By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Hits
Roman Reigns and The Miz: A decent opening segment that gave fans a reason to root for Reigns. After all, who doesn’t want to see Miz get punched? Okay, so this live crowd still booed Roman, but that’s only because it’s so difficult to make everyone like or dislike someone in this day and age, not because Reigns and WWE as a whole would be so much better off playing a true heel. [This Hit was paid for by the WWE braintrust. No, not really.] In fairness, the Reigns fans were louder during the main event match against Miz. Speaking of which, the final drama with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows was very good and I like that WWE didn’t feel the need to foreshadow where this is going. Styles could have been positioned stronger, but the mystery continues to sell the Payback main event effectively.
League of Nations breakup: Finally! Talented heels who are better off flying solo than they are as a unit. Many of us recognized this shortly after the faction formed. I have no idea why it took as long as it did for WWE to come around. I don’t know if these three will reach their previous heights as singles acts, but at least they have a chance. Their breakup match against Kalisto, Cesaro, and Sami Zayn made for good television. I’m just not sure why they suddenly felt the need to protect Sheamus by having him be counted out rather than lose the match in a three-on-one situation, and then have him be the last man standing backstage. I’ve been a Sheamus apologist over the years because I enjoy his work, but he’s the stalest of the bunch and I would be more focussed on getting Rusev back on track.
Ambrose Asylum with Natalya: Very nice setup from Ambrose, who pointed out that Charlotte tapped out and would have lost the title had it not been for Ric Flair. I like the way he simply asked Natalya how it would be any different on Sunday, which led to her brief comments about Bret Hart being in her corner. Kudos to whomever produced Natalya, as the simplicity of having her say her lines slowly was a nice improvement.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel: A nice showcase match for Enzo and Cass with the bonus of New Day on commentary. The Vaudevillains watching from the stage was a simple and effective touch, and I like the way Enzo and Cass kept a straight face rather than looking chummy with New Day.
Baron Corbin vs. Damien Sandow: A minor Hit for a good enhancement match for Corbin heading into his Payback match with Dolph Ziggler.
WWE Smackdown Misses
None: Sure, the R-Truth and Goldust backstage silliness didn’t do much for me, and we’ve reached a point where Apollo Crews showcase matches feel a bit dull. Overall, though, this was a good episode with every segment serving a purpose.