By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Smackdown Hits
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair: A hot opening for the show that fired up this feud again while helping to wash away the awful taste of Monday’s Raw from the mouths of viewers. It was good to see Lynch and Charlotte move on from their hug and for Lynch to call out Charlotte for adopting her aggressive persona at Survivor Series. I also liked Charlotte’s comeback of reminding Lynch where The Man name came from. Will they put the title on Charlotte or Asuka at TLC to free up Lynch to win the Royal Rumble to get her match with Rousey?
AJ Styles promo: A strong promo from Styles in his first appearance since dropping the WWE Championship. He did a terrific job of making the title feel important, putting over Bryan’s heel attack, and building up the Smackdown brand. That last part is essential given that the brand was inexplicably swept at Survivor Series. Speaking of which, was there a storyline purpose for the sweep? We’re still waiting.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev: A nice angle that puts heat on Nakamura and finally gives him a real program after months of going without a real feud. Nakamura and Rusev have worked well together in the past, so this has the potential to be a good program.
Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe: Hardy’s 20th anniversary celebration was a nice touch. And you had to know that a heel was going to rain on his parade at some point. Samoa Joe turned out to be that heel and he delivered a biting promo that set the stage for a future match. Joe is one of the best talkers in WWE. It’s just a shame that he’s been booked to be more bark than bite with his many losses to AJ Styles.
Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio: Another good showcase of one of the newer programs. It was another case of putting heat on the heel with Orton targeting the injury he previously gave Mysterio. I really like the looks of the singles feuds that have been established on Smackdown, and it’s worth noting that it’s male singles division has more depth and star power than Raw these days.
Women’s Battle Royal: A solid battle royal in terms of creating some decent drama down the stretch. It was nice to see Sonya Deville stick around long enough to be the last woman eliminated, but it’s even better that Asuka is finally back in a meaningful spot as the winner of this match and thus an entrant in the women’s TLC match. Was I the only one who had flashbacks to the way they featured Alexa Bliss and Carmella on Smackdown while wondering if they were going to give Mandy Rose the win?
WWE Smackdown Misses
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. The Usos in a non-title match: A Hit in terms of match quality, but the company’s obsession with having their tag champions lose non-title matches is damaging. We just saw AOP lose in a non-title match last week, and now Sheamus and Cesaro lost this match. It should mean something to defeat champions, but WWE takes this approach so frequently that it just feels formula and predictable at this point.
The Miz: A minor Miss for Miz slipping into his old ways in recent weeks. There was a time not all that long ago that Miz felt like he had taken a big step forward and belonged in the world title mix. He was just a meaningful clean win away from being at the point where he would feel like an in-ring threat to the top babyfaces. Unfortunately, he’s been scripted back into the type of pest heel role where viewers once again assume he’s going to lose to the top babyfaces unless there’s cheating involved.
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