John Cena Shines, WrestleMania 36 Card Grows, More WWE SmackDown Fallout
The Road to WrestleMania is officially underway as two of the top matches for the April 5 event have been solidified by way of intense encounters on the February 28 episode of SmackDown.
John Cena will battle The Fiend while Goldberg defends the universal title against Roman Reigns. Those two matches headline the buzz from Friday's show, while the return of Sasha Banks and her subsequent utilization on the show left fans scratching their heads.
Dive deeper into those topics and more with this recap of Friday's Fox broadcast.
John Cena's Return Provides SmackDown with a Spark of Much-Needed Energy
For all of the complaints fans had about John Cena during his time at the top of the wrestling industry, there is absolutely no denying the raw energy he brings to any show he appears on. It was no different Friday night as he exploded through the curtain and brought the Boston fanbase alive.
Addressing them with all the passion of a performer genuinely glad to be back in front of his or her audience, his energy and emotion made the show-closing segment that much more engaging.
And therein lies why Cena is one of the greatest performers of all time.
Even when fan apathy was at its height, Cena had a way of igniting interesting, excitement and fun that no other Superstar on the roster could. Whether fans were booing or cheering, they were invested and reacting. We saw a reminder of that this week as the fans in Boston were on their feet for their hometown hero and future Hall of Famer.
While we know Cena's return will eventually come to an end and he will return to Hollywood for his next big-budget blockbuster, we should relish the opportunity we have to watch him for what could be one last time, because as it stands, he brings with him an energy the SmackDown brand, and the WWE product as a whole, desperately needs.
WWE Wastes No Time in Announcing Smackdown's Contributions to WrestleMania Card
With a single episode and two promo segments that bookended this week's show, SmackDown gave fans its top two contributions to WrestleMania in a short, succinct fashion.
Goldberg laid down the gauntlet, asking who was next. Roman Reigns answered, and within 30 minutes, we had SmackDown's main event for the most prestigious event of the year.
From there, Cena's epic return was interrupted by The Fiend, who did the obligatory point to the WrestleMania sign and, suddenly, the masked maniac and the leader of the Cenation had a date for April 5.
While some will label the segments as lazy booking, there is a freshness about them that was greatly appreciated. In a day and age in which the only way to crown a top contender is through a convoluted series of matches or promos, Reigns stepping up to Goldberg and accepting his challenge was a nice change of pace.
Ditto The Fiend simply interrupting what appeared to be a Cena retirement angle and silently challenging him to a match. Cena accepted in kind and, badda bing, another headliner for 'Mania was established.
Again, there will be those who complain about the rather simplistic nature in which the matches were made and some who will event suggest WWE is out here just handing Reigns title shots now, but those fans are unlikely to be happy or content with any creative decision the company makes.
For those who have endured gimmick match after gimmick match to determine this top contender and that top contender, what we were presented Friday night was a much quicker and easier way to get there.
Puzzling Use of Sasha Banks Continues as She Returned in Her Hometown
Remember that time Sasha Banks disappeared from television for five months because of burnout and creative frustrations?
Remember when she came back, wrestled Becky Lynch in a great Hell in a Cell match and appeared to have momentum back on her side?
Pepperidge Farm remembers, but WWE Creative cannot seem to get out of its own way in regards to The Boss, who returned to SmackDown this week, in her hometown of Boston, and lost a tag team match to Naomi and Lacey Evans.
Yes, after weeks away because of injury, Banks returned not with a bang, but a whimper.
And that about sums up her experience in WWE from a creative standpoint.
Rather than being treated like the once-in-a-generation talent she has shown flashes of since her days in NXT, she continues to be misused and underutilized in head-scratching fashion. This week is just another example of the creative team's lack of devotion to the performer.
Even if she is a definitive member of the women's revolution and one of the more consistently great in-ring workers of her generation.
3-on-1 Handicap Match Threatens Heels' Credibility
Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro are a trio of wrestlers who have come together to create quite the fun little midcard heel faction. Unfortunately for them, both their credibility and legitimacy are threatened by a match announced for Elimination Chamber.
At the March 8 event, intercontinental champion Braun Strowman will defend his title against Zayn, Nakamura and Cesaro in a 3-on-1 Handicap match. It is unlikely The Monster Among Men will lose the match, and his title, thus calling into question why WWE Creative would sacrifice one of the few genuinely over midcard acts it has to do what amounts to putting Strowman over as an unstoppable force?
The problem is that Strowman has spent the last four years establishing that persona and character trait. We know he is a freight train of fury who can overcome any and all put before him. We do not need, some three years into his singles reign, to be reminded that he's a dominant badass.
Especially if it means taking away the heat the great Zayn has created for himself and his charges.
It feels like an unnecessary, overbooked match that easily could have been Strowman vs. Nakamura one last time. Especially after the staples the former champion had to receive at the conclusion of last week's Symphony of Destruction match.