We are two weeks away from WrestleMania 39, and with the big show coming up so soon, WWE knows that it doesn’t have much time to fill out the rest of the card. As a result, this week’s episode of SmackDown took great steps to address this need.
As we’ve seen over the last few weeks, SmackDown heavily focused on the soap opera that is the Bloodline/Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens/Cody Rhodes story. Other than that, we saw four matches on this show, with two of them carrying WrestleMania implications.
There were a lot of positives to take away from this broadcast, with these two particularly standing out.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn reconcile
As mentioned, WWE gave a lot of time to progressing this Bloodline saga, but when you see how everyone performs in their roles and hear how the crowds react to these segments, it’s easy to justify such a heavy allocation.
You know you’re watching a compelling storyline unfold when the predictability of the plot points doesn’t hamper the emotional impact when they eventually come. When Kevin Owens drove off after Cody Rhodes tried to get him and Sami Zayn to mend fences, everyone knew he would return to help Zayn, but that didn’t make the pop for KO and Zayn’s big hug any less cacophonous.
Swerves aren’t necessary when fans are already invested in Zayn and Owens patching things up to chase the tag titles, and the closing segment gave them exactly what they wanted to see. It also helps when you get other fun layers like Jey Uso directing internalized contempt for Roman Reigns at Zayn and Rhodes interjecting himself into the situation to further antagonize Reigns; those little things make the overall arc feel fuller.
This program has carried SmackDown for the last few months (and has carried most of the weight of the WrestleMania hype), and that will surely continue for the next few weeks.
Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley’s big brawl
For a match that’s rumored to main event the first night of WrestleMania, the build to Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley doesn’t have a ton of hype behind it. To be clear, WWE has done a good job of rebuilding Ripley into a credible world title contender, but the sparing interactions between these two have made this feel like anything but an epic clash between two superstars.
It’s almost as if this feud was thrown together at the last minute and there was no “long-term plan” to give Ripley a win over Flair.
Anyway, Ripley and Flair’s decent promo exchange — far better than their previous one — and the pull-apart brawl helped get this feud on track. It might not be enough to get everyone on board with the feud, but it does establish some semblance of animosity between champion and challenger.