WWE held Friday Night SmackDown this week from Madison Square Garden in New York City. Get a complete look at the show with the live blog right here.
Life is fragile. The human body is resilient, yes, but it can only take so much. Getting a second chance following a traumatic injury, then, is deeply meaningful, for all the obvious reasons. Making the most of it is downright heroic.
Losing yourself in service of that is not.
I’ve certainly been known to follow my own interpretation of WWE stories a bit too far but it sure looks to me like that’s the story WWE has been telling with Edge and Seth Rollins. The former, incensed at the latter for ruining his chance at winning back the title he was forced to relinquish due to his bad neck over a decade ago, went to the darkest of places to exact his revenge. And he got it.
But at what cost?
We’ve learned the answer to that now — maybe everything.
Rollins, it so happens, is just as willing to go to that dark place, so he traveled right down to the depths with Edge. Only he was taking notes. His willingness to implement what he learned was on full display in this match. Hell, he was using Beth Phoenix’s finisher. Edge’s wife, the mother of his children, had unwittingly provided a blueprint for one of his enemies to inflict pain upon him only because Rollins was despicable enough to actually use it.
But, again, how did he get there?
It came to a head late in the match with a very powerful moment. Rollins hit Edge with a low blow — the referee didn’t catch it, of course — and then kicked his bad knee out from under him, and then kicked him in the head. Edge stood all the way up, directly into another superkick, this one dropping him to his knees. At that moment, he looked up and gave us this scene:
Edge is hurt. On the brink of collapse. And then it happens. He’s aware enough to look directly at Rollins and he gets this resigned look on his face.
This is what he sees staring back at him:
Radical. Crazed. All too willing to do what Edge knows comes next. And he accepts it. He understands what he has done, what led them both to this very moment, how far away he let himself get from what mattered most to him, and, most importantly, what it has cost him. He understands, and he accepts it. When Rollins gets up to superkick him again, Edge doesn’t even brace for the impact.
He accepts it.
The kick lands and he limply falls over. Still, he sits back up and once again looks to Rollins, that same resigned look on his face. He eats another kick. Again, he doesn’t even brace for the impact.
Finally, he starts to sit himself up and Rollins deals the coup de grâce with the Curb Stomp. McAfee can be heard saying “it felt like Edge knew this was over.” He did. He absolutely knew, and he accepted his fate. It was all he could do. It was his penance.
Immediately after the Stomp, Rollins looked downright orgasmic. And then something changed within him, and the visual representation of that was his reaction at looking down at his fallen foe and bearing witness to what he had done. He looked almost confused, and maybe even a little afraid. Of what, though? The potential fallout? The harsh reality of his actions laid bare before him? In an interview shortly after, he tried to work through all this and couldn’t.
“Maybe I don’t feel anything at all.”
It was deeply unsettling, and left a lot of questions regarding just what the hell this means for both of them. What’s next for Edge, if anything at all? Who has Rollins become, and what does it mean for his future?
Brilliant performances all around here. Just outstanding work from all involved.
“If the aliens came down to fight a human, this is the one we would send.”
That was how Pat McAfee introduced Brock Lesnar, who returned to SmackDown for this special show at Madison Square Garden just moments after the New York City crowd was loudly cheering for Roman Reigns. It’s exactly the kind of commentary we’ve come to love Pat Mac for, because that’s how you get a guy over from the desk while he stalks around the ring looking like just the baddest son of a bitch around town.
I don’t care what anyone says, when Lesnar and Reigns come face-to-face, even all these years after they did it the first time, it feels electric.
That alone is enough to make me love this but they’ve added a whole lot of intrigue with Paul Heyman, whose loyalty has come into question from both sides. For his part, Heyman is actively playing each side of it and he’s doing so in such a way that it feels genuinely like he doesn’t want to have to be put to a choice. He acknowledges Reigns as his Tribal Chief, but he is an advocate for Lesnar.
How each handled the situation on this show says so much about the two of them.
Lesnar, who is every bit the savvy businessman, as equally adept at securing the best deal for himself as he is at maiming people, used the threat of violence to get Heyman to give him what he wanted. He appeared as though he was going to follow through on this but didn’t get the chance.
That’s because Reigns made the save, a point he was sure to drive home to Heyman later in the show. Literally. “I saved you,” he said. Not once, but twice. “I saved you.” Whereas Lesnar uses brute force, Reigns is the worst kind of manipulator, a guy who will gaslight you into submission.
Heyman, in both cases, remained quiet. He didn’t give in to Brock’s demand, and he never answered Roman’s question.
The pieces continue to move about the chess board as the buttons are flipped back and forth, the clock ticking down to the inevitable clash. The question remains: on which side will Heyman be standing at the conclusion of it?
All the rest
- I would like to give WWE a lot of credit for their absolutely fantastic use of a celebrity guest appearance from Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young. They didn’t even announce it was happening beforehand, it was a great deal of fun for the local crowd, was done in such a way to make said local crowd happy, and it wasn’t overdone in the slightest. This was perfect.
- I also want to give a lot of credit to Bianca Belair — she finally hit the talking points I’ve been expecting her to since SummerSlam, by the way — who has stood across from Becky Lynch and looked every bit the top babyface star WWE hoped she could be. Lynch leaning into her bad side, with the outrageous fur coat, those ridiculous shades, and her backhanded remarks, makes this story the easy home run it seemed destined to be before all the confusion over character alignment. They were probably always getting here, and it’s been a damn good ride either way, but this is great.
- The Usos vs. The Street Profits was predictably awesome, considering those two teams always have fun matches, even with the disqualification finish. Even that made sense, considering the story we’re getting with Reigns and his family and the way they treat everything and everyone around them.
- The Demon has returned, and while it seems fairly obvious Reigns is winning at Extreme Rules, this is the kind of special occasion that calls for, well, something special. While it may not create any real doubt in the eventual outcome, it does make for some additional intrigue in how the match itself will play out.
I absolutely loved this show from start to finish.