WWE held Friday Night SmackDown this week from Knoxville, Tennessee. Get a complete look at the show with the live blog right here.
WWE went and did it again.
There have been so many different folks out in the pro wrestling space who have said time and time again exactly what it is that AEW does so well and how unbelievable it is that it’s some mind blowing thing: they figure out what the fans want, and then they give them that thing.
Now, the nature of the business is such that you oftentimes have to do the opposite of that so that you can build up to a bigger moment. Sometimes, though, there are times when it’s quite obvious that a promotion should give the fans the feel good moment.
The simplest example: a wrestler appearing in their hometown.
There is no more obvious opportunity to present a wrestler in the best way possible than when they are in front of a crowd who will adore everything they say or do, simply for existing as a person who came from that particular town/city. If you set them up as the returning hero, who is being welcomed home to celebrate all of their achievements, their family in the front row to partake in said celebration, well, shit, the script all but writes itself.
WWE doesn’t operate this way. No, Vince McMahon seems to believe that a wrestler in their hometown should always be left laying by the heel to maximize the heat you can get on said heel. That’s sound thinking in theory but it rarely ever happens that way, especially not in today’s pro wrestling space.
You don’t make the fans hate the bad guy — you just deflate the crowd. They’re left feeling badly about the hero they so badly wanted to cheer.
You sacrifice nothing by allowing Belair to get the upper hand on Lynch here. Kane had returned, and everyone loved that, Belair led the crowd in song, and everyone loved that, and they should have capped it off with Bianca putting Becky through that table, because everyone really would have loved that. Instead, the show went off the air with a quiet crowd left feeling badly as Belair was made to look foolish once more.
We reached the upper limits of Seth Rollins, actor on this show. As much as I loved everything they did in the Rollins vs. Edge match at Madison Square Garden last week, it was pretty heavy on the drama. It worked for the story they were telling at the time contained to the match itself.
The follow up was always going to be difficult.
That’s because Edge would be going away — for a while, seems like — and Rollins would be left to move forward, into whatever his future will look like after having done the thing. The start of that was a promo where he looked back on what he did and explained how he now feels about it, seeing as he couldn’t find the words just after the dastardly act was committed a mere seven days ago.
He really hammed it up too, talking about how scary it al was and how he can understand everyone feeling so down about it. It took far too long for him to finally get around the main point he was going to make, almost losing me in the process because, again, upper limits of his acting abilities.
Then, mercifully, he got around to it.
What the hell did we expect?
Of course this is what happened. It’s what was destined to happen, after all. To that end, it’s not Rollins who went too far in all this, it’s Edge! He’s the one who knew the risks of getting into the ring with him, and where he would go, and what he would do, and he did it anyway. Seth, then, believes his hands are clean in all this. What’s more, who encouraged Edge’s behavior? Who cheered his decision making all along the way?
Yes, you, dear reader, dear WWE fan, dear live event goer. It’s your fault, just as much as it’s Edge’s fault. It is not, however, Seth Rollins’ fault.
But that’s not even the real issue he’s had with all this — it’s not that he’s been blamed for going too far, after being goaded into going there in the first place. It’s that there came a point after he did it that he actually started to feel sorry for Edge. And that, above all else, is simply unacceptable.
So they’ll do this dance again, because Seth must purge himself of that, because someone like Rollins doesn’t see such a thing as essential to his humanity but rather as a weakness to be pounded into submission. He will sacrifice himself to this pursuit if need be. Edge, then, has been put to a choice — hold court at home and be hunted there, or come back to the ring for once last war to settle the score.
All told, this was about as well as they could have done to get to the trilogy. WWE is a babyface promotion, after all, so Edge is getting his win back down the road. We’ll see how they treat the time and space until then.
All the rest
- Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman continued doing their dance around Brock Lesnar and Heyman’s role in all this. He’s now claiming not to be “The Beast’s” advocate anymore, and WWE is leaning pretty heavily into how deeply uncomfortable this all is for the guy who is such a master manipulator. It’s still a good story.
- As an aside here: What does it say about Reigns that WWE can’t seem to book three minutes into the future anywhere else but he’s got three different programs they’re working — at the same time, mind you — for matches lined up for the next three or four pay-per-view events?
- Rick BOOGS is great and fun and is made even more fun by how much fun Pat McAfee has with him, but it was the height of hilarity when Apollo Crews and Commander Azeez attacked from out of nowhere and McAfee, who had to stop his ridiculous dancing on top of the announce desk, responded by instantly shouting “get me the hell out of here!” Anyway, BOOGS beat Robert Roode in a nothing match before Crews hit the scene to make clear he wants a rematch with King Nakamura for the Intercontinental championship.
- Happy Corbin and Kevin Owens got some time on this show but if you blinked you missed it. The latter mentioned taking the former’s smile away in their match and then Corbin attacked him from behind during his entrance and left him there. The match never happened. Yeah.
- One of my biggest gripes with WWE is the way they tend to give the women’s division one program for the title, and everyone else is thrown into random tag team shenanigans. It’s a plainly transparent attempt at getting as many women on TV as possible without doing all that much with them. To that end, we end up with a situation where Shotzi & Tegan Nox have been completely ignored after repeatedly scoring wins over the women’s tag team champions and Toni Storm & Liv Morgan get all of two minutes of a match against Carmella & Zelina Vega that ends via count out after Carmella busts her nose on a turnbuckle. There’s some reason for optimism, though. Morgan did challenge Carmella to a singles match at Extreme Rules, and that was accepted, so that’s some progress. Meanwhile, they also booked Morgan vs. Vega in a singles match next week.
- Oh, we also got Naomi backstage getting good and pissed off at Sonya Deville again about not booking her for that match she was promised. Later, Michael Cole interrupted the next match with some breaking news that Naomi was fined for insubordination for the way she treated Deville. Casting Naomi as the babyface who is being screwed around by the authority figurehead is a decision I’m fine with, though I’m worried about them ever paying it off, considering the manner in which they’ve handled previous issues between Deville and Adam Pearce.
- I’m going to make myself something of a hypocrite here because while I grew to despise all the hokey Bray Wyatt/Fiend stuff, and absolutely cannot stand Alexa Bliss running around with a literal doll that is possessed or whatever, I enjoyed this simply because it looked cool:
- Dominik Mysterio still can’t seem to put together the many lessons his father taught him in actual matches against wrestlers like Sami Zayn. I originally thought Dom would grow frustrated with his dad and turn on him. Now I’m wondering if maybe we’re only so far off from Rey putting him through the paces himself. That’ll learn him!
This show is generally good even on its worst days. The main event left a sour taste, however.