By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown Hits
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens: This was a fun television main event. They managed to build enough tension with Randy Orton’s interference and Sami Zayn at ringside to make you believe that both men had legitimate opportunities to win. Zayn gets extra credit for his over the top reactions to any and all of Owens’ offense while out on the floor. Shinsuke was made to look like a bit of an idiot for chasing Sami around and leaving himself open to an Owens’ sneak attack, but that’s par for the course with WWE babyfaces at this point.
Rusev vs. Big E: These two had a fun segment earlier in the show with New Day dressed like Jimmy Hart, Akeem, and Brother Love, with Rusev crapping on their Halloween Cheefulness. The match that followed was one of the better matches to come out of a mid-card comedy segment in a while. I would actually be all for Rusev and English feuding with New Day in a tag team format, if WWE doesn’t have any other plans for them at the moment.
Fashion Files Strangerer Things: Some much more current references than usual with a well timed Stranger Things themed episode of the Fashion Files. The Bludgeon Brothers reveal at the end was fun as well. This was one of the better uses of this segment that I can recall. It didn’t linger on jokes that didn’t land for too long, and it actually made sense for a Halloween show.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Shane McMahon Opening Promo: This was cheered in the building, but it didn’t really land with me. Shane tried to take the moral high ground by calling upon years of resentment from the Smackdown brand, due to Raw’s condescension about it being WWE’s “B Show”. This might have been understandable if they had demonstrated it with the actions of people on the Raw Brand, but we never got to see any of that onscreen to justify Shane’s actions. It’s another case of WWE relying upon fans having an understanding of the off screen political environment in the company, but there is no reason to assume that the majority of the audience has any interest in it.
Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode: A slight miss for this one. Cramming three falls into eleven minutes of TV action is a bit much. The end result was Roode giving up the first fall within a few minutes of the opening bell, and then getting two quick ones after they had a commercial break. What we saw was well executed, but the stipulation altered the flow of the match to such a degree that it felt like both guys were unable to get into rhythm. The final fall was a good callback to their first match together, but that was only a few weeks ago so the impact wasn’t what it would be if they had fought through a long form dramatic feud.
AJ Styles vs. Samir Singh: Jinder’s post match attack was the real story here. The beatdown was fine, but I’m not a huge fan of Jinder making an example out of a guy of Styles’ calibre just to send a message to Brock Lesnar. Nobody in their right mind is ever going to believe that Jinder poses a threat to Brock Lesnar, no matter how many Khallas’ he hits on AJ Styles.
Baron Corbin vs. Sin Cara: This come from nowhere push for Sin Cara should have started elsewhere. They just had Corbin go over AJ Styles clean to retain his U.S. Championship, and now they are putting him in the ring with a guy who has been out of sight and mind forever. I know WWE is focused on making international talent more prominent, but it seems like they are skipping a lot of steps in the process. Jinder Mahal became a major player practically overnight, and Sin Cara seems to be following a similar path. The problem is, without the groundwork being put in ahead of time, fans don’t invest the same way they would for talents that have earned their way into prominence with their performances.