By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Hits
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya: A minor Hit for being a better match than they had at the pay-per-view. It helped that they played to a crowd that was far more receptive than the Battleground crowd was for their match (they had to follow Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn). Lynch’s top rope leg drop was impressive in that it looked good, yet she really took care of Natalya at the same time. Lynch getting the win via submission made up for her loss at Battleground. Just when I thought we would end up getting a rubber match between Lynch and Natalya, out came Alexa Bliss. More on that later.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Dolph Ziggler earns a WWE Championship match: WWE gave Smackdown the company’s top championship, yet it already feels secondary because of Ziggler’s involvement in the match. I wouldn’t be excited if Ziggler challenging Dean Ambrose was the main event of next week’s television show. Heck, I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch WWE Superstars if Ambrose vs. Ziggler was featured in the main event. And it’s not that they can’t have a good match, it’s that everything about it feels second rate. Whatever fun there has been in Ziggler holding the championship has been in him feeling like an underdog heading into his title defenses. It doesn’t work as well when he feels like the favorite. Meanwhile, the majority of the fans gave up on Ziggler a long time ago. There was a time when he was the internet’s chosen one, but WWE killed all hope by having him lose to anyone and everyone. And while I am cool with the idea of rebuilding Ziggler, it’s not something I believe they can accomplish by SummerSlam, and it certainly wasn’t a hot moment to close the first show of the new era with. Smackdown came off like the second rate brand and now it has the second rate title match. By the way, why is AJ Styles suddenly rivaling Roman Reigns in the recent match loss column? If he is facing John Cena at SummerSlam, tell me why I should be excited about it when Cena just pinned him on Sunday and Ziggler beat him last night?
Opening segment: WWE tried to make the Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan segment feel fresh by having the wrestlers stand on the ring rather than on the stage, but this still felt too similar to the opening scene on Raw. It also didn’t feel nearly as newsworthy as they never bothered to address the lack of tag titles or a women’s championship. The announcement of Smackdown exclusive pay-per-views will excite some, yet feel like a letdown to others. Some fans can’t get enough, others won’t like the added time commitment that WWE is asking their viewers to make in order to keep up on their two main brands. Plus, it’s hard to come out of this show with any sense of excitement over seeing this brand produce three-hour events.
Battle Royal: It was good to see Apollo Crews get the win, though winning a battle royal to earn a spot in a six-pack was flat when you compare it to what we saw the night before on Raw with Finn Balor. That was the least of the issues, though, as going with the roster standing on the apron and then a battle royal right out of the game spotlighted just how thin the Smackdown brand is. By the way, it was also odd that the show that seemed like it would focus more on traditional wrestling featured a battle royal and a six-way match on night one.
Women’s Introduction: I was excited to see Alexa Bliss and was looking forward to her cutting a promo on Lynch to set up a program between the two of them. However, Bliss was interrupted by Naomi, who was interrupted by Carmella, who was interrupted by Eva Marie. The segment left me feeling better about the depth of the women’s division on Smackdown, yet I really wanted the new women to be spotlighted for more than a few seconds. Carmella sticking with the same routine that really never clicked at a high level in NXT was disappointing. I was really hopeful that WWE would wife the slate clean with her character on the main roster. Eva Marie’s entrance really stood out as big time and she’s the thing that viewers will remember most about this segment. That’s great for her, but it came at the expense of outshining two newcomers.
Miz TV: Nothing screams second rate like a Miz TV segment. I would say that talkshow segments in wrestling need to disappear completely had it not been for the excellent Highlight Reel at Battleground. It’s not that every Miz TV segment is bad, it’s just that I really wish they would save these segments for when they have a really good idea. There are just too many weeks when it feels like the segments are designed to fill time. They were trying to sell us on Smackdown being fresh and new, yet nothing feels new about Miz TV, especially when he started off with the same bit of interviewing himself that Jericho used not all that long ago. Yes, Randy Orton ended up appearing, but it was only for a segment that fell far short of the one he had with Jericho on Sunday.
Randy Orton vs. The Miz: There was noting really wrong with the match. The Miss goes to giving Orton’s in-ring return away with zero hype. In fact, this match was set up on a talkshow that Orton wasn’t even advertised for. Why not save Orton’s in-ring return for next week and dedicate part of this show to building it up as a big event? They took that approach for American Alpha, and they could have had a nice one-two punch had they saved Orton for next Tuesday.
Heath Slater and Rhyno: Slater’s rant was fun until he got to the part where he listed all of the loser factions he’s been with. I’d actually like to see WWE do a little something with Slater as an underdog, and perhaps they will. I was more excited about seeing him show up than the one dimensional Rhyno. Maybe Rhyno’s return is a bigger deal to fans who haven’t been watching NXT, but Shane McMahon labelling him the hottest free agent was embarrassing and credibility killing.