By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
John Cena and A.J. Styles vs. Rusev and Kevin Owens: A good main event that showcased Rusev especially well in that he performed the majority of the offense for his team. It’s nice to see Rusev back in monster heel mode rather than showing off his comedic skills. Monster Rusev had a tank entrance at WrestleMania. Comedy Rusev teamed with Jinder Mahal in throwaway Raw matches. The finish was logical in that they put over Cena in his return match and did so at the expense of Owens rather than Rusev.
AJ Styles and John Cena opening: A hot opening to the show with Cena answering the Styles open challenge. Granted, they didn’t deliver the match, but it made viewers take notice and the angle that followed set up an appealing tag team main event with the duo facing Kevin Owens and Rusev. As fun as it would have been to get Styles vs. Cena unexpectedly, it also would have been foolish to give the match away without advertising it in advance. For that matter, while I enjoyed the tease, it does seem foolish in retrospect that WWE did not advertise Cena’s in-ring return, especially on a night when they were airing opposite the MLB All-Star Game.
Mike and Maria Kanellis and Sami Zayn: A brief yet effective segment in terms of showing the mean streak of both Mike and Maria.
Jinder Mahal vs. Tye Dillinger in a non-title match: A simple non-title win for Mahal. At this point, it’s nice to see him in the ring with someone other than Randy Orton, who is still the only person to challenge Mahal for the title on television.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin brawl: Good intensity. It was disappointing for viewers that the advertised match didn’t occur, but obviously they are saving this for Battleground.
Jey Uso vs. Xavier Woods: A minor Hit for a match that kept the tag title feud and the challenger momentum going.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
Shane McMahon and the women’s division: Naomi wanted to know who her next challenger would be and indicated that it better not be Lana again. Keep in mind that it was Naomi who asked for the first match and then actually booked the second title defense. Anyway, she was far too content with Shane booking the five-way elimination match, meaning she apparently won’t have to defend her title at Battleground. The involvement of all the other women in the segment felt like the worst of the Raw women’s division with the women being crammed in just to get them on the show.
Charlotte and Becky Lynch vs. Natalya and Tamina: The match was successful in terms of furthering the storyline between Lana and Tamina. Even so, it felt like they were putting over an underdog wrestler heading into yet another multi-person match match with the hope of establishing that everyone has a chance to win (see Dolph Ziggler beating AJ Styles prior to MITB).
Breezango: You know it’s an off night when I was more compelled by the conversation between Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley than the comedy antics of Tyler Breeze and Fandango. I was not along if the crowd’s flat reaction was any indication.