SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Oath of the Uce
The opening promo was Jey Uso’s least consistent performance since the program with Roman Reigns began and included, once again, an overr-eliance on the term “Uce,” a brief moment of forgotten script, and a fluctuating delivery, but ironically it all eventually fit nicely into his character’s evolution. It was good to see as close to genuine emotion as we have in a very long time on WWE TV, and having Jey’s outward expressions being complemented by Roman’s understated delivery is pitch perfect. The closing angle was compelling as it comes these days, and it does not appear that Jey was being shuffled down the card in a supporting role as his loss at Hell in a Cell might’ve indicated. A win over Daniel Bryan is still a big win. That alone should be indicative that Jey is here to stay.
•Dependable Daniel Bryan
It always feels like a privilege to watch Daniel Bryan on our screens, and having him being positioned as a key contributor to the Reigns/Uso program was a strong fit. It was surprising enough that Bryan took the loss, but it wasn’t a burial by any means that takes him out of the long term of this storyline. If anything, Bryan is needed more than ever to add an extra layer as a foil to Reigns (and now Uso). It would be interesting to pair Jimmy Uso with Bryan after the show closing attack, with that four way dynamic leading us through the late fall.
I am as excited for the Bayley-Sasha Banks rematch as I have been for any match on either Raw or Smackdown in a very long time. I love that Banks’s past failures at retaining her championships have been called back on to give the match historical perspective, and the chemistry that both performers have with each other is probably the best of any women competitors of the Women’s Evolution movement. Banks is top tier and will be significantly better off for having been in this program than she would’ve been without it. Bayley, in her own right, has grown tremendously as well. One can only hope that the respective next chapters for each feature worth while opponents because right now they are the only women that WWE is hitting all right moves with.
A simple hit, but I love the chemistry between Cesaro & Nakamura and the Street Profits. Their rivalry isn’t exactly that deep, but the matches are throughly enjoyable with Cesaro and Nakamura appearing more and more inspired by the week. Street Profits have found a better balance between being outgoing and obnoxious, and the flying flogsplashes by Ford are downright dazzling.
•Team Challenge Series
Now this certainly is not the old AWA series, but this has about as much of a significance of the old Team Challenge Series in that we are leading to nowhere important fast. It still makes zero sense for such newly drafted wrestlers to be so passionate in representing their respective brands for anything other than personal pride. Match quality-wise, the show was at a high, but with nothing of note resulting from their participation here, the whole month of November for the mid-card is bound to feel like filler.
Who would’ve ever predicted we would see Lars Sullivan wearing a polo shirt so quickly into his newest run? Nothing about the sit-down segment advanced the Lars Sullivan character – from putting The Freak in a sympathetic role by sharing a story of being bullied, positioning him next to Corey Graves who with significant height diminished Sullivan’s size, and spotlighting Sullivan’s relatively soft voice. This was not Mankind circa 1997 level production with Sullivan coming out looking more dangerous than ever before. Instead, it seemed like a lame attempt to find a connection for a character that really only needs a manager to do that work for him.
•The Aalyah Affair
This one is a mixed bag for me, as the acting in the whole Mysterio Family/Seth Rolllins/Murphy entanglement has been fairly good throughout. However, there is just too much wackiness to the backstory to expect Aalyah to expect forgiveness of Murphy and there is such a stark visual difference in ages (Particularly due to her looking exceptionally young) that at moments it can feel uncomfortable. I do, however, enjoy that Rollins has flashes of having his ‘messiah’ approach work work on Aalyah, as that whole character only works if he actually has followers. This is more wait and see for me, which is ironic as it has been going on for seemingly two years.
•Fresh Princess Belair?
A win was important for Bianca Belair, but being given such a tough time by Billie Kay (and to a lesser extent Natalya) did not add to Belair’s main event level mystique. Pair that with a less than stellar backstage performance, and much of the bloom is off the rose for Ms. Belair. My preference would have been another dominant win a la last week leading to a showdown with Bayley which could transition into a Wresetlemania match with Sasha. The best we can now hope for is a star showing in the Women’s Survivor Series match, which still doesn’t feel so far out of the possibility, but would be more of a make-good than anything.
Follow Nick Barbati on Twitter: @NicholasBarbati