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    Saturday, May 8, 2021

    The SmackDown Breakdown (5/7/2021): Jimmy Uso's Ultimatum

    So Throwback SmackDown brought the iconic fist back, after all—even if it was only through an animated graphic. At least fans won't bitch about it the way they did Chris Jericho's 15-foot trust fall on this past Wednesday's Dynamite. I'm Stan Sy, tagging in for Ricky Publico, and this is the Throwback SmackDown BreakDown.

    This week's episode was centered around two things: the throwback vibe—in celebration of throwback week on Fox and FS1 building up to NASCAR's throwback weekend—and Jimmy Uso's return and what role he plays in the Roman Reigns/Cesaro storyline. As much as I want to get into the retro vibe and all, I have to do the right thing and talk about the main event scene first.

    Jimmy Uso's return adds an interesting wrinkle to Roman Reigns' overall arc. On the surface, it looks like he'll be one more lackey at the Tribal Chief's beck and call. But throughout the episode, we were shown that Jimmy at least has his own agency as a character. While he looked ecstatic to be back on SmackDown and reunited with his twin brother and his cousin—even showing Paul Heyman some love in the ring—he was also quick to point out that Roman had been acting condescending towards Jey all along. He brought up the events of Hell in a Cell and how since that pivotal moment, everything Jey has done has been in service of Roman Reigns and Roman Reigns alone.

    For his part, Jey Uso now looks like someone dealing with Stockholm syndrome, using cognitive dissonance to convince Jimmy that while his actions do benefit Roman, they also serve the family. His logic is that anything in serving Roman, he continues to bring honor and wealth to their bloodline. That's cognitive dissonance at work—when you use mental gymnastics to justify things that are clearly wrong. It's like Filipino frat bros justifying hazing and frat violence in the name of "brotherhood" and future career connections, or people voting despots into power and justifying it by saying that at least drug addicts are dying or some shit.

    The Cesaro beatdown segment at the end said volumes about where Jimmy Uso's character is at right now. He's disgusted and appalled by Roman Reigns and his continued abuse towards Jey. But he'll willingly throw down in the ring to save his twin brother, even if it means fighting against the one guy standing up to the Tribal Chief. In a way, it reminds me of the Amiboshi and Suboshi dynamic from Fushigi Yuugi, with Roman naturally being the Nakago here. That all makes sense because it ultimately shows that Jimmy's loyalty is to the Usos—fitting because, as we all know, "uso" means "brother/sister" in Samoan.

    Now let's talk about the throwback aspect of it all.

    I don't understand why the presentation harkened back to 1980s WWE, from the logo to the graphics. SmackDown originally premiered in 1999, well into the Attitude Era. So why didn't WWE use the 2002-2014 version of its logo instead? I wasn't a fan of the '80s style music either when they could've used the more memorable classic SmackDown themes from the Ruthless Aggression Era. I could forgive highlighting memorable moments from the first two years of SmackDown when that period's biggest stars (Austin, The Rock, and Triple H) were fixtures on the brand. That said, I wish it featured more highlights from the Cena/Angle/Guerrero/JBL era—which I thought would've resonated more with the show's current fans.

    Throwback-themed episodes are always rooted in fanservice, but I didn't feel that it pandered to me all that much. Maybe it's because I don't identify with a lot from before the Ruthless Aggression era. Or maybe it's because I don't care all that much for the '80s vibe of the WWE. I guess I was expecting SmackDown legends like Kurt Angle and JBL to appear. Maybe Edge should've shown up? Or how about a video message from Batista? Hell, they could've installed the actual fist from the Ruthless Aggression era set of the show! 

    I also feel like they missed a huge opportunity in not making a bigger deal out of Rey Mysterio—one of the show's stalwarts through the 2000s—still being an active part of the roster! All they did for him was to keep his 2006 footage in this WWE-produced throwback-themed SmackDown OBB. Great in-joke from the editors, though. I'll give them that.

    FINAL BREAKDOWN: After last week's spectacular episode, I wasn't expecting another end-to-end banger. I have to dock the Blue Brand some points for not nailing the throwback vibe as well as they could have, though. The 10-man tag match was a wink-wink-nudge-nudge throwback in-joke that I didn't appreciate because it was another clear sign of WWE Creative not being hardworking enough to give these faces and heels something more compelling to do. They did bring Teddy Long back in place of Adam Pearce, though, so I guess that's worth something. 

    Show Grade: B

    BreakDown Thoughts That Don't Need ICOPRO

    • I marked out for the referees wearing the iconic blue collared shirts from back in the day. I get the need to standardize the referees' uniforms across all three brands. But there was always something about those blue duds that made me feel like SmackDown was extra cool because of its overall presentation.
    • Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins II wasn't as epic as their WrestleMania bout, but that doesn't mean these two phoned it in. They gave me just enough to wake my brain up on a Saturday morning, but not enough to make it explode. Plus, the storytelling made sense all around, so I dig it.
    • Paul Heyman doing the 10-bell salute all by himself is so hilarious and snarky. What a national treasure that man is.
    • I loved that backstage segment between Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. You could feel the tension between the two of them emanating from the screen. Their motivations and history with one another were both acknowledged (heh) was logical, and now, it makes me want to see a feud between these two in their current iterations.
    • I need to see Carmella in her Money in the Bank 2020 gear all the time. That is all.
    • The Bayley/Bianca Belair promo was certainly a throwback... to a few weeks ago. I wish we'd gotten something new other than this new look on Bayley. She got me feeling some type of way after that segment.
    • Why are we still using Reginald in intergender tag matches?
    • Happy birthday, Kevin Owens! I hated that all he had to do this week was be in that clusterfuck of a 10-man tag.
    All images from WWE


    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and the host of On Deck, as well as one of the hosts of The Wrestling-Wrestling Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, AEW, and the occasional New Japan match.
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    Item Reviewed: The SmackDown Breakdown (5/7/2021): Jimmy Uso's Ultimatum Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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