Hey, Blue Team!
America is reeling from the horrible decision that was made on Tuesday night … Smackdown now has a four-man announce team! This week’s Smackdown opens with the reveal that Tom Phillips has been added as the fourth man in the booth. Who listened to the unlistenable team of Mauro Ranallo, David Otunga, and JBL and thought, “the problem here is there’s only three of them”
Don’t get me wrong, I love Tom Phillips. Possibly undeservingly. I have a soft spot for him from his WWE show Five Things, plus I love legacy angles, and he’s the natural progression of Sean Moony and Todd Pettengill. The WWE always needs one of those guys. But expanding the Smackdown announce team to four people is a really weird decision. They can’t even physically fit four people behind the table! Keep an eye on the announce table during the show. Tom Phillips is hanging on the side of the table like an uninvited dinner guest. He looks like he’s out there to set up a distraction finish.
Not a bad show this week. It’s very Survivor Series focused. Big props to WWE for not having local talent dressed as Hillary and Trump wrestling each other. That was more restraint than I thought WWE was ever capable of.
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And now without further ado, here is The Best and Worst of Smackdown Live for November 8th, 2016.
Worst: And The Rest
Once the shock of the four-man announce team sets in, we move on to an appearance by our WWE World Champion, AJ Styles. He hits the ring to cut a great promo, summing up his ongoing feuds with Dean Ambrose, James Ellsworth, and bad WWE writing, then setting the stage for the Survivor Series main event. Unfortunately, AJ’s mention of the Survivor Series match brings the circus to town and before you know it, the new Wyatt Family, Baron Corbin, Dean Ambrose, and yes, even James Ellsworth stand around the ring looking at each other.
They all seem like they’re angry at AJ Styles for some reason. I guess because he’s claiming he’s the team caption. That’s never really made clear. But AJ’s definitely getting the brunt of the stare downs. Eventually Baron Corbin lone wolfs and gets out of there, just about the same time that Shane McMahon shows up. Shane’s here to bring peace to the Smackdown Survivor Series. He wants everyone to stop feuding with each other, put their differences to the side, and focus on the big picture of defeating Raw.
How is Shane McMahon going to bring these men together in peace? By making a bunch of them wrestle each other in a six-man tag match later tonight. He also made James Ellsworth the official mascot for Smackdown’s team, because you gotta shoehorn him in there somewhere. Maybe he’ll have a second t-shirt by the Survivor Series.
It’s not a particularly bad segment. It’s just that once they stop focusing on AJ, everything starts feeling weird and disjointed. Probably because the convoluted pairing of Orton and Wyatt, the comedy stylings of Ambrose and Ellsworth, and the booking of Baron Corbin are all weird and disjointed. All of our poorly written Smackdown storylines are coming together for the Survivor Series into one big poorly written storyline. The opening segment ties in nicely with how convoluted the end of the show is as well as pretty much every twist and turn involving the participants of Smackdown’s Mens Survivor Series throughout the show.
Best: No Matter Who Loses, I Win
The first match of the night is Breezango vs. The Vaudevillains. “FIGHT FOREVER!” Seriously though, I want all four of these guys on my TV every week. They’ve all been lost inside WWE’s second screen experiences for far too long. I wish this match had been longer than two minutes, but baby steps I guess? Breezango wins and moves on to The Survivor Series Tag Team tag team match, but their real victory tonight was on Talking Smack, where they really got to explore their new fashion police gimmick in an interview that was about three times longer than the match. WWE is doing Breezango right outside of the ring, but inside the ring I want to see these guys get a lot more time.
Worst: Side Coaching
I like the idea of Natalya as the coach of the Smackdown Women’s team. It’s a solid concept and there’s a lot of fun to be had with it. But instead of doing anything fun with it, they’re just using it to run the same old second tier women’s segment that we see every week. This week it disrupts a perfectly good match between Nattie and Naomi with a little bit of help from Nikki Bella on commentary and a Carmella appearance. This all leads to a distraction roll up, because no matter what the storyline, it seems to lead to a distraction roll up. It’s a shame that even when WWE has something they can explore, they end up using it to paint by numbers.
Worst: Two Left Paws
Three months ago, Baron Corbin threw Kalisto into a sliding door and we never heard from him again. Now Kalisto is suddenly back and out for revenge on Baron Corbin. A match put together by Shane McMahon after he pulled Baron from tonight’s six man tag team main event due to the fact that Baron Corbin didn’t want to participate in it. What plays out once the two of them are in the ring together is the “four man announce team” of wrestling angles.
Baron Corbin comes down to the ring first, followed by Kalisto and his trampoline. Baron attacks him mid-flippy entrance, and begins beating him up before the bell. Corbin throws Kalisto around the ring a little bit, and then tosses him to the outside. Pretty standard stuff up to this point. But whoa does this take a weird turn!
Baron Corbin is on the ring apron when he slips and falls off, hurting his knee. And not in a Botchmania slip and fall either. A total kayfabe slip and fall. It’s ridiculous. While tending to his hurt knee, he’s attacked by Kalisto. Corbin’s too hurt to compete so the match never happens, and we eventually find out he’s not going to be able to compete with the Smackdown team at the Survivor Series either.
First off, if you want to get Baron Corbin off of Team Smackdown, why go with the typical injury angle? He’s the Lone Wolf. He only cares about himself. Wouldn’t it make sense to help build Baron’s character if he just quit the team? There’s so much you could do with that. It immediately gives him issues with everyone else on the team, plus raises questions about his loyalty to Smackdown the brand. There are zero opportunities to advance Baron Corbin as a character just by taking him out with an injury. More typical wasted storyline opportunities by the WWE.
Then there’s the whole slip and fall. Are they trying to make Corbin look like an idiot? Every time it looks like he’s starting to get a little tiny bit of momentum, they make him look like an idiot. We’re not too far removed from the weird “not a tap out” tap out, and now they have him literally tripping over himself. I don’t get it. And no I’m not just bitter that they didn’t use my fan fiction involving Baron Corbin gaining Kane’s powers.
Best: But With Room For Improvement
Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss for the Smackdown Live Women’s Championship told a good story, but maybe was given a little too much time to tell it. Especially since I’m sure this isn’t the last time the two of them will face each other. Bliss tapped in the Disarm Her, but she had her foot on the rope.
Now that Charlotte and Sasha have busted through the Hell In A Cell ceiling and made it so women can wrestle in stipulation matches that don’t involve lingerie or gravy, I say let’s let Lynch and Bliss’ rematch be a TLC match at the TLC pay-per-view. At least an “L” of the TLC anyway. I bet Becky would kill it in a ladder match. Let’s not make a women’s stipulation match something that just happens once a year. Let’s do them at the same regularity as the guys.
Worst: A Side Note
Here’s how little the Cruiserweight Division means at this point. At the Survivor Series, Dolph Ziggler is putting his Intercontinental Championship on the line against Raw’s Sami Zayn. If Sami defeats Ziggler, not only does he become the Intercontinental Champion, but the belt goes with him to Raw. In return, Raw has decided to put the entire Cruiserweight division on the line when Brian Kendrick defends the belt against Kalisto, Smackdown Live’s one man Cruiserweight Division.
You’d think an entire division being on the line would be worthy of some sort of big announcement. But instead, the reveal of the match and the giant stipulation comes while Daniel Bryan is talking to Maryse about the Intercontinental Championship and the status of Miz’ rematch. Can’t you guys at least pretend that the Cruiserweight Division means something? Couldn’t this have at least been during a Miz TV segment? Any sort of formal announcement would be nice, not just dropping it in casual conversation.
I think this means the cruiserweights are coming to Smackdown, right? Why wouldn’t they do this? It makes perfect sense. The division just didn’t seem to fit on Raw. It made an already bloated show feel even more stuffed. Smackdown’s roster is pencil thin and could really use all those guys.
Now if only Neville can figure out a way to sneak out of Raw with the Cruiserweight Division, Smackdown Live would finally have a great roster. Oh my god. I just thought about the possibility of Neville vs. AJ Styles and parts of my body got tingly.
Best: You Can’t Lose Them All
How much weight does Apollo Crews have to cut to be considered a cruiserweight? Like, thirty pounds? He can cut that, right? Maybe we can fudge the numbers a bit. Ok, maybe he doesn’t technically fit in the division, but he could still wrestle those guys if they come over to Smackdown Live, right? Some of them can come out of the weight class from time to time. In the meantime, he’s here losing to Curt Hawkins. It was an inevitable loss that I completely understand.
The match wasn’t half bad for what it was. It left me wanting to see more of these guys together. So … mission accomplished. I don’t mind Curt Hawkins when he’s wrestling instead of doing literally anything else.
Best: Once It Gets Where It’s Going
The final match of the show is a big six man tag, pitting the team of Dean Ambrose, James Ellsworth, and Kane against Randy Orton, Luke Harper, and Bray Wyatt. Add in AJ Styles on commentary and the whole thing is weird enough that it kind of works. At the very least it’s something different. The match is fine, but once again the MVP here is AJ Styles. Maybe the four man announce booth works after all. At least it does with Styles on it.
The highlight in the ring was the end of the match with some really fun work by James Ellsworth. You gotta give it to him, he really knows how to milk the crowd’s reaction to him. Kane and Harper battled to the back, leaving us with just four men in the ring. With Ambrose dazed in the ring, Ellsworth turns to the audience to help him decide if he should tag himself in and go one-on-one with Bray Wyatt. The audience is fully behind him. So eventually James tags in and spends even more time milking the audience before eating a Sister Abigail, which leads to Bray Wyatt getting the pin.
Eventually everyone involved with Team Smackdown in the Survivor Series match ends up in the ring together, surrounding the fallen James Ellsworth. Then out comes Shane McMahon and then out comes Daniel Bryan and then we find out what this whole things’s been about.
We started tonight’s show with Team Smackdown being AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, and Baron Corbin. But when Baron Corbin refused to participate in tonight’s six man match, Shane McMahon booked him against Kalisto, which led to Corbin slipping and falling off the ring apron, injuring his knee and being taken out of the Survivor Series match, which led to Daniel Bryan having to pick a replacement for Corbin. Bryan comes out at the end of the show and to nobody’s surprise, picks Shane McMahon.
Of course he picked Shane-O-Mac. Wouldn’t you? The guy fell 180 feet off the Hell in a Cell and is fine. He almost beat the Undertaker at WRESTLEMANIA! Having Shane McMahon on your team is liking having five John Cenas. Makes you wonder why they didn’t put Shane McMahon on the team to begin with. Why did they have to do all this stuff with Baron Corbin to end up with Shane on the team? I could see going through all of that if the storyline was Shane reluctantly getting back in the ring because he’s out of options for the team and needs to step up to the plate. But why go through all this if Bryan is just going to come out and name Shane the fifth man? More weird convoluted over-storytelling.
There’s a part of me that feels like Shane’s slot on the match should go to someone like Baron Corbin. Or probably The Miz. I was pretty much over the novelty of Shane McMahon’s return after his WrestleMania match with ‘Taker didn’t exactly set the world on fire. But I have to admit, adding him to this match has made me interested in it for the first time. I can’t help but be intrigued with the idea of Shane McMahon being in the ring with Seth Rollins or Kevin Owens. Since you already have Goldberg vs. Lesnar, the Survivor Series is already kind of WWE’s car crash on the side of the highway that I’ll be slowing down to gawk at. You might as well add “what if Shane McMahon wrestled Braun Strowman” for me to gawk at too.
Until next week, I’m Justin Donaldson and is James Ellsworth going to get to meet The Undertaker?