SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Return of the Stars: This week’s Smackdown felt like a definite return to form with the return of Daniel Bryan, more usage of Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins and big match announcements for the next week’s show and WrestleMania Backlash. In short, this week mattered. The potential loss of Daniel Bryan on the show seems like a bad idea as he has salvaged a rough 2021 main event scene and really has kept the momentum of all things Roman Reigns going. It really has been the combined effort of the Bloodline and Bryan than have allowed Smackdown to so clearly define itself as a unique brand with actual stars. Look no further than the first 45 minutes of the show being once again carried by the backdrop of their work together. Breaking that up seems so unnecessary.
•Seth’s Salvation: Suddenly, the wheels of Seth Rollins returning to having a story that actually means something are in motion. As much as the past month has felt like an effort to elevate Cesaro, it is Rollins that seems to be benefiting most from this week’s Smackdown by inserting him properly into the main event storyline for the first time since his return with clear follow up necessary for his leaving Jey Uso behind in the tag opener. It seems too odd to have Rollins and Reigns on the same show without any interaction. That all is clearly changing, and soon. Unfortunately for Cesaro, he might be the one left behind in it all.
•Intercontinental State: I haven’t loved the Apollo Crews character since WrestleMania, but this week’s work with Kevin Owens was solid. Simultaneously building up Crews and Azeez without damaging Owens could have been difficult, but luckily all made it out of this week’s match in strong fashion. I still think Azeez veers way too much into the cartoon realm for me, but he is imposing enough to plausibly cost Owens his matches. Sami Zayn was gold dancing over Owens at the segments conclusion maintain his role as the glue of the entire intercontinental division.
•Pat McAfee: Mr. McAfee had a much better week 2 than week 1. Here’s hoping that turns into a trend that grows him into a key voice of WWE.
•Swing and Miss: As much as it pains me to say this, Cesaro is just not stepping up into the main event stature for which the opportunity is now calling. His line reading is far too memorized and stiff (look at the “you have to take it” moment during the show closer), and it is obvious that he is being protected from the mic using all kinds of tricks and help from Daniel Bryan. With that being obvious, it is actually more hurtful to Cesaro by bringing such clear attention to his weakness. It seems obvious that Cesaro will be swapped out of his spot sooner rather than later. At this point I’m hoping for at least a main event at Wrestlemania Backlash for him. I’m not convinced.
•Tales from Express for Men: The return of Aleister Black had some interesting inspiration. We were blessed with a fine mixture of Tales from the Crypt, Murder She Wrote (he is no Angela Lansbury), oddly fashionable eyewear from a store like Express for Men, and the 90’s kid classic Are You Afraid of the Dark. Nothing about this seemed to draw any interest in seeing Black return to the ring, but I suppose the positive is that Black is returning. Hopefully his work can do more storytelling than this awful introduction.
•Tamina’s Time: There is nothing at all exciting about a Tamina win over Nia Jax. It is frustrating that Jax and Shayna Baszler, two of the women on the roster that actually carry with them a strong physical presence to oppose top babyfaces, are being so casually beaten by the lowest priority of the roster. Ultimately this win did nothing for Tamina and only damaged Jax.
•Here We Are Again: The interchangeability of the Tag Team Division gets more frustrating by the week. Just weeks after Alpha Academy seemed to be building good momentum, they are unnecessarily beaten by the Mysterio men. Is there no team of ‘local wrestlers’ that could be brought in to not turn this into a rotating door of losses? It is time for a true shakeup of the tag divisions, but not shakeup can help if those in power just don’t care. And if they don’t, why should anyone else.