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By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn in a non-title match: Remember the good old days when Smackdown was a breath of fresh air because the involvement of the babyface authority figures was kept to a minimum? Suddenly, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan are the primary focus of the show. The difference between them and The Authority is that the Shane and Bryan storyline is somewhat compelling. Plus, it’s kinda fun to see Owens and Zayn outsmart Shane every week when no one gets to outsmart his sister. I came close in my prediction of a Triple Threat match between Owens and Zayn, but they ended up going with a handicap match instead. The idea works the same. Bryan looks like a heel for agreeing to the match now, but my guess is that his ultimate plan is to put Owens and Zayn in a position to self destruct by stating that only the person who scores the fall for their team would be named the WWE Champion.
The Usos vs. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin for the Smackdown Tag Titles: A good title match to open 2018. Both teams worked hard and showed good chemistry. The false finish was odd in that officials being corrected and even watching replay footage would seem to open the door to make this the norm going forward, but that’s never going to happen in WWE. If nothing else, Gable and Benjamin have something to gripe about and that sets up the need for a rematch. Here’s hoping that creative does something to establish actual personalities for Gable and Benjamin. By the way, if Gable and Benjamin are heels now, why are still doing a smiley babyface pose on the ropes as part of their entrance routine?
Bludgeon Brothers: More of the same. If nothing else, it was good to see that The Ascension didn’t go from years of being undercard dwellers to becoming overnight badasses just in time for a battle of big men tag team feud.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
Riott Squad vs. The Welcoming Committee: I realize there are not enough babyfaces to go around on Smackdown, but what did they expect the fans to do during this heel vs. heel match? The only thing worse was the awful Ruby Riott promo about magic not being real. She seems to get the worst material every week. At least we saw and actual heel/babyface dynamic once Charlotte’s awkward “dreamer” rebuttal promo was over. It’s just too bad that the Riott Squad never seems to be scripted to maintain any heat.
Xavier Woods vs. Aiden English in a U.S. Title Tournament match: A selfish Miss in that it’s purely because I was hoping to see English advance for an oddball match with Jinder Mahal. That may seem hypocritical given my criticism above, but English and particularly Rusev are babyfaces at this point anyways.