Welcome to the season premiere of Friday Night SmackDown. Not that the guys and girls of WWE seem to get an off-season or any time away so it’s a bit of a strange concept, but I know Vince and the Network execs love any excuse to promote a show as something special. Any post-Draft episode is always a bit strange as they usually have a mix of new people and ones that have been moved and this week was no different. It’ll likely take until after Hell in a Cell for things to really settle down and all the pieces move into their new places, but for now, let’s enjoy a jam-packed effort from the blue brand.

The Power Couple Of WWE

This week kicked off with a rare treat – Triple H in a SmackDown ring. I’m so used to seeing him involved with NXT that I forget he’s around other times. Hunter hyped up the season premiere alongside Stephanie McMahon, making some strange dad jokes and generally terrible humour, but at least they were having fun I suppose. My nerves were shot and alarm bells went off when the majority of the roster were stood on the stage together. SOCIAL DISTANCING, PEOPLE. Come on now. Anyway, before I had a chance to complain to anyone, all hell was breaking loose. You’ll never get away with having that many superstars in one place and a brawl not to break out.

You’d think the McMahons would know better by now. Lars Sullivan came out to take advantage which led to…

Jeff Hardy vs Lars Sullivan

If you hadn’t noticed, Lars’ nickname is THE FREAK. The Freak Lars Sullivan. THE FREAK. I’m just reminding you in case the 100,000 times Michael Cole said it didn’t get through to you. The Freak is quite the intimidating man and clearly, Vince is a big fan as he always gets to come out and smash through people. Will The Freak be successful? I’m not sure. There’s been a lot of questionable personal things over time about him which may play against him. On a purely professional analysis, he’s a solid big man with some great power moves. I can’t help but feel like his career will be defined by something other than his in-ring performances though.

Jeff was the perfect guy to put against Lars to sell his big moves and be able to lose without losing much momentum. Firstly he’s off to RAW which means he’ll get a fresh start come next week, plus he’s so universally loved that no one will care that he lost to Sullivan here. This was all about making The Freak look good and he certainly did. He looks strong, determined and powerful. Picking up a win against someone as credible as Hardy is a great start and it’ll be interesting to see how far Lars goes this time round.

The New Day vs Cesaro, Sheamus & Shinsuke Nakamura

No, you’re writing this with tears in your eyes. Okay, maybe it’s me. I just keep thinking about Kofi choking up and Xavier being all sad and then Big E just being a complete loon. I love these guys. If you’ve been around from the beginning you can’t help but be incredibly proud of how far all three men have travelled together and everything they’ve achieved. Especially with how terrible an idea it all seemed at the beginning. Yet they’ve come together, supported each other and lifted each other up to heights no one ever thought possible. Kofi Kingston as a World Heavyweight Champion? Something only ever seen in the wildest dreams of many fans, and I’m sure Kofi himself. Yet it happened. Numerous tag title runs. And now there’s an opportunity for Big E to climb the solo mountain too but he’ll have to do it on his own.

As ideal final opponents go, the three men in the opposite corner to The New Day worked incredibly well together as a unit. Sure, if I’d had a choice then it would’ve been The Usos involved somehow but it’s just not the time for that right now. Instead, we got a fantastic, fast and hard-hitting match that showed some of the best tag team moves and teamwork you could hope to see on SmackDown. I loved The Bar so it was nice to see Cesaro and Sheamus work together again and Nakamura looked to be having fun out there too. More than anything this was a chance for a final New Day highlight reel and an emotional win to say goodbye. I’m sad to see them go but so excited at the potential that Big E has going forward. Please don’t mess it up WWE.

Welcome To The YesDome

The funny thing about Daniel Bryan is that he looks more like a teacher or something than a wrestler. I know some people argue that wrestlers should be larger than life and colourful characters but there’s something relatable about looking at a guy like Bryan and seeing him succeed despite not necessarily fitting the mould. It’s how he got over in the first place and it’s still true to this day. You can’t help but get sucked into his enthusiasm for wrestling and the roster as a whole because you know he genuinely does want to work with a lot of the new talent. Matches against Kevin Owens, Apollo Crews and Aleister Black would be fantastic and even guys like Chad Gable that deserve the spotlight more.

Bryan made the mistake of not mentioning Seth Rollins though so we had the pleasure of the Monday Night Messiah (it still says it on his entrance video) coming out to convert Daniel to the greater good. Now we all know the leader of the Yes movement is all about positive change and making the world a better place. It’s just not in the same way as Seth wants to. Rollins may have wanted the former B plus player to join his fight but it was never going to happen. Especially with Brie watching on in one of those prestigious ThunderDome seats. I’m all in for a Rollins/Bryan feud so please give me that rather than continuing the Mysterio stuff. I know they turned up at the end of the segment but I’m hoping they’ll move on sooner rather than later. Murphy needs to carve his own path too, although first, it looks like maybe he’ll be trying to gain the trust and respect of the Mysterios.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The Street Profits(c) vs Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode

As much as I love The Street Profits, I think my love is about 90% due to Montez Ford. That’s not to say that Angelo Dawkins doesn’t have something to offer but I get a Hart Foundation type vibe to them. You know who will be the breakout star going forward and it’s not Jim Neidhart. This one didn’t go long at all because it broke down with everyone ignoring the official’s counts and they just didn’t really care at all. Ziggler and Roode are a decent enough team and Robert is a fundamentally solid tag team wrestler. I just wish it could be with Beer Money instead but I suppose I’ll have to go and watch some old TNA pay-per-views for that instead. With such a messy and fast ending you have to assume this feud isn’t over.

Over A Year As Champion

Sasha Banks. Bayley. What else is there to say that we haven’t before for however many weeks now? This is the feud we love and we’re getting the match that we deserve at Hell in a Cell and I can’t wait. These ladies are going to absolutely destroy each other and we’re going to enjoy every minute of it. They’ve earned that spotlight and it’s crazy to think that at one point we weren’t sure if we’d ever see Sasha again. Bayley deservedly topped the PWI Women’s 100 recently and I really don’t think anyone can even argue with that. Sometimes these lists are questionable at best but who else has constantly delivered like she has this year? No one. After a rocky start on the main roster, it must be such a joy for her to be doing what she’s doing.

I hope Adam Pearce gets paid per appearance because he’ll be raking it in right now. Presiding over the contract signing, I thought maybe he’d have to keep both women apart but apart from a few harsh words thrown around it was a relatively uneventful contract signing. Oh, apart from the fact that Bayley refused to sign the contract and just left. Mind games. It’s always mind games with Bayley and they usually work really well. Will they with Sasha though? We’ve not got long to wait until the pay per view and I can’t help but feel it won’t be the end to their story.

Universal Championship Match: Roman Reigns(c) vs Braun Strowman

The Big Dog. The Tribal Chief. The Freak. Sorry, wrong guy. Roman Reigns remains the leader of SmackDown after the draft and rightfully so. Fox would have been crazy to let him go. Braun on the other hand is a difficult one. While Reigns is in the prime of his career, Strowman looks incredible and performs to a top-level but his booking has been all over the shot. At one point he looked like the next big thing in WWE but I can’t help but feel that momentum has gone. It’s quite difficult to tell without real crowds but when you look at Roman you know you’ve got something special there. With Braun, you can’t help but feel like it could’ve been more.

With the way Reigns has been lately I was almost expecting him to steamroll through Braun but this was a surprisingly competitive match with both men coming out looking tough. Those in charge clearly aren’t ready to write Strowman off quite yet. He took everything Roman had and he only lost after Reigns used that heelish kick out with the arm causing a low blow. After that, he took advantage with a spear which didn’t win him the match so he had to dig deep and pull out a submission to retain his title. Who knew he had it in him? Well, he is doing an I Quit match which is usually when superstars start using submissions when they never have before. With Braun looking strong in defeat, it’ll be interesting to see where he slots in on RAW.

Let’s not forget Jey though. He’s not one to just sit back and let Roman steal the spotlight. Hell in a Cell is going to be absolutely brutal between these two family men and poor Strowman was used as an example with Reigns taking a chair to him over and over. I don’t think he deserved that really. A lot of verbals between the cousins about who deserves to be at the head of the table but it quickly turned more physical. Roman offered Jey a chair but he declined and used his fists instead. Well, at first anyway, and then he got even more frustrated and took the chair to Reigns like he was his worst enemy. Officials tried to break it up but Roman got one last sneaky attack in before leaving with Heyman looking on like a proud father. There is no question that Hell in a Cell is going to be one to remember.

The best of SmackDown

  • Roman Reigns – could be the best in the world right now.
  • Bayley and Sasha – the passion and intensity between these two are off the charts.
  • The New Day – real heartfelt emotion combined with one of the best 3 vs 3 matches you could hope to see.
  • King Corbin – he wasn’t there much at all. That’s how you use him.
  • Montez Ford – he’ll hit the top of the ThunderDome one day.
  • Bianca Belair – that short video package made her look like an absolute megastar as she should be.

The worst of SmackDown

  • Otis – he was Otis.
  • Seth Rollins – come on, at least respect yourself enough to ask for a new entrance video.
  • Lars Sullivan – sorry but anyone who beats up Chad Gable gets on my bad side.
  • Famous faces in the ThunderDome – I don’t care that a terrible quality Ric Flair is there watching.

In summary…

As I said at the start, even though we’ve had the Draft, it’s not like they’ve split everything completely right now, so it’s a tough episode to judge. Some feuds are looking to end while they’re also laying the foundations for some new ones. Hell in a Cell looks to be another great pay-per-view coming up and then we’ll truly see what the future of SmackDown looks like after that. As Daniel Bryan said, they’ve got a lot of decent talent and some very intriguing potential matchups so I’m looking forward to what happens. You can have all the talent in the world but it’s down to the booking. Fingers crossed they keep building on the momentum they’ve had in the last few months. I’ll leave the last word this week to The New Day…

All images and videos courtesy of WWE