SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Whisper to a Scream
The moment where a whisper from Roman Reigns caused Edge to pause was exactly the moment where this likely WrestleMania main event got back on track. It’s not a question for me whether or not Roman Reigns will carry his weight in this program – he has been simply brilliant week-in and week-out to this point. Rather it’s Edge who, for lack of a better word, appears to be on the edge of either working well or not being able to pull this off at all. Tonight was a much stronger showing for the Royal Rumble winner, a wrestler who has always connected better as a heel than a babyface. What more can be said about Reigns? The whisper was the perfect example of the understated excellence that the Universal Champion has employed and he continues to be the most riveting watch on WWE TV. Edge began to severely overstay his welcome in the backstage skits, though. As we have learned on Smackdown this past year, less is more. That applies to Edge as well.
The final moments of Smackdown and the main event as a whole, were thrilling. The rapid-fire finishers was a conclusion to a show that left me excited for Elimination Chamber. It really is a testament to the production of Smackdown to have so many quality wrestlers worth investing in headed into this Sunday’s show. Cesaro in particular is the the stand-out to watch. I doubt anyone believes that any of the six chamber entrants have a chance of walking out of the show the new champion, but this is more a story of opportunity. This past month we have seen Kevin Owens protected from plunging down the card, Daniel Bryan kept in the main event picture, Cesaro showing real signs of a sustained push, Sami Zayn excelling beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, and Jey Uso as a vital part of the best WWE act in a decade. All of that is good news for the show.
Smackdown has found something in Otis and Chad Gable. A heel turn seemed completely out of the realm of possibility a few weeks ago, but if this week’s show is any indication, this team might have found their way out of the comedy mid-card slot they were in. Gable is just operating at a phenomenal level right now and seems free of the Shorty G baggage. Otis, too, was tremendous and brought back old Earthquake vibes. This is an unexpected, yet exciting turn of events that seems to have much more meaning than anything we’ve seen from either Gable or Otis in quite a while. The ending to the tag match might have been clunky, but it was good to keep Rey Mysterio from losing and also showed how simply enforcing rules can advance a program without hurting the wrestlers involved.
Nakamura and Crews
Add Shinsuke Nakamura and Apollo Crews to the list of Smackdown wrestlers that have been resuscitated in the past month and mean much more than they did in 2020. While neither man is fighting in the main events right now, they both seem to actually matter. The combination of stellar in-ring performances from both men and solid, confident acting has truly raised the game of the Intercontinental Championship picture. Big E is still lacking a bit in intrigue, but Nakamura and Crews are both great examples of a true renewal of interest.
The women’s division is more of a hit than a miss, but overall it’s a total mixed bag with uneven performances and a lack of meaningful story. The good news is that the top tier of Sasha Banks, Bianca Belair, Bayley, Nia Jax, and Shayna Baszler are being given prominent airtime and in general, feel like big deals. They are being undercut, though, by the silliness of Reginald, a seemingly sidelined Carmella, a hole, and the unfortunate reality that many of the divisions’ performers haven’t been involved in anything that has mattered in years. Banks and Belair matter, though, and while Banks isn’t exactly setting the world on fire with her promos lately, she has the star quality to raise her up even when her mic skills let her down.
There is actually nothing worth enjoying about the reintroduction of Seth Rollins other than the hope of quality matches with Cesaro. Everything else feels like a retread of better iterations of Rollins that make this current version seem more mid-card than anything he has done in at least 6 years. Even the styling with the leather suit and tie and this week’s sequin ASOS outfit seem cheap. I appreciated the effort put in to explaining the “why” of the roster coming out last week to hear Rollins out, but it all seems like it is a sloppily put together reintroduction for a wrestler that deserves much better.
I do not like the dip-the-toe approach of inter-gender wrestling that is happening with Reginald right now. It damages Banks and the ensemble team to have to work with goofiness that the Reginald character brings to the table and the performer himself might work well in highlighting Nia Jax, but helps little more than that. If the intent is to pair Reginald with Banks, it should be noted that the last thing Sasha needs right now is someone who is weaker on the mic than she is. Smackdown needs to cut bait on this very quickly for the benefit of all involved.
I will state it again: for being an overall likable performer, the character of Big E is the worst written character on Smackdown. Having a white leather couch brought out and an obnoxious cockiness isn’t exactly the key to keeping Big E the wrestler worthy of cheers against the backdrop of excellent performances of Nakamura and Crews. I give Big E credit – the initial spot with the ring steps looked nasty, but a commitment needs to be made to him. Is he a face? If so, it’s time to act like it.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES: WWE SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES 2/12: Elimination ensemble, all about Adam, and returning Seth Rollins