Triple H and Stephanie McMahon Introduced the SmackDown Roster
I don't think we've seen Triple H on WWE TV since his 25-year career celebration in April, so it was nice to see him. I was worried when the show opened with them in the ring and the rest of the roster on the stage as it gave me Authority flashbacks, but this turned out to be a solid segment with HHH and Stephanie introducing some of SmackDown's newest acquisitions before a brawl broke out. The Street Profits and Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode got to hype their championship clash for later in the night, while Jeff Hardy attacking Lars Sullivan from behind was a good segue into their subsequent match.
Lars Sullivan def. Jeff Hardy
Hardy is heading to Raw thanks to the Draft and Sullivan is staying on SmackDown, so while it was fairly predictable Hardy wasn't winning here, it still turned out to be a quality contest with Hardy selling well for Sullivan's offense and Sullivan looking impressive in his first bout back in well over a year. It will be interesting to see how Sullivan will be booked on the blue brand going forward, especially as he constantly seems to find himself in hot water outside of the ring.
The New Day (Big E and Raw Tag Team Champions Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) def. Sheamus, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro
That pre-match promo from New Day was just fantastic and it sucks there wasn't a crowd there to give it the reaction it deserved. They spoke from the heart, and as much as I love their goofiness, it was refreshing to hear from them out of character about how much their journey together has meant to them. They'll obviously be back together someday, but this was a picture-perfect (temporary) farewell for them. It was also cool to see The Bar back for the first time in over a year and a half and I liked how the commentators ran down the heels' history with New Day from over the years. This was a super fun six-man tag team match and that final stretch was stellar. It was definitely time for New Day to go their separate ways, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to miss them as a trio for the foreseeable future.
Daniel Bryan, Murphy and Rey and Dominik Mysterio Targeted Seth Rollins
Rollins and Bryan have had their fair share of matches against each other over the years, but believe it or not, they've never had a full-fledged feud. I enjoyed their interaction here and am all for them feuding in the future, potentially sooner rather than later. I also liked how they tied the Mysterio family and Murphy into this by having Murphy attack Rollins. Rey and Dominik not shaking Murphy's hand made sense considering all that he's done to their family, so it will take time for them to build that trust. Can we please branch off into Rollins vs. Murphy from here and leave the stuff with the Mysterios behind?
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Street Profits def. Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode by Disqualification
I questioned why WWE would add this match to the "season premiere" of SmackDown when it could have instead been built up for Hell in a Cell next Sunday. That appears to be the direction they're going in given that they went with a non-finish here, but then why book the bout to begin with? What we got was fine, but this was all so quick that it just felt like a waste of time. By the way, why would Ziggler and Roode teaming up on one of The Street Profits lead to a disqualification? We see that in tag team matches all the time. On the bright side, their new tag team finisher looks awesome.
SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley and Sasha Banks Came Face-to-Face
This was supposed to be a contract signing overseen by Adam Pearce, and while Banks signed the contract, Bayley never did. Obviously, they're going to face each other at Hell in a Cell no matter what, but the hook is how Banks will get her to sign the contract before then. This is what I'd been hoping for from these two since the feud started as their mic work was top-notch, though I wish it would have lasted a little longer than it did. Everything since Bayley's betrayal of Banks has been rushed, but at least this managed to get me more excited for the pay-per-view match than I was previously.
Universal Champion Roman Reigns def. Braun Strowman
Amazingly enough, this marked the first time the Universal Championship has ever been defended on SmackDown. Putting aside how ridiculous it was for Strowman to receive a shot at the Universal Championship after doing nothing to deserve it and not appearing on SmackDown since August, this was an entertaining main event and exactly what it needed to be. These are two totally different versions of these guys compared to when they last went one-on-one a few years ago, but their in-ring chemistry is still strong.
I'll never not find the "season premiere" tag WWE gives Raw and SmackDown every fall stupid, but in many ways, this did feel like a proper reset for the blue brand. The matches made sense, storylines progressed, some Superstars got their SmackDown sendoff, and others were effectively introduced. All in all, it was a strong show. SmackDown was producing some terrific television before the Draft, so I hope that can continue even with the new roster.