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    Sunday, September 12, 2021

    The SmackDown RunDown (9/10/21): Face Your Demons

    They say competition breeds excellence. So when the competition has CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Adam Cole, best believe you bring out your biggest guns to the fight. I'm Ricky Publico, and this is the SmackDown BreakDown.

    WWE can pin it on 9/11 or Madison Square Garden all they want, but we all know they won't produce a banger of a show on a whim. Of course, they had to fire back after AEW pretty much tore the wrestling world in half in the last few weeks. The landscape has shifted drastically, and for the first time in years, WWE is the one playing catch-up. Of course, this won't lead to the death of WWE as short-sighted haters would like to believe, but now that the competition has bigger legs to stand on, it should force Vince McMahon's global brand to get up and start playing for realsies.

    Case in point: this jam-packed episode of SmackDown featured the biggest names the Blue Brand has to offer. From the opening segment down to the show's closing moments, SmackDown managed to match Dynamite's weekly brand of frantic energy and controlled chaos. Hell, they packed way too much in one show; they had to cut down a few matches—even the one that had a strong connection to the event they said they were commemorating. We'll get to that later. Let's just start with the Tribal Chief and the demons he had to face this week.

    Can I just say how I'm in love with Brock Lesnar's current look? It's probably the coolest I've seen the Beast Incarnate, even compared to the time they started calling him Beast Incarnate. The rugged beard, the unassuming flannel vest, and even his tiny ponytail all fit the purpose of making him the supposed top babyface worthy of toppling the Tribal Chief. Seeing him walk down to the ring again and watching him strut his massive arms completes the overall look of SmackDown's conquering hero, and I love every bit of it. I can't wait to not see him every week because he's the only one who can make it work. 

    Man, this opening segment was just electric that FOX had to bleep out some expletives from the rowdy New York crowd. The fact that I didn't have to wait two hours to see Brock Lesnar means SmackDown really meant business. And after he walked around the ring, he just jumped right into it and outed Paul Heyman for supposedly being a liar. He even left his former advocate no choice but to introduce him again before giving the people what they wanted: a couple of trips to Suplex City. Plus, we don't even know where Paul Heyman's allegiance truly lies. You gotta love the intrigue, Maggle. 

    I was actually worried they wouldn't have anything to offer later in the main event now that they'd brought out Brock, but goddamn, SmackDown really wasn't playing around this week. After the incredibly predictable tag team title match, out came "The Demon" Finn Bálor. It's official, the Demon will be the one getting the title shot at Extreme Rules, and before we unpack the ramifications of this move, I'd like to commend them for actually giving the Demon's reintroduction to the main roster a proper main event treatment. That said, I wish we got to see the Demon in action at the very least. 

    And now, let's face reality. We all know that, Demon or not, Finn Bálor ain't winning the title anytime soon now that Brock Lesnar's lurking around. So I'm really curious how they're going to have Roman Reigns retain the title without making the Demon look bad because I can't really think of anything off the top of my head. And once the inevitable happens, where does Finn Bálor go from here? What, are they going to stick him back in the midcard? As much as I'm hyped to see them tear the roof of the place again, I can't help but worry about Finn's future on the main roster. I really hope I'm wrong.

    Match of the Night obviously has to go to Edge vs. Seth Rollins II because of how awesome and emotional it turned out to be. I really thought this would be just a rehash of their SummerSlam bout with Seth just taking a few pages from Edge's playbook. I wouldn't even complain if that was the case and we did get that exact match, but I'm pretty sure none of us expected that finish. Seth Rollins's superkicks to the face and the final Curb Stomp were just brutal to watch. Edge's selling was phenomenal, but what's more intriguing was Seth's reaction to ending his rival's career.

    From the very beginning of this rivalry, this was his goal, but when Seth Rollins finally did what he said he was going to do, he was mortified more than anything. He had the same visceral reaction when he took out Rey Mysterio's eyeball in that infamous match, only this time it's less corny. The post-match interview was a nice touch, and commentary deserved a shoutout for adding more context by implying Edge predicted this would happen. So what's the endgame here, a Seth Rollins face turn? Seth Rollins, the conflicted villain? I can't wait to see how they're going to slow burn this storyline forward. 


    As much as I enjoyed praising this week's episode, leave it to WWE for missing the entire point of what they're trying to do. It baffles me how they can book a 9/11 show without featuring Zelina Vega—the one personality in the company who lost a loved one because of 9/11—in any way, shape, or form. Her tag team match was reportedly cut for time, mainly because Edge vs. Seth Rollins apparently went overtime. Bruh, they could've shot a short interview of her honoring her father but nah, let's just cut Zelina Vega's match during the 9/11 tribute show. I'm not even surprised at this point. 

    It wasn't even that hard to find time for Zelina Vega. We could've skipped the tag title match and turned it into a beatdown segment because that's pretty much what happened anyway. They could've given all that time to Zelina Vega & Carmella vs. Toni Storm & Liv Morgan so they could at least feature more women on the show. Then they could've had The Usos and Street Profits main event next week guilt-free. See how easy that could've been? This is just unacceptable. I guess Vince is salty about Malakai Black making a name for himself in AEW like he didn't fire the man in the first place. That petty bastard.

    FINAL BREAKDOWN: Normally, I would've complained about how SmackDown packed way too much stuff in one episode. But at this point, that is exactly what they need to do when the competition is out there firing on all cylinders. I haven't even watched this week's RAW, but I heard they're also stepping their game up. This week's episode of SmackDown should be the new standard moving forward. Pack all the stuff you can in every show, Vince. And for fuck's sake, give the women's division more airtime. At least beat AEW in that aspect. Don't just relegate the women to the backstage segments. 

    Show Grade: A+

    BreakDown Thoughts That Don't Know Who Trae Young Is

    • Becky Lynch finally got unironically booed! That's great, I guess, but I'm pretty sure they didn't have to make her wear a sleeping bag and force her to aggressively pout to do it. Just her bringing up her baby and seamlessly twisting the mother's sacrifice narrative into a "You people" promo would've been enough. But hey, it worked somehow. Bianca Belair looked like a proper babyface, and I guess confirming that she has the support of the people is all that matters. 
    • I probably would've appreciated Sami Zayn inviting Trae Young more if I knew who Trae Young was. Apparently, he's the one responsible for eliminating the Knicks in this year's NBA Playoffs and at Madison Square Garden, no less. He was basically booed out of the building, so I guess Sami Zayn deserves all the credit for this act of villainy. This is certainly not a response to AEW nabbing reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as an honorary guest that one time, that's for sure. See, I know my basketball, too. 

    • Can Big E just harass Paul Heyman even after he eventually becomes Universal Champion just for the hell of it? I really love the mind games Big E is playing. 

    Header image taken from WWE.com

    *****

    Ricky Publico (@nyamnyamgarbage) is Smark Henry's seasoned veteran and resident SmackDown reviewer. He's a sucker for well-written promos and fast-paced matches. While he enjoys nitpicking shows, he now prefers enjoying wrestling for what it is instead of stressing himself over things he can't control. He's anxious about the future, now more than ever. His potential haunts him.

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    Item Reviewed: The SmackDown RunDown (9/10/21): Face Your Demons Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ricky Jay Publico
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