Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live: We held an Extreme Rules brand pay-per-view, and nothing changed on the Smackdown side except the United States Championship. AJ Styles, Carmella, and the Bludgeon Brothers are all still champs, but Jeff Hardy lost to a nut shot, then got a second nut shot for his troubles.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for July 17, 2018.
Best: Almas There
Here’s a good way to get me to like an entire episode of a show: start it with AJ Styles vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, give it 12 good minutes, let us know how dope it’s gonna be while saving most of the best stuff for the future, and give it a clean finish.
That’s how Smackdown starts, with goddamn Al Styles taking on La Sombra for a quarter-hour. That’s lovely. These two guys look like they’re made to be in the ring together, and I love that Almas feels like Styles might’ve 13 years ago. That’s the age difference, if you’re wondering. Despite what we know about Almas, especially if we’ve watched NXT, it’s a good idea to make the guy’s first “marquee” match about how he’s almost as good as your best guy right now, so in a couple of years he’s going to be better than everybody. Styles has to struggle to win, and that matters. It should, at least. Plus, you’re only as good as the competition you beat. Styles vs. Almas felt like the best version of a John Cena U.S. Open Challenge.
I think a match like this helps Almas more in the long run than getting a non-title victory to set up a title match loss, the placeholder Rusev booking for cycles where you aren’t really building up to anything except showing you’ve got a fighting champion who can work. By having Almas almost win, or at least something in the ballpark of it, you show that maybe he’s holding back a little or tapping out a little earlier than normal because he knows there’s nothing to gain, and he’s proven he can go toe-to-toe with the “face that runs the place” and your general consensus Top Guy. Live to fight another day, when the prize is on the line, or whatever. Good stuff.