Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: I took a week off to go to the Grand Canyon on the 4th of July (like a true American) and missed the return of John Cena, the return of HANDSOME RUSEV, a rap battle and a Chad Gable match. Welp, never taking off again.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for July 11, 2017.
Best, And Kayfabe Worst: Heels Stealing Something We’d Actually Want To See
This week’s show begins with an absolute deluge of things you’d love to see a wrestling show begin with. AJ Styles as the new United States Champion, complete with matching U.S. flag t-shirt variant and gear. Styles bringing back the U.S. Open Challenge, which is indisputably the best thing to happen to the United States Championship in ages. John Cena being the first person to answer the new version of the U.S. Open Challenge, which makes more sense than the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. And, of course John Cena vs. AJ Styles, which is always, always absurdly good.
The last thing you want to see opening a wrestling show is a good match immediately interrupted by mid-card loser heels, which brings out a General Manager or whoever to decide that it’s gonna be a tag team match, player, and that it’ll happen RIGHT NOW or at least RIGHT NOW A LITTLE LATER. It yanks away so much greatness from the show, and dumps it head-first into a pile of overused, formulaic WWE time-killing tropes.
The good news, though, is that that’s the point.
It’s hard to get folks like me to boo Kevin Owens and Rusev. They’re identifiable and charismatic, and great performers. But hey, even I want them to go fuck themselves for robbing us of an AJ Styles vs. John Cena championship match on free television and replacing it with a throwaway tag we know they’re gonna lose. So, a shoot Best, with a Shadow of the Colossus-style monstrous kayfabe Worst inside it.
And speaking of that match, poor Kevin Owens, out here taking more Ls than the Hawkins National Laboratory. The mere presence of John Cena turns him and Rusev into Shemp and Curly Joe. I’m pretty sure Cena could’ve won this tag match by himself. Actually, I’m 100% sure, as Cena’s chance of winning any match is actually improved by making it more difficult and stacking up “odds” against him. You have a chance to beat Cena one-on-one with no modifiers, but like, if you break both of his arms and challenge him to a 25-on-1 handicap match, expect to eat 1/25 of a giant-ass fireman’s carry.
So, if these feuds work their way out through Battleground, does that mean we’re building to Styles/Cena at SummerSlam? Does that mean Jinder Mahal might make it out of the summer as champ, and that the Jinder-to-Cena-to-Corbin thing won’t happen right away? Perhaps more importantly, does that mean we’re saving Styles vs. Nakamura for a WrestleMania? Honestly interested to see which order all this happens in.
Tye Dillinger returns from oblivion (read: “making up bro-heavy feuds on Twitter because he doesn’t have anything better to do”) to lose an extended squash to Jinder Mahal.
While it’s great to see the WWE Champion getting a match like this on TV and just getting to beat the dog shit out of a guy, I feel like they really missed an opportunity to make this better. Tye Dillinger’s entire purpose in a WWE ring is to get the crowd hyped up as much as possible before he loses. A couple of choice hope spots could’ve really put this over. You wouldn’t have had to go as far as having the Singhs “save” Jinder like they have against Orton, you just have Jinder recover and get some value out of beating a lower-tier opponent that’s actually worth something. I dunno. It was fine, but Tye without hope spots is like Cass without Enzo.
Worst: Xavier Woods Has Pinned One Half Of The Tag Team Champions!
Usually (usually) Smackdown’s “worsts” are just awarded for being missed opportunities or lazy time-killers, when the segments they’re attached to could be used for something else. Hence my reaction to Jinder vs. Tye, and my reaction to Xavier Woods pinning Jey Uso.
I get it. By having Woods pin Jey, you show that when the odds are even and the Usos can’t manipulate things or run away, New Day can straight-up beat them. And by having one member of a tag team pin a member of their rival tag team, you give them a “non-title win” without it really being that. It’s an easy lay-up storytelling point without a lot of consequence. See also every time two teams feud on Raw. I’d just like something better from these guys this week, since I’m gonna forget this happened halfway through next week’s re-do with different team members.
Eh: Announcing Matches And Then Just Brawling
Baron Corbin vs. Shinsuke Nakamura For The First Time Ever®! was announced early in the show and promoted throughout, but when it came time to do the actual match, they just brawled until it got thrown out. This week’s Smackdown appears to be in recovery mode from Money in the Bank, still, trying to get something out of a Battleground pay-per-view but probably caring a little bit more about SummerSlam. So it’s lots of “eh, maybe, just go out there and do something” stuff. Sorta like how last week they had a number one contender battle royal and paid it off on a live show over the weekend. It’s fine, and not bad or unentertaining, it’s just disposable.
Best: “Sami Wow-Wow”
That’s a great nickname, Chad. Any comments on Jason Where-Where?
Best: The Vase That Runs The Place
It’s funny to me that the Sami Zayn vs. Mike and Maria Kanellis angle is literally, “What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.” It’s been weird watching affable neurotic everyman Sami Zayn being positioned as anti-love, but this week they do a good job re-contextualizing everything and having Sami state clearly what his issue is. He’s apologized, but they keep wanting new apologies. And he’s losing perspective on what he’s apologizing for, because he’s at a wrestling show trying to be a wrestler in wrestling matches and these goons are just standing around being in love. What do they even do? It’s a good question. If I’m in love with my wife, can I just take her to a restaurant and stand in the middle of it making googly eyes at her until I’m entitled to a portion of that restaurant’s profits? That’s the Kanellises right now.
So finally Mike decides to Bennett like Beckham and smash a vase over Sami’s head. I really hope the hook of the Mike Kanellis angle is that he and Maria are so in love they can’t stop putridly loving each other in public, but the flip side of that is that they only love each other and have a genocidal hate for everyone and everything else in the world. Like, a Leisure Suit Larry version of Sabu. Give me that.
… Worst, I Think?: Tamina And Lana
Someone in WWE Creative asked the question, “what if we did Rusev and Lana, but Rusev was a woman?” And someone followed that up with an excited, “AND WHAT IF RUSEV COULDN’T WRESTLE? WHAT IF NEITHER OF THEM WAS ANY GOOD,” and now we’ve got Lana and Tamina Snuka.
I do love that Lana’s gimmick is the most millennial thing on the show. She constantly demands to be included, even though she isn’t very good (and has never won) (and can rarely last more than 30 seconds before losing). She doesn’t deserve the spot or all these championship matches but she feels entitled to them, so she somehow gets them. Now she’s picking on Charlotte. If Naomi can beat you in 30 seconds, Charlotte’s going to eat your head like a fucking praying mantis before you even get in the ring.
I guess we’re doing a rehash of the Tamina as AJ Lee’s bodyguard angle, where Tamina’s forced to do all the work (because she’s “dominant” or whatever) and the manipulative partner comes in to take the pin and get all the glory. I’ve gotta say, though, constantly calling Tamina “the most dominant” is sounding like when WWE announcers don’t have anything to say about you and call you the “best pure athlete.” Or anything “pound for pound.” Saying Tamina’s a centaur is as accurate as saying she’s the most dominant female competitor on Smackdown.
BEST: Ranger Danger
Finally we’ve got the latest installment of the Fashion Files, and I’m not sure how they manage to pack these with so much material every week.
First of all,
Second of all,
We also get:
- “It’s a long, dirty road!” “Full of wild and crazy dangers!” “That’s when they all call …” “Sexy Fashion Rangers!” “Sexy Fashion Rangers! Sexy Fashion Rangers! Sexy Fashion Rangers! Sexy Fashion Rangers!”
- Fandango riding a hobby horse he’s named “Tully.” You know Breeze’s horse is named “Arn.”
- Breeze not knowing how to lasso, but owning a lasso and it having Wonder Woman lasso truth powers
- Breeze saying he wears a bra when he’s undercover because he’s “not a hippie,” which I’d like to believe would be his response even if he weren’t truth-lasso’d
- The hobby horse being stolen, Breezango deciding it was GHOST ALIENS, and the Walker, Texas Ranger parody turning into an X-Files parody without losing a step. The graphic is like, ready to go. WHAT.
- A strange universe where Mojo Rawley is the only normal one, and is frustrated by how weird everyone else is. I can’t believe how much I’ve grown to love that character.
Really the only Worst here is that Mojo Rawley never tans his hands.
You wearing gloves in the tanning bed, bro? Maybe you are a heel.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
“It was me! Tamina was the hero!” (crab scuttles away)
Tamina: I got this…Charlotte, watch your mouth
Howard: she did not have it.
“Fandango told me I have AIDS.”
How dare Maria interrupt a very intense game of D&D between Sami, Chad, Jason and Tye.
Charlotte and Becky trying not to laugh at one another’s jokes/disses on camera. True love. Oh my god, is Carmella’s attorney “My Cousin Vinny”?
just call up Asuka already
The Real Birdman
The fact this commercial didn’t have Angle digging through rubble and picking up a charred tiny cowboy hat feels like a huge mistake
Here comes the hotfire floor Jinder.
No one can make dumber commercials than Old Spice.
Mountain Dew: “hold my beer”
“I AM KEVIN OWENS! I SPEAK FOR THE SMARKS!”