Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: A SummerSlam, and the only major change to the blue brand was Charlotte Flair winning the Smackdown Women’s Championship and getting taken to the steampunk woodshed by Becky Lynch, who’s supposed to be a heel, but is a billion percent the face.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for August 21, 2018.
Best: Leave The Memories Alone
Up first this week is Parma’s greatest export, Mike The Miz and His Beautiful Wife Maryse™, doing the world’s least convincing Mark Henry fake retirement speech just to say he’s never wrestling Daniel Bryan again. He beat him at Sunday’s Great American Bash ’87 or whatever with brass knuckles after 20 minutes of pathos and rest holds like the true old school veteran he is, and now he’s done with it.
What I like about this is that Smackdown currently realizes something Raw struggles with a lot: that if you’re going to use a fuck finish to set up a second match in a series, you have to have the babyface actually be blatantly and objectively wronged somehow, to give them a reason to demand another fight. Far too often they’ll have someone like Roman Reigns lose a match and then show up on Monday like, “no excuses, I lost, but actually I’m the number one contender and I want a REMATCH TONIGHT!!” And it happens, because that’s what they figure the crowd wants to see, whether it actually makes any sense or not. An immediate example of this is the B-Team/Revival feud, where the Revival lost clean on a pre-show just to set up them winning two separate singles matches the next night, just to set up another tag match we’ve already seen and nobody’s interested in.
Here, Bryan has a legitimate beef because he accused Miz of being a soft coward, Miz beat him at SummerSlam by being a straight-up soft-ass coward, and now Miz is out here pretending he won a barn-burner clean in the middle of the ring with his finish. Dude won via wife-assisted punch. Miz wants to get out of ever having to fight him again, thinking he’s justified himself enough with the old “the rulebook won’t say I cheated” chestnut. Again, this feud is very late 1980s NWA. To make it even MORE of a territories angle, Brie A La Mode runs out and punches Miz in the face to set up a mixed tag match. The only way this could be more Jim Crockett Promotions is if somebody got stripped down to their underwear to embarrass them.
It’s a great opening segment and another good installment of As The Miz Turns, and I hope they spend the next month focusing on the punching and the Miz/Bryan mic duels and never under any circumstances let Brie Bella talk. I’m 40% sure this is only happening to cross over their reality shows next season (in the WWE reality TV shared universe), and 60% sure they’re doing it to have the best possible footage for that Monroe Sky vs. Birdie Bryan match at WrestleMania 55.
Best: Samoa Joe Forever
While we’re on the topic of great promos, Smackdown had a handful of them. While it’s not the best promo — Becky Lynch gets that honor, which we’ll get to in a minute — Samoa Joe continuing to more or less commit the entirety of The Purge against AJ Styles and his family is the gift that keeps on going. Joe’s like two weeks from going full John Zandig on a Georgian toddler.
Dippy Dad AJ Styles shows up to be interviewed by gender-swapped Scott Hall and does his “AHM SORRY” stuff, and just when you think the promo’s going nowhere, Samoa By God Joe interrupts and beats him within an inch of his life. If Samoa Joe could just interrupt every Styles promo for the remainder of his career that’d be great. Joe’s “IT SEEMS LIKE WE’RE MAKING A LOT OF PROMISES TONIGHT, INCLUDING ONE TO COME HOME AND TUCK IN THE KIDS, BUT GUESS WHAT, DADDY’S ALREADY GONE NIGHT-NIGHT” is a hell of a mic drop, but those little kids in the front row yelling “GO SAMOA, I LOVE YOU SAMOA,” really bring it home. Even THE YOUTH want Samoa Joe to be WWE Champion. SAMOA JOE IS FOR THE CHILDREN.
Best: Please Give Me R-Truth Vs. Carmella On The Hell In A Cell Kickoff
With Truth getting a desperation roll-up for the win at the 12-minute mark, earning him a shot at the Smackdown Women’s Championship. I’m legitimately more invested in R-Truth vs. Carmella than Triple H vs. The Undertaker.
Best: Beck To Black
I won’t waste a lot of time complaining about WWE’s lazy Susan understanding of how “being a heel” is supposed to work, where the talking point slowly rotates between “they’re a heel if they’re getting booed,” to, “they’re a heel if they’re acting like a heel whether they’re being cheered or not, and faces are heels if they’re acting like faces and getting booed,” to, “it’s a popularity contest,” to, “it’s whoever the announcers say is the face or the heel this week,” to, “any reaction is a good reaction.” Sheamus has been stuck on that last one since like 2012. What I will say is that Becky Lynch cut the best promo of her WWE career on Smackdown, her actions are 100% justifiable and understandable, and WWE should really consider coming around on this crowd reaction and understanding that Becky’s easy to love and Charlotte’s a goddamn FLAIR.
I don’t know if WWE ever really understood how hated Ric Flair was, or was supposed to be. He spend his prime in the NWA being the world’s worst person for like an entire decade. In the ’90s he went face a few times, sure, based almost purely on nostalgia and longtime wrestling fans coming around to the understanding that yeah, he sucks in every way a human can, but he’s so good at it that you have to laugh and clap for him. His 1992 WWF run got it, but when he came back he was already Old Man Flair, the icon you want to see (because he’s Ric Flair) but he’s not going to really do anything. WWE thinks of Flair’s legacy as that part for his entire career. Charlotte’s out here being the worst definition of Female Roman Reigns, down to the bad promos and good matches with absolutely no understanding of how human emotions work and a complete deafness to the audience’s response, and longtime fans are just dying for her to cut the shit and be a Flair. You’re a Flair. It’s fine. Dustin’s a Dusty. Charlotte’s a Flair. Fun note: Cody is actually also a Flair, somehow.
Also, huge LOL for this, which is one of those Errol Morris moments you can’t plan, you just have to film:
Dear WWE, please include a segment on next week’s Smackdown where Kurt Angle shows up in vacation clothes and sunglasses with a big sun hat to sip HGH through a straw in a coconut and tell Paige she should send her women’s division to therapy.
This Totally Fine Stuff In The Middle Of The Show
Rusev and Lana finally get a win over Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and Zelina Vega in a rematch from their SummerSlam pre-show match nobody saw, with Aiden English helping out and actually helping this time. He grabs a chair from Almas, which prevents a steel chairing and distracts him long enough for Rusev to kick Cien in his beautiful, beautiful face and camelly clutch him to death.
- this should hopefully set up a singles match for Rusev and Almas at Hell in a Cell, which makes it only the actual card and gets some time because oh my god these guys are so good and everybody wants to love them, and
- even astronauts in deep space can see that Aiden English turn coming
Much like the Sasha Banks, Bayley and Ember Moon vs. The Riott Squad match from Raw, this Naomi vs. The IIconics match felt less like a match and more like a, “sorry we didn’t have any room for you on the 7-hour pay-per-view.” At least they didn’t have to come back out at the end of the show and stand around pretending to be happy for Ronda Rousey. And hey, they’re all still doing better than Asuka!
I don’t like the IIconics having to cheat for an ENTIRE MATCH to win. Like, yeah, Billie Kay can cheat for Peyton Royce and vice versa, but when the match is only three minutes long and features four or five instances of somebody getting on the apron or trying to interfere, it gets tiresome. So tiresome I half expected Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa to show up to distract the ref.
Presumptive Worst: The United States Of Nakamerica
Here’s a look at this angle in a month:
(Please do not do this.) (Again.)
Best: Getting Written Off The Show WITH A VENGEANCE
Possible show write-off numero uno goes to Randy Orton, who in the wake of a scandal we’re calling Standing Around With Your Dick In Your Handgate* gets stomped in the balls by Jeff Hardy, beaten down with a chair for several minutes, then Swanton Bombed through a table from the top of some production equipment. Production equipment seemingly set up for a Tommaso Ciampa/Johnny Gargano angle, but I’ll allow it.
Of course, this could just be WWE finally realizing they should throw Jeff Hardy a bone and let him look good for once before he completely turns into Jim Carrey’s The Mask. The guy’s spent the last couple of months getting beaten and humiliated every single week, so it was nice to see him say “fuck it” and beat the yard snake to death with a shovel.
*Orton should go compete on the Japanese indies and try to win the Open The Standing Around With Your Dick In Your Handgate Championship**
**do not challenge Joey Ryan
Definite show write-off numero dos is Bludgeon Brother and Award-Winning Vintner Erick Rowan, who got hurt at SummerSlam, needs surgery to repair a bicep tear, and will miss some time. Before we say anything about the match, huge ups to Rowan for competing in a no disqualification tag team match main event that went almost 16 minutes and saw him get mauled through the barricade with a bicep tear. That’s tough as shit. Get well soon, Upside Down Sheamus.
On a series of more positive notes, (1) hey, 16-minute no-DQ tag team main event with a title change on Smackdown, (2) this frees up Luke Harper to go to Raw and fulfill my fantasy booking of Braun Strowman getting a powered-up Wyatt Family back together to take on a powered-up Shield, and (3) New Day are now FIVE TIME Smackdown Tag Team Champions, a number not lost on Big E, who helps cut 1/3 of the best promo of the week to not actually appear on WWE television.
Please enjoy every second of this:
Great episode of Smackdown this week to cap off what I’d consider to be one of the best four-day spans of WWE programming in a long, long time. NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 was obviously as good as you thought it was going to be, SummerSlam 2018 was intermittently great and a hell of a conversation piece, Raw’s main event and ending segment was such hot fire it’d knock Prometheus on his ass, and now here’s Smackdown delivering a tag title change, Becky Lynch getting the love she’s always deserved, and Samoa Joe giving small children nightmares. What else could you ask for?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Bludgeon Bludgeout I always say
“Let’s give Godzilla a machine gun!” Sorry Graves, still not as scary as Samoa Joe with a microphone
X grabbing Rowan, like Ironhide grabbing Megatron.
Luckily Kofi has a plus 5 resistance to ladder spots
At the current rate of murders on this show, SD 1000 is just gonna be Paige, Joe and Asuka filming Table For 3 in the bombed out ruins of… *checks notes* Washington DC? Yeah, that checks out.
The Real Birdman
“I will rip Samoa Joe’s heart out next time he mentions my family”
*Ron Howard voice* “He would not”
If my name was Wendy, I’d totally be changing my ringtone right now.
God I wish Joe appeared in AJ’s mirror.
The C Team (aka The Coolest Team, duh!)
Vince: “Damn this crowd to hell, they’re ruining this Becky Lynch heel turn! Let’s try it again somewhere else, where are we next week?”
PA: “Uh, Ireland sir.”
I guess Brie was too busy with her YouTube channel to help out there.
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people liURGHKKKK” [gets choked out by wife’s new boyfriend]
That’s it for this week’s Smackdown. Thanks for sticking with me through five straight days of SummerSlam weekend Best and Worst columns and making this one of our best few days in site history. Let’s keep it going! Hell in a Cell is just as popular as SummerSlam, right? Anybody?
Drop a comment, share the column, and join us again next week, when AJ’s wife changes her name to Samoa Wendy.