Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: Tyler Breeze had a dream about The Ascension pouring syrup onto logs. Oh, and AJ Styles is the United States Champion again and Shinsuke Nakamura defeated John Cena to get a spot in the main event of SummerSlam. And he nearly broke the dude’s neck. But, logs.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for August 8, 2017.
Worst: Insincere John Cena
People have given John Cena a lot of shit about a lot of things for a lot of time, but the thing that’s always bugged me is how insincere he can be. He’s such a performer and he’s always “on” that even when he’s saying things I should like — putting Shinsuke Nakamura over for real without asking for an immediate rematch, for example — he doesn’t sound like he means it. He sounds like he’s gotten a list of bullet points to go through and is “being entertaining” while he reads them. And that’s not to say he’s not entertaining. He is. He’s just not real. He’s never been real. I’m not sure Real John Cena is real. That’s the worst part of the “Super Cena” act. Who cares if he wins or loses a lot? He just doesn’t seem like he actually gives a shit about any of it. I think the stuff with The Rock was the closest he ever came to sounding real, and he’s sorta systematically erasing that every time he takes four months off to play Kate Micucci’s weird boyfriend in something.
So that’s the Cena we get in this week’s opener. He’s putting over Nakamura, but he’s doing it in the same way he’d recap dumping a bunch of sewage on Dolph Ziggler. He acknowledges his neck injury with a facetious neck crack, but he doesn’t actually sell it or make it seem important. When Baron Corbin interrupts him, he gets his snaps material from nearby signs — Corbin is a “dumpster fire,” which is “Cesaro has pepperoni nipples” quality — and pulls “skinny fat” out of an old cardboard box with TRIPLE H BURNS Sharpied on the side.
The segment ends with Cena’s brother-in-law giving the guy who just lost a match to get on SummerSlam a match on the SummerSlam card against the guy who just mildly insulted him by telling him he didn’t like his shtick. I’m making it sound more severe than it is, but I do wish John could ever be the version of John Cena I really like two weeks in a row.
Best: Uso Good At Tag Team Matches
This week’s first match — there are only four, and only one of them goes longer than seven minutes — is The Usos vs. Team Helpless, Tye Dillinger and Sami Zayn. Aside from me naming them that, I really do love the Tye/Sami team, as they’re the most perfect combination of hard-working, scrappy-ass babyfaces who are elite level workers (well, one of them is, and the other is pretty good) but almost always lose. If Tye Dillinger and Sami Zayn wrestled Bill and Randy Mulkey I’d second guess the result.
It’s also a good match and a strong win for the Usos, who we should be reminded are one of the best actual teams in the company. WWE is full of teams that splinter and break up, but the Usos have been a cohesive thing since 2007. That should put some respect on their name. But even as good as the Usos have been, their glorious “Uso Penitentiary” summer has mostly been comedy matches with Breezango or running from/sneak attacking the New Day. And while that stuff is good-to-great, it’s nice to settle back into the reality that these guys are decorated damn veterans who are serious now and will kick your ass about it.
And hey, I didn’t even mind the New Day’s sneak attack after the match, because even in my GOOD GUYS SHOULD BE GOOD GUYS brain, the assumption that Turnabout = Fair Play grants the faces one (1) totally justified retaliation moment for every one (1) actually nefarious or violent heel act perpetrated on their person. Plus it’s good to see New Day drop the corny stuff and get real from time to time. Just, you know, have the Usos earn it again if you want New Day to keep jumping them and attacking them with chairs.
BEST: Arn You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana
All you need to know from this week’s Fashion Peaks is:
- Fandango was actually abducted by aliens, and hung out with them because he likes getting it in the butt
- Fandango now has psychic powers
- It will take 18 episodes for him to return to normal
- Arn Anderson destroyed Tully the Horse because they named it “Tully” instead of “Arn”
Can … can we figure out how to turn this into a story where Arn comes out of retirement when he realizes nobody respects the Four Horsemen anymore and builds a new group, with him as the J.J. Dillon? Because Tyler Breeze in Ric Flair robes is something that should’ve happened by now. And Fandango doing slingshot suplexes in little trunks with a cursive F on the hip.
One supplemental Worst, though … how you gonna do a WWE-themed Mulholland Drive joke with a Holly Cousin and not call it Mollyholly Drive?
Best: A Different Kind Of Story
I really enjoyed Charlotte vs. Lana, somewhat against my own expectations, because it told a different kind of story. Here, the characters get to be honest with themselves. Lana is a newbie dork who can’t really do much, but keeps getting opportunities because she’s hot and there are only seven women in the entire division. Charlotte is GENETICALLY SUPERIOR in capital letters. She’s taller, stronger, more muscular, faster, more skilled, more experienced and literally more everything besides “marriages to Bulgarian guys” than Lana. So they don’t pretend it’s competitive. That’s the key.
Charlotte just screws around with her, because she’s 100% sure she could just obliterate Lana in five seconds. I think Lana knows it, too, and is insulted by Charlotte’s attitude but not skilled enough to do anything about it. So she’s in there trying her best, and Charlotte’s in there taking the piss out of her. They do a backslide, Charlotte gets a two, and gets braggy about how easy this is for her. Lana slaps her. It’s stupid, but what else could she do? Charlotte then obliterates her in five seconds and wins the match.
That’s a great story. It actually made me empathize with the Lana character, which I’m not sure was on purpose. Who hasn’t tried to do something and gotten real ambitious and just run into the brick wall of someone who does it better with seemingly no effort? It’s Mozart and Salieri.
Worst: Please Invest In Acting Classes For The Entire Women’s Division
Lana’s not bad, aside from the extremely Boris and Natasha Russian accent (or Tenenbaum from Bioshock), but oh my stars and garters WWE needs to invest in some kind of television acting lessons for these women.
Watch Tamina forget her lines and obsess over pulling on her jacket to get through it. Watch Natalya attempt to say ANYTHING in a segment I legitimately cannot believe they uploaded to YouTube. “Your … chinless, tur-tull faced, FREAK of a friend, has been back for ONE NIGHT! And already sticking his nose, where it doesn’t belong!” How did they let this get on TV? And why can’t Natalya sound like a human being? Does every WWE backstage segment involving the women have to sound like a scene from Resident Evil?
All I wanted was for Ellsworth to respond with, “hey fuck you, Nattie, you look like Scary Spice fucked one of the Koopa Kids.”
BEST: God Bless Continuity
Kevin Owens is a master. Sometimes it’s hard to believe English is his second language.
In a segment that could’ve been absolute dogshit — pre-pay-per-view “confrontations” are usually awkward and heavy-handed, even with talented performers, ESPECIALLY when we’ve seen them interact non-stop for like two months — WWE managed to use one of the rarest moves from their playbook: evoking what has happened in the past to explain what might happen in the future. You know, continuity. Paying attention. Logic.
Shane McMahon is going to be the special guest referee for Owens/Styles at SummerSlam, and Owens rightfully points out that it’s a horrible decision because (1) AJ Styles was putting Shane McMahon’s head through a window earlier this year, and (2) Shane and all the McMahons have a history of screwing people when it matters most. He even uses footage from SURVIVOR SERIES 1998 to prove it. They could’ve had Jean-Pierre Goulet be like, “hey Shane, remember a bad thing you did 19 years ago, here’s footage,” and he would’ve been my favorite wrestler. So OF COURSE I’m building a shrine to Kevin Owens right now.
And not only does he do that, he plays the Canadian fans like a damn violin. He mentions Bret Hart when talking about the McMahons screwing famous Canadians, then waits for the crowd reaction to die down … before saying Bret deserved it. I can’t chef kiss that shit enough. That is brilliant work, and I can’t believe it took WWE this long to have a heel character that’s just a really sad dude who’s smarter than everyone else.
Worst: Everyone Has Pinned The Every Champion!
I hate it when WWE builds to a pay-per-view by having their champions lose non-title matches, so of course I’m going to hate it when they do TWO on the same two-hour show. Two in a row.
First is Carmella vs. Naomi, which is frustrating on so many levels. First of all, you’ve got the woman who had to have two ladder matches to win the Money in the Bank briefcase getting a match against the Smackdown Women’s Champion just because she wants it. Then you have her winning that non-title match by interference. So not only has the champion just visibly lost to the Money in the Bank holder, the title hasn’t changed hands, because it’s a non-title match. So you blew your wad on that interference and that visual for literally nothing, as the SummerSlam match is still Naomi vs. Natalya with Carmella maybe sorta kinda thinking about cashing in. Why the hell didn’t she just cash in right here? Naomi is knocked out or whatever, you just pinned her. Cash that shit in and pin her again. Or put her in your submission. Or you and Ellsworth stand in the ring with chairs and beat her down and THEN cash it in and THEN pin her. Whatever. Don’t just beat her for nothing.
Then we have the absolutely bizarre decision to put Randy Orton over WWE Champion Jinder Mahal clean, in a non-title match, on Smackdown, a week and a half before SummerSlam. While Mahal’s SummerSlam opponent Shinsuke Nakamura has the night off and does a pre-taped promo.
What’s the point of this, guys? Making Randy Orton feel better? The guy lost the title to Jinder Mahal, lost to Jinder in the rematch in the exact same way, then lost in a Punjabi Prison match like two weeks ago. So now you’re having him counter Jinder’s finisher and pin him on a Smackdown for NOT the belt? Are you trying to stall your own work? What’s the value in every single champion being the damn Honky Tonk Man? Can’t SOME of these bad guys carry their own weight? How much more would it have mattered to see Mahal finally, straight-up beat Orton in a one-on-one match? It should be able to happen, as he is your actual WWE Champion. Then we could’ve seen the SummerSlam main as Jinder continuing to prove himself as a legitimate Top Guy, and not “Shinsuke will obviously win unless we can think of another Indian wrestler to show up and cheat.”
The worst part is that I know if WWE reads that paragraph, they’re gonna like, rub their hands together and be like, “you got worked!” But guys, that’s not it. I WANT to be worked. I don’t want the definition of “worked” to be to have reasonable, measured disappointment about a show I want to watch. Heels being heels does it for me. Writing the show so everyone on it seems like an incompetent asshole doesn’t.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Kevin, stop remembering things, you’ll enjoy the wrestling show alot more if you do.
I got 10 bucks on Iron Sheik coming out to help Jinder
The chin that gets the win!
The jobber that’s come to clobber!
The heretic who generates a lot of controversy in regards to gender politics
I’m just saying, maybe Carmella doesn’t want to go the Full Damien Sandow on her cash in. You NEVER go the Full Damien Sandow.
John’s new towelette slogan: “Do Not Attempt.”
Tamina’ biggest heel move was to interrupt Lana taking her gear off
“She wants the same respect Tamina commands in the women’s locker room”
I feel like Charlotte’s original opponent was attacked by Brock Lesnar and Bryan was like, ‘hey Lana’
Good. Just what I want to see. A treaty negotiation detailing the rules of war.
“After five grueling weeks, representatives of Styles and Owens have agreed that the ring ropes will be Vivid Sky Blue and not Deep Sky Blue.”
Cena: “I lost? I lost?! That’s not right! Let me see the script.”
(opens Smackdown! script!) “I get another shot!”
Commentators: “He does?”
(fans reach under chairs and open scripts)
Fans (dejectedly): “Yes. Yes. He does. He does.”
That’s it for this week. Your job now is to:
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