SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The Final Showdown Before the Final Showdown
The final segment between Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens was a pitch perfect concluding chapter heading into what most likely will be the conclusion of the Owens main event run – for now. The fire in Kevin Owens this week only underscores how amazing this run has been in reinvigorating his character. From the ashes of mid card mediocrity, Owens has now risen up to again being a prime time player. Where he heads after the Royal Rumble is a big question mark. Reigns is performing at a level where it’s now assumed he will be brilliant. He’s at a real risk of being taken for granted. As it turns out, Reigns and Owens were the ideal foils for each other and I’m actually kind of sad to see it all ending just as both are at such a high. That said, it means it’s ending at exactly the right time.
Last night may have been the biggest night of the career of Bianca Belair as we were reminded about hundred times by the commentary team. Bayley, though, was the real star of all of the female performers on the show. The match itself between Bayley and Belair was fine as a showcase for Belair and it mattered because Bayley matters. For as awkward of an initial stretch as this Bayley character had, she has completely found her identity including the look, costuming, and body language. Belair is in a much better place for having worked opposite Bayley at this point in her career and it will be interesting which one WWE runs with into WrestleMania season. My money is on the veteran.
The best part of the Royal Rumble is the sense of possibility and this year feels ripe for surprises in both Royal Rumble matches. That alone makes it a weekend that is worthy of being excited about.
Stream of Unconsciousness
The final 45 minutes of Smackdown played out like a hallucination dream of an overly tired, trying-to-just-get-to-Sunday writing team. There was clearly no real intention other than a lazy time filling approach to building up to the Royal Rumble by just reminding the audience of who is on the roster. Yet, no moment of that entire stretch matched the impact of the 30 seconds of the typical “By the Numbers” ad we usually get each year. Overall this felt like a pointless night and the most forgettable Smackdown on Fox since last Summer. The low point of it all was when the teammates were hitting each other at the end and the announcers didn’t even think enough about it to mention.
Is this or is this not the farewell tour of Daniel Bryan? If it is, tonight was not exactly the highlight of the ride. Truly, the wheels were off the cart as early as the first segment of the night with Bryan delivering a clunky performance in his promo with A.J. Styles. The specter of another wishlist match for Bryan though was exciting enough to ignore that. The match itself was hardly the definitive Bryan/Styles showdown that we would be due and served as nothing more than as a segue to the mess the followed.
Bad News for Banks
The program between Sasha Banks and Carmella has officially gone on too long and is at the point of damaging Banks in a big way. There was nothing smooth at all about her acting in the backstage segment with Reginald. Worse, there was nothing likable or worth rooting for about Banks either. That is the bad news. There is always the danger of having a face character being defined by their confidence crossing over into the cringeworthy and that is where Banks landed this week. Thankfully (hopefully!) this will end mercifully on Sunday with Banks hopefully moving on to bigger and better things.
Why exactly were King Corbin and Dominik Mysterio wearing matching gold and black outfits? How is WWE missing such small, yet obvious details? Is anyone even aware of how lacking this dynamic between the Mysterio’s and Corbin is? Is there even one single person that cares? And what UFO kidnapped Murphy and Aalyah? These are the questions that run through my mind during these segments and leave my brain until the exact moment they happen again week-in and week-out.
NOW CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S SMACKDOWN REPORT: 1/29 WWE SMACKDOWN TV RESULTS: Keller’s report on Reigns-Owens War of Words, final Royal Rumble hype, Bryan vs. Styles, Belair vs. Bayley