By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Smackdown Hits
Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy: I can’t wait to see what these two will do at Sunday’s WWE Evolution. Oh, wait… Anyway, the match felt a little random since it seemed like creative had moved on from it, and it was a strange main event on a go-home show for an all women’s pay-per-view. Nevertheless, they worked hard and I was pleasantly surprised to see a clean finish given that both men are in the World Cup tournament.
Rey Mysterio vs. The Miz: Miz did his usual good job of working up the live crowd on the Miz TV segment. And while I thought they would have saved this match for a bigger show rather than just give it away unadvertised, I have no doubt that Miz will be able to sell viewers on seeing it again when the time comes to go back to it. The match was entertaining and I’m looking forward to seeing Mysterio chase Shinsuke Nakamura for the U.S. Championship if that’s what creative has in mind.
AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan vs. The Usos: Another quality tag match with the WWE formula of having the babyface who was accidentally hit by his tag partner the previous week accidentally hit the partner this week. We know their Crown Jewel match will be very good because of who is involved, but WWE has yet to make it feel as big time as it should. More on that later.
Big Show vs. Kofi Kingston: A minor Hit for putting more heat on the heels. Still, the lack of explanation from Big Show was disappointing, though what can he really say that didn’t say the last twenty times he turned?
WWE Smackdown Misses
WWE Evolution hype: WWE promoted the show throughout the night, but the overall build on both shows felt flat aside from segments involving the championship matches. And this is really a WWE big picture issue. Very little in the women’s division is given serious storyline attention outside of whatever the respective brand’s champions are doing. Sure, we had the awkward Sasha Banks and Bayley meltdown that led to nothing on Raw, and we get a bunch of parity booking to keep the other women appearing on the shows, but there is no storyline substance outside of the monthly programs involving the champions. It’s a big part of the reason that WWE had to fill out Evolution with NXT and NXT UK Championship matches and the finals of the Mae Young Classic. Yes, women’s tag titles would help, but it’s not like WWE hasn’t gone through long stretches where the men’s tag titles also feel like an afterthought. The key is for Vince McMahon to expand his focus beyond the top players and dedicate more time to creating compelling storylines for men and women who are not in the title picture. I honestly don’t expect this to happen given Vince’s longtime booking habits, but it would be nice if he would hand off some of the undercard booking to someone who actually cares about those wrestlers.
AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan backstage exchange: Some of us are familiar with AJ’s history with Bullet Club. Many WWE fans are not. Styles and Bryan have had tremendous runs in WWE. Why alienate the fan base that has no or very little idea what they were talking about when there are other ways to build up this match that would appeal to the entire audience?
Shayna Baszler takes in Charlotte’s speech: The badass Baszler character should not be shown wearing the standard WWE Performance Center gear while hanging out with everyone else. The only way I would have had Baszler involved in this segment is if she was going to step forward and disrespect Charlotte.
Rusev vs. Aiden English: Rusev dominated English just as everyone assumed he would. So where do they go from here? I thought they would have gotten more out of this feud by giving English a cheap win to keep it going.
Women’s battle royal hype: Rapid fire appearances and a throwaway brawl. We’ve seen it all before and we’ll see it all again a few months from now heading into the women’s Royal Rumble match.
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