Last night SmackDown continued it’s hot streak of providing what is easily the best programming coming out of WWE right now and AIPT’s very own JJ Travers and Brendan Lee are here to break down the most important pieces of the show for you: Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman’s incredible chemistry, the thus far perfectly paced Alexa Bliss transformation, the power of popcorn, Bayley at what is likely the best we’ve ever seen her, and WWE’s continued refusal to give JJ and Brendan what they really want — Peaky Blinders Sheamus.
JJ: Another week, episode of SmackDown that was more or less fantastic top-to-bottom. I am continually ready for a good time, especially with Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman starting the show every week.
Brendan: I was sports entertained tonight, but it might have been just an OK time for me. A Heyman promo opening an episode of weekly WWE programming is a time-tested proven winner though.
JJ: Following Heyman’s Tribal Chief comments tonight I’m fairly certain that we’re 1-2 weeks away from him calling people “Uce.” And frankly, I can’t wait.
Brendan: They went IN on “Tribal Chief” tonight. At least three times, by my informal count. Heyman definitely used it last week too. If WWE functioned like AEW, we’d have Tribal Chief/Reigns Island shirts already.
JJ: Well he’s only been back for about a month now and he’s already got two new t-shirts, “Show Up & Win” and “Wreck Everyone & Leave,” so I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if they pumped out a third one for him come Clash of Champions.
Brendan: I like Roman’s take on being the silent, arrogant heel with a manager who cuts the promos. The most direct comparison you can make is Lesnar, who more or less relied exclusively on Heyman to do everything other than wrestling. Reigns has more personality, better timing on reactions, and improvising off the cuff.
JJ: I couldn’t agree more and I realize this will be a nuclear take to a lot of people, but I see more long term potential for this pairing (assuming the world returns to normal with fans in attendance) then what I’ve seen out of Lesnar and Heyman over the past several years. Don’t get me wrong, those two are legendary. But it’s been a long time since the two of them did anything together that really got me up out of my seat.
Brendan: Also, Roman was so dispossessed and bloodless when telling Jey tonight why he would win their upcoming match. There are other wrestlers where that might come across as an inability to cut a promo, but Reigns is selling the hell out of this new version of character. Ice cold, Uce. Plus, wearing joggers unironically is also heel s--t.
JJ: It’s not silence out of lack of something to say, it’s silence because he’s so confident that nothing needs to be said. The dude is perhaps WWE’s strongest character right now, at least for the men’s division anyway.
Which makes me think of the women. God damn, tonight’s promo really solidified it for me, Heel Bayley is officially the best version of Bayley that we’ve ever seen. This eclipses her legendary feud with Sasha in NXT. It’s really such a shame that fans aren’t in attendance for this, the heat would be blistering. And a big round of applause for shades of Eddie Guerrero following his betrayal of Rey Mysterio.
— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) September 12, 2020
Brendan: Bayley’s original gimmick was so over and all-encompassing that it hindered my ability to take the turn seriously. Those days are long gone, man. I cannot believe how much better she is working heel, and how far along she’s come on the mic. It’s a more emotionally raw, spontaneous, and less scripted style of promo. I might have to retire the phrase “Heel Bayley” now. This is just Bayley now, and she’s evil. The chair in the ring was a perfect touch on multiple levels. She also used it to move things along with Nikki Cross. There’s no way we don’t see that chair again. Shawn Spears is jealous.
JJ: The only thing I’m slightly worried about is who she has to feud with now that Sasha is clearly going to be off of TV for a while. After the latest teaser clip the woman in the fancy heels definitely isn’t Eva Marie and is almost certainly Carmella. Which is fine, I’m glad she’s ditching the last vestiges of Enzo and Cass, that gimmick was never really hers to begin with and she deserves her own thing.
But beyond Carmella coming back as a face (which I can only assume she is), there’s…Lacey Evans and Nikki Cross? Lacey’s character has felt so thin for a long time and I think she could seriously benefit from a repackaging. She’s got a real pretty springboard moonsault and legitimate in-ring talent, but the Southern Belle gimmick needs to go.
Meanwhile, Alexa Bliss looked incredible tonight and I would absolutely love to see her feud with Bayley, but it feels like she’s not exactly a face after delivering a Sister Abigail to Nikki Cross on the outside of the ring. Which looked amazing by the way, but why, WHY would you go to commercial immediately following that? “Here’s something you’ve all been wanting to see for a long time, now please enjoy this Progressive commercial.”
Brendan: I viewed that segment of the match as the definitive end to the Bliss/Cross partnership, but not necessarily a heel move from Alexa. Bray Wyatt/The Fiend are moving closer into chaotic neutral territory. If Bliss joins the Firefly Fun House, the expectation is that she’ll be booked the same way. In that respect, she’s clearly the face in a hypothetical match against Bayley.
Lacey Evans has the bad type of heat right now. Like, X-Pac or pre-2020 Corbin “go away” heat. She could definitely benefit from an on the fly retool or even a wholesale gimmick change. Her performance in that match tonight was solid, so the in-ring foundation is there. There’s a likeable, face version of her in there somewhere.
You’re 100% correct about the dearth of faces in the SmackDown women’s division though. It’s a good thing there’s a WWE Draft headed our way.
JJ: RIP Pasquale, we barely knew ye. We were all thinking Alexa Bliss was the special guest on the Firefly Fun House tonight but instead we should have received a glassy-eyed John Cena wearing a suit while discussing Wipeout, modeling Hefty trash bags, and hyping Experian’s latest credit boost.
Wobbly Walrus and Devil Vince making silly noises alongside an aghast Bray Wyatt was the perfect moment for my fiance to walk into the room. Never has there been a more pure wrestling without context moment in my household.
But I’m actually glad it wasn’t Alexa. It was still a ridiculous segment that made me laugh plenty and I’d like to see more of her slow descent into madness before she’s fully transformed.
Brendan: That Fun House segment was packed with all sorts of speculative material: Wobby Walrus as a Heyman analog; Vince talking about loss of trust (and thus, Wyatt being moved down the card); and possibly a reference to WWE’s reported third party media situation. We’re also talking about a dude who wrestled John Cena through the stages of grief at WrestleMania, so this is the material I crave.
JJ: As I said at the start of this discussion, tonight’s episode was more or less fantastic top-to-bottom, but I have to touch on my one issue: John Morrison.
What the heck are they doing having this guy job to Otis? Morrison left WWE a boy and returned a man. The dude has it all–the look, the in-ring work (he’s always had that), and the most important pieces that he was missing when he left WWE: confidence and character. This guy needs to be near or at the top of the card, ASAP.
Brendan: There better be some sort of rational payoff to this storyline. At best, it’s weak material, and Miz, Morrison, and Otis (albeit to a much lesser extent) are making it work out of spite. Tucker doesn’t matter in this equation. Anything short of the breakup of one or both of these teams means this was just a placeholder story to keep them on TV.
Morrison has the most upside of everyone here and the best wrestler involved. He’s falling victim to the returning WWE talent curse. It’s almost like he’s being punished for leaving, or daring to improve himself into being to a top guy elsewhere.
JJ: I strongly believe this is just filler and we won’t get any sort of satisfying payoff. Without Mandy and Sonya, this feud feels paper thin and I’m no longer invested without those two women driving the story.
Since we’re on the topic of tag teams, tonight we learned that the key to defeating Cesaro and Shinsuke is messing with their popcorn. Not the kryptonite I expected, but here we are. Yet another clear display of what WWE thinks about their tag team division, and hey, sarcasm aside, I legitimately found this to be hilarious.
— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) September 12, 2020
Brendan: Only the finest Amway Center popcorn for the Champions’ Lounge. The real issue here is that Raw is so weak right now that this championship match isn’t happening on SmackDown.
JJ: I’m so glad you mentioned Raw.
Brendan: You mean IN YOUR FACE Raw.
JJ: YES! That’s exactly what I mean. I might have hurt my stomach from laughing so hard during the IN YOUR FACE commercial. While of course this wasn’t their intention, this might be the funniest thing to come out of WWE programming all week. First Raw Underground, then RETRIBUTION, now? IN YOUR FACE RAW! This has to be hosted by Tom Phillips right?
Brendan: Last bit of business for tonight, and it’s The Big Fella letting us down. Peaky Sheamus. In-ring. NOW. No excuses, SmackDown. There’s not a lot of room for improvement, but this is blatantly obvious. Give the people, or at least AIPT Wrestling editorial, what they want.
JJ: We’re never letting this torch go out. Not until we get what was promised to us during a wildly inappropriate bar fight on SmackDown.
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