The WWE Draft is finally behind us and SmackDown’s new roster is quickly asserting itself as the best thing WWE programming has going. While Superstars new to the blue brand look to show the WWE Universe what they can do, others prepare for their matches this Sunday at WWE’s annual Hell in a Cell pay-per-view.
AIPT’s very own JJ Travers and Brendan Lee are here to break down the most important pieces of the SmackDown for you: the return of Daniel Bryan and fisting, a rejuvenated tag-team division, Bianca Belair’s huge potential, the death of Shorty G, Law & Otis, the Tribal Chief’s stakes, and Sasha and Bayley stirring up the anticipation for their historic match at Hell in a Cell.
Brendan: Well, the WWE Draft is behind us, and I am now ready for a good time. Apparently, Kevin Owens also despises the draft and he’s moved on now too. How about you, JJ?
JJ: Another year of watching them waste the huge potential of this yearly event, and now that it’s done I have one thing to say: FIST ME!
— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) October 24, 2020
Brendan: Up with the smoke!
Daniel Bryan’s been back for 2 weeks and he’s already gifting us the content we crave. I definitely enjoyed both the idea of “Daniel Bryan: Fantasy SmackDown Commissioner” AND a prospective KO/D-Bry team. As far as the WWE’s one and only formula for creating new teams (i.e. “Let’s stick two established singles stars with nothing going on”), it could be so much worse.
JJ: I’m not about to complain about a KO/D-Bry team, but what is concerning is that on Talking Smack, D-Bry revealed that this is his last run as a full-time talent. I swear to god if this man retires without a crowd to give him the send off he deserves, I am just gonna lose it. Not like this. Not like this.
And for the love of the smoke, can we please, please get a singles feud with Nakamura? Is that really so much to ask for?
Brendan: Easing him back into competition on the tag scene is a great way to make sure he stays healthy. It worked wonders for Sheamus over the years with Cesaro and countless other performers on the back end of their careers. There’s a handful of things I would love to see from this angle, not the least of which are: The KO/D-Bry team; KO’s eventual betrayal and reunion with Sami; and Bryan/Nakamura strong style matches where they really lay into each other. The American Dragon deserves a proper sendoff too. Let’s celebrate this man’s entire career.
JJ: Well…here’s hoping right, pal? It’s incredible what Daniel Bryan brings to the show and the tag division just by standing there. We were lamenting the dead division a mere few weeks ago, but it feels completely rejuvenated by his inclusion. The man’s presence is a gift that I hope they don’t squander and I love him being a total mark for the IC title. Give me a weekly open challenge.
Brendan: Even if that opening segment was just WWE writers telegraphing EXACTLY what the next 5 months of SmackDown tag matches will look like, it’s a-ok with me.
All 8 of those guys can go. Well, maybe 7 of them, and Dawkins being there too. Even the mic work was crisp. Ziggler dropping about a dozen Van Halen references in 20 seconds, followed by Street Profits roasting them for looking like 1984 (and the Ziggler pop for 1984 by Van Halen) really worked well in a way that usually doesn’t happen in these opening promo sequences. Whether it’s improv or not, these dudes are all locked in and I love it.
They will definitely bring the best out of each other on a weekly basis. Cesaro’s single leg crab big swing on Daniel Bryan was unbelievable. It’s amazing what happens when you put your best talent in the ring together and just let them wrestle to the best of their ability, right?
I’m also really into Street Profits gelling as a team with the combination offense. That Dawkins back body drop into a Ford moonsault looks great, both in real time and on replay. There’s New Day potential here as long as they don’t rush into the inevitable Montez Ford singles push.
JJ: Speaking of the Montez Ford family, let’s talk about the other half: Bianca Belair. WWE hasn’t shut up about her since The Draft began and it’s maybe the first time I’m happy about what they’re trying to force down everyone’s throat. Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and the SmackDown commentary team have all been going hard in the paint on Belair’s potential and I couldn’t agree more. The music, the look, the in-ring presence; none of this is new news if you’ve been paying attention to her character since NXT, but I’m so stoked to see it happen on a larger scale. I’ll be shocked if she isn’t a SmackDown Women’s Champion within the next year.
Brendan: Again, I just ask for things I’ve never seen before when I commit to watching a weekly wrestling program. Prior to last evening, I had never seen a woman deadlift AND gorilla press another woman around the ring. Not until Bianca Belair did it with Zelina Vega.
JJ: We previously discussed our concerns for SmackDown in depth prior to The Draft occurring, and so far I gotta say the show is pretty god damn stacked. Sure, there’s Lars “I’m a f*cking creep” Sullivan, but other than that I enjoyed almost every single segment last night. There wasn’t that much wrestling, but the in-ring promos, backstage segments, and law proceedings knocked it out of the park. Strong evidence here that SmackDown will continue to be the A show.
So where to next? The courtroom? The Tribal Chief’s cheese plate? Or perhaps you’d like to dig into the Mysterio family’s wardrobe?
Brendan: I’m going to take a hard pass on Seth Rollins and his Jay White cosplay, Murphy, and the entire Mysterio family. Lars Sullivan is trash, but the squash match finally killed the Shorty G gimmick dead. That’s ONE good thing Lars Sullivan has done in his entire wrestling career. You can go now, Lars.
JJ: When Shorty G said “I quit,” I had the hope and the dream, but I didn’t actually think they’d get rid of the character. Thank GOD they finally gave up on this pointless character that was never going to get him over. I never want to hear another short joke directed to that man on WWE television again.
Brendan: “Law & Otis” though…MY GOD. The courtroom set, Ron Simmons, the People’s Court music, “The Court of Thunderdome,” JBL, fake Law & Order sound effects, Teddy Long translating Asuka’s testimony. This was pure sports entertainment majesty.
JJ: When Asuka said “HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA,” I knew in that moment that we had reached peak wrestling.
There’s absolutely no reason the match between Otis and Miz should even be happening but I don’t care. The fact that we got this courtroom segment makes it all worth it. I can’t help but wonder if Miz was having ‘Nam flashbacks to being in legit wrestlers court with JBL at his peak of being a locker room bully. The bribe might have been one of the most realistic things I’ve ever seen on WWE TV and this might be one of the best segments of the past several years. Still laughing about it.
Brendan: We are living in a golden era of non-wrestling segments when we can get “Le Dinner Debonair” AND “Law & Otis” in the same 72-hour period. Who says that competition doesn’t make WWE step up and deliver?
JJ: Speaking of delivering, let’s talk about the two biggest feuds happening on the show right now that are both Hell in a Cell matches at HIAC on Sunday. Sasha vs. Bayley for the SmackDown Women’s Champion, and Roman Reigns vs. Jey Use in a Hell in the Cell “I Quit” match for the WWE Universal Championship.
There’s not much to say about Bayley and Sasha in the ring this week and I’m actually fine with that. It doesn’t always have to be a big production on the go-home show. These two pure, straight hate each other, Bayley is absolutely obsessed with the title, and Sasha punished her for it. They’re both out of blood and I can’t wait to watch them beat the hell out of each other on Sunday. This is exactly the type of anticipation a go-home show should be building. This is how I should feel going into a pay-per-view.
Brendan: Those segments are EXACTLY how the go home show should function for building anticipation for a PPV. In many ways, this was the exact opposite of how they usually handle these things. You can go back to Clash of Champions a month ago for a stark comparison.
In Sasha’s case, she looked just as menacing as Bayley did over the course of the past several months. The contract signing really indicates what we should expect from a HIAC match on Sunday. It’s telling that Bayley topped the PWI 100 last week and I’m not sure that she’s going to walk away with the belt. The storyline is THAT strong and their history of five-star matches is undeniable. There’s a decent case to be made for them headlining the whole card, especially given their in-ring chemistry, Bayley’s title reign, and the importance of a win for both women.
JJ: It’s the longest running story on the HIAC card, so I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be the main event. Either way, main event or not, this match has the potential to steal the show and be the top women’s match of the year.
Now how about that twin magic, huh? Oh Jimmy and Jey, the Bella Twins would like a word with you boys. I didn’t see that coming, I just thought Jey was leaning into his Uso Penitentiary persona. A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. When the stakes for this match were first teased I thought loser goes home was too obvious and had my mind set on Jimmy and Jey being permanently banned from tagging together. Turns out Roman booting their entire family from the WWE, including Naomi who got drafted early and we’ve yet to even see, is so much worse than anything I had guessed. Hats off, Big Dog.
Brendan: I enjoyed Jimmy using proper mask etiquette when in the Tribal Chief’s suite. The Jimmy/Jey switcharoo was a nice callback to the “Which one are you?” promo Jey cut several weeks ago. It’s indicative of the overall level of care being put into nurturing the Reigns heel turn and establishing this new version of character. We love continuity! We’re killers for long-term storytelling! Keep going, WWE!
The idea of a “loser leaves the family” match is the logical conclusion to this feud. Overall, this match differs from Sasha/Bayley, in that I feel like I know EXACTLY how this ends. It’s Roman, at the head of the table with the entire family bowing down to show respect. I’m equally excited about this one though, because I want to see how we arrive there.
There was also some decent non-verbal acting from Jimmy at the very end there too. Is he going to back his brother, or does he fear being excommunicated from the family? The cage dropping on Roman was also excellent foreshadowing. Both of the Usos sold that moment perfectly. It had a real “Let’s see the full capabilities of the Death Star” vibe and I loved it. Jey climbing to the second level for the staredown really worked too. Perfect go home show moment and left me ready for Sunday night.
JJ: Roman’s promo was the best part of the entire segment for me. Legit got chills. I love his partnership with Heyman so much. Roman controls the mic, not Heyman, because of that the walrus is so anxious and skittish around Roman, because unlike Brock, he can’t control what the Tribal Chief does. It’s a great use of the character.
“If you can make me quit, I can live with that. But the question is, can you?” Welcome to the big leagues.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!
Do you love wrestling? Do you have strong opinions on AEW, WWE, NJPW, Impact, ROH, and the independent scene? Do you like to write about wrestling? Then we want you on our team. AIPT is currently recruiting wrestling writers. Apply to write for AIPT today!