SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Roman Evolution: At a time when WWE has a well earned reputation for not allowing the necessary timeliness for storylines to play out, the turn of Roman Reigns continues to be an inspired, interesting watch due in large part to the pacing. There are so many unanswered questions such as the dynamic with Paul Heyman and exactly how the Jey Uso storyline will play out and that is a great thing. The facial expressions being an internal part of the turn of Reigns recalls to mind Batista’s early 2005 turn on Evolution being a silent MVP to that feud. Roman Reigns is now officially the most exciting character in wrestling. It’s taken a long time, but we are here.
•Shaken & Stirred: Sasha Banks really soared last night with her solo promo in a way that Bayley did not last week. The disheveled appearance and impassioned eyes showed a woman that is fiercely committed to her role and the surprise attack at the end did not feel out of place. It is a great thing that we are watching a grudge feud in the women’s division play out and Sasha is firmly planted as the backbone of it all.
•Legacy: There is not enough positive praise out there for WWE’s video packages over the years, but the highlight video for the Jey Uso/Roman Reigns match was off-the-charts strong. The combination of the Paul Heyman narration with the lifetime worth of photos along with the tie-in with other legacy families, and I felt more inspired than any other video package has made me in years. The dismissive comment of Jey being a tag team wrestler actually gave me hope that there is an awareness to be sensitive to not presenting Jey as missing half.
•Samoan Street Fight: The main event was a logical and necessary continuation of the Reigns/Uso storyline but the presentation as a “Samoan Street Fight” as if it was anything novel was pointless. The overall match was fine but the missed shot by the director early on took out an important moment for Jey, who spent the rest of the match looking like a tag team wrestler. Obviously that is what the audience has known him to be for the better part of his career, but a pivot will hopefully be made soon to make him look like a star solo performer in the ring against a wrestler that the viewing audience respects for their ring work. That would go a long way to getting him to becoming a main event act.
•Overdrawn Money in the Bank: The Otis-Miz & Morrison segments seemed out of a bygone, lesser era than where the best of the show is taking us. If this is all a play to get Otis having the Money in the Bank off the table, then I am here for it. Inserting any one of these acts into the main event scene would be a total step back for the Universal Championship, and if anything, this feud is bringing to light the missing layer of having a serious, well-developed upper mid-card. The jump between the lower card and the main event is just too wide to make the involvement here appear anything other than detrimental to the show.
•The Lifetime of Bliss: This is not a total miss, but watching the Alexa Bliss/Fiend payoff is now entering too-long territory. The fact that so many of these storylines are not being rushed is a good thing, but there is also a moment where it is worth cashing in a payoff if the right moment comes early. This is all intertwining nicely by including Nikki Cross and allowing the Bayley/Banks match a month delay. My hope is that this all comes to a head at Clash of Champions, and we can begin seeing a new character for Bliss emerge. Bliss’s acting has been a high point here, but the staring off into the distance bit isn’t exactly award worthy.
•The Shame of Zayn: I love Sami Zayn. He is continually a fun and interesting character to watch. Sami Zayn is not the Honky Tonk Man. Zayn can be entertaining but simultaneously also be able to show off his wrestling skills and be seen as a more serious threat. His offense on AJ Styles was so limited that I felt like I could watch them purposely dumb down themselves to get the segment they were produced to make. The prospect of the Triple Threat Ladder Match (why can’t we go back to calling it Triangle Ladder Match) is exciting but only if the performers can show what they truly can do.