SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Land of the Big Dog(s)
I cringed when I heard the opening bars of Drew McIntyre’s music which instantly signified the further deterioration of the brand split. However, the combination of McIntyre and Roman Reigns felt like a big deal throughout the night, and in particular during the opening segment. While this could be a set up for a rushed Survivor Series change, I anticipate that it instead is a long foreshadow for WrestleMania. WWE has introduced WrestleMania storylines at this point in the past (see WrestleMania 35), so that would not be too far out of the realm of possibility. Having this clash coming up feels much more important today compared to 2019, with more compelling characters to match the talent. This was the best of McIntyre, and Roman’s line about Smackdown being the show people watch might have been a little too on-the-nose right now.
•Something Special Out of Something Ordinary
Bonus overall points to the fact that it felt special to see Drew McIntyre face Jey Uso on Smackdown. That sentence would not have existed months ago, but it sincere tribute to the quality of effort put in to making Uso the rising star that he is.
•End of an Era
It feels like we’ve been watching the war between the Mysterio Family and Seth Rollins since the beginning of time, but last night did feel like a suitable conclusion. The dovetailing of the tribute to Eddie was a nice touch, and the splintering storylines involving Murphy and Aalyah feel like natural progressions. It was an interesting decision to wrap up the program on Smackdown rather than a major Sunday night show, but with the Survivor Series format providing a hinderance as well as what feels like a true commitment to keep Smackdown as much-watch, this felt like a good fit. Extra points for what appears to be the end of the blinding of Rey Mysterio for good.
•Best in Show
There is such a higher level of quality right now on Smackdown that seems to raising even the smallest of storylines to enjoyable levels. Sami Zayn, for instance, as part of a lesser product would seem to be a hugely missed opportunity , but here feels like a long term character worth watching because so many others along the way are also being painted with those long stroke brushes. There are certainly still misses to be found, but the mixture of long, good matches with compelling serial storytelling shows a crew that is prepped for the long haul.
It seemed obvious that there would be a quality comedown as Sasha shifted her focus from Bayley to Carmella, but I’m not sure I was prepared for how drastic of a fall we’d see off the bat. Carmella does not move with confidence and experience with the best in the roster and feels every bit of a b-level replacement to Bayley. The obnoxious costuming and lame move set do nothing to help the situation. I think the best case scenario is for Sasha to have a quick, decisive win in this program and then Carmella can move to add sizzle to a midcard act as a valet that wrestles on special occasions. That seems to be a much better fit for a woman that commands attention, but is slotted in a role where she won’t succeed.
The thing with Dolph Ziggler that is most unbelievable is that you could realistically watch him on this week’s episode and not know what year or decade it is because he has been so inconsistency booked for so long. This week’s loss to Otis was just another deck chair thrown on a cruise ship of misdirection. I very much like that Ziggler and Roode have changed up their look but if tonight was an indication, they are on a downward journey and fast. Otis is a fine side piece to the roster. Pleasant enough to watch, but not really someone to invest in. With that in mind, if you do not have the time to give him a win that won’t harm his opponent, don’t book it period. Poor Dolph….again.
So this big push we all expected for Big E… where exactly is it? Battling one liners with Street Profits seems like a far away place from where it looked like things were heading about a month ago. And why is he still wearing the neon tights when he’s not even wresting? Where did the good will of his hard hitting battle with Sheamus a few weeks ago go? The hope of Big E being a rising knight against Roman Reigns seems to be reducing by the day, and even if he does fill that slot, it will be after months of mismanagement. Not exactly the best way to start a big run.
Undertaker is certainly one of the most beloved performers in the history of the business, but this is starting to resemble the Cher Farewell Tour. A surprise pop-up tribute at Survivor Series was likely never a consideration, but I think an approach that steered away from the natural inclination to say “Again!?!” at the final farewell would be more fitting for a man that deserves more than an eye roll at this point in his career.