By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown Hits
Mauro Ranallo: A huge improvement from the previous week at the announce table. For those that had heard Mauro commentate on New Japan Pro Wrestling or any of his other combat sports work, you got exactly what you were hoping for. He called out wrestling maneuvers and holds by their names, and had a level of enthusiasm and sincerity that just isn’t present often enough in WWE’s other announce crews. I think fans that had never heard Mauro before should have gained an appreciation for him in short order. He was absolutely the right call to announce Smackdown, and I wouldn’t mind him taking over on PPV down the road either.
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte: This might be my favorite main roster women’s match since these two were called up from NXT 6 months ago. If you want to nitpick, the match started off at a very deliberate (slow) pace, but things picked up nicely as they started to finally get into the story they wanted to tell mid match. Mauro did a fine job of giving some context to how long Becky Lynch has been a pro wrestler, and how hard she’s worked to get where she is. Charlotte got her arrogance across during the middle portion of the match where she was dominant, but the real success came during Becky’s comeback when they put together a very nice sequence that had Charlotte in some believable danger. Ric Flair did well losing his mind on the outside when Charlotte was under fire, and kept up his old tricks by placing Charlotte’s foot on the ropes while she was in the Disarmer. The visual tap out for Becky and the cheap pin fall finish should lead to more from these two, which is a good thing because they appear to finally be getting some traction.
Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose: This match continued the pattern of these two beating the hell out of one another. The Intercontinental Championship has never felt more important or sought after in recent memory, and I’m glad it was Owens and Ambrose who were able to finally break the curse of initially promising Intercontinental Championship feuds that ended up underwhelming everyone. This feud has done nice job of walking a fine line for both men. Ambrose has rightfully questioned Owen’s toughness while also increasing his credibility with these smash mouth encounters, and Owens has desperately clung to his delusions about Ambrose being a fluke, all the while generally getting the ass end of most of their physical encounters.
John Cena Promo + Kalisto vs. Del Rio: A minor hit for the opening promo and match, mostly because John Cena did a nice job of setting up Kalisto for a big reaction by choosing him when Del Rio agreed to a match with “Anybody but you, Cena”. Kalisto held up his end up the deal nicely, as he performed well with Del Rio. They even avoided the unfortunate mistakes that caused their WWE Title Tournament match to be a disappointment. I can’t say I’m thrilled to see Kalisto put in the position of being John Cena’s 348th little buddy, but I’m assuming this is a one night situation due to Cena requiring surgery unexpectedly
WWE Smackdown Misses
MizTV: This segment was brutal for me. I know WWE imagines itself producing a variety show of sorts and tries to inject some humor onto every broadcast, but this just wasn’t the way to do it. As a result of attempting to build an 8-man tag match by having all the competitors interrupt each other in one long sequence, nobody really stood out, and it led to a match that felt like it had nothing at stake.
Dolph Ziggler: His look would be far better suited to a heel. He’s also much better on the microphone when he can be a smartass instead of giving off the vibe that he’s desperately to be funny and hasn’t figured out why no one’s laughing. There was also some confusion at the end of the tag match, when he superkicked R-Truth and tossed Goldust to ringside. He then barked at Goldust and told him that it was every man for himself at the Rumble, and he was going to be the one that goes to WrestleMania. Did he forget that the WWE Championship was on the line in the Rumble? If he truly invested in the Rumble being every man for himself, why did he apologize after taking out potential competition? Ziggler’s character is a total disaster right now.
Overuse of Video Packages: Why do we need to see the same Video Package to start the show and at the bottom of the second hour as a Raw Rebound?