SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•The Big One
Finally being able to “win the big one” has been a long standing storyline in wrestling, and in Sasha Banks’s case, it has been maintaining “the big one.” By retaining the Smackdown Women’s Championship this week, that storyline along with the feud with Bayley was seemingly put to bed in satisfying fashion. Make no mistake about it, this program felt rushed at the onset, but once it was smoothed out, the action it has provided has been nothing short of stellar. As this show reminded, the in-ring dynamic between Banks and Bayley is second to none and the entire affair this week felt like a special occasion. I’m glad it seems as though they are leaving it be at a time when there is seemingly gas still in the tank for a revisit down the line. For now, though, Banks is primed for bigger and better. If only that was on the other side…
•A New Jey-Di
The role of Jey Uso is settling into a nice tone where he is not throwing away all of the good will from the fans that he has earned over the past couple of months but at the same time showing a commitment to the family loyalty. Jey’s acting has improved significantly recently and it is impressive that, as his match with Kevin Owens showed, he no longer really looks like a missing half when he is in singles action. Uso will be a continued hit as long as he is not defined back to where he was a year ago. By all indications, WWE is just as surprised with the result as any viewer would be, but thankfully they are meeting the rise of him step-by-step.
•If Looks Could Kill
The dynamic between Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman continues to be one of the most fascinating elements of wrestling this entire year. I loved this week’s backstage segment which really adds the layers of the inner communication between them that the ringside action would not necessarily spotlight. By not simply adopting the role that Heyman had with Brock Lesnar, the entire Roman Reigns character looks tougher, meaner, and scarier than he would otherwise be seen. Having Heyman direct Jey Uso on the orders of Reigns will do nothing but bring out the very best in Uso. Overall, this is an amazing story that no one could have predicted six months ago, but thankfully is serving as the backbone of keeping Smackdown alive and now, thriving.
•A Knockout by Owens
It’s good to know that Kevin Owens still has the ability to pull out a serious, passionate promo when he is given the opportunity to do so. The time is right for Owens to really break out a serious persona to match the drama at the top of the show, and this was a great reminder of his talents. It is amazing that now both Owens and Daniel Bryan have Smackdown losses to Jey Uso back-to-back when they simultaneously feel like the only worthy opposition to Roman Reigns. I’m very much hoping that this isn’t writing either off from a sustained main event program with the Tribe.
•The Other Side
For as incredible of a fall season that Smackdown has had with it’s storytelling, it is impossible to not notice that the other side of the headline feuds of Roman Reigns-Jey Uso and Sasha Banks-Bayley has left no one of real note waiting to step up. The infusion of Carmella into the Women’s Championship scene was hardly Terry Funk circa 1989 attacking Ric Flair and feels like a major comedown. Similarly, for as good as the Reigns and Uso program continues to be, there remains a huge gap of a credible babyface to serve as their counter.
•A Mess of a Messiah
The Seth Rollins win was a necessary one. However, at some point the attached storyline with the Mysterio Family, Murphy and Aalyah just feels like the writers are making up new soap opera storyline points each week as a nod to All My Children. I have no faith that anyone involved knows where this is all going and the performers are acting as such despite putting in their best efforts. The latest twist with Murphy helping Rollins would’ve worked infinitely better if he didn’t have a camera on him backstage undercutting the whole thing.
•Crowd Killer Corbin
In 2020, there is no bigger signal to turn the channel than to have King Corbin enter the room. I don’t care how much better or bigger Corbin gets, barring an overhaul of his character, he will eternally carry the baggage of major go-away heat. Why waste valuable mileage out of an easily injured Rey Mysterio with Corbin? The truth is that that Corbin feels like a walking symbol of defiance from the WWE to the fans and there are too many great opportunities (ie. Kurt Angle’s retirement, Matt Riddle, Chad Gabble) being left in its wake.
•No Survivor Found
Seeing Zelina Vega being reduced to enhancement talent is a heart-breaker of the highest magnitude. Pairing that with the realization that the best we can do for the women’s mid-card is put her in a three way with dead acts like Ruby Riott and Natalya in a throwaway match with no real meaning, and the situation is downright sad. Vega in particular, though, feels wasted beyond words, and my sincere hope is that this little blip is completely forgotten. Pairing her with a new act with a new look would be all it would take, and that can’t happen soon enough.
•Out with the Otis
Wasn’t it just yesterday that Otis won the Money in the Bank? Talk about a free fall! At this point, he feels like a WCW jobber from the late-’90s that had a moment to shine and then stays in a particular time-filling lane.