Hey, Blue Team!
It’s an entertaining Smackdown Live this week. I once again enjoyed it more than Raw. We get a lot of first time matchups and pretty unique segments mixed in with the usual stuff. The groundwork is laid for the Survivor Series, and much like stores selling Christmas decorations before Halloween, they start advertising the Royal Rumble this week as well. I can sense a surprise Rumble appearance by James Ellsworth already.
If you’re in the Los Angeles area, come see Lucha Underground’s Johnny Mundo and myself do comedy together this Saturday night at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater in Hollywood at our show, The Tournament of Nerds.
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And now without further ado, here is The Best and Worst of Smackdown Live for October 11, 2016.
Best: Ah, The Good Ol’ Days
I was on tenterhooks waiting to see how Dolph Ziggler would be treated tonight. Time and time again WWE has made it look like Ziggler was evolving to the next level of stardom, only to quickly forget that ever happened. I could have very well seen Ziggler lose the Intercontinental title back to Miz on this week’s Smackdown Live. Or even just The Miz pinning him in some sort of nonsense non-title match that Daniel Bryan would make The Miz have to win in order to get his championship rematch. But luckily, so far so good!
I applaud WWE for making it a full two days without making Dolph Ziggler look like an idiot.
The show opens with Ziggler coming down to the ring to talk about winning the Intercontinental Championship and saving his career this past Sunday while you were watching the debate. The crowd immediately breaks out in a “you deserve it!” chant. And yes he does deserve it, but the chant is starting to border on “this is awesome” levels of overuse. Anyways, Ziggler does a great job laying out what happened at No Mercy, establishing where he stands today, and setting up what we can expect from him going forward.
Eventually Miz and Maryse make their way down to the ring, dressed as if they are attending a funeral. And they believe they are. Miz is here to eulogize the IC Belt now that it’s in the hands of Ziggler. It’s more great work from The Miz. What’s not so great is the way Ziggler responds to it. In the only misstep in this segment, they play a clip from No Mercy that shows what looks like The Miz crying after he lost. And Ziggler of course makes fun of him for it. We now know officially, WWE has made Ziggler one of their top babyfaces. Because WWE’s modern version of a hero always makes fun of people when they show emotions. Especially those of love or sadness.
As much as that stuff drives me crazy, I’m not going to harp on it too much. Because you just remove a couple of those lines and it’s a great segment. It leads to a match I requested right here last week.
Dolph Ziggler vs. The Spirit Squad went down almost exactly how I wanted it to. It seems like Kenny and Mikey can still go. It looks like they’re sticking around for a little while, and that’s fine by me. Smackdown needs more talent. It needs more characters. Plus, now that Goldberg’s huffing and puffing his way back to WWE, we have officially eked out the last drop of Monday Night Wars nostalgia. Time to go to the untapped well of nostalgia that is the late aughts.
Curt Hawkins and Brian Kendrick are already back! Can Eugene and The Boogeyman be far behind? Actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing either of those guys. What is wrong with me?
I loved everything about this from beginning to end, but my favorite part is when Kenny most definitely tries to get his job back by pulling down the top half of his outfit to show Vince McMahon that he’s still in shape. A 6’4 guy with abs like that? That’s worth a $65k downside guarantee, right Vince?
My next favorite part comes after the match. As soon as Ziggler wins, The Miz runs into the ring and jumps him. The squad joins in for a three-on-one beatdown, when suddenly making the save comes Rhyno and Heath Slater. That came so far out of left field that I liked it. Why in the world are Rhyno and Heath Slater saving Ziggler? Yes, I know the answer is a six-man tag and a possible feud for them with The Spirit Squad, but storyline-wise it makes no sense. Especially when you consider this could have been The Hype Bros, since it’s been firmly established that Ziggler and Zack Ryder are friends. Ziggler even talked about Ryder in his promo before this match. Oh, and Ziggler is WEARING A HYPE BROS T-SHIRT.
But for once, WWE Creative’s total lack of storytelling continuity finally pays off, because I’d much rather see Rhyno and Heath Slater than The Hype Bros, even if it doesn’t make any sense. Since WWE made my Spirit Squad handicap match dreams come true, here’s what I want them to do at Survivor Series: give me a traditional five-on-five Survivor Series match of The Miz and all four members of The Spirit Squad vs. Dolph Ziggler and a team of his choosing. Probably Curt Hawkins, Brian Kendrick, Eugene, and The Boogeyman.
Best For The Pay-Per-View, Worst For The TV Show
Shaniel Bryan issued a challenge to Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley to have three Raw vs. Smackdown traditional Survivor Series tag matches at Survivor Series. One for the men, one for the women, and one for their pansexual tag teams. This is a great idea for the pay-per-view. Now that WWE has super cards practically every two weeks, they need to do something to break up the monotony. It always bums me out when the majority of the Survivor Series card isn’t five-on-five tag matches. And Raw vs. Smackdown isn’t a bad way to do it.
What I’m worried about is what it could do to the weekly show. I don’t want a month of storylines about whether or not the teammates can get along. We’ve seen that so many times. It’s happening right now over on Raw with Sheamus and Cesaro, we don’t need that happening to literally everyone else on both brands. It’s another tired cliche WWE storyline, that at its base doesn’t make sense because they are all athletes getting paid to do a job. For now I’m going to keep enjoying this week’s Smackdown and hope for the best.
Best: First Time Match-Ups
Not much to say about Naomi vs. Carmella. The match was perfectly fine. It was the first time the two of them have ever faced off one-on-one, which is always nice. It ends with a distraction roll-up. WWE’s contract with the USA Network states that a distraction finish must occur at least once per episode of Smackdown Live. So why not put it on this one? They keep the women’s division storylines moving forward and everyone looking pretty good.
Worst: It’s Happening Already
Chad Gable vs. Jimmy Uso was another perfectly fine match. One and a half matches removed, and David Otunga is already asking the question, “Will they be able to get along?” None of these matches are even officially booked yet and we’re already focused on animosity between team members. Since the announce team is assuming the twenty man tag between Raw’s five best tag teams and Smackdown Live’s best tag teams is going to take place at Survivor Series, then I will too. And I’ll already start complaining about who I’m assuming those five tag teams are. Because I don’t think one of them’s going to be The Vaudevillains, and I don’t think we’re seeing Breezango either.
Believe it or not, I think The Ascension is making their way onto the Survivor Series card. And obviously so are The Hype Bros. The Uso/Gable match was followed by a backstage segment where The Ascension interrupts Mojo Rawley while he’s making fun of Zack Ryder for being a nerd. When the camera pans over from The Hype Bros to reveal The Ascension is hanging out in the locker room, I once again burst out laughing at the appearance of them. If you want me to buy into The Ascension again, WWE is going to have to put in the work. Not just have them creep around. They need to start being dominant again. They need to start winning matches. Until then, I’m just going to keep laughing at them.
Best: But Only By An Ellsworth
It took me a while to figure out exactly how I felt about James Ellsworth vs. AJ Styles with special guest referee, Dean Ambrose. I really wanted to like it and I did, but I didn’t love it and I should have loved it. First off, if you don’t watch a minimum of twelve hours of WWE programming every week, let me catch you up on who James Ellsworth is.
Ellsworth first appeared as local talent in a Braun Strowman squash match. The gag turned into a running gag when Daniel Bryan brought him to Smackdown to tag with AJ Styles. That is, until The Miz jumped him and took him out of the match. I’m a fan of the bit; I like that they brought him back for this week’s Smackdown and I like the idea of him wrestling AJ Styles.
I give WWE major credit for doing something different and interesting. And unlike a lot of WWE storylines, the whole thing made sense. It made sense for Styles to bring Ellsworth out to wrestle him. It made sense for Daniel Bryan to book the match, but put a spin on it so AJ couldn’t easily win. I’m even pretty ok with Ellsworth pinning Styles.
However, I never fully bought into the match because of Dean Ambrose. Even in a segment like this, his wacky shenanigans are just a bit too much for me. Leading up to No Mercy, it looked like we were starting to get the serious version of Ambrose that we all want to see. But now he’s right back to being the Bugs Bunny of sports entertainment. By the time he’s out having hijinks with the plants in the front row, I’m out.
I can’t help but wonder what Steve Austin thought of this. Not only because of Dean’s infamous Stone Cold Podcast appearance, but also because of how good Austin used to be when he was put in roles like this. I’m giving this a “best” because AJ Styles has hit Daniel Bryan levels of being able to make gold out of anything WWE throws at him. His reactions to Ambrose were priceless. We all knew AJ Styles was one of the best wrestlers in the world, but now he’s one of the best sports entertainers too. And James Ellsworth did a good job too. Right up until he almost died in the Styles Clash.
A supplemental “best” goes out to whoever in the audience tried to start a “fight forever” chant.
Even with wacky Ambrose and a questionable outcome, I enjoyed it overall and appreciate WWE doing something unique, as long as they keep it unique and not do it again next week.
Worst: They’re Doing It Again Next Week
Worst: The Inevitable
A Smackdown Live full of first time match-ups and unique segments ends with Randy Orton and Kane vs. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper. The next time The Wyatt Family sound effect plays and the arena goes dark, when the lights come back on again I want to see a Lost-style time jump to some point in the future. A future where Randy Orton is feuding with AJ Styles and The Wyatt Family is facing Heath Slater and Rhyno. I’m glad Luke Harper’s back, but he can’t save this feud.
Boy, I wonder how Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton are going to get along when they’re on the same team at Survivor Series.
Until next week, I’m Justin Donaldson reminding you: don’t tuck your head on the Styles Clash.