By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown Hits
AJ Styles Promo: It was great to see Styles take a serious tone after losing a Championship opportunity. So much of his heel run was marked by comedy and misuse that it was refreshing to see him take on a tone that removes some of the tongue and cheek from him act that has made it difficult to take him seriously during periods of his championship run. It also did a nice job of setting the stage for his confrontation with Shane McMahon later in the show.
MizTV: While I think everyone who follows wrestling closely feels like the mixed tag match is a step down for John Cena at WrestleMania, the feud has been generally good and he seems to be enjoying the opportunity to work with his girlfriend, cloying and obnoxious as they are at times. The Miz and Maryse have done their parts well, as evidenced by more strong promos during this MizTV segment. It all feels very reality TV, but there’s a lot of star power here, including Daniel Bryan playing his role as the object of Miz’s derision for most of the year. He’ll get his revenge through his “extended family member” John Cena, which is about the best we can expect considering the circumstances of his health.
AJ Styles Beats down Shane McMahon: WWE worked really hard to get fans to turn against Styles here. He ambushed Shane backstage, bloodied him by putting him through a car window, and then had fellow heels admonish him for taking it too far. Bryan’s threat to fire him was also well done, which is the first time I can recall an authority figure contributing positively to multiple major WrestleMania storylines in recent memory.
American Alpha vs. The Usos: Very good match with some believable intensity shown from both teams. I like the Usos new characters and the style they have adopted in the ring along with it. Alpha, as always, delivers in the ring, and that’s the best way for fans to get more exposure to them. They are still at a point where they struggle to make hay on the microphone, so they need long television matches with great stories in order gain mindshare with fans. A chase of the Usos following a loss at WrestleMania is just what is needed here.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Gratuitous Camera Angles: Shane McMahon was put through a car window, and WWE’s crack production team just happened to have a camera in the car ahead of time. There are numerous possibilities why someone would a camera in a car, but none that make sense to be shown for a pro wrestling television broadcast.
The Women’s Division: The casualty of getting all the women on the show at WrestleMania is that none of them feel particularly important for longer than a few minutes where they spotlight them entering the match. This week was Carmella’s turn. They also had a match between Mickie James and Alexa Bliss, but their relationship has become so muddled that it’s hard to figure out who is playing who at this point. They need to sort that issue out with some vignettes or a backstage promo.
Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt: I get the feeling the writers are convinced that they can somehow make this shit sandwich of a story palatable by having Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt take it even further over the top with supernatural powers and reprehensible behavior. It’s not working for me, and given the track record with the supernatural stuff outside of The Undertaker, it’s not looking good for a miraculous turn around.