Quick Takes: Samoa Joe's NXT Return, WWE Hell in a Cell, AEW's Brian Cage, More
Exactly two months removed from receiving his release from WWE, Samoa Joe returned to NXT on Tuesday's episode, drastically changing the landscape of the black-and-gold brand in the process.
Despite delivering a quality TakeOver event June 13, NXT still felt like it was lacking a certain spark. The Samoan Submission Machine's shocking comeback gives the show more of a must-see feel and gets its summer season off to an exciting start.
The moment was made special by the live crowd's raucous reaction, something that will be missing from Sunday's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. With WWE hitting the road again in July, the company should look to close out the ThunderDome era with an above-average event.
All Elite Wrestling's been in a similar boat in not having hosted an overly newsworthy show in recent weeks, though Brian Cage seemingly parting ways with Team Taz has been an interesting development. Although his face turn has been slowly built over time, it may prove to be the wrong call for everyone involved in in the long run.
This installment of Quick Takes will discuss why it's too soon for Cage to be leaving Team Taz, Roman Reigns vs. Rey Mysterio being shifted from Hell in a Cell to SmackDown, Eva Marie's Raw return being exactly what it needed to be and more.
Hell in a Cell Should Close Out WWE's ThunderDome Era on a High Note
Although WWE's pay-per-views have suffered from not having fans in the building over the past year, they have largely been solid shows from an in-ring standpoint. With what's on tap, Hell in a Cell should be no exception.
That said, WWE should make an extra effort to ensure it's an above-average event with it being the last to emanate at the ThunderDome before the company returns to the road in July over Money in the Bank weekend.
One of the strengths of these pandemic pay-per-views is that they have run around three hours and haven't overstayed their welcome. There has also been more of an emphasis on the wrestling, which should hopefully continue to be the case post-ThunderDome era.
With Hell in a Cell specifically, it's a promising card, boasting three big bouts each from Raw and SmackDown. Both titular matches should be excellent, and the rest of the lineup has potential.
For all of the creative faults Raw and SmackDown have had over the past year, WWE's monthly specials haven't been part of the problem. Carrying over the momentum they generate to the weekly product should be considered a top priority once touring resumes.
Even if no titles change hands at Hell in a Cell, it will be tough for the show to be anything less than enjoyable.
Reigns vs. Mysterio Exemplifies WWE's Concerning Day-to-Day Decision-Making
One match that won't be taking place at Hell in a Cell on Sunday is Roman Reigns vs. Rey Mysterio for the Universal Championship, as it was bumped from the pay-per-view to Friday's SmackDown one night prior following an announcement on WWE's social media.
It ended up being a blast of a main event, which concluded with Reigns successfully retaining his title. Unfortunately, that leaves the pay-per-view without one of its originally advertised attractions.
Regardless of the reason behind the change—and it should be noted that the rating for the show increased from the week prior, per Joshua Gagnon of Wrestling Inc—it's yet another example of ad hoc booking from WWE.
Reigns vs. Mysterio had no business being a Hell in a Cell match to begin with because the storyline started just two weeks ago. Bianca Belair vs. Bayley could have been announced as a Hell in a Cell match from the get-go, and few fans would have questioned it because of how long the two have been feuding.
SmackDown is superior to Raw more often than not, but there are some of the same questionable calls being made, such as making major matches official less than a day before they are supposed to happen. These are issues that can easily avoided but have plagued the product for too long, to the point it's increasingly difficult for fans to stay invested.
Brian Cage Parting Ways with Team Taz Is Premature
Team Taz has a ton of talent in its ranks yet is already showing signs of dissension less than a year after the group's formation. Of all the factions in AEW, they should have outlasted most of them in their current form.
That isn't to say the faction will break up with Brian Cage seemingly on the outs with the rest of Team Taz, but his departure is disappointing. He was just starting to hit his stride alongside Ricky Starks, Powerhouse Hobbs and Taz when AEW put him on track to turn face instead.
Cage has proved in the past, most notably during his stints in Impact and Lucha Underground, that he can work well in the babyface role. He will have no problem getting over with the audience when AEW returns to the road full-time in July, but there was no reason for him to branch off on his own so soon.
There was much more for Team Taz to accomplish as a unit before the inevitable split. Cage may fare well by himself, but with Lance Archer already occupying a similar spot on the roster, it's unknown how much higher on the card he will actually go.
With Cage gone and Starks out injured for the foreseeable future, Team Taz is significantly weaker, which is a shame given how high their ceiling was when they initially joined forces. It feels like there is little to be gained from Cage severing ties with Taz at this time.
Eva Marie's Raw Return Was Exactly What It Needed to Be
Eva Marie's return to Raw was heavily promoted by WWE for more than two months, and on Monday's edition, it looked like she was finally going to resurface in the ring before WWE went in a different direction with her instead.
Although she was advertised to go one-on-one with Naomi, the former Piper Niven was revealed as her replacement at the last minute and proceeded to squash the two-time SmackDown Women's champion. She wasn't referred to as Piper Niven by the commentators, but regardless of what she goes by going forward, she's in a prime position to shine in the Raw women's division.
Before linking up with Eva, Niven was toiling away over in NXT UK, having fallen short of becoming NXT UK women's champion on multiple occasions. She clearly wasn't in line to win the title at any point and thus a move over to Monday nights can't be seen as anything but a positive for her career.
Better yet, it appears Eva won't be a regular in the ring during her latest stint with the company, similar to how she was booked the last time she was on TV in 2016. If Niven is going to be doing most of the wrestling for her, then that will both add to Eva's heat and give Niven additional exposure.
Eva should by no means be next in line for a shot at the Raw Women's Championship, but if this act is used as a vehicle to establish credibility for Niven and get her over, then it will be worthwhile.
Samoa Joe's Return Was the Shot in the Arm WWE NXT Desperately Needed
Just when some fans were starting to lose faith in NXT and its creative direction, the black-and-gold injected new life into the show on Tuesday with the heavily speculated return of Samoa Joe.
Joe was reintroduced not as a competitor but rather as an executive enforcer of sorts for NXT general manager William Regal. While Regal was quick to mention that he couldn't wrestle as long as served alongside him, he added that he could get physical with the talent if provoked.
Between his confrontation with Karrion Kross and putting Adam Cole to sleep backstage, the two-time NXT champion's reign as an authority figure got off to a strong start. There's no word on whether he will lace up the boots again, but it can't be considered out of the question.
Either way, Joe's shocking comeback was easily among the strongest segments on NXT TV all year. For too long, the show has felt formulaic and the opposite of must-see programming. But Joe's involvement again should help solve that problem.
The rest of the show was great as well, but whether NXT can maintain his momentum in the weeks and months ahead is what's key. The brand has needed to go back to its roots as a simple yet exciting television show for many months, and this latest development may prove to be the catalyst for change a majority of the audience has been begging for.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.