By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Hits
Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler: I like the way Ambrose called himself the winner and Ziggler the guy who steals the show and still loses. Ziggler showed really good fire (without getting all squeaky voiced) in his rebuttal. The problem is that when he talks about being undervalued or told he’s not good enough one day and too good the next, he’s still going too insider. He’s still talking about the glass ceiling without actually mentioning it. Dolph would be better off forgetting about all of the backstage references and come up with some explanation for why he’s lost so many matches over the last several years. His character didn’t hit a glass ceiling, his character won the world championship, then lost it and countless matches after that. Creative needs to stop going insider with this and instead have the Ziggler character explain why things are different now.
John Cena and AJ Styles: Yes, you’ve heard similar speeches from Cena many times over the years, but they are so damn effective when he puts the proper amount of distance between them. Cena was especially good in this segment as he professed his love for the company and pointed out the young child in the crowd who was dressed in his gear. Styles responding with a straight forward challenge and pointing out that there would be no Club and no excuses was solid. And you had to laugh at Styles for taking a jab at his former employers when he said Nashville has weak minded people.
American Alpha vs. The Vaudevillains: A nice debut for Chad Gable and Jason Jordan. It was smart to book them against a team they worked with in NXT. I like that the match wasn’t as competitive as their NXT matches were. As much as I hope that the Vaudevillains get some love on the main roster, this match was all about showcasing Alpha. Some fans in the live crowd knew them, some did not. The important thing is that they were hyped properly and they delivered the type of performance that lived up to it.
Backstage opening: Sure, the show once again opened with the two guys who continuously tell us that the show won’t be about them, but Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan kept it brief and the segment incorporated a few different people. A few weeks ago, a segment like this would have occurred in the ring and been stretched into a full segment. Instead, they got over what they needed to quickly, including that security was present just in case Brock Lesnar showed up seeking revenge.
Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin vs. Kalisto: Crews earning the IC Title shot was a nice continuation of the boost that he received last week from winning the battle royal. He wasn’t booked to win the six pack challenge, so it was hard to tell just how serious the company was about pushing him. Crews winning this match is a step in the right direction and it sets up a really nice IC Title match for SummerSlam. The post match angle was also well done. Corbin didn’t take the pinfall loss and it was cool to see his character go after Kalisto. Crews looked like the honorable babyface for saving Kalisto, and Miz looked opportunistic by hitting his finisher on his new challenger. Well done.
Eva Marie vs. Becky Lynch: Okay, so it wasn’t actually a match, but it’s certainly Hit worthy when they back out of a match that would have involved showcasing Eva Marie in the ring. I like the idea of making the fans wait to see Eva wrestle for more than just that obvious reason. It would have been more effective if she was feigning an injury to avoid wrestling someone who was out for revenge similar to the way TNA had Maria avoid wrestling Gail Kim (before Maria suffered a legitimate hand injury that has kept her out of the ring). As much as I feared that Lynch was going to be pinned by Eva, it turned out that she was absolutely the right person to have out there with her, as she was able to convey frustration with Eva’s antics.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Dolph Ziggler puts his title shot on the line: What a moron. Why in the world are babyface scripted to do this so often in pro wrestling? It doesn’t make the babyface look like a standup guy who is confident in his abilities, it makes the babyface look like an idiot. David Otunga did his best to cover Ziggler by saying he was trying to prove something to himself. I get the idea that the stipulation made the Ziggler vs. Bray Wyatt match mean more, I just despise the concept. The post match angle with Erick Rowan helping Wyatt take out the Ziggler and Dean Ambrose likely means that we’re headed toward tag matches with the Wyatts facing the champion and the challenger.
Brock Lesnar attacks Randy Orton: A minor Miss. I wanted a little Lesnar destruction of the security guards, not just a seemingly free pass to the ring despite all the security (which included Dalton Castle’s “Boys” from Ring of Honor!) and an F5 rebuttal to the RKO he took on Raw. Lesnar evened the score in the least exciting way possible. That said, I am looking forward to the SummerSlam showdown match. The Raw angle was more effective, but WWE is doing a good job of creating a big match feel for Lesnar vs. Orton.
Carmella: This was basically a repeat of the Austin Aries debut in NXT. Baron Corbin attacked Aries from behind and took him out before he even made it to the ring. I really liked that angle. In this case, it’s been two weeks and all we’ve seen from Carmella is the entrance that makes me feel like I’m watching a GLOW skit. Carmella has talent, but the Staton Island Queen gimmick does nothing for me.