By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Opening Segment: It was nice to see the show open with something other than a long form promo that sets up a low stakes main event match. This time we had a beat down segment that resulted in the authority figures making a double main event! Seriously, though, the change of pace was welcome and it cleared up immediately whether Owens and Zayn would be willing to work together again after last week’s show.
Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, and Jinder Mahal Promo: This was a tenuous hit due to the use of the Top 10 list to make an angle work on TV. Roode’s motivation to restart the U.S. Title Open Challenge was good, and Mahal’s use of the Top 10 to get under Orton’s skin did a nice job getting the crowd involved. There was a lot of talk about respecting each other and respecting the locker room, which works in small doses, but they’ll have to be careful because it quickly loses its edge if it’s used repeatedly.
Kevin Owens vs. Baron Corbin: I am giving this a Hit because both guy really worked hard, but they had a huge challenge in front of them with both guys being heels and neither of them have been particularly sympathetic as characters. The crowd was clearly not upset about the beatdown earlier in the show, and they weren’t excited about Corbin getting his revenge. Even with a lot working against them, they got some reaction to bigger moves and near falls.
Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler: It wasn’t hard to enjoy this match in a vacuum, and I think they succeeded down the stretch in creating some drama. Zayn is a very effective pest heel, and Ziggler is more effective at Corbin at getting sympathy, so the crowd increasingly got behind him as the match went on. The problem continues to be that Smackdown feels like it succeeds in spite of it’s booking rather than because of it, and this match was no exception to that.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
Smackdown Women’s Division: The match on this show between Sarah Logan and Charlotte was enjoyable, but there’s something really unpalatable with how these women are treated creatively, and it’s hard to get invested. Charlotte’s Smackdown Women’s Championship hasn’t felt in any real danger in months, the Riott Squad has been beaten too many times to maintain their edge, and the supporting cast of Naomi and Becky Lynch have been languishing for months. These women need more than one segment per show, they need more dialogue, and the show needs to fix the miscasting of Charlotte as a babyface pronto.
Heel vs. Heel Dynamics: Despite the quality ring work, both main event matches on this show were swimming against the tide. It is compounded by the fact that the character work for Ziggler and Corbin has basically labeled both men as losers who can’t get the job done.
Authority Figures: Shane McMahon’s promo work has been uncharacteristically unfocused lately. His facial expressions have often failed to match the seriousness of his tone of voice, and his delivery has often been confused, like he doesn’t have much conviction for what he’s saying. Bryan, for his part, has also been inconsistent and somewhat dour. It’s like watching a couple in denial that their relationship has already fallen apart. It just doesn’t make for exciting TV.
Dolph Ziggler: Ok, let’s get this story straight. Ziggler disappeared for seven weeks after relinquishing his U.S. Title, and did so while giving a promo about how frustrated and under appreciated he was. He then returned somewhat unceremoniously at the Royal Rumble, and was quickly eliminated. For some reason, he was placed in line for an undeserved title shot by Shane McMahon, but gets beat down before it could start. He then got an opportunity to cut a promo backstage before getting another opportunity against Sami Zayn, and he cuts the same damn promo that he’s doing for years about nobody outshining him? Did he fall into a wormhole?
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