Monday, February 6, 2023

Smackdown (Feb 2nd, 2023): The Road Begins...

Yes, I watched Smackdown. And indeed, I'll be watching Smackdown next week.

So WWE will be holding their Elimination Chamber PPV in Montreal in a couple weeks... and also a Smackdown the night before. I'll be attending both shows and I figured that I might as well watch Smackdown to sort of get up to speed on what's going on. After the PPV, then I'll go back to my regular inattentive self.

Now you're wondering why just Smackdown? Why not RAW as well? Well, what's happening on the RAW side that's worth a damn? Cody vs. Roman is a lock for Mania, Rhea Ripley is challenging Baby Flair for the Smackdown title, and there's going to be an Elimination Chamber match for the U.S. title as well as an Elimination Chamber match to determine who is challenging for the other Women's title. That's all I need to know; I don't need to sit through three hours of RAW to get up to speed on that count and if anything happens that's worth a damn, I'm sure it'll be mentioned on Smackdown anyway, so it's not worth the hassle.

But mainly, the big story is taking place on Smackdown. And Smackdown is also taking place in Montreal, not RAW. Therefore, I will only watch Smackdown because that's where the hot stuff is happening.

And also anything involving Bray Wyatt... well, you can't win them all.

So we'll be adopting the ol' five point format; basically, I'll bring up five points worthy of mention and that'll be it. Considering that the good stuff is happening on this show and WWE is on fire right now, I'm sure I could come up with at five talking points... turns out I can only come up with three worth talking about... and none of it involves Bray Wyatt.

Thank fuck for that.

Point #1 - Braun Strow Man and Ricochet to Challenge Usos For Tag Titles
So, for those who don't know, the team of Braun Strowman and Ricochet came to be because Braun had a shit match with some big dude in Saudi Arabia and bragged about it on Twitter while putting down the flippy flops. This resulted in him jobbing to Ricochet and both guys apparently became buddies. Okay, fair enough. So these guys won a tournament, beating Gunther's associates in Imperium in then finals to earn a shot at the Usos' tag titles. The match is set for next Friday. I would ask why they're not doing the PPV, but then I remembered that one of the Usos (I think it's Jimmy; I don't recall) has some legal issues that prevent him from coming into Canada - the PPV is taking place in Montreal, by the way. So there you go. That's something.

During the show, the Bloodline addressed Jey's absence. If you'll recall at the Rumble, Jey was the only one who didn't participate in the group's beating of Sami after the match. He simply walked away. Now there's a number of things you could do with Jey; possible singles run, maybe try and go for Roman himself... but in terms of the story being told, there's only one direction that makes the most sense. Which leads me to my next point...

Point #2 - Rey Beats Dominick In A NASCAR Race
Yeah, so they do this vignette where Rey Mysterio and convicted felon Dominick bicker for a bit at a race track and both decide to have a race. Rey wins the race, prompting Dominick to whine about how Rey cheated and if Mommy was here, he'd win. Well, that was certainly a thing that happened. On the bright side, I'd much rather see Rey and Dominick Mysterio race each other on a NASCAR speedway than watch another shitty Bray Wyatt match.

Point #3 - Roman Accepts Sami's Challenge, Will Defend Title At Elimination Chamber
So let's start with the big takeaway; Roman Reigns addresses the crowd, stressing that he'd rather talk about Cody (who won the Rumble and thus deserves his attention), but the crowd wants Sami. So Roman talks about Sami being greedy until Sami comes out and attacks Roman. Roman flees, but Sami challenges Roman to a match for the Undisputed title, only to get ambushed by Jimmy and Solo. Roman taunts Sami and blames him for tearing apart his Bloodline before accepting Sami's challenge for a title match. And he will defend the title in Montreal at the Elimination Chamber PPV where Roman can embarrass Sami in front of his family, friends, etc.

Roman is so angered by Sami's betrayal that the mics have trouble keeping up. That's twice in a row these mics fail to capture the noise. It's like they're not used to a hot crowd... and given the television that they've produced over the past few years, I can't blame the mics.

Most folks figured this would be the way things would go and you know what? I approve. If you're going to give Roman a challenger at the PPV, may as well make it the hometown guy with the huge following and further that story along. Most people would've liked to have seen this match at Mania, possibly even see Sami be the one to end Roman's two-year reign as champion.

Those people are fucking dumb.

Look, I like Sami. He's a talented guy. He's got a wave of momentum on his side. He's being pushed farther than he has any business being pushed. This is pretty much the hottest run of his career. I am beyond stoked that he's getting a title shot on home turf and I am all but certain that Sami could very well have a run with the WWE title at some point. That having been said, Sami Zayn is NOT the guy who should be ending Roman Reigns' run as champion, especially on a B-level PPV with Wrestlemania on the horizon. He can have a good match in Montreal, he can come close, and then you can have Jey Uso show up, screw Sami out of the win, and then do the thing where Kevin Owens makes the big save, he and Sami reunite and challenge the Usos for the tag titles.

THAT's the story being told. Roman isn't the endgame; he's just a peripheral player in the story being told. And the story being told is KO and Sami getting back together, challenging the Usos for the tag titles at Mania, and possibly winning the titles. It's the story that makes the most sense. I don't care if it's predictable. That's not the important thing. The important thing is the journey. And if the journey and the story being told makes sense and feels important, then the endgame being a foregone conclusion isn't something to begroan; it's something to anticipate.

The way I see it, I've got two matches to look forward to this year at Mania; Cody vs. Roman... and KO/Sami vs. the Usos. For the first time in a long time, I'm actually excited about Wrestlemania. Please don't ruin that feeling with a kneejerk reaction that makes no sense.

Oh... and there were a couple women matches. Flair retained her title. And Nattie is in the chamber. Meh.

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