WWE Embraces Controversy with Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus, More SmackDown Fallout
Never underestimate WWE's willingness to take a person's real-life issues and make them the centerpiece of an on-screen storyline, as witnessed in the latest chapter of the Jeff Hardy-Sheamus feud that unfolded on Friday's SmackDown.
The latest in the escalating rivalry between former WWE champions was among the biggest takeaways from a show that further diminished the significance of a Universal Championship that could not possibly be at the center of a colder feud.
The show also featured the crowning of new women's tag team champions in a bit of creative completely counterproductive to what was being accomplished on Raw.
Dive deeper into each of those topics with this recap of the June 5 Fox broadcast.
WWE Does Not Shy Away from Controversy of Hardy-Sheamus Feud
WWE continued with the more personal elements of the Jeff Hardy-Sheamus feud after the response to last week's "crash TV"-style angle that saw Hardy accused of a drunk driving incident that injured Elias. In the opening segment of Friday's SmackDown, Hardy spoke on his sobriety and his ordeal at the police station.
Sheamus again referred to Hardy as a junkie whose wife and daughters are used to daddy's destructive behavior before a brawl broke out between them. The Celtic Warrior stood tall this time, ensuring the program will continue.
WWE had unabashedly embraced the controversy surrounding the storyline.
The writing team clearly has zero problems dredging up the skeletons in Hardy's closet and exploring them for storyline purposes. While that may turn many off the feud, the performer in question would be able to take exception to the company's use of their real-life struggles for entertainment purposes.
He has not, the car accident angle lit up social media last week, and the result will be more of the same until Hardy, or ratings, dictate otherwise.
Universal Championship Feud Turns into a Joke on Back of Sophomoric Pranks
As if switching the Universal Championship from part-timer to part-timer, then putting it on a guy who was not even near the top of the card at WrestleMania was not enough, WWE Creative continued its goal of diminishing the significance of said title this week. It became an afterthought in a series of sophomoric pranks by John Morrison and The Miz at the expense of Braun Strowman (and poor Kayla Braxton).
There were sabotaged protein shakes and green slime before the dastardly villains, straight out of an unfunny 1990s kid show on Disney Channel, broke the windshield of Strowman's prized car.
How did The Monster Among Men react? Like someone whose car was way more important to him the title.
He tipped over the van Miz and Morrison hid out in, and in that one moment, he rendered the upcoming Handicap Match for the Universal Championship against them meaningless.
Why should anyone believe in the challengers, or care about them, if Strowman can just overturn an entire freaking van with them in it? Does anyone think the former tag team champions can compete with that amount of fury and raw power?
Especially when the best they could throw at the mountain man with the gold is a few pranks that even the kiddos at home would struggle to find amusing?
There will be some who say, "come on, lighten up; it was harmless fun."
Maybe, but we all should demand more from a feud centered around a heavyweight title. Especially when said title has been the centerpiece of so many hugely terrible booking decisions already.
WWE Creative Books Itself into a Corner with Women's Tag Team Championships
There is just something right about Sasha Banks and Bayley winning the Women's Tag Team Championships.
The first champions, they regained the gold Friday night in the main event of SmackDown, defeating Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. This, despite mounting tension and booking that suggested an upcoming babyface turn for The Boss.
While the best friends capturing the gold may feel right, WWE Creative has booked itself into a corner with its latest decision.
Bliss and Cross had, as recently as Monday, been engaged in an intensifying rivalry with The IIconics over the tag team gold. The red brand writing team had spent weeks telling that story and appeared to be en route to Backlash, where it would pay things off, presumably with Billie Kay and Peyton Royce regaining the gold.
That is, until Bayley and Banks' triumph.
If WWE history is any indication, WWE Creative will likely book a Triple Threat Match for the upcoming Backlash event, and one of two things will happen: Bayley and Banks lose the gold right after winning it (again) or The IIconics lose and find their path in question (again).
Kay and Royce just came back from a long hiatus and had been building momentum and credibility for themselves. A loss in a high-profile PPV match would seemingly unravel everything they have accomplished to this point, leaving many to question why WWE Creative even opted to bring them back and start the feud with Cross and Bliss if there was no clear endgame in sight for either of those two teams.
Meanwhile, the entire SmackDown women's division has been built around Bayley and Banks. Having them lose the gold after a week for the second time hurts their momentum and leaves fans wondering why the title change needed to happen in the first place.
WWE has a tendency to do this, switching titles around for the sake of doing it, but not necessarily considering the consequences of doing so for the talent involved.
If anything, it will be interesting to see which option the company takes, not to mention the repercussions from the fallout.