SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Summer of Cena in the Year of Roman
John Cena’s return brings with it a big time feel that really has set this past week apart from everything else we’ve seen this year. Sure, Cena somehow reminded of his more grating qualities within two sentences of his promo, but his energy level is off the charts and that translates to the crowd. The collision of a fresh Cena with the brilliant run of Roman Reigns feels monumental, especially in comparison to the most recent run of challengers that Reigns has faced. Reigns’ show closing promo was perhaps his best ever, and the infusion of Balor complicates it all in the best way possible.
How incredible was Paul Heyman tonight? His mocking of John Cena’s song lasted about 10 seconds, but was an instant classic. Heyman has been the best supporting character in the WWE for years and moments like this transcend everything else around him.
This is Finn Balor’s moment. The trip down to NXT has turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to Balor, who has returned rejuvenated with the shooting star vibe to him that he carried early in his main roster run. Zayn was, of course, the perfect early foil because well, Zayn is perfect. Their match was more than serviceable and led the way for the big moment at the end with Finn and Reigns. This is Balor’s moment and he seems very ready for it.
Cole and McAfee
Michael Cole and Pat McAfee have formed a fantastic chemistry that is off the charts with the return of fans. Their enthusiasm has risen to such a high level that it feels tangible and incredibly improves the viewing experience.
Edge and Rollins
This works. Finally. Rollins is 100% the right opponent to highlight the best qualities of Edge and will actually allow Edge to be the face in a feud. Everything about this segment resonated (even Seth’s suit!). The only knock might be that they gave us too much physicality, but that is a minor point. I’m more excited for their Summerslam showdown than I have been for anything involving Edge since his return.
Alien in the Room
If you ever wondered what the Collision in Korea crowd was like, look no further than the Wale-Mania segments which died in front of an audience that looked like an alien had run through their concert. The wrestlers seemed to understand early how poor the dynamic was going to be and adjusted the seriousness level of the match. It was sad to see Bianca Belair be met with such a non-reaction. This was way more the Crown Jewel crowd than WCW Spring Break, and that is not a good thing.
What was the that hodgepodge Intercontinental Championship/Big E/Money in the Bank segment? In every other Smackdown that ever existed, this would have turned into an instant six-man match, but instead it just abruptly ended with all of these individuals who abruptly entered one by one looking at each other. Bonus awkwardness points given to Cesaro trudging down declaring that wants the title, which only highlighted that he literally did that last month to Roman and was just turned down worse than I was at my middle school dances.
The audience clearly had no clue who Toni Storm was. Zelina’s return clearly didn’t matter – so much so, that she didn’t even get an entrance. The chemistry between the two just felt awkward or at least not impressive. In fact, nothing about this was impressive. Not quite the debut Storm was looking for.