By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Hits
Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens in the opening segment: We got an official announcement of Shane vs. Owens for SummerSlam, and Shane flexed his authority by booking Owens into an obvious trap for later in the show. The back and forth between Shane and Owens also solidified the feud as a personal vendetta on both sides. The only thing really missing from this feud at this point is some kind of added gimmick for the match. As much as I like both men, it’s hard to generate any desire to see them have a straight forward wrestling match at SummerSlam.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Apollo Crews in a non-title match: This was an enjoyable match that further solidified Shinsuke’s rise back into credibility as a singles champion. Apollo got in enough offense that the match felt like real competition for the champ, and Nakamura got in a few extra shots after the bell to show some contempt for being given a tougher match than he expected. New Day being on commentary was a mixed bag. They offered some energy and insight in some parts of the match, but I felt they slipped up at the end by pointing out that WWE babyfaces seemingly have no friends who have their backs.
Shawn Michaels on Miz TV: This was a quality promo segment that had believable perspectives from everyone involved. Ziggler’s incessant whining was on brand for him given his recent character, but he also cut deep on Michaels, who was forced to admit that wrestlers returning at an advanced age can lead to embarrassing moments in the ring. The Miz also got in some decent verbal jabs, telling Ziggler that he’s full of excuses when he should be taking more personal responsibility for his shortcomings. People will always wonder whether HBK will come back for another match, but they did a nice job here of trying to keep the focus on Miz and Ziggler.
Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton: Another strong segment that played on the history shared between the two from 2009. Kofi did a nice job of setting the stage for the widely circulated story that Orton used his backstage influence to derail Kofi’s main event push all that time ago, and Orton played the part of a narcissist in trying to convince Kofi and the audience that he did him a favor by keeping the glory to himself. Kofi stopped short of casting himself as some kind of hapless victim, which was smart, and Orton did his best to cast doubt as to whether Kofi’s title reign could stand up to a serious challenge. Overall, this is already far better than the lame promos the company is saddling poor Seth Rollins with.
Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt promo: We got our first taste of a Bray Wyatt promo and feud since his return, and for the most part it worked. Balor seems a bit burnt out at this point, but he gave a solid effort here even if it wasn’t his best work. It still remains to be seen how The Fiend will be presented in a full match, or if the will keep this format with Wyatt cutting promos from backstage going forward. Thus far, the new Wyatt character is playing out better than I expected, but there’s still a lot left to be revealed.
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens: A minor Hit for the babyfaces not falling for the obvious trap being set by Shane McMahon. It’s possible that this might become some kind of handicap match at SummerSlam, given that Shane and his crew are likely going to try and exact revenge on Reign and Owens.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Charlotte vs. Ember Moon: Charlotte, the heel, is reasonably frustrated that the champion gets to handpick her opponent for SummerSlam. Bayley, the babyface, makes her full entrance to cause a distraction finish. The post match saw all three women going after each other indiscriminately, which leads to both babyfaces coming across as less likable than they probably should be. The Smackdown women’s division remains a booking disaster.
Women’s Tag Division: There was no follow up on the IIconics running away from the Kabuki Warriors from last week. We also got a brief promo from Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, who have weaseled their way into a non-title match with the IIconics. I’m guessing this means we’re getting a Triple Threat, but there is zero reason to get excited about it.
No Daniel Bryan: We got a tease for a career altering announcement last week that went nowhere, and Bryan didn’t make the cut on either Raw or Smackdown this week. Considering Bryan is currently one of the most talented and underutilized members of the roster, it felt like a bit of a let down.