By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
AJ Styles vs. James Ellsworth: A really fun match with the ultimate underdog getting destroyed by the champion before getting the great near fall off of No Chin Music. The DQ finish was pleasing in that it means we haven’t seen the last of this entertaining program. Smackdown has plenty of time to fill with the Survivor Series format and no standalone pay-per-view until December, and this is a fun way to do it. I hope they at least have some fun with the idea that Styles is ducking Ellsworth next week given that he is the one who asked Daniel Bryan for the match with Dean Ambrose next week. By the way, they really should have set up the Styles vs. Ambrose match on Smackdown rather than saving it for the Talking Smack show. Angry Styles was great in that segment and that’s a match that you want to tell the actual Smackdown audience about a week in advance.
Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper: The non-finish was logical at this early stage in the feud. The coffin bit certainly isn’t for everyone, but the live crowd responded well to Kane popping up inside the coffin. Are they setting up a coffin match or was the coffin simply used for Kane’s return?
Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi: First off, Naomi looks like she’s more concerned with glowing than wrestling. I’ll never suggest the women need to pin their hair back and look like they are entering a UFC fight, but her ring gear was absurd. On the bright side, the match was entertaining. I would have cringed if you had told me they were going to be asked to fill ten minutes, but they did a great job. The clean finish with the heel going over was also a pleasant surprise.
Nikki Bella and Carmella: A minor Hit in that their verbal exchange held my interest, yet it felt rather underwhelming in terms of WWE finally acknowledging her relationship with John Cena as part of their main television show. I assumed it would be for something bigger such as a heel targeting her to get to Cena, though I suppose they can still go there. The verbal exchange was well done. I just had a hard time buying into what the babyface was saying about how she wears the pants in her relationship and shaming Carmella as a woman. I have watched Total Divas just enough to know that the usual storyline is Nikki pouting about not being married, only to have Cena respond by purchasing her jewelry that distracts her until the next season.
The Miz, Kenny, and Mikey vs. Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater, and Rhyno: A true laugh out loud moment occurred when David Otunga scolded Miz for always trying to use his wife to get an advantage. JBL, who is married to financial analyst Meredith Whitney, immediately quipped, “What’s wrong with that?” Meanwhile, Miz continued to be edgy, and I like that his interference helped one of the Spirit Squad members pin one of the tag champions. It set up a reason for the Spirit Squad to challenge for the tag titles. I got over the Spirit Squad reunion after the first week, but it doesn’t mean they can’t get a TV match or two out of them working with Rhyno and Heath Slater.
Baron Corbin vs. Jack Swagger: It was surprising to see Corbin go over clean and decisively. Are they already giving up on Swagger on Smackdown or will he simply get the win back next week? Meanwhile, the creative team needs to watch Corbin’s appearances on Talking Smack and be honest with themselves about why he comes off so much better on the post show than he does reading their lines on Smackdown.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
Curt Hawkins vs. Apollo Crews: Hawkins is apparently the Eva Marie of the men’s division. His material bounces from being funny to groan inducing. He’s an obnoxious heel and he’s playing the role well. It will be interesting to see if he’s booked as an undercard loser or if they actually have plans for him to be more than that. The issue I had with him walking out was that it didn’t leave me anxious to see Crews get his hands on him, and it certainly didn’t help that Crews seemed content with the way the match ended. If Crews didn’t care about Hawkins walking out, then why should viewers? One of the reasons the Eva Marie gags worked so well is that Becky Lynch was there to look outraged on more than one occasion.
Natalya: Reading Whitney Houston lyrics and trying to pass them off as her own words was good for a minor chuckle, but how many heels in WWE are more about providing viewers with a minor chuckle than actually attempting to draw heat these days?