Adam Cole and Shayna Baszler Rise as NXT Takes Over, More WWE SmackDown Fallout

Kevin Berge@TheBerge_Featured ColumnistNovember 2, 2019

Adam Cole and Shayna Baszler Rise as NXT Takes Over, More WWE SmackDown Fallout

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    WWE was forced into a corner when it was clear that many of the promotion's top stars would be unable to make it home from Saudi Arabia in time for SmackDown on Friday. The result was an edition that outshone what had come before.

    With barely a quarter of the blue brand's roster available, WWE relied on NXT to carry the load, starting the Survivor Series build early. The black-and-gold brand is as vital as Raw or SmackDown, and Friday showed why.

    Sometimes, the show dragged, but once it got rolling, it was unstoppable. Friday Night SmackDown has never felt so easy to watch. Everything built from one segment to the next all the way to the showstopping main event.

    Shayna Baszler laid out Bayley to start things off, and from there, NXT stars took every opportunity to lay out SmackDown talent. It ended with Adam Cole vs. Daniel Bryan in the main event, and the NXT champion defeated The Planet's Champion clean to retain his title.

    Everything will likely return to normal come the next episode, but this was one night no WWE fan will soon forget.

Adam Cole, Shayna Baszler and Tommaso Ciampa Make Statements by Leading NXT

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    NXT has always been labelled as the developmental brand. Despite the evidence proving that to be a misnomer, the stigma may not be lost just yet. Shows like this will certainly help.

    In particular, Adam Cole's victory over Daniel Bryan was a defining moment for NXT. It was a great match from start to finish, but it also served to show that he is on the same level as a former world champion. It felt like a declaration that a run with the NXT Championship should also be considered a world title reign.

    He did not just pull off the win. He did so with no help. He took a beating, but he got back up. He outmaneuvered Bryan and took the win. If they fought again, it may be a different result, but this win was the one that mattered.

    The same would go for Tommaso Ciampa's victory over The Miz. He took the best shot of one of the best on the "main roster" and walked out with a clean victory. He showed he is a force to be reckoned with.

    Finally, Shayna Baszler did not have to compete to prove herself on par with SmackDown's best. She laid out Bayley, and Sasha Banks and walked out looking like the true women's champion.

    Each moment was important in showcasing NXT as a force to be reckoned with. It may help to boost ratings for NXT, but the bigger deal is elevating the status of the talent. It no longer feels vital that Cole and Baszler lose their titles and head to one of the big two shows.

Brock Lesnar Quitting SmackDown Is a Cheap Move After Promoting the Brand Split

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    Paul Heyman made clear that despite his dominant victory over Cain Velasquez, Brock Lesnar was not happy. He was ready to hurt someone—particularly Rey Mysterio. The Advocate announced The Beast Incarnate was quitting the blue brand so that he could go to Monday Night Raw.

    It does not work to have both world champions on the same brand. Immediately losing the lead by having The Beast quit SmackDown so he can fight Mysterio on Raw does not correctly solve the issue. It makes a mockery of the WWE draft.

    If Lesnar wanted so badly to go to Raw, he should have spent weeks demanding to be traded. He could have caused destruction and mayhem to the point that Fox had no choice but to trade him. No one has to even be sent back given the way the Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross trade went down.

    This is a fairly classic move by WWE. Rather than trying to build up a moment naturally or taking advantage of an awkward situation, a haphazard solution is put forth and executed within a day of the problem's arising.

    Hopefully this at least frees up SmackDown from relying on Lesnar, allowing the brand to move forward with Bray Wyatt at the helm.

This Should Not Be the End of Nikki Cross' Title Aspirations

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    Nikki Cross got her title shot against Bayley and brought the fight to the champion. A timely distraction from Sasha Banks turned the match, and the SmackDown women's champion connected with the Bayley-to-Belly for the win.

    Every time Bayley and Cross step in the ring together, they get a little better, but they don't seem to quite have the chemistry to capitalize on a spotlight. Still, they are the best fit as rivals on SmackDown.

    It would be a shame for the Twisted Sister to just quietly fall into the background after this loss. Obviously, Bayley will be focused on Shayna Baszler and Becky Lynch in the coming weeks, but she will still need a challenger again after that.

    Who else is ready to step up? Carmella might be able to take that leap, but she wasn't even seen as good enough to compete on Friday's talent-starved edition of SmackDown. Cross is the best character outside of Bayley and Banks the brand has.

    Let her and Bayley play at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs. They could have a great ladder match, using the stipulation to add the necessary extra drama to their conflict.

WWE Should Not Need to Be Forced to Have a Show This Good

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    Since debuting on Friday nights in October, SmackDown has not quite clicked. The product has felt rushed and overproduced, and matches have not clicked. Missing talent and rewriting at the last minute, the SmackDown crew managed to put on easily the best show to date.

    Perhaps it was partially on Triple H. He brought in NXT and likely took over production as well. He knew the NXT guys well enough to play to their strengths, and there was no time to overthink segments.

    Moreover, though, it was just a matter of making everything matter. One segment built on the next. The wrestling was solid all around with time to shine. Once the pacing hit its stride, there was not a dull moment.

    WWE can do a show this strong every week. There's clearly even room for improvement. It is more than just the NXT stars' appearances. It comes down to WWE putting in the work when necessary. There's a full week to decide how to craft these shows from start to finish.

    The simple formula here is one clear main event showcase that's given time to shine, alongside a few strong shorter matches along the way. The promos should be kept tight and focused, mostly building to the action.

    The next episode will likely fall back into the same bad habits, especially as the brand plays catch-up, but it would be so much better to build off the new foundations instead.


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