SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Recap: The show began with Paige calling Becky Lynch out to the ring. Becky said that as the hottest thing in the industry, any time away was too much time away. She said she was back in the game and ready to go, and called Charlotte Flair to the ring.
Becky said that Charlotte came pretty close to giving the beating to Ronda Rousey that she would have, however if it had been her Ronda wouldn’t have been walking the next day. She said that Charlotte only got that far by trying to be Becky.
Charlotte disagreed, reminding Becky that she is a seven-time champion and genetically superior. Becky accused her of changing from copying her father to copying the Man. Charlotte said Becky had gone from quirky to delusional, and accused Becky of riding her coattails. She offered to fight Becky immediately, but Paige broke it up, announcing a TLC match between the two at the TLC PPV.
They were then interrupted by a parade of heels, demanding to be worthy of title shots. A parade of faces then came out demanding the same. Paige relented, stating that there would be a Battle Royal later in the evening, with the winner added to the TLC match, making it a Triple Threat.
Asuka won the Battle Royal in the main event.
Evaluation: Obviously making the match a Triple Threat makes the PPV match much less interesting. It would have been the clear main event on the show. I’ll give WWE the benefit of the doubt and assume this was done to save the singles match for a more-watched PPV than TLC.
The fans clearly still love Asuka despite the booking ignoring her. She was cheered strongly when she came to the ramp in the opening segment.
Asuka was clearly the most talented option to get the title shot. I hope she isn’t lost in the tremendous hype behind Becky and Charlotte.
I like the overall direction WWE has taken with Charlotte and Becky. Becky is the more popular of the two, but at the end of the day they’re both tough, cool faces. This framing worked tonight, as Charlotte was cheered and wooed even when facing off with Becky.
As I mentioned on Wrestling Night in America Sunday night, this angle is working because of its “cool factor.” As much as many complain about WWE, the “cool factor” is currently lacking even outside WWE like never before in my life. If you think WWE commentating comes across as forced and lame, try watching ESPN for 15 consecutive minutes (spoiler: it’s nearly impossible to do). With few exceptions, today’s actors, athletes, and other celebrities come across as whiny, preachy and weak. The few exceptions to this phenomenon, like Connor and Khabib (undoubtedly “cool” despite their flaws), stand out as rarities. It’s tough to think of a single celebrity or athlete that I would want to spend a day with if given the opportunity. In this environment, seeing this “cool” Becky and Charlotte angle creates a strong contrast in the best possible way. I look forward to it every week.
Forecast: Becky’s title reign can’t end this early in a Triple Threat. She retains.
Recap: Toward the bottom of the first hour, AJ Styles came to the ring for a promo. He said the 14 days he’s been without the title have felt longer than the 371 days he held it. He said he expected a target on his back as champion, but not “somewhere else,” as he looked down at his crotch (referencing all of the low blows he’s received).
AJ said Bryan’s explanation last week was BS. He wanted to fight Bryan immediately, but lamented that he wasn’t in the arena.
AJ said he never missed a SmackDown or title defense. He said he’ll see Bryan at TLC and told him to bring his dreams and excuses but most importantly to bring the title.
Evaluation: This segment was nothing fancy, but it was fiery and it worked. It was a straightforward babyface statement of intent.
Forecast: Bryan needs to retain at TLC to build some momentum behind his new character.
20 YEARS OF JEFF HARDY…
Recap: Around the middle of the show, WWE aired an extended package highlighting the 20 years since Jeff Hardy first signed with WWE. Jeff came to the ring and thanked the fans and his family. He said the business was his creative outlet. He said the speech was far from a retirement speech.
Samoa Joe interrupted. He apologized for being late, saying he was backstage popping bottles of champagne for a toast. He said he couldn’t being those around Jeff (referencing his alcoholism). Shane McMahon ran in and tried to take the mic away, but Jeff said to let Joe speak. Joe said Jeff wasn’t coherent to remember any of the highlights shown in the package. He said people don’t change and demons don’t go away. Jeff challenged him to a match, but Joe left.
Evaluation: This is a fine use of Jeff Hardy at this point in his career. Joe was good as well, coming across as intentionally cruel to Jeff.
Forecast: Joe has lost a lot lately, so hopefully he comes out on top in this feud.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – SMACKDOWN 11/20: WWE Listens to the Fans, A New Career for Shane, An Explanation from Bryan, Rey Unmasked