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WWE SmackDown Live preview (Sept. 4, 2018): Downgrade you

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It’s after Labor Day, so don’t wear white when Team Blue rocks Detroit tonight (Sept. 4).

The Headliners

A feud with The Miz was high on the internet’s list of dream matches for Daniel Bryan when his return from retirement was announced earlier this year. And vocal fans on the net still seem pretty enthused by the work being done by these bitter rivals, and WWE’s presentation of their story.

Even while telling what appears to be a long-form story between the former NXT mentor and his “rookie”, booking has been careful to sprinkle in other exciting bouts for Bryan, like last week’s impromptu match with Andrade Almas. It seems like everything “we” wanted.

Yet it’s not the hottest feud on SmackDown, and there are signs ranging from observational (a less-than-red-hot live crowd reaction for their match at SummerSlam in Brooklyn) to empirical (YouTube clips from the weekly segments doing pretty well but not extremely well) that it’s perceived as more midcard than main event.

What gives? A few hypotheses:

  1. The excitement inside the “internet wrestling bubble” was always higher for a Bryan/Miz program than the general fandom.
  2. Stalling on the program for feuds between DB and acts like Big Cass & Bludgeon Brothers cooled him and this rivalry off.
  3. Hell in a Cell’s mixed tag stipulation, and the prospect of action featuring Brie Bella and Maryse - two women without a lot of ring time over the last several years, has diminished interest.

My guess, to the extent there really is an issue, is it’s a combination of the three... and probably a few other things, besides. None of it can’t be fixed by adding some good old fashioned stakes - something which has been done for their already announced one-on-one rematch at Super Show-Down in Melbourne on Oct. 6. But that hasn’t been emphasized much in the build to Bryan & Brie vs. Miz & Maryse for Sept. 16. The more WWE can remind us that one of these men will be getting a title shot as a result/offshoot of this feud, the more interested more people will be.

Either that, or Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and John Cena were right along - this is a feud between a B+ player and a Hollywood wannabe.

The Title Scene

While it’s also booked for rematches out into the foreseeable future, the issue betweeen WWE Champ AJ Styles and Samoa Joe doesn’t lack for stakes. In addition to a belt, Joe is threatening to pay an uninvited visit to Phenomenal One’s family this week. Who’s ready for a front yard brawl, “live” on remote from an Atlanta suburb?

Last week’s show ended with Becky Lynch holding Charlotte Flair’s Women’s Title high and challenging the Queen to a join her in Hell in a Cell at the next pay-per-view (PPV). Flair’s social media work over the past seven days indicates she’s down. Will General Manager Paige book it tonight?

We move one step closer to finding out who will challenge The New Day for the Tag Team Championship at Hell in a Cell tonight. Rusev Day, The Usos and SAnitY do the Triple Threat thing to determine who will face The Bar next week for a shot at your Five-Timers.

Border controls are very tight in the United States of Nakamerica, and U.S. Titleholder Shinsuke Nakamura hasn’t seen anyone he’d let into his domain. So, just forget about naming a #1 contender.

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Randy Orton’s quest to destroy Jeff Hardy will continue inside the demonic structure itself at Hell in a Cell. I just hope he keeps his fingers out of Hardy’s ear holes.

- Sick and tired of losing DAT NUMBERS GAME to The IIconics, Naomi is on the hunt for some back-up. Pretty sure Asuka’s available...

Two weeks until Hell in a Cell!

What will you be looking for on SmackDown Live tonight?