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    Tuesday, December 31, 2019

    31 Days of Wrestling (12/31/19): The Wrong Card (Monday Night RAW, May 6, 2019)


    Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies, and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2019 produced for us.

    Since the brand split was resurrected back in 2016, the back half of WWE's decade turned out to be pretty solid and watchable. While it wasn't always perfect, the separate identities of RAW and SmackDown kept some semblance of order in the chaotic expanse of the then-main roster—both brands had their distinct rosters, storylines, and status quo.

    Never mind that the monthly single-brand PPVs ended up being unsustainable; what mattered was wrestlers got their opportunities in their respective totem poles. And, of course, that it stayed that way, so that fans could continue to follow along in the internal logic the company laid out.

    But this is the WWE, and like many entities that have come and gone before it, whenever it feels threatened by something, it will react. And nobody is the master of panic at the highest level than one Vincent Kennedy McMahon. For reasons nobody will ever truly understand (until it's explained by someone in the know in some podcast sometime in the future) the WWE instituted the infamous Wild Card Rule right after this year's Superstar Shakeup.


    The Wild Card Rule was both simple and confusing at the same time. It allowed "up to four" RAW and SmackDown wrestlers to appear on the opposing show every week, but quickly devolved into a lot more as there was no real authority figure around to police its implementation.

    The prevailing theory was that it was there to kill the brand split they had all worked so hard to resurrect and maintain over the past few years. As SmackDown was moving to FOX from USA, WWE seemingly needed a way to frontload RAW (on USA) again with the stars they'd put on the blue brand—guys like Roman Reigns, then-WWE Champion Kofi Kingston, and Daniel Bryan, just to name a few. SmackDown didn't really get top red stars the same way its counterpart did.

    The nonsense of the Wild Card Rule ran for weeks and weeks this year, all throughout the summer. The good thing is they weren't able to get away with it, as loud criticism from both wrestlers and journalists (as well as the need to keep it together as much as possible in the face of new competition) essentially forced the company to undo the mess they tried to make. They would hold another WWE Draft on SmackDown's move to FOX, which wasn't perfect either, but so far the split is holding up as well as it could.

    What is amusing—and quite satisfying, from a fan's perspective—now is that there's a force somewhere in the works that's making the company listen to its fans more. Maybe it's not fixing all the mistakes, but there's certainly more care going toward how people feel about the product. 

    For all its flaws (and there are many of them), the overall body of work put out by WWE in 2019 sees them barely edging out the negatives with the positives. Some may forget that the WWE product is so big, it isn't just the main roster, even if RAW and SmackDown are the company's face. There's still a lot to love about it, and the rest of wrestling as well, and even more so in 2020. If companies can still build on their mistakes, you can certainly give them—or wrestling, in general—a chance.


    *****


    31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2019. Read our previous entries:

    20. The Death of KofiMania (Kofi Kingston vs. Brock Lesnar, SmackDown on FOX Premiere)
    21. Still Changing the World (Onslaught and Da Butcherman vs. Shaolin Monk, CIMA and Kenny Omega, SPW Klash of Kings)
    22. Biting the Bullet (KENTA joins the Bullet Club, G1 Climax 29)
    23. Brother Bleed Brother (Cody vs Dustin Rhodes, AEW Double or Nothing 2019)
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    Item Reviewed: 31 Days of Wrestling (12/31/19): The Wrong Card (Monday Night RAW, May 6, 2019) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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