Hey, Blue Team.
Pretty entertaining SmackDown this week. As usual nothing really happened, but it kept me engaged. The most interesting thing to watch is SmackDown‘s continuing development of a voice. Over the last month, SmackDown has made small steps toward distinguishing itself from RAW with its own unique tone. I appreciate the direction that SmackDown seems to be going in and I’m very excited to find out who’s going to be on its roster after the split. If the changes they’re making continue to evolve in the right direction and there is a proper roster to go with it, SmackDown could turn into a very interesting show.
And now without further ado, here is The Best and Worst of SmackDown for July 7, 2016.
Worst: Main Event Wrestlers, Undercard Behavior
This week’s SmackDown opens up with more of the same sort of pre-show vignettes that they did last week. It’s definitely a fun concept, and this week’s are a little better than last. The Club’s hanging out, Jericho’s looking for his scarf, Seth Rollins is arriving to the building and runs into an Uso … it’s a good concept that I can see becoming great with a little more work. We then go out to the ring and out comes Dean Ambrose for an unscheduled appearance. He’s decided that he’s going to be the ring announcer for the first match, Jey Uso vs. Seth Rollins. This could have been Seth Rollins vs. anybody, because the match doesn’t matter at all. It exists solely so we can have wacky interactions between Ambrose and Rollins.
Ambrose stays ringside for the match and is constantly interrupting with announcements. He plugs merchandise, gives updates on the time of the match, and at one point even throws it to commercial. And of course even though he’s a world class athlete, a former WWE Champion, and a professional, Seth Rollins is somehow distracted by this. I don’t like it, but I’ll begrudgingly admit that it works. It just doesn’t feel like the kind of interaction that the two men at the top of the card should be having. It’s a little too cute for a WWE Championship feud.
I still find it hard to believe that after everything he’s been through and after how hard he’s worked, Dean Ambrose wouldn’t take being the champ more seriously. If this same segment had been done with people like R-Truth or the Social Outcasts, this would be a best. I’d buy it, I’d be into it. But I don’t want this much levity in a blood feud between brothers who’ve turned on each other for World Championship gold. I like the fun stuff, but it just doesn’t fit for me here.
Rollins of course beats Uso and Ambrose gets back on the mic to call him a bunch of goofy names as he announces him the winner. Join us next week on SmackDown when Dean Ambrose makes fart noises while Seth Rollins wrestles the other Uso.
Best: Woo Woo WHAT?
In case you didn’t watch RAW on Monday, and according to the ratings you didn’t, Zack Ryder pinned Sheamus in a 48-man tag match. It was a bunch of Americans vs. a bunch of non-Americans in some sort of Fourth of July celebration. It was slightly weird that Ryder would pin Sheamus, since he’s pretty much lost every match since WrestleMania, but he had help from the Red White & Big Show. It seemed like one of those one-off holiday things, like they knew no one would be watching the Fourth of July RAW, so they might as well give Zack his quarterly victory. But apparently I was wrong.
In an absolute shocker, Sheamus and Zack Ryder’s one-on-one match on this week’s SmackDown ends with Zack Ryder pinning Sheamus clean. 100% Clean. No shenanigans at all. He just drops the Elbrow on him and pins him, one two three. I love it. I don’t mind the inconsistency of the writers’ booking at all. It should bother me that after weeks of losing to Baron Corbin, that now Ryder can suddenly defeat Sheamus handily. But I like it. I like the surprise of him winning. And I like how effortless it was; it just happened.
They were only about two minutes into the match. They were both on the top turnbuckle, it looked like Sheamus was going to superplex Ryder, but Ryder pushed Sheamus off and then flew off the top rope with a nice looking Elbrow drop and won.
After the match, Todd Phillips comes out to ask Ryder what he’s going to do now that he’s winning again and Ryder says he’s going after Rusev to get his United States Championship back. Whoa! Slow down hot shot! So it turns out, Ryder only beat Sheamus so he could sort of kind of be an almost credible threat to Rusev. I’m sure once Rusev crushes him, he’ll go back to losing for the rest of the year. But this was still a fun and unexpected match outcome.
One sad note about Zack Ryder this week (only one? that must be a new record): I think his theme song has been juicing. All of a sudden, his easy listening “Radio” song has been all rocked up. I guess if you’re going to beat Sheamus and challenge Rusev you need to have the theme song of a man. It’s a shame, I thought Ryder’s mellow music really set him apart. Maybe he’ll go back to it once he starts losing again.
Becky Lynch is on her way to the ring for singles action against no one when she’s attacked from behind by Natalya. Nattie throws her around and then puts her in a Sharpshooter. And that’s it.
So far Enzo & Cass’ feud with The Club has been an absolute pleasure. It’s perfect timing. Over the last few weeks, The Club has really figured out what the WWE version of it is. All of these guys are so entertaining in and out of the ring that no matter what the match-up, I look forward to seeing it.
This week it’s AJ Styles vs. Enzo Amore in a one-on-one match that’s entertaining from start to finish. I like how hard it felt like Enzo was working to beat AJ. He knows he can’t outwrestle him, so he just goes at him hard and throws everything he can at him. There’s a moment early in the match that seemed like it was a mistake, but it really helped play into the storyline. Enzo’s attempting to dive over the top rope onto all three members of The Club, but he doesn’t quite make it and lands hard on the outside. That’s one of the fun things about watching Enzo; at times it feels like he doesn’t quite know what he’s doing, but he’ll do anything to win.
While Enzo and AJ entertained inside, their partners did some great entertaining on the outside as well including a fun spot where Cass and Gallows both hit each other with Big Boots at the same time. The end was really well done too. Styles catches Amore trying to come off the top rope. Enzo falls off the top rope, right into a Styles Clash. It’s probably the best and smoothest set-up for the Styles Clash that I’ve ever seen. The match may not have been long or a five star technical classic, but I really really liked it.
Best: Appropriate Fun Stuff
Remember earlier when I said I like the fun stuff when done appropriately at the right time and place with the right people? This is that. If you watch any part of this week’s SmackDown, it should be this backstage segment where Chris Jericho runs into Kevin Owens who has found Jericho’s missing scarf. I’m not going to say much more because you should just watch it. I don’t know where this is going and frankly I don’t care as long as we keep getting segments like this.
Best: Tater Salad
Kalisto vs. The Miz is next and because Vince doesn’t like wrestling for the sake of wrestling, this match has been given a loose potato salad-based backstory. I don’t think I need to explain that any further. This wasn’t as good as Enzo and AJ, but it wasn’t bad. With a little work, I think these two could have a really nice match with each other.
This felt like a bit of a warm-up, but it was still solid. The announce team spent some time talking about this being a great opportunity for Kalisto to get back into the title hunt, so this of course got me worried that we were about to see another classic “Intercontinental Champion loses a title match” scenario. But pleasantly to my surprise, The Miz picked up a much needed victory here with a Skull Crushing Finale.
The IC Champ winning a non-title match has become just as rare as a Zack Ryder victory, so this week’s SmackDown is reaching Halley’s Comet status.
Worst: I Feel Nothing
The semi-main event on this week’s SmackDown is the announcement of who Brock Lesnar will be facing at SummerSlam. As you probably know by now, it’s going to be the Viper, Randy Orton.
Orton and Lesnar is one of those matches I was really looking forward to seeing when Lesnar first returned to the company back in 2012. Four years later, I’m kind of over it. I’m sure it will be a good match, but I’m just not excited about it at all. I’m a fan of both of these men; I’ve always felt like Orton was one of the best wrestlers of our time and criminally underrated by the IWC. But for some reason, this announcement just isn’t doing anything for me.
I’ve been trying to think of who I would be excited to see face Lesnar at SummerSlam, but outside of Nakamura I couldn’t really come up with anyone. The truth is, ever since Lesnar’s matches became nothing but a series of German suplexes, I’m just not that into watching him wrestle. I’m over him being this indestructible force that just throws people. I want to see everything Lesnar’s capable of doing, not just the suplexes. Maybe Orton will get more out of him. At least I hope Orton will get more out of him.
Best: Proper Intent
We’ve seen Chris Jericho wrestle Sami Zayn a lot on SmackDown this year and their matches are always good, just not great. It’s been one of those dream matches that hasn’t really panned out as well as I’d hoped. That being said, I feel like this has been their best one-on-one encounter on SmackDown so far. This probably goes without saying, but Kevin Owens was on commentary. He should really have his own designated chair and headset at this point.
What really made this match for me was the end. It’s the exact same scenario that we saw play out at the beginning of the show with Rollins and Ambrose, except Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens acted like real people instead of Looney Tunes. Zayn and Jericho end up on the outside of the ring and Sami stares down Owens, but he doesn’t seem overly distracted by him. Unlike Rollins, who pretty much did a spit take every time he looked in Ambrose’s direction. Sami is well aware that Owens is there, but he never loses his focus. I suppose you could chalk that up to a heel and face handling the scenarios differently, but there’s more to it than that.
Later in the match, Jericho and Zayn end up back on the outside of the ring. This time Owens throws water at Sami, but Zayn still doesn’t let that throw him off his game. He just grabs Jericho and launches him into Owens. Zayn follows up by throwing Jericho back into the ring, but Jericho catches Sami on his way back in and regains the advantage. Zayn battles back and hits Jericho with an Exploder Suplex into the turnbuckle and then prepares to hit Jericho with the Helluva Kick, that is until Owns jumps up on the ring apron next to Jericho, so Sami hits Owens with the Helluva Kick instead. Jericho attempts to capitalize on the distraction with a Walls of Jericho, but Sami rolls him up and gets the pin.
After the match, Jericho interrupts Sami’s celebration and hits him with a Codebreaker. Once Jericho leaves the ring, Owens attacks Sami and beats him down before nailing him with a pop-up powerbomb. Owens is deadly serious, not a scarf or a Jolly Rancher in sight. There’s a time for jokes and there’s a time to be serious; why does Kevin Owens’ character know that when Dean Ambrose’s doesn’t?
Until next time, I’m Justin Donaldson and I think Kevin Owens looks good in a scarf.