Stomping Grounds comes around on Sunday, and WWE is riding high off of an excellent Raw.
Were they able to continue the momentum on Tuesday night? Did we finally find out who the special guest referee chosen by Baron Corbin will be? Spoilers on that one: nope. Who got the last bit of momentum or an upper hand before the big show on Sunday? Let’s take a look at five things we learned from SmackDown Live this week.
1. Dolph Ziggler’s Lost Some Heat
The angle for the WWE Championship has really lost some of its lustre. Ziggler is an extremely talented performer, but it is hard to buy him as a credible threat to Kingston’s WWE Championship reign. He had been away from the ring for so long that he never had time to really be properly reheated for a run. One title match was fine, but a second cage match just lacks the “oomph” that you look for in a main event level match.
The promo Ziggler cut this week was similar to the one he had last week, and the one before that. When the creative juices for promos has run dry, that’s when it’s time for a new challenger. Hopefully someone new who is not named Shane McMahon will step up after Sunday.
2. Moment of Bliss Was Excellent
One of the best things you can do as a heel is to have your reasoning for being a baddie be seemingly justified. Alexa Bliss nailed that this week. In her promo against Bayley on Moment of Bliss, she seemed to truly believe what she said. She railed against Bayley for not being the “nice girl” that her persona makes her out to be, saying that only Charlotte was nice to her when she made the main roster and “didn’t deserve it”. Bliss even capped it off by telling Bayley that she peaked in NXT.
When a heel feels justified, it gives us shades of grey. Do we know that Bliss is manipulating Nikki Cross by lying to her? It is extremely likely. Yet when we heard Bliss on SmackDown Live talking about her mistreatment, you can understand why she would want to come for Bayley like that.
3. Gable & Crews Could Be Magic
Poor Apollo Crews has had a rough go on the main roster the last few years. He’s suffered from stop-start booking and inconsistent usage. He has all the physical talent in the world, but hasn’t found that personality boost to give him a higher priority on the roster. Enter the WWE’s tag team whisperer: Chad Gable.
When American Alpha was formed, Gable was the shot of energy and charisma that Jason Jordan needed. They became one of the most popular acts in NXT and a great tag team. Gable has made teams with Shelton Benjamin and Bobby Roode work. Given the opportunity, he and Crews could make some noise as a team.
4. Tag Wrestling Lives On, Thanks To Daniel Bryan
It may be a little extreme to give Daniel Bryan all of the credit for the SmackDown Live tag team division, but he and Rowan have done a lot in a short amount of time. Their work this week was on commentary for the match between Heavy Machinery and the B-Team. While Otis & Tucker worked to look impressive in the ring, Bryan put them over on commentary.
Bryan mentioned how Heavy Machinery were great athletes, but they needed to get serious. It makes for a simple story: the veterans don’t like the newcomers and want them to pay their dues. The heels don’t like the faces because they’re popular. With simple work on commentary, the tag team title match between the duos at Stomping Grounds has become that much more interesting. Daniel Bryan: planet’s saviour and tag team savant.
5. WWE Remembered the Kabuki Warriors
You read that right: Asuka and Kairi Sane were on TV for the first time in five weeks. Over both Raw and SmackDown, WWE has been doing a better job at utilizing their deep roster. Some wrestlers who are usually shuffled aside were allowed to have even a small role on the show. The Kabuki Warriors did more than just show up: they got booked in a match against the IIconics in Tokyo. If they win, they’ll get a shot at the Women’s Tag Team Championships.
The Kabuki Warriors are two of WWE’s best female talents combined into a superteam. With the breakup of the Boss & Hug Connection, they also are one of the only legitimate women’s teams left. Fire & Desire are feuding with Ember Moon at the time of writing, leaving the Kabuki Warriors an opening to take the belts from the IIconics. Peyton Royce & Billie Kay are amusing, but the Kabuki Warriors could be the team that makes the Women’s Tag Team Championships must-see.
Lots of exciting developments this week, especially in the two tag team divisions. A new team may form, and the Heavy Machinery-Planet’s Champions title match is looking like a good one. We were even blessed with a Kabuki Warriors appearance, setting them up as the next big challengers to the IIconics. There were some misses, mainly the quickly-cooling WWE Championship feud, but overall we’re ready for a good show on Sunday.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @EvanGomes_. Thanks for reading!