Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: Kevin Owens (gasp) (additional gasps) betrayed the New Day. Also, Charlotte Flair earned a Smackdown Women’s Championship match. Lots of unexpected things happening on Smackdown.
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Anyway, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for April 30, 2019.
Best/Worst: The Main Event Scene
The first thing I need to point out for this week is that WWE Fan Nation titled this video, “Kevin Owens attacks Xavier Woods,” and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Kofi Kingston challenges Owens to a match at Money in the Bank and Owens shows up to accept, and then Woods is the one who attacks Owens from behind. Owens superkicks him and knocks him out, sure, but only after being punched a bunch of times. A more accurate title would’ve been, “Xaiver Woods attacks Kevin Owens, gets knocked the fuck out with one kick.”
That’s followed by two less effective segments: a bit where Kofi tells Woods to chill and let him fight his own battles, and the main event followup where Owens … insults New Day’s action figures? Kofi shows up to stick up for small plastic representations of his friends, and the two brawl to end the show.
So … not a lot of this worked for me. It felt very “placeholder,” in that we jumped to the big swerve early because of injuries on the roster and Owens needing to be a top level heel again right away, so now we’ve got time to kill before the pay-per-view. This felt like one of those Game of Thrones episodes where you expect some shit to go down, but it’s just 60 minutes of characters walking through a garden, telling each other about all the shit that’s gonna go down. It’s not bad, it’s just kind of obvious and easy.
There’s a lot of good here, though, obviously. Kofi is still doing great as a singles babyface, even when he’s in a group, and I liked him admitting that trusting Kevin Owens was probably stupid and that New Day was just clouded by their undying belief in the power of positivity. He figured if the worst person in the world could find a little joy in their life, maybe he’d have accomplished something special. Owens let him down, though, and Kingston proactively makes the pay-per-view challenge to Owens. He doesn’t wait for Owens to control things. Which would be a perfect power play against anyone except Kevin Owens, the guy who threw his best friend into the ground like 30 seconds after the friend won the NXT Championship because he wanted a free title shot without doing anything.
I’m still hype for this feud and think the pay-per-view match is going to be great, but I’m giving it a very subjective and Smackdown-relative half-“Worst” — still better than almost anything that happened on Raw — for not hooking me with anything. The character motivations work and make sense, but the story of one of the champion’s friends attacking the challenger from behind and getting his ass kicked for it didn’t inspire a lot of sympathy.
Best: Bayley No Belts
One of my favorite things about the “new era” of Smackdown post-Shake-Up is that Bayley gets to be a real professional wrestler again and have real wrestling matches. I don’t even care if she wins or loses over here, because she’s getting to wrestle competitive matches against Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch and look like one of the Four Pillars of Heaven of the WWE Women’s Revolution that she’s always supposed to have been.
Plus, if they keep her solo and keep her away from any dopey interactions in the tag division — friendship therapy, I’m looking in your direction — they can tell a truncated version of her NXT story by having her go into a slump, rebound using the power of fandom and friendship, and become a new, better version of herself and character. I hate to say it, but I think the Bayley Buddies and headbands thing might’ve run its course. She doesn’t have to be my fantasy booked evil Onita version of Bayley or whatever, I just want her to have grown some as a character or performer in the four years she’s been on main. Smackdown could really figure out a way to do her justice.
Becky wins clean by submission after countering Bayley’s top rope elbow drop, which is great because (1) it gives Lynch a strong win against a valid opponent as champion and it (2) shows Lynch’s skill at scouting her opponents and remembering previous match interactions. Also good: Charlotte Flair showing up at the very end to wreck both of them, because she’s Modern Age Lacey Evans and Becky’s gonna be pulling some real Endgame shit wrestling Flair and Evans on the same night.
Best: You Gotta Be Joking Me
Less effective but still pretty enjoyable was Asuka, Kairi Sane, and their completely extraneous and awkward goth British manager defeating Local Talent while the IIconics made fun of everybody on commentary. The jobbers here — referred to by Peyton and Billie as “Ariel” and “Mac and Cheese” respectively — are “Jaylee,” a Taeler Hendrix approximation from OVW who fell victim to OVW’s female wrestler naming quirks from 15 years ago, and “Queen Aminata,” who has a Mr. Plinkett Star Wars name but is doing a Wakandan thing. Basically Kairi and Asuka defeated Melisandre and Missandei.
Fun note: Billie Kay is now clearly turning “you gotta be joking me” into a catchphrase, which I’m (of course) super into.
Throw it onto a black t-shirt with white letters, put some dumb embarrassing stuff on the back, and sell it to me immediately.
Best: Wrestling Friendship
One of my unexpected favorite moments of the night is this interaction between Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, in which Rose approaches Deville with a passive-aggressive plan to get Absolution’s spot in the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match only for Deville to be like, “I see what you’re doing but it’s fine, I agree, you should be in the match.” It’s not written or performed with any malice, it’s just a woman who is longtime friends and tag team partners with an extremely self-obsessed woman being a good friend and making it easy for her.
And sure, this might end with Sonya running into the Money in the Bank ladder match and like, attacking Mandy with a broadsword or whatever, but for now, at least for this one segment on this one episode, we get female characters acting like human beings and wrestling friendship trumping backstage storyline jealousy nonsense.
Best: Move Your Bloomin’ Lars
It’s a shame to see Jeff Hardy get injured and neuter the Hardy Boyz’ latest Smackdown Tag Team Championship run, but if real life circumstances require them to call an audible, I like what they chose to do. They have Lars Sullivan get all the heat for the injury, and have him show up to make that point perfectly clear to everyone watching. He beats up the Hardys again, Jeff Hardy makes a valiant babyface stand despite being injured, and R-Truth shows up with a chair to remind us of other past Sullivan beatdowns.
He’s also giving Lars his best looking attack to date, as they finally realized they need to portray Lars as something other than an “unstoppable monster” when he’s like six feet tall and built like Shrek. He just has an abnormally large head and abnormally large hands. You need to be doing wacky stunt spots with him if you want his violence to be special in this post-Braun Strowman world. They accomplish that by having him deflect a chair shot by punching it, and then popping up and catching Truth to hit the Freak Accident instead of, like, struggling to get him up onto his shoulder without any leverage. Everything about this was laid out much, much better this week.
Worst: Quoth The Raven, Nevermore
Here’s Aleister Black taking a minute and a half to cut a 30 second promo. I don’t know why they’ve got him saying everything so lethargically, but he’s reaching Big Cass levels of slow-speak. There are few things in wrestling that make me irrationally madder than when people take forever to say “W, W, E,” or “N, X, T,” or “1, 2, 3.” I feel like Quicksilver waiting in line behind someone at the DMV. Who taught them to do that and made them think they have to say those things so dramatically? Was it Shawn Michaels? It was Shawn Michaels, wasn’t it. The Heart, brrrreak, kid.
Aleister Black and Zelina Vega keets power rankings, remembering that they’re all actually equally great:
1. Totty Potato
2. Pickles P. Pumpkin
3. Tubby Tomato
4. Phoebe Purriwell
Best: Finn Ali, It Happened To Me
The best match of a relatively weak-on-wrestling episode of Smackdown is Andrade and Randy Orton taking on the powerful sexual chemistry of Finn Bálor and Ali. I’m not saying anything, but Finn had way more going on behind the eyes with Ali than he did trying to flirt with Alexa Bliss or whatever.
This was a more effective version of the opening match from Monday’s Raw, as they announced the four Smackdown competitors in the Money in the Bank ladder match via graphic (instead of a 20-minute in-ring promo parade) and then paired them off for a tag team match. I hope you like watching Money in the Bank entrants wrestle each other in different combinations for a month, because that’s what you’re getting. I’m guessing next week we get Finn Bálor vs. Randy Orton and Andrade vs. Ali, and then probably a triple threat match where the fourth guy sits in on commentary and interferes at the end. They just have a Money in the Bank Build Template they lay down on the first day of the cycle and plug in everyone’s names.
I did appreciate Ali standing up for Finn and standing tall against Orton, especially since the only reason he’s in the Money in the Bank ladder match is to flip his beautiful ass into an RKO from Outta Somewhere Convoluted.
Worst: Ember’s Finish Should Be The Shenomenal Herarm
Ember Moon is fantastic in the ring so it’s probably not a big deal, but they need to decide if she’s a mysterious moon-based werewolf lady or a normal person who fights hard and wants to win matches. She doesn’t seem to know which character to be in promos. It feels more like a conscious decision than, say, Natalya or Dana Brooke trying to speak into a microphone and sounding like aliens, and I think leaning all the way into “I’m just here to entertain the fans” or “I AM THE REAPER OF LOST SOULS” instead of wading around somewhere in the middle would help a ton. Also when she has those contacts in and doesn’t maintain eye contact with anyone it kinda makes her look like she’s supposed to be blind.
But look at Carmella. Carmella’s dialogue is equally terrible, but she’s confident in who her character is and how she acts/reacts, so even when she’s reading corny default dialogue like “this match changes lives, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win!” it doesn’t sound that bad. I mean … it does, but it’s delivered comfortably. It’s easy to want to do “wrestler voice” in promos, but I think anyone with an understanding of intent and nuance would prefer normal human speaking patterns.
Worst: Same As It Ever Was
One of the most disappointing moments of the week for me is realizing that, oh, right, we had actual reasons to not like WWE’s handling of Roman Reigns that went beyond him “not having good mic skills” or being awkwardly forced into a John Cena and/or The Rock role he wasn’t ready for. There was also the Amazon rainforest-level demolition of everyone else on the show.
It’s been nice cheering Roman since his return from leukemia, and I still think he’s improved tenfold on the microphone and is a great in-ring performer. I thought he was before the diagnosis, and was hoping that when he came back, WWE would be smart enough to allow him a little vulnerability from time to time, to help keep us believing in him and on his side. Instead so far we’ve gotten him overselling and then no-selling a concussion, squashing a guy who desperately needed to win at WrestleMania, punching Vince McMahon in the face en route to a ROMAN VS. AUTHORITY angle nobody asked for ever, and now effectively a 3-on-1 handicap match win. Possibly 4-on-1.
To be fair, I liked that they had Roman actually fight and wrestle a smart match before “overcoming the odds,” but I think John Cena between 2005 and 2015 made it impossible for WWE to run a match like this without it seeming like a corporately mandated decision to say this one guy’s a bad-ass and everyone else in the world sucks. Roman’s been on the show for two weeks and is already single-handedly demolishing a former Intercontinental Champion, a former NXT Champion, and one of the best performers on the show in the middle of an episode to substantiate a feud between himself and a 73-year old non-wrestler’s evil family. I might be overreacting to one segment on one episode, but I’m so terrified of things becoming 2010 WWE again I can barely handle it.
Short version: Roman Reigns is great. “Roman Reigns” is forever an ordeal.
Plus, do we need two concurrent Shane McMahon feuds on the two weekly shows? Who out there is begging for more Shane McMahon content at this point? His troll job is funny enough (and I liked him using Miz’s old cronies to do his dirty work), but a Roman Reigns vs. Shane McMahon match should end quicker than Undertaker vs. Duane Gill. \
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
I just realized, Andrade lost his name because Aleister absolved him of all his Ciens.
B-Team were watching Firefly Funhouse backstage when they saw the word of the day was “Sociopath”. That’s why they teamed up with Shane.
Hoping Bray’s first feud is with Heath Slater – Slater’s kids watch Firefly FunHouse and burn down Heath’s trailer
Aleister: “And those were my thoughts on Fear and Nihlism Within The Context of Professional Wrestling. Thank you for coming to my TEDTalk.”
Aleister is right. We fear that which we do not understand, and WWE’s booking terrifies the crap out of me.
Dave M J
Poison Ivy and Vixen have fallen on hard times, I see.
Asuka and Kairi should go after the Mens Tag Team Title.
I said this during her tenure in NXT, but Lacey should have a submission move called “Women’s Suffer-age”
Bayley: “The River of life has brought us back to this Dance…”
Becky: “Oh don’t you even start!”
Kofi: “I asked Sting for his opinion and he said, sure, give Owens a chance!”
That’s it for this week’s edition of Smackdown. Not the best episode, but certainly more watchable than the weekly “longer than Avengers: Endgame” fried chicken commercial round-up on Monday.
Drop a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the show, consider helping us stay in business by sharing the column on social media and telling your friends to read, and be here next week for more exciting Shane McMahon baby-punch plots. We’ll be here.