By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Smackdown Hits
AJ Styles vs. Andrade Almas in a non-title match: Another entertaining match between the talented duo. It’s just a shame that they once again felt the need to establish that while Almas can push Styles, he can’t actually beat him. It was strange to see Styles fight off the Joe attack given the pay-per-view finish. It felt like this was a night to have Joe go on a rampage after forcing Styles to tap out and still walk away without the WWE Championship on Sunday.
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair: A strong segment that fit in the main event slot that it was given. The broadcast team comments made it seem like Lynch is the heel, yet she’s not trashing the fans and the majority of the fans are siding with her. Again, Lynch isn’t the one to worry about if they cement her as the heel. Her promos are strong and she’s good in the role. Charlotte could potentially suffer if the company makes her the Smackdown equivalent of Roman Reigns by force feeding her as the top babyface.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev for the U.S. Championship: The finish of the match was terrible, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well Nakamura and Rusev worked together. I wouldn’t mind seeing them come back to this at some point. Rusev will be feuding with Aiden English going forward. The split didn’t wow me, but they got it right with the babyface/heel dynamic. The fans love Rusev, and English plays the obnoxious heel singer character well. If Rusev is tied up with English, then that means Nakamura is still left without a dance partner.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Miz TV with Maryse and Daniel Bryan: The swerve of advertising a mystery guest to open the show was lame. It’s the type of swerve that hurts the company more than it puts heat on The Miz. The announcement of Miz vs. Bryan at WWE Super Show-Down as something new is insulting to fans who were aware that the match was announced weeks ago. The angle with Maryse pretending to be injured after Bryan kicked Miz into her didn’t click, especially when Kayla Braxton made it seem like it was some sort of master plan when she spoke with Bryan in a backstage interview. What were they going to do if Bryan didn’t kick Miz toward Maryse? I typically enjoy Miz TV and this feud, but this segment didn’t do anything for me.
Kayla Braxton’s interview with AJ Styles: The replay of the Styles tapping out before the referee counted Samoa Joe’s shoulders to the mat at Hell in a Cell were shown. Moments later, Braxton asked Styles about being only a fraction of a second away from losing the championship. What?!? The finish was that the referee was not in position to see Styles tap and therefore counted him pinning Joe. Her question would have been appropriate had Styles tapped out right after the three count, but that’s not the finish they went with. And I certainly don’t blame Braxton since I have no doubt that her questions are scripted. Meanwhile, Styles saying lady luck was on his side and the finish was karma for Joe was not what I expected to hear from a guy portrayed as a prideful, fighting champion who retained his title on a fluke.
Asuka vs. Billie Kay: A minor Miss. Why were Peyton Royce and Billie Kay so much more entertaining in NXT than they are on the main roster? That craptastic pre-match promo they had to recite prior to the match is a clue. There’s plenty of talent in the Raw and Smackdown women’s divisions, but WWE creative has shown no ability to book compelling feuds that don’t involve a championship.
Kofi Kingston vs. Cesaro: The match was entertaining and I enjoyed Kingston’s latest innovative move late in the match. The minor Miss goes to the overused formula of singles matches involving tag champions and their challengers of the month, er, biweekly challengers. I guess I’ll need to update that lingo if WWE continues to run so many pay-per-view events.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Brian Fritz of Sporting News and Between The Ropes discussing WrestleMania 36, WWE television from the empty WWE Performance Center, his own travel woes, NFL free agency, and more...