By Jason Powell
Check out my free audio review of this edition of WWE Smackdown Live at PWAudio.net
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Jinder Mahal vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship: WWE took a main event that no one seemed to care about and replaced it with a true dream match in AJ Styles vs. Brock Lesnar. It feels safe to assume that Mahal will regain the WWE Championship shortly after the pay-per-view, but at least the Survivor Series main event should be special. The actual match between Mahal and Styles was entertaining. It’s no surprise that Mahal had the best match of his career with Styles, but he held up his end nicely. WWE would be wise to announce a rematch for next week with the idea being that fans who desperately want to see Styles vs. Lesnar will be fearful that Vince McMahon will pull the rug out from under them by putting the title back on Mahal.
AJ Styles and Jinder Mahal opening promos: A couple of simple promos that made the main event feel bigger. Sometimes the little things that create the right vibe. I also enjoyed the promos that both wrestlers delivered later in the show.
Kofi Kingston vs. Sami Zayn: A nice match with a surprisingly clean win for Kingston. New Day are made while Zayn has lost more televised matches than he’s won since his big heel turn.
James Ellsworth vs. Becky Lynch: Good dumb fun. I can’t fault anyone who rolled their eyes at this, but Ellsworth remains my guilty pleasure.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
The Usos vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable for the Smackdown Tag Titles: So which team are the babyaces? The Usos were heels and then they made peace with New Day. Benjamin and Gable were babyfaces, but now they chop block opponents for no good reason. I spent more time questioning what the company wanted viewers to think of each team than I did focussing on the actual match.
Opening segment: Shane’s delivery was fine, but the only thing new he had to talk about was Daniel Bryan returning next week, which led to the understandably disappointed reaction from this live crowd. The New Day promo worked with the live crowd, and then things picked up when Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn came out and traded verbal jabs with the babyfaces. Ultimately, though, it felt like a needlessly long segment filled with Shane’s Survivor Series hype repeat material before they finally got around to setting up the opening match.
Randy Orton vs. Rusev: Orton beats Rusev with an RKO out of nowhere. Why does it feel like this happens every other week on Smackdown?