By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Smackdown Hits
Smackdown Post Shakeup: The brand kept its identity by retaining AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan, Charlotte, Randy Orton, and The Usos. More than anything, the men’s division was desperate for a new influx of heels to work with Styles, Bryan, Orton, and now Jeff Hardy. Out with old and in with the new. Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, and Dolph Ziggler were all shipped to Raw and replaced with Samoa Joe, The Miz, Big Cass, and Andrade Almas to go along with the newly turned Nakamura. Sheamus and Cesaro are a good tag team, but they have both been effective singles heels in the past. Smackdown is in great shape coming out of the Shakeup. The only thing that can stop Smackdown from being a strong brand is the poor booking that damaged the heels who were shipped to Raw.
Samoa Joe to Smackdown: This was the move that I was clamoring for. Joe was fourth in the pecking order of big men on Raw behind Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, and Braun Strowman. Meanwhile, Smackdown desperately needed a badass heel who can hang in the ring with top babyfaces AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan along with Randy Orton and Jeff Hardy. Joe is the perfect fit.
AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan vs. Rusev and Aiden English: The initial angle with Styles dominating Rusev and having him on the verge of tapping out less than 30 seconds into the match was odd since he’s the muscle for his team. It seemed like they were banking on the appeal of Styles and Bryan teaming together regardless of how weak they made their opponents look going into the match. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t want to make Rusev look like a threat, but I don’t understand anything WWE is doing with him these days. The match was fine, but the real story was the angle with Shinsuke Nakamura low-blowing Styles again, and then Big Cass attacking Bryan. More on that below.
Big Cass: This Hit is based more on speculation than anything concrete. The Miz is about to feud with Daniel Bryan. The Miz just lost Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. Suddenly, Big Cass shows up and targets Bryan out of nowhere. Is Big Cass a heavy for Miz similar to the way Diesel was the heavy for Shawn Michaels back in the day? If so, I love it.
Jeff Hardy vs. Shelton Benjamin: The U.S. Championship returns to Smackdown just 24 hours later. I am not a fan of the belts jumping brands so this it’s good to see that they are all staying put. Meanwhile, Hardy to Smackdown is a compelling move. He gives the brand some babyface singles depth and he still has that unique appeal that made him the hottest act in the business at one time. I just hope that Hardy can hold up physically and mentally now that he’s working as a singles act again. It’s extra wear and tear on the body and his history of issues outside the ring, including his recent DUI arrest, have been well documented.
Women’s Division: The Smackdown women’s division has been a disappointment since the last Shakeup. There was a talented group of women and yet the booking focussed heavily on the champion and her challenger while the rest of the women spun their wheels in parity booking feuds. As much as the company clearly values Charlotte, even she had a mostly forgettable year. Becky Lynch is criminally wasted. Riott Squad could have breathed some life into things, but they never established. Still, it’s encouraging to see the core of Charlotte, Lynch, and Naomi stay on Smackdown while they attempt to establish Carmella as the new champion. The addition of the Iconic Duo was a nice touch, and Asuka is the icing on the cake. The brand is loaded with great female talent and I’m optimistic based on what they have done over the last two weeks, but the simple truth is that creative must do a better job this time around.
Tag Team Division: Smackdown surprisingly kept its big trio of teams in Bludgeon Brothers, The Usos, and New Day, and added Sheamus and Cesaro, Sanity, and Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. This is a loaded tag team division that unloaded its undercard teams and upgraded with the newcomers. That said, it’s disappointing that it does not appear as though Nikki Cross will be coming up with Sanity based on the graphic shown on Smackdown.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Luke Harper vs. Jey Uso: More Bludgeon Brothers domination. It’s not the first time the Usos have been on the receiving end, yet for some reason Naomi chose to run out this time to beg for mercy. We’ll see where this is going, but the initial involvement in Naomi didn’t come off well.
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