WWE SmackDown returns tonight (Sept. 4) from the ThunderDome located in the AmWay Center in Orlando, Florida. They are building towards Clash of Champions on Sept. 27.
Last week in this space, we looked at how Roman Reigns’ return was a big boon for SmackDown. And normally I try not to focus on the same topic in the “Headliner” segment. But so much happened with Roman last week, officially turning heel and winning the Universal championship that it felt worth discussing again. Even more so, it’s something I’m very excited about.
This is very new. When Roman returned at SummerSlam, I did not interpret it as a heel turn. He beat down two men who aren’t babyfaces because they’re in the title program he should have been in. Many felt that was a heel turn (and it turns out those folks were right) but it was justified. If he came out as a standard kick ass/take names badass last Friday, I would not have been surprised.
Instead, they went a different direction. SmackDown ended last week with a major surprise, revealing that Roman Reigns was now a Paul Heyman guy. Then on Sunday, in heel fashion, he let the other two guys beat the hell out of each other, signed the contract for the match on the way down to the ring, viscously used a chair on those guys, delivered a low blow, and won the belt.
Given WWE’s reluctance to portray Roman as a villain, this entire sequence of events of event is almost shocking. It’s entirely new with so many possibilities regarding where it can go. Even if creative in WWE is hit or miss (at best), this is bound to get people excited.
Roman also seems to be really enjoying himself in the early stages. There’s rumor he pushed for this himself. And despite his run as a Raw showrunner not ending in success, Paul Heyman still has a very good mind for the business and will be likely contributing ideas to all of this. A very motivated and talented Roman Reigns paired with someone like Paul E is a combination that could do some great things together.
In general, I’ve been more excited for WWE TV since the move to the ThunderDome. But that was coming from a very low level of enthusiasm. This Roman Reigns turn has me actually looking forward to seeing what they do next.
Tonight, that will feature the Big Dog addressing the crowd with Paul Heyman at his side. It’ll be interesting to see how much talking Heyman does compared to Reigns. Is this going to be more of a Brock/Paul pairing or a CM Punk/Paul pairing?
The title scene:
The Golden Role Models have had a bad couple of weeks. Sasha lost her Raw Women’s title to Asuka at SummerSlam. They lost the Women’s tag team championships to Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler at Payback. The new tag champs will be on SmackDown to give the Role Models their rematch, but with the Riott Squad earning a shot in the future, I have a feeling the gold will remain on the ragtag team of Jax & Baszler.
Meanwhile, Bayley still has her SmackDown Women’s championship and needs a challenger. I still think Naomi deserves a shot since she pinned the champ in the Beat the Clock challenge before they get to Bayley vs. Sasha... if they ever do.
Jeff Hardy is Intercontinental champion. But so is Sami Zayn kind of. (Michael Cole has made it clear that Sami Zayn is not champion right now but he holds a belt so good enough for me.) And AJ Styles feels he was cheated out of it. There could be a triple threat coming, but I want to see a unifying ladder match myself.
SmackDown tag team champions Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura seemed to have some tension last week when Nakamura answered Hardy’s IC belt challenge. However, it’s very clear they don’t want anything to do with old pal Sami Zayn any more.
Other things to keep an eye on:
- There will be a rather interesting #1 contender fatal 4-way to decide Roman Reigns’ first challenger. This match will feature Big E, Matt Riddle, King Corbin, and Sheamus. I’d assume a babyface will win, but who’s getting sacrificed as Reigns’ first loss then? Riddle or E?
- Alexa Bliss seems affected by the Fiend Bray Wyatt, which is causing a rift in her friendship with Nikki Cross. Will Bliss and Wyatt by SmackDown’s Joker & Harley? And can they actually be a babyface duo?
What will you be looking for when SmackDown returns tonight at 8 ET on Fox?