By John Moore
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Opening Segment: My optimism with the sudden push of Dolph Ziggler is still guarded due to past failures of trying to further evolve the Dolph Ziggler past being simply an imitation Shawn Michaels/Mr. Ass hybrid. I see it as Dolph as walking on thin ice, and so far that ice hasn’t cracked yet on the current Ziggler experiment. I like how Ziggler is trying to parlay this feud towards Dean egging him on to try to bring the best out of him with Ziggler reaching a breaking point wanting to kick Dean’s face off. It’s still a bit vague as to why Dean is trying to mold Dolph into a viable opponent since I never have seen Dean as the world-beater fighting champion type, but so far it’s intriguing and both wrestlers have kept away from campy comedy. Remember, at one point on Smackdown, we had both Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler call Daniel Bryan a “turd” and so far in this run Dean and Dolph have stayed away from any “poopy” humor.
Randy Orton vs. Heath Slater: This was a good segment that forwarded two storylines without really sacrificing someone in order to get Orton over. WWE has done a good job rebuilding Orton since WWE Battleground. What they’ve done best is build up the RKO as a true finisher in a world of kicked out of finishers. What’s odd in a good way is that they managed to build some sympathy for Heath Slater in his quest to get a contract from one of the brands. You can tell that the crowd is rallying behind Slater especially when they booed Shane McMahon for taking away his contract. By the way, Raw is doing a great job with Stephanie and Foley, but what the hell is the purpose of Shane McMahon aside from making strange faces behind Daniel Bryan?
Becky Lynch and Carmella vs. Natalya and Alexia Bliss: WWE is still blowing their load in the tag team and women’s divisions by putting their entire division in matches with each other and having half of the divisions marginalized by losing. What worked in this match is that they forwarded several stories while also protecting Becky Lynch by making her seem competent for once. When Eva Marie interrupted the match, I was afraid we were going to see a repeat of last week’s interference where Becky Lynch looks like a dope for falling for the interference. Naomi providing a counter-balance, Becky earning the submission win, and Alexa Bliss avoiding taking a loss were all good ways to build up the division while fulfilling Daniel Bryan’s theory on building up a division before introducing titles.
Alberto Del Rio: Of course, we had no knowledge of the pending suspension of Del Rio when this match took place. Taking out those factors, I thought they did a good job putting Del Rio in trajectory for a character shift similar to how TNA elevated James Storm back into the main event last week. Del Rio still runs out there as a hidden babyface, but WWE has done so much to strip him down of everything that made him an international superstar (even stripping him of his suit and pants!). They did a good job of editing some clips to make Del Rio seem more important than he has been as well as putting in a good match against John Cena. I hope that his confrontation with heel AJ Styles along with the 30-day suspension will lead to him coming back as the true ethnic babyface that fans can rally behind. Just look at the reactions that he got in Lucha Underground, ROH, and even on that trip to India recently. They are standing on a goldmine and hopefully Del Rio and WWE turns this suspension to a positive.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
12-Man Tag Match: Who pitched this idea for Smackdown? Instead of trying to develop parallel feuds in a thin division by pairing teams together to have separate feuds, they instead just throw the entire tag team division in one match. What’s even more apparent about the division is the heels consist of Breezango, Vaudevillains, and The Ascension. All those acts are positioned WWE Main Event/Superstars level acts. It didn’t help WWE to essentially put a spotlight on the bad booking of the past rather than try to hide and rebuild these damaged tag teams. I’m almost hoping we get Rhyno and Baron Corbin heel team because they did a decent job with that at the NXT level. Hell, I wouldn’t mind a TNA Dirty Heels promotion with Bobby Roode and Austin Aries, but NXT probably needs main event heels themselves.