By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Hits
Ali vs. Elias in a King of the Ring tournament quarterfinal match: Elias showed improvement in the ring in this tournament match, and you can’t discount how much Ali had to do with it. Both men delivered believable performances, with Ali selling effectively and gaining sympathy, while Elias got to show off a viciousness that we have not seen from him in the past in the ring. The finish was surprising given how strongly Ali has performed thus far in the tournament, but Elias certainly proved he belonged with a strong showing here.
FTRKO continue to look strong: This was another strong heat segment for Randy Orton, who is the first challenger to be treated as a true threat to Kofi Kingston’s WWE Championship. Orton teaming up with The Revival to take down the New Day has resulted in a much needed credibility boost for the tag team, and Orton always seems to up his game when he’s working inside a faction with a supporting cast. For their part, Kofi, Big E, and Xavier Woods continue to show good fire in their losing efforts, and crowds seem primed to react strongly for these matches at Clash of Champions.
Chad Gable vs. Andrade in a King of the Ring tournament quarterfinal match: This was a Hit for being a quality match, and hopefully a sign that WWE plans to recognize what they have in a very talented Chad Gable. He’s an olympic level athlete, and one of their best in ring workers, and has yet to be portrayed as such on their television. The match with Andrade became a bit predictable after the Elias win earlier in the show, but that didn’t matter much as these guys both delivered in the ring and won the crowd over regardless.
Erick Rowan Reveal: A minor Hit for WWE giving a guy like Rowan a chance to break out and do something as a character. His WWE career has been dominated by him playing the muscle to another wrestler’s ringleader, and it’s a role you might have expected him to remain in permanently. The overall whodunit story has been a flaming train wreck, but that’s on creative rather than the talent involved. Rowan breaking free gives both him and Dnaiel Bryan new directions to go, and hopefully we’ll get to see Roman Reigns move on to something more interesting in time for Smackdown to head to Fox.
WWE Smackdown Misses
Bayley explains herself in the opening segment: A minor Miss because this could have been a much stronger segment. Bayley’s wry smile as she wailed on Becky with a chair on Monday was betrayed by her attempting to use some poorly extruded heel logic by calling herself a role model. Maybe this will lead to something more as time goes on and she undergoes further transformation, but this felt like soft pedaling when they had an opportunity for Bayley to fully embrace something entirely different. The chairshot on Charlotte would have made Lance Storm proud, and made little sense given the previous promo, but that’s a minor complaint in comparison to what I consider a major missed opportunity with her promo.
Chad Gable short jokes: Barf. These jokes are bad, and they aren’t getting Gable any sympathy. It would be different if he was supremely confident and shook these jokes off by choking people out in the ring, but they are having him sit there and pout like a bully kicked over his Kool-Aid stand and it’s just awful.
Women’s Tag Team Championship: We got our obligatory non-title loss for the champions to set up a match at Night of Champions, and the crowd could not have cared less. I’m rooting for Fire and Desire to win the tag titles, because they are at least consistent enough as characters that you aren’t doing a bunch of guesswork as to what their alignment is on a show to show basis. Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss are good together, and are both very talented, but WWE has failed to pick a lane for them as characters and it isn’t working.