The latest episode of WWE Friday Night SmackDown was something special. It was the kind of show that broke through years of feeling jaded and disappointed with WWE’s current product. For many fans, it was a reminder of why we fell in love with wrestling in the first place. Sure, an unforgettable main event carried the show. But from top to bottom, Friday’s show was fun, plain and simple.
Let’s start with the main event. As soon as Roman Reigns threw down the gauntlet, it was easy to predict that “big fight feel” wouldn’t begin to describe the atmosphere surrounding this WWE Universal Championship match. While “The Tribal Chief” agreed to give Bryan one last shot at the gold, he upped the ante by forcing the leader of The “Yes!” Movement to put his residency on SmackDown on the line. It wasn’t quite a title vs. career match, but Bryan’s recent comments about his transition into a part-timer added even more weight to the storyline stipulation.
Throughout Friday night’s episode, WWE hyped up the main event by having legends and fellow wrestlers make their predictions about the bout. While these bits were fine, Paul Heyman’s excellence particularly stood out. Mocking Daniel Bryan’s famous “Yes!” chant, Heyman explained exactly how the main event would go, not as a prediction, but as one of his patented spoilers. Subsequently, by the time the bell sounded, the WWE Universe was anxiously waiting to see whether Bryan could defy the odds one last time.
In a great main event, and the two stars in the ring delivered one of the best WWE television matches in recent memory. Bryan clearly left it all in the ring by taking powerbombs and bumps onto floors. He even flipped and crashed to the mat when Reigns floored him with a clothesline at one point. He wrestled as if Friday’s match would be his last, and it showed. In some ways, this elevated performance suggested that his loss was imminent; he may have wished to turn back time and give the fans one lasting memory of the Daniel Bryan we used to know and love. Still, Bryan and Reigns collectively told such a masterpiece in the ring that the viewer couldn’t help but buy into the idea that Bryan might win this thing after all.
He didn’t. Though he came painfully close to victory at several points, “The Head of the Table” choked him out to retain the gold. As a result, Bryan’s stay on SmackDown is over. After he took a post-match con-chair-to, Bryan will probably take some deserved time off. Fans can’t help but predict that he’ll show up in NXT or even RAW at some point later this year, and many of us are already salivating at the prospect of dream matches like Bryan vs. Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Pete Dunne, and other promising stars on NXT. If his future indeed takes him to the black-and-gold brand, we can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
SmackDown Has The “Bright-EST” Future
The future is now, and for SmackDown, it’s pretty exciting. Seeing Bianca Belair and the Street Profits together in the ring, it’s easy to feel hopeful about where SmackDown is going. Belair and Montez Ford both have “star” written all over them. They’re both immensely gifted athletes that back up their physical gifts with impressive ring presence and natural charisma. Collectively, they have the ability to be an amazing power couple. On their own, both of them are consistent highlights on a SmackDown show that has a loaded roster at its disposal.
To be fair, Angelo Dawkins has grown a lot since the formation of the Street Profits. He’s improved noticeably throughout the team’s run on the main roster. But every time my co-host, Robert DeFelice and I talk about the duo on the SmackDown Double Down, our dialogue follows the same pattern: I praise Ford’s limitless potential, and Robert warns me, “Don’t sleep on Dawkins.” Unfortunately, this trend is indicative of a problem that continues to plague WWE’s tag team division.
There will almost always be a Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty dynamic to every pairing. WWE typically tabs one member of the team to push as a singles star and leaves the other to drift aimlessly in the lower midcard. As talented as Dawkins is, he continues to be the Jannetty to Ford’s Michaels, and at this point, it’s unclear if there’s anything that can be done to change that
Fatal 4-Way Fun?
Suddenly, the WWE Intercontinental Championship scene is quite enjoyable again. Just a few short months ago, WWE presented multiple rematches of Big E vs. Apollo Crews as a featured storyline that centered around the title. That was fun while it lasted, but it quickly grew to be fairly repetitive. It looked like SmackDown was heading in that same direction this week after a disqualification finish to yet another Crews vs. Big E match. But then the show took a different path.
After Commander Azeez helped Crews hold onto the gold, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn both got involved in a chaotic post-match brawl. The four-way drama makes sense, as Owens unsuccessfully challenged Crews last week after “The PrizeFighter” defeated Zayn at WWE WrestleMania 37. Presumably, few fans will complain if Crews defends the title against Big E, Zayn and Owens in a Fatal-4 Way at WWE WrestleMania Backlash. This scenario is fresh, and it would put four of SmackDown’s best superstars in the same match. That’s a winning recipe, especially on a card that’s currently weighed down by the feeling that it’ll be filled with WrestleMania retread.
Of course, there’s so much more we haven’t discussed here, from Bayley’s looming match with Belair to next week’s retro show. Check out the latest episode of the SmackDown Double Down to hear a thorough review of the show, and tune in to the podcast every Friday at 10:05 p.m. EST on the WrestleZone Facebook and YouTube pages.