Quick Takes on Malakai Black's AEW Debut, WWE NXT Call-Ups, Baron Corbin, More
All Elite Wrestling kicked off its return to the road in a major way with a white-hot edition of Dynamite on Wednesday night, highlighted by the shocking debut of one Malakai Black.
Fans always expected the artist formerly known as Aleister Black in WWE and Tommy End on the independent scene to be AEW bound by September. However, no one knew he'd be signing up so soon—and his premiere appearance couldn't have been booked better.
It was an equally newsworthy week for WWE SmackDown, which featured the arrival of three standouts from NXT. Shotzi Blackheart, Tegan Nox and Toni Storm will all make for excellent additions to the blue brand's depleted women's division, especially in the absence of the now-injured Bayley.
Friday's SmackDown also saw the latest chapter of Baron Corbin's new storyline. The former United States champion and Money in the Bank winner has been down on his luck since losing his King of the Ring crown to Shinsuke Nakamura, and the follow-up has been one of the most intriguing parts of the show in recent weeks.
This installment of Quick Takes will tackle where the Corbin character could be headed, Ricochet finally building momentum again on Raw, why AEW needs more of Dan Lambert, and more.
Malakai Black's AEW Debut Couldn't Have Been Booked Better
Aleister Black's abrupt departure from WWE last month was an embarrassing example of the company not knowing what they had in a talent and not seeing him for the star that he is. Thankfully, their loss has already proved to be AEW's gain.
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Marc Middleton of WrestlingInc.com) noted on June 11 that Black was likely headed for AEW when his non-compete clause was expected to expire in September.
Black managed to keep it quiet that his non-compete was 30 days and not the usual 90 days, making his Dynamite debut this past week one of the most shocking moments all year. Not only that, he was also presented as a major star immediately upon his arrival.
The lights went out during an Arn Anderson promo, and when they returned, Black was shown standing in the ring. Within seconds, he laid out Anderson with his patented Black Mass kick before delivering another to Cody Rhodes moments later.
To say he was well received by the Miami crowd would be an understatement, and the angle established his first feud in AEW right off the bat. Cody is coming off several wins over QT Marshall and Anthony Ogogo, so he can easily endure a loss to the rechristened Malakai Black at All Out.
Several stars from WWE have made the jump over to AEW but didn't have the same amount of hype for their debut because of the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. Black will benefit from fans being back in the weeks and months to come, along with the increased amount of creative freedom that he was deprived of to an extent in WWE.
AEW Needs More Dan Lambert
Malakai Black wasn't the only name to debut on Wednesday's Road Rager edition of AEW Dynamite, as American Top Team founder and owner Dan Lambert also made his presence felt on the show. He cut a killer promo on the AEW audience before being laid out by Lance Archer.
It's possible that the segment was simply designed to get Archer on Dynamite for a change and give him something to do for the night outside of squashing someone in a match. However, it could end up being more than that, and it most definitely should given how talented of a talker Lambert is.
For those unfamiliar, Lambert previously had a stint with IMPACT Wrestling, where he managed Bobby Lashley. He's also doing managerial work for MLW, so AEW using him in any capacity going forward would be a win for them.
The idea should be for Lambert to want revenge on Archer for attacking him. To do so, he'd have to bring in backup, or at the least serve as a mouthpiece for someone already on the AEW roster who could use it and could match up against Archer.
As for any outsiders, Brock Lesnar is an obvious stretch and shouldn't be considered likely whatsoever. Cain Velasquez could be an option based on his UFC background and AEW's interest in him in 2019, per Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t MMAMania.com).
Regardless of who Lambert recruits to represent him, AEW would be foolish to not utilize his services in some form or fashion after how well he did in his Dynamite debut.
Shotzi, Nox and Toni Storm Will Further Bolster SmackDown's Women's Division
Bayley, who WWE announced will be sidelined for the next nine months at least, couldn't have gotten injured at a worse time. The former SmackDown Women's champion carried the company's women's division through the pandemic, appearing on both Raw and SmackDown throughout the last year and having multiple memorable matches and moments.
The women's scene on SmackDown was already depleted, even with the recent return of Zelina Vega, and Bayley's injury has only made matters worse. New blood was desperately needed, leading to three of NXT's finest getting called up in short order on Friday night.
Stepping up to challenge Natalya and Tamina were Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox. The dynamic duo defeated the WWE Women's Tag Team champions in a matter of minutes and showed signs of potential their first night in.
Later in the show, it was revealed via a video package that Toni Storm is also on her way to SmackDown. She's been treading water in NXT for a few months and could have the most to gain from switching shows.
None of them have history with the current crop of women on Friday nights, which will make for a slew of fresh and exciting matchups. In fact, Shotzi and Tegan would be the perfect people to fill the remaining spots in the women's Money in the Bank Ladder match.
The division is far from complete—and won't be until Sasha Banks and Sonya Deville return to the ring—but these latest additions are a significant step in the right direction.
WWE Must Continue to Give Ricochet More Chances to Shine
For the first time in almost two years, WWE has given Ricochet a chance to do what he does best: be one of the best high-fliers in wrestling today.
His main roster run on Raw has been less than stellar, to say the least. After starting out hot in a feud with AJ Styles and a brief reign as United States champion, he quickly fell down the pole and largely wasn't utilized in a meaningful manner until qualifying for the men's Money in the Bank Ladder match last month.
The last two episodes of Raw have seen him rip it up with the equally talented John Morrison, with whom he has history—and an unbelievable amount of chemistry—from their days in Lucha Underground. Both bouts were remarkable and allowed Ricochet to showcase his skills for a change.
Up until this point, he hasn't been portrayed as anyone special on the Raw roster, even though his aerial abilities suggest otherwise. He deserves to be spotlighted a lot more than he has been, and this series of matches with Morrison, including their upcoming Falls Count Anywhere affair on Monday's Raw, has accomplished that.
It isn't imperative he win the opportunistic briefcase, but as long as he can continue to show what he's capable of and remain a fixture in the midcard scene, he'll be much better off than he has been before recently.
Baron Corbin's New Character Might Be His Most Compelling Yet
Of everything SmackDown has to offer at the moment, Baron Corbin's current character arc is among the most compelling storylines on the show.
That would have been almost unfathomable even a year ago, but WWE has managed to make him interesting for one of the first times during his main roster run following his loss of the King of the Ring crown. The royal reign lasted much longer than it should have, but the aftermath so far has been far more intriguing.
From acting despondent to coming out to no entrance music to then having his car repossessed, Corbin has been playing his role remarkably well over the last month. His latest setback saw him fail to qualify for the men's Money in the Bank Ladder match, leaving fans to wonder what's next for him.
Most importantly, this gimmick is unlike anything else Corbin has done up to this point and is worth giving a shot. The ultimate payoff may not be worthwhile, but considering he's never been a babyface before, it's worth experimenting with at a time when SmackDown could use more top-tier babyfaces.
The question now is if fans will be receptive to Corbin in his new role, or if it's doomed to fall flat like most gimmicks WWE has saddled him with throughout his career.