Moore’s Blog: Smackdown Live’s debut – Good but not as good as Raw, Dolph Ziggler’s last chance, All Red Everything runs wild, free agent wish list

newsmackdownlogo1By John Moore

The last time I did an editorial on WWE Smackdown was when Mauro debuted, and then I stopped due to Smackdown becoming irrelevant. This time around, I’ll be posting a blog going over the segments in more of a formal way as opposed to the stream of consciousness approach I took last time. Let’s hope Smackdown Live stays interesting enough to cause variance in my writing. I like variance.

The opening segment seemed like a less interesting variant (speaking of variance) of Raw’s opening segment. It was fine, and there’s always that instant wake up the crowd button in Daniel Bryan, but maybe we could have had Bryan backstage and Shane McMahon could have got the night off? Their announce team was in the old spot too which wasn’t bad, but it doesn’t scream new and innovative in contrast to Raw. Plus, there was no giant fist. I know that’s old, but it’s different.

Luckily, they had five good wrestlers in their six-pack challenge so at least they had the soldiers on hand to put together a good top of the depth chart. It was a flaw to put them in one match as it stretched the roster thin to such a degree that the sixth member of that six pack was actually hard to attain. When I watched the opening battle royal, I couldn’t help but think lazy mid-2000 Smackdown booking or watching a match involving wrestlers who typically work on WWE Superstars. Apollo Crews would have been better served if put in the Neville spot on Monday. The guy has the in-ring tools, but people really don’t know anything about him yet. Also, poor Zack Ryder, the guy just kept missing moves that JBL had to point out. Apollo Crews just screamed “not as good as Finn Balor”. I also felt bad for that fan in the front row who wanted a high five from Crews and he missed her.

One of the highlights and hopeful spots of the show is the impending return of Shelton Benjamin. It’s cool to seem him back and I’m curious to see how his years in Japan have improved his work. MVP improved immensely when given a shot in New Japan, so it’ll be cool to see what tools Shelton has developed. One thing about Shelton is that he didn’t need to improve on ability, he needed to develop a character. If Johnny Mundo and Bobby Lashley were able to do it, why can’t Shelton? At least I get to see one of my favorite entrance themes back on Tuesdays. Hopefully he gets to keep “Ain’t no stopping me, nawwwwwwwwwwww!”.

I felt a bit bad for Natalya in the next match as it seems like the feud might have been blown off (even though she won on the PPV?)? The match was okay, but it didn’t make Nattie stand out when she is actually still developing as a heel. Maybe she needs some mentoring from her husband on how to become and amazing, self-centered heel.

The segment that followed with all of the women interrupting was a pretty good introduction to the Smackdown division. Alexa Bliss has something and it’ll be really cool to see her develop into a top heel on Smackdown if given the chance. The problem with feuding with Becky Lynch is that she has lost so many times that losing is more rudimentary. People go nuts for Becky’s quest and her wins, but it’s tough to get other people over by having someone beat her. Maybe Naomi is a babyface now. They also have Carmella, who I felt a bit bad for since she came out to do her abridged Enzo gimmick, which got the same reaction that it usually received in NXT – crickets. They really need to tap into her endearing WWE Breaking Ground persona.

Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who thought that Eva Marie’s entrance was awesome! I truly wonder, did they pipe in boos for Eva or was that spurt of heat genuine? Either way, that was a good way to establish Eva Marie. I thought they really had something with the Eva Marie and Nia Jax act in NXT, which I feel wasn’t utilized to its fullest potential on that show. It’s a shame that they are on different shows because Eva Marie can really enhance that act. Attaching Eva to Nia was was also a positive because it kept Eva out of the ring. Maybe WWE can do a similar thing with Eva that TNA’s doing with Maria, where they can go through months and months with her strategically staying away from actually wrestling. At any rate, she was awesome tonight and is a real heat magnet. That customized ring announcer deserves some awesomeness credit as well.

Miz TV, wasn’t as good at Sunday’s Highlight Reel. Not sure why they decided to go with two talk show segments in a row for Orton. Orton was okay, but not as good as he was on Sunday. The match that followed was good. Miz is still much underrated as a worker and I agree with Mauro Ranallo, who said The Miz has a high wrestling IQ these days. The best part of the match was establishing the RKO as a credible finisher. There was that long awkward wait between RKO’s, but it makes sense as Miz was out for the count, so there should have been a long wait before he could get up and Orton could perform the move again. Props for Miz for that, but I’m not sure why the referee wasn’t counting to ten or checking on Miz? There are such a thing as KO victories in pro wrestling and it would have done the RKO wonders to have him beat Miz and maybe Heath Slater down the road via KO with the RKO.

Speaking of Heath Slater, that guy is the most talented enhancement talent in the biz and proved it in his next segment. One thing about Slater is that when he’s in the ring, people pay attention. For most people, starting a personalized chant would have failed, but for Slater, he was golden. Shane McMahon walking out during this segment was weird. What was even weirder was him calling Rhyno the hottest free agent in wrestling. How many random returns can Rhyno have? He’s probably trying to challenge Tommy Dreamer in that regard. Not to hate on Rhyno, though. The guy’s never going to be a main eventer, but he will be the solid mid-carder that the thin Smackdown mid card needs. If he can heel it up with Baron Corbin, that could do wonders for Corbin since Rhyno was instrumental in helping Corbin break his personal ceiling in NXT.

The main event was cool, but WWE better be careful in not exposing their thin Smackdown roster in matches like this. Luckily for them, they have the automatic instant classic main eventer in AJ Styles there to escalate whoever he’s against and he was the in-ring performer of the night, just like he has always been for years. AJ sold that superkick like he took a bat to the head. Everything he did beforehand was superb as well from his springboard 450 to his signature flying forearm. John Cena’s AA rally wasn’t bad either. Corbin wasn’t buried. Apollo Crews had the out that he wrestled a match earlier (even though he probably wasn’t ready to be inserted in this main event picture quite yet).

All in all, this was a good show, but not as great as Raw was. I’m confident that Smackdown has greater upward potential though while Raw is more prone towards trending downward after that amazing show on Monday.

Smackdown Notes

-Dolph Ziggler is walking on thin ice as far as relevance is concerned. If they can keep him away from being dorky with Dean Ambrose and treat him more like a credible athlete rather than being a guy who likes to sell, and if WWE can sell the story of this being Dolph’s last chance, then I truly believe that this main event push can work even if Dolph has to take a loss at SummerSlam. One of my favorite live wrestling moments was attending SummerSlam 2009 and seeing Dolph “steal the show” for one of his first times in his subliminal passing of the torch feud with Rey Mysterio Jr. Sadly that was derailed by Rey’s wellness violation, but I saw it as the first sign that Dolph was capable of being taken seriously as a pro wrestler. SummerSlam 2016 could hold a similar ascension moment, but it may be Dolph’s last chance in WWE to mean something. Seeing is believing on that one.

-I liked the promos leading to the main event as it gave some exposition to each of the wrestlers. There needs to be a reason for people to care about who’s wrestling and quick/efficient exposition moments can flush those motives out. Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin’s promos were pretty effective.

-On the top of my wish list for former WWE wrestlers to join Smackdown are Brian Kendrick and Ezekiel Jackson. Kendrick had something going on when he was paired with Zeke and his connection with Daniel Bryan could lead to something entertaining. I’d also like to see return of John Morrison or even Mr. Kennedy to get that awesome entrance back in play. Hopefully Smackdown doesn’t end up like TNA did for too long by becoming a home for former stars.

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