Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman Addressed the Controversial Ending to Payback
Heyman was masterful on the mic as always and did an excellent job of explaining why aligned with Reigns and playing up his accomplishments. Reigns' promo was short, sweet and straight to the point, but this was one instance where I wanted to hear more from him. He's been booed by fans for years despite being a babyface, so you know deep down inside he'd love to go off on those people. I hope we get to hear that long awaited heel promo from Reigns at some point.
Heavy Machinery def. The Miz and John Morrison
In case you forgot, Otis is still Mr. Money in the Bank. I'm aware he likely won't cash in the contract successfully (nor should he), but the least WWE could have done was have him cross paths with Reigns as he was making his way back up the ramp. The match itself was entertaining, but it could not be clearer that they're headed for a split sooner rather than later based on how much losing they've been doing lately.
WWE Women's Tag Team Champions Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax def. SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley and Sasha Banks
I enjoyed this a lot more than their original encounter at the Payback pay-per-view, maybe because it was better paced and had more energy to it. Jax and Baszler worked well as a team while Banks and Bayley sold well for their offense. I figured Baszler and Jax would retain considering they just won the titles, but I didn't expect Bayley to turn on Banks when she did. That said, I'm happy WWE finally pulled the trigger. Some of Bayley's shots on Banks looked weak, but otherwise, this was an excellent angle. It was a vicious enough angle that I'd be disappointed if Banks came back any time soon. I'd keep her off TV until at least Survivor Series season and start building to Banks vs. Bayley from there, likely for the Royal Rumble.
Intercontinental Champion Jeff Hardy Attacked AJ Styles, Sami Zayn Attacked Hardy
I think my top takeaway from this segment was that Zayn desperately needs a haircut. I mean, did this guy leave the house at all during quarantine? In all seriousness, this was solid that accomplished what it needed to. Everyone cut quality promos and I appreciated how Zayn was the last man standing, further validating his claim that he's the rightful Intercontinental Champion after never actually being beaten for it. I assume a Triple Threat between them at Clash of Champions is where this storyline is headed and I'm looking forward to it.
Jey Uso def. Matt Riddle, King Corbin and Sheamus in a Universal Championship No. 1 Contender's Fatal 4-Way Match
Big E was originally scheduled to take place in this Fatal 4-Way before Sheamus brutally ambushed him backstage and caused him to replaced by Uso. Yes, it was incredibly random and no one in their right mind will view Uso as a legitimate threat to Reigns, but with the two being cousins, I'm intrigued. Reigns vs. Big E or Riddle would have been great, but I'm glad they're saving those matches for another time. This was a fun Fatal 4-Way with an outcome most people probably didn't see it coming. Riddle and Sheamus will obviously continue their feud, as will Sheamus and Big E. Reigns vs. Uso could make for must-see TV from a storytelling standpoint. I just wish Uso had been on TV more frequently leading up to this point to justify him getting this shot in the main event.
I know I've said this before, but SmackDown really feels like it's taken a turn for the better creatively in recent weeks. Reigns and Zayn being back is a big help, but I find myself more invested in the show's storylines than I have been since SmackDown's move to FOX almost exactly one year ago. The Intercontinental Championship picture has my attention, Bayley has finally turned on Banks, Bray Wyatt is teasing a new member in the Firefly Fun House (Alexa Bliss?), and Reigns vs. Uso has potential. The midcard also has direction, which is encouraging to see. This was an above-average episode by SmackDown standards and I liked the less-is-more approach it took. As always, I'm left hoping they can keep it up going forward because this was the blue brand's best effort in months.