Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live: WWE followed up a good episode of Raw with a terrible episode of Smackdown. This week Raw was terrible, so they follow it up with a much better Smackdown. I don’t know what they’re doing.
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Anyway, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for July 9, 2019.
Best: Eric Bischoff Is Here (Whether He’s Actually Here Or Not)
I don’t know if Eric Bischoff took over Smackdown last night or if we’re waiting until Extreme Rules for the hard reset, but the episode certainly felt like he was there. You know how people said Raw had Paul Heyman’s fingerprints all over it because it involved a hardcore brawl with a big stunt spot and a random cuckolding pregnancy angle? Nothing says “Eric Bischoff” like a parking lot brawl and a worked shoot about how young wrestlers aren’t getting enough opportunities.
Smackdown opens with Dolph Ziggler being interviewed about whether or not It Should’ve Been Him™ (result: it should’ve) only to be interrupted by an arriving Kevin Owens. They shout at each other like South Park townspeople for a minute and that turns into a fight in the parking lot. Thank goodness the Singh Brothers and the B-Team were out there having a smoke or whatever, or else things might’ve really gotten out of hand.
Kevin Owens storms into the arena and gets on a microphone to rant against the ongoing glorification of Shane McMahon at the expense of stars like Apollo Crews, Asuka, and Buddy Murphy (the New Blood, if you will), and I swear, all it needed was Tony Schiavone in the background saying, “fans, we’re supposed to be sending it to Mike Enos vs. Wrath but LOOK WHO IT IS!”
It’s also wonderfully CM Punkish, complete with “why aren’t my FRIENDS the ones getting pushes” and a McMahon randomly trying to turn off his microphone to keep him from talking. It’s an improvement over the Daniel Bryan and Sami Zayn promo arcs, at least, as now they’ve got a person we’re supposed to CHEER saying shit that makes sense. A month ago they would’ve had Sami in the ring saying, “Shane McMahon actually really cares about you, it’s THE FANS who are making the shows bad!” Although I could honestly live the rest of my life without anyone ever referencing the badness of a product they’re actively participating in ruining and the power hierarchy of WWE management again.
There’s also some Stone Cold Steve Austin to it — not just the Stunner — as a McMahon randomly punishes the person raging against them by removing them from the building. Dolph Ziggler and his increasingly long nest of Ramen noodles shows up demanding satisfaction, which is a nice moment of character consistency because yeah he hates Owens but MAIN EVENTING is the most important thing in the world, and Shane puts him in a match with Roman Reigns. Ziggler probably should’ve said “no thanks” and wandered out into the parking lot to find Owens, because Shane McMahon is the only person strong enough to defeat Roman. Twice.
At this point in the column I feel compelled to remind you that Shane McMahon is currently the objective kayfabe #1 on the PWI 500. So far in 2019 he’s 3-0 against The Miz (including a WrestleMania win), 2-0 against Roman Reigns, the holder of the “Best in the World” trophy thanks to a win over Ziggler (who should probably be more upset about that, but I digress), and a former Smackdown Tag Team Champion who defeated The Bar and only lost to the Usos because his partner got pinned. So he beat the shit out of his partner and his partner’s family. Shane McMahon is like 1998 Vince on Bane Venom.
Sure enough, Big Dawg® has the match well in hand and only misses out on an easy win because Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre get involved in various ways. That brings out Stone Cold Punk Kevin Owens to sneak up behind Shane (even though he’s not supposed to be in the building, exclamation point exclamation point) and drop him with a Stunner. That frees Roman up to store a special and a finisher, and finish the job.
And that’s the A-story of the show. Any broader criticisms I might have are negated this week due to an A-story even existing, and Smackdown putting in enough effort to tie together multiple stories in a logical and satisfying (if not by-the-numbers retreaded) way. I don’t want to watch two hours of Shane McMahon and Dolph Ziggler doing anything, and we still need someone to address the quick-change Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn relationship now that they’re diametrically opposed again, but it beats the ever-loving hell out of 15 minutes of nothing with an hour-45 of Raw recaps.
Best: Ignorant People Following An Ignorant Lead
The “Tag Team Title Summit” is a synonym for “promo parade,” but there’s some good stuff here. Big E trying to get R-rated with Xavier Woods about touching tips in three-ways was … funny, I guess? Just gonna politely point out that Paige doesn’t have the privilege to make self-effacing jokes about liking group sex on live television without being called a bunch of names, and politely move on. Big E makes even the problematic shit feel positive. It’s one of his charms. Big E could announce that my parents are about to be murdered by a firing squad and I’d happily clap about it without realizing.
Daniel Bryan is Daniel Bryan, so of course I like and agree with every word that comes out of his mouth. WWE taking a second to remember its own history helps a lot, as Woods pointing out Rowan’s history of henching is an astute point about his complete lack of character development, and Bryan’s response of New Day being stuck in the middle of the card as a comedy act despite how great they are is on point. Heavy Machinery is the low point of the bit, mostly because Tucker Knight feels like a create-a-wrestler who chose the tag team branch of Career Mode, but Otis doing the New Day gyration and Big E getting offended by it was great.
The match that results is fun, too. I’m happy that they had Otis pin Woods instead of Bryan, especially given the earlier result of the Intercontinental Championship non-title match that we’ll get to in a second. Otis is deeply underrated in the ring, and I feel like he’s never going to get his due as an in-ring performer because his gimmick is “sputtering dildo in a jean jacket.”
Shinsuke Nakamura Has Pinned The Intercontinental Champion!
After weeks of neither guy being on the show beyond brief backstage interviews and no feud to speak of besides the Intercontinental Championship getting Too-Sweeted once, Shinsuke Nakamura pinned Finn Bálor clean in a non-title match to set up a title match. “Can the person we saw pin the champion pin the champion again? Pay us money to find out,” is a weird flex that they’ve been flexing for a decade.
On the positive side, I liked the way the match was laid out. Nakamura really kicked Finn’s ass. Finn having to struggle to get back into the ring to avoid count-outs and getting wrecked every time he chose to do so was creative, in that it showed Finn has the heart of a fighter, and Nakamura can wrestle a smart match instead of just waiting for people to be in position for him to hit his moves. Nak should really be kicking the piss out of people on the regular, and until Finn gets his priorities straight and goes back to being a Real Rock ‘n’ Rolla, “more heart than brains” isn’t a bad route to take.
Just give me a PPV blowoff where Finn shows up as the Demon, and Nakamura counters with his Titan body paint.
Best: Al Vs. Tony
Aleister Black was out here like …
… and then Cesaro showed up like …
Let’s hope the match is good enough to justify two months of Aleister Black being locked in a room and several weeks of Cesaro feuding with a conga line. It probably will be.
Worst: The Women’s Division Needs Some Help
The wild card rule, the 24/7 division, and WWE’s sudden obsession with marketing Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch’s relationship as a series of mixed tag matches has shrunk the women’s divisions on both Smackdown and Raw to three people — Bayley, Nikki Cross, and Alexa Bliss — so Smackdown’s problems are just Raw’s regurgitated.
Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss are friends. Bliss is using her, but we aren’t totally sure if it’s because she’s intentionally trying to manipulate and “own” her, or if she’s just kind of self-centered in general and that’s how she connects with people. Everyone who isn’t them is obsessed with breaking them up. Bayley, who is supposed to be a nice person and has more experience than anyone with being used by a manipulative tag team partner who pretends to be your best friend, is super high and mighty about who should and shouldn’t get to be friends with people. Nikki keeps winning matches, and I don’t have a lot of faith in WWE taking the story anywhere but, “whoops, Bayley was right.” Although the “Nikki Cross was the manipulator all along” story seems like it could go somewhere fun. Cross winning, then insisting that she’s the champion by herself instead of the “co-champions” Bliss promised might be something.
But as it stands, we’re doing a contract signing without one of the people in the match present, and the only actual women’s wrestling on the show is three minutes of buffer for it.
The backstage segments don’t much to help, either. The IIconics and the Kabuki Warriors have a brief backstage exchange to remind us that yeah, the Kabuki Warriors won a title shot by defeating the IIconics in Japan, but nobody knows when it’s going to happen, and apparently nobody cares? Asuka and Kairi should try sitting in a dark room for a couple of months and waiting for Billie and Peyton to knock on their doors. We know where this is going, just cash it in and get it over with. I love the IIconics, but the Women’s Tag Team Championship has been dead in the water since Bayley and Sasha promised to defend on all brands and then defended on no brands, so just shit or get off the pot already.
There’s also another Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose bullying Ember Moon segment, which reminds us that if there’s one thing we should not expect from an Eric Bischoff run anything, it’s female characters being written as anything but aggressively sexual lesbians and jealous, shoe-hurling side-pieces.
Also On This Episode
Here’s a great gimmick idea: a guy who doesn’t say or do anything, except it takes up TV time.
I like WWE Champion Kofi Kingston a lot, and I love that they’re making him a legitimate champion instead of a good transitional idea during WrestleMania season, but for real, Samoa Joe should eat him alive at Extreme Rules. But I also though Joe should’ve murdered AJ Styles’ entire family on multiple occasions, so I hope Joe at least gets out of the match without looking like a fool. It’s Samoa Joe. How has he not been WWE Champion at least twice by now?
Ali’s voice is back to normal this week, which is good, and this promo is great. I hope that when Smackdown goes to Fox, they film promos like this that look like they belong on television shows instead of dark room slow zoom ramblings and iPhones in selfie mode.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Cesaro is going to lay seige to Nakatomi Plaza after this
I always wondered what it would look like if someone gave Brandon a microphone. Awesome!
Brandon is possessing Kevin Owens like Deltron takes over Russell in Gorillaz. And hopefully Balor has us set for Demon Days
Rowan: “I am a big redwood.”
Daniel Bryan: “And I am the Lorax, I speak for this tree.”
“in anybody elses hands, this is just a microphone. in my hands, it’s a pipe bomb.” – kevin owens
Kevin Owens just did a Pipe Bomb while wearing a shirt with the PPVs name on it. The BEST in the WORLD
The Real Birdman
I keep waiting for Otis to ask me if Ditka or a hurricane would win in a fight
I’m never going to complain about Cesaro, but if Rambling Rabbit sat in that empty chair I would’ve popped hard
Feud idea: Nicki and Alexa feud with Charlotte but one sitting on the other’s shoulders and wearing a trenchcoat as Vanessa Adultwoman
A good ole boy getting ready to come on a black dude and hippy lib, Smackdown is really getting prepped for Fox.
That’s it for this week’s Smackdown. After Extreme Rules, can we try having both shows be good at the same time?
As always, thanks for reading. Give us a share on social so I can stop asking you all the time, and drop a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the show. Make sure you’re here this weekend for our complete Extreme Rules coverage and more!