WWE SmackDown returns tonight (Nov. 13) from the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. They are building towards the Survivor Series pay-per-view (PPV) on Nov. 22.
While I’d probably tune in to SmackDown every Friday no matter what, now I look forward to it more than I used to. Maybe not everything is going to be good. There’s always some duds in a two hour show. But no matter what, I am going to tune in to see what Universal Champion Roman Reigns is going to do this week.
Right now, Roman Reigns may be the most interesting thing going in WWE, if not wrestling as a whole. (I’m sure folks who follow other promotions closer than I do are just itching to jump in the comments and tell me why I’m wrong right now, but I stick by this.)
Since he returned at the close of SummerSlam, every week he’s been entertaining. Every week. There’s been no down week. There’s no slump. Every week, his portion of the show delivers.
Part of the allure is the fact we’ve never seen Roman Reigns as a villain. WWE pushed back against that idea for so long that now that we’re finally getting it, this feels like we’re getting that forbidden fruit. But there’s more to it. WWE has offered us the start of something good and then disappointed with the follow up more times than we can count. Not here though.
We’ve been getting a slow burn story about a bastard Reigns using the excuse of leading his tribe and providing for his family to exert power over others. Maybe he believes he’s the hero here, a wrinkle that makes it all the more interesting, but we know he’s not. Watching him manipulate his cousin Jey Uso, who has been absolutely fantastic in his own right, taking him from independent and wearing him down to subservient has been superb television. It’s not rushed. It’s not dragging its feet. It’s in the pacing Goldilocks Zone.
In general, I really dislike the typical narrative that everything that is bad in WWE is because of Vince and that everything that’s good is in spite of him. That’s always been ridiculous. And that’s not the case here because no way would Vince suddenly be hands off with a man he’s been so involved with prior, especially when that man is the top guy on their top show. But something still feels different. It feels like there’s a freedom here because this doesn’t feel overbooked like so many top stories do. Maybe with Paul Heyman at Roman’s side, he also has input on how to steer this story. Maybe Roman insisted on some creative freedom before coming back. Either way, something about this story feels different than so many others in WWE.
No matter what the reason, this has been fantastic every week. The future probably holds a feud with Daniel Bryan. Given he’s a member of creative himself, this may get even better.
The Title Scene
Sasha Banks finally got that monkey off her back last week when she retained her SmackDown Women’s title against Bayley. However, Carmella attacked the Boss right after the match. That means Banks can’t just focus on her Survivor Series date with Asuka in a week.
Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn has been verbally sparring with United States Champion Bobby Lashley but hasn’t once brought up Bobby’s sisters. Maybe they’re waiting for the go home show.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Street Profits are probably focused on their exhibition match against the New Day at the PPV, but I think they should really give Billie Kay another look.
I think Nia Jax is too busy putting Lana through the announce table for her and Shayna Baszler to think about bringing their Women’s tag team championships to SmackDown for a defense.
Other things to keep an eye on
- Last week, it looked like Murphy realigned with Rollins. But Murphy told his 19 year old amore Aalyah to trust him so it sounds like this is some master plan. This story continues to happen.
- The SmackDown Survivor Series men’s team needs one more member to round out the crew of Jey Uso, Kevin Owens, King Corbin, and Seth Rollins. May I suggest one Big E?
- The women only have two spots filled with Ruby Riott & Bianca Belair. Both women won triple threat matches that featured Natalya, who wasn’t pinned in any of them. My hope is that she keeps getting added to the next triple threat given she wasn’t pinned but doesn’t win any of them because that’d be pretty hilarious.
- Last week, Lars Sullivan (or is it just the Freak now?) did another sit-down interview, but this time without a shirt. So I assume they’ll just up the ante and do the same thing but this time he’s wearing a funny hat.
What will you be looking for when SmackDown returns tonight at 8 PM ET on Fox?