SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The main event programs of Smackdown remains the best placement of the entire company. This week’s journey to FS1 paired with the holiday season inevitably meant that we’d be experiencing a less overall newsworthy episode, but enough was done to keep the ball rolling uphill due to the work of Roman Reigns, Jey Uso, Paul Heyman, and to a lesser degree, Kevin Owens. The beat down to close the show was compelling and continued to make Reigns looks so strong. This Roman Reigns character is so good you can see it reaching mythological proportions in time. Owens, for his part, is decent stop along the way.
•Big Time Bayley
Credit to Bayley. Despite losing the women’s championship, she has retained the feeling as being above the general women’s roster fray and still commands a level of importance that exists in so few of the performers. Her match with Bianca Belair was nicely done, and I’m glad that Bayley picked up the win for their first showdown. It will be much more helpful to Bianca to defeat Bayley in her first major Smackdown program if Bayley has credibility. This was a good start.
I am not overly in love with the Carmella-Sasha Banks program, but there is a level of maximizing the best elements of both women to make it work as, what I assume to be, an interim feud before the Wrestlemania season turns the corner for Banks. Carmella is at her strongest on the mic, and tonight she did a more than serviceable job with her promo. The bottle looks so obviously gimmicked from a community theater version of Guys and Dolls, but it’s a fine exclamation point to end the segments with. Banks is still money, but getting her confidently through this stretch with Carmella into a better fit opponent is becoming increasingly important.
•The Artist Formerly Known As Shinsuke Nakamura
What a devastating fall from grace for Shinsuke Nakamura to lose to Otis cleanly in less than three minutes. It was just a couple of months ago that I noted that Nakamura seemed reinvigorated in the ring, and yet those steps forward took a gigantic tackle backwards this week. The Otis storyline with Chad Gable does not have to come to such a significant detriment to the quality talent, and in fact, would probably be better with Otis gaining confidence by defeating enhancement talent. Those might not be matches worthily of network tv, but neither is this.
•Tag Team Treading Water
Another week, another meaningless tag team championship feud that is paint by numbers and ultimately has not real importance. Street Profits and Ziggler/Roode could be a wonderful program, and like this week, could produce quality matches. It would take a true investment in the tag team division to elevate that program to anything exciting and that is not happening anytime soon. I would like to see Ziggler and Roode take on a bit more of a Brainbusters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) approach and this is definitely a team that would benefit from a male manager. Profits are fine. They have exciting energy and spots, but the finish here plays into some of the weaknesses of the booking that has hindered them from being truly of worthy of fans’ backing.
•Change the Channel
I can’t imagine that at any point hearing that Smackdown would move to Fox, that we would be relegated to seeing Billie Kay and Tamina vs. Riott Squad. Yes, I know this week was on FS1, but this does not build in good will for watching Smackdown on these off-weeks. The content needs to be of a quality that is worthy of people taking the time to re-find their show and clearly this match, along with some other segments, should barely be considered for Main Event let along the A-Brand.
•You Really (Don’t) Like Me
The awards segment for me was exactly the opposite of where we should be right now with Sami Zayn and Big E. Zayn is operating a high level right now and, while he may not be likable, his quality of work is admirable. Big E is, on the other hand, a performer to root for despite every other element to his character. I do believe that Big E will one day ‘get there’, but his launch should be so much stronger. Ultimately these kind of shows are what prevented Kofi from continuing to break out after his championship loss. Liking someone can only overcome so much.