SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE Smackdown Andre the Giant Battle Royal: I’m willing to give this a mild hit for WWE Smackdown out of optimism alone. Riddick Moss is a big, athletic guy that is saddled with a terrible gimmick. Battle Royals are nothing to get all that excited about and aren’t always an easy watch. This one was no different. Moss following up the big win by dropping another one of his lame jokes was disappointing but I’m hoping this is more of a means to an end of this terrible gimmick. All things Moss aside, I’m still baffled by the idea that Damien Priest and Finn Balor don’t have a spot on either night of WrestleMania. I guess it can be argued that Balor, at least, was the last man eliminated. Priest wasn’t given as much respect and was eliminated much earlier.
Ricochet vs. Angel vs. Humberto (Intercontinental Title): I definitely can’t complain about the work rate in this match as all three guys put on a really good match. It was basically a handicap match that saw Ricochet overcome the odds. It was definitely a breath of fresh air after the past month of Ricochet being booked to be a very weak IC Champion (especially including two losses last week on SD and the embarrassing sub-2 minute loss to Austin Theory or Raw this past Monday). I’d like to be optimistic and say that things can get back on track for Ricochet with this run but, unfortunately, it’s just not how things are done in WWE. I don’t know how long WWE plans to keep its World and Universal Titles unified. But, considering that is the case, titles like the IC and US should be getting elevated at this time and not treated like they are currently. Ricochet and Finn Balor are amazing talents that are very worthy of holding mid-card titles. It’s just very unfortunate that WWE doesn’t care about those mid-card titles, as evidenced by the fact that neither is being defended on a two night WrestleMania.
Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey video package/Charlotte Flair promo: As much as I didn’t care for the Rousey interview segment on WWE Smackdown, I did enjoy this (especially the first half of the video showing their history that led to the intersection of these two women in WWE). This is what I expect from WWE productions and it didn’t disappoint. Charlotte also did a solid job in her promo. I enjoyed her calling Rousey’s bluff on being able to control her anger and putting herself over as the “cool” choice.
Rick Boogs & Shinsuke Nakamura & Finn Balor vs. Austin Theory & The Usos: Considering this was the go-home show for Mania, I didn’t mind the odd pairing or the no-contest that preceded it due to Theory and Balor interrupting the match. The match itself was really good which shouldn’t surprise anyone considering the six men in it. What I do find interesting is that Theory has now pinned both the IC and US Champion in the course of 5 days. We’ll see if that manifests itself into anything post-Mania or if it’s just forgotten.
Sasha Banks & Naomi vs. Carmella & Queen Zelina: There was nothing wrong with the match itself but it did nothing to build my excitement for the four way title match this weekend. Banks & Naomi have way too much momentum going into the weekend to think that they’ll win and I will hold true to my prediction from last week that I believe that Liv Morgan & Rhea Ripley will be taking home the gold.
Kayla Braxton interviews Ronda Rousey on WWE Smackdown: Much of the same from Rousey that we heard last week only much shorter. I’m really hoping that once the “honeymoon phase” is over with Ronda this time around she’ll go heel again and she’ll end up with a mouthpiece (Paul Heyman please?). I enjoyed her work during her first run when she just went full heel and cut angry promos. They weren’t always smooth but they were believable. Also, this was a training session for Rousey and she didn’t look like she’d even broken a sweat. At least try to make me believe that she was legitimately training.
Austin Theory and Pat McAfee: This is a mild miss, if only because we STILL don’t know why Vince McMahon is favoring Theory on the eve of Mania. I’d have loved one more added layer of storytelling here to really tell us why this feud is where it is. McMahon put over McAfee big time on his show when he appeared and gave him this match. Yet, here we are, not knowing why McMahon has seemingly turned on him. I know that Theory has been, more or less, built up as Vince’s protege but I just feel like we’re missing a piece somewhere to tie this all together. Maybe it’ll come together this weekend or even extend beyond Mania. But I was really hoping to get more of a bow on this story heading into Mania weekend. I’m still looking forward to the match but just wanted a bit more out of this build week to week on WWE Smackdown.
Happy Talk: This was just a dreadful segment. I referenced this earlier but these gimmicks for Moss and Corbin gotta go. The teases of them two splitting after Mania hopefully will come to fruition. It also took less than 2 hours for the booking team to make it’s ’22 Andre the Giant Battle Royal Winner look like a total geek by having Drew McIntyre take him out on the way to the ring with one punch. My hope is also that post-Mania we see McIntyre go in a different direction and we don’t see more rematches with him and the Happy Crew leading to WrestleMania Backlash. Here’s hoping that the backlash that we see is more focused on new directions for all three men and potentially a feud between Moss and Corbin.
WWE Smackdown Entire Show: A minor miss overall for WWE Smackdown this week, but it mainly set up what was coming this weekend at Mania. I’d say that the first half of the show was a lot stronger than the second half with it taking a bit of a gradual nose dive after the midway point. On a scale from 1-10, I’d say that the buildup this WrestleMania season has me at about a 6.5. I’ll drop my WrestleMania predictions on my Twitter account tomorrow (see below for all of my info).