Quick Takes on Babyface Sami Zayn, Capitalizing on AEW's Backstage Drama and More
Another week in WWE and All Elite Wrestling brought more exciting developments both inside and outside of the ring as one of the biggest wrestling weekends all year fast approaches.
Sami Zayn was the standout of the last seven days coming off his stellar performance in the Fatal 5-Way match on Friday's SmackDown. Although he fell short of victory, all signs point to him returning to his babyface roots in the not-too-distant future for a feud with The Bloodline.
Meanwhile, AEW's influx of star power between the returns of CM Punk and Kenny Omega has injected new life into Dynamite. Even with Punk and Jon Moxley set to collide in a major championship unification match this Wednesday night, recent reports indicate everything going on behind the scenes might be infinitely more interesting.
The buzz surrounding the company's main event scene has been a breath of fresh air, though the product isn't without its flaws. The women's division in particular remains a point of contention among fans with the Thunder Rosa vs. Toni Storm program over the AEW Women's World Championship not receiving the creative attention it deserves.
This installment of Quick Takes will delve into AEW's abysmal booking of its women's division, Santos Escobar being ready for a Raw call-up, uncertainty surrounding Liv Morgan's SmackDown Women's Championship reign, and more.
Sami Zayn's Bloodline Storyline Should Culminate in Massive Babyface Run
There can be no doubt that Sami Zayn has consistently been a bright spot on SmackDown for almost all of 2022, even during his better-than-expected rivalry with Jackass star Johnny Knoxville in the leadup to WrestleMania 38.
WWE has been criticized by fans for the lack of long-term storytelling in recent years, but the ongoing angle with Zayn wanting to be a full-time member of The Bloodline has been the best example of long-term storytelling done right, regardless of whether it was intentional from the get-go or not.
The three-time intercontinental champion received a hero's welcome from his Montreal fans on Friday's SmackDown when he competed in the Fatal 5-Way. He fell short of becoming the No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship at Clash at the Castle, but that thunderous ovation spoke volumes about where he should be slotted going forward.
He has spent the last five years of his WWE career as a heel but was booked as the ultimate babyface prior to that point. There is real money in Zayn being betrayed by The Bloodline and chasing (and subsequently beating) The Usos for the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship alongside Kevin Owens.
While he may not be winning world titles any time soon, Zayn can bring great value to the blue brand as a babyface. It's truly the only endgame to this angle that makes sense and would be the most satisfying for fans.
AEW Women's Division Remains Its Biggest Achilles Heel
For a company that does so many things exceptionally well, it remains a mystery why All Elite Wrestling can't quite seem to figure out how to properly showcase its talented women's division.
At first, it was an issue of the division not having enough depth, but that hasn't the case in well over a year. The additions of Ruby Soho, Jamie Hayer, Thunder Rosa, Toni Storm and Athena to the roster in the last year have helped with that, but AEW still struggles to feature the females prominently and give them interesting storylines.
Injuries occur and no one is to blame for that, but there's no excuse for the AEW Women's World Championship scene to be as uninteresting as it is right now. Rosa has had an adequate reign as champ with several solid title defenses, but there hasn't been much of a story with her and Storm heading into their rematch at All Out other than them wanting to be partners here and there.
Both women have proved they can hold their own on the mic and that the audience cares about them as characters. Thus, they should be given more meaningful talking segments to establish some bad blood between them because nothing about their current feud stands out as special.
Athena chasing the undefeated Jade Cargill for the AEW TBS Championship has been a perfectly fine feud, but it's beyond puzzling that the rest of the division has been left to spin their wheels on Rampage, Dark and Elevation.
Should WWE Stay the Course with Liv Morgan's Title Run or Pull the Plug?
Liv Morgan has had a roller coaster of a reign so far as SmackDown women's champion, and she has yet to hold the gold for two full months.
The moment of her becoming champion in such unexpected fashion immediately made her one of the most popular Superstars on either brand. She rode that wave of momentum into SummerSlam, where she retained the title in fluky fashion against Ronda Rousey and hasn't received the same amount of adulation from the audience since.
WWE's booking of Morgan hasn't exactly been ideal, but it hasn't been egregious enough to justify fans turning on her already. A heel turn would be the wrong route to take, but lukewarm reactions to her as of late do beg the question of whether WWE should pull the plug on the Morgan experiment and pivot to Shayna Baszler as the dominant champ at Clash at the Castle.
Truthfully, either outcome works. Baszler winning the belt would be long overdue, but a loss wouldn't hurt her and WWE shouldn't be giving up on Morgan just yet. If that happens, it's unlikely she'd remain in the hunt for the title beyond an inevitable rematch.
At the very least, WWE should attempt to tell a different story with Morgan other than just her being a plucky underdog. More time is needed to determine whether this push for her should continue, though being back in chase mode may be where she ultimately recaptures her charm as a character.
Santos Escobar Is Needed on Raw Roster Right Now
Tuesday's NXT Heatwave special saw Tony D'Angelo best archrival Santos Escobar in an All or Nothing Street Fight. Per the stipulation, Escobar is now "banned" from NXT without the rest of his Legado del Fantasma faction.
Escobar was main roster-ready from the moment he signed with the promotion in 2019. That said, he had an excellent run in NXT that included a lengthy reign as NXT cruiserweight champion and many memorable matches.
He has been long overdue for a move to the main roster and the end of his rivalry with D'Angelo now provides him with that opportunity. Between Raw and SmackDown, the red brand could use Escobar more with SmackDown securing Karrion Kross and Hit Row recently.
Raw's upper-midcard scene has felt reinvigorated with Bobby Lashley as United States champion. More stars are being given a chance to shine and Escobar should be no exception, as an eventual Escobar vs. Lashley clash would truly be terrific.
Although there's no top title to fight for on Raw right now other than the star-spangled prize, Escobar can easily be a main event player in time. He has every tool necessary to be a successful singles star, and Triple H should waste no time in showcasing him as such upon his arrival.
AEW's Reported Backstage Drama Will Make Dynamite More Must-See
As discussed in last week's Quick Takes, CM Punk will be the key to restoring some much-needed excitement to AEW Dynamite now that he's returned along with Kenny Omega and, hopefully before long, MJF.
What we didn't expect was that Punk vs. Jon Moxley for the Undisputed AEW World Championship would be made official for next Wednesday's Dynamite instead of being saved for All Out.
That's in addition to Fightful Select reporting on Thursday that Punk may have heat with Adam Page stemming from comments Hangman made on TV prior to their Double or Nothing showdown.
Dave Meltzer noted in Friday's Wrestling Observer Newsletter that "backstage drama" has been prevalent among AEW's top talent in recent weeks as well.
This led fans to speculate what's real about the stories coming out and what's not, as it's possible anything legitimate can be turned into an angle as early as this week. Either way, it has made this next edition of Dynamite even more must-see than it was already shaping up to be.
It would be in Tony Khan's best interest to capitalize on everything being talked about by incorporating it into a storyline (a la MJF) and translating that chaos to the show, which we're starting to see with Punk and Moxley. It gives viewers the vibe that anything can be said or happen at any time.
What may well be a negative situation behind the scenes could be the ultimate incentive for fans to tune in and be left wondering if what they're witnessing is fact or fiction. That blurring of the lines is when wrestling is at its most fun.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.