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This truly feels different. A confident, full-throated push in the women’s division is unfolding for Bianca Belair, and it seems to be making all the difference in taking her away from being one of a ensemble to a can’t-miss star to challenge Sasha Banks at WrestleMania. In many regards it would be the perfect pairing, as the visual of the in-ring segment on this week’s Smackdown would suggest, that would tap into many real life feuds like Madonna and Lady Gaga or Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj of a young female challenging an established queen in her own lane. Carmella serves a sensible transition opponent to prepare Belair for WrestleMania and is a connection to Banks that makes sense. It’s time, though, to shelve Reginald. His level of pointlessness is doing damage.
There might not be a whole lot of story built into the Big E, Apollo Crews, and Sami Zayn program, but the quality of the action is enough to maintain an overall high mark. Crews continues to outpace Big E weekly as the mid-card star to watch thanks to his exciting repertoire of moves and a passion that exudes from his eyes. Zayn, in his own right, is excelling and is much-watch in ways that so few are these days. There doesn’t seem to be a long term plan here, but for what it is, it is very good.
Smackdown is working with a good cast right now of dependable acts that are keeping even the low points from collapsing the overall product. Bayley, Billie Kay, Sami Zayn, and even the Street Profits all raised up relatively lower quality segments by just being there. That might be due to the good will that they have built up during the better days of the fall and early winter or it just might be that they are doing quality work that the writing isn’t meeting.
A Real Stunner
The exclamation point final moment of Kevin Owens hitting a Stunner on Roman Reigns was genuinely surprising and hopefully representative of Owens maintaining a main event level placement. It would not have been shocking to see him slotted drastically lower on the card after the Royal Rumble, but thankfully Owens seems to be avoiding demotion for now.
It’s exciting to see Cesaro get a great quality moment and a seemingly renewed push. After all, we’ve been here many times before. Does this time feel different? Time will tell. From an in-ring perspective, Cesaro is handily meeting the challenge. Obviously that is helped by Daniel Bryan putting him over so definitively.
If the tour of Edge to each brand was meant to build to a showdown with Roman Reigns, then this all was a massive failure. The fact that Edge had his best of the three brand visits on NXT is concerning enough, but add to that the bizarre anger he drew out of Reigns by simply walking backstage made me especially worried for the long term story telling of this seemingly obvious WrestleMania match. Let me be clear: there was no chemistry between Reigns and Edge last night. That is a big, big problem.
33 Years…of Nothing
Quite possibly the most pointless segment of any segment on any show on any network so far in 2021. What exactly was the build-up for in commemorating a non-important anniversary year of a historical match that wasn’t even highlighted with enough context to show what exactly happened. The payoff? Laughably bad. Was that even the real Hulk Hogan? More and more he looks like a cartoon version of an already cartoonish character.
Is Dominik Mysterio any good? It’s hard to tell. That said, the best thing one can say is, at least he’s not King Corbin. Is that really a compliment though? Rey Mysterio, looking especially cool by the way, was the most likable person in that entire segment, which is certainly not the objective. It makes sense to put Dominik opposite Corbin as a way of keeping him cheered and refining his skills, but this program has been a killer for the entire Mysterio family dynamic. I ask, again, did Murphy and Aalyah fall into a rapture?
Don’t let the amount of hits fool you – this was not another addition to the long list of recently great Smackdown episodes. Something absolutely feels ‘off’ and it’s likely due to the fact that Smackdown has relied on it’s main event program to keep all the ships afloat and sailing in the right direction. The latest chapter in the Reigns world did not start off in a compelling way last night and his stuff certainly didn’t shine enough to save an otherwise mediocre showing for the brand.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES: WWE SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES 1/29: The final showdown, Royal Rumble uncertainty, and Bryan’s farewell?