There was never a chance that the Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker feud would continue on Thursday Night Smackdown, so this show focused on further establishing Cesaro as a top-flight babyface; the rare heel vs. heel match between Kevin Owens and Rusev; and continuing the faction battle in the Divas Division. Oddly enough, this show also featured another page in the Roman Reigns/Bray Wyatt feud, only with Dean Ambrose filling in for Reigns. Smackdown continues to be the show where there is more in-ring action, and the vast majority of the matches were given ample time to play out. Far more positives than negatives this week.
Sheamus defeated Dean Ambrose: A strong match to start the show. Ambrose vs. Sheamus has been seen before but the two have impeccable chemistry that keeps things fresh each time. Sheamus is much better in the ring with Ambrose than he is with someone like Randy Orton. The match was concluded by the interference of Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper, who distracted Ambrose long enough for him to catch a Brogue Kick, leading to the Sheamus win. Presumably this will get Reigns fired up on Monday to get revenge for his fallen buddy, Ambrose, setting up a likely tag match between all four competitors. The Wyatts did enough here to make up for Reigns’ absence.
Sasha Banks: The WWE finally went out of their way to push the NXT Women’s Champion, Sasha Banks, with a great video montage. Not only did it go through her NXT career, but it gave her the chance to clearly define why she’s “The Boss”, why she’s part of Team BAD, and why she thinks the WWE Diva’s Division needs to be turned around. So far Charlotte and Banks have had their moment in the spotlight, so Becky Lynch should get her time soon.
Rusev defeated Kevin Owens by countout: WWE is walking perilously close to turning Kevin Owens into a loser, but this was still a great match between two powerhouse superstars. The crowd didn’t seem to know who to root for, and both men hit most of their signature spots as they normally would. Owens hit a nasty looking Samoan Drop and landed his Cannonall in the corner, while Rusev showed off his powerful kicks, as well as his resilience. He was clearly being booked as the babyface of this matchup, a fit that didn’t seem natural for him. However, the match ended weakly when Owens decided to take his ball and go home, which is becoming a frequent occurrence. He’s starting to resemble a cowardly heel rather than a dominant one. The damage hasn’t been done yet, but if it continues into next week that would be a different story.
The Bella Twins defeated Sasha Banks and Naomi: A strong 13-minute Divas match that showcased Sasha Banks and Team BAD, while giving the Bellas a much-needed win. Some will argue that the Bellas don’t need to win at this point, but that’s not true. For this whole “factions” feud to be credible, the Bellas must gain some big victories to show why the other Divas have failed to dethrone them. Naomi can take the loss, which she did, while Banks held her own against the two top Divas in the WWE.
Seth Rollins defeated Cesaro: It’s interesting to note that Cesaro is sporting the armband of his injured tag team partner, Tyson Kidd, which may be a signal the WWE will put them back together when he returns. They may not be able to if the crowd continues to support him as they have, and this was clearly a chance to see how Cesaro fares opposite the World Champion. Rollins had mostly been absent up until this point and came to the ring with little fanfare, but he made up for it by pushing Cesaro in an excellent match with a number of near falls. Cesaro did more than just show off his powerful uppercut-based offense, demonstrating a number of submission holds including an excellent sequence in which he shifted from a Sharpshooter to a Crossface and back again multiple times. Meanwhile Rollins showed incredible resiliency by enduring Cesaro’s barrage both in and outside the ring, before resorting to a cheap eye gouge to setup the Pedigree victory.
King Barrett: Barrett didn’t wrestle, but he did have a promo in which he continues to push the “King” gimmick, claiming to be the best king in WWE history. There doesn’t seem to be a good place for Barrett to go right now, which is sad considering his last feud was against R-Truth.
Neville defeated Adam Rose: Adam Rose was fed to Neville in a quick 3-minute matchup, but this was really about the comic book rivalry between Neville and Stardust. While these two make for natural opponents whose styles mesh beautifully, having Stardust continue to act like a low-rent Joker may not be the wisest course of action. Once he’s done with Neville, what next? Neville, on the other hand, can go virtually anywhere as his star continues to rise. WWE will need to find a way to make Stardust disturbed without making him a punchline.