunity to take on the Raw tag team champions and picked Ricochet to be his partner, but brand warfare ended up cutting the match short.
The story that has been built between The Viper and The One and Only has been subtle to start. The two are playing mind games that almost seem to indicate Orton respects Ricochet. He was willing to go to war with him for team gold.
Neither are great promos, so their body language tells much of the story in the ring. They do not trust each other, but there's a mutual appreciation for their connection.
Before long, The Apex Predator will strike. Ricochet can play coy for now, but it's hard to doubt a guy constantly trying to help you. When he lets his guard down, he will suffer for it. It will be fascinating to watch how the story progresses.
It is easily the best story Ricochet has been able to tell on the main roster without even considering the quality of matches they can have together.
Orton has also been in top form, avoiding a reliance on just being the RKO guy.