WWE SmackDown returns tonight (Aug. 28) from the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. It is the fallout episode from the SummerSlam pay-per-view (PPV) last Sunday and the go home show for the Payback PPV this Sunday. Seriously.
The closing moments of SummerSlam featured the Fiend Bray Wyatt winning back the Universal title from Braun Strowman, and then Roman Reigns returning to beat the hell out of both men. Meaning for the first since before WrestleMania, Roman Reigns is back.
He’s been sorely missed.
In general, Raw and SmackDown have suffered since the pandemic hit. Part of that was likely due to the small confines of the WWE Performance Center week after week. That’s definitely affected the look of the product, something they rectified with the introduction of the ThunderDome. I agree with my colleague Geno that I came around to the Dome very quickly, realizing the product suffered more than I even thought from their months in the PC.
Of course that hasn’t been the only issue. Creative was pretty rough during that time. It’s tough to tell if it was their usual standard of creative (some good, plenty bad, lack of consistency or evidence of long term planning) that was just more obvious without the distraction of a large arena and crowd or if it actually got worse in that time.
And then there was the missing superstars, who opted to stay away from WWE when COVID hit for various reason, which is completely reasonable. None of those missing stars was more evident than Roman Reigns.
Love him or hate him, and judging by initial reactions to his return, there are still plenty in both camps, there’s no doubt he’s been positioned as one of the biggest stars in the company today. It took him time to grow into that role, but in the last few years, he’s earned the spot on the card they put him in.
To suddenly lose someone that’s been groomed to be a top guy since 2012 in a time they could use all the help they can get hurt SmackDown. Now, this isn’t to take pity on WWE. It’s their fault that they couldn’t build other stars alongside Roman to fill the need when it arose. The fact that they had to go with Braun, who their booking took from hot to cold over the last few years, is telling enough. But that’s the spot they’re in and Roman’s return is a big deal right now.
Roman has been immediately slotted into the main event, booked for a triple threat match for the Universal title against Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman this Sunday. This is not a bad thing. If you’re missing a big star, you present them like a big star when they return.
And the history is there between both men, making this a match that makes plenty of sense. Braun took Roman’s spot at WrestleMania, getting the title match that should have been the Big Dog’s. That’s not to mention the big feud they had years back that helped make Strowman. Meanwhile, a feud between Reigns and Wyatt has been years in the making given the Fiend has attacked all the men who have hurt Bray in the past. That should include Roman.
That’s good because they don’t have much time to get this story over prior to Payback this Sunday. They’ll tackle that with a contract signing tonight. But I have a feeling this is just the start of this story. A story that feels more important now that Reigns is back in the fold.
The title scene:
Bayley and Sasha Banks have to focus on defending their Women’s tag team championships at Payback against the reluctant allies Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler. As for the Bayley’s SmackDown Women’s championship, it’s possible a feud with Naomi could be in the future given Ms. Glow pinned her in last week’s Beat the Clock challenge.
Last week, Jeff Hardy overcame a knee injury (caused by an AJ Styles cheap shot) to beat Styles for the Intercontinental championship. But this program is likely not over. The former champ will likely point to the fact that the knee brace Jeff was wearing hit him in the head and that should be illegal. He’ll probably put Joseph Park on the case, though in this world, I don’t think Park is a lawyer.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro retained their SmackDown tag team championships against Lucha House Party last week. After the loss, the House Party started blaming each other for the loss. That means they’re probably not going to get another shot any time soon. There aren’t many obvious tag teams to step up. Maybe Heavy Machinery?
Other things to keep an eye on:
- Alexa Bliss was suddenly dropped out of the Bray Wyatt/Braun Strowman story, and she likely wasn’t happy about it. Does this mean she’ll be able to deal with her issues with Nikki Cross? Cross has been looking to make amends with Bliss after shoving her weeks back. But Bliss was focused on the Braun drama at the time.
- Whatever the plan for last week’s Talking Smack segment originally was, it’s worked shoot now because Big E and Miz are going to continue their conversation regarding opportunities within the WWE on MizTV.
- RETRIBUTION is still going, last Monday beating down the Mysterio clan. We’ll see if they make any moves tonight.
What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight on 8 PM ET on Fox?