By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown Hits
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens: I liked the logic of this segment, and I like the fact that Sami is still playing a dupe despite turning his back on being the guy that was motivated to do things the right way. This sets him up to find out the true costs of doing things the easy way, and I’m sure that will find a way to culminate at WrestleMania. Owens is fine with Sami turning over a new leaf in service of his ends, but what happens when he tries to claim success for himself?
The Tag Division: The opening segment features some memorable promo moments between New Day and The Usos, but it also made the tag division feel larger than them, and crowned some new contenders in the process. There also seems to be several other teams forming on the horizon, with the Bludgeon Brothers (ugh) vignette and potentially Owens and Zayn taking an interest at some point. If New Day is going to fade out of the title picture for now, and perhaps take on some singles matches, maybe we’ll also seem some acts like English and Rusev form teams to allow them some room.
Baron Corbin vs. AJ Styles: A surprise clean win for Corbin that set his title reign off on the right foot. WWE had damaged him badly in the process of getting the briefcase away from him, and the subsequent embarrassment at the hands of John Cena. I’ve seen some AJ Styles fans complaining about him taking a clean loss, but he can afford it at this stage, and he’s destined for bigger things away from this championship as it is. The match itself was too similar to their other encounters to really stand out, but the implications are positive for both characters. AJ Styles can refocus on something other than the US Title and the mid-card talent that is often associated with it, and Corbin gets a signature victory that will help mend the damage to his heel persona.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton vs. Rusev and Aiden English: This match was a crowd pleaser and well laid out to accomplish that task. Aiden English and Rusev really need to put together some quality wins eventually, but it was even more necessary to give Nakamura a rebound after being booked to lose clean to Mahal on Sunday. With Styles, Orton, Nakamura, Mahal, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens now free to establish new feuds, it’ll be interesting to see who mixes up with who heading into Survivor Series. Perhaps Rusev and English could find success in the tag division? I know many may see it is a step backwards, but sometimes one is required to take big leaps forward.
Becky Lynch vs. Carmella: A minor hit because Smackdown has desperately missed Becky Lynch’s presence as a key figure in the Women’s Division. It’s a coin flip between her and Charlotte as to who is the most competent wrestler on the show, and she may be the most consistently good babyface on the roster when she’s given decent material to work with. They’ve abused her ability to lend others credibility to the point where she is now in a position where she needs to rebuild her own. Carmella loses nothing here, as her act isn’t dependent on wins and losses at this point. Becky and Charlotte both chasing the Women’s Championship, and causing a rift in their friendship in the process, is very good news for the division. Their feud over the Women’s Championship, whenever it happens, will be the best women’s feud Smackdown can muster with the current roster of talent.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler: Roode forgot one of his lines and looked lost more than once during this segment, but props to Ziggler for improvising and recovering as best he could. Roode just seems like a fish out of water as a babyface, and this feud isn’t doing him any favors. It seems like a rite of passage for newcomers to the show to feud with Ziggler, who has struggled mightily to connect with the audience after years of stop and start pushes and 50/50 booking. Ziggler might be one of those guys who could find success in a tag team and reinvigorate his career. It really doesn’t seem like there’s any other point to his current character, other than making him a launching point for Roode.
The Bludgeon Brothers: These guys have been off TV for like 8 years, and this is the best they could come up with? I am 100% behind the idea of a no nonsense, smash mouth, big guy tag team, but this feels like a knockoff from a Blizzard video game.
Natalya: I have a lot of respect for Natalya and her contributions to Wrestling during her WWE tenure, but her delivery of lines is like something out of a bad student film.