AJ Styles Traded, Jeff Hardy's Redemption Story and More WWE SmackDown Fallout
The Intercontinental Championship Tournament took center stage on the May 22 edition of Friday Night SmackDown. This star-studded competition to decide the next secondary champion on the blue brand introduced new wrinkles with each match result.
AJ Styles defeated Shinsuke Nakamura in his return to the blue brand. The Phenomenal One adds so much to SmackDown, though he may be taking one too many stars away from Monday Night Raw.
Jeff Hardy took down his biggest detractor in Sheamus to advance in the tournament as well. His win was far from definitive, but it does set him up for a huge redemption angle if he wins the title.
In other championship news, Braun Strowman met the next challengers to the WWE Universal Championship. The Miz and John Morrison talked their way into a handicap match for the title at WWE Backlash, though they may not be happy with the result.
Bayley embarrassed Charlotte Flair by ruining her return to SmackDown. She defeated The Queen by roll up, declaring her status as the top champion in WWE.
This was a night of prospective champions and future successes. It felt like a show that could decide the full direction to Backlash.
AJ Styles Trade Changes Landscape of Friday Night SmackDown
Ahead of his first-round match in the WWE Intercontinental Championship Tournament with Shinsuke Nakamura, Michael Cole announced that AJ Styles had been traded to Friday Night SmackDown. He went on to defeat Nakamura in a physical competitive clash thanks to a Phenomenal Forearm.
It is a huge change for the blue brand to have The Phenomenal One. Styles has been one of WWE's biggest stars since he first arrived in WWE. He was treated like the world champion he was in every other company.
Given the limited rosters for both brands, it is surprising that WWE would move him without adding someone else at the same time to the Monday Night Raw roster.
At a later time, the compensation is supposed to be revealed, but it took WWE over half a year to reveal that Apollo Crews was the performer Raw got for trading away Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross.
The Phenomenal One may win this whole tournament. His second-round bout against Elias is an absolute win, and he would be the favorite against Daniel Bryan or Jeff Hardy. In some ways, Styles as WWE intercontinental champion could be seen as the true top champion of SmackDown.
He has always made the most of midcard title reigns. When Brock Lesnar was WWE universal champion, The Phenomenal One carried the brand as United States champion. It could be the same in this case despite Braun Strowman's presence every week.
He adds huge star power to an already impressive roster, even with Roman Reigns out for an extended period.
The Miz and John Morrison Will Only Suffer for Feud with Braun Strowman
The Miz and John Morrison made fun of Braun Strowman until The Monster Among Men came out to confront them. The Shaman of Sexy talked The A-Lister into a match with the WWE universal champion. While Miz lost, Morrison convinced Strowman to agree to a two-on-one handicap match for WWE Backlash.
Miz and Morrison have been telling bad jokes and underperforming since losing the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. The two are great individually and collectively, but the writing is not going anywhere.
This feud with The Monster Among Men will go similar to Strowman's rivalry with Sheamus and Cesaro. He is always booked to squash tag teams. He will make both men look lesser despite their championship pedigree.
WWE may be delaying the rematch of Strowman and Bray Wyatt, but there had to be better challengers for the WWE universal champion. He could have faced off against Sheamus or Jeff Hardy and still come out on top with more potential stakes.
The Dirt Sheet hosts are floundering, and this will not help. It is not the first time nor will it be the last time the two will be treated like jobbers as a unit but likely dominate apart.
Bayley Has Found His Stride as a Heel
Charlotte Flair may have been confident in her return to SmackDown, but Bayley had a plan. The Role Model ran from The Queen and hit a few key strikes to wear her opponent down. She stole the win with a roll up and a hand on the ropes. She happily celebrated defeating the NXT women's champion with Sasha Banks.
From the moment Bayley turned heel, it was hard to say where the story would lead. She had been a babyface for so long. It was right to make a change, but she had to prove she could handle a fresh character.
It has been easy to forget the first few rocky months now that she has hit her groove. The trash talking of The Role Model rivals anyone else in the business. She is confident and mischievous in the best ways. She revels in her intelligence.
It is also leading perfectly to Sasha Banks eventually turning against her overconfident friend. This is the best run of Bayley since she debuted on Monday Night Raw. This is the closest anyone watching only Raw and SmackDown has gotten to seeing Bayley at her NXT best.
The blue brand needed a dominant champion like Bayley, and she is making it work. She had a great match with Charlotte. She pulled a solid match out of Tamina. She is the most entertaining champion on the brand. She is thriving in the best ways.
Jeff Hardy's Redemption Story Already Feels Contrived
Sheamus wanted to ruin Jeff Hardy's redemption story, and he looked poised to do so in the main event. However, The Charismatic Enigma refused to stay down. He ducked a Brogue Kick and caught The Celtic Warrior with a roll up for three to advance in the Intercontinental Championship Tournament.
Hardy is a solid performer and one of the biggest stars WWE has ever had, but this whole angle with The Charismatic Enigma is not working. His redemption story has been attempted too many times.
Sheamus was set up purely to be his first obstacle. Hardy overcame him in a way that did not feel much like a victory. It would have made more sense for him to defeat Sheamus with a Swanton Bomb if he is truly making his way back to the top.
The Charismatic Enigma will never be as big as he should be. He has crowd support at a level few could ever manage, but he can never be trusted to deliver on it.
If the plan is for him to win his fifth Intercontinental Championship as his redemption, no one will buy it for long. He has to show more, but he may be too broken down to show what he needs to feel like a big star again.