SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Draft Dodgers: The good news about the 2020 draft so far is that the top tier of the Smackdown brand has not been drastically altered. There is too much positive momentum that has been built up over the past month to throw away or to confuse with the introduction of competing stars, and thankfully Roman Reigns, Jey Uso, and Sasha Banks will all be remaining on the blue team for the foreseeable future. They, after all, have become the backbone of the recent resurrection of Smackdown, and it is a good thing to have stars that remain synonymous with the different shows. There is still time to overly complicate and mix up the brands on Monday, but for now the emphasis on mixing up the upper mid-0card and below is a good place to be to freshen the shows up without tossing out their well earned identities.
•The Feeling of New: This week’s Smackdown was a wall-to-wall newsworthy show with the returns of New Day and Lars Sullivan, the first Smackdown match of the Fiend as well as the first battle between Bayley and Sasha, and of course the draft. That is the kind of breakneck pace that cannot be sustained, but for a one-off “Season Premiere” the show was a consistently entertaining one that felt like a restart on the stale elements that have lingered from the Spring. It was also the most straight-forward, credible presentation of the Draft in years, particularly after last year’s absurdly bad robot war room skits that sunk the entire draft from the first scene. In general, though, Smackdown has carried a swagger of confidence lately, and last night was no different.
•Big E.’s Big Moment: The time has come for Big E to either sink or swim and whether or not his big solo push works is both up to him and WWE. There are choices that Big E should be making for himself such as losing the dive to the outside which nearly went horribly wrong (again!) last night and not allowing his acting to go too far into exaggeration. Where WWE comes in is stepping up and changing his music and ring attire and stopping the ridiculous moments Big E consistently finds himself in such as random eggs being places around to be slammed in his face or sanitizing his hands for humor in a serious fight. The biggest factor, though, is going to be identifying the right dance partners for him, which will determine exactly how he will be defined. Roman Reigns looks to be on the horizon, which would be fantastic for Big E unless, of course, going into it he looks too weak to hang. Big E’s facial reactions to New Day that seemed like he was underwhelmed by their return are worth keeping in mind, but by the end of show I didn’t see either a heel turn or an internal feud on the horizon.
•Re-Found Fiend: The Fiend’s performance last night was a return to his earlier form, but not to the ridiculous degree of the Seth Rollins feud days. With that said, there is a role for him as the WWE’s resident Michael Myers that continues to be thrilling when used just right. I also think it is a net positive for Kevin Owens to have served the role he did tonight. We’ve seen that everyone who crosses paths with The Fiend before take on a new role, and Owens is one of the current roster members most in need of change. That it was positioned as the main event is a great thing for all involved.
•Two Minute Warning: The battle between Sasha Banks and Bayley might have only lasted two minutes, but what it showed was a solid, fluid chemistry between the two that has existed dating back to their NXT days. It was a wise choice to not have a full of theirs compete with an already stacked show, and the quality of their brief interaction was enough to make me excited to see their Hell in a Cell match. I also very much like that not all of the three cell matches will be coming at the same point in the respective feuds (ie. Second or third matches in a series). I think Banks and Bayley is the one most worthy of looking forward to from a match quality standpoint, and it’s been a long time since a women’s division match has carried that feeling with it.
•Mundane & Mediocre: The tag match between Miz/Morrison and Riddle/Hardy was most clearly a set-up for the returning Lars Sullivan, but Miz and Morrison both were just exuding such staleness that it is almost impossible to feel invested in anything they are a part of right now. Morrison in particular is in desperate need of a refresh of look to match his more maturing features. I get that part of the joke is how out of of touch the are, but instead it reads more of a bygone era that just hasn’t evolved up to time. I’m hoping the change of scenery is a positive one for Miz & Morrison that comes with a reinvestment of the wrestlers themselves to update their looks, move sets, and act overall. Riddle and Hardy came out of the match just fine, which in itself is just fine.
•Uce Overboard: There is a lot to love about Jey Uso right now, but the overuse of the word “Uce” as part of his promos is not one of them. What used to come across as a novel part of the storyline that emphasized the family and heritage shared by Uso and Reigns now reads a crutch in moments when Uso has lost his lines. If that is not the case, it’s just plain corny and needs to be worked out of the program moving forward. With that said, it is to Jey Uso’s benefit that Naomi has been moved over to Raw to clear the path for him to sustain a solo run that is not bogged down by the previous grouping with his brother and sister-in-law. I, for one, am telegraphing a heel turn by Jimmy Uso to maintain the solo runs of both.
•Little Things Becoming Big Things: Lars Sullivans trunks are awful. Naomi being drafted way too high for her place on the card. Missing out on explaining the draft rules sufficiently. Why are there eggs just sitting around? These are little things that add up to an unnecessary feeling of messiness that doesn’t need to exist at a time when Smackdown has some well earned goodwill. Over time these can add up, and with next week being the first real re-start of the season, I’m hopeful there will be a thorough review of this week’s show to prepare for a new day.