By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
AJ Styles vs. Apollo Crews: As much as AJ looks like a cheesy ’80s movie jock villain while wearing the headband, he is brimming with confidence with the mic in his hand. He slowly but surely became a solid promo in TNA. After getting off to a slow start in WWE, he finally looks completely at ease and is delivering the best promos of his career. Styles has always been a gem in the ring and this match was no exception. Styles helped make Crews look good before finishing him off. I hope we see more from these two somewhere down the road. The post-match silliness was Miss-worthy with Styles being crotched on the top rope by Dean Ambrose. I believe Styles is on the verge of winning the championship, and I believe the brand would be better off with him being positioned in a less comical manner than we’ve seen since he beat John Cena. Speaking of Cena, he worked the dark match, yet didn’t appear on the show. Strange.
Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin: The pre-show featured a lengthy video package on Corbin that created the vibe that this could be a big night for him. And while facing Ambrose in the main event meant something, it wasn’t as big of a night as it could have been given. Still, Corbin was made to look competitive with Ambrose before AJ Styles caused the disqualification. The post match bit quenched Vince McMahon’s thirst for ball humor now that Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows have moved on.
The Miz and Dolph Ziggler: It was alarming when WWE announced a Miz TV segment because I feared that we were going right back to the A-Lister character despite his strong performance on Smackdown Live. Instead, Miz picked up where he left off with good intensity and without any campiness. The subject matter may not have been as strong as when he tore into Daniel Bryan, but angry Miz is so much better than the mid-card A-Lister. I’m not crazy about the possibility of Miz reverting to a version of his “don’t touch the face” act, but we’ll see where it goes. Ziggler showed good fire in confronting Miz, though I still wish they would reboot his act by turning him heel.
Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt: The new, improved, and pants wearing Orton continues to be more human and relatable. Wyatt still speaks a lot of mumbo jumbo and still needs meaningful wins. Fortunately, Orton was likable enough to carry this segment and I look forward to seeing what type of match they deliver at Backlash.
Natalya and Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch and Naomi: It was good to see Bliss get the win for her team she lost last week. They added more heat to the Nikki Bella vs. Carmella feud with the ringside attack, and the distraction finish gave Lynch an out. However, WWE has to know that these distraction finishes are so generic that while they protect the babyface, they do nothing for the heel. Here’s hoping the plan is to do something to create the vibe that it’s every woman for herself in the six-pack challenge for the new women’s title at Backlash.
Heath Slater segment: A minor Hit in that I must admit that aspects of this segment got a chuckle out of me. Is it wrong that I enjoyed watching Rhyno eat cheese whiz and crackers more than just about anything he’s ever done in WWE?
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
The Hype Bros vs. The Vaudevillains: My idea of Pro Wrestling Hell is being forced to watch a never ending loop of Hype Bros vs. BroMans promos and matches, complete with DJ Z’s annoying sound effect. Meanwhile, it’s obvious that Vince McMahon or someone in creative isn’t digging the Vaudevillains act, so why not change it and make better use of a solid team?
The Headbangers vs. Rhyno and Heath Slater: Congratulations to Smackdown for presumably joining countless independent promotions that once booked The Headbangers in tag tournaments to crown their inaugural tag team champions. I have no problem with bringing back names from the past for one-off appearances, but it’s really hard to take a title tournament seriously when it involves a team that hasn’t worked in WWE in 16 years. Furthermore, the bracket setup has the two best teams meeting in the semifinals rather than in the finals.
Kane vs. Gary “The Milkman” Milliman: It’s good to know that someone on the creative team is watching old AWA footage. The son that AWA jobber Jake Milliman never knew he had issued a challenge and then stripped to his underwear for reasons that only a creative team member could understand. I have no idea what the goal of this was other than to give Kane a reason to walk backstage and cross paths with Corbin.