The Best And Worst Of WWE Smackdown Live 7/18/17: My Own Prison

Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: John Cena and AJ Styles teamed up to face Kevin Owens and Rusev on Smackdown for the First Time Ever®. Also, Tyler Breeze and Fandango dressed as Sexy Fashion Rangers for the First Time Ever®, and Chad Gable called Sami Zayn “Sami Wow-Wow” for what I believe was the First Time Ever®.

Remember that With Spandex is on Twitter, so follow it. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter. Also, make sure you’re reading the vintage Best and Worst reports.

Hit those share buttons! Leave us comments, spread the word about the column on Facebook and Twitter, and tell everyone in the office you’re not working because you’re busy reading jokes about pro wrestling. It’s hard to get people talking about a show without dramatic family drama reveals, so do your part and support the blue brand.

And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for July 18, 2017.

Worst: It’s Probably Not Good When You Have To Open The Show With A 10-Minute Explanation Of Your Pay-Per-View Main Event Match’s Rules

So this week’s episode begins with a special guest appearance from the Punjabi Prison. The announce team bends over backwards to talk about how “rare” and “dangerous” the structure is, but don’t mention that it’s rare because there have only ever been two Indian main event guys and it’s an ethnically-specific Kennel from Hell, and it’s dangerous because it’s classically involved a 7-foot Creepshow doll who can barely stand still without killing someone, much less wrestle.

It’s also a complete mess. Look at it.

There’s too much going on. You can’t see shit. It’s like they decided to wrestle in a big-ass Connect Four. Plus, there are so many rules. You’re inside two cages. The first cage features four doors, manned by referees and operating on pulley systems. You can request one of them be opened, but they only stay open for 60 seconds, and then stay closed FOREVER. Then you would be forced to climb a small cage! If that happens, you have to dodge the Temple Guards and assemble the Shrine of the Silver Monkey before climbing a second, taller cage made of giant squares you could probably just squeeze through. Unless you’re the Great Khali.

Orton shows up, climbs the outside of the cage and more or less buries the entire endeavor by (1) not being afraid of and/or intimidated by it whatsoever, and (2) pointing out how stupid it was for the guy who only wins when the Singh Brothers help him to pick a match type where the Singh Brothers can’t help him. Dude should’ve picked a 3-on-1 handicap match, or a no disqualification match or something. Or a regular match, and just cheated. Or a “Jinder Mahal can cheat as much as he wants but Randy Orton wrestles under regular rules” match. Or an “RKO is banned” match. Or literally anything other than a Punjabi Prison.

At the same time, come on. The only time they point out that a heel can’t cheat is when a heel’s going to cheat. See any “shark cage hanging above the ring” match ever, or that inferno match where Bray Wyatt’s family just put a carpet over the flames. The Singh Brothers are fun-sized, if they don’t crawl through those big cage holes, they’re stupid.

Worst: Another Explanation Of Pay-Per-View Match Rules

If one segment like this wasn’t enough, here’s another! John Cena, American, does his best to put over his upcoming extremely mid-card flag match with Rusev, a man he could pretty much beat with his eyes closed at this point, by comparing it to the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and 9/11. I’m serious. Sometimes Cena wades so deep in American Grit that he starts drowning in it and just starts screaming THESE COLORS DON’T RUN, LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT, DON’T TREAD ON ME, THAT’S MY PURSE I DON’T KNOW YOU.

He also oddly names “protests” as one of the things that has challenged the tearing-down of the American flag. Cena should’ve been all, “JUST LIKE HOW THE VALIANT AND BRAVE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE KEEPS TERRORISTS LIKE COLIN KAEPERNICK OUT OF ITS LEAGUE OF PATRIOTS SO SHALL I KEEP RUSEV FROM SHITTING ON OLD GLORY!” I hope the flag match ends with Cena hugging Donald Trump on the stage, and both of them crying deeply.

They changed the rules of a flag match for this, by the way. In the past, you win by climbing up and pulling down your flag. Now you have to pull it down and like, run it up the ramp and plant it across a finish line or something. I guess they couldn’t figure out a way to get their money’s worth out of this without Cena S-T-effing Rusev to death with a flag pole.

Worst: Rusev’s Flag

Two problems.

1. The Bulgarian flag Rusev’s using for this flag match isn’t the custom one he had made during the Summer Rae, Lana and Dolph Ziggler debacle of 20-ought-15. That thing was sweet.

(We miss you, Hot Summer.)

2. After all these years, Rusev still doesn’t know how to wave a flag.

You’re supposed to wave it so everyone can see the flag, man, not aggressively yank it back and forth like you’re trying to win Joust on American Gladiators. Rusev’s up there looking like he’s trying to take out the Foot Clan with his bo staff.

Worst: This Is Not A Very Good Episode Of Smackdown

I wish WWE could separate what could get heel heat with what should get heel heat.

In his first match in WWE, Mike Kanellis defeats Sami Zayn with two moves. A punch, which Sami sells like he’s wrestling the Big Show for some reason, and a Samoan Driver, a finisher so by-the-numbers they gave it to Dana Brooke. He gets off a third move earlier in the match, if you count the weakest clubbering forearms in history as a “move.” Guy looks like a five-year old trying to fight his older brother. Dean Ambrose looks at that clubbering and is like, “stiffen up, brother.”

Between those things, Mike is saved from a loss by his wife getting in the ring and standing in front of him. And yeah, on paper and in the minds of people who’ve maybe not ever paid attention to a wrestling show before, that’s a good heel move. But for me, all I see is another new signee who is never going to go anywhere because WWE equates heeldom with cowardice and can’t get any faces over because the heels aren’t actually a threat. Imagine if you had Batman, and instead of being a murderous psychopath the Joker just said he was gonna rob some banks and then stood with his hands over his face so Batman didn’t hit him. And he never actually did any crimes, he just had some annoying personality traits that made you think he was lame. And maybe he keyed Batman’s car once, which was a dick move, and in response Batman beat him up for 15 straight issues. That’s WWE heels and faces right now, and for pretty much the last decade. Terrible.

Also, is it weird I wish they’d send Sami back to Raw? That guy can’t catch a break ANYWHERE.

Poor Chad Gable

I feel so bad for him. This should’ve just been him and Renee shrugging and commiserating about how WWE doesn’t have any plans for them.

That said, I hope the “fresh start” here is Chad Gable reforming American Alpha as a sort of anti-Kurt Angle hit squad and bringing in Shelton Benjamin as his new tag team partner. Put upside-down American flags on the fronts of their singlets.

Worst: Somebody Tell Carmella She Doesn’t Have To Hold The Money In The Bank Briefcase In Frame Like That

This entire segment I wanted Naomi to punch her in the armpit.

Worst: New Day Brings Raw Booking To Smackdown

At Battleground, The New Day will take on The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship. Again. Last week, Xavier Woods pinned Jey Uso. This week, Jimmy Uso pinned Kofi Kingston. It’s every tag team feud you’ve seen WWE do since like, 2005. I’ll be happy when somebody’s finally like, “hey, instead of doing a match over and over in fractions to build to ostensibly that same match, what if we gave these teams reasons to fight?”

Maybe Road Dogg doesn’t think character development and entertaining stories are “necessary.” This episode was ass, though, so maybe Billy Gunn produced it.

Best: Save Us Dot Charlotte Forward Slash Becky Lynch

God damn, let’s get some Bests in this thing.

Despite the Fan Nation video starting with a pretty awkward sequence, Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch was the best match on the show for me this week. While I think Sasha Banks has better chemistry with both Charlotte and Becky, Charlotte and Becky are good together, and I appreciate that even when the action gets a little slow and rehearsed looking, it’s at least ambitious.

I also liked the finish a lot. Becky goes for the Dis-arm-her — are we still calling it that? — earlier, but Charlotte has it scouted and rolls her up. Charlotte tries to hit a moonsault, so Becky rolls out of the way and takes her chance to clamp on the move while Charlotte’s prone and on her stomach. It just makes sense. I appreciate the announce team explaining Charlotte’s tap-out too, by saying she needs to live to fight another day if she wants to be healthy for that title opportunity at Battleground.

Natalya did her best to sink the entire thing on commentary, though. Hoo, boy. “According to math, 2 + 2 = 22.” “Actually that equals 4.” “We’re not talking about math right now!” The post-match attack was also pretty dumb, with Tamina and her Jungle Cruise-ass music showing up and falling on her ass throwing a superkick. You know things are rough when Lana’s out there in a bathing suit and she’s the worker.

Best: The Truth Is Not H

Things to love about this week’s Fashion Files:

  • The X-Files opening credits parody, with the stick figure drawing popping up in the middle
  • Tyler Breeze dressed as Gillian Anderson, in an interesting and frankly concerning intersection of my sexual growth
  • “Don’t sully my search for Tully, Agent Scully.”
  • The board, with jokes about how The Boogeyman ate Scotty 2 Hotty, the whereabouts of Little Jimmy and “R-Truth is out there.”
  • The board also bringing some truth, like how Pat Patterson never actually won a tournament in Rio and the fact that Hornswoggle was apparently NOT the anonymous Raw General Manager. Maybe the Sexy Fashion Rangers can head to Raw and talk to Goldust Classic about who was behind G-TV?
  • Aiden English warming up behind a curtain in a corner and making ghost noises
  • Tyler Breeze wants to meet ALF, and now all I want is Smackdown special guest star ALF
  • A Se7en bit with a hobby horse’s head in a box. Which is extra funny because a hobby horse is only ever a head.

Love it. So who are the actual stick figures? Erick Rowan and Luke Harper? They seem corny enough to have dragged these dudes around for months.

Worst/Best: Kevin Owens Has Pinned The United States Champion!

This week’s main event is AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin, for the First Time Ever®, which is a weird thing to try to get over when a little over a month ago you had the same match minus Baron Corbin, and two weeks later you had all these guys in a six-man tag. Is First Time Ever® so crucial you gotta be that specific? Is a random combination of singles stars in a tag match before they wrestle singles matches on a pay-per-view worth that label?

The other bummer is that it’s another of WWE’s Blank Has Pinned The Champion bits, with Owens using his Paw-paw Powerbomb to pin the United States Champion six days before he faces the United States Champion for the United States Championship. Raw has done this three times in the last two episodes.

On the positive side, these guys all know what they’re doing in the ring, so even if it’s a completely wasted 10 minutes of filler, it’s good filler.

And that’s it. That’s the show. I can’t remember a Smackdown that felt this mailed in, but at least we had some watchable stuff in the second hour. Prepare the Battleground for massacre.

Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night

Baron Von Raschke

Wanting people to listen, you can’t just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you’ll notice you’ve got their strict attention. – HHH


drew gulak looks like he wants to take away my healthcare

Amaterasu’s Son

Look at that, Rusev MOCKING Cena’s Mom.


I want Rusev to grab the mic and calmly explain the US and Bulgaria are close NATO allies and have been trade partners since the end of the Cold War.

Clay Quartermain

This promo feels like someone trying to save Christmas in the 2nd week of January

Next week Breezango dresses up as Renee Young and Daniel Bryan to sneak Talking Smack in during the middle of the show


Lana sure does have a type

Dave M J

You’re a bit late there, Tamina. We needed you to kick Natalya in the mouth about 15 minutes ago.


*sees Natalya at ringside, hits mute without realizing it*

The Real Birdman

Obstructed View: The Match comes to you live this Sunday

That’s it for this week’s column. Thanks for reading.

Be sure to drop a comment in our comments section below, hit those social share buttons to spread the word of the column — seriously, about half as many people read these as they do the Raw report, which is insane — and join us this weekend for …