Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy Bores, John Morrison Wasted, More WWE SmackDown Fallout
Adjusting to a limited roster, Friday's edition of SmackDown gave the talent time to shine. A pair of great matches opened the show and set the tone for the night.
Matt Riddle battled John Morrison in an impressive athletic showcase wherein both men pulled out some of their best offense. It was the best The Shaman of Sexy has looked since returning at the start of the year and showed why he deserves better.
Drew Gulak got an Intercontinental Championship match against AJ Styles. He fought valiantly against the champion, falling only after a Styles Clash and Phenomenal Forearm. The Philadelphia Stretcher proved he is ready for brighter lights.
Shinsuke Nakamura put on a solid performance against Kofi Kingston that ended with an emphatic victory. That gave him and Cesaro all the momentum in the world ahead of their showdown with The New Day for the tag team titles.
The main event shifted from the wrestling focus to an awkward segment between Sheamus and Jeff Hardy. Both men lumbered through a forgettable promo that led to nothing but wasted time.
However, on the whole, the broadcast showcased SmackDown's finest. Pure in-ring action dominated the airtime, and the blue brand benefited from the focus.
Sheamus and Jeff Hardy Are Circling with No Interesting End in Sight
Sheamus did not show up for his toast to Jeff Hardy. Instead, he appeared live from his home with a glass in hand. He told The Charismatic Enigma to take a bottle and drink. Jeff took out his frustrations on the bartender, covering him in alcohol, smashing a bottle on his head and hitting a Swanton Bomb.
This was at least a less cringe-inducing segment than other recent moments, but it lacked any sense of progression. It was useless. Once again, Sheamus aggravated Hardy. Nothing was developed beyond reminding everyone the story was still going.
The sooner both men can get out of this story, the better. It is turning Sheamus back into the bully heel who became a forgettable Brogue Kick machine for most of the past decade. It is doing Hardy no favors to have him talk more than he wrestles, and he's not in shape for either anymore.
The Celtic Warrior has more left in him as a performer. The Charismatic Enigma is likely in the final years of his career. Neither needs to be falling into their worst traits.
If Hardy is going to show he has overcome his demons, he needs to do so outside of a WWE storyline. He needs to earn the trust of the fans and officials without bloated melodrama.
John Morrison Continues to Outperform His Spot on the Card
Matt Riddle talked about his upset victory over AJ Styles before King Corbin interrupted. The two got into an argument that led to Corbin volunteering John Morrison to fight The Original Bro, and Riddle managed to roll up The Shaman of Sexy for another big three-count.
While he and The Miz have found a niche on Friday Night SmackDown, it is a waste of Morrison's talent to have him stuck in a comedy angle. The A-Lister deserves better as well, but his career has always gone up and down based on opportunity.
This is Morrison's return to WWE. He needed a bigger spotlight from the start. Miz helped reintroduce him to the WWE Universe. Now he needs to spread his wings.
He has pulled out great performances recently against some of the best in the business. He can work 15-minute matches every week. If there is any chance for him to capture the fire he had outside WWE, he needs to be handed those opportunities.
As it is, he is just one more wasted talent on a bloated roster. It is a wonder that he seems content in the role after headlining in every other promotion he worked for.
Drew Gulak Is on the Precipice of a Deserved Breakout
Drew Gulak finally got his chance to challenge AJ Styles, and Daniel Bryan's coach pushed The Phenomenal One to his limit in a long battle for the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
This was the first time Gulak has been allowed to look this good outside his matches with Daniel Bryan. It was a great technical showing that kept the energy high. The only problem is that The Philadelphia Stretcher remains too far down the card to look credible enough to defeat The Phenomenal One.
However, this performance felt like the beginning of a special run for Gulak. He continues to overdeliver in big moments. The next time he's in the ring, he will likely win. Whoever he is fighting will fall to his best offense, showing that he is ready to step up.
Obviously, he is ready. Gulak has long been one of the most talented and charismatic men in WWE. He just needed the right chance. His alliance with Bryan was the first but not the last step.
Given the interactions between Bryan, Gulak and Matt Riddle, it seems likely The Original Bro will join this alliance. That will elevate all three men to new heights.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro Should Dethrone The New Day
Continuing a recent hot streak, Shinsuke Nakamura went after Kofi Kingston from the opening bell in this singles encounter. The Artist ducked the Trouble in Paradise and hit the Kinshasa for the victory. Big E ran off Cesaro and Nakamura before more damage could be done to Kofi.
Few men have had more ups and downs in WWE than Cesaro and Nakamura. Brief moments that saw them rise near the top have always been followed by falls back down the card. Until this recent feud with New Day, they barely appeared on television.
If the heels lose their SmackDown Tag Team Championship match on the next edition of SmackDown, they may not recover for months. This is the time to pull the trigger. They will deliver. The Swiss Cyborg has a track record as a six-time tag team champion, and The Artist works best when someone can spell him in the ring.
Kofi and Big E will likely regain the titles again down the line. But Cesaro and Nakamura have put in the work, and the story is right. These two have New Day's number.
Even though this was likely not the expected story a few months back, circumstances have set the stage for a title change. It's time for Cesaro and Nakamura to shine.