By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Hits
Daniel Bryan gets his groove back: The opening segment got a lot accomplished for Daniel Bryan. He delivered a mission statement that put him back on a path towards a WWE Championship, and he laid down a vicious attack on Big Cass that showed how dangerous he can look when they allow him to show off his skills. Bryan came across as determined, and the loss from last week was quickly wiped away as the crowd welcomed him back to the UK with a thunderous reaction. As long as Bryan is healthy, I have no idea why he isn’t the face of the brand. I know Roman Reigns is the chosen one, but it wouldn’t hurt to try going with the guy that gets huge worldwide reactions, even for a little while. They can always go back to the guy who gets booed if it doesn’t work out.
New Day vs. The Bar: This was an enjoyable match. Xavier Woods really shined in the ring for his team, and Cesaro was given the bulk of the impressive spots for The Bar. The announce team postulated that New Day would implode over deciding which member would enter Money in the Bank, but if they do go in that direction, I doubt it will happen quickly. There’s a much better story to tell if they keep it together in the short term, and let jealousy and anger at lost/wasted opportunity eventually lead to a split. I think all three men will succeed at a greater level than before as singles acts if given the chance, but Big E would be my choice if I had one. I have enjoyed his comedic persona, but the confidence he’s gained as part of the New Day will really pay off for a more serious character vying for singles gold.
Andrade “Cien” Alamas debuts with Zelina Vega: This was a highly anticipated debut, and for good reason. Almas is one of the best wrestlers in the world, and while he wasn’t in a competitive match on night one, he seems primed for excellence on the Smackdown brand. It seems a likely course for him to challenge Jeff Hardy for the U.S. Championship sooner than later, but putting in a great performance in Money in the Bank could really cement him out of the gate as someone to watch.
Becky Lynch qualifies for the Women’s MITB (The Good): I was happy to see Becky qualify for Money in the Bank. She can be counted on to deliver consistently good performances, and will help ensure that the women’s MITB match doesn’t disappoint. She has great babyface instincts and is extremely popular, and should be rewarded for it.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles: Nakamura’s callback to Eddie Guerrero faking out the referee was a great spot, and these two are having better and better matches as this feud goes on. Nakamura has shown to be much better in tune with working as a heel inside the constraints of the WWE style, and the pace of these matches has ratcheted up as well. The fact that we got a finish, rather than some kind of booking dodge, was a treat in comparison to the the last two encounters. If they are going to pull the trigger on a Nakamura title reign, I feel you have to move now or give up on it for a while.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Big Cass: Cass is a bit of a conundrum for me. He’s seven feet tall, but his promo style is that of a pest heel. I think he has regressed on the mic since his initial return promo with The Miz, and his poor Backlash performance coupled with his reported backstage mishap have his stock dropping rapidly. He’s set to face Samoa Joe next week, but I get the impression that his time in the doghouse may be just beginning.
Becky Lynch qualifies for MITB (The Bad): I can’t escape the feeling that Becky was just added to this match because she’s a good hand that was needed to help carry the match, rather than any specific booking plan for her. If she smashes Charlotte with a ladder and grabs the briefcase, they’ll have my attention. I guess she doesn’t even have to grab the briefcase, just get her out of Charlotte’s shadow.
The Royal Mellabration: Carmella has done really well as a personality, but this segment got a lot of hype for essentially being more of the same. There was some additional pageantry with the very British town crier fellow reading off Carmella’s accomplishments, but the content was really pretty thin. Asuka being announced as Carmella’s challenger was a bright spot, but she seems to still be riding on reputation rather than any character development that’s been performed on Smackdown.