Challengers converged with tightened fists at the ready on a fun Miz TV segment that dispersed the spotlight well.
On Thursday’s SmackDown, The Miz hosted each man who is still standing in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament: Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Alberto Del Rio. Each of them had an opportunity to express his hunger to be the next champion. Each of them did well with it.
As a bonus, R-Truth became the surprise star of the scene.
This was not an especially creative segment. It was simple, well-timed and entertaining, though. The folks at Wrestling Inc, for one, certainly enjoyed it:
And it was refreshing that Reigns was not the sole focus of the build to the tournament set to culminate at Survivor Series.
The camera has often zeroed in on him of late, but on SmackDown, the other wrestlers in the tournament field shared the stage. Owens reminded us of his heel prowess, Del Rio’s character added a touch of depth, and Ambrose showed off more of his unhinged charm.
Miz lost control of his own show in just its first moments. Owens interrupted, with the announcers playing up that the intercontinental champ does what he wants, when he wants.
“I decided that I’m turning this into the Kevin Owens show,” he told The Miz.
He was his usual dismissive and smug self. He envisioned a future where he would have the WWE title on his right shoulder to go with the IC strap on his left. Owens punctuated his claims by saying he was going to become “the man.”
That was a not-so-subtle reference to Triple H’s ongoing search for a replacement in The Authority for Seth Rollins. Owens is among those men whom The Game has approached with that offer.
It would have been better had WWE more firmly planted the seeds of a potential Owens-Triple H alliance on SmackDown, but it was smart to at least touch on it.
Del Rio then strode in with Zeb Colter. The Rascal-riding manager continued his tired “everyone’s a hater” rhetoric, but he added a new element by directing his distrust toward Canada. In a reversal of his xenophobic gimmick of the past, he talked about Canadians like Owens sneaking across the border:
Del Rio said that his and Colter‘s in-progress new nation, MexAmerica, needed people like Owens to “clean our swimming pools.”
This is an intriguing upending of Colter‘s old persona. It’s a place WWE should have these two explore, aiming his prejudice toward unexpected targets.
Ambrose soon barged in. Reigns followed. The Miz grew more flustered with each guest stepping on him.
The Lunatic Fringe did well to play up his opponents’ strength. He said he was impressed with what Owens has accomplished and called Del Rio “one bad hombre.”
Fans also saw glimpses of Ambrose’s captivating, unpredictable nature. When he showed surprising deference to The Miz, one had to expect that he would snap at any second and clock him instead.
Reigns was more threatening. WWE asked him to do minimal talking, mostly glaring and puffing out his chest instead. That’s the ideal way to present him and something the company should do more consistently moving forward.
A pleasant curveball came when R-Truth entered the fray.
He is not in the tournament but apparently failed to realize this. He cut a strong promo that was made funny by his ignorance of the situation.
“You’re looking at the underdog. My whole life I’ve been the underdog,” he said.
He promised to tear through the tournament field, but Miz soon broke it to him that he would not be competing. It was an amusing addition to the moment, a bit of randomness to break things up.
Katie Linendoll of Katie.Show tweeted praise for R-Truth’s contribution to the show:
He needs to do this more often. It should be his gimmick for the time being—the spacey Superstar who consistently shows up where he doesn’t belong.
Reigns and Ambrose goofed around together before attacking The Miz. They once again looked like unrelated brothers with a fortified bond.
The segment disappointed Jason Powell of ProWrestling.net, who wrote, “I assumed Miz was there to stir the pot when it came to the possibility of Reigns and Ambrose facing one another in the finals, but it never even came up.”
That’s been covered enough. From their confrontation after Monday’s Raw to a backstage segment before their match together on SmackDown, they have addressed the fact that if they both win in the semifinals, an ally vs. ally match awaits.
There’s no need to hammer that possibility into fans’ heads. It’s already the expected outcome.
Instead, Miz TV served as a means to display some tension between Owens and Del Rio, who we are supposed to believe could meet in the finals, too. Having the Ambrose-Reigns brotherhood remain strong here allows a possible split between them to be a bigger moment.
Should WWE show too many cracks between them, the glass breaking won’t be nearly as surprising.