Cesaro, Seth Rollins Start New Paths to WrestleMania, More WWE SmackDown Fallout
In preparation for WWE Elimination Chamber, the February 12 edition of Friday Night SmackDown featured major build-up to the event including multiple qualifiers for the Chamber match that would crown the next No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship.
This show did everything in its power to get excited about the rushed card, including highlighting rising veterans. No one perhaps was better showcased in that regard than Cesaro.
The Swiss Cyborg won in the main event alongside Daniel Bryan against the SmackDown tag team champion Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. Cesaro fought through in a wrestling match of all pure veterans, battling through injury to earn a potential future shot at Roman Reigns.
Seth Rollins gave Cesaro more to think about after attacking The Swiss Cyborg in his return to SmackDown. With new music and a refreshed mindset, The Messiah offered the ultimate opportunity to anyone to join him on his quest to the top.
Shinsuke Nakamura got his own opportunity by challenging Big E for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. While the match was inconclusive, WWE has seemed to quietly sweep The Artist under the rug despite a brief unfulfilled resurgence.
The division left out of the excitement was the women's division. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair fought Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler, but The Legit Boss, The EST and more should have been potentially competing inside one of WWE"s most exciting structures.
While not everything landed as well as expected, this February edition of the blue brand set up some interesting discussions for WWE's immediate future.
Cesaro Set Up as Unlikely but Perfect Challenger to Roman Reigns
Cesaro may be one of the most naturally gifted athletes to ever step into a WWE ring. Many backstage have stated their admiration for The Swiss Cyborg, who does things no one else could even hope to accomplish.
However, his perceived lack of ability on the mic has held him back. Cesaro is a better talker than he is sometimes given credit for, and his quiet charisma show through in his popularity.
The problem is that The Swiss Cyborg does not scream star. He is not someone WWE will put in the main event of WrestleMania. That should not stop him from getting major opportunities the rest of his WWE career, especially after an incredible run as a tag team wrestler with multiple partners.
WWE set up this WWE Elimination Chamber match for fresh faces to emerge. If the same man that wins the Chamber gets to challenge Roman Reigns on the same night, the challenger has to have the stamina to stand up to a long grueling pair of matches.
Cesaro is perfectly suited for that. He and The Head of the Table are certain to make a splash together. WWE does not have to worry about "selling tickets" as the contest does not need any build. The company should go with the best performer possible.
Daniel Bryan and Kevin Owens make more sense, but Reigns vs. KO has run its course while Reigns vs. Bryan is a match for a larger stage. This was made for Cesaro, and there's always a chance he could pull off the upset and get a nice one-month run as champion until WWE Fastlane.
Shinsuke Nakamura Has Earned More Than He Is Getting
Shinsuke Nakamura earned a title shot against Roman Reigns in a gauntlet match WWE has quietly ignored. While the end result was Adam Pearce "winning", The Artist clearly deserved an opportunity he is not getting.
It is riduclous that The Artist is not in the Elimination Chamber while Kevin Owens gets his fifth opportunity. He defeated Jey Uso recently, but Nakamura is still playing second fiddle to The Head of the Table's lackey. It is remarkable that all the build was for nothing.
Nakamura did get a chance this week to challenge Big E for the WWE Intercontinental Championship, but he has held that title before. This also is not the right time to dethrone Big E. The New Day big man just began this important run with the gold.
The 40-year-old veteran has not always worked at his best in WWE, but his recent performers have been several steps above the norm. He has looked like his old self, especially against stars like Daniel Bryan and Uso.
Cesaro has risen past him so quickly that fans may not even get to see the two former partners fight. It is a shame that WWE could put so much momentum behind a star than so easily fail to deliver.
The only real light at the end of the tunnel is that WWE could have some plan that intertwine Nakamura, Cesaro, Bryan and Seth Rollins at WrestleMania.
Seth Rollins Returns with Old Music but Same Attitude
Seth Rollins' return started out with a familiar sound, playing the Burn It Down theme that he used in his rise to the top of the mountain. It seemed like The Messiah might be returning to a past persona too, but instead he continued to cut the same arrogant promos he has for the past year.
This is not inherently a bad thing. Rollins has been better as The Messiah than he ever was as a babyface on the mic. He still has more story to tell as the dangerous cult leader. However, it remains to be seen what he will do now that he is back.
His attack of Cesaro could be setting up something in the future with The Swiss Cyborg, especially since it is unlikely Cesaro will be champion at WrestleMania. Rollins is a good tag team wrestler, and Cesaro is one of the absolute best. The alliance could work as could a rivalry.
Add in Daniel Bryan and even Shinsuke Nakamura, and this is a wealth of talent in the mix. How it all shakes out remains to be seen. The stories on SmackDown have been difficult to predict week to week in a way WWE rarely feels unpredictable.
It is great to have one of the best of the modern era back in a WWE ring. What matters now is not falling into the same trap of telling the same story with The Messiah for the next year.
The Women's Roster Deserved an Elimination Chamber
The main men's stories are all interconnected on SmackDown, looking toward a massive Elimination Chamber match. Even the men's tag team division got involved in the chaos. It was the women's division left out in the cold.
Bianca Belair remains undecided on who she will challenge at WrestleMania, leaving open the door for many stories to tell at WWE Elimination Chamber. Sasha Banks could put her title on the line, or her challengers could fight for a title opportunity inside the steel structure.
The same would be true of Raw's women's division. So much talent is in the mix on the blue and red brand. Why does it feel like the women are getting the short end of the stick?
Last year's WWE Elimination Chamber felt like an after-thought. Neither the WWE Championship or Universal Championship were on the line. The Chamber matches were focused on the SmackDown Tag Team Championships and the Raw Women's Championship.
Even still, because of that main event Chamber match for the women, that 2020 show will likely give more of a positive spotlight to WWE than the 2021 edition will. The Road to WrestleMania should be a serious opportunity for all wrestlers in WWE.
The best that WWE could muster was Asuka vs. Lacey Evans and seemingly Belair and Banks vs. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler, even though the WWE women's tag team champions already have future challengers in Naomi and Lana as well as the winner of the women's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.