This week’s SmackDown had a lot to live up to after an amazing episode last week. With two No.1 Contendership matches, another Cien match and The Miz taking to the mic to ruin Daniel Bryan once again, it had all the ingredients to live up to it. So, did it?
RANDY ORTON EXPLAINS WHY HE ATTACKED JEFF HARDY
Verdict: Randy Orton has often been considered one of the more generic superstars in WWE, however terrific his matches have been, and it has never been by any fault of his own. Tonight, he delivered what was maybe the most direct heel promo, clambering for respect by the company and the crowd since The Miz’s infamous Talking Smack tantrum. This was also perhaps the most effective that Orton has been portrayed as a heel since 2013 and WrestleMania XXX (and even that was diluted by the presence of Batista and Triple H).
This revival has so much potential, especially considering that he made a great case for himself despite being at WWE for sixteen years. This is a persona that should continue for a long time, in a similar vein to his original ‘Legend Killer’ persona.
RUSEV (w/LANA) vs. ANDRADE ‘CIEN’ ALMAS (w/ZELINA VEGA)
Winner: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
Verdict: This match was a terrific idea, which gave Almas a win, it helped the Rusev/English booking progress (as English was once again responsible for Rusev’s loss, due to accidental distraction), and even Vega and Lana’s little scrap was a crowd-pleasing moment. Everybody was relevant. In fact, it was an opportunity almost too good to be true. It is kind of a pity that within ten minutes, we saw almost too much progression, as Almas/Vega vs. Rusev/Lana would have been such a perfect little feud, in a similar vein to Vega and Candice LeRae escalating involvement in the Gargano/Almas feud in NXT. Nonetheless, this was a great match that squeezed so much into a small slot, allowing Almas to show off once again.
R-TRUTH vs. SAMOA JOE
Winner: Samoa Joe
Verdict: It was obvious where this match was heading – a sequel to last week’s little squash match, when Tye Dillinger was clutched by Samoa Joe. This match served its purpose within the two minutes that it was allotted, although there was a something more enjoyable about this match – Truth can really move still. While it was necessary for someone to be crushed pretty quickly, the match ended with me being very disappointed that it had to be Truth – exactly the attitude needed to maintain Joe’s monster persona.
ASUKA vs. BILLIE KAY
Verdict: Let’s face it, Asuka has had a seriously embarrassing few weeks due to her losses to Carmella. With all of the fuss surrounding the “first all women’s WWE pay-per-view Evolution”, now is absolutely the time to wipe some slates clean and make clear who the A-listers of the Women’s Division are. There was little harm in it being a squash match, albeit not being especially entertaining, but it served its purpose.
AJ STYLES’ SUMMERSLAM OPPONENT REVEALED
Verdict: Paige luckily didn’t rave for too long about WWE Evolution (it’s a pity that she won’t be there to wrestler). Unfortunately, the corny plugging, however appropriate, continued tenfold when AJ Styles was handed the microphone. Luckily, Samoa Joe didn’t hang around after choking out Styles to talk about the promotion of women.
It was a good choice for Paige to be seen later in a backstage promo saying to Joe that he was her choice anyway. This made the show seem to function far more like a sports broadcast, and emphasised how eager Joe was to defeat Styles. I also quickly want to throw this thought out there – the WWE Championship is the only SmackDown championship that has just had its No.1 Contendership given away, rather than having to be competed for. To me, this makes it seem not nearly as prestigious as it should be.
It was also interesting to hear the crowd cheer when Ellsworth was told that he was fired, by the empowered Paige – quite a plummet from a cult hero who many were glad to see return. I’m fed up enough of Ellsworth’s involvement that I began disappointed to see him emerge, and was very happy to see him dragged away (although this will presumably only lead on to a few weeks of Carmella trying to sneak her lucky ringside charm back in for Summerslam, hence why Becky Lynch vs. Carmella went uninterrupted tonight. Speaking of which…
BECKY LYNCH vs. CARMELLA
Winner: Becky Lynch
Verdict: This was a good match, and with no distractions to help Carmella (just a couple of heelish failed attempts at cheating) this might have been Carmella’s best match yet. It is brilliant that Becky Lynch is getting a much-deserved push, having been the greatest talent in the division not to have stood at the front for a while. Hopefully their rematch at Summerslam will live up to this standard, and beyond.
THE NEW DAY vs. SANITY
This was the first match in a miniature, four-team tournament, during which The New Day, Sanity, The Usos and The Bar, will compete for No.1 Contendership for the tag-team championship, currently held by the Bludgeon Brothers. It’s a very underutilised format in WWE booking, but even tonight it didn’t seem to be put to satisfactory use. What little of the match that we got to say, with so much of it eclipsed by commercials was great fun, and The Usos was as hilarious as ever on commentary. Unfortunately, this meant that this seemed to be just as much, if not more so, a promotion for the return of Cesaro and Sheamus. This should have been a more spectacular match to show off Sanity, to compensate for their upcoming few weeks of irrelevance.
MIZ AND MRS PREMIERE PARTY
Verdict: “The whole arena thought that that was Monroe Sky” so said Tom Phillips. No. Nobody did! This had all the ingredients to be a total disaster, and I’ll admit that I was disappointed with this final segment (not helped by just how incredible last week’s eulogy promo was). Although The Miz is the only man who can get away with shameless plugs as they tie so closely to his character, but this was a bit too much. On top of this, the fact that The Miz and Maryse had pretended to bring a baby to the ring seemed to limit how negative the response from the crowd could be.
Yes, he’s still bickering with Daniel and their feud continues, but this came across as ridiculous filler.