Before “Hangman” Adam Page hopefully strolls into Virginia this coming Wednesday as the AEW World Champion, the commonwealth played host to this week’s episode of WWE SmackDown, specifically emanating from the Norfolk Scope Arena.
In a welcome departure from a few of the most recent weeks of the show, SmackDown filled a significant portion of its air time with in-ring action, including two matches that exceeded the 10-minute mark.
However, it takes more than simply booking long matches to put together a good show, and as we’re about to discuss, WWE once again erred in ways that contributed to a less than impressive two hours of television.
These are three of the things that went wrong on the Nov. 12 episode of SmackDown.
More heat for Sonya Deville, this time on Aliyah (as a proxy for Naomi)
Isn’t WWE supposed to be the promotion that, as they often tell anyone who’s willing to listen, “puts smiles on people’s faces”? Well, you wouldn’t be able to tell based on their booking strategies, as the company still has this fixation on putting endless heat on heels, especially if it’s a heel authority figure.
The most recent instance of this played out on this week’s SmackDown after the trio of Aliyah, Sasha Banks, and Naomi defeated Natalya, Shotzi, and Shayna Baszler, with Aliyah pinning Natalya to score the win for the babyfaces.
Throughout the match and after it ended, WWE made a point to note how long Aliyah had toiled in NXT and how huge it was that she picked up her first win in her first match on the main roster. Unfortunately, WWE didn’t use this to boost her credibility, like a normal wrestling promotion.
Instead, they used it to put more heat on Sonya Deville, because you see, a month’s worth of heat just isn’t enough, apparently. Deville picked up said heat by asking Aliyah how well she knew Naomi before pulling Aliyah from the women’s Survivor Series tag match.
Look, this isn’t to say that taking Aliyah off the team was a big mistake or that WWE simply has her win her way back on the team next week, but this impulse to wipe away any feel-good moment to boost a heel (especially one who doesn’t wrestle regularly) is why it’s so difficult to invest in WWE’s stories; why get excited if the babyface gets beaten or humiliated week after week?
(Also, WWE constantly jumbling these Survivor Series teams proves that they had no concrete plans for this show outside of “Rock’s showing up”.)
Roman Reigns vs. Xavier Woods ends in a disqualification
WWE spent most of Friday’s SmackDown building up the possibility of either Univeral Champion Roman Reigns or King of the Ring winner Xavier Woods “bending the knee” following their main event match.
Of course, given that WWE attached the same stipulation to Woods vs. Jiminy Uso only for the promotion to renege on it, we got another condition added to ensure fans got what was promised: if Reigns lost and failed to kneel to Woods, he would be stripped of the Univeral Title. So, with those safeguards in place, how did Reigns vs. Woods end?
Well, it ended with Reigns getting disqualified, as The Usos yanked Woods out of the ring and attacked him to trigger the referee’s decision, because WWE. And after the match, Reigns knelt while his cousins placed Woods’ crown on “The Tribal Chief’s” head.
This generated the boos WWE sought for, but, again, most of that heat isn’t going on Reigns for needing to get bailed out by the SmackDown Tag Team Champions or for not technically honoring the stipulation (he didn’t “bend the knee” to Woods, but WWE’s not gonna follow up on it).
Instead, it goes to the company for booking another cop-out finish and, once again, failing to properly honor a stipulation they booked. As said before, both have damaging long-term implications on how much fans will be willing to consume WWE’s product.
(And how hard would it have been to have The Usos drag Woods’ lifeless carcass in front of Reigns so that Reigns could technically “bend the knee” to him?)