Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns, Murphy Returns, More WWE SmackDown Fallout
Friday's edition of SmackDown did not live up to the enormous hype the blue brand has carried in recent months. The booking seemed to lack focus, with multiple segments stretched far too long.
However, there was a massive bright spot in the form of Daniel Bryan. The Planet's Champion has looked spectacular lately, working at his best on the Road to WrestleMania. He and Jey Uso stole the show in the main event.
Apollo Crews has also been an integral part of recent SmackDowns. He cut his best promo yet, but the moment was marred by the presentation. His heel persona is too quickly molding into a stereotype on a level that could ruin his best efforts.
Murphy made his return without much to show for the effort. He teased returning to Seth Rollins' side despite everything that happened before he left, and he found himself on the wrong end of a squash.
The first match announced for WWE Fastlane on March 21 was Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler putting the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship on the line against Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair again. This continues to show WWE's aversion to building the women's tag team division organically.
SmackDown was dominated by important moments, building toward the final major WWE show before WrestleMania. Not all of it was good, but there was plenty to learn from.
Daniel Bryan Could Add New Wrinkle to WrestleMania Main Event
WrestleMania just got complicated. Daniel Bryan defeated Jey Uso in the main event to earn an opportunity at the WWE Championship at Fastlane. This great main event was the highlight of the show in many ways, setting the stage for an interesting dynamic for WrestleMania.
It would be a shock if The Head of the Table did not main-event The Show of Shows as universal champion. However, Bryan has been so involved in this story that it would be a waste not to keep him involved.
Reigns vs. Edge is a big-time match, but you cannot go wrong by adding in one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. It would be a great moment for The Planet's Champion, competing in one last WrestleMania main event.
WWE could set this up in numerous ways. If Reigns were to get himself intentionally disqualified or counted out, he would sell his fear of Bryan and convince officials to give Bryan one more opportunity. If The Rated-R Superstar were to screw The Planet's Champion, it would set up a fascinating dynamic as well.
The SmackDown main event scene is in a unique place. The main event is already set, yet Bryan's presence is so overwhelming. It is difficult to discount the idea that he would make the show better by competing in that main event spot.
Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler vs. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair 2 Makes No Sense
Earlier in the day, WWE officially announced the first match for Fastlane: Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler vs. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair for the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships.
We have already seen this match on a major stage. The heels' victory was not clean, but it was what it needed to be in order to move on. Jax and Baszler have multiple rivals already lined up. Lana and Naomi are still owed a title shot.
Wednesday's edition of NXT featured a screwjob finish that saw Adam Pearce help The Queen of Spades and The Irresistible Force retain in dubious fashion. While NXT stars do not typically fight on WWE pay-per-views, that finish presented a great opportunity for cross-brand promotion.
There is no story left in Banks and Belair getting a second shot when so many other women have never gotten one. WWE continues to mishandle the women's tag team division without recognizing any of its mistakes.
At the very least, a tag team needs to be added to the title contest. It could be Charlotte Flair and a partner, though the more logical option would be Lana and Naomi. Something needs to be done to make this match interesting.
Murphy Remains Wasted Since Moving from 205 Live
Murphy returned to television Friday after several months away. Aalyah was not at his side, and he was already offering to reunite with Seth Rollins. He tried to deal with Cesaro but was squashed and forced to tap out.
This was about as bad as Murphy's return to SmackDown could have gone. After his story with Aalyah was quietly dropped off-screen, he has returned to a story that saw him playing second fiddle for the past year.
The Best Kept Secret was one of the standouts of 205 Live. Alongside Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali, he made the cruiserweight division relevant in a way no one expected. However, none of the three have thrived on the main roster.
Both Alexander and Ali had to turn heel to remain relevant, and their positions remain tenuous. Murphy has had far less success than that, only getting a spotlight when he allied with the Mysterios. It is a massive disappointment to see him return to the role of lackey who cannot win a match.
While The Swiss Cyborg has been protected recently, he did not need to squash Murphy in his return to television. The Best Kept Secret could have at least been allowed to look competitive.
Apollo Crews Heel Turn Is Verging Too Far into Stereotype
Apollo Crews walked in with a spear, flanked by two men in military garb, and explained why he has been keeping his true self contained to please the fans. He demanded a shot at the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
This was an emphatic promo, the best of Crews' career. It is a shame, then, that it was marred by the embarrassing presentation. The spear Crews was carrying alongside his fake accent set him up for failure, creating the stereotype of what WWE wants a man embracing his Nigerian roots to look be.
He did everything in his power to sell it, and he mostly succeeded. It is just disheartening that WWE cannot just let Crews be himself. WWE is attempting to sell Crews as a heel by the way he embraces his heritage.
The whole idea behind this screams of cultural insensitivity. If all of Crews' good work is boiled down to the fact that he has a spear and an accent that is not his, it will turn the whole presentation into an uncomfortable farce.
Big E vs. Crews has suddenly become a special feud. There is a chance that the next time the two fight, it will be at Fastlane with actual hype behind it. That should not be wasted.