How Super SmackDown at MSG Delivered

Super SmackDown at MSG
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September 10’s Friday Night SmackDown, World Wrestling Entertainment’s first live broadcast at Madison Square Garden in two years, promised a “super” card. Super SmackDown at MSG celebrated WWE’s return to a venue entwined with its history, and a commemoration of the role that WWE played in helping to heal the nation after the September 11, 200 terrorist attacks on the eve of the twentieth anniversary. Those with a living memory of that time know in what short supply normalcy was then, for an American public collectively traumatized by the event and for New York City, especially, as its locus. WWE, then at the height of its popularity, along with other sporting events were a focal point of solidarity for a nation united in sheer horror and determination to prevail.

Super SmackDown at MSG

The Bloodline and Brock Lesnar Open the Show

While there was some homage paid to that day on the eve of its 20th anniversary, the New York City crowd was convivial and engaged, a punctuating part of the unfolding drama. That drama, as SmackDown viewers have become accustomed to over the last year, came mostly courtesy of The Bloodline: Roman Reigns, Jimmy Uso, and Jey Uso. They opened the broadcast, with Roman Reigns demanding homage from the crowd. The parade of vanities ended in betrayal, however, in betrayal. Brock Lesnar entered the scene, calculatedly demanding to know why Paul Heyman hadn’t told Reigns that he, Lesnar, would be at SummerSlam.

The shaft found its mark, and Reigns’s trust in Heyman evaporated visibly. He, and The Usos, departed. Heyman pivoted, seeming to resume his role as Lesnar’s advocate without a second thought. However, Lesnar had demands: a Universal Championship match against Reigns, ASAP. When Lesnar seemed poised to vent his displeasure violently on Heyman, Reigns rushed in to make the save, despite the cloud of suspicion around Heyman. It was a lot to take in, but at the same time inevitable. The seeds of the Bloodline saga have been leading to these moments at Super SmackDown at MSG since Lesnar’s appearance at SummerSlam, but all involved made the plot twists organic and fun when they came. Lesnar, especially, seemed to be having a ball.

Seth Rollins and Edge’s Continued Rivalry

The Bloodline’s, Heyman’s, and Lesnar’s weren’t the only storylines that were at fever pitch before the NYC crowd. Seth Rollins and Edge staged a rematch of their SummerSlam brawl that will no doubt be studied by young wrestlers honing their craft for years to come. In Chinese opera, it’s said that the actor who plays the god of war becomes the god of war; Edge eschewed his customary black and red for black and pink gear presumably in honor of his early mentor Bret Hart, and truly did seem to transcend to “Hitman” levels of pathos in the ring, with his crafty tenacity and the sympathy-inducing amounts of pain he took from Rollins.

“Why won’t you just die?!” cried a desperate Rollins, to a depleted Edge, who had withstood or resisted him at every turn.

In false finish after false finish, each man pushed the other to their limits, sparing little of their comparably lethal arsenals on each other in the ring and outside it in an emotionally charged fray. As he’s threatened to do for months, Seth Rollins finally delivered a stomp to Edge’s precarious neck, seemingly transforming his character into something darker than the grandiosely vitriolic “Monday Night Messiah” or “Drip God” incarnations. A disassociated and dazed Rollins watched Edge depart in an ambulance.

The Super SmackDown Main Event

The Usos and The Street Profits continues to be a raucous joy, the chemistry shown by the two high-flying, suicide-diving, risk-taking teams a joy, especially in contrast to The Street Profits’ last non-starter rivalry with Alpha Academy. As the high energy match started to go Montez Ford’s and Angelo Dawkins’s way, Roman Reigns intervened to salvage a situation for his clique for a second time that night, locking Ford in the guillotine as he was about to secure a pinfall victory and claim the SmackDown Tag Team Championships for The Street Profits.

Lesnar, Reigns boldly declared, was next, right after he had taken care of Finn Balor at Extreme Rules. Pulsating red lights flared through one of America’s most storied live venues, and the MSG crowd witnessed what no crowd has since Super Showdown in Saudi Arabia in 2019: Balor in the regalia of the Demon King. The broadcast ended with “The Tribal Chief” and “The Demon King” sizing each other up in the ring.

In Closing

Super SmackDown at MSG was a night of returns: a return to the Garden for WWE, the return of “The Demon King,” and WWE’s continued return to touring as it once again visits venues and crowds out of reach during the pandemic. After 9/11, once again, they provided the normalcy of joy with a truly super show.