Quick Takes on WWE SmackDown vs. AEW Rampage, Crown Jewel Expectations and More
The phrase "competition breeds excellence" was especially true Friday when WWE SmackDown and All Elite Wrestling Rampage went head-to-head for a brief period, and each company put its best foot forward.
SmackDown and Rampage are largely entertaining and eventful most weeks, but it was imperative they hit home runs Friday night. SmackDown aired an extra half-hour of commercial-free action on FS1 in order to run opposite of Rampage, which had a pre-show of its own that aired during the final stretch of SmackDown.
It's a tremendous time to be a fan of wrestling, and some of the shows the companies have coming up have promise. AEW Full Gear in November will be headlined by the long-awaited matchup between Kenny Omega and "Hangman" Adam Page, while WWE Crown Jewel on Thursday will see Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar collide for the Universal Championship.
Before then, though, WWE will have to get through another episode of Raw and explain why Bianca Belair is getting a shot the Raw Women's Championship. That would pave the way for Belair to bring back the belt to Raw, the brand she calls home coming out of the 2021 WWE draft.
This week's installment of Quick Takes will analyze the competition between WWE and AEW, expectations for their respective upcoming pay-per-views, a perfectly booked title change on Tuesday's NXT and more.
Friendly Competition Brings the Best Out of WWE and AEW
WWE and AEW did their best to one up each other by adding extra incentives for viewers to tune into their shows Friday. The biggest beneficiaries of the one-night battle was undoubtedly the fans.
Tony Khan sent the internet into a frenzy when he nearly vowed to beat SmackDown on FS1 with Rampage, and although it didn't quite work out that way in terms of the overall viewership, per Wrestling Inc, Rampage was still an enjoyable show.
That was in direct response to SmackDown extending its length to to two-and-a-half hours for one week. When WWE made its final 30 minutes commercial-free, AEW followed suit by making its Rampage opener between CM Punk and Matt Sydal commercial-free as well.
Everything was done by design to hurt the other product, but WWE does some of its strongest work when its back is up against the wall. That was evident Friday night, and fans are enjoying every second of it.
It isn't something that should be happening every week, of course, but going head-to-head can make wrestling exciting and unpredictable to watch again. Focusing on building better products should be the top priority, but there's nothing wrong with having harmless fun with the opposing promotion every once in a while.
Is Bianca Belair About to Win the Raw Women's Championship?
In one of the biggest (and only) head-scratching moments on Friday's SmackDown, it was announced that Bianca Belair will challenge Charlotte Flair for the Raw Women's Championship on Monday's Raw.
No explanation was given as to what earned her the shot. They were on opposite teams recently on Raw, and Belair has yet to defeat Flair in any shape or form.
There can be no doubt that it will be a quality contest, but it's an odd angle to run days before Belair is involved in another high-profile title match on pay-per-view. It's also worth noting that Belair is now a member of the Raw roster and Flair is not, meaning this could be how Flair drops the belt before reporting to SmackDown full time.
Belair is owed another meaningful title run because of the lousy manner with which her last one ended at SummerSlam. The question is whether WWE would want to keep her in chase mode for a few months or if it would rather rush into her back to being a champion without much of a story behind it.
This would be WWE's last chance for Belair to capture the championship before Flair stays on SmackDown, and it would be a welcome improvement over another title swap like we saw last year with the tag champs. That was the epitome of laziness, and WWE must refrain from making these same mistakes in the future.
Full Gear Is the Right Place and Time for Adam Page to Win the AEW World Title
After almost a year of waiting, the time has come for Adam Page to dethrone Kenny Omega as AEW World champion.
Hangman returned on the two-year anniversary edition of Dynamite recently and became the No. 1 contender to the championship. It wasn't explicitly stated when he would be getting his shot at the strap, but it was later confirmed it would be happening at Full Gear on Nov. 13.
Their previous one-on-one encounter took place at Full Gear one year ago, a bout that was won by Omega, so it's only fitting that's where Page avenges the loss and takes the title. Fans have been patiently waiting for this moment, and to do anything different may harm Hangman's momentum beyond repair.
Then again, AEW has had to cool off Page twice this year and take him off television for brief periods. He still returned more popular than ever before, so it's possible AEW thinks another loss to Omega could endear him to the audience even more.
It can also be argued that Page has been in chase mode long enough and that it shouldn't be dragged out any further. Page is world champion material and all the stars have aligned for his crowning achievement to finally come at Full Gear.
Carmelo Hayes' NXT North American Championship Win Was Booked Brilliantly
Isaiah "Swerve" Scott and Santos Escobar had been feuding for months. And ahead of Tuesday's edition of NXT, an NXT North American Championship match between them was advertised.
It couldn't have been more obvious that Escobar would win the title from Scott before he heads off to SmackDown with the rest of Hit Row. It was a perfectly acceptable outcome yet never felt as if it was in doubt.
Despite that, NXT threw fans for a loop by having Scott defeat Escobar, only to be betrayed by Carmelo Hayes moments later. The NXT Breakout Tournament winner proceeded to cash in his guaranteed title shot and pinned Scott for the championship.
Everything about the moment was brilliantly booked. It not only protected Scott in defeat and gave him a proper sendoff from NXT, but it also established Hayes as a star within months of his arrival.
At a time when NXT is attempting to introduce a ton of new names at once, Hayes is the real deal and is someone who should be a cornerstone of the brand moving forward. He's off to a strong start on a show that still has plenty of uncertainty around it, making the pure perfection of his title win all the more impressive.
Crown Jewel Could End Up Being WWE's Strongest Saudi Arabia Show Yet
It's been commonplace for WWE to hold special shows in Saudi Arabia since 2018. No matter what the cards have looked like, though, a majority of the events have wound up disappointing for one reason or another.
Thursday's Crown Jewel PPV, which will mark WWE's return to the country after almost 20 months away, looks to be the exception with what's on tap.
The pay-per-view will be headlined by a Universal Championship clash between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Even if it marks the first of a few matches in the months to come, this upcoming encounter is among the most anticipated all year and should be a barn-burner.
In other action, Big E will defend his WWE Championship against Drew McIntyre, while Seth Rollins and Edge will settle their score inside Hell in a Cell. The rest of the lineup, including the King of the Ring and Queen's Crown finals, has potential as well and has been built up nicely in recent weeks.
WWE's outings on pay-per-view have tended to be hit-or-miss in recent months, but outside of a possible lifeless crowd, there is no reason why Crown Jewel shouldn't surpass its predecessors. WWE could use a strong show, and Crown Jewel should be just that.
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.