Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: Bobby Roode made his main-roster debut, Shelton Benjamin finally returned, Jimmy Jacobs had a cameo and the Fashion Police wore pineapple rompers. Think of it like one of those big set-piece episodes of Game of Thrones, which are almost always followed by an hour of people sitting in a room talking about shit you already know.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for August 29, 2017.
Worst: Same Old Story
Next week, Shinsuke Nakamura will face Randy Orton in a number one contender match for the WWE Championship. If you need a clear statement of how illogical and impotent the WWE Championship scene is right now, Jinder Mahal, a former jobber thrust into a main-event act without knowing how to wrestle main-event matches who (as a sign in the crowd said) can’t win a match without the Konami Code, will either face the guy he just pinned in a championship match, or the guy he pinned in three championship matches before that. The main event scene is a guy who can’t win versus two guys who can’t beat him. That’s for the WWE Championship.
Elsewhere in the Smackdown main-event scene, John Cena bailed on the show because he thought a guy on Raw seemed more important, Kevin Owens can’t stop arguing with the general manager, United States Championship matches can’t possibly have worse finishes and Baron Corbin had the most embarrassing Money in the Bank cash-in attempt in history.
So, how are things?
Worst: No, Seriously, The Exact Same Old Story
This week’s episode begins with the most cookie-cutter Smackdown opening you’ve ever seen. It’s like it was lifted from that dark period a few years ago when anything other than “long opening promo, interruption, interruption, fight, tag team main event” felt avant-garde.
Jinder Mahal opens the show with a … long promo. To be honest I’m not sure how long it was, Jinder could sing the ding from the end of Nabisco commercials and make it feel like half an hour. The Singh Brothers apologize to him for getting face-fucked to death on last week’s episode and try to kiss his boots. That gets interrupted by Nakamura, who I guess doesn’t want to see the Singhs humiliated?
Anyway, Nakamura pushes Singh 1 and Singh 2 aside and brawls with Jinder. Soon it’s 3-on-1, and Our Father Who Art At The Snake Farm Randy Orton shows up and uses the focused totality of his boredom to fight them off. That brings out Rusev, and we have a tag team main event! Except we already had a tag team main event. It was announced earlier. And then they took 13 minutes to set it up.
The match happens.
That should’ve been my entire write-up, right? I spent most of the match waiting for the finish I expected — Orton and Nakamura having the match in control, but one of them accidentally hitting the other to set up heat for next week’s already announced number one contender match — but I forgot how helpless the heels are. They swerved me with their helplessness! It’s Randy Orton’s job to scoop up Rusev’s career in a plastic bag and toss it in the garbage — see also this GIF of their entire match at SummerSlam — so Rusev gets tossed around and shinned in the side of the head and pinned by Nakamura.
After the match, something unexpected happens!
Man, Nakamura has got to start paying attention. He’s so busy squinting and posing you could just walk up to him and punch him in the face and he’d have no idea. Everybody was always getting the jump on him in NXT, and he spent the last couple of months getting punched in the back of the head by Baron Corbin. The Singh Brothers distract him like it’s nothing, and now Orton’s RKO’ing him “from out of nowhere” when literally all Nakamura was tasked to do is stand there and watch out for Randy Orton. Buy him some glasses or something, guys.
Speaking Of Championship Scenes That Don’t Make A Lot Of Sense
Remember how weird it was a few episodes ago when Money in the Bank winner Carmella got a match against Smackdown Women’s Champion Naomi without having to cash in the briefcase, pinned her, and was not the Smackdown Women’s Champion?
Well, next week, Money in the Bank winner Carmella has a match with Smackdown Women’s Champion Natalya. After that, Naomi gets another match. This is why you don’t need a Money in the Bank briefcase for a division with six people in it. Everybody gets regular title shots. There’s zero sense of opportunism or urgency.
The unfortunate highlight of this bit is Natalya threatening to make Carmella “the Baron Corbin of the women’s division.” If you thought Corbin’s career wasn’t dead in the water, watch James Ellsworth sell being compared to him.
Worst: The Baron Corbin Of The Men’s Division
If you’re wondering what Baron Corbin Prime’s up to, get this, he’s involved in the least productive segment of the week! Somehow!
AJ Styles continues the Curse of the United States Open Challenge in a bit that includes:
- Tye Dillinger looking bad by accepting Styles’ challenge, getting beaten up during his entrance, losing via submission in less than a minute despite his noble attempt to wrestle anyway, then getting beaten up AFTER the match
- AJ Styles looking bad by not helping the guy being attacked, then agreeing to wrestle him and beating an injured guy in like 45 seconds
- Baron Corbin looking bad by beating up an already twice-beaten up guy, getting in the ring to challenge Styles and getting run off by one (1) offensive move
It’s AJ Styles. This isn’t rocket brain science. Have some good matches. We’ll like it.
Worst: WWE Victory Road
Bobby Roode vs. Mike Kanellis wasn’t bad, really, but it certainly wasn’t good.
To me, Kanellis is the most WTF thing happening in WWE right now, which is saying something. I absolutely do not understand why he’s here or why he’s doing anything he’s doing. I know he’s working through some tough issues and I wish him the best, but his on-screen work is the all-inclusive drizzling shits.
Until Roode flips that switch and reverts back to the Bob Roo we all know and hate, every one of these matches is gonna be colored by me wondering why he’s acting so nice. They should do one backstage segment with him where Cathy #3 or whoever is like, “you were a jerk at NXT but now you’re a fan favorite, what’s up with that,” and a beaming Roode could be like, “I JUST REALIZED THERE’S A WRESTLING PROMOTION WITH CURRENT STARS IN IT, THEY’RE ALL WEARING SUITS ALREADY, THIS IS SO GREAT,” like the thought never crossed his mind. And then he’s just pleasant for the rest of his life.
Best: Olympic Gold
Here are some good things about the episode!
Up first is Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable versus The Ascension. It’s a paint-by-numbers tag, but I think that’s necessary for a new team debut. The Ascension’s got a lot of good will from me after their ace supporting roles in the Fashion Files, and I’m happy to see WWE get back to the heart of what Chad Gable works.
Neither member of American Alpha was/is ready to be a singles star. Gable has a ton of dorky personality, but his personality is extremely awkward and dorky. Jason Jordan is mayonnaise on white bread. It was a fun dynamic to see Jordan come out of his shell because his weird friend was showing him it was okay, and Jordan’s size and hot-fire-ass hot tags let Gable’s natural Ricky Morton light shine. When they came up to Smackdown, they didn’t re-do the story or explain any of that for the audience. They were just like, “here you go, here’s a tag team.” With Jason Jordan over on Raw, they put him “with” Kurt Angle, but not really. They just talk a lot about Kurt Angle during his matches, and nothing else has really changed. So he’s still a cardboard cutout, and nobody’s into it.
In contrast, Shelton Benjamin’s reappearance lets us refresh the Gable/Jordan dynamic in a similar but thankfully different way. Now you get to let Gable’s dorky personality shine against an established veteran who has been through his fair share of ridiculous shit. Pairing Gable with Benjamin lets the crowd know it’s okay to cheer them and get into them, and Gable being able to work most of a tag match hides Shelton’s weaknesses as he ages. The guy looks great, but he’s 42 and didn’t break through the singles ceiling when he was in his prime, so this is a perfect spot for him.
All they need is a tag finisher that’s (1) not the Pay Dirt and (2) better than a backdrop and they’ll be set.
Best: Back 2 Basics
Not a lot happening in the season premiere of the Fashion Files — it’s a rebuilding episode — but it does earn points for Fandango somehow wearing three pairs of sunglasses on his person at once, and the great “that’s not a title, that’s a belt” gag.
Also, Tyler Breeze as trash:
Really surprised they didn’t have him dressed as Baron Corbin while he was in there.
Lana’s great idea to show how “dominant” Tamina is to have her struggle to put together a 49 second squash against a background character from a gymnastics episode of Degrassi. The bad news: it doesn’t work. At all. Also bad news: Lana is now a manager again, telling a brute to “crush” their opponents, and it’s Tamina instead of Rusev. Replacing Rusev with Tamina’s like replacing someone’s morning coffee with a colostomy bag.
The good news: local competitor Tina Stock lasted longer in her squash match than Tye Dillinger lasted in his!
Best/Worst: Kevin Owens, Referee
While I didn’t love the Aiden English vs. Sami Zayn match or Sami taking another ice cold L, I did love the insanity of Kevin Owens getting in the ring, stealing a referee’s shirt and somehow becoming the referee, all out of spite.
It’s also great continuity that Owens had kinda warmed to Sami in his brain after not being directly involved with him for a while, made an empty gesture of opportunistic friendship to him, was turned down, and now wants to destroy him for inconveniencing him while he was trying to make a point to someone else. I’m also very happy they had Shane quickly explain that people can’t just do that, and the match won’t count in the record books. It’s the little things, like match booking procedure explanations, and toxic friendships that forever drive you into madness!
Best: The New Day Has NOT Pinned The Tag Team Champions!
In the week’s most shockingly welcome booking decision, The Usos ended up in a non-title match against The New Day with the winner choosing the stipulation for their upcoming Smackdown Tag Team Championship rematch, and they didn’t lose. I know, it feels like Christmas.
This was definitely the least interesting match these teams have had together, not counting those “one for me, one for you” singles matches they always do, but I’m excited for this to lead to the inevitable Usos Penitentiary match. I hope it’s a regular steel cage match with a mop hanging above it. There’s no way Ambrose has kept up the rent and maintenance on that asylum.
Worst: The Makeover Of Dolph Ziggler Into Zigglina
I don’t know if they just didn’t come up with a good idea for him in time or what, but Dolph Ziggler doesn’t do anything. Again.
Last week, he cut a long backstage promo about how corny it was for people to get over by dancing, playing music, having fun entrances, being entertaining, having good matches, etc. As always, he thinks he’s the best wrestler ever and believes he’s proven it every time he’s ever wrestled, and that he hasn’t gotten any opportunities and has nothing to show for his career. Whether that’s accurate or not is open to interpretation. He promised that this week, he’d show us a new Dolph Ziggler.
This week, he cuts a long backstage promo about me cutting and pasting that entire paragraph into this one for you to read again. He says that next week, we’ll see a new Dolph Ziggler! I hope he keeps this up for like 18 straight weeks and when he finally debuts, he’s just Dolph Ziggler in a leather jacket with a wolf t-shirt under it. “I HAD THIS GREAT IDEA ABOUT BEING A WOLF, BUT AN ALONE ONE!”
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
So does Supersport Broadcasting have Raw? Cause then we can find out all about the “Reigns down in Africa!!!!”
So Dolph’s character is that one time Krusty got serious?
Aiden: Wah holy shit what is that? Wait…is that my…music?
Jinder: You want to….kiss my feet?
Singhs: yes, it is greatest display of apology in India
Jinder: Look guys, I’m from Canada, I didn’t sign up for this weird stuff.
LIKE SEASON TWO OF WALKING DEAD, SHANE HAS OUTLIVED HIS USEFULNESS!
Kevin Owens used POLITENESS! It was SUPER EFFECTIVE!
“We also did not write Gable/Benjamins theme”
The Singh Brothers look like they should be selling vacation packages to Puerto Rico
The Real Birdman
Baron Corbin of the women’s division? Carmella better hide that hair cream she used on Marcus Louis
– The Revival: Out
– Asuka: Out
– Samoa Joe: Out
– Xavier Woods: Out
– Randy Orton: Healthy as can be
The wrestling gods are cruel, my friends.
That’s this week’s report. Be sure to drop us a comment and share the column on social. Join us next week for Snake Man Triumphant, Part A Million.