The pandemic forced the WWE to change plans, so SmackDown won’t be in New Orleans tonight. They haven’t technically said where the episode is being filmed, although the assumption is some of it will be at the Performance Center in Orlando.
Some of it, you say? That sounds like a segue...
WWE’s shows have been pretty hard to preview (and no picnic to review, either) under the “prevailing circumstances”. As I write this on Thursday night, I know WrestleMania 36 host Rob Gronkowski will do something. They’ve been talking that up since the flurry of ‘Mania announcements on Wednesday night.
I think Goldberg & Roman Reigns will sign the contract for their April 4 or 5 Universal title match, but that hasn’t been mentioned as much since last Friday. It’s down the page, but it hasn’t been hidden on their website, so it’s probably gonna take place in some form or fashion.
Beyond that? [Shrug emoji]
It’s not just what takes place that’s uncertain. It’s where it will take place. Reigns was at the PC last week, so he’ll probably film in Orlando. Goldberg lives in Atlanta - he could drive down or Skype in to a segment. The Triple H/Tom Phillips portions of the Mar. 18 NXT were filmed at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, one of the places rumored to host a WrestleMania matches or scenes.
Keeping people apart makes sense. For the greater good, of course, but also for the odds of pulling off Showcase of the Immortals weekend early next month. One positive test among the talent and POOF and ‘Mania is toast.
But it also could lead to a more entertaining, or at least interesting, show. The empty set stuff they’ve done on the last SmackDown & Raw, and the souped up Kickoff show material that made up NXT can work. But not for two or three hours. Intersperse it with more backstage interactions. Edit in material the Superstars film at home, like the Twitter exchanges Daniel Bryan & Drew Gulak had this week.
Give us something with a healthy dose of the old JBL & Cole Show (or the YouTube series that took that formula and ran with it, Being The Elite). The rest can be interviews, video packages, and replays. Even the harshest critics are gonna pretty forgiving given the circumstances. It’s time to think outside the box.
As a star of other things WWE should be looking to for inspiration like the online season of NXT, Fashion Files, and Southpaw Regional Wrestling would say... let’s get weird.
The title scene:
Who knows if this year’s Grandaddy Of Them All will have a Kickoff, but SmackDown Women’s champ Bayley is ready to rock it with her bestie! She doesn’t have a match booked yet, but that could change soon. Paige was supposed to confront the Role Model last week, but couldn’t make it. That hasn’t been mentioned since, so who knows if we’ll ever see what they had planned there.
Intercontinental titleholder Sami Zayn actually got into action last Friday. Well, his Artist Collective ally Cesaro was the one technically in a match, but Zayn & Shinsuke Nakamura joined the fun. They did okay against Bryan & Gulak, but that was before the duck walking & ball squeezing. We’ll see how future encounters go... whenever they occur.
Two guys who know a thing or two about being entertaining on closed sets are SmackDown Tag Team champions The Miz & John Morrison. They put their Dirt Sheet experience to good use playing to an empty house on the first episode from the PC. If they’re going to have a match on April 4 or 5, they’ll have to get creative setting one up.
WWE’s used Women’s Tag champs Kabuki Warrior - and especially Asuka - a lot lately. Their next feud looks to be agains the blue brand’s Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross, too. We’ll see if they build on Asuka & Kairi Sane’s attack Mar. 13 on Bliss Cross Applesauce tonight.
Other things to keep an eye on:
- John Cena & Bray Wyatt did such a great job selling their ‘Mania match last week, they probably don’t need to do anything else. But I hope they do.
- His brother doesn’t work here any more, but Jeff Hardy is back! And he can call his moves whatever he wants! We’ll see if his issue with King Corbin was a one-off or Corbin’s newest never-ending feud.
- It was Elias who drifted into their match last week and distracted the King, though. So that’s probably the program they’re setting up.
Three weeks until WrestleMania (knock wood)!
What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?