Big return on Smackdown. Finally, Jimmy Uso is back, and he has already shaken things up. At the beginning of the night, he showed love to everyone but Roman. However, Roman still welcomed him in. We were quickly reminded that Jimmy is not broken like Jey. Jimmy stood up to Roman and let it be known he is not Roman's bitch. I love this storyline. I honestly think what Roman and the Uso's have done, including the IQuit match, is worthy of an Emmy.
This is the most interesting story in wrestling right now, and I love that Smackdown progressed it throughout the night. It gave Smackdown a sense of purpose and story. I also liked how the story peaked in the main event with Jimmy leaving Roman behind after great promos between the two but having to go back and save his brother.
Cesaro looked like an absolute world-beater coming out and beating up the entire family. Just like that, the stage is set. It is clear that Roman cannot move forward until he figures out how to deal with Jimmy but will Roman make Jimmy fall in line, or will Jimmy wake up Jey? Also, if they cannot figure this out by Wrestlemania backlash, could Cesaro take advantage? This is excellent storytelling, and I am excited to see what happens next week.
2. 10 man tag match
This match would have main evented most nights. I loved the promos before the match. I laughed out loud when Apollo disregarded Sami Zayn as a member of the team. I enjoyed the energy of the face team. It was like a football team getting hyped before running through the tunnel, and I loved Nakamaura yelling, we want the smoke. I am a massive fan of these kinds of matches which is why my favorite PPV is Survivor Series. This match lived up to my expectations. I was on the edge of my seat as the action built to a fever pitch. I am not even mad Corbin won. It helped him highlight his selling points, and he needed something because he has been directionless. Also, It did not hurt anyone involved because the match was so good.
3. Cesaro earns his first title shot
This match was a WrestleMania rematch, and I know I have been dogging these, but Smackdown did it right. They did not just go out there and have the same match again. They changed the psychology before the match even started. They put a title shot on the line, so Cesaro was fighting for something. More importantly, Seth beat Cesaro up before the match, so Cesaro was wrestling as an underdog who had to overcome that. Seth Rollins dominated Cesaro early and seemed to be in complete control, but as the match went, Cesaro started to get closer to overtaking Seth but could not quite do it until Seth pushed Jey and caused Jimmy to hit him with a superkick which led to Cesaro hitting Seth with the neutralizer and winning the first title shot of his career.
Also, I feel like they have been planting seeds for Seth vs. Roman. Seth abandoned Jey last week in a match. Seth lost, which is the whole reason Roman has to face Cesaro. Also, Seth threatened Roman if he does not take care of Jimmy, Seth will. Also, Seth said that he does not need help. He isn't Roman. I cannot imagine the tribal chief putting up with this subtle disrespect too much longer.
4. Teddy Long returns
I love the retro elements of Smackdown. Changing up the set gave Smackdown a fresh feel which is important cause we see the same set and format every week. However, the best part of Retro Smackdown was the return of the greatest Smackdown general manager there ever was Teddy Long, and he did not miss a beat. He made great matches, and he was entertaining while doing it. Him doing the Teddy dance with Sami was everything.
5. Dominik vs Dolph
I have been begging for storyline in the tag division because they are wrestling at such a high level. I feel like they did that this week. I like the story of Dolph thinking Dominik does not deserve to be here. I also loved that they switched the match from Rey vs. Dolph because they are both great, but that is a match that could have been on Retro smackdown. Dolph vs Dominik is fresh. I think they wrestled an entertaining but quick match, and I enjoyed the shock win. Dolph having to eat his words, and Dominik proved he belongs here. Matches mean more when there is a story.
6. Bayley vs Bianca
The promos didn't really do much for me. However, I think they have the potential to build. Outside of the stupid laugh, they said some interesting things. Bayley said Bianca will learn the hard way that she isn't good as she thinks she is, and she attacked the way Bianca is smiling and happy. Bianca said that her confidence threatens Bayley. I think it's even more than that. I think Bayley does not like Bianca because Bayley had to sell her soul to become the performer she is today, and she is jealous of the fact that Bianca gets to be a happy, inspiring Babyface. That is the direction I hope they are going to. Bayley not being able to stand Bianca because she reminds her of the old Bayley.
What really sold this segment was the physicality when things broke down, and they fought these women hammered each other. Even if you had no idea who these women were and why they were fighting, you would still be able to feel the intensity of their brawl. I was upset that Bayley came out on top, but I had to remove my feelings because the segment did what it was supposed to do. You are not supposed to like Bayley, and this does show that she is a threat.
7. Ruby Riott vs Carmella
I don't mind matches where there is no story, but if you are going to do that, give the wrestlers more time. Carmella and Ruby needed more time so that they could tell a story in the ring. However, I'm putting this in the what mattered section because I like both women, and I'm happy that they were featured on the show. I hope this trend continues, and they start building some nontitle stories for the woman and keep offering them opportunities to show their in-ring skills at the very least.
Rob’s What mattered
1. Cesaro earns his title match
We all knew it was heading here, but it was still an exciting moment to see Cesaro officially earn his title match against Roman Reigns. Cesaro had another good match against Seth Rollins, but I kind of hope it is his last one because the feud is starting to feel overexposed. It’s clear there is a good dynamic between Reigns and Cesaro. Reigns showed he is displeased with Cesaro earning the shot and doesn’t think Cesaro’s on his level. Cesaro attacking Reigns at the end of the night showed that he’s going to come into the match with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. Reigns has proven he can have high quality main event matches when he’s paired with another wrestler, so this match should be something special.
2. Trouble in the family
Jimmy Uso returning is exciting. Jey Uso has done an excellent job as a singles star without his brother, but the Usos as a unit are genuinely one of the best tag teams in the world. I’m glad they remembered the compelling storyline between them and Roman Reigns last fall. All of the characters motivations make sense, and it’s going to be the most intriguing part of the main event scene to see how this will influence champion Reigns, his much-needed right hand man Jey, and the returning Jimmy.
3. Fun 10-man tag
I thought the 10-man tag match was kind of a cop out to keep a bunch of feuds going, but they found a way to make it entertaining with fun backstage segments with the “captains” and their teams. The in-ring action was short and fun. It belonged as the main event match of the night, and it progressed the feuds of those in the ring. My personal favorite were the progressions in the intercontinental scene. Apollo Crews disrespecting Sami Zayn by not even giving him an intro was hilarious, and the continuation of the heat between Big E and Kevin Owens was a nice touch, implying these four guys can have a climatic fatal four way for the title.
I know I am biased because I love Bayley, but I think she’s maybe the best women’s promo in WWE right now. She has validity because of her long reigns as women’s champion. She gets silly promo concepts like claiming this week she is better than women’s legends, but she gets them over with her over-the-top character. Bayley is the perfect first challenger for Bianca Belair. Bayley will give Belair’s reign validity, winning over another of the four horsewomen and by being the perfect obnoxious heel to Belair’s babyface post-mania victory lap.
5. Tamina vs. Reginald
I know I have to be in the minority of this, but Tamina and Reginald is the exact match I’ve been hoping for in this feud. This is the perfect sequel to Tamina’s bar fight in Total Divas (if you’re not sure what this is, you have to look up the clip). This played out exactly how it should have, short but sweet, and I begrudgingly enjoy watching Reginald in the ring, doing acrobatic moves to evade the overpowering Tamina. The DQ finish was a cop out, but I admit I feel like this progressed the tag champion’s feud. Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax seemed more on the same page, used Reginald as a distraction for their team, and capitalized by viciously beating up Tamina and Natalya to promote the title match next week. Maybe this is just the result of the low bar this feud has set, but I liked what they did this week.
6. Carmella vs. Ruby Riott
This was another short segment, but it was nice just to see that SmackDown remembered these other talented women on their roster exist. Carmella should be getting more opportunities after her impressive feud with Sasha Banks, and I’d love to see the Riott Squad get some traction in the tag division after their performance at WrestleMania.
Reverse Hipster What didn't matter
Tamina vs Reginald
I was actually really excited for this match. I remember on Total Divas when Tamina almost knocked a guy out at the bar. I was ready to see her destroy Reginald, but they did not let them fight much, and so it was not exciting as it could have been. Also, yes, the tag champs just wrecked Tamina and Natalya, and the brutality was cool to watch. However, I didn't like the story of it. Tamina just cut a passionate promo on Talking Smack, and to have her get destroyed was a terrible way to have her back it up.
Rob’s What didn’t matter
1. Throwback SmackDown theme
I love when they try to make certain weekly shows special with a theme, but this one felt really thrown together and inconsequential. They only announced it one week ago. The stage was minimally different, and it wasn’t one of the iconic stages we love like the SmackDown fist or the 90’s SmackDown stage. The only major return was Teddy Long. He was really entertaining in his segments, but we have also seen him about three other times in similar throwback shows in the past year. The other “throwback” segments were all clips of old SmackDown segments we’ve seen dozens of times on the WWE network. I want WWE to do more themed shows like this, but they have to be intentionally planned and purposeful.