With so many WWE superstars still stuck in Saudi Arabia after some unforeseen travel issues, Smackdown was in peril yet WWE promised some surprises in store for us tonight! Let’s see what we got!
Brock Lesnar segment
To open the show, Paul Heyman introduced his client and warned the entire WWE Universe that Brock Lesnar is pissed! Heyman then proceeded to play the entire raw footage of Lesnar’s match against Cain Velasquez and his subsequent altercation with Rey Mysterio. I imagine the creatives in the back then breathed a sigh of relief having killed five minutes with previous footage on this talent-stricken show. Heyman enlightens us on the fact that Lesnar is pissed because he can’t tear Mysterio apart because both superstars are exclusive to the opposite brands.
Lesnar then apparently QUITS Smackdown! The beast is after Mysterio and he will be at Raw supposedly and in order to do so, quits Smackdown! Does this potentially mean the WWE Championship moves with the Beast over to the red brand?
Ignoring the five minutes of yesterday’s footage, this was certainly a surprising way to open tonight’s Smackdown and now, crucially, I’m actually intrigued as to what goes down on Raw next week. For fans of Smackdown, this segment would have them potentially rejoicing at the fact this may actually mean they get to keep the Fiend and his Universal title but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s truly the case.
Grade: A- (the minus for the raw footage)
Bayley w/ Sascha Banks def. Nikki Cross – Smackdown Women’s Championship match
This was fine as matches go, Bayley had the upper hand early on in the match before Cross made her comeback as she threatened to make the most of her title opportunity. The finish came after Banks interfered from the outside, allowing Bayley to hit her new finisher, a modified arm-lock facebuster for the pin and the win. The drama wasn’t over though as after the match, the NXT Women’s champion, Shayna Baszler, vaulted the ringside barricade to lay waste to Banks and Bayley. After laying out the Smackdown Women’s champion in the middle of the ring, Baszler made her exit to a great reception from the Buffalo crowd.
I have to say I’m really enjoying Bayley’s heel persona. She has me believing all of it, the mundane haircut, the generic theme music, the tired expression on her face and even a lethal new finisher has me sold on this villainous attitude. Outside of that, the match told a good story, Cross looked good and was protected by the finish and Baszler looked frightening on her debut on the main roster. Also, again, I find myself wanting to catch next week’s show, to see just how this changes the scene of the Women’s title picture. And that is exactly what WWE has been failing to do for so long.
Matt Riddle & Keith Lee debut on Smackdown
In a backstage interview segment, Sami Zayn was interrupted by the two talents from NXT whose presence quickly had Zayn flustered and soon running for his life. The two debutants chased the former heart and soul of NXT down to the ring where they were able to corner him. The pair hit their respective signatures on the unfortunate Zayn as a way to close the segment.
Although it wasn’t clear precisely why Zayn was immediately scared of these guys, the segment was a great way to introduce these two new superstars. They were projected as players to be feared and we’ve already gotten at a couple of their finishing manoeuvres, so we now know what to look out for when they finally have a match.
MizTV & Tommaso Ciampa def. The Miz
In the absence of Bray Wyatt, the original spot for the segment was scrapped and instead the Miz hosted the segment by himself.
After a quick recap of the Fiend’s exploits at Crown Jewel, the Miz changed the topic of discussion in order to address the plethora of NXT talent invading Smackdown tonight. And no sooner had he finished his sentence before he was interrupted by another NXT superstar, Tommaso Ciampa! Ciampa challenges Miz’s relevancy and gets all in his face and it isn’t long before the pair launch themselves into a match against each other.
There was a nice flow to this match, and both men sold a good story with the contest going much the same way their verbal exchange had gone moments before. Just like in that exchange, both men took their turns in trying to show the other man up and get one over on their opponent. The finish came after Ciampa was able to land the double-underhook sit-out facebuster to claim his first win on the main roster.
If you were still suspicious as to what direction WWE were taking with this show in the absence of so much of their regular talent, you were left in no doubt after this segment. NXT was taking over and with still another hour before the show closed out, you were excited to see who was going to be introduced next. After losing some steam recently, this was a solid match to remind everyone that the Miz is best used when combining his talent on the mic with his talent in the ring and even though he lost, it was in great service to sell Ciampa to the casual viewers.
Rhea Ripley & Tegan Knox def. Fire & Desire (Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose)
Even though Deville and Rose were originally supposed to fight the team of Carmella and Dana Brooke, Bianca Belair was shown backstage beating the living snot out of the latter pair. Left confused in the middle of the ring, Rose and Deville were then confronted by the team of Ripley and Knox who charged the ring to start a match between the opposing teams. Knox and Ripley made light work of their opponents and Ripley earned the win for her team after forcing Rose to tap out to her impressive elevated modified cloverleaf submission.
Another segment that showed off the talent of the NXT roster in dominating fashion but also made four of Smackdown’s current women’s roster look nothing more than a bunch of chumps. This was an effective way at introducing the members of NXT’s women’s division yet it’s concerning as to how damaging this could be to the futures of those women who are assigned to Smackdown week-in, week-out. Whilst this has obviously been done to sell the upcoming Survivor Series PPV, it doesn’t do anything to make me interested in the current women in Smackdown’s tag-team division.
Adam Cole def. Daniel Bryan – NXT Championship Match
After a segment set this match up earlier, we had Triple H and Shawn Michaels join the action at ringside as Bryan prepared to combat the current NXT Champion, Adam Cole.
We already knew the match between these two was going to be a superb technical display and it didn’t disappoint and it would’ve made for unrivalled home viewing if it wasn’t broken up by three separate, obnoxious ad-breaks! Bryan and Cole carried their intensity right throughout the match, however, with Bryan looking more ruthless and devastating than we’d seen in a long time. The former World Champion methodically contorted and disfigured the rookie from NXT all match long, locking him in one submission after the other.
Cole took every shot and lasted every submission and finally took his shot when it came to him. The NXT Champion landed a superkick, the Canadian Destroyer and the flying knee to the back of Bryan’s head for the pin and the defence of his NXT title. This was easily the best match of the night and the true main event and the Game celebrated in the ring alongside Cole and the rest of the NXT roster before calling out the Smackdown and Raw roster.
For a supposedly improvised show, this was easily the best bit of WWE television for months, dare I say, years! For the first time in a long while, it felt like every match and every segment had a purpose, to build new and existing talent and ultimately sell next week’s shows and next month’s PPV. In the absence of their roster, WWE showed off their talent and for once, demanded my attention as opposed to merely providing me with some background TV.
WWE have firmly planted the seeds for a modern invasion angle as the world of NXT has put the rest of the main roster on notice and from this, almost countless possibilities could spring out. Survivor Series has a big feel to it once again and in response to some of the lowest ratings in their history, WWE have firmly stolen back their future and put it back into their own hands. My only concern now comes from how WWE handles all this talent post-Survivor Series as what they have right now, is their Wrestlemania blow-out storyline! Smackdown & Raw vs NXT…
Final grade: A+ Bay Bay!