SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Silence is Golden (For Now)
The dynamic between Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman is absolutely off the charts and feels more energizing than anything that has been on Smackdown in years. In fact, it’s the first time that Smackdown has felt like the “A” show perhaps ever and it is all due to the brief interactions we’ve seen with Reigns and Heyman. That alone is amazing. Add in Heyman’s nuanced but correct takedown of having The Fiend and Braun Strowman as champions that acknowledged they shouldn’t be in the title picture without discrediting the acts themselves, and this was a home run segment. I can’t see Reigns fully embracing the Brock Lesnar silence, but this was the necessary first step to introduce the new dynamic at play.
Jey Uso’s sudden rise last night was unexpected and yet exciting and worthy. The blessing and the curse of The Usos act has always been that they are tremendous together but hard to distinguish enough as individuals to enlarge their pie into meaningful singles stars. The stars aligned on Smackdown for Jey Uso, however, and we are on an exciting collision course for the Universal Championship – words that have not been said in WWE this entire year. My sincere hope is that we are not going to see a quick burn a la the Owen Hart “Black Heart” angle of late 1997/early 1998, but my instincts say that the family bond between Jey and Reigns will keep all protected here.
The girl band style breakup of Bayley and Sasha Banks finally took place and it was simultaneously long overdue and rushed at a breakneck speed. Regardless, we are there and both acts seem primed and ready for a real run at a classic program. It was necessary to take the time to redefine the acts the past few months and both performers found their way to being fully developed, stronger-than-before acts. Bayley is also the right one to keep heel in the era of “Karen” while Banks seems poised to potentially be finally embraced as the big face of the Women’s Division for the first time in years. The post-match attack was reminiscent of the Edge and Christian break up from a previous era, and while that resulting feud didn’t set the world on fire, the careers that followed did. Let’s wish at least that for Bayley and Banks.
Consider the “Fox” caught. Smackdown is officially the “A” show now and Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman are carrying the flag. Pairing their new act with a rejuvenated Intercontinental Division, Bayley and Banks, sensible storytelling, and a slower burn on introducing new acts, and Smackdown is a better place now than it has been in a very long time. If we are on the cusp of a new era for WWE, we might look back on Smackdown being chosen as the debut of the Thunderdome as the official coronation for the brand as the one to watch. This feels like a good time to be a fan, and that alone is a big win.
•New Girlfriend Feel
For all the good of this show, and there were a lot, it is still time to cycle out some of the acts that were so heavily relied on the past few months to shake off the staleness. Mix & Morrison, Heavy Machinery, Big E, Sheamus, and others helped keep the show afloat during the darkest days of this year, but they are now the same individuals saddled with the image of the empty Performance Center in a time when our “new girlfriends” are arriving with more dynamic presentations. More is needed than a simple roster shake up, as most of these acts could use a renewed look and approach individually, but starting off with giving them, and the viewers really, a break is the next best thing.