WWE seemed to be promising something big in relation to the Sami Zayn journey with The Bloodline on Friday Night SmackDown just outside Chicago, Illinois this week. There was every reason to think that Zayn would become “a made man” as they put it a few times.
Or, if not that, some kind of major angle.
There was no major angle.
Unless you count a surprise appearance via video from John Cena as a major angle.
There was some story progression, at least. Reigns made clear that it was going to be a big night for Zayn but he changed his mind because Kevin Owens has continued to be a problem, seeing as he has been hanging on to Zayn a bit too much. Sami even slipped up and called him his “friend.”
A mistake he instantly corrected, but a notable mistake nonetheless.
Reigns’ plan for dealing with this is a tag team match, where he will tag with Zayn against Owens and a partner of his choosing on the Dec. 30 episode of SmackDown. That would be the same show Cena was already scheduled to appear, and by the time everyone connected those dots they had Cena appearing via video to say he would indeed be Owens’ partner for that tag match.
It’s hard to see how this would be where the big turn happens, but at the very least they’ve set up a big match with the biggest star of today against the biggest star of yesterday and two secondary stars getting to shine right along with them.
Having said all that, it made for something of a let down for this show. Cena was his ultimate goofy self for his video promo, even if you overlook that his appearance was via video. It was a classic case of Cena doing that thing he could sometimes do — take a serious story and make it feel silly.
We met Uncle Howdy on this show:
I think the idea here was to make clear that Uncle Howdy is not Bray Wyatt as it first sounded, just a guy with a similar build. But that’s not really what this gets across. It’s not like that couldn’t be walked back and/or used as a way to play more of the dreaded MIND GAMES with whomever is opposite Wyatt at any given time.
Right now it’s LA Knight and while I remain enraptured by Wyatt more generally I just can’t seem to get into all the spooky overly cinematic storytelling they do with him. It’s a visual trip with him, with the smoke and the mood lighting and all that.
It just doesn’t feel pro wrestling enough for me. That’s about the best way I can put it.
I think what I’ve learned from this Bray Wyatt story more than anything is that LA Knight is an incredibly gifted talker. To that end, maybe some credit is due. One of the chief criticisms of Wyatt in the past was no one came out of a feud with him looking any better. Knight is quite clearly not getting the better of this feud but, if nothing else, he’s been given the chance to showcase how much fun it is to give him a mic and let him talk to ya.
So, hell with it, take it as a win.
All the rest
- Damage CTRL retained the women’s tag team titles thanks to a hooded figure interfering from the crowd, kicking Tegan Nox in the face despite her being in control and having just dealt with Bayley’s interference. We got no indication of who it was but it kept the straps with IYO SKY & Dakota Kai. The match itself was sloppy at points but also featured some fun spots like Kai willingly taking a sunset flip powerbomb from the apron to the floor on the outside. I would definitely be interested in seeing more of these teams going at it. But the focus coming out was less on another go round between these teams and who the hell the hooded figure was. Strangely enough, they revealed it to be Xia Li — in a “digital exclusive” video they released online and didn’t play during this show. I don’t get it.
- Ricochet said his gameplay was to flip all around GUNTHER and use his high flying skills to neutralize the power of the Intercontinental champion. The match ended up being a really fun contrast of styles, a predictably awesome back-and-forth. The crowd really seemed to buy Ricochet winning off a beautiful Shooting Star Press and exploded when GUNTHER kicked out. Ricochet’s response was even better — instead of flying, he took his tape off and started throwing heavy blows. He couldn’t win in the air, so he’d have to win on the ground. But that’s GUNTHER, and he just rocked his shit from there to get the pinfall, delivering a power slam that appears to be his new finish, what Michael Cole called “The Last Symphony.” This was fantastic all the way around. Braun Strowman appears to be next, if that suits your fancy.
- Hit Row won a triple threat tag team match to become the new top contenders to the titles. They’ll face The Usos next week. The match was pretty sloppy, with Top Dolla missing multiple spots. It was rough all around but this seemed to be the only option they had considering they were taping next week’s show right after and The Usos should only be beating these two and definitely not the others.
- Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler are beating the trash out of everyone in the women’s division almost entirely backstage and I kinda love that. I fear I’m one of the only ones, but I don’t care, it’s been entertaining. Rousey’s attempts at clever one liners has been the best part about it. Raquel Rodriguez was attacked this week but she’s still set for the Gauntlet match next week and appears to be a clear favorite.
It felt like this was supposed to be a big show and it was mostly a let down outside of that amazing Ricochet/GUNTHER match.