I’m going to start this review with a quick rant – this week’s episode of SmackDown was advertised as a Throwback edition. Mostly to fit in with Fox and what they’re doing this week, but you know how deep WWE’s history is so they’ve got plenty to pull from. Fan speculation and wishes were all over Twitter this week – Teddy Long, the big giant fist and old themes amongst other things. With over 1000 episodes to pull from, a Throwback SmackDown should be pretty awesome right? Now I wasn’t expecting The Rock to turn up or anything but I was certainly hoping for far more than what we ended up with.

We got some highlights of stuff we’ve seen a million times before. We had a CGI version of the fist that looked utterly ridiculous. The graphics looked like they were pulled out of the 80s which made absolutely no sense considering SmackDown debuted in 1999. It just left a sour taste in the mouth from a company that prides itself on its history. I’ve been a fan since the mid-80s and I’m a real sucker for retro stuff. I watch loads of it on the WWE Network and it would’ve been great to see a proper effort put into this Throwback SmackDown. Sadly it was just a wasted opportunity overall. With that being said, the rest of the show was mostly decent so let’s see what developments happened this week in the build-up to WrestleMania Backlash.

Returning To The Family

Oh Roman, how I love you. And ever since they released the new music officially online it has been on repeat all week. The more I hear it the more I love it and I couldn’t be happier that they’ve pulled the trigger on ditching the final piece of The Shield. Reigns has truly needed to step out of the shadow of The Shield for so long now, and this heel character is the perfect time to do that completely. He’s exactly who he needs to be now and the partnership with Paul Heyman is hugely successful. The other partnership with Jey Uso is a more interesting and multi-layered one but it mostly pays dividends although usually in Roman’s favour more than anything.

Last week, Reigns sent Daniel Bryan packing from SmackDown (and maybe WWE?) but, this week, he wanted to do something different and that was bringing Jimmy Uso back into the fold. Jimmy was understandably excited to be making his return to the blue brand after his knee injury just over a year ago and The Usos are so great together that I hope they ignite the tag division again. Things might not be that simple though so we’ll see. Cesaro certainly wasn’t impressed, especially after what he was forced to see last week with his friend Bryan, and he was happy to come out and let Reigns know. Ever the opportunist Seth Rollins used this as an opportunity to jump his WrestleMania opponent and this brought out Teddy Long because why not. The former General Manager had the pleasure of adding a stipulation to Cesaro and Rollins’ match – if Cesaro won then he’d get a shot at the Universal Title at WrestleMania Backlash. Now that’d be something worth tuning in for.

Cesaro vs Seth Rollins

You know it’s always funny to me watching guys like Daniel Bryan, Cesaro and Seth Rollins in high profile matches on WWE programming when I’ve followed them for so many years all over the world. When I was watching my low quality Ring of Honor DVDs I never dreamt I’d be watching a Cesaro and Rollins match at WrestleMania that’s for sure. They had one of the best matches of the PPV so I’m okay with a rematch, especially with higher stakes involved. I’m still enjoying Seth in his current form far more than the Monday Night Messiah and Cesaro is on the roll of his WWE career. It’s a shame it can’t happen in front of fans really.

As expected, both men delivered the goods again with some inventive spots, high flying action and the usual impressive power moves from Cesaro. The Usos were still hanging around at ringside, keeping an eye on Roman’s potential opponent at the next PPV, while Reigns himself headed back to watch in a comfier chair backstage. Just when I was waiting for Jimmy and Jey to blindside Cesaro at some point, it was actually Rollins that had an issue with them. He didn’t ask for them at ringside and pushed them out of the way, which led to Jimmy superkicking him right in the face. This allowed Cesaro to take advantage and hit the Neutralizer for the 1-2-3 and a title match now awaits him in just over a week. That Float Over into the Neutralizer was a thing of beauty. A fantastic win for him but damn that was an awkward start to Jimmy’s return for sure.

Backstage Antics Playa

If we’re talking about history then Rollins and Reigns are two that have it in spades on SmackDown and Seth’s anger at Roman’s cousins was evident. He wanted Roman to sort them out before he has to have a real issue with the Tribe. I’m liking the fact that Seth is man enough to stand up to his former Shield buddy in some form as he’s often presented as a bit of a cowardly heel, but his belief in himself is the primary driver of his character so this all makes complete sense. Will we get another chapter to Seth and Roman down the line after all this? Maybe we will and I’d be up for that as both men have changed a lot over the years. I’m all for long-running storylines that don’t ignore history, and that goes for The Shield and Roman’s family too.

Elsewhere we got the joy of seeing Teddy Long dancing with Sonya Deville which was probably the highlight of the entire Throwback mess if I’m honest. I’ll never get bored of seeing Teddy and the fact that he threatened Sami Zayn with going 1 on 1 with the Undertaker put a huge smile on my face. I laughed and I don’t care if you judge me. He even threw out King Bookah (all hail!) as a potential partner for an upcoming tag match but unfortunately, he meant King Corbin. What a disappointment. We did get to see the Steve Austin/Booker T supermarket segment though which is one of the best things ever.

Ruby Riott (with Liv Morgan) vs Carmella

It’s a sad state of affairs when I completely forgot that Billie Kay got released and I was just sat waiting for her to come out and mess up Ruby’s match. I miss Billie. I don’t know who made the call to get rid of her but considering she was consistently one of the most entertaining parts of SmackDown, I think they’re a complete idiot whoever they are. Anyway moving on, I’m actually a big Ruby fan and I think she’s a really solid yet undervalued part of the women’s division. She’s never quite got the credit she deserves and I’d love for them to get behind her properly at some point. The same goes for Carmella actually who they seemed to just give up on after the Sasha Banks feud so it’s nice to see both ladies get the opportunity this week.

With no Billie Kay, and no interference from the tag champs or Tamina or Natalya, Riott and Carmella actually got to have a proper match. It wasn’t long enough but it was just nice to see a match that wasn’t bogged down in an unnecessary mess. That hasn’t happened much at all recently on SmackDown and it’s about time the women were left to just show what they’re capable of. Ruby put on a good effort this week but Carmella was smart enough to catch her in the Code of Silence for the submission victory. A very important win to get back on track and, hopefully, she won’t get forgotten about again next week.

LongEST Reigning Champ

I love Bayley. I really do. Especially this heel version of her. It just feels like all of this business with Bianca Belair has been done before and it’d be nice to see someone else get the opportunity for now. Mostly because I don’t believe for a second that Bayley is beating her for the championship at WrestleMania Backlash. They’ll have an enjoyable match of course but I’d just like to see a little more jeopardy for Belair and I don’t think Bayley’s the right opponent to be offering that at the moment. After Bayley paid ‘tribute’ to some of the SmackDown legends by mostly using it to get herself over, Bianca came out to interrupt her and show her who’s the real legend. Bayley used some dastardly tactics including grabbing earrings and hair and Belair may have regretted her choices. I do wonder if we’ll see Sasha return and get involved in their match. A triple threat between those three would be pretty awesome I must admit.

Dominik Mysterio (with Rey Mysterio) vs Dolph Ziggler (with Robert Roode)

This was originally advertised as Rey vs Dolph but after some badmouthing from Dolph aimed at the younger Mysterio, Dominik stepped up and took the match instead. The Mysterios are finally getting their tag title shot at WrestleMania Backlash and after all the mentioning of there has never been a father/son title-winning team, I’d be shocked if they didn’t walk away with the gold. I’m still holding on to the hope that the Street Profits will win them again someday though as they’re by far the best team on SmackDown but they just seem to be plodding along at the moment.

If you thought that the Ruby/Carmella match was short then you have no idea. If you sneezed at the wrong moment or blinked then you probably missed the Dominik/Dolph match. It certainly wasn’t a 5 star classic by any means, but it did the job. Dolph is an overly cocky guy who underestimates Dominik and he paid the price this week losing to an inside cradle. The Mysterios now have momentum on their side and it could be their time at WrestleMania Backlash. I’m looking forward to the match as it’ll hopefully be an old school classic tag effort and I love a properly put together tag match with the psychology that the Dirty Dawgs deliver.

Tamina (with Natalya) vs Reginald (with Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler)

I’d complain about this match but you’ve heard it all before. Using Reginald in this way still is pretty ridiculous and having to watch Tamina wrestle on a weekly basis is just sucking all the joy out of my life. I’m still living in fear that Tamina and Natalya are going to win the tag titles because nothing could depress me more.

Anyway, this was a nice show of Reginald’s athleticism but I’m not really sure what the point is. The tag champs interfered, destroyed their WrestleMania Backlash opponents and none of us really care. I can’t help but feel whoever wins that match isn’t going to turn around the division the way it desperately needs right now.

Apollo Crews, King Corbin, Sami Zayn, Chad Gable and Otis vs Big E, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura and The Street Profits

Now if we’re talking about tag matches done right, this was a sensible way of combining a number of feuds into one segment. More development to further the Crews and Big E feud, while throwing Zayn and Owns into the mix, and hey why not just have the rest of the people there too? It felt like a crazy Survivor Series type of match and I’ve always loved that PPV so I was digging that vibe. All ten men got time to shine this week but I personally always love seeing Chad Gable mix it up with various people in the ring. He’s so competent on the mat yet goes around throwing people all over the place like nobody’s business. I still hope that one day they really manage to capture lightning in a bottle with him somehow because he’s got it all.

After some back and forth between both teams it all got a little crazy at the end. You know the deal with their finishers being thrown out all over the place, everyone getting beaten up outside and Montez Ford proving he’s a bird in human form by flying once again this week. It was all getting pretty hectic and it looked like Nakamura might be able to pick up the win but the dastardly King Corbin snuck in and hit the End Of Days for the victory instead. Oh, how I hate that man but love his finisher. I’m not sure what a win for him does but I’m sure the good guys will get revenge down the road somehow. Really good effort all round and the type of action I love seeing on SmackDown.

Superman’s Revenge

Oh no, not Roman Reigns and his Superman Punch but Cesaro and his Swiss Cyborg powers. Getting a small semblance of revenge for Daniel Bryan, Cesaro interrupted yet another in-ring segment from Roman to close out Throwback SmackDown this week. This was all about the family drama and Jimmy Uso reminding Roman of what happened way back at Hell In A Cell when Jey quit in order to save his brother. Can you believe that was over six months ago? We’ve been enjoying this epic version of Roman for so long now and it’s still such a treat.

The return of Jimmy adds a whole new dimension now because he’s at the point where Jey was all those months ago. Not falling in line and not acknowledging Roman. Once again Reigns put it all out there and demanded that Jimmy did the same as Jey but it’s not that simple. Jimmy was seemingly walking out and going home when Cesaro jumped in and attacked. Jimmy tried to help but all three men ended up on their back with Cesaro standing tall. An impressive performance from one man going alone and I’m sure he’ll be giving it everything he’s got at WrestleMania Backlash. The Jimmy side storyline brings something else to the table (no pun intended) and we’ll have to see if he becomes Main Event Jimmy Uso or packs his bags and heads back to his family.

The best of SmackDown

  • Teddy Long – always bringing the dance moves
  • Jimmy Uso – great to see him return from injury
  • Dominik Mysterio – a valuable win suggesting gold in his future
  • Roman Reigns’ music – I’m still loving it
  • Reginald – he’s got some moves even if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Cesaro – finally getting that title shot he’s been wanting for years

The worst of SmackDown

  • Throwback theme – absolute trash
  • CGI fist – absolute trash
  • Tamina – surprisingly not the worst thing on the show for once but still fast forward material

In summary…

Despite the complete waste of a theme, this week’s show was actually a pretty decent effort on the whole. The Universal Championship rivalry is heating up between Cesaro and Roman Reigns, and the addition of Jimmy Uso brings an extra layer of intrigue for sure. You’ve also got Seth Rollins waiting there in the shadows and you never know when he’ll strike. WrestleMania Backlash has a stupidly long name but the card is shaping up to be a solid one if unspectacular. I think it’ll be one that’ll deliver higher than peoples expectations. I know Cesaro won’t win but it’s nice to have a little hope, isn’t it? Sadly I think he might have a beating coming to him next week before the PPV…

All photos and videos courtesy of WWE