WWE SmackDown Fallout: Is Kofi Kingston a Legit Contender and More
The go-home edition of WWE SmackDown, five days before the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, saw one of the most inspired performances from a veteran performer in recent memory.
The New Day's Kofi Kingston not only entered himself in the upcoming event's titular match, he cleanly defeated WWE champion Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe and Jeff Hardy to prove he belonged.
Those wins, attained consecutively in a hard-fought Gauntlet match in which Kingston starred as the Iron Man, established him as a credible entry in the match and proved there is so much more for The New Day to accomplish in WWE beyond the safety net of the tag team division.
The tag division was heavily featured on Tuesday's show as The Usos also reminded fans of their greatness via Miz TV and a confrontation with the current SmackDown tag team champions, The Miz and Shane McMahon, while Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura formed a tag team born of creative laziness.
Then there was Charlotte Flair, who kicked off the show with an in-ring promo that reminded fans why they are so lucky to have a villain of her caliber heading into the single most significant women's wrestling match in the long and illustrious history of sports entertainment.
Dive deeper into these takeaways from the February 12 episode of the blue brand's weekly television with this recap of Tuesday night's USA Network presentation.
Kofi Kingston Is Iron Man and Proves Bigger, Better Things Possible for New Day
To suggest The New Day has fallen into something of a creative slump over the last year would be both accurate and fair. The pancake-dishing trio of Superstars remains over with WWE fans but feels like an act on a booking treadmill, neither moving forward nor back.
Tuesday night, in a Gauntlet match to determine which Superstar would enter the Elimination Chamber this Sunday at the coveted No. 6 spot, Kofi Kingston proved there is more for New Day to do than just the same, repetitive tag team matches while simultaneously delivering the performance of the night.
Kingston knocked off WWE champion Daniel Bryan, pinning The Planet's Champion for his first fall of the night. From there, he also defeated Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe before succumbing to the Calf Crusher at the hands of AJ Styles.
As Big E and Xavier Woods rushed to the ring to check on their comrade, it became abundantly clear there is more for New Day to contribute beyond the tag team division. All three individuals are talented pro wrestlers who can be singles stars in their own right while maintaining the unity and popularity of the group, and Kingston's performance proved as much.
One of the longest-tenured stars on the roster, Kingston has experienced said singles success over his career. He has been intercontinental and United States champion numerous times while mixing it up with the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, Triple H and CM Punk. Woods and Big E, though to a lesser degree, have also tasted triumphs on their own.
At a time when New Day appears to be losing steam creatively, with nowhere for them to really go on the tag team front, it is time to consider letting each man have a run of their own; to remind the WWE Universe that all three are decorated singles competitors who can share the ring with Bryan, Styles, Orton, Joe or any other SmackDown star and conceivably pull out a victory.
It would freshen up the act, one of WWE's most valuable from a marketing and merchandising perspective, while also giving fans new matches and rivalries to break up the monotony that often befalls the product.
The proposal is a win-win for everyone involved, but mostly for a New Day group that was once one of the most interesting, compelling and fun elements in all of WWE.
The Usos Prove Value to WWE with Strong, Charismatic Promo Ahead of Title Match
WWE officials have every reason to be concerned that The Usos have not re-signed with the company, despite contracts that expire in April, according to Fightful's Sean Ross Sapp. The pair showed why they should be retained on Tuesday night.
During the latest edition of Miz TV, The Usos cut another one of their charismatic and electric promos, and in the process, they created more interest for a SmackDown Tag Team Championship match against The Miz and Shane McMahon than WWE Creative mustered in the few weeks it had to prepare.
Furthermore, they were the clear crowd favorites during their exchange with Shane-O-Mac and The Hollywood A-Lister, due largely to the personality they displayed on the mic.
Throw in the fact the match on Sunday night at Elimination Chamber will almost definitely be better than it has any right to be thanks to the superb in-ring work of the twins, and you have a package that puts Jimmy and Jey among the most valuable assets in WWE's attempt to bring about a tag team renaissance.
Yes, they have accomplished everything there is to accomplish as a team. The idea that a victory Sunday would bring them their sixth tag team title under the WWE umbrella is impressive and proof of just how much the company's creative team leans on the second-generation competitors to carry things when it cannot consistently book the division.
It is also a testament to how good they have been and how they have managed to recreate themselves when things became bogged down in staleness.
Sporting a connection with fans few teams can match, The Usos will roll into Elimination Chamber Sunday, and while they may not leave victoriously, they will almost certainly be the recipients of a loud pop and be the glue that holds together yet another match featuring Vince McMahon's prodigal son.
Formation of Rusev-Shinsuke Nakamura Team Demonstrates Creative Laziness
The formation of the Rusev-Shinsuke Nakamura tag team, which we officially witnessed Tuesday night at the urging of Lana, is representative of the general laziness within WWE Creative at this point.
Not three months ago, Rusev was one of the most popular stars on the entire roster, thanks to an unlikely Rusev Day gimmick that got over to an extent no one inside the writing team offices could have imagined.
Nakamura, on the other hand, finally felt comfortable on the main roster as a charismatic heel who ruthlessly ruined everyone's favorite wrestlers' abilities to have kids with devastating low blows.
Each had found their groove and then settled into what could have been a quality feud between the two.
Instead, after trading the United States Championship between each other and inexplicably dropping it to R-Truth, they find themselves forming an alliance to provide depth to the SmackDown tag team division.
Except, that division really doesn't need it.
Not only does it already have The Usos and New Day, but it also features the criminally underutilized Sanity (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain). That trio, rarely utilized after their main roster debut this past summer, should be tearing up the division and creating nightmares for babyface tandems.
That isn't the case for Rusev and Nakamura, whose singles stardom will never really allow them to succeed as a tag team, no matter how much WWE Creative tries to convince us otherwise so it does not have to come up with two unique stories for them. Nor is it for The Bar's Sheamus and Cesaro, who embraced the idea of a tag team and became one of the best in company history.
No, Nakamura and Rusev's newly formed team is one born of laziness and destined to fizzle out, again leaving the writers with nothing better to do with two of the more talented members of the roster.
Charlotte Flair Is the Heel We Deserve on Journey to WrestleMania
There was a moment during her show-opening promo in which Charlotte Flair mocked the chants of "Becky!" from the WWE Universe before launching into a diatribe about her status as the backbone of the women's division that really hammered home how much she has developed into the heel we deserve on this road to WrestleMania 35.
As much as fans like to take people like Ronda Rousey and tear her down because she is not the babyface they want to see at the forefront of the women's division, the best matches and storylines will always feature that insufferable villain fans genuinely want to see get their comeuppance.
Flair is good. She's damn good. Maybe even the best all-around women's wrestler on the WWE roster, whether or not anyone wants to admit it.
Her character is also super entitled, believing she can skate by on the fact she shares a last name with one of the most beloved professional wrestlers in the history of the industry.
She is loud in her protestations that she is the best and that she deserves championship gold despite the fact she was just handed a title opportunity. It is that hypocrisy that fuels her and makes The Queen so unlikable and the perfect antagonist for Becky Lynch and Rousey on this journey to the biggest event of the year.
Flair's promo Tuesday night struck the perfect tone and left fans wanting to see the smiling, stuck-up, hand-picked spoiled brat get her mouth shut and her face punched, courtesy of The Man.
That emotion, and her ability to bring it out of the audience, will prove invaluable as WWE Creative enters unfamiliar territory: building a women's rivalry worthy of the WrestleMania main event.