Remember how shocking and cool it was when Scott Hall, who had been one of WWE's top stars for several years, showed up on "WCW Monday Nitro" as an outsider in 1996?
Or when The Nexus brutally attacked John Cena, CM Punk, commentators, a ring announcer and even the timekeeper on "Raw" in 2010?
If you're a pro wrestling fan, you absolutely remember those "hey, they don't even work here!" invasion angles because you didn't see them coming and they felt real -- at least at first.
Which brings us to "SmackDown Live's" violent invasion of "Raw" Oct. 23. It's true that none of us saw it coming, but WWE's red brand being under siege by its blue brand came across about as real as Sasha Banks' purple weave. That's because the angle -- which kick-started the build for "Raw" versus "SmackDown Live" matches at the "Survivor Series" pay-per-view Nov. 19 -- was totally devoid of logic.
While fans quickly caught on that Hall and Kevin Nash -- the first two members of the invading faction that would come to be known as the nWo -- were not really being sent by WWE boss Vince McMahon as part of a hostile takeover, and the upstarts in the The Nexus weren't really attempting to gain WWE contracts by any means necessary, it was easy for fans to suspend their disbelief and go along for an exciting ride.
Conversely, "SmackDown Live" babyfaces and heels banding together to brutally assault severely outnumbered members of the "Raw" roster (as well as a backstage crew member) had me shaking my head in disbelief.
Brand rivalry angles have never worked in WWE because everyone with an IQ above Festus' knows there simply is no rivalry between "Raw" and "SmackDown Live." It's forced and artificial.
This isn't an instance of an outlaw promotion or rogue faction invading WWE. Both sides
are WWE. "Raw" and "SmackDown Live" even share announcers, which made commentator Corey Graves sound like a idiot for using words such as "we" and "our guys" during the attack.
Whether it's best for business to even have two separate brands is a debatable point. There are positives -- separate rosters means more spots for the talent -- and negatives -- too many titles lessens the championships' prestige, and splitting the roster reduces the star power of each show, especially the three-hour "Raw."
But since there indeed are two brands, I don't have a problem with once a year having inter-promotional matches. The key is that the matches have to be for something more than brand loyalty. Without a tangible prize -- whether it's money, title shots or a date with Lana -- I just don't buy bitter rivals joining forces and fighting alongside one another simply because they work on the same show.
Even if there was something at stake, I still don't think it would be logical justification for the conduct of WWE's stars to be completely out of character, which is exactly what we saw on this week's episode of "Raw."
I'm really supposed to believe that The New Day -- the fun-loving guys who are all about rainbows, unicorns and Booty-O's cereal -- not only had no problem participating in a gang-style attack, but they were practically frothing at the mouth in doing so. The New Day really feels that strongly that members of the "Raw" roster are their mortal enemies, even though The New Day themselves were a part of that roster six months ago?
I'm also supposed to believe Becky Lynch, perhaps the purest babyface in the company, also would be a willing participant in such despicable acts, which included the "SmackDown Live" thugs bullying an innocent backstage crew member and forcing "Raw" general manager Kurt Angle to watch as his roster was destroyed?
On the flip side, why would heels such as Baron Corbin, Rusev and Dolph Ziggler care about brand loyalty? They're not supposed to have any redeeming qualities. It was especially out of character for Corbin, who has shown repeatedly that he cares about no one but himself, hence his "Lone Wolf" moniker. But there he was on "Raw," "The Lone Wolf" himself, an enthusiastic member of the pack of sheep proudly wearing his nice, blue, corporate T-shirt.
The mastermind of the siege was "SmackDown" Live commissioner Shane McMahon, a babyface. In McMahon's promo on "SmackDown Live" Oct. 24, his rationale for the violent display was that he was always taught that when you're in a fight, it's better to throw the first punch. Fine, but would a babyface make the first punch a sucker punch?
McMahon also said that when he visited Angle in his office earlier during "Raw," Angle disparaged the "SmackDown Live" roster, thus justifying the attack later in the show. But McMahon brought his crew to "Raw" with bad intentions before he even had the conversation with Angle, so that doesn't ring true.
The only person in this whole ill-conceived mess who has acted in a manner befitting their character is "SmackDown Live" general manager Daniel Bryan, who clearly was not pleased with McMahon's actions.
Personally, I'm wondering WWJCD? (What Would John Cena Do?)
It's probably a good thing Cena is on hiatus at the moment, because as WWE's lone free agent, he'd be a man without a country. He could try to remain neutral like Switzerland, but then again, being Swiss in WWE isn't necessarily good for one's career -- just ask Cesaro.
Or perhaps Cena could wear a red shirt on Mondays and fight for "Raw," and then switch to a blue shirt on Tuesdays and represent "SmackDown Live."
It'd be like when you played pick-up football games as a kid, and one of the dads or older kids in the neighborhood would play quarterback for both sides.
It actually makes more sense than anything about WWE's so-called brand rivalry.
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