SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•FS1 Effect: It was to the great benefit of fans that enjoy quality, long matches that last night’s show was shown on FS1 as a way to not put too much on the show due to what will be a significantly smaller viewing audience. The opening eight-man and Rollins/Murphy were excellent reminders of the talent on Smackdown right now and also were a good speed bump for a show that has been so focused on storyline advancement.
•Tale of the Tribe: The Tribal Chief moniker and its surrounding meaning has added depth to the main event program with Roman Reigns and Jey Uso. The added stipulations to the Hell in a Cell match telegraph the next chapter of Uso losing – perhaps at the hand of Jimmy Uso interference – and being a reluctant servant to Reigns. That is a reasonable enough extension of the program, which itself was likely extended beyond its original intent. Uso continues to carry with him an emotional pull within his eyes and overall spirit, but the fall back down the card seems inevitable. Reigns remains spectacular which is on the verge of being taken for granted and has already made his less engaging days feel like a distant memory.
•Pitch Correction: The war between Sasha Banks and Bayley took on a pitch perfect tone heading into their Hell in a Cell match on Sunday with the climax coming as precisely the right moment. Whereas Banks might’ve missed the mark last week in Bayley’s refusal to sign the contract, her fury tonight was on-point and tangible. I fully expect Banks to walk out as champion as the confidence of the performer behind the character suggests, but Bayley is also serving up an era of her own right now. Here’s hoping that the result of their match leaves both in a strong place for a return match while also specifically advances Banks to the next level that has long been denied to her.
•Half Hour of Highs: There was a lot to enjoy about the opening half hour. Sure it felt like a placeholder to fill time on an off-Fox show, but in general all of the performers worked hard. Seeing Daniel Bryan in the ring feels like an honor worth appreciating, and the whole cast looked to be having fun maximizing their moments to shine. The frog splash finale by Montez Ford was special closing out an enjoyable stretch. In this case, it was is a perfectly fine tone to hit.
•Bank Withdrawal: I get it, the Otis-Miz segments filled time and were more humorous than one would expect. They also, though, were totally unnecessary and only highlighted the fact that WWE backed itself into a corner by giving Otis the Money in the Bank briefcase. I don’t like the devaluing of the Money in the Bank contract by making it a movable, lose-able gimmick, and I also don’t see how either Otis or Miz holding the contract leads to anything positive for the respective brand champions. I would not be against a quick Otis cash-in on Reigns after Hell in a Cell (and of course, subsequent immediate loss) to end this issue and further Reigns’s heel persona. I don’t expect that to happen, but the further this angle goes on, the further we are from the days of a long, meaningful journey to a successful cash-in.
•All My Children: The long, extended storyline of the Mysterio family, Seth Rollins and Murphy is a familiar one to watch but also is now moving at the pace of General Hospital where one scene is spaced out over weeks. The quality of the matches is more than just fine, but the addition of Aalyah to the degree we are seeing her indicates that we are still a far way off from moving on. That in itself is not a bad thing, but I do not see how Seth Rollins benefits from this program any more without adding something drastic to his act including perhaps Aalyah herself ala the initial Stephanie McMahon turn.
•Get the Freak Out: Spoiler Alert: this Lars Sullivan experiment does not work out. Perhaps it is the baggage of the performer or the ridiculous facial hair dye that is now being used or even chalk it up to the jamming of the nickname down the viewers’ throats, but the day is coming for the WWE to realize it needs to stop making the Freak happen. I don’t see how anyone could look at him and see any meaningful storytelling on the horizon other than a quick pivot to a comical midcard act. You heard it here first!
•Viva Lost Vega: What a shame it was to watch Zelina Vega be so marginalized as an act last night in the build of Bianca Belair. There is no reason for Zelina to be separated from Andrade. There is no reason for Zelina to be positioned primarily as a wrestler. And there is no reason for someone as talented as Zelina to be an enhancement talent. There remains so much potential in Vega as an overall act, but I would suggest that she immediately needs to be paired with someone that will complement her to regain any lost traction.
•Outdated Owens: Remember hoping that Kevin Owens coming into the path of The Fiend would lead to character redefinition that would give him more of an edge? Well we need that, pronto. Having him welcome us to the first KO Show on Smackdown after just hosting one on the same brand weeks ago was eye-roll inducing and the overall cool dad act is just lame.