By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal and Rusev: A good television main event set up well by the opening segment. Shinsuke gets the momentum building win, and one can only assume that he’ll get an even bigger win over Orton next week. By the way, does Orton’s character hate all foreigners? His latest feuds have been with Jinder Mahal and Rusev, and now he put Nakamura down with an RKO after the match. In all seriousness, the RKO spot worked, as it adds some tension heading into their No. 1 contenders match next week.
Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon: The best part about the apparent build to their match is that Owens is getting a lot of mic time. He’s one of the best talkers in the business and he’s brilliant when it comes to drawing heat. Owens taking the referee shirt off the official and making himself the referee for Sami Zayn vs. Aiden English was a fun twist. The fast count was hilarious in that Zayn wasn’t showing any signs of life after taking the Popup Powerbomb, yet Owens still felt the need to make a fast count. Shane’s promo was odd in that it was logical for Owens to leave the building, but what was Commissioner Shane’s excuse for leaving the show early?
Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers opening segment: I have been an advocate for making the Singhs a bigger part of the Mahal act. No, that doesn’t mean I want to see them continue to factor into all of his match finishes. Rather, I like the idea of them playing bigger roles in promos and developing individual personalities. And while one of the brothers needs to improve when it comes to expressing remorse, I enjoyed the opening segment with the brothers essentially worshipping Mahal and taking the blame for him taking a beating last week. The overall segment was strong with Shinsuke Nakamura coming out to confront Mahal only to be outnumbered. Randy Orton coming out to help and then being attacked by Rusev served as an effective setup for the tag team main event. Bonus points for Byron Saxton finally speaking up and saying that the fans boo Mahal for being a jerk (not because they are Xenophobic, etc.).
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin vs. The Ascension: A nice showcase for the fun new duo of Gable and Benjamin. It was hard to take the Ascension seriously before the Breezango skits, and it’s even more difficult now that they’ve been established as comedic goofball heels. Even so, someone had to put over Gable and Benjamin, and Viktor is especially good at making opponents shine.
Bobby Roode vs. Mike Kanellis: A nice match and another showcase win for Roode. It is disappointing to see Mike and Maria being positioned as an undercard act. Keep in mind that Maria was arguably the best talker in TNA, and Mike was also very good in that regard. Meanwhile, it was surprising to see Roode work as a babyface again. He’s always been a pure heel, but he definitely has the fans behind him right now.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
AJ Styles vs. Tye Dillinger: I was actually looking forward to a quality match from these two. Baron Corbin interrupting Dillinger was logical given the earlier Corbin promo, and Dillinger looked good in fighting off Corbin long enough to make sure he was the person who got the match with Styles. Unfortunately, the match was so quick and decisive that any positive feelings there may have been for Dillinger were wiped away. On a positive note, I like the return of the open challenge and I hope WWE gets creative with it.
The Usos vs. New Day: A decent TV match, yet it’s also another match between these teams given away on Smackdown. I assume the company will be sticking with this program for some time given the lack of tag team depth on Smackdown, so I can’t help but feel that they risk overexposing the feud prematurely by giving away their matches on television. For that matter, their SummerSlam Kickoff Show match was so good that it would have been wise to let that be the last memory the fans have of their matches until they meet again in a pay-per-view match.
Dolph Ziggler: Another promo with Ziggler complaining about being overlooked when the issue from a storyline standpoint is that his character just keeps losing matches.
Tamina and Lana: A flat debut for the new duo. How is this better than the Rusev and Lana act?