SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
No fancy title needed here. Roman Reigns is, far and away, the best act in WWE today. His role as the gaslighting, abusive leader of the pack is outrageously well-acted and remarkablely consistent in its inconsistency. Everything about last night was a hit including his treatment of Kayla Braxton, his late entry into the main event, and even the disqualification. Perhaps the best tell of how well Roman is doing is that all of the ships around him are also rising bringing out the absolute best in Jey Uso, Paul Heyman, and, now, Kevin Owens. I see Reigns going a long time without being dethroned, but the complexity of his character will lead to every on of his adversaries being intriguing rather being lined up for slaughter. Well done, Mr. Reigns.
•A Tribute Fit for Rio De Janeiro
The recognition given to Pat Patterson last night was much grander than is typical for a fallen star, but you could feel the love come through the screen from the opening moments through the various tributes throughout the night. The loss of Pat Patterson is a loss of elements of the heart and soul of the WWE. The face of Vince McMahon revealed that, and it was difficult to not get emotional as a viewer seeing the pure joy on Pat’s face (and all those around him) in the various throwback photos. A well deserved honor for the first intercontinental champion.
•Parade of Champions
As a continuation of the tribute to Pat Patterson, the six man tag of past intercontinental champions served multiple positive purposes. Firstly, as a recognition of the history of Patterson and the championship he introduced, it was a nice touch. It also, though, was a high quality match that highlighted a level of depth in the upper midcard of quality wrestlers with extensive relationships with the audience. Even though certain acts (namely Shinsuke Nakamura, Dolph Ziggler, and Big E) are hardly at their peak of on-screen relevancy, this was a nice call back to high points in each of their respective careers.
Kevin Owens is the right man as the opponent for this moment in the larger storyline of Roman Reigns. It’s amazing that, afteryears of mismanagement, Owen can comfortably step into that role, but it’s a tribute to the performer more than anything else. I am of the camp that Reigns should go undefeated for a very extended period of time, but hopefully in losing, Kevin Owens maintains the shine of being part of this main event level storyline that is best WWE has seen in a decade.
And just like that, the old traits that have held Sasha Banks from shining brightest amongst the female performers begin come through. Perhaps the production isn’t putting her in the scenarios that spotlight her the best, but Sasha’s level of performance in promos has significantly dropped compared to the previous program with Bayley. Carmella isn’t exactly of the top tier of opponents, but she can hold her own the mic enough to sell this transitionary women’s program before getting to Wrestlemania season. Banks, though, needs to better shield her disinterest or lack of confidence to maximize her moments in a way that will keep her at the top level. Smackdown, and all of WWE really, needs her to.
•Domi-pink Mysterio & the Gang
Remember Blue-Tista? Well, last night’s pink turtleneck of Domink Mysterio certainly took the mantle of most outrageous ringside attire. It was representative of the shift from the Mysterio family being one worth cheering to being the overly obnoxious, Beaver Clever bunch that is annoying more than anything. All involved, including Buddy Murphy, are at a worse spot by a significant margin than they were two weeks ago, and all signs show that this program with Corbin and the former Forgotten Sons is only going to lead to a continued downward trajectory.
•Inconsistent Acting of the Uce
I love Jey Uso. In certain ways, I think he is every bit as responsible for the Smackdown resurgence as Roman Reigns. His passion in the ring is usually pitch perfect, but there are moments when he is out of his depth of acting when trying to show in silent facials an evolution of feelings. I’m not saying he’s bad (far from it actually), but in order to play to his strengths there shouldn’t be such extended takes of him telegraphing his feelings. This is similar situation as Alexa Bliss – when a performer shows good acting, it should not immediately be pushed to the limit. Still, this remains, a minor miss.
Follow Nick on Twitter: @nicholasbarbati