Friday night was the first night of WWE’s 2020 Draft, and it was certainly newsworthy if nothing else. The top minds at the company who helped bring us RETRIBUTION, Raw Underground, and a match in which you remove your opponent’s eye, thought that they’d one-up themselves last night by breaking up The New Day. Yes, you read that correctly. The New Day, a faction bound for the WWE Hall of Fame and recognized universally as one of the greatest groups to ever grace the squared circle, was broken up during the WWE Draft.
Typically this is the part where I tell you that AIPT’s very own JJ Travers and Brendan Lee are here to break down the most important pieces of the SmackDown for you. But that’s not really going to happen this week. We’ll talk about The Draft here and there, sprinkle in some other pieces from the show, but what we’re mainly here to do this week is talk about The New Day. We’ll attempt to put down on paper how most WWE fans are probably feeling right now.
Brendan: JJ, normally I would ask you if you were ready for a good time. I cannot do that tonight. Not in good conscience. So, are you ready for a somber, contemplative time? One where we memorialize the greatest WWE stable of the past decade. Because I’m not ready. I can’t accept it.
JJ: I don’t know where to even start with this. I guess by saying farewell to what was one of the best periods SmackDown has seen in the last several years. Farewell my friend, it was fun while it lasted.
Brendan: Goodbye, quality programming. Hello, Seth Rollins.
JJ: Seth and Roman back on the same brand but under very different circumstances. If WWE can somehow look past their no heel vs. heel rule then we could very well see one of the best feuds of both these men’s careers. We all know Seth is a horrible face and a natural heel. Roman can play the badass babyface, but this new version is so much more interesting. I doubt we’ll get it, but f*ck, after what happened tonight, I need something to look forward to.
Brendan: I am a noted Rollins hater, so I just wanted to get my one-liner in. On a more serious note, The Rollins/Mysterio feud on Raw has been stale and borderline unwatchable now. I have muted or fast-forwarded through every single segment for weeks. The prospect of it continuing on SmackDown for even a minute longer is dreadful. So, we have to hope for something new and different for Rollins. The alternative is more of him reading Murphy’s texts as a substitution for character development.
I found this year’s draft to be very flat. The idea that there are no GM’s or representatives from each brand and that “network executives” drove the selections was too on the nose. You can’t sell me a draft as a serious creative exercise in kayfabe when the premise is that FOX and USA are tired of the talent they have been using on each show for the past 52 weeks.
JJ: The format is completely illogical. Mysterious entity drafting for Raw is cool to pick up all four members of Hurt Business, but they can’t pick up all three members of The New Day? Okay…I guess it’s my own fault here for getting pissed off that WWE is treating me like an idiot.
Remember when the Death Star blew up Alderaan and Obi-Wan felt a great disturbance in the Force? “As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” WWE breaking up The New Day is essentially the Empire blowing up the planet Alderaan, except those voices aren’t silent, they’re incredibly sad and angry and will probably be complaining about this incredibly stupid decision on social media for years to come.
Brendan: New Day was nothing short of revolutionary for WWE programming. They were saddled with an absolutely horrific, borderline racist gimmick and turned it into an all-time great, HoF stable that yielded 7 tag title reigns and Kofi capturing the Universal Championship at WrestleMania in one of the most poignant, emotional wins in WWE history.
In a more global sense, they transcended the idea of representation and created compelling onscreen moments every single week that spoke to the entire viewing audience through a lens of Black culture during a very tumultuous decade where social justice and US politics are concerned. They were able to achieve this largely through scripting their own material and never pandering to the audience or their bosses, both on-screen or backstage. Woods is a legitimate star on other platforms that WWE doesn’t (currently) touch. Big E has spoken out on every issue affecting wrestler health and safety in a locker room where even the biggest draws in the company stay silent.
They deserve better treatment. Hell, they deserve a better eulogy. I’m sure that more qualified and well-researched ones are coming. I’m not capable of that right now. I’m just upset.
JJ: We’re all upset and rightfully so. You said it well, The New Day deserves much better treatment than this and a much better eulogy. Our feelings aside, from a booking and story perspective, for WWE to pull apart a HoF faction so unceremoniously like this is just plain dumb.
I look back over the past six years at moments that hurt or were hard to watch — the streak dying, Daniel Bryan retiring, The Shield breaking up, Ciampa betraying Gargano, and Brock squashing Kofi — and this is on the level of just about any of that, outside of Daniel Bryan being forced to retire.
We as wrestling fans, collectively love the New Day and collectively agree that they’re special. Wrestling fans don’t agree on a lot, but this is something that we’re all on the same page for and I think that’s a component of what makes this so difficult, knowing that everyone is hurting just as much as we are.
— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) October 10, 2020
Brendan: New Day was strong enough to survive Kofi being asked to lay down for Brock. Their work rate eclipsed any obstacles WWE placed in their path. To the point, both of the matches involving (ex-) New Day members tonight stole the show. Big E and Sheamus’ Falls Count Anywhere match and Woods/Kofi’s title win were both PPV quality matches. That’s what they do and it was taken for granted every single week. Until it wasn’t, I guess.
Big E’s singles push should have yielded so much more by now than a great match with Sheamus on broadcast TV. Loved the trunks that simultaneously shouted out New Day Pod (a WWE product) while also letting us know to “BOOK YA BOY ON CAMEO.” Very interesting use of gear in this current climate.
JJ: Going to push up my child of the early ‘90s glasses and point out the design and color scheme of The New Day’s gear tonight was inspired by the hit Nickelodeon show Rugrats, specifically, Reptar the Dinosaur. Can’t remember anything important most days, but references to television shows I loved as a child are always easy to pull out of the vault. I should also point out that Big E had “BIG MEATY MEN SLAPPIN MEAT” all over his tights. I love that man. I know he’s going to be a big singles star and I’m happy to see the tag belts back on Woods and Kingston, but I didn’t want to lose what we had to get what we wanted.
Brendan: I could definitely be convinced that the draft announcement with them in the ring was a worked shoot that Woods sold perfectly (“You didn’t say his name!” was heart-wrenching). Big E was tearing up. I was tearing up. It was definitely NOT a good time.
JJ: The rest of The Draft was a pretty run of the mill experience. They drafted Drew, Roman, and Asuka right off the bat but not Bayley. A bit of a head scratcher there. Why leave out the head of the Women’s division of SmackDown when you took the top of each division for men and women otherwise? Fake draft pools aside, it’s just plain weird. She’s not some place holder champion, she’s been SmackDown Women’s Champion for over 500 days.
Brendan: Hopefully, it’s due to some contrived mechanism like Bayley being part of Monday night’s draft pool, but that was also my first reaction: “THIS IS BAYLEY ERASURE. F*CK SETH ROLLINS.” If this draft is supposed to convey status or some level of booking importance within the company, anything less than her going first pick on Monday is disrespectful. I was super excited to see Bianca Belair coming to SmackDown though. That is something beneficial to her career and my weekly reviewing experience. It means we might get a Banks/Belair feud in the near future too.
JJ: The first thought I had was “Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair are going to have one hell of a feud.” But now with Asuka on Raw with Mandy Rose, and no word on The Fiend and Alexa, I can’t say I have a good idea for where Bayley is going to land. I’m looking forward to Raw in a masochistic sort of way. Logically, if Bayley has the belt, she has to land on SmackDown. But, what if she gets drafted to Raw on Monday? Is that WWE just straight up telegraphing Sasha’s impending victory at Hell in a Cell?
Brendan: One aspect of the draft they did right in 2020 was having it after Clash of Champions, so we weren’t subjected to infantile PPV matches where Superstar X has been sent to the other show, so their title shot is now meaningless. They definitely called some shots though. Woods/Kingston going to Raw and Belair changing shows squares nicely with Street Profits also coming to SmackDown. SPOILER ALERT, NERDS.
JJ: Well, all the horribly disappointing and confusing stuff aside, what did you think about The Fiend’s first ever match on weekly TV?
Brendan: Bray/The Fiend are a direct outgrowth of New Day scripting their own material, so it’s tangentially related to the rest of the disappointing stuff. Unless New Day gets over without help from a room full of writers who didn’t understand their voices or experiences in the industry (and life in America at large), we don’t get Firefly Fun House. New Day looms large and casts a huge shadow on everything WWE has done right since their inception.
The match tonight was sort of a letdown for me. Bray Wyatt has pretty famously struggled with conditioning to the point that it’s a running subplot on the Fun House with Corpus.
It appeared on SmackDown that Bray’s definitely not in ring shape right now. Whether that’s weight gain, nagging injuries, or ring rust from not working week in, week out is up for debate, and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I use the spiderwalk/back bridge spot as a barometer for this judgement. When he can execute that fully, he’s on his game. When he just grabs the top rope in the corner and leans upside down, the presentation is just lazy and pointless.
The Fiend gimmick isn’t so bulletproof that Wyatt can just descend into 2020 Jericho shape overnight. The in-ring stuff matters too.
JJ: The match was quite sloppy for the most part, but the ending sequence with the uranagi, mandible claw, and stunner kind of made it so nothing else that had happened matter. I’m honestly a lot less excited to watch these two wrestle than I am to see what happens to Kevin Owens once The Fiend is done with him. Since they completely screwed up turning Owens into the next Stone Cold after he nicely shook Shane’s hand and asked him for permission to do basic things, I think the only real way to make him an important part of the show again is to turn him full on “I beat up Sami Zayn” heel.
Brendan: Lars Sullivan, Otis, and Tucker all got more screen time than Alexa Bliss tonight too. That has to change too. As in, that can NEVER happen again. Even if they are all on different shows and Tucker is on Main Event wrestling Lince Dorado or some sh*t.
I also saw a commercial for WWE’s Best of 2020 package show in mid-October, so I’m not exactly optimistic about the next two and a half months.
JJ: “I’m not exactly optimistic.” — WWE fans every week of every month of every year for the last 15+ years.
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