Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: Smackdown shit the bed so hard and so thoroughly with Battleground on Sunday that somebody on Tuesday was like, “okay, bring back Chris Jericho and try to make a good episode.”
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for July 25, 2017.
Best: Value Over Replacement Player
WWE has been in rough shape since WrestleMania. Mania itself was good, but then the Superstar Shake-Up™ happened in the middle of a batch of bi-weekly pay-per-views and everything got turned around ass-backwards.
The bigger problem came at Payback in the form of (1) the House of Horrors match, which is the pro wrestling equivalent of someone sticking a thumb in your ass when you aren’t expecting it, and (2) Chris Jericho, the best guy on Raw for most of the previous year, leaving Raw for Smackdown. On his first night on Smackdown Jericho lost the United States Championship, was stretchered away and left to tour with his band.
With Jericho gone and the Superstars Shooken-Up™, Smackdown went from “the good show” to “additional Raw.” Backlash, Money in the Bank and Battleground were about as bad a 1-2-3 punch of pay-per-views I can remember, at least from a company and roster that could do better. Even the weekly show, save for the Fashion Files segments, have been the hottest turds.
On this week’s episode, Chris Jericho returns. And whoops, the show immediately improves tenfold, feels like pre-shake-up Smackdown for the first time in a long time, and gets a killer main event with consequence. That’s not a coincidence, or me being biased. That’s VORP. Value over replacement player. Almost no other wrestler in WWE right now can say, “the show is good when I’m on it and sucks when I’m not.” It’s just Jericho and, like, Braun Strowman.
The main event is outstanding, and I’m wondering how many shows Smackdown has to do before WWE remembers a Smackdown audience likes watching good matches. You don’t have to be a smark to like the wrestling parts of wrestling to be entertaining. You see the crowd at Battleground? They’re hot for the pre-show match and the tag titles matches, because those were fun. The tag match had consequence, made sense, and ended without a bunch of intelligence-insulting bullshit. The crowd loved it. When the bullshit started — i.e. the rest of the card — they cooled.
Smackdown Proper is the same way. The crowd loves this match, because it’s wrestlers they know and like busting their ass to put on an entertaining match that matters. It’s for a championship, and features not only the return of a big star, but multiple intersecting storylines that you don’t have to know every detail of to follow the plot, but enhances things if you do. All you need to know is that they all have beef with each other, and Kevin Owens is the one you wanna boo. Everybody tells the story they need to tell on the microphone, and more importantly, in the ring.
I really liked this a lot. Hotshotting the United States Championship around is a weird choice, but at least they’re making it seem like a prize people might actually want, and would want to compete for. It’s not the Intercontinental Championship, which has been competed for in a division of two since fucking January. And hey, new rule: don’t say you’re bringing back the U.S. Open Challenge next week. You aren’t gonna get to next week.
Here’s a weird thing I’ve noticed.
Remember when Shinsuke Nakamura wrestled Dolph Ziggler at Backlash and it was kind of ass, but then he wrestled him a few weeks later on Smackdown and it was much better? Well, Nakamura wrestled Baron Corbin at Battleground and it was kind of ass, but wrestled him two days later on Smackdown and it was much better. What’s going on? Does Nak have pay-per-view jitters, or does he need to wrestle a guy first to figure out what he wants to do?
He’s still wrestling from underneath a little more than he should be, but this was closer to the Nakamura we should be seeing. His hook should be coming up with ridiculous counters to things and either kicking you to shit or locking you in something and threatening to break your arm. That’s what he mostly does here, complete with the Kinshasa to the back of the head to set up a Kinshasa to the face. The Bomaye is always better in batches like that.
Plus, we got some great psychological callbacks to the Battleground match. Corbin goes for his Bossman-esque “slide out of the ring, run around the ring post, slide back in and clothesline you” bit that worked wonders at Battleground, but this time Nak sees it coming and is able to counter. When Nakamura goes for the inverted powerslam, Corbin tries to kick him in the nuts like did at Battleground, but Nak side-steps it and keeps the match going. He’s learned from his mistake, and isn’t going to get caught again.
I can’t believe I’m typing this because it goes against everything I’ve ever believed, but maybe in Nakamura’s case, if he’s got a big one-on-one match coming up at a pay-per-view, do it on Smackdown first. Let it be underwhelming, let them work out the kinks, and then let them have the match you wanted to see in the first place on the show that matters.
Best: Nakamura Doing John Cena’s Taunts
Meanwhile, I’m over here like
Best: The World’s Worst Tag Team
In the same way that I love her “Postmodern Jukebox version of Samoa Joe’s theme” entrance theme, I’m pretty into Lana’s character of, “world’s worst wrestler.” I love that she can’t start or end a match effectively, and loses if you hit her with anything. I also love that she’s entered into an Enzo/Cass situation with a wrestler bigger and stronger than her, but picked TAMINA, who has the technical prowess and win/loss record of a Wrestling Buddy. So Tamina does all the work in the match, isn’t good enough to beat two people no matter how “dominant” they insist she is, then loses via having to rely on Lana’s help.
Strong win for Team CB.
Best: Uce The Force
Giving the return of Chris Jericho a run for its money for Best Segment Of The Week is this one, wherein The New Day have their AWWWWWW LOCAL TOWN~! intro interrupted by Jimmy and Jey Uso beating them within an inch of their lives. Xavier Woods gets a face full of floor, Kofi Kingston gets run into the edge of the LED board, and Big E gets double superkicked in the face. I could watch the Usos put a whooping on the New Day every week, and after the match they had at Battleground, hell, I don’t mind seeing another one at SummerSlam.
Also, This Happened
Speaking of tag team matches, Team Affable NXT of Tye Dillinger and Sami Zayn team up against Mike Kanellis and Aiden English, the Goofus and Gallant of tights designs. This is the next step in the Sami vs. Married Love story that pretty much ended at Battleground and extra ends here. Zayn just pins Kanellis again, even with Maria getting involved, and that’s that. But this is a Raw-ass storyline, so expect some form of Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis next week.
I did like the finishing sequence, though, with all four wrestlers ending up either whipped or running into the same corner, culminating in Zayn hitting Kanellis with a Helluva Kick and winning the match. Zayn’s time in Dragon Gate taught him the value of noticing a repeated pattern of moves and doing yours last.
Note: All I want from this year’s Royal Rumble is for Aiden English to decide he’d like to walk with Elias.
Worst: Rest In Peace, Jinder Mahal’s Title Reign
Jinder Mahal demands an opponent for SummerSlam, then starts speaking in a foreign language. He might as well have gone on top of the arena and lit up the Jorts Signal, because John Cena interrupts him and accepts. John Cena’s return has been a total “Hold the Door” moment for Jinder. Dude knows when he’s gonna die, and accepts his role.
Cena is like, “fine speech, nice to meet you for the first time,” as though THIS never happened:
On the plus side, Daniel Bryan — congratulations on still existing, buddy — tells Cena he can’t just slot himself into a championship match and signs Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the number one contendership next week. That’s a match that we can safely say every good-hearted person in the world wants to see and/or complain about, and if it happens, it could be special. Well, the second one could be special. But it’s also pretty blatantly telegraphing interference from Baron Corbin, which will either put the match result in jeopardy or, worst case, have the WWE Championship match at SummerSlam mirror the Raw version by becoming a fatal four-way.
If that doesn’t happen, the runway is clear for the summer’s most First Draft booking, which is Cena destroying Jinder and both Singhs and The Great Khali with a four-person Attitude Adjustment into the Statue of Liberty or whatever, becoming the 17-time World Champion, then losing it immediately to a Corbin cash-in to render the title run meaningless, fart in the general direction of records mattering and giving Cena an excuse to take the autumn off.
Best: Hit The Trumpets!
Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Daniel Bryan should come back out and admonish Owens for making his own match.
This is all Renee Young’s fault.
these guys should become a legit tag team and Aiden should sing their entrance theme live
we’ll be lucky if we get out of this feud without Cena dumping an entire vat of tikka masala on him from the ceiling
The only disappointing thing about Nak vs. Cena is that THAT should be the Summerslam title match.
The Real Birdman
“Actually, Daniel, I do make the matches”
*Checks with Shane in the back*
“Yeah, he totally makes the matches”
Looks like somebody got Birdie a lame gift
On a show where Jinder is champion, two chippendale dancers are chasing ghost aliens who decapitated a hobby horse, and the tag champs are 3 men in unicorn horns, the Lana/Tamina relationship is still the strangest story they’re trying to tell.
“you turned that title into a toy” hey nattie didn’t you once – ONCE – win a big pink butterfly belt?
That’s it for this week’s Smackdown. Much, much better show this week. Let’s keep it going and see what’s happening on 205 Live!
Drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show, and click the share buttons to spread the column around. We need your love and support! And hey, be back here next week for Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles for the United States Championship AND John Cena vs. Shinsuke Namakmura on WWE Clash of the Champions Live.