Wednesday, July 17, 2024
EditorialBiggest Takeaways from SmackDown at Madison Square Garden

Biggest Takeaways from SmackDown at Madison Square Garden

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WWE didn’t go so far as to subtitle Friday Night SmackDown this week as some kind of special gimmick like AEW Dynamite: Grand Slam, but treated this Madison Square Garden show as a somewhat bigger deal than normal.

Theoretically, every episode of every program WWE puts out should be the best possible product. That should be significantly more the case with an episode like this that is hyped like it should be above the norm.

After checking out the two hours that just passed by, was there a lot of water-cooler worthy moments to talk about tomorrow? Is social media buzzing about anything in particular? Was this a flop?

Here are at least my biggest takeaways from tonight:

The Hype was Real, Apparently

Yours truly wasn’t super pumped about this show. Admittedly, I’m beyond burned out from too much wrestling in general, as well as just other stuff in my personal life. That combination, plus my growing cynicism about how WWE keeps being stubborn about making the right changes, made it so I only looked at this show with a tainted point of view.

In my mind, this was “Wow, a contract signing, a rematch from SummerSlam, a 10-man tag team match for filler, another promo to start the show and the big selling points are that Brock Lesnar will show up and do virtually nothing and we might see face paint on Finn Balor. Let me just pick my jaw up off the floor.”

However, browsing Twitter ahead of time, that wasn’t the case for everyone. In fact, I saw a lot more “let’s go!!!” type posts, which helped pump me up a bit. For example:

Even if I wasn’t gaga over it, it’s great to see that other fans are doing a much better job shutting off their brains and enjoying what is happening, rather than getting caught up in the analysis and the frustration.

I’d love to be able to do that more often, wouldn’t you?

By no means should this be our responsibility to try harder to enjoy the product, rather than WWE’s responsibility to try to do a better job at entertaining us, but maybe we do need to be a little more willing to let some things go.

With that being said…

Cool People are Cool

I’ve been harping on this sort of phrasing for a while lately, because many things in life are just as simple as “it is what it is” and that’s it.

Good things are good. Tasty food is tasty. Life just sometimes is. And when it comes to the start of this show, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar just were and the crowd ate it up.

Reigns kicked things off saying WWE runs New York and since he runs WWE, that means he runs the crowd in Madison Square Garden, so they should acknowledge him. Guess what the audience did. They popped like crazy in a way that WWE would have killed Roman to get that sort of reaction a few years ago when the obsession was to force the babyface gimmick down everyone’s throats.

It’s been over a year since Reigns turned heel and he’s been consistently one of the best things in WWE. Taking his chill self and turning it into a villain that is more of a mob boss than a “sufferin’ succotash” good guy just works and people love it.

Then, you take a behemoth like Brock Lesnar, put him in the ring, let him belittle a weasel like Paul Heyman, capitalize on his decade+ of built-up credibility, and look at that, people love it, too!

WWE will look at something like that and think that means they’re doing everything right, without realizing that it’s just as simple as letting people be themselves and not getting in the way. That’s how you get Keith Lee standing next to Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble and fans pop, but nobody reacts to Karrion Kross in that weird Demolition-esque getup, because that’s not him.

Edge vs. Seth Rollins was Great

“A dream match is living up to expectations” said Pat McAfee. This match was so good!

Overall, I think I enjoyed this match better than their SummerSlam encounter. It was a solid back and forth all throughout and never lost the crowd, who was super enthusiastic about this from start to finish.

By the time it came around closer to the end, it was a certainty Rollins would win, but it didn’t feel like it was being dragged out and that a fast-forward button should be utilized. Instead, relishing the moment where Rollins continued to superkick Edge really helped tell the story that he was losing control.

Now, the two are 1-1. Carting Edge off in an ambulance kind of implies he won’t be ready to wrestle again at Extreme Rules, but if so, it makes sense for them to have a gimmick match of sorts at that pay-per-view.

The reaction from Rollins about what he had done to Edge helped sell me on a rematch, too. After tonight, I’m much more into seeing #3 than I was going into #2.

Big E is Gaining Momentum

I still don’t fully expect Big E could successfully cash-in his Money in the Bank contract and beat Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship, but tonight was a good showing that took him one step closer in making it more believable.

Scoring the decisive victory over Sami Zayn in the 10-man tag team match was a good start. Having him tease that he’ll cash in was step 2. The backstage taunting of Paul Heyman once again was another nudge. Oddly enough, another thing that went in this direction was the advertisement against vaping. Utilizing Big E as the WWE representative to tell kids not to vape may be a sign WWE looks at him as a big enough star for that responsibility.

I still maintain my idea that he’d be better off facing Bobby Lashley, as it would be more believable he’d win over Reigns, who seems to be keeping the title until at least The Rock can take part in WrestleMania 2022 or 2023, but maybe there’s something more to the power of positivity.

I Want The Street Profits vs. The Usos Again

Echoing similar thoughts to Edge vs. Rollins, the tag team title match was awesome, the ending left me wanting more and knowing that we’ll see them face each other again, and this was an all-around success.

WWE does far too many distraction, interference and disqualification endings, but this proves that there are scenarios where it works extremely well.

Give me this at Extreme Rules. Nuff said.

Demon Balor is Fine Filler but Nothing to Gush Over

You’re going to hate me for this, but I still just do not get the fascination and appeal about Finn Balor in his demon makeup.

Aesthetically, it’s a nice change of pace. I’d love the act if he were to be doing anything different to go along with it. But he just doesn’t do anything but wrestle the same basic style and happen to look different in the process.

With so much attention on Brock Lesnar, Balor was pushed to the final minute of the show. Reigns dismissed Balor very quickly because after beating him last week, he was relegated to nothing more than “I’ll beat Lesnar after I get through with Balor” followed by a stare down.

That stare down, mind you, was not the most intimidating thing. In fact, it paled in comparison to Lesnar’s interaction with The Tribal Chief and The Usos from earlier in the night, even.

The Beast Incarnate was relaxed, took out The Usos, made Reigns run off and stood tall in the ring, screwing over Heyman in the process. Balor had to tilt his head back to try to seem like he wasn’t as short compared to Reigns and everyone just looked at each other as the show went off. It seemed less like this faction was intimidated by the demon and more that they were confused, trying to figure out why this guy who lost last week was bothering them again.

The match will be good. Reigns will retain. We know this. But I just can’t look at that segment and think “OMG! I can’t wait to see what happens next week! This is crazy that Balor is the demon again! Aaaaah the excitement cannot be contained!” Instead, I thought “Well, Balor’s going to have another promo next week explaining exactly what they said on commentary about how when he’s pushed too far, his inner demon comes out, and some outsiders to watching wrestling would probably find that cheesy like he’s a cosplayer who is getting too much into his character.”

A lot more positivity tonight than I had expected, and I enjoyed the show much more than I thought I would, but the ending note was something that didn’t resonate with me like it was supposed to. I’m very glad the crowd in attendance went nuts for it, though. If I’m of the unpopular opinion and the minority, then by all means, more Demon Balor for the majority of the people who loved it.

What were your takeaways from this episode? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

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