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The September 5 episode of SmackDown Live featured several major storyline developments that will likely play a major role in the build to Hell in a Cell on October 8. In the process, the angles, matches and moments that played out on USA Network spawned major winners and losers.
Kevin Owens proved a Superstar in WWE can remain prominent and featured without being shoehorned into a championship program.
Carmella, the 2017 Miss Money in the Bank, grabbed hold of the spotlight and shined it on herself with a strong, convincing verbal performance.
Then there was Shinsuke Nakamura, who knocked off Randy Orton and became the undisputed No. 1 contender to Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship.
Not every Superstar was as lucky or fortunate as them.
Sami Zayn continued his descent into the WWE Creative abyss, losing an afterthought of a match against Aiden English that ensured his place in the low midcard going forward.
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Kevin Owens is embarking on his highest-profile program since his wars with John Cena.
Yes, even higher than Chris Jericho’s rivalry and run as universal champion.
There is a certain prestige and spotlight that comes with working a McMahon. Owens experienced that Tuesday night when an entire third of the broadcast was dedicated to his blossoming and intensifying rivalry with Shane McMahon.
Superb mic work, including an intensely personal line, when Owens suggested Shane-O-Mac’s family would have been better off if he died in a helicopter accident in July, will couple with increased exposure to help Owens remain at the top of the blue brand.
Even if he is out of a championship scene.
That he is likely to share the screen with Vince McMahon next week, the CEO of the company who only makes occasional appearances to really put over the top angles in the company, demonstrates the trust management has in The Prizefighter and the significance of this ongoing rivalry with his superior.
If anything, Owens’ program with McMahon is proof that Superstars do not need a championship to remain relevant or at the top of a promotion.
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There is a complete and utter lack of logic behind the manner in which WWE Creative is utilizing Sami Zayn.
One of the best workers in the industry and a performer capable of getting the audience to genuinely care about his story, the fact that Zayn is losing meaningless matches to Aiden English is a damn shame, and worse, it’s an indictment on creative’s ability to utilize talent to their strengths.
Zayn losing to English, himself an undervalued performer, is a booking mistake that should never happen.
Without Zayn, NXT would not be the revolutionary developmental brand it is. His story, triumphs and disappointments built that brand into must-see television and all but guaranteed The Underdog from the Underground would one day experience tremendous success on the main roster.
That has yet to happen, thanks to inconsistent booking.
There is nothing Zayn can do or has not done that justifies the manner in which he has been presented to the masses.
Lazy creative and lack of investment in him has doomed him to submediocrity.
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For the first time since her Money in the Bank victory in June, Carmella looked like a star around whom the entire women’s division can be built.
The Princess from Staten Island took out frustration following a loss to Natalya on her “home boy” James Ellsworth, insulting him with some vile statements and stomping away like a spoiled brat who was just told she could not have a toy from the mall.
Backstage, she told Ellsworth they would do things her way before planting a kiss on him and following up with a hard smack to the face.
Yes, the kiss was a questionable booking decision written by a predominantly male creative staff and did not really fit the tone of the relationship between Carmella and Ellsworth to that point. There is no defending it for the time being.
Otherwise, Carmella was presented like a strong woman who is tired of her male screwing things up for her. She was tough, stern and did not care if she hurt anyone’s feelings. Her words were sharp, her tone detestable and her attitude condemnable.
She was a heel and an unlikable villainess fans can root against.
That is the type of character the women’s division on Tuesday nights has been missing since Alexa Bliss’ departure to Raw.
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Shinsuke Nakamura has now defeated both John Cena and Randy Orton to earn WWE Championship opportunities.
Clean, in the center of the ring.
There is an entire generation of Superstars who could only dream of accomplishing that against one of them, let alone both. Yet, there Nakamura was, knocking off the faces of the Ruthless Aggression and once again cashing his ticket to a pay-per-view title shot.
Nakamura has been put over as strongly as any other Superstar on the WWE roster.
Stronger than Roman Reigns, stronger than Braun Strowman or Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose. He has been allowed to preserve his aura and defeat the elite of the elite. His one downfall? His SummerSlam loss to Jinder Mahal.
Now at Hell in a Cell, The Artist has the opportunity to make up for that defeat and carry the WWE Championship through the end of the year.
If that is not strong booking, what else is?