Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live: Andrade ? Almas made his main roster debut, Daniel Bryan kicked Big Cass’ leg out of his leg, and AJ Styles wrestled Shinsuke Nakamura again to set up AJ Styles wrestling Shinsuke Nakamura again.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for May 22, 2018.
Best: Kofi Kingston Is A Sports Wizard
Just wanted to lead off the column with a GIF this week because holy crap that was awesome. This year’s SummerSlam commercial should just be Cesaro standing next to a pool seeing how high Kofi Kingston could springboard off a European uppercut.
I know he hates when we write nice things about him, but this week’s opening segment is an absolute masterclass in how a smart, constructive heel should relate to babyfaces. You know how Ric Flair would always run down Dusty Rhodes, but be sure to mention that Dusty’s one of the country’s best athletes and entertainers? That’s so when he beat Dusty he was beating somebody worth a shit, and not someone he spent a month running into the dirt as a nobody. Because then what happens if the nobody beats you? Nobody looks good. Both versions of that sentence.
Miz brings New Day onto Miz TV to ask them which member is entering the Money in the Bank ladder match, and they give him the facetious flapjack runaround until he starts Mizzing all over them. In this definition, “Mizzing” means Mike The Miz going very far out of his way to compliment the hell out of his opponent just to bring it around to why that person also has obvious flaws he can exploit. He talks about how Kofi has held a bunch of championships and is kinda-sorta Mr. Ladder Match Memories, but has never actually won one. He talks about how Big E has everything he needs to be a top start — which is a billion percent true — but how nobody’s going to take him seriously because he doesn’t take HIMSELF seriously. He even gives Woods love for his YouTube channel, crediting him for building it by himself from the ground up. Miz is pointing out why these guys are great, because if THEY’RE great and he can beat them, he’s better than great. Miz deserves an Emmy.
And that’s exactly what happens. The beating them part, not the Emmy. Miz takes on Big E and defeats him, capitalizing on New Day getting distracted by The Bar and just generally being affable but spaced-out showboats. The early work pays off in the finish, even when the early work is talking a bunch!
They probably should’ve said which New Day guy is actually getting into the Money in the Bank match if they devoted the opening segment and match to the idea, but we’ve still got time. I know that briefcase is Miz’s to win, but part of me hopes Big E wins it and New Day spends a year doing the Freebird Rule with the contract. That’d be such a great way to break up the team, wouldn’t it? Like, E announces he’s challenging whoever for the WWE Championship at the next pay-per-view, but Kofi runs out at the end of some Smackdown and cashes in early and wins. If we’re gonna keep doing magical briefcases every year, let’s get creative with it.
Best For The Crowd, Worst For People Who Want To Watch Actual Matches: Lana Day
I keep going back and forth about whether or not I liked this.
On the one hand, it’s a fun thing for Lana to be doing. I still love her weird, inexplicable hip hop saxophone calypso music. Having Aiden English cause a big distraction right away and basically beat the IIconics at their own game was fun, because there’s nothing they hate more than someone dragging the spotlight away. That took Billie off her game long enough for Lana to dump precious Peyton Royce into the security barrier, which then allowed her to hit a couple of quick moves to stun Billie further and pin her. Billie didn’t like, get her ass kicked by Lana, she lost because she’s a ridiculous human and took her eyes off the prize.
On the other, Lana had never won a singles match in WWE but was in a Money in the Bank qualifier against a new star, beat that star, and is now Lana in a Money in the Bank ladder match. That could be really great, or really (really) not great. Plus, instead of another solid MITB qualifying match, we got like 60 seconds of goofy runaround leading to two (2) wrestling moves and the decision.
The crowd loved it, which is important, and it was different, which is also underrated and important. Not everything on the show should be the same kind of good, right? So we’ll lean toward “Best” here, if only for how legitimately happy Lana seems to be winning wrestling matches. I just want the best for my Barnyashevs.
Best: Cien? Aye, Dog
That’s an old joke, but I’m reusing it.
100 Emoji takes on “Local Competitor,” who doesn’t even have his name announced and reminds you more of rookie Jeff Hardy than you realize. He’s got that gangly young Hardy body and movements. If you’re wondering who he is, he’s Smash Wrestling’s Kevin Bennett, and you should go watch this music video because he’s also a rapper. Can we keep him around for a while like Ellsworth and make him the hip hop jobber? That would rule. ANY MAN WITH TWO BEATS STANDS A FIGHTING CHANCE.
Almas is the shit, you know that. Fairly certain that spinning back elbow knocked the kid’s astral form out of his physical form.
Rest in pieces, young Billy Zabka.
Worst: Brothers Vs. Brothers To Face The Brothers
“Worst” is relative here. The Usos vs. The Good Brothers isn’t a bad match, but I’m not sure I’ve really liked anything Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson have really done in WWE so far. They always just seem like they’re floating around actual stories and important matches, calling themselves “The Club” when there wasn’t really a club to be in, then being Finn Bálor’s friends for a few weeks before disappearing completely and having nobody mention it. Now they’re on Smackdown and getting a Tag Team Championship match because the Bludgeon Brothers can’t keep beating the Usos in two minutes every show.
And honestly? I’m kinda bummed that the Usos have looked like total chumps since WrestleMania. The only time they’ve had anything resembling momentum or hope was the one week Naomi showed up to cause a distraction and then couldn’t follow them to the six-hour Saudi Arabian customs house show. They’re losing clean to Gallows and Anderson in like five minutes when Gallows and Anderson could believably be on Raw right now losing to Titus Worldwide and nobody’d think it was weird.
Between NXT and Smackdown, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are really good at being dominant tag champs when there are barely other tag teams.
Best: I, Sonya
The Money in the Bank qualifier between Naomi and Sonya Deville didn’t get much time either, but I like what they did with it. WWE’s gonna have some money in their pockets when they realize how hard Sonya could rule — especially now that MMA-flavored women’s wrestlers are the hotness, see also NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler and Natalya’s extremely close and good friend Rowdy Ronda Rousey — and having her dominate almost the entire match with stiff kicks was fun. I like the pairing with Naomi, because she’s got strong pro wrestling kicks, and the dynamic of striker vs. striker isn’t something you see a lot in women’s wrestling, especially not in WWE.
I’m also into the fact that Naomi won, because of course she should and of course she should be in this year’s ladder match, and how she did it. Sonya saves some face by getting caught in a pin by a veteran, and everybody looks good for the time spent. Solid use of four minutes. In like a year Sonya Deville’s gonna be a monster.
Best/Worst: I’ve Got Balls Of Steel
Don’t get me wrong, overall this is a good segment. Styles and Nakamura are objectively very good at what they do, and did everything they were supposed to to build hype for their match at Money in the Bank.
I think the slash Worst comes in because (1) we’ve seen these guys wrestle on three straight pay-per-views and last week’s Smackdown over the period of like a month, and (2) they decided to go with a “Last Man Standing” stipulation — where the man who wins is the one who can answer the referee’s ten count — as a followup to their Backlash match, which ended with both men getting kicked in the nuts and neither being able to answer the referee’s ten count. Part of me wants them to just do the same finish again and see what happens.
Nakamura should’ve just chosen “a great one-on-one match we don’t have to feel disappointed about while we wait for a rematch in two weeks.”
Best: My Favorite Wrestler From 1999 Vs. My Favorite From Every Year After 1999
At some point during Daniel Bryan vs. Jeff Hardy — I think it was when he was setting up for the World Famous “It” Kicks — I just looked at Daniel Bryan and smiled, because hey, Daniel Bryan’s a pro wrestler again. He’s doing what he loves, and he’s diving and feeling like Superman, and that makes my heart a little warmer.
Hardy vs. Bryan is very good, if only for the novelty of it. I think it’s the freshest a match has felt in a while, because both guys have been around in one form or another for decades but have never crossed paths. Hardy can still go to some Jeff Hardy-esque degree, and Bryan’s building back up his confidence and not doing an injury angle every time he steps in the ring. Those are very good things. And as the world’s greatest added bonus, Bryan wins with a secondary submission (the heel hook, his OG NXT finish!) and gives us the ultimate 2006 Ring of Honor fan’s dream: Bryan Danielson and Samoa Joe standing face-to-face in a WWE ring, telling us they’re going to wrestle next week. FAST FORWARD THE ENTIRE WEEK PLEASE.
Very good show this week. I assume Joe wins next week, because even I’m not gonna pick D-Bry over Joe at this point, and maybe Bryan can get into a formal U.S. title feud with a better pay-per-view version of this while he waits to punch The Miz. Let’s get in all the cool stuff before the show moves to FOX and becomes three hours of Randy Orton!
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
For the next MMC it needs to be Rusev Day against Andra-Day
Luke should crowdsource his opinions on who is and isn’t a nerd, he can call the results the “Gallows Poll”
Brother Neuro, we knew you’d come.
Nakamaura has resting O-face
Billie sold that kick like she just stepped into a terrible smelling bathroom
I legit want Shinsuke to pick a Most Extreme Elimination Challenge match.
Next interview should be “Carmella” but it turns out it’s really Asuka wearing her face.
If Almas gets stuck in the lower mid-card, rename him Tanqui’Lo Brown.
The Real Birdman
AJ: *whispering to himself* “Please pick Ultimate X, please pick Ultimate X”
Nak should challenge him to a Money in the Bank ladder match and really confuse the hell out of everyone
It works even better if you sing Lana’s song to yourself in vocalized horn noises.
Thanks as always for reading. Take a moment to share the column and drop us a comment, and we’ll be back next week with SAMOA JOE VS. DANIEL BRYA, TRAMBOPOLINE.