WWE Champion Brock Lesnar Quit SmackDown
Paul Heyman was obviously trying to kill as much time as possible with his promo by speaking slower than usual and even showing the full match between Lesnar and Cain Velasquez from Crown Jewel (all two minutes of it). It was later reported that the NXT talent didn't arrive at the arena until the end of the SmackDown Women's Championship matchup, so I can understand why they did that in retrospect. Lesnar "quitting" SmackDown a month after being drafted hurts the credibility of the Brand Split, but at least he won't be showing up on Raw to attack Rey Mysterio as a SmackDown Superstar. If nothing else, this was an interesting hook for Monday's show.
SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley def. Nikki Cross
Although a six-woman tag team match between these two was originally advertised for this show, it made sense to do the title match here since everything else that was advertised for the episode had to be scrapped due to the travel issues. They've already had a handful of matches this year, but this was solid stuff and the crowd bought into the teases of Cross nearly winning the title. However, keeping the gold on Bayley (who is doing remarkably well in her new heel role) was the right call. Afterward, NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler rushed the ring and laid out Bayley, possibly planting the seeds for a Triple Threat pitting the women's champions from Raw, SmackDown and NXT against each other at Survivor Series.
Matt Riddle and Keith Lee Attacked Sami Zayn
While there wasn't anything overly special about this segment, it was still cool to see Riddle and Lee appear in front of the main roster audience for the first time. They confronted Zayn backstage and chased him out to the ring, where they hit their finishers on him to stand tall. It would have been even better if they got mic time, too, but I realize not all of the NXT stars could get the chance to talk on the same show. Even with a limited roster, Zayn still doesn't wrestle.
Tommaso Ciampa Crashed Miz TV; Ciampa def. The Miz
It was weird to hear Ciampa come off as heelish since he's practically been a babyface since returning from injury recently on NXT. He and Miz had a quality verbal exchange and an equally enjoyable match. They weren't given a ton of time, but it was well wrestled while it lasted. Of course, Ciampa winning was the only logical outcome, especially since he hasn't lost a singles match (to my knowledge) in over a year and a half.
Rhea Ripley and Tegan nox def. Fire and Desire
Fire and Desire were supposed to take on Carmella and Dana Brooke before Bianca Belair from NXT was shown ambushing Carmella and Brooke backstage, leading to Ripley and Nox replacing them as Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville's opponents. This was booked like a total squash, which is exactly what it should have been. Nox got to showcase her skills a bit while Ripley came off as dominant by winning as quickly and as decisively as she did. She'll be a big star in the women's division when she inevitably gets called up to the main roster.
NXT Champion Adam Cole def. Daniel Bryan
Cole vs. Bryan for the NXT Championship was the last thing I expected to happen on SmackDown this week and I'm glad we got it. Bryan is one of the most selfless people in wrestling as he can always be counted on to lose when most necessary. I fully expected the rest of Undisputed Era to interfere and for this to end in a non-finish, but instead, Cole beat Bryan clean and it was a major moment. The match itself was excellent and it was really refreshing to see them spotlighted in the main event. The post-match stuff with Triple H rallying his NXT troops served as great hype for Survivor Series and should give NXT a nice ratings boost on Wednesday. This is the most excited I've been for Survivor Series in years.
I assume this show was written on the fly due to the travel issues with the rest of the roster and the NXT talent reportedly not arriving at the arena until the literal last minute. If so, props to WWE for putting together for one of their best shows in many months. It wasn't all because of the NXT involvement, either. Rather, everything made sense and built anticipation for Raw vs. SmackDown vs. NXT at Survivor Series later this month. They broke away from their usual stagnant formula and delivered an awesome episode. They can't do invasions every week, mind you, but we need more shows like this one that don't feel as formulaic as they normally do. SmackDown was a treat to watch for a change while NXT got a ton of exposure out of it, so it was a win-win. Can Triple H sabotage Superstar flights more often?
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