SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
An obvious-yet-excellent move to capitalize on the backstage intrigue from last week by starting with Charlotte Flair. Love her or hate her, Flair is a commanding presence that feels main event with nearly all that she does these days. The flow from her promo to an interruption by Sasha Banks and eventual match with Shotzi was a fresh take on the Smackdown women’s division, and the fact that nearly a quarter of the show was filled with Charlotte says a lot about the rumors of her standing in the WWE.
Surprising Shot for Shotzi
A surprising night indeed for Shotzi – from the match vs. Charlotte Flair, the fact that it was unexpectedly competitive and long, and then a well done turn on Sasha Banks. This show opener felt like a counter point to recent criticism of too short of women’s matches, but the turn of Shotzi was a happening. It is a great thing to have a fresh face in the women’s title scene beyond the usual suspects. Shotzi had a very good night.
Fine by the Fine
The navigation of the limitations of Brock Lesnar’s schedule is always going to be a booking challenge to maintain his status a babyface, but the ridiculously high fine by Adam Pearce is a, ahem, fine advancement of the storyline. Lesnar’s disappearing act can be seen as off-putting if not handled well, and the pairing of the Pearce zoom as the arrogant boss we all hate was a good way at keeping Brock as the likable one. I also love all of the nuances of Lesnar living rent free in Paul Heyman’s head and it coming through so vividly.
How could you not love a segment with a Golden Girls theme song reference? The King Woods storyline is fun and just works because Xavier and Kofi are so honestly embracing it. It is rare in wrestling that you watch something that is purely joyful, and New Day as king and hand-of-the-king is a wonderful watch.
Perhaps the prospect of competing against Halloween parties and being relegated to FS1 caused WWE to present this Roman-less show with a very good main event that ultimately didn’t advance a whole lot of storytelling. Given all those circumstances, the New Day vs. Usos main event was very good as always and a fine conclusion to an overall serviceable Smackdown.
The segment between Drew McIntyre and Mustafa Ali wasn’t a disaster, but I’m not sure it delivered on what was intended. Ali easily left as the more sympathetic and root-able of the two, and Drew, while always striking a strong presence, just feels like he’s in a holding pattern. It’s good to highlight him without overexposing him right now, but beating up a super athletic guy much smaller than him, doesn’t make him impressive. It makes him the Goliath worth rooting against.
I love seasonal aesthetics. I don’t love stupid seasonal street fights. This wasn’t just a dumb segment that was mindless filler. This was damaging of two teams that actually had been building good momentum and were embraced by the audience. Good will like that shouldn’t be so handily given up.