It was a solid edition of SmackDown this week. While not the strongest episode since the new creative regime took charge, the seeds are seemingly being sowed for some big plans for the future.
What's more exciting is that things feel fresh and new for the most part. Even with certain decisions that many fans may not necessarily "agree with," WWE is trying something new.
So, what were the ups and downs of SmackDown this week in the build-up to Clash at the Castle 2022? Let's check them out.
#3. Best: The increased importance of the "mid-card" titles on SmackDown
This week in WWE featured two epic "mid-card" championship matches. We want to avoid using the word mid-card because of the implications for the United States and Intercontinental Titles.
WWE has done a great job elevating the titles in the last few weeks. While it did so with the Intercontinental Title simply by putting it on Gunther, Bobby Lashley has undoubtedly taken the United States Championship to a different level with the fans by his side.
Lashley vs. Ciampa and Gunther vs. Shinsuke Nakamura marked two crucial title matches this week. Even the video packages highlighting the history of the belts and the legendary legacy were an extra step to remind fans how important they are.
Gunther being a dominant champion will also help as WWE has a part-time Undisputed Universal Champion. Here's hoping he and Lashley hold their respective titles long enough to set up a dream Survivor Series clash.
Credit to Triple H and the new WWE regime for the changes made.
#2. Worst: Roman Reigns went missing on SmackDown just one week after Karrion Kross' attack
While not completely unexpected, it was disappointing that WWE didn't have Roman Reigns appear this week. The latest episode featured the fallout from the Karrion Kross attack, and we only got a backstage promo with him and Scarlett Bordeaux.
As for Drew McIntyre, he teamed up with Madcap Moss to defeat The Usos. Although Jimmy and Jey lost, the Undisputed tag team titles weren't on the line.
The fallout from last week's shocking end to SmackDown left a lot to be desired on this week's episode.
#2. Best: Hit Row's return to SmackDown and the Tag Team division
Hit Row returned to SmackDown for a quick squash match, essentially making a statement. While it's unfortunate that they are without Isiah "Swerve" Scott (now a Tag Team Champion in AEW), it's good to have the trio back.
It's another statement re-signing by Triple H, and don't be surprised if more names return to the company. It seems as though we're getting a dose of returns for every other episode.
#1. Worst: Liv Morgan no-selling offense from Shayna Baszler
It was another not-so-great week for Liv Morgan. However, shoutout to Ronda Rousey, who returned and cut a solid promo - sounding far more comfortable than she did earlier this year. We can only assume that putting her in the natural role of a heel has worked out well.
However, there is still a long way to go for Morgan. While she is popular, she delivered a bulldog with an injured arm and essentially no-sold Shayna Baszler's (her upcoming title challenger) most offensive move.
It was a misstep, but we can only hope it gets better ahead of Clash at the Castle 2022.
#1. Best: The incredible main event of SmackDown
The main event of SmackDown was nothing short of incredible. While Shinsuke Nakamura's reigns as the United States Champion and Intercontinental Champion have been somewhat underwhelming, he certainly delivered as a challenger this Friday.
The show's last match saw Gunther beat Nakamura in a delightful main event. As we mentioned, The Ring General is the right man at the right time, and we can only hope he helps elevate the Intercontinental Title to new heights before losing it.
A former WWE writer rates Triple H's regime a C-. Click here for more details