By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Hits
AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship: An instant classic and one of the top matches in WWE this year. Bryan and Styles work well together and put together a match with a logical core. That along with some creative reversals and flourishes set this match apart from the majority of WWE style ring work. We had limb targeting, holds that made sense in the context of the story, and a satisfying conclusion that didn’t disregard the work that was put in for the first 20 minutes of the match. Despite taking a submission loss, I don’t think Daniel Bryan loses anything here, and the intrigue being set up for AJ vs. Joe vs. Bryan in the future should make everybody happy.
Big E vs. Cesaro in a Trick or Street Fight: This was a bit of harmless fun. I sympathize with those who have said it was too silly for a championship feud, but in the context of the holiday and the show I think it was a good choice. It made sense to have a light-hearted segment follow up the intensity of Bryan and Styles. Trying to go out and have a straight forward match would have died a thousand deaths. New Day was very entertaining playing homage to The Brood, and the mysterious red liquid jokes got a chuckle from me.
Becky Lynch promo: It’s hard to imagine Becky being in this position right now having watched her for the past couple of years. She was a wallflower for the entirety of 2017, and that condition persisted until she left to go film The Marine 6 earlier this year. Since her return, perceptions seem to have changed, and she’s taken a very risky opportunity and turned it into solid gold. Her heel turn was by no means a sure thing, and here we are a few months later and she’s getting raucous cheers and chants while talking about slapping the mole off Ronda Rousey’s face. The promo was confident and well delivered, as we’ve all come to expect from her. I’m leery of the match with Ronda, because I don’t think WWE should be diminishing either woman at this point by having them take a loss. It’s a match begging for a swerve finish. In fact, it would be a perfect place to introduce Shayna Baszler to help her friend Ronda, even if she doesn’t want the help.
Rey Mysterio and Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton and The Miz: The show peaked early with Bryan and Styles, but this match was a well-executed final push for the World Cup. As with all main event tag matches, the final breakdown portion of the match was fast and furious, and the RKO’s on everyone following the win set the stage for Friday and marked Orton as the man to beat. The story around the Smackdown World Cup participants is a headscratcher, but more on that later.
Charlotte is shaken: I enjoyed the backstage segment with Charlotte and Paige. Charlotte’s confidence being shaken by her loss to Becky, and soul searching about how to move on might be the most human emotional process they’ve ever attempted with her character.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Shane McMahon is a petty tyrant: The story they added for the Smackdown World Cup participants makes no sense. Shane threatened all four Smackdown competitors with dismissal if they make it to the finals of the tournament and lose to the Raw finalist. Essentially, he is going to fire the most capable Smackdown wrestler in the tournament because he’s embarrassed at the thought of his sister being able to say that a Raw wrestler is the “Best in the World”. In fact, he said that this outcome would be the “worst thing that could happen in his life”. Worse than falling out of the sky in a helicopter? Worse than never receiving validation from your father, no matter how many tall things you fall from? Ok, that was too far. In any case, this is the kind of haphazard and poorly constructed storytelling that makes wrestling impossible to defend to non-fans.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. R-Truth: Dance Break, Kinshasa, Meh. I didn’t actively dislike the match, but it was just kind of there. R-Truth and Carmella continue to make the best out of their situations. The lack of direction for the U.S. Championship is the real Miss here, and it’s been a real black spot on Smackdown since Nakamura captured the title.