SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Here Comes the Pain(T)
What a fantastic final stretch to Smackdown. Finn Balor was clearly treated with a lot of intention from the proper, violent beat down by the Uso’s to plausible, believable near falls, and everything in between. This was indeed Balor’s coming of age moment, and that is in large part due to Roman Reigns’ selling and acting, which highlighted Balor in all the right ways. Does the pulsing red light represent the return of Brock Lesnar? I think it’s more emblematic of the return of the Demon King. With much being made of Balor’s long suffering relationship with the Universal Championship, it seems totally possible at this point that the Demon King will return and be the one to unseat Reigns. And, no, I have not forgotten about Big E.
The entire Smackdown universe felt immeasurably bigger this week than it has maybe ever felt with the high profile, well done main event, the still newsworthy return of Becky Lynch, and all of the build towards the mega show at Madison Square Garden next week. There are still flaws, perhaps many, on this show, but overall Smackdown feels like it exists on a much higher level than nearly every other North American wrestling show right now.
There is good reason to be concerned about the (overly?) heel-ish Becky Lynch character, but the growth of connection to the fans that is being put on Bianca Belair’s name cannot be overstated. Belair is bursting through as the great, proper babyface of the women’s division with the audience firmly behind her. Lynch always will carry with her a star quality and I imagine it will be soon enough that she finds herself in the right groove. Right now, though, this feels much bigger than any other women’s program in the world.
The Thread that Links Them
Paul Heyman has been pitch perfect in navigating the waters of the brewing Reigns and Lesnar showdown and I have loved every bit of how Reigns receives Heyman along the way.
Happy for Corbin
I’m happy for Baron Corbin. He really is all-in on this new version of his character and Kevin Owens is a perfect counterpoint. Heck, even Logan Paul is a perfect side character to it all. There is a personal investment from Corbin that is very evident, and his overall look just fit perfectly this week. We are on a good path.
Fine Action, Little Movement
The combination of the segments involving Street Profits and The Usos and Seth Rollins and Cesaro provided some, as expected, fantastic action but little overall forward movement. These are top tier talents to just have fall into the old WWE mentality of mid-card non-movement. The action was good enough to be a hit, and the lame booking of the match endings was not bad enough to be a miss. A couple more weeks of this, though, and we’ll be looking at the new Dirty Dawgs.
Speaking of Which…
There was just no point to the Rick Boogs and Dolph Ziggler match. There is nothing exciting or interesting about anyone involved in this program. I’m sure the Boogs and Nakamura act is a fine in-arena crowd pleaser, but that is not translating much beyond that.
Not Much Else
Smackdown is in a very good place, and what isn’t so great, is pretty minor overall. That is very good news for WWE.