This week’s Smackdown Live again brought a program that missed a couple steps but was, overall, a good time thanks to a steady dedication to building solid builds and having a bit of fun. It could only get better as the roster quality improves on the whole. This week’s edition also boasts what I would consider the best…the BEST….segment of the Raw/Smackdown Live continuum for this week. As far as WWE programming, it will surely have some stiff competition in the Cruiser Weight Classic the following day.
Let’s break it down.
(New Category) THE BEST
American Alpha VS The Usos
For all the star power and big time drama abound on RAW, this simple, old school injury-based angle with a couple of twists accomplished so much and set up so much. It was a joy to watch. We were taken a bit by surprise with the Usos storming in to attack American Alpha before the bell rang, expecting heel-ish tactics to perhaps come after a loss tonight. And the loss came but also, BAM, right away. It effectively set up a scene where the Usos could have been embarrassed, and it also got the desired job done without wasting time. Then we had a situation where the Usos could have again led us on and showed their change in persona at the special, but we got it immediately instead and it paid off. The manner of taking out Gable’s leg looked and felt severe. A sufficiently big deal was made of this by several ensuing replays and references on commentary. Now we have a whole match between two accomplished tag teams, which really didn’t happen yet, and has a LOT of heat around it, to look forward to at some point down the line.
The Usos also had a very real, unscripted feeling promo afterwards. It wasn’t the most smooth or coherent delivery, but it didn’t need to be, and played nicely off of genuine negative reactions the Usos have gotten from audiences in recent months. Hmm, I wonder what other wrestlers would benefit from a change up in persona due similar circumstances? Renee was also fantastic here, displaying quiet disgust with what she just saw these guys who she had been chummy with just a few weeks ago had done. The Usos would also let loose a tweet referring to the change in character, nicely paralleling the story on the show.
Miz VS Crews
This did not appear to be the most exciting booking – a rematch from Summerslam. But it was an OK match that ended cleverly, managing to accomplish a lot. Miz looked competent in his winning way via devious tactics as he took advantage of Dolph Ziggler’s presence, misdirecting Crews and Ziggler toward each other and then Crews into the ring post shoulder post, allowing for him to hit his finisher and pin in the ring. Ziggler was perhaps a bit perturbed by Crews colliding into him for his troubles. And it could tease dissension between Ziggler and Crews, but this was not at all played up – a bit of a ball drop in my opinion. Then again Ziggler was very vocal about Crews’ potential later on Talking Smack – it could be some foreshadowing if Ziggler were to turn heel?
Crews also continues to look great in the ring. He hit the same moonsault spot in the narrow space between the ring and fans out on the floor. He worked the impressiveness of it afterwards, high fiving fans sitting nearby. What is missing for Crews is a win. I fear his character does not look good with loss after loss, and should definitely get some matches against jobbers to bolster him up.
Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella, and Naomi VS Natalya, Alexa Bliss, and Carmella
This had a slight air of rehash to it at first, being another Summerslam rematch, but the match really picked up toward the in the end, was solid. There was a lot of fast paced action. Carmella looked like a stronger contender than ever as she tapped Nikki out with her neck lock finisher, The Code of Silence. Alexa Bliss also looked impressive with the punishment she doled out on Nikki. Naomi’s new raver entrance and upbeat style of fighting also suits her well.
I think in the future, mixing things up a bit would be go a long way in keeping the show from getting stale. Instead of all of the women in one big match, how about pairing 2 and 2 for a tag match, and pairing the other 2 women in the division into a singles match. I also understand Becky’s character has a bit more charm than her straight shooting serious persona in NXT, but I would really like the exaggerated expressions outside of matches to be toned down. It is sometimes distracting, and she should be taken seriously for all of her talent.
Rhyno and Heath Slater VS The Hype Bros
This was a good match. The balance of comedy to serious action was in the right proportion with all of the wrestlers putting on a match with some suspenseful spots. Rhyno and Heath definitely have momentum going into Backlash where many are pulling for Heath to get a contract.
AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose talk some smack
Both guys looked and sounded alright here. Delivery was not wooden, not overly goofy. Styles is the real revelation here, though, continuing to command the mic, slow down the pace or turn up the volume when needed. He exuded confidence. I also like that the brand is not giving away the show by having these guys lock up in some kind of match right before they face each other on a special. This builds far more anticipation.
That Wild and Crazy Dean
There was just a bit of Dean being silly and mock crazy at the beginning of the show; just enough to remind that this is not a good direction for him. The trophy he presented to AJ was a bit silly but had a purpose, and the fire of his verbal attack on AJ Styles was stirring. Please just do away with all unnecessary goofy scenes with Ambrose.
The cast of the Smackdown Women’s Division in DRAMA
These promos where one wrestler talks. Then is interrupted by another wrestler, who talks. Then is interrupted by another wrestler, who talks and so on and so forth are terrible. They feel totally disingenuous and are often peppered with the most corny lines of any given show. These segments seem to be reserved for the women on the show more often than not. Let’s do away with this stale form of storytelling.
Bray a rockin’ and a ‘ramblin’
I have liked Bray Wyatt’s presence and style of delivery lately, which makes this return to murkier and less compelling presentations a shame. As a rule of thumb too, if a segment is being shown live, with audience reaction included it should be live, with the performer working the crowd. If it is on a screen, then it might as well be prerecorded, and might as well be given some cool edits and effects. Bray sitting back in his rocking chair, talking archaically with (gasp) FOG entering the picture is not rousing any excitement. Bray should be getting more aggressive and energetic in his manner of presentation.
Randy Orton seems to be a hot character, still evoking his uphill battle at Summerslam, where was savaged but came right back to work following the bloody match. Instead of hitting RKO’s out of nowhere he has been trying to keep up with Bray’s odd storytelling mode. And this time he spun a real yarn. It was more confusing than Heyman and Stephanie’s segment on RAW the week before. It would be bad, just plain bad, but it was so….strange, it ended up keeping my attention. Orton’s lashing out on twitter to a critical fan afterwards was priceless.
After the dust settled, Talking Smack turned out to be a solid addition to the show. Daniel Bryan is the real star, really feeling like he is talking genuinely about the things he liked about the talent on the show – I love how he put over Ambrose and AJ Styles as performers, dissing the competition, and making slip ups that show his human side and turn into humorous banter with Renee (‘isn’t it the Hype Brothers??). They advanced the angle of Gable’s injury with Shane updating us on his condition and they discussed how it would play out on the special, giving Talking Smack some exclusives for Network viewers. Shane’s aura felt very awkward, making me cringe as though I was in the room with the three of them, but a little uptightness doesn’t hurt in fact it also lent an air of realness to the way their interactions came off.