Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live: Kofi Kingston was forced to compete in a 5-man gauntlet match to earn a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. He won, and then Vince McMahon “um actually’d” him, and added a sixth opponent. He’s never going to explain why he’s doing what he’s doing, so just assume the worst.
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And now, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for March 26, 2019.
Best/Worst: Avenge The Fallen
Up first, let’s talk about … this.
To start this off with something positive, it’s 17-minutes of Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. I can’t emphasize enough how good these two are together, and how valuable someone like Asuka is in reining in Flair’s less positive quirks and tendencies and focusing her on the narrative of a match. Charlotte’s never better than when she’s in there with Asuka, except maybe when she’s hanging around at ringside making stoic faces while someone she hates beats up someone she really hates.
Charlotte winning here also has its upsides; for example, Charlotte now has something to “bring” to the WrestleMania main event, which Becky Lynch said she didn’t, and the sudden, undeserved title shot a week before WrestleMania that leapfrogs four other women and makes sure no less than five women lose their spot to make a spot Charlotte already had more glittery fits in perfectly with her sense of entitlement.
That doesn’t totally erase the negatives, though. Unless they have Flair “betray her teammates” in that Raw six-woman tag on Monday and randomly pivot to Charlotte vs. Asuka and Ronda vs. Becky as singles matches (thereby removing Charlotte from the main event at the last minute), she just guaranteed Asuka won’t have a spot at WrestleMania. From a fan perspective, that fucking sucks, especially since there was next to no build to Charlotte wanting or needing the Smackdown Women’s Championship, most of the important players from the Smackdown women’s division have been doing all the important shit on Raw, and the belt’s not even going to be on the line at Mania. Consensus seems to be that Charlotte just needs something to hold over her head when they do an NXT Four Horsewomen curtain call at the end of the night. Charlotte as Smackdown champ, Becky as Raw champ, Sasha and Bayley as tag champs.
I don’t know. I liked the match, very much didn’t like the result (as it also complicates an already way, way too complicated and stuffed-full WrestleMania story that had already written itself well enough four months ago), and know with this year’s booking that we’ll have to get through next Monday and next Tuesday before we come to any concrete decision on what this “is” or what it means.
By The Way, That Curtain Call Idea Is Moot Because The IIconics Are Gonna Be Tag Champs
(They’re definitely not, but I’m going to keep trying to will it to happen.)
(Go watch this video clip, they’re the best.)
Best: A Low Down Dirty Shane
First of all, congratulations on Shane McMahon realizing he should pull a Triple H and make all of his matches “no holds barred” or “falls count anywhere” so he can just wander around doing spots instead of needing the stamina and wrestling acumen to be 49-years old and hold together a 20-minute WrestleMania singles match. This will, presumably, let the finish be Shane jumping off something, missing tremendously, and Miz covering him. Either that, or Mike the goddamn Miz is gonna go flying off a balcony.
The segment to set it up was pretty by-the-numbers, but that’s not a bad thing. Miz reiterates his “I’m a babyface, and I’m okay” stance from last week’s much better promo, Shane shows up with Smackdown’s most forgotten mid-carders and the Guardians of the Independent Scene between him and Miz, and a wild brawl ensues. They’ve gotten as far as they need to get with this story, and I applaud them for their restraint in only giving it one stipulation, instead of like, Shane winning the United States Championship on Tuesday, Alex Riley being added to the match on Monday, and someone being forced to put their career on the line the next Tuesday.
That would definitely be Riley, by the way. 100%
Best: The Farewell Tour Gets Kurt-tailed
In other good decisions news, someone finally realized those Kurt Angle farewell tour dream matches have been kinda depressing, so the Smackdown one where he wrestles old TNA nemesis AJ Styles ends in a minute and a half with outside interference. The fact that Angle almost Angle Slams Orton onto his own face is a good illustration of why we should keep these things short and sweet.
Plus, this adds more ammo to the wonderfully understated Orton and Styles feud. Orton took away an important moment for Styles, insulted a legend (like he does), and made general wanking motions in the direction of anyone who assumes they have as important a role in the legacy of Smackdown as himself. Not a good match or segment, really, but they got in and out in like two minutes, so I can’t complain.
Dominick Does It All 4 Love
I’m glad to see Rey Mysterio’s son is enjoying his last week on Earth before being choked to death by Samoa Joe by dressing up like a member of Color Me Badd. Which makes sense, because Joe’s gonna put this kid in a box.
Also, huge supplementary Best to Rey for finally wearing his Roots of Fight serape mask. Not an ad or anything, I just love it. More like this, fewer beige blow-up doll pants with landing strip mohawks.
Best: YOU WIN. FRIENDSHIP.
Finally we have the main event, in which Mr. McMahon decides Xavier Woods and Big E will have to win a tag team gauntlet against an unspecified amount of teams, presumably with a television time limit, to get Kofi Kingston into the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. Like a lot of you, I think doing three gauntlet matches in like a month and a half is a little much, but at least they’re remaining thematically consistent, and illustrating how hard folks like New Day have to work to make an impression with the ridiculous, barely-there 73-year old white billionaire in charge of their future.
(Also, before I get too deep into this, I love Daniel Bryan’s suggestion for Fresh Afternoon and absolutely need to see the Street Profits and Keith Lee randomly show up on Smackdown wearing bright robes with centaurs all over them, throwing waffles into the crowd.)
The most important thing here isn’t the wrestling, although that’s very good; it’s the friendship. Kofi did everything human possible to earn a spot at WrestleMania on his own … he lasted forever in a singles gauntlet match with no preparation, then almost pulled off a miracle inside the Elimination Chamber. He went through five guys last week, and almost went through six, to prove his worth. None of it mattered. Only when his friends are given control of his fate could he truly thrive, because no man is an island, and no one gets to the top without the support of the people who love them.
And then there’s this moment, when the Usos show up as the fourth team and decide to forfeit, because they’ve fought wars with the New Day and know exactly what’s going on. This might be my favorite Smackdown moment of the year. I thought about their past relationship and how they’ve spoken about each other and was PRAYING that the Usos would do the right then, and then they did. Not only was it a great character moment for everyone involved, it rewarded longtime viewers for paying attention and knowing who these people are, and how they feel. YOU ARE SO GOOD, SMACKDOWN LIVE.
The energy in that final fall is palpable. The two best moments from it are shown in the video:
- Big E countering Bryan’s running knee with his corner slam, Bryan hanging onto the ropes to avoid it because he’s a wrestling genius and has these guys scouted, and E going bug-eyed and powering through anyway because he will not be denied, and
- a final illustration of the value of friends, as Woods is about to get put through a table by Rowan until Big E continues his Superman rush, dispatches Rowan, and dumps the announce table over onto him to keep him from getting up and beating the count.
And you know, we can let our fantasy booking brains run wild from here. I know a lot of us are thinking this’ll end with Xavier Woods or Big E or both turning on Kofi, possibly after he loses at WrestleMania (because they had to stick their neck out for him and he let them down, or whatever) but I really hope it doesn’t. I hope they stay friends and allies forever, because some people actually get to do that in real life, and because in the world we’re living in where compassion and nuance and empathy are resources running desperately low, we need to see characters like this. We really need them, because heels are funny and dangerous and cool and great, but babyfaces are the people we should try to be.
This is one of those images that will last, no matter what:
Congratulations, Kofi Kingston, you’re going to WrestleMania, and KofiMania is real.
I just hope that when we’re done with KofiMania, we get Survive E Series.
By The Way
I’m not alone in thinking that Mr. McMahon still needs to explain why he did all of this, am I? It’s natural for him to see Daniel Bryan as the villain, since he’s this hippie rebel rouser who attempted to buck the system and got into blood feuds with Vince’s daughter and son-in-law, but Kofi was out here playing ball and politely getting beaten on every week. Vince put him through the wringer trying to earn a title shot.
And yeah, now they can retroactively say that Vince was just trying to motivate him or put him in the right mindset or something — because honestly, nobody else was positioned for a title shot here … were they not gonna run a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania if New Day lost the gauntlet? — but there’s got to be a better explanation than the murky middle ground between “unspecified racism dot dot dot question mark” and Sandra Bullock from The Blind Side.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Vince comes out with three doppelgängers in red jump suits and scissors. “It’s a New Day!”
Vince is not going to make Kofi cut his dreadlocks to be in the wrestling match at Wrestlemania, is he?
Xavier: What we’re saying is, it’s time for Us to Get Out. We already have the Key to success so we can Peele out of here. If we stay here any longer, we’ll go absolutely MAD.
You either die a Mr. Hero or you live long enough to become the John Cena.
If Wrestlemania doesn’t end with literal shit falling from buckets onto the fans what are we even building toward?
If the Up Up Down Down guys are in a Gauntlet match should they have to choose between Valkyrie, Wizard, or Elf?
The prisoners are now the guards. Welcome to the Stanford Uso Penitentiary Experiment.
In my mind canon, Asuka walked into Vince’s office, put the belt on his desk and said “Give my spot to Kofi” like the Notre Dame players did in “Rudy”.
I really wish those who were complaining about Asuka not being on tv would have caught on to the whole “monkey’s Paw” thing. Thanks guys.
The SNL guys at Wrestlemania is what the algorithm gives you if you liked the Jay Leno match in WCW.
Can two affable businessmen defeat the giant hillbilly at WrestleMania and win the chocolate Andre the Giant? Followup question that’s more of a statement, that’s one of the most embarrassing match graphics of all time, right?
That’s it for this week’s Smackdown. Thanks for reading, as always.
Drop us a comment to let us know what you thought of the show, and share the column on social to help us out. Next week’s going to be crazy given WWE’s tendency to add and subtract shit from match builds at the last second, so make sure you’re here to ride that Ultimate Thrill Ride® with us. See you then!