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Outfoxing the Big Dog
The outsmarting of Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman by Adam Pearce and Kevin Owens was an intelligent next step for the Roman Reigns universe and necessary for showing vulnerability for a seemingly invulnerable champion. Owens’s swagger at the end indicated a new dynamic in their program that is different from the beat down from Reigns that seemed to always conclude Smackdown. This was the tangible proof of why Heyman should be so afraid of Reigns because he, too, messes up. Ultimately, I wouldn’t bank on Reigns losing his championship, but in knocking him on his heels a bit, Roman suddenly appears to be the hunter rather than the hunted. That is a good thing.
Sure, the next chapter for Shinsuke Nakamura after last week’s tremendous showing might have been underwhelming, but it was also logical taking all things into consideration regarding how he’s been presented for the past three years. It is only positive for him to build substantive wins over individuals like Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio, and now, Jey Uso. All those wrestlers have more built-in good will than Nakamura has ever had. Pair that with the Cesaro win over Daniel Bryan and I believe we could be on to an exciting horse race to see who lands at the uppercard of Smackdown. Getting them both there is obviously the best case scenario, but a competitive storyline between them would be a great one. I can only hope that Cesaro begins to maximize his moments on the microphone as his showing on commentary wasn’t exactly stellar. Nakamura, though, continues to shine brighter than he has ever before in WWE aside from his first night in NXT.
Billie Kay’s Dilemma
No, I don’t think there is a problem with Billie Kay. Her “Dilemma” is a good thing. It’s the moment when Kelly Rowland got the number one chart hit with a song of that title before Beyoncé when Destiny’s Child broke up. It was a near universal sentiment that Peyton Royce would be the breakout star of the IIconics act, but Billie Kay’s physical comedy has elevated her to a level of being someone truly worth looking forward to watching weekly. Her entrance with the Riott Squad was laugh-out-loud funny and she outshined every other woman in her ringside segment. While this doesn’t exactly scream main event act, it is a comfortable and consistent one that will keep Billie Kay as a favorite of the booking team and one to expect to watch frequently. Well done.
Hostess with the MostEST
I really wish there was an explanation for why wrestlers suddenly want talk shows in WWE with a motivation tied to their payday, but in the absence of that, Bayley did the best she could with the Ding Dong Show segment. Let me be clear: Bayley is head and shoulders above every female act not currently tied to a championship program. That includes Bianca Belair, who’s motivations might be clearer, but whose physical acting is still ranging from underwhelming to poor. Bayley is making a real case for being the perfect start chosen to win the Royal Rumble and perhaps take her act to Raw to challenge (perhaps Charlotte Flair?) for their championship. It’d be a deserved position.
Quick Hits: Apollo Crews managed to be more interesting in one segment listening to Roman Reigns as an extension of last week’s Talking Smack segment than has in his entire WWE career. He also suddenly became a much more interesting watch than his current opponent, Big E. I liked Jey Uso referencing the Blood Line’s desire to expand their empire to Raw, but I wish he’d delivered the message in a more impactful way. Sonya Deville’s return being presented in a patient way could indicate that she is involved in the Roman Reigns faction and sent by Paul Heyman to infiltrate Adam Pearce’s power. Deville would be perfect for that role and aesthetically fits the role perfectly. The last quick hit goes to Daniel Bryan for, well, being Daniel Bryan. His match with Cesaro was excellent and the loss didn’t leave a scratch on Bryan.
The Other Family
The Bloodline isn’t the only family on Smackdown, but the Mysterio family has been piling on unimpressive showings since the culmination of the Seth Rollins feud months ago. I don’t remember Rey Mysterio ever wearing less flattering gear than he did tonight, which simultaneously made him look shorter and less in shape. Dominick might have inadvertently teased a program with his father on commentary by saying he hopes they stay together in the new year. The backstage conflict of Rey trying to calm his son down didn’t conflict with that possibility either. Perhaps that Rocky V style father/son conflict would be a good one to further refine Dominick’s skills, but you also have to wonder what happened to Buddy Murphy and Aaliyah and if they add to that conflict down the line.
I don’t have a problem reminding everyone of the most blatant negative on Smackdown week-in, week-out. Here it goes. Big E is the worst booked wrestler on the entire Smackdown roster. How exactly was Big E supposed to be seen as someone worth rooting for after his overly comfortable and obnoxiously cocky showing at ringside this week? Why is he worth rooting for when clearly Apollo Crews seems to be putting in the effort to better himself and pinned Big E to the mat last week? It’s not that Big E is not likable – in fact he is very much a wrestler for whom is worth rooting for. It’s that he is being presented in a way that undercuts every positive that the character should have and shows no signs of changing that any time soon.
Slow it Down, Uce
Jey Uso maintaining his promo time despite being repositioned down the card is a great thing, but he needs to slow down his promos and learn to deliver his lines in a way that builds to maximize impact. Right now, everything is being said at the same cadence and volume with an “uce” sprinkled in every few words at the rate that most people say “like.” Jey Uso remains the most valuable player not named Roman Reigns on both brands from the past year. If he is going to have a second act at the main event level, it’s time to start refining these rough edges.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES: WWE SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES 1/8: Nakamura reborn, Running the gauntlet, Big E’s big loss, Carmella’s quest, and more