By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Hits
Kevin Owens: KO gets a big thumbs up from me this week. He seems motivated and his promo delivered a hot open to the show. His charisma and everyman appeal are a nice fit for defying Shane McMahon’s pretentious and self-aggrandizing on-screen character, and it would seem their feud will start in earnest after Extreme Rules. Shane’s reign of terror ending at SummerSlam would be a huge boost to both shows, as he continues to undermine the credibility of the entire show by being made to look credible in the ring when he has no business doing so. WWE seemingly can’t decide which character will be the one to end Shane McMahon, with Roman, The Miz, and now Kevin Owens making very similar comments about him.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Finn Balor in a non-title match: This was an intense contest that was all about rehabilitating Shinsuke and bringing him back into the picture as a singles competitor. It’s also the best he has looked in the ring on WWE TV in over a year. Hopefully this feud continues, and we get to see a more personal, evenly matched feud develop. Both men could use a breakout feud at this point in their WWE tenure, as neither one has delivered standout individual performances in recent memory. It would also be nice to see a harder, more competitive edge form on the character of Balor, who continues to languish in promos with scripts that seem to be trying to make him uncool on purpose.
Daniel Bryan vs. Otis vs. Xavier Woods: Otis getting the win here was the right move, and the double delayed vertical suplex spot was highly impressive. I think Otis’s center of gravity must be somewhere under the ring.
Aleister Black vs. Cesaro announced for Extreme Rules: This match seemed aimed directly at hardcore fans, who now have a very good reason to tune into the network to see this match. Both men are highly regarded in ring competitors, and their styles seem like they would match up very well together. The backstage reveal of Cesaro sitting down in a setting very similar to black was well done, and this could be a great candidate for another Best of Seven series that could greatly benefit both men.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Nikki Cross and Bayley contract signing: I was very high on the Nikki Cross, Bayley, and Alexa Bliss triangle just a few weeks ago, but Alexa’s absence and Bayley shifting into an odd tweener character has made it feel a bit muddled. Nikki is more charismatic and likable on the microphone than Bayley, who continues to struggle with making an emotional connection with the audience verbally. The lack of a strong heel presence to tilt the sensibilities of the audience has created a sense of awkwardness.
Ember Moon: WWE hasn’t done enough to establish Ember Moon as a character, so as far as I can tell she’s just someone who overreacts to playground insults backstage. I have no idea why I should like or cheer for her, aside from the fact that The Eclipse is a fantastic finisher.
Roman Reigns vs. Dolph Ziggler: A minor Miss for what ended up being an entirely forgettable and predictable main event. The match was fine, but it didn’t do enough to overcome the fact that I don’t buy Dolph Ziggler could pin Roman Reigns in my lifetime.
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