SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Teasing the End of “Kami”…
Recap: The show opened with Shinsuke Nakamura taking the ring for a promo to cheers from the crowd. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn then came to the ring to complain about referee’s missed call on Sunday and state that after their rematch with AJ, they would become WWE Champion before Shinsuke’s title shot comes around at WrestleMania. AJ Styles then hit the ring and called for a tag match tonight. Owens and Zayn declined, only to be attacked by AJ and Shinsuke.
Later backstage, Daniel Bryan set the tag match between Owens/Zyan and AJ/Shinsuke despite the heels’ earlier decline of the invitation. Bryan also set next week’s main event: Kevin Owens v Sami Zayn to become Number One Contender. Owens and Zayn appeared distraught at the idea of facing one another.
AJ Styles attempted to strategize with Nakamura backstage before the match, but Nakamura would only respond to AJ’s questions by saying he would beat AJ at WrestleMania. Nakamura eventually admitted that he was just messing with AJ, but before leaving did tell AJ to “just listen to me” during their tag match.
Shortly before tonight’s tag match, the stress of facing each other next week seemed to cause dissension between Sami and Keven, as they each recapped the other’s failures in prior matches in a passive-aggressive manner.
During the tag match itself, when Zayn was knocked to the outside of the ring, Owens was visibly angry at him for not recovering fast enough. Eventually the two broke into an argument outside the ring, which resulted in Zayn walking out on Owens. When Owens was pinned by AJ, however, Zayn did return to break up the cover. Dissension continued after Zayn’s return, as Owens and Zayn appeared annoyed to be tagging each other in and out of the match. This eventually culminated in Zayn walking out on the match for good. Nakamura would finish Owens with the Kinshasa.
After the match in an interview with Renee Young, Zayn predicted that he would defeat Owens next week and become WWE Champion (despite also stating that their friendship was not over).
Evaluation: It was good to see Nakamura again more serious tonight. They’ve toned down the cutesy stuff a lot. I particularly liked his telling AJ to just “listen to me” out in the ring. That helped set the stage for him as an alpha in his upcoming title match.
They’re not being subtle in hinting that the friendship between Owens and Zayn is fraying from both of their desires to be champion.
Forecast: It’s too early to split up Owens and Zayn, especially since Zayn just turned heel after being completely lost as a face for so long. I am hoping this culminates in a “fake out” next week, where the match builds as if Owens and Zayn are about to kill each other, only for everything to be revealed as a ruse on the fans.
The Top 10…
Recap: Complete with cheesy text animations, Daniel Bryan announced the creation of the SmackDown Top 10 List. The list will be set by wrestler (not fan) voting. It will supposedly be used to determine future championship opportunities.
Evaluation: This seems like a cheap way to set matches going forward without having to properly tell a story. Since the list is set by kayfabe wrestler voting, WWE can essentially set the list however it likes to create matchups without having to tell a story to get there.
Forecast: This seems like an awful idea that will be used to cover for lack of good storytelling. Hopefully this idea comes and goes quickly. Alternatively, if the list isn’t actively used to determine championship opportunities but is rather just posted on WWE.com weekly, it could be some harmless fun.
A Near-Cash-In for Women’s MITB…
Recap: Charlotte cut a promo in the ring recapping the Women’s Royal Rumble. She was interrupted by Riott Squad, who proceeded to jump her.
As Riott Squad left, Carmella ran to the ring to cash in her Money in the Bank Contract (nicknamed “Frankie” on a SmackDown episode last month) on a seemingly incapacitated Charlotte. She handed Frankie to the referee, however before he could explain the cash-in to the ring announcer, Carmella attempted to kick Charlotte and missed, hitting said referee. With the referee knocked out, the bell never rang, and the cash-in never officially took place. With Charlotte recovering, Carmella grabbed Frankie and left ringside.
Evaluation: With renewed focus on the women’s division on both shows, this angle was a good way to remind the fans that Carmella’s title shot is still out there, waiting to be cashed in at any moment. It was a good way to build anticipation during WrestleMania season. Any time that Charlotte’s in a tough spot over the next few weeks, the fans can be kept guessing as to whether Carmella will run out.
Forecast: While I don’t think it’s likely that Carmella will win the title before WrestleMania, the MITB keeps the women’s division interesting on SmackDown during this extended 8 week period without a SmackDown pay per view.
-During the Fatal Four-Way for the U.S. Title Number 1 Contender spot, Bobby Roode was on commentary. What should’ve been valuable time on the mic to get himself over was interrupted, however, by the pointless throwing of pancakes by Big E at Corey Graves…
-The new cartoonish graphic and text animations used during promos tonight were not good. The jailhouse door animation for the Uso’s promo was particularly bad….
-Sami Zayn sweetly bringing Becky Lynch a birthday cake is one of the worst instances yet of breaking character for a Mixed Match Challenge promo. At least Braun and Alexa seemed to mostly stay in their heel characters during their promo…
NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – RAW 1/29: Women’s Rumble Aftermath, More Destruction from Braun, Cena is headed to Elimination Chamber, more