Samoa Joe Earns 1st Title, Mustafa Ali Is Back and More in WWE SmackDown Fallout

Kevin Berge@TheBerge_Featured ColumnistMarch 6, 2019

Samoa Joe Earns 1st Title, Mustafa Ali Is Back and More in WWE SmackDown Fallout

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    With just days remaining before Fastlane, the March 5 edition of SmackDown Live was focused fully upon building up the show, and the two headline contests of the night got a huge spotlight.

    However, while Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch brawled in the main event, a few moments stood out more vividly as stars emerged and built some hype.

    Samoa Joe ended his long unexplainable title drought on the main roster, capturing R-Truth's United States Championship. The fantastic veteran now looks poised to head into WrestleMania 35 as a champion.

    SmackDown's headliner continued to develop as Kevin Owens showed how good he can be as a babyface despite his situation. He also got unexpected help in his fight with Daniel Bryan from a returning Mustafa Ali, who feels oddly out of place now on this bloated and ever-changing roster.

    Contenders for the Raw Tag Team Championships on Sunday, Aleister Black and Ricochet also continued to shine by defeating The Bar, but they seem to fall more and more into a role that does not suit them.

    These were the big moments that defined an important night on the precipice of a surprisingly stacked final WWE pay-per-view before The Show of Shows.

Samoa Joe Finally Gets His Due with United States Championship Win

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    R-Truth finally took on more than he could handle when Samoa Joe, Rey Mysterio and Andrade all answered his open challenge for the U.S. title.

    While the champion did his best, the sheer numbers were too much. The Samoan Submission Specialist ended up hitting El Idolo with a uranage and capturing the belt.

    This has been far too long coming for Joe, a veteran who has been great consistently since he came to WWE. His matches have not always been fantastic, but his work and presentation have made him always feel like a star.

    Much like Shinsuke Nakamura, this feels a bit like a consolation prize when he should have won the WWE Championship from AJ Styles. However, he comes off much more like a legitimate long-term champion than The Artist, who was often overshadowed by his opponents.

    Joe has such a wealth of potential rivals for his title. Hopefully, that isn't wasted at WrestleMania. He could have great singles matches with Ali or John Cena, but WWE could also just throw him into a multi-man title match with Mysterio, Andrade, Truth, Ali and Jeff Hardy.

    Events over the next few weeks will decide what comes of his title reign in the most important season in WWE.

    Truth may have been champion for only a short time, but he maximized his weeks with a great run, filled with top-notch wrestling.

Kevin Owens Succeeding in Face Run Despite Bad Booking

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    Daniel Bryan opened the show to disparage former rival Kofi Kingston and Fastlane opponent Kevin Owens, who came out to run down the champion for feeling he is above everyone else.

    While KO got laid out to open the show, he got his revenge by hitting a stunner on Bryan after his interrupted match with Rowan.

    KO has always been really good at the fundamentals of sports entertainment. He's charismatic, athletic and knows how to control a crowd. For that reason, it was not totally surprising he came off well in his first real promo as a babyface.

    However, he is fighting an uphill battle. He was positioned by Vince McMahon as the replacement for Kingston at a time when the New Day member is the most talked-about male star on the roster. This is a heel position, similar to Charlotte Flair in the Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey story.

    The Prizefighter has liberally invested in the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin brand, from his new finisher to his nods to The Rattlesnake's signature lines. However, he's not trying to tap into what made fans cheer for Austin, so it feels like an unnecessary move.

    Owens can be likable all on his own with his real statements about how much of a fan he is of the business and how much it means to him to fight for the WWE Universe. There's a guy fans can root for.

Mustafa Ali Is Back but Lacking Much of His Momentum

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    Mustafa Ali returned during the post-match attack of Daniel Bryan and Rowan on Kevin Owens, evening the odds and taking out the champion's intellectual peer. The two faces stood tall in the ring as the heels retreated up the ramp.

    The rise of Kingston began with the unfortunate injury to Ali. It is likely the spot that the New Day member was in was originally meant for the newcomer, who was on the verge of a breakthrough. Unfortunately, he has returned to a changed landscape.

    While he is still in the title picture, he doesn't quite fit at the moment. With WrestleMania approaching, his biggest rival is Rowan, who won't get a featured role on the card beyond being in Bryan's corner. It would be better if Ali forgot about the WWE Championship for a bit.

    That seems unlikely, but Samoa Joe has just won a championship that would be perfect for Ali to compete for. The two had a rivalry going before Elimination Chamber that can grow more destructive.

    The main worry here is that the former 205 Live star will be playing backup for Owens or Kingston come WrestleMania instead of getting a real spotlight at his second shot on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

Aleister Black and Ricochet May Suffer Long Term from Introduction as a Team

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    Aleister Black and Ricochet again proved how dominant they are as a unit when they took out Sheamus and Cesaro in impressive fashion, with Cesaro going down to The Black Mass into a 630 splash.

    Afterward, Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev attacked the NXT stars but were taken out by The Hardy Boyz.

    Arguably the four biggest stars in NXT all came up at the same time, and they have seemingly been limited to tag team roles so far. While Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano work as a unit, Black and Ricochet feels like a thrown-together pairing which limits the character work of both men.

    It doesn't help that DIY have not appeared in recent weeks due to Ciampa's injury, forcing the other NXT pairing further into the spotlight. The team may be winning consistently, but neither has been able to stand out for what they do best.

    This is especially true of The Dutch Destroyer. He's a fascinating character with a wealth of potential for the long term, but all he has done so far is throw kicks and talk about being "the unknown" others fear. It would be like The Undertaker debuting in a team with Rey Mysterio.

    This is not to say Black will ever be at that level, but he will never get the chance when he's just a generic striker on a poorly established team.