By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Randy Orton promo: Orton griping about losing the championship “to a guy like Jinder Mahal” goes against the idea of WWE attempting to legitimize Mahal as a worthy champion. However, it seems like smart business in the short term. The casual fans surely view Mahal as a soft and vulnerable champion given the way he went from scrub to the top of the card in a matter of weeks. Throw in the fact that Orton’s rematch is in his hometown and casual viewers must be assuming that Orton will regain the championship. Only time will tell whether Mahal sinks or swim as champion and whether fans see him as credible, but in the meantime it’s logical to play into the feeling of vulnerability about his title reign rather than trying to force fans into immediately accepting him as a worthy and credible champion.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin: The basic setup on the KO version of The Highlight Reel led to a quality tag team opener. It was nice to see Zayn do the majority of the selling for his team. Zayn sells terrifically, and this allowed Nakamura’s offense to shine and for him to look like the star he should be. The finish with Corban and Owens melting down was a nice carryover from the talkshow segment and even last week, and helped establish the “every man for himself” vibe as Money in the Bank approaches.
Women’s Money in the Bank announcement: The setup was rather strange in that there was no real reason the referee couldn’t have just started the match since five-ways are no DQ matches. That said, the end result of a women’s MITB match being announced for the pay-per-view is a positive. I’m not sure how WWE intends to fill out the rest of the card with so many men and women in the MITB matches, but with those two matches and the Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton match, I’m already looking forward to the Smackdown pay-per-view more than Sunday’s Raw Extreme Rules event.
The Usos and New Day: It was nice to see the Usos go for heat even if it was a region specific joke about the local football team. As strong as their delivery has been, they have had the coolest promos on Smackdown recently. Viewers needed a break from New Day and got one. I’m not sure how much time this buys them before the act feels stale again, so it’s wise to dive into the most attractive feud. Whatever happened to American Alpha?
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
Dolph Ziggler vs. AJ Styles: WWE’s idiotic hometown curse approach seemed to be in full effect with Styles losing to Ziggler. Vince McMahon has shown repeatedly that he believes there is heat in wrestlers losing in their hometown. And while that can be the case, someone needs to explain why when they cut to a shot of the crowd the fans were just sitting down and showing no real emotion. This didn’t put heat on the heel, it completely deflated the crowd. It’s also possible that this is simply the usual WWE approach to Money in the Bank preview matches where WWE creative goes out of their way to show that everyone has a chance. Either way, it wasn’t worth it. Could they be serious about pushing Ziggler? Seeing is believing.
Smackdown opening teaser for the five-way elimination match: As much as I applaud the attempt to showcase the match right from the start in a unique way, this felt annoyingly peppy and beauty pageant phony.
Tyler Breeze and Fandango vs. Primo and Epico Colon: The babyface duo wrestling in costumes and their Fashion Files skits just aren’t clicking with me. The act was definitely over with the live crowds at Backlash and on last week’s Smackdown. The crowd this week was a little tamer than the two previous shows, but they seemed to get more into the act as the match went on. Again, to each his own.