Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: Kevin Owens screamed at some action figures, Sonya Deville gave Mandy Rose the Fire and Desire spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match because she’s a good friend, and you’ve still gotta be joking Billie Kay.
One more thing: Hit those share buttons! Spread the word about the column on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you use. Be sure to leave us a comment in our comment section below as well. I know we always ask this, and that this part is copy and pasted in every week, but we appreciate it every week. We’re on the road to WWE Money in the Bank, Lil Scrappy’s favorite pay-per-view!
Anyway, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for May 7, 2019.
Best: Oh My Gosh You Guys, Putties!
Monday Night Raw was cruel and unusual to get through, so let’s start off the Best and Worst of Smackdown with an unintentionally (?) hilarious best: Matt Hardy‘s fighting stance when he realizes Lars Sullivan’s standing behind him.
It’s like Matt Hardy finally saw those op board posts back in 1998 saying he looked like Tommy the Green Ranger from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and decided to just lean into it. It’s one part Elvis performance flourish, two parts George Mizanin.
I loved it. Plus, Hardy’s read of, “…. it’s HIM!” was so, so corny. I know all the Broken Universe stuff makes us think Matt Hardy’s been a sweded filmmaking savant from the beginning, but he might just be pro wrestling’s Tommy Wiseau: a guy who wasn’t originally in on the “joke,” but decided to just go with it. It’s the difference between the first volume of Trapped in the Closet as opposed to the rest of it. Hardy might be a good actor, but he spent so long being vampiric Eric Cartman that he forgot how to do it.
In short, thank you for making me smile, Matt Hardy, I thought I might not be able to do that anymore. I’m like five more bad minutes away from having my own Thursday Raw Thursday.
Worst: The Wild Card
Monday’s Raw … I guess you could say “loosely” set up the new “wild card rule,” Vince McMahon’s reported last ditch effort at improving ratings. You’ve got to love the fact that a guy who split the rosters in the first place to increase ad revenue and show-specific ratings’ big idea now is to pretend he didn’t.
Again, you aren’t the commissioner of baseball dealing with a players’ union and a bunch of television networks; it’s three “brands” in fiction but you own and control all three of them, and can do whatever you want whenever you want. You don’t need to say “three, no, four guys from each show are allowed to jump shows” when (1) you’ve had free-floating “free agents” in the past and nobody cared, (2) you don’t put any weight or gravity in your universe’s rules as is, to the point that you can introduce and break rules in the same goddamn episode, and (3) you’re desperately flailing to improve the waning quality of your product now that you’ve put all your competition out of business, when appropriating ideas from less popular competitors and broadcasting them to a larger audience as your own is how you got so successful to begin with.
Plus, by needing to establish who the “wild card” is every week, you back yourself into a corner where these promo parades of people showing up, demanding, and then getting things is your only segment. Are the announcers just supposed to not excitedly scream “WHAT IS RAW SUPERSTAR DOING HERE” the first four times, and pop for the fifth? You casually choose to not follow the foundational rules that construct and maintain the building blocks of your medium, why would you follow any of these once whatever story you’re trying to tell *right now* is over?
(See why I opened with the Matt Hardy thing?)
The good news here is that since the thing I don’t like happens on Smackdown, it’s at least propped up with some actual wrestling. Even when the Smackdown guys randomly show up on Raw and have rules rewritten about them on the fly, they wrestle. Bryan vs. Kingston was literally the only thing (except, I guess, a toy vulture murdering a stuffed rabbit) worth watching from Raw, because it was just 15 minutes of Monday Smackdown.
So you have the same bad promo parade segment and garbage inhabitant Sami Zayn getting “take a shower” chants that’d make The Revival’s shaved backs and burny buttholes jealous, but the direct end result is Zayn, AJ Styles, and Kofi Kingston wrestling 17 minutes of Actual Wrestling Match with an actual finish, and nobody running in for a disqualification at the last second to negate the work of the whole thing. Again, it’s part of what made the brief amount of uncured Smackdown on Raw the only palatable part.
Kingston wins, which is good, and pins Zayn, which I guess is situationally good because a guy who got tossed in the garbage the day before needs rehabilitation as a performer but should also definitely be taking any and all falls in followup wrestling matches. Styles remains strong heading into his match with Rollins, Kevin Owens shows up to beat up Xavier Woods and continue his thing with Kofi, and Smackdown leverages a part of the show Raw wasn’t using anyway to put over its performers without necessarily doing so at the “expense” of anyone. Even the innocuous decisions on Raw feel like threats these days.
Best: When Even The Bad Ideas Are Done Better
Two examples of this for me this week.
The first is Ali vs. Andrade, which is one of those things as a wrestling fan you want to sit and enjoy in peace. When the finish is Randy Orton showing up to cause a disqualification and hit some RKOs to “stand tall” — the thing he does at least once per cycle, to remind us that we should like him and think he’s important because we like that one move he does — you could do what Raw did, which is have it go for 15 minutes with a bunch of near falls just to end in disappointing. Or, you could do the better idea, seen on Smackdown: have the match go just long enough to make you want to see more, and THEN send in Orton.
By having Orton show up five minutes in instead of fifteen, you’ve given the crowd enough to get them hooked, but not so much that taking a result away from them feels “cheap.” And while that kind of thing used to be really great and easy heel heat, the modern weekly product is so ubiquitous and bipolar in its quality that every hiccup and false start, whether intentional or not, feels less like a creative decision and more like WWE fandom being a serious waste of time.
Plus, the RKOs are pretty cool. Orton should sit out the first 20 minutes of Money in the Bank, slide in to hit seven of the most creative RKOs we’ve ever seen between minutes 20 and 25, and then disappear from the match until it’s over. Perfect Randy Orton content.
Another example of Smackdown understanding how low our expectations are and working with what they’ve got: the Smackdown Tag Team Championship situation.
Late last week, it was announced that Shane McMahon would declare new Smackdown Tag Team Champions on Smackdown. It felt weird that he wasn’t setting up a match or a tournament or anything and was just gonna hand them to somebody, because that’s what evil general manager characters do in this era where “we” are The Authority, but not really. They tease doing just that, and then have a team with no chance of winning but enough clout to convince you that maybe they do — Raw’s Jake and Logan Paul, The Usos — step in to “right the wrong” of the lazy booking. It’s actually lazy booking itself, but it’s disguised enough and better than the alternative, so it feels better.
That gives us Daniel Bryan and Rowan (who really need a team name, which is guess is now The Planet’s Tag Team Champions) versus the Usos, lasts long enough to actually be a wrestling match worth watching — a very underrated thing in modern WWE — and, most importantly, features an actual finish. By “actual finish” I mean to say that the people involved in the match have agency over who wins or loses, and don’t just feel like interchangeable “character” cogs in a mindless Time Wasting machine. Cheating and bullshit are fine in pro wrestling. Arguably they’re what makes wrestling wrestling. But if the people in or directly affecting the characters in the match don’t make or perform those decisions themselves, you might as well be watching someone smash action figures together. I hope that makes sense. The past 20 years of evil authority figures have really fucked our idea of why wrestlers would choose to have and keep this kind of job in professional “sports.”
Another bonus: does this mean we’re getting eco-friendly Tag Team Championships? I’m kinda bummed at Bryan getting immediately bumped down to the tag division, but maybe he needs it for a while to make sure his body and brain are okay, and they’re gonna eventually get $400 from me for some dumb shit anyway.
Worst: The Women’s Devolution
This tag team match was originally announced as Bayley, Ember Moon, and Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose, but Charlotte and Bayley were dropped from it without explanation. Things are definitely iffy creatively when you can announce a match publicly and put it all over your website and advertising, change it without explanation, and have nobody bring up the change or ask you about it.
The other bad situation: this two-hour episode of Smackdown featured a grand total of 2:25 of women’s wrestling. It should be noted that that’s still about a minute and a half more in-ring time than the women got on a three-hour Raw yesterday. Lacey Evans vs. Jobber lasted about 40 seconds. Are we back to this again? Now that Ronda Rousey’s not around anymore, are we just dumping the responsibility for the success or failure of mainstream women’s wrestling on Becky Lynch’s shoulders and forgetting to do the work?
Also On This Episode
Aleister Black is still quothing the Raven nevermore, and now … he … talks …. like … … this, to … make … sure … … that the … twenty … second … promo … …. lasts … two minutes. “Silent, murderous, teleporting, Satanic, Dutch assassin” is a way cooler gimmick than “macabre William Shatner.”
Shane McMahon and The Miz are still going at it, and The B-Team are still Shane’s Miz-centric hate squad. It’s fine, but there’s only so much Shane-o-Mac content we can handle on a weekly basis, and I’m pretty sure the entire show peaked at that fan holding up a Wayne Campbell-style “YES, I SUCK” word balloon while Shane mindlessly cut that one heel promo he knows.
Daniel Bryan and Rowan run afoul of Jeff and Larry, Heavy Machinery, who want the Tag Team Championship so much they aren’t able to say anything about, they just have to stand there getting boners and coveting their neighbors’ belts. My favorite part is Tucker Knight mouthing a bunch of affirmations but not actually making any noise, presumably because he thought the Smackdown announce team would be talking over the scene. Awkwaaarrddd.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
Kofi: “Sami, what is that smell?”
Sami: “I was on Monday Night Raw last night”
Daniel Bryan about to yell at us about mass incarceration at the Uso Penitentiary
Son of Tony Zane
I can’t wait to hear about the laxatives the Usos put in Bryan and Rowan’s protein shakes.
Dave M J
This probably would’ve been infinitely better if you did it years ago and didn’t blatantly edit everything.
Hypothetically, if Bobby Roode joins Bryan’s stable, can we call them Beard Money Inc?
Bryan and Rowan, aka the EarthBreak Kid and Bio-Diesel.
Since Jeff is out and SDL probably doesn’t have anything for Broken Matt, maybe he should join All Delete Wrestling eh?
know your role
The translation of the Japanese on Finn’s hat is “save me. hostage situation. held captive by 73 y.o. senile billionaire”
I can’t believe this company took Aleister Black out of the ring and made him talk backstage. What’s next? Taking the microphone away from ECIII?
This show has been comparatively light on Vince haphazardly explaining retconning the Superstar Shakeup like he’s Grant Morrison meeting Animal Man.
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of Smackdown Live. I think it’ll be okay, but “what if we added more Raw to Smackdown” isn’t going to help.
As always, drop a comment in our comments section below to let us know what you thought of the show (call to action!), and give us a share on social media if you’d like to keep us working in the field of Explaining WWE The Next Day So You Can Skip It And Do Something Better With Your Time. And make sure you’re here for Money in the Bank, on the same night as the Game of Thrones series finale! Everyone will be watching wrestling, probably!