By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown Hits
Goldberg and Roman Reigns: The live crowd mostly booed Goldberg, which softened the blow for Reigns. That’s clearly what Vince McMahon was hoping for, as his obsession with making you love Reigns as much as he does continues. It worked with this Boston crowd. Will it actually work in front of the WrestleMania crowd? Could Goldberg and Reigns get the Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar treatment from WrestleMania XX?
Naomi and Lacey Evans vs. Sasha Banks and Bayley: An in the middle for Naomi pinning Bayley. It creates a bit of mystery as to whether she or Evans will get the title shot at WrestleMania. I just wish I cared more about the Smackdown women’s division. So much damage has been done and the wrestlers are not to blame. Will there be a third Elimination Chamber match for a shot at Bayley’s title given that Evans spoke of winning one in her sit-down interview last week?
The Miz and John Morrison vs. The Usos in a non-title match: Mixed feelings and another in the middle segment. The stakes were low given that the titles weren’t on the line and the Usos were already advertised for the Smackdown Tag Title match that will be held inside the Elimination Chamber. The teams definitely had the live crowd, which popped big for the Canadian Destroyer off the middle rope followed by top rope splash finish that the Usos debuted. But Miz and Morrison are clearly slotted as the vulnerable heel champions. They lost to Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan and then took the loss in an eight-man tag match going into WWE Super ShowDown. They won the tag straps on Thursday, then went right back to losing on Friday. It’s the same role the company booked The Revival and countless other teams in. When is the last time this approach did more than make the champions look weak and the belts feel worthless?
WWE Friday Night Smackdown Misses
John Cena and “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt: Cena received a hero’s welcome and I’m looking forward to his WrestleMania match with Wyatt. But the build to the match was ridiculous with Cena playing into the Goldberg backlash by claiming that he cares about the future so much that he would sit out of WrestleMania. It only took The Fiend pointing at the WrestleMania sign to make Cena go against everything he’d just spoken about. So adding the match to the WrestleMania lineup is a Hit in my book, but the road to the match was terribly flawed.
Braun Strowman to face Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, and Sami Zayn: It’s come to this for Nakamura, Cesaro, and Zayn. It’s not that the match isn’t mildly interesting, it’s that it makes the talented trio of heels look like scrubs whether they win or lose. If Vince McMahon doesn’t see it with Nakamura, Cesaro, or Zayn on Raw or Smackdown, then here’s hoping one or all will eventually find their way back in NXT (if the money is the same).
Kofi Kingston vs. Robert Roode: Let’s be real, how many viewers actually cared about whether Kingston would defeat Roode in the latest singles match between tag team wrestlers? They are both pros and thus the ring work was solid and they managed to fill television time, but this felt inconsequential. And that was the case with every match on this show. It was all about the bookend segments with Goldberg and Reigns to start and Cena and Fiend to close. Everything in between felt like trivial filler.
Daniel Bryan vs. Curtis Axel: It’s nice that Bryan apparently wants to elevate Drew Gulak. Bryan’s road to that match has seen him work two matches with Heath Slater and now one with Curtis Axel. Bryan vs. Gulak could be very good and I hope they can make Gulak feel meaningful, but I’m not finding much pleasure in watching Bryan run through the undercard in the meantime. At what point does Gulak start winning matches?