Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live: The Miz threw a goddamn baby at Daniel Bryan. No, seriously. Also, Randy Orton joined the Bullet Club.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for July 31, 2018.
Best: Carmella Is Good Enough At This To Do It Without James Ellsworth
This right here, this is Car-mella, and now that she’s rid of the James Ellsworth modifier again, she’s able to be an operable, enjoyable heel presence on her own. The “Mella is money” thing feels like it has a lot more legs than “my imperfect sex dog who looks like a grandpa trying to convince teenagers he really goes to high school keeps cheating for me, and nobody can stop us for some reason.” If Carmella can keep doing character work like this and continue to improve her in-ring game, she’s got a good chance of pulling what we call, “a Miz.”
The opening segment with Becky Lynch is probably the best Carmella’s ever been, sounding like she means what she’s saying and bringing up lots of real-life talking points like higher-ups in NXT telling her she’d only be a manager. Whether she’s Io Shirai in the ring or not, she’s put in a lot of hard work to get where she is, and I feel like she’d get a lot more love for the vibe and character if Alexa Bliss wasn’t around, wasn’t great on the mic, and wasn’t stuck in some of Monday’s worst ongoing storylines. That’s not on Carmella, but we don’t need two concurrent chickenshit heel women’s champions, do we?
You could see the swerve here from outer space, like the Great Wall of China, but it was purposeful. It gave Carmella a chance to “pull the trigger” and attack Lynch on her own, and that allowed Charlotte Flair to sprint in from the disabled list and save the day. That sets up a match for later in the night: Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair, where if Flair wins, she’s added to the Smackdown Women’s Championship match at SummerSlam.
I don’t love this decision, but I like that it creates some understandable babyface animosity between Lynch and Flair. They’re Tea-Generation X or whatever, but there’s a clear line drawn between them; Becky Lynch has had to grind for months to put together a string of victories and create her own luck, getting a shot at Carmella and winning to get a shot at Carmella. She’s in that WWE main roster booking whirlpool, where you can get dragged to the center and taken under if you aren’t careful. Meanwhile, Charlotte Flair — who lost to Carmella twice in a row and lost clean to Lynch back in June — does one (1) run-in save on her first night back and is instantly given the same opportunity as Becky. Win the match, and you’re in. Becky’s rightfully like, “???,” while Charlotte puts on her bulletproof vest, cocks her fist, and delivers 3-5 Superman Punches to Carmella.
The actual match is (again) probably the best Carmella’s looked in the ring, possibly due to Charlotte having some extremely visible ring rust. I like that they used it as an excuse for why they were on the same physical level. I’ve gotta tell you, though, I’m willing to send $50 cash to the first woman on the WWE roster who actually catches Charlotte Flair on a moonsault instead of letting her backflip immediately to their right and clip them with the back of her forearm on the way down. I get that when Charlotte’s backflipping from the top rope to the floor, but Carmella really should’ve gotten under her for that moonsault off the rail.
Anyway, Ellsworth being removed from the equation has instantly made this feud better, as it’s based on the merits, characters, and accomplishments of the three women involved and not just a bunch of wacky, frustrating bullshit.
Best: Randy Orton Is My Favorite Wrestler
Hey here’s something I didn’t expect to type: in 2018, WWE made me love Randy Orton, but never want to see AJ Styles wrestles Shinsuke Nakamura again. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
So Jeff Hardy shows up looking like a cafeteria tray on slime day, talking about how the United States Championship is his “fifth eye,” which brings out Randy Orton. Randy Orton is not having any of this, because he is suddenly the terrible dad from That’s What I Am who will go to the papers if he has to but for EVERYTHING. As he’s walking to the ring, Shinsuke Nakamura creeps in from the shadows like Nosferatu and kicks Hardy in the back of the head.
It looks like Nakamura’s gonna hit him with the Running Shin, but Orton, who is now ULTIMATE HEEL DADDY, steps between them. Smackdown is his yard now, for lack of better phrasing, and nobody’s going to do violent heel shit on his show without his permission. Everything goes through him now. After a moment of reiterating the hierarchy of evil and forcing him to “submit” to his will like a disobedient pet, Orton gives Nakamura permission to Kinshasa Hardy. You’d think that’d be the end, but Orton gets the crowd hyped and sets up for an RKO … only to double-leg Hardy and stomp him to death for several minutes. RKO DA GAWD. I love (love love) Orton being self aware enough to know the crowd doesn’t love him, they just love his cutter style, so he withholds it from them, but only after letting them know he could do it whenever he chose. It’s like when Neville stopped doing the Red Arrow because people liked it too much. I can’t wait until that moment in an Orton match where he finally gets desperate enough to hit one, and has to justify it to us later.
Every episode of Smackdown for the rest of the year should involve 5-10 minutes of everyone teaming up to beat up Jeff Hardy.
Lana vs. Zelina Vega was surprisingly good because they kept it very basic, very simple, and made an effort to tie together all available stories without taking anyone out of their comfort zones. Lana could stand to have more matches against veterans like Vega who have spent most of their careers working outside of WWE, so she can develop some non-WWE habits and expand her repertoire and style a little bit. Right now Lana’s entire offense is breakdancing taunts and stuff Torrie Wilson might do, so you’ve gotta dance with what brought you.
Almas attempts to distract Lana, which brings out hapless Aiden English to try to even the odds. English is Bad Luck Schleprock right now, however, and ends up costing her the match. Once again Aiden English plays the fool, the issues between the Almas camp and the Rusev camp move forward, the rivalry between Vega and Lana develops on a professional in-ring level, and English is one step closer to getting got by an enraged Bulgarian. Mid-card stories are a lot of fun when you remember they exist, and do different stuff with them each week. Raw would’ve already give us three Lana vs. Vega matches, to set up a mixed-tag next week, to set up a pre-show match between Lana and Vega at SummerSlam.
Best: Bar Rescue
HOT DAMN this match was good. Like, notably good. “Tell people to find this episode of Smackdown and watch the match” good.
Maybe absence has made my heart grow fonder, but I’m really glad to have The Bar back in action in the ring. The Bar vs. The Usos is one of those matches that should be good-to-great unless something dramatically unexpected happens, so Smackdown Live gives them 15 solid minutes and we’re off to the races. The Bar winning was expected — when you have a four team tournament and a babyface team wins the first of two matches in the round, a heel team’s probably winning match two — but I really enjoyed how they did it. It was a totally clean finish, with Cesaro intercepting one half of an Uce and Uce splash and Sheamus getting up his knees to block the second half. It was about timing, doing your homework, and skill. Ring savvy. Clean wins are the shit and I don’t know why they aren’t the standard. If you “protect” someone by suggesting they can’t lose one damn match without losing their entire momentum and popularity, how much should you be protecting them, really?
Bless these teams. I just wish the announce team had shut up and let New Day do live commentary for the entire thing.
Best: Miz’s Offense Is Now Exclusively Babies
Finally (unless you count Samoa Joe’s sweaty in-ring promo about crippling AJ Styles and sending him home to his lonely children, which is absolutely fantastic even if it doesn’t really advance anything) we have the confrontation between The Miz and Daniel Bryan, one week removed from a villainous main event BABY LOB. This week, Miz ups the ante by using what WWE’s YouTube page refers to as a “slew of babies” to taunt Bryan. A SLEW. THOSE BABIES ARE IN A SLEW.
Every Miz and Bryan segment is great, but I especially like Miz’s attitude here. Bryan realizes that Miz is a billion percent full of shit, even when he’s telling the truth, and decides to cut through everything and just challenge him to a match. He’ll even challenge him to a match at SummerSlam, appealing to Miz’s love of fame and wanting to shine on a big stage. He’s not going to refuse a prestigious pay-per-view match, no matter how much he doesn’t want to get punched in the face. Meanwhile, Miz is live via satellite from the set of his television show claiming Bryan is a whiny baby for I guess challenging him more than once. While a lot of what Miz says has a kernel of truth in it, he’s such a prick about it that he’s accidentally proving Bryan’s points. That’s a great heel. Dude talked a big game when Bryan was hurt, but now that Bryan’s cleared, Miz is like THAT IS OLD NEWS, LET IT GO, GODDDD.
Miz vs. Bryan is going to rule, and I might have to travel across our entire country to see it live. Really good Smackdown this week, as I guess 100% of WWE’s creative time and effort is going toward Tuesdays and Wednesdays. As long as it’s going somewhere.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The C Team (aka The Coolest Team, duh!)
Babies provided courtesy of Sin Cara’s daycare
“The Glancing Blow” should be the official name of Charlotte’s moonsault.
I have a feeling if it comes to a triple threat then Carmella is gonna come in third. Cause she’s already earned plenty of Bronze.
See John Cena. That’s how you use Photoshop of crying babies correctly.
“This isn’t a high school…”
Then explain that jacket and tie combo, Miz.
“a rivalry with no resolution in sight” they’re literally facing off in a tournament finale, tom
Randy is destroying all of Jeff’s horcruxes.
Orton just poured gimmick remover over Hardy’s face!
“… the highest rated WWE reality show in years…”
Like Universal Champions, not exactly a huge sample size.
Imagine a world where Samoa Joe is in a program sending Lesnar away to the UFC.
son of a, just catch her
That’s it for this week’s report. If you don’t drop us a comment below and share Best and Worst on social media, we’re going to passive-aggressively wipe off your face paint. Be here next week, when Randy Orton brings an actual spear to the ring and jabs Jeff Hardy to death with it.