This week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown emanated from San Jose. Get a complete look at the show with the live blog right here.
Remember roughly one month ago when Seth Rollins and Edge went to war at Madison Square Garden and the end result of it was Rollins putting Edge away with the Curb Stomp? My read on that at the time was that it was a very well executed match with an incredible story that culminated in Edge, having come to terms with just how far away from his original goals he had gone, and just how much he’d lost in doing so, having to accept his fate.
And he did that. He accepted it, knowing it might very well be the end.
But it wasn’t.
I wondered where they could possibly go from there, and it turns out they had the right idea with this story all along. Rollins should have let it go there, because of course he should have, because he won. In war, victory is all that matters. History is written by the winners and all that.
But that’s not what happened. Rollins, of course, wanted more. He wanted not just the painfully obvious physical admission of defeat but the verbal equivalent. The defeat itself was not enough, he needed to revel in his opponent’s demise. Savor it. Examine the wound and twist the knife a little more.
When Edge didn’t bite, at least not initially, Rollins did what he was always going to do, what he’s always done before — he took it too far. He involved the Copeland family, breaking into Edge’s home and making snide remarks about his wife and children. At the time, I didn’t like that story beat, mostly due to how impossible it is to execute in the right way on a pro wrestling show, but it’s improved with the benefit of hindsight.
Rollins was back this week to continue rubbing it in and demanding Edge come back around. He offered up whatever stipulation Edge wanted, continued running him down at the expense of his family, all of it. Then, the man himself showed up, rushed the ring, unleashed a vicious assault with all the markings of the evil Edge we’d known before, the one who goes to that dark place, and then he made clear what stipulation he wanted.
Hell in a Cell.
Rollins’ response to this made clear what all of this was about. He was shocked, yes, but he also looked scared. The smug confidence that had him acting these ways, and saying these things, was replaced by fear; of what he unleashed, of what was bearing down on him, at his inability to escape from it.
Pride comes before the fall.
The best part? It’s deserved. And that is the key to all of this. Going to the depths of your own darkness to exact revenge on a man over a title is losing yourself. A title, as much as it may mean competitively speaking, is still just a physical representation of an achievement.
But family? Family is everything. Going to the depths of your own darkness to defend your family is righteous. In terms of storytelling, Rollins’ going after Edge’s family essentially gives the latter carte blanche to do as he pleases, in terms of audience acceptance. It’s why they had Iosef kill John Wick’s dog, the same dog his wife left for him to help him grieve — and move on from — her death. Iosef talking shit, breaking into Wick’s house, and even stealing Wick’s car he refused to sell wouldn’t have been enough to justify a revenge tour through Iosef’s entire family. But killing the dog? Going after family like that?
Now you get not the boogeyman, but the man you send to kill the boogeyman. And there will be no escaping it. Edge will come for Rollins and he will do nothing because he can do nothing.
And we get to cheer it all.
We got a look at what a babyface Roman Reigns could look like with this character bent and you know what?
It might could work.
The bit they did at the start of his segment showed that. He walked out, soaked in the roar of the crowd reacting to his mere presence before shouting out the name of the city, San Jose, and demanding “acknowledge me.” They responded with a thunderous pop while The Usos flanked him holding up their fingers, The Ones, and the audience did the same in response.
It felt electric. That’s a pro wrestler being damn good at his job, creating something the fans so badly want to get in on, even when said wrestler is a heel because he’s awesome.
Hell, even if they don’t make him babyface again with this, it’s still just a cool thing for fans and live audiences. Even if other crowds respond with boos, it still works. I love it. It’s a perfect pro wrestling bit.
Meanwhile, in story Reigns gave Paul Heyman the chance to explain himself and he did a lot of groveling before doing exactly as Roman asked him to, telling Brock Lesnar what he’s got coming to him at Crown Jewel. Then he quite literally bowed at the Universal champion’s feet while the rest of us were left to wonder how sincere he was being.
That’s one of the great things about Heyman, both the man and the character — he’s widely known as an inveterate liar. This could very well be the setup to a swerve, the one thing that could take Reigns down and end his, ahem, reign as champion.
They’ve done a damn good job of creating intrigue in this match centered solely around the loyalty of a manager.
The contract signing is a segment WWE uses often for title matches, considering it’s a simple and effective tool to build to said title match. There’s a bingo card game to be played each time, as there are a number of bits you can look for within these segments.
Here, we got “it’s a contract signing but no one actually signs a contract” on top of “the furniture is used as a weapon and/or destroyed” to go along with “everyone cuts a promo on everyone else before a brawl breaks out.”
The thing to keep in mind is that they can make as many bingos as possible as long as it’s entertaining and Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair, and Sasha Banks made sure to make it entertaining.
Especially how it ended:
Belair continues to be incredible, both within this program and overall.
Also, props to them, they actually bothered to have a backstage segment where we saw Lynch complaining to Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville but ultimately choosing to sign the contract to make the match official.
King of the Ring, Queen’s Crown
On the men’s side, the Mysterio family drama continued, allowing Sami Zayn to score a win over Rey Mysterio. This was a good way to use a meaningful match to continue driving a wedge between Rey and Dominik. Meanwhile, Finn Balor returned from his failure as The Demon at Extreme Rules with a strong victory over Cesaro. As far as reestablishing someone goes, this was about as good as you could ask for.
It also sets up a matchup that makes sense in the semifinals.
On the women’s side, it’s a bit more confusing.
Toni Storm was propped up by way of an introduction to her new character, someone who fashions herself a “child of the 80s,” as they put it. I’m not sure how this makes sense, considering she wasn’t even born until 1995, but either way, it seemed like an obvious set up to give her a win and showcase this new character more. It was a surprise, then, when she got beat in relatively short order.
It was also a surprise when Carmella beat Liv Morgan a short while later, as WWE continues to tease a Morgan babyface push before beating her in matches like this. That victory set up a Vega vs. Carmella match for next week, a heel vs. heel encounter that gives us no one to cheer for.
It also ensures that a heel from this side of the bracket will be in the final, which could either mean a heel vs. heel final when Shayna Baszler comes out of that side of the bracket (which is what I expected as soon as I saw the complete bracket), or Doudrop is actually getting a legitimate push all the way to the final here. Neither option looks particularly appealing to me, but your mileage may vary.
All the rest
- We got our first look at how Hit Row will be presented on the main roster with a stylish vignette that showed them in the studio. Pat McAfee called them “an electrifying music group that also kick ass in the ring,” which is just about the perfect way to describe them. One of my biggest issues with WWE in recent memory is the fact that no one on the roster is cool. Hit Row is exactly that, provided WWE presents them properly, which is to say, let them do their thing and it will work itself out. They’re off to a good start in that regard.
- Am I the only one who keeps hearing “Madcat” every time they say “Madcap” Moss’s name on this show? I can’t be the only one, can I? Anyway, this thing where he tells shitty dad jokes that everyone but Baron Corbin hates is the kind of silliness I can get behind in my pro wrestling. After all, who is a bigger heel than your dad after he excitedly tells you his latest knee slapper?
- I wondered briefly why Naomi wasn’t in the Queen’s Crown tournament and felt badly about it until she showed up on TV and reminded me she’s in this awesomely strange story with Sonya Deville, who is now apparently doing what she said she wouldn’t and getting back in the ring to wrestle Naomi herself. We still don’t know why she hates her so much, beyond the corporate nonsense she claimed a couple weeks ago, but this is a genuinely exciting match to look forward to. I’m all but certain it’s not actually going to happen, but still care enough to want to tune in to see the next step in the story.
- Whoever will compete with MACE who will ANNIHILATE with his DISPOSITION TO DOMINATE?!?
After a predictably bad episode due to the draft last week, the blue brand got right back on the right track.