By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Charlotte and Naomi: A good heel promo by Charlotte followed by Naomi establishing herself as a fighting and unintimidated champion. Shane McMahon telling Charlotte that wrestlers have to earn title shots on Smackdown made me chuckle considering some of the entrants in the six pack challenge. Is the idea that they’ll throw damn near anyone in a contenders match yet they have to win it in order to get a title shot? Anyway, the actual match between the two was entertaining albeit longer than it needed to be. Was this the longest match Naomi has worked? Charlotte going over was the obvious move to set up next week’s title match.
Sami Zayn vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Mojo Rawley in a six-pack challenge to become No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship: As silly as it seemed for some of these guys to be in a No. 1 contenders match, everyone involved worked hard and delivered a suspenseful match. It’s been obvious that WWE has wanted to do more with Jinder, but the addition of the Bollywood Boyz tag team to his act was a surprise. The immediate reaction from fans on social media was about as negative as it gets. And while I can’t say the thought of Jinder being elevated to main event excites me, neither did the idea of WWE pushing Braun Strowman as a singles act and that had worked out extremely well. That said, remember this moment if anyone tries to tell you that Vince McMahon has moved past his bodybuilder fetish.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin: A good match with Corbin dominating the majority of it and Styles working from underneath in his babyface without an actual babyface turn role. Corbin looked good and was protected with the count-out loss, as he is someone they need to keep strong given the lack of heel depth on the Smackdown roster.
Primo and Epico: It’s refreshing to see Primo and Epico pushed as wrestlers rather than matadors or timeshare salesmen. Sure, it’s no fun seeing American Alpha continue to be wasted, but they are clearly playing a role in terms of elevating the long abused Primo and Epico, and one can only assume that Alpha will eventually bounce back and win the feud. I just hope I’m not writing a similar blurb ten years from now about how WWE finally figured out what to do with American Alpha.
Kevin Owens vs. Gary Gandy: Sure, this was just a squash, but here’s hoping this leads to Owens bringing back the open challenge gimmick. There are plenty of fun potential payoff opponents, including the last U.S. Champion to use the open challenge gimmick – John Cena.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
None: As much griping as there is about Jinder Mahal becoming No. 1 contender, I am curious to see what they have in mind for him and the Bollywood Boyz. He may not be your first pick to be elevated, but you have to appreciate the fact that Smackdown is once again attempting to get something out of undercard acts. Meanwhile, this was more of a steady show than a great show that the lack of Misses may seem to imply.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...