THE BOSS IS BACK.
There’s probably some legitimate criticism to level at WWE for giving us the surprise Sasha Banks return on the Friday Night SmackDown the night before Royal Rumble instead of in the Royal Rumble match itself but I don’t mind this at all. In fact, I think I prefer it.
My big problem with the men’s Royal Rumble this year (as you’ll read in my preview of the match later today), is WWE didn’t ever bother creating any actual stories for it, instead relying on the match itself to sell for the sake of it. They had mid-card acts sneaking up on each other and throwing each other over the top rope with a “got cha!” laugh just after and left it at that.
The women’s Rumble has had the opposite problem.
First, they announced a bunch of returning Legends we haven’t seen in quite a while, also revealing the Forbidden Door was opening up with Impact Knockouts Champion Mickie James included in the mix. Then, Charlotte Flair declared she would enter as champion so she could win and choose her own WrestleMania opponent for the first time in history. Now, we get Sasha Banks returning to establish some opposition to that.
There are a lot of legitimately compelling angles with the women’s Rumble this year, and they just added a major one right here while also getting some screen time in for some of the other women in the match.
This was really well done all around.
I’m awfully confused by the way they’ve gone about this Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns program.
We started with only getting this match because Adam Pearce was tasked with giving Reigns an opponent for Royal Rumble, and he could pick literally anyone. So he went with Rollins for reasons they never actually bothered to explain.
It was something of an odd choice, considering they’re both heels, but they have a lot of history, so let’s roll with it.
Instantly, they bring that rich history up and use it in promos for the feud. But the angle they started with was Rollins making note of the fact that he’s beaten Reigns in every one-on-one straight up encounter, and he’ll do it again. Then, he managed to smart his way into ensuring The Usos would be banned from ringside. He was presented, more or less, as a sympathetic character in this.
This week, we took an abrupt turn.
Rollins showed up to SmackDown dressed as the Joker and spent an entire segment calling everything about Reigns a joke. When he referenced taking a chair to Roman’s back and breaking up The Shield, Reigns became visibly upset before revealing he hates Seth for what he did and he can never forgive him for that fateful evening all those years ago. Reigns, then, became the sympathetic character in this.
It’s a bit confusing!
My man Kyle Decker had a take on the segment after seeing it:
While it was heavy handed (because it’s WWE), I appreciated the idea that 8 years later, Roman still isn’t over that betrayal. Also that Rollins is the one that can break the exterior of Reigns.
Also, the superhero fan in me appreciates the Batman-esque villain scenario where the mob bosses think they know what’s up but they don’t know how to handle the Joker.
He’s not wrong. Character alignment issues aside, there is something there, and villains can be even more compelling when we can relate to them and their struggle.
I just wish they had picked a lane and stuck with it from the beginning.
All the rest
- Ridge Holland returned alongside Sheamus and got his measure of revenge on Ricochet for breaking his face. Poetically enough, he used the mask he was wearing to put Cesaro down to score the pinfall for his team. Happy birthday to Sheamus!
- Naomi finally got one over on Sonya Deville, defeating her clean in a singles match. There was a pretty damn good pop for it, which seems to indicate they didn’t hold off on this for so long that it didn’t register as a moment for her. Having said that, they did it on the go home show to Royal Rumble in such a way that it was a way to build to Sonya announcing she, too, would be entering the match to try to ruin it for Naomi. So we’ll see where they go from here. It was nice seeing how devastated losing to Naomi made Deville.
- Sami Zayn did a live podcast with Jinder Mahal and Shanky, one that was largely about Zayn reminding us all that he really, really hates Johnny Knoxville. It turned out to be a lead in to Mahal & Shanky vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick BOOGS, which, I believe, represents the Intercontinental champion’s first match back since being cleared to return from his hand injury. He barely ended up doing anything in the match, with BOOGS doing the heavy lifting, scoring a win for the team. It was what it was.
- Big E showed up to reunite with Kofi Kingston for a match against Madcap Moss & Happy Corbin. They won! And it felt good to see the band back together again. It was real nice to see The Midnight Hour on the blue brand.
This was a strange show. The women’s segments hit really well but the rest of the card was meaningless tag matches and the strange storytelling in the main event.