Quick Takes: Alexa Bliss Helping the Fiend, Jericho vs. Orange Cassidy, MoreAugust 9, 2020
Quick Takes: Alexa Bliss Helping the Fiend, Jericho vs. Orange Cassidy, More
Of the many things that have helped improve the overall quality of Friday Night SmackDown in recent weeks, The Fiend targeting Alexa Bliss has arguably been the most compelling.
Bray Wyatt's evil alter ego has gone after Bliss in shocking fashion for two shows straight, but the endgame remains unclear aside from The Fiend challenging Braun Strowman for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam. There is a decent chance it culminates in Bliss becoming a part of Wyatt's act, which may be the best thing that could happen to either one of them.
It will be interesting to see where WWE goes with them next, much like the Raw Underground concept that debuted Monday night. It received mixed reviews from fans and is obviously the company's latest attempt to boost Raw's dwindling ratings, but whether it will work long term is the main question.
In the meantime, fans have the heavily touted rematch between Chris Jericho and Orange Cassidy to look forward to on Wednesday's edition of Dynamite. It could well go either way, especially coming off their excellent debate segment that effectively built toward their encounter and featured Cassidy's strongest mic work to date.
Cassidy's critically acclaimed promo and Matt Hardy's intriguing announcement were among the highlights of All Elite Wrestling Dynamite's latest edition and will both be discussed in depth in this installment of Quick Takes. Other topics include NXT's latest "last chance" gimmick, Bliss' future with The Fiend and more.
How Alexa Bliss Aligning with The Fiend Can Help Rejuvenate Both of Their Acts
The conclusion of the final SmackDown of July, with The Fiend attacking Alexa Bliss with the Mandible Claw, was one of the most intriguing endings to the show for many months. The follow-up Friday night was even better, with Bliss stopping The Fiend from doing it again and The Fiend consequently acting conflicted.
It was clear during that initial angle that Bray Wyatt's goal was to lure Braun Strowman back to the blue brand and convince him to put the Universal Championship on the line at SummerSlam. However, Strowman revealed that he couldn't care less about Bliss despite their history from 2018's Mixed Match Challenge.
Unless he later reveals he lied in order to stop The Fiend from going after Bliss, it would seem that the former Raw and SmackDown Women's champion has no reason to want to help him. Instead, aligning herself with the maniacal Wyatt to get back at The Monster Among Men might be in her best interest.
After all, Bliss has been spinning her wheels in her tag team with Nikki Cross since losing the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship in May and desperately needs something new to sink her teeth into. Cross has been teasing tension with Bliss lately anyway, and this would be the perfect way to break them up.
Bliss should by no means become Sister Abigail or whatever she's supposed to represent, but The Fiend having her by his side would make for a captivating dynamic. Considering Wyatt has always worked better leading other people (a la The Wyatt Family), brainwashing Bliss to be his new partner in crime would be brilliant.
Look for Five Feet of Fury to cost Strowman the universal title at SummerSlam as revenge for his recent comments about her and hopefully forge a friendship with The Fiend in the process.
Raw Underground Is WWE's Latest Attempt to Boost Ratings, but Will It Work?
The debut of Raw Underground on Monday's Raw—along with the arrival of new faction Retribution—was no coincidence with Raw ratings continuing to drop. The company's desperation to bring back viewers couldn't be more obvious with how both things were touted ahead of time.
The Retribution angle will need to play out a bit more before fans can get a good idea as to what it's supposed to be about, but Raw Underground at least showed some promise on Night 1.
On the surface, it's easy to draw similarities between Raw Underground and The Brawl for All with how both relied on realistic fighting to entice people to tune in, but that's where the similarities stop. Wrestlers were legitimately hurt during The Brawl for All because it was a ridiculously dumb concept, whereas Raw Underground is simply a staged spin on the UFC with a few other elements thrown in.
If nothing else, it's an intriguing idea that could last a long time depending on how it's handled. It's different from everything else on Raw, and that's an automatic plus.
The ending to Raw Underground on Monday night was especially excellent, as The Hurt Business brutalized everyone in sight. That showed that it should be used to introduce new faces, get Superstars over and re-establish others as credible fighting machines, such as the trio of MVP, Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin.
Shane McMahon's involvement will be interesting to follow as well given how overexposed he was on WWE TV a year ago. It's been long enough since we last saw him in a regular role that he could be a great fit as Raw Underground host given his skill set.
Then again, the concept could easily be dropped sooner rather than later if it doesn't immediately pay dividends ratings-wise. Only time will tell as to the concept's shelf life, but Raw Underground has the makings to be something special if it continues to evolve and isn't run into the ground.
Orange Cassidy Does Best Work to Date in Dynamite Debate with Chris Jericho
Orange Cassidy was cast off by a portion of AEW fans soon after his debut because of how polarizing his one-dimensional gimmick can be. To the company's credit, he has been built up fairly well over the past year and is at a point that he can be taken seriously against some of AEW's biggest names, including Chris Jericho.
Their heated rivalry has been a recurring highlight on AEW programming since it started at May's Double or Nothing pay-per-view. In fact, Jericho went so far as to call his initial in-ring encounter with Cassidy on Night 2 of Fyter Fest "one of the best matches I've had in my 30-year career" on Instagram.
Whether their rematch will be able to top it is unknown, but what is for certain is that their latest interaction on Wednesday's Dynamite saw Cassidy shine brighter than he has at any other point in his AEW career.
The promo he cut on Jericho was completely out of character, which was exactly why it worked. He vowed to embarrass him in their match and that he has everything to gain from beating the inaugural AEW world champion.
The outcome is much more unpredictable this time around because of the story they have been telling with their feud. Regardless of the result, this is the type of evolution Cassidy needs more of to prevent his popular act from growing stale.
As for Jericho, you can always count on Le Champion to make a star out of just about anybody. This program has been proof of that.
NXT's 'Last Chance' Concept Renders Qualifying Matches Meaningless
It was revealed on Wednesday's NXT that in addition to a Triple Threat match, the remaining two spots in the NXT North American Championship ladder matchup at NXT TakeOver XXX will be decided by qualifying matches consisting of the wrestlers who were not pinned in the previous ones.
If that sounds familiar, it's because NXT did something similar earlier this year with the women who failed to qualify for the NXT Women's Championship No. 1 contender's ladder match back in April. The losers of each qualifying matchup entered a Gauntlet match that was won by Dakota Kai.
It's as silly of an idea now as it was then because of how it defeats the purpose of holding qualifiers in the first place.
Although it is true that several Superstars didn't factor into the finish of these Triple Threats, there can be no denying that they lost fair and square. Giving these stars another chance to qualify essentially sends the message that it's acceptable to lose knowing there is a second chance awaiting them.
It isn't a major problem, but it's something NXT should avoid doing again in the future. It would also be wise for the black-and-gold brand to keep ladder matches special by not holding one every few months.
That said, these hiccups in booking will all be worth it if the matchup steals the show at TakeOver XXX, as it has the potential to.
Is It Too Soon for Matt Hardy to Be Dropping His Various Characters?
Matt Hardy's recent announcement that he'll be moving on from his various characters took fans by surprise. The ability to use said characters seemed to be one of the biggest reasons he left WWE for AEW earlier this year, but without an audience, it hasn't been the same.
The master of the multiverse made it clear on Dynamite that he plans on being plain old Matthew Hardy for the foreseeable future. He was then viciously ambushed by Sammy Guevara, so at least he'll have direction going forward.
What's interesting is that Hardy was himself as recently as February, right before he departed WWE. He cut excellent promos back-to-back weeks on Raw while confronting Randy Orton and showed fantastic fire on the mic, much like he did while addressing Guevara on Wednesday night.
While Hardy has been more compelling playing a character in recent years, he's also been exceptional just by being himself. Additionally, it's smart for him to save his Broken Matt and Big Money Matt material for when there are crowds again so he doesn't wear out his welcome in those guises.
As disappointing as it is to see him put a temporary end to all of his wacky gimmicks, he has what it takes to continue doing terrific work as he enters the twilight of his career.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.