By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Introduction of new title belts: The blue belts actually do more for me than the red Universal Championship. It doesn’t hurt that I think we all expected the blue belts, whereas they surprised us with the red title on Sunday. It also helps that the likable duo of Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan are endorsing the belts and that Smackdown didn’t rush into introducing them. I didn’t care for the McBry logic of giving Heath Slater a tag title shot simply because he was being a pest. I’m all for doing more with Slater, but it’s hard to take titles seriously when a guy earns a spot in the tournament that way. Speaking of Slater, I hope WWE recognizes the growing support for Slater and they push him as a babyface rather than as a bumbling heel. WWE might be better off having Slater fight to earn a spot on the Raw roster given that heel Stephanie McMahon can continue to reject him. McBry can always step in and offer him a contract somewhere down the road if they want Slater to be a Smackdown regular.
Smackdown Live Set: A slick upgrade over the old set. It also stands out as being unique and arguably better than the Raw set. Smackdown is feeling less and less like a second rate knockoff brand with each week that passes. Now if only they could beef up the roster with a little more star power.
AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler: A very good match. The problem continues to be that I just don’t care about Ziggler. I even feel bad for feeling that way at this point because the guy works as hard as anyone in the ring, but I can’t force myself to care about a guy who was so damaged by creative. And to be fair, it’s not like creative is totally to blame. Ziggler’s promos tend to leave a lot to be desired, and his ring attire choices often baffle me. His tributes to everything from ’80s hard rock to Shawn Michaels are just strange, and that’s coming from someone who enjoys both. And then when WWE finally puts him in a world title match on the big stage at SummerSlam, Ziggler apparently felt like this was the time to make some type of political statement with his ring attire. Don’t even think about accusing me of venting about this because I disagree with his political message because I don’t even have a clue what message he was trying to send. As a fan of ’80s rock, he will surely understand when I say that he had a Spinal Tap moment on Sunday. The guy was working hard in the biggest match he’s had in years, and the only thing the guys at my house cared about was trying to read the small print on the back of his tights. And once they finally figured out that it read No One Rides For Free, we spent the rest of the match trying to figure out why he chose to display that message on his ass. Again, the match with Styles was a hit and I’m still pulling for Dolph to get it together, but I really hope he realizes that his own quirkiness is holding him back more than creative is at this point.
American Alpha vs. Tyler Breeze and Fandango: The first competitive match we’ve seen Alpha have since they were called up to the main roster. More than anything, it served as a reminder that WWE needs to feature Breeze and Fandango as a quality tag team rather than as a silly comedy act. Ditch the silly team name, tone down the comedy elements, and push these guys as a top notch heel duo. After all, Alpha can only feud with the Usos for so long.
Randy Orton promo: As expected, no harm was done in having Orton lose to Lesnar. The live crowd was still happy to see him, and he’s still just a good RKO away from being right back where he was going into the match. I am lukewarm on his feud with Bray Wyatt, which should change as the story progresses. By the way, I had no problem with Orton appearing a couple nights after Brock Lesnar left him a bloody mess. After all, we see UFC fighters make public appearances after taking serious punishments in their fights. The image of Orton lying in a pool of blood at SummerSlam and the shots of the staples in his head are more than enough to get over the damage that Lesnar did.
Carmella attacks Nikki Bella: Technically, Carmella was a babyface on Sunday and she attacked a woman who not only worked on the heel side, but also hugged her heel partners. Still, I get what they were going for here and I liked it. Nikki is apparently the sympathetic babyface returning from neck surgery, and Carmella is now slotted properly as a heel. Heck, she can even bring back her silly GLOW entrance skit and moonwalk now that she’s a heel. I like the intensity that Carmella showed and I think she will be much better off as a heel.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
AJ Styles locker room scene: I can live with AJ’s over the top gloating about beating John Cena, though I wish this was a turning point into more of a serious character. I want to see Styles presented as a star, not a gloating pest heel. Still, the thing that stood out as odd to me was that apparently Baron Corbin, Erick Rowan, Apollo Crews, Rhyno, and Dolph Ziggler share a locker room. Is it too old school to feel like babyfaces and heels should occupy different locker rooms?
Dean Ambrose: Comedy Ambrose returned complete with the giant cowboy hat. Enough said. To close on a positive note, Dean appears to be one hell of a tipper.