Are you ready? Are you ready for a good time?
We sure hope so, because there’s only four weeks left until the greatest show on earth arrives, which means we’re officially on the road to WrestleMania. AIPT’s very own brothers of destruction Brendan and Tim Lee are here to break down the most important pieces of the SmackDown for you: placing the Dirty Dawgz in the witness protection program, the head scratching scenario of Daniel Bryan and Edge not being able to work well together, Big E’s greatness deserving more screen time, and the under utilized mid-card talent.
- Mysterios / Street Profits vs. Alpha Academy / Dirty Dogs [Mysterios / Street Profits, via pinfall]
- Cesaro vs. Murphy (w/ Seth Rollins?) [Cesaro, via DQ]
- The Kevin Owens Show with Bianca Belair & Sasha Banks
- Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair vs. Natalya & Tamina (Nia Jax / Shayna Bayzler / Reginald on commentary) [Natalya & Tamina, via pinfall]
- Big E vs. Sami Zayn (Intercontinental Title Match) [Big E, via pinfall]
Brendan: The road to WrestleMania is a long and slow, treacherous rush hour commute that runs directly past the sewage treatment plant of last night’s episode of SmackDown. Well, it’s not all THAT bad. Or hackneyed. But nevertheless, I was ready for a good time last night, watched the program, and took some notes. Overall, it was…not great.
Tim, how would you characterize last night’s viewing experience? Please do better than I did.
Tim: Honestly, a sewage treatment plant match sounds like a gimmick I could get behind, provided Kenny Omega isn’t allowed anywhere near the blueprints. Alas, Mr. Omega and basically anyone even remotely compelling were kept far, far away from this episode of SmackDown.
I can’t believe they managed to make a feud between Bryan and Edge seem like something I don’t want. It’s been 11 years since Edge had a match that didn’t involve over-the-top rope elimination or an ill-advised callback to the real-life murders committed by a former WWE employee (in a cinematic match, no less…can’t believe people just let that happen). I guess we’ll have to wait for next week to see his return to action, but at this point I’d watch him wrestle Reginald if it meant he actually took a bump.
I recognize that WWE has always been the official company of Sports Entertainment, but I feel like they must be trolling us with the lack of actual, honest-to-God wrestling. It’s hard to find much in the way of positives with a product that is just so flatly boring.
Brendan: There’s the topical writing prompt I needed for the introduction. Thank you very much, Tim.
Last night, I found myself in the position of having to literally say out loud “Edge vs. Daniel Bryan is a dream match” in order to sustain my interest in the opening segment. The entire conceit seems very forced. Daniel Bryan sees the end of his career in front of him and wants to be part of the WrestleMania main event one last time. Edge fought for years to recover his strength, rediscover his passion for the business, and presumably became part cyborg in order to return for this part-time run. They both love wrestling, but not in the way that Roman Reigns loves it. There’s the notion of mutual respect. So then, why isn’t this angle working?
Tim: I actually have a theory for that. It’s Edge. I went back and watched old promos last night when I couldn’t sleep. He’s not a good face. He never has been. He works best as an arrogant, pretty boy heel willing to “take it two to three steps further” than his opponents. This current iteration isn’t the Edge we want or need.
Brendan: Agreed. Edge letting us know he was the “carpenter who built” the table where Roman Reigns sits was real subtle too. Yikes. Metaphorically speaking, he’s just a humble carpenter who cheated retirement and returned to WWE. Get it? Not exactly babyface material, but that’s how it’s being treated.
On the other hand, we could have arrived at this match by having the same exact tension between Bryan and Edge, with the title shot on the line (or not) at FastLane. We get our dream match, WWE reserves the right to change the main event for story or business reasons, Roman stays out of weekly action and continues to cut restaurant quality promos on SmackDown. There’s the added bonus of a heel turn on either side of the match, although I am assuming that they’d want the winner to be a babyface opposite Reigns.
It’s an extremely convoluted storyline now. Daniel Bryan “went into business for himself,” Edge knew Jey Uso when he was 10 years old, Roman got bullied into signing for the FastLane match out of pride, running completely counter to the generally excellent booking since his return. By guaranteeing Edge a spot in the main event, they’ve undercut months of building Roman as the marquee talent in the company by making him compete for it now. WWE has three extremely bankable and excellent competitors for a Universal title match at WrestleMania. If they like Bryan AND Edge for it so much and don’t feel comfortable with either one’s drawing power alone, just call it a triple threat match. Ugh.
All of these antics are an extremely far cry from Raw, where they suffer from nobody being a credible threat to challenge Lashley with less than 4 weeks until WrestleMania. Yet, both title programs are stalled out. Simply having a match booked with all 3 men involved at FastLane doesn’t substitute for storytelling. At least Edge vs. Reigns had a narrative with a throughline. Edge was right last night; Reigns has beaten Bryan, and Edge outlasted him in the Rumble match. All I am saying is that there must be a much easier way for us to get to…whatever the desired outcome might be?
Tim: There sure are a lot of moving parts and not really a whole lot of satisfying payoff as of yet. It also books them into a pretty serious corner. Let’s say Edge wins, is he gonna hold the title past say…SummerSlam and if he doesn’t is it worth it to take the belt off of Roman? If Roman wins, why on Earth would you have three months of build up to have Edge job at WrestleMania? It doesn’t put over Roman anymore than he already is. He’ll have beaten a legend coming off an eleven year sabbatical and a neck that is theoretically one bump away from no longer functioning. If Bryan wins, does anyone actually want that? Bryan could be feuding with basically anyone and telling a compelling story. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have him work with Aleister Black, Apollo Crews, Big E, or any of the mid-card names that are both in desperate need of that extra push to the main event but simultaneously established enough to draw fans’ attention? Basically no one benefits long term with this one. It’s the storyline equivalent of an 8-man tag featuring one of the top 5 wrestlers to ever step into a WWE ring, his dopey son, and the…checks notes…Dirty Dogs.
Brendan: I believe that Ziggler & Roode prefer the name “Dirty Dawgs.”
I will always take the opportunity to write about the actual wrestling on the weekly wrestling program. That match had big “Curtain jerking at Survivor Series 1993” energy. You’re correct in saying that Rey is being woefully underutilized. It’s almost like The Young Bucks had someone in mind when they posited Jericho would be “jerking the curtain at the Perfomance Center” if Papa Buck hadn’t made them into industry messiahs (like Edge!).
Also, it’s an extremely low bar to clear but I really enjoy Alpha Academy for the simple, yet effective spots they provide each week. That Polish hammer that Otis delivered to Dominick midair looked really cool. Ditto the Gable butterfly German suplex pinning combination.
Across the babyface corner, Montez Ford will someday walk away from this tag division all limbs intact and have an amazing solo run in the company. Both versions of his frog splash finisher are absolutely jaw-dropping. Last night, we got the tabletop, 180 degree variation. But we’re still talking about a match that leaned heavily on Dominick Mysterio. Let’s just ignore the suspension of disbelief required for Otis and Dolph Ziggler to casually team together after spending most of last year fighting over Mandy Rose. That match probably didn’t need to be carried over a commercial break.
Tim: To your point, I’m coming around on Alpha Academy, particularly in ring, but Otis is also oddly hypnotic on the mic. I’ve always loved the Street Profits (and, in particular, Montez Ford). That said, one of the biggest differences between AEW and WWE is that while I don’t actually like Butcher and the Blade within kayfabe (nor am I even sure what it is they do, aside from drive a Model T-Ford, wear a bunch of white t-shirts, and occasionally play in mediocre metalcore bands), I’m genuinely f*cking excited to see them on television and bummed when they aren’t on. Whereas I just straight up hate most of the heels in WWE and would prefer they not occupy any screen time (Ziggler and Roode, I’m looking your direction and it sucks).
Brendan: The Street Profits shouldn’t complain about Ziggler and Roode “hiding” from them. Please hide, Dirty Dawgs. Stay hidden. Burn your social security cards, shred your passports, and go off the grid with no cellphones and a duffel bag full currency from a half dozen nations. Live off the land and become self-reliant. Hide forever.
Because we review the entire show, I’m placed in the awkward position of having to choose between breaking down a Nia Jax / Reginald shopping spree vignette or Seth Rollins doing Seth Rollins sh*t next. Let’s go with the latter.
Tim: I feel like Reginald has occupied enough time on-screen (and in our heads) this week, so I’m with it. This Cesaro/Rollins beef would be better if I felt like Rollins had earned any kind of credibility to suggest that he could teach the Swiss Superman anything more than how to read a Warped Tour schedule. We had a decent exhibition of Murphy and Cesaro’s god-given talents which, of course, Rollins interrupted.
Outside of the obvious problem I have with cutting a good match short, the most incongruous part of this segment was Nakamura challenging Rollins post match. I get that Nakamura and Cesaro tagged (I mean, who didn’t Cesaro tag with at a certain point?), but I feel like they’re clearly building to one feud and are now inexplicably forking that road and shoehorning Nakamura in. Another example of a guy who could feud with someone else on the card and elevate the status of an underutilized talent.
Brendan: Seth Rollins is the Jared Leto of wrestling. Think about it.
I guess we should commend WWE for that valued “long-term storytelling” with the spot where he threatened to pillmanize Cesaro with the steel chair. Wouldn’t be the first time he broke someone’s neck, amirite?! I got jokes.
Tim: If only it would take 30 seconds to send him to Mars. Someone get Elon Musk on the horn. GIVE ME WHAT I WANT.
Brendan: Back on the topic of actual wrestling, Big E and Sami Zayn finally had the blowoff for their 2020 IC title program. While it was an entertaining match, the entire segment left me somewhat cold. Big E came out to the ring, breathed fire, and really highlighted a side of his personality that isn’t typically part of the New Day presentation. He also kept it 100% in-between the ropes, focusing strictly on getting revenge on Apollo Crews for injuring him.
I’m significantly more nervous about the direction of the new Crews character now if Big E isn’t going to play along. SmackDown isn’t the place I should be turning for nuanced discussions about diaspora, code switching, the American immigrant experience, or perceptions of Blackness in popular culture, but they opened that door last week. If anyone could walk through it and deliver something legitimately brilliant, I thought Big E might be that dude. At least Crews left the Elite Guard at home last night.
Tim: I know you were lukewarm on the Big E promo. I enjoy Old Testament E. I also appreciate understanding multiple references because my s----y liberal arts degree demanded I take a source studies class. In terms of the match, they let Zayn get some actual offense in, which is a rare occurrence post “Underdog from the Underground” era.
Brendan: Sami really nailed that sunset flip powerbomb from the top.
Tim: As for Apollo, I will follow in Big E’s footsteps and not comment. All of that said, whether or not you want Big E to succeed is a litmus test for whether or not I think we could be friends. Easily the best part of the night for me and really the only segment I enjoyed.
Brendan: I only want the best things for E. At a minimum, more screen time than Reginald. That’s a big ask in 2021 apparently.
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