Ronda Rousey is much better on the microphone than she was when she first returned to WWE. That doesn’t mean she’s particularly good at it, and, in fact, I would argue it actually does her no favors when they’re actually doing a good job of presenting her as the baddest woman you’ll ever come across.
She showed up to Friday Night SmackDown this week, coming in through the crowd with a duffel bag full of cash to pay the fine she was given. She’s supposed to be suspended. She doesn’t care, she’s a rulebreaker!
The crowd loved her showing up like this — and then she started talking. Again, she’s doing okay with it, and you could argue it’s cool to say shit like “being the baddest is expensive, but I can afford it” but how much better would this have been if she showed up, dumped the bag of cash to pay the fine, and then strong armed the security who showed up to remove her without ever saying a word?
Less is more and all that.
They did further set up Ronda having issues with Shayna Baszler, who was upset about how Rousey was handling herself. Baszler and Liv Morgan — who was cheered this week, for what that’s worth — had a contract signing over the fine money Rousey showed up with and it broke down into violence, as per usual.
Morgan ended up getting the better of it but it’s becoming increasingly clear her days as champion are numbered and there are other, more interesting stories to tell that don’t involve her.
One thing I’ve greatly enjoyed since Triple H took over creative on the main roster is the renewed emphasis on putting over the mid-card titles. I don’t necessarily mean in the matches themselves, though that has also happened, but in the utilization of WWE’s production team to work up these fantastic videos showcasing the deep history of the secondary championships.
We got another good one this week with the Intercontinental strap ahead of the big main event showdown pitting GUNTHER, the defending champion, against Shinsuke Nakamura, the former champion. All the biggest stars in the history of the promotion held the Intercontinental title at one point or another, and it used to really mean something when someone was bestowed with it.
Somewhere along the way they lost that. It was just another title to be carried around and forgotten about.
My hope has long been that we would get something like what we’re seeing with Roman Reigns, much longer title reigns that serve to add legitimacy to said titles. The belts mean less if they play hot potato with them. To that end, GUNTHER, whose entire character is centered around being a ring general who lives and dies for the competition of it all, is an ideal champion. Not just because of the character, of course, but because his matches are good to great.
He had another one in the main event of this show. “This is awesome” chants rang out through the arena as GUNTHER and Nakamura went deeper and deeper into the evening. In the end, the defending champion proved to be too much, pinning Shinsuke clean after a powerbomb.
This is how it should be. If Reigns is going to miss as many shows as he does, and I have no issue with that at all, that’s when you take advantage and elevate the titles lower on the card. They did a great job of that on this show.
All the rest
- Raquel Rodriguez & Aliyah advanced in the Women’s Tag Team Championship Tournament with a victory over Xia Li & Shotzi. There isn’t much to say about the match. Aliyah sold a lot, Rodriguez was the powerhouse who came in and wrecked shop, and they worked well enough together. This was just a way to get to the more important stuff later.
- Karrion Kross called his return a rebirth while claiming Drew McIntyre and Roman Reigns are the chosen ones. He cut this promo backstage while hiding behind a curtain and spying on McIntyre. He was given a menacing presentation, a bit like the hunter stalking its prey, sticking to the shadows. I think I’d rather he do less talking but this wasn’t bad. That led us to a McIntyre promo where he ran down Reigns for not showing up to work — an unfortunate talking point WWE should get rid of — before Scarlett Bordeaux interrupted. Instead of causing a distraction for Kross, however, it was The Usos who attacked McIntyre from behind. They warned her about Kross stepping to Reigns, she said something unintelligible, and that was the segment. We’re too early into this to draw any meaningful conclusions just yet but I can’t help but find it a bit strange how they are, to some degree, sacrificing McIntyre’s big moment in Wales just to get Kross involved now instead of later.
- Ivar’s splash onto Kofi Kingston from the barricade to the stage floor looked legitimately brutal.
- Hit Row were one of the victims of the many rounds of “budget cuts” within WWE late last year, coming not long after it became clear Vince McMahon didn’t really know what to do with them on the main roster. With Triple H back in charge, he’s doing a full blown tour with all of his prior NXT projects he sees money in. They’re billing themselves as the “OG 3,” and there’s reason for optimism here, even as they’re missing the top star of the original act, AEW’s Swerve Strickland. Let’s wait and see on this.
- Jimmy Uso calling Sami Zayn a “track star” got a big pop out of me. Zayn is still one of the best acts on this show, and his entire thing is being slimy trying to stay in tight with The Bloodline despite the fact that he’s been in front of Reigns maybe twice. Here, he ran the hell away from Drew McIntyre, then showed up to get Claymore’d by him but only after he had already defeated the tag team champions (alongside Madcap Moss, who aligned with Drew in a surprise return for reasons we were never told).
- Max Dupri rules.
- Bum Ass Corbin sucks.
This was a good show!