SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The Smackdown cast in the Elimination Chamber is a collection of strong characters and King Corbin. The added element of having the winner immediately face Roman Reigns for the championship, rather than having it be a title match itself, opens up a lot of exciting possibilities. It’s a positive that Kevin Owens is still in the title picture as a thread of connection to the previous one-on-one program with Reigns. Jey Uso’s involvement in the match could create some interesting twists for the dynamic between he and Roman, too. Overall this is a testament to the work that the Smackdown team has put into elevating its mid-card into substantive players and the positive results of that are already showing.
All About Adam
Adam Pearce has been brilliant. The work he has put into his role is obvious and his performance is a vital element to how strong Roman Reigns has become. This week was no different. Pearce very much looks the part of the company executive and consistently strikes the right tone between representing his authority and showing fear in a way that benefits the characters of which he is working opposite. Even his chemistry with Sonya Deville is easy and comfortable, allowing him to be a strong backbone of the entire Smackdown show.
Swing for the Fences
The sudden rise of Cesaro is one of the most exciting elements in all of WWE right now. Thankfully, Cesaro’s work continues to rise to meet that opportunity. I love the sharpshooter being embraced a finisher for him due to the history of that move being a main event fixture and would like to see him continue to shed any of the lingering less-serious elements of his presentation. The stars seem aligned for Cesaro to have a strong showing inside the Elimination Chamber and a program with Seth Rollins will undoubtedly provide some excellent matches in the near future.
The moment when Sasha Banks shared the entry way with the Street Profits was one of the genuinely cool moments that WWE could create for a first time, young viewer. Sasha looked every bit the part of the star that she is and should continue to aspire to be. That said, it appears that she is fully abandoning the full-blown babyface role as she enters an expected program with Bianca Belair. While Belair has absolutely stepped up in a big way recently, Banks has the veteran responsibility to carry this feud to get it where it needs to be for WrestleMania. The promo abilities can still be clunky and awkward at times, but overall Banks is still an account that pays off.
Best of the Situation
I loved every bit of the Otis & Gable vs. Street Profits match beginning with the backstage smoke segment all the way through to the fabulous frog splash finale. There is certainly a lack of seriousness that prevents either of these teams from reaching next level status, but for a TV match, everything about this worked and both teams made the best of the situation. The ring work was exciting and the acts were all worth rooting for. Gable in particular stood out in a big way.
It might not be possible to have imagined a more damaging return for Seth Rollins than the one we received. First of all, how was this a return when he was at the Royal Rumble just two weeks ago? Secondly, what good reason was there for the entire roster to come to the ring to be there for the welcome address for a man that ripped another man’s eye out? And to have the victim of that attack and his son being there only made it worse. There were so many small efforts that could have been made to make this make sense (such as saying Rollins wanted to apologize to the locker room), but none of those steps were taken and it ends up hurting all involved. It’s also not a great fit for Rollins to remain in this character while at the same time being linked to super babyface in Becky Lynch.
Back Down the Card
Oh, it made me sad to see both Nakamura and Bayley relegated further down the card than they have been recently and it is damaging. Granted, not everyone can be in a main event program heading into WrestleMania, but you have to wonder if it would almost be better to not have them on the show at all rather than being a part of segments that are far beneath where they have been. Nakamura seems directionless by not being in the Elimination Chamber match and not having another feud ready and waiting. Bayley is now slotted completely away from Banks and Belair, which is where all of the energy for the Smackdown women’s roster seems focused.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES: WWE SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES 2/5: Belair’s time, chemistry between Reigns and Edge, and Mysterio mess