Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live: WWE celebrated the 4th of July by putting Jeff Hardy in some red, white, and blue facepaint and letting Sanity brutally destroy a pancake eating competition.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for July 10, 2018.
Worst: Two Straight Teddy Long Openings
There’s a lot of good in both of these, but before we talk about that I need to point out that this week’s show began with two (2) straight Teddy Long segments. What’s a Teddy Long segment, player, you might be asking? One of those bits where a promo gets interrupted or a match ends in disqualification because of a run-in and turns into a big fight, and the authority figure shows up to put everyone involved in the fight into a match right here, right now.
Firstly we have Team Hell No on Miz TV. As you know if you’ve ever watched this show before, Miz TV is exclusively a segment about The Miz insulting someone until they beat him up, causing a match. Here, Miz insults Bryan and Kane has to calm Bryan down, but then Miz insults Kane a little too much and it’s on. Before Miz can get chokeslammed or punched in the face or whatever, the Bludgeon Brothers and Sanity show up to attack everybody. New Day runs out to make the save for the faces, and that sets up a 10-man tag team match main event.
The very next segment is AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, which was best described recently by a lot of people as feeling like when a parent catches their kid smoking and makes them smoke the entire pack as punishment. “Oh, you wanted a dream match? Here’s your dream match. And here’s another one. And another one. AND FOUR MORE. LOOK AT ALL THESE DREAM MATCHES, DON’T YOU FEEL BAD FOR WANTING THEM NOW?” It’s not a bad match, it’s even a good match, but it’s the exact same middle-of-the-road three-and-a-quarter thing they’ve been doing together since April. And like every important match this cycle, it goes for 15 minutes just to end in a disqualification.
Here, Rusev gets involved and pulls Styles off the apron. Nakamura and Rusev are going to team up to beat up AJ, but wait just a minute, folks, here’s Jeff Hardy to make the save. That sets up Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev for a tag team match RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. Which, again, you can do a maximum of once an episode. It’s like that season 2 episode of Glow where they’re doing match tryouts and Sam tells them they can only have one magical transformation into another character per show. WWE’s just like, “everybody’s getting sprayed in the eyes by radioactive Aqua Net and turned into a Toxic Twin this week.”
The tag bout that results here is decent, but with Jeff Hardy teaming up with AJ Styles to take on two foreign heels feels way too much like a TNA World Cup match. All we need to complete the aesthetic is Mr. Kennedy squashing a young Japanese guy who’s gonna be the best worker in the world five years from now.
Best: The Nostalgia Act
The 10-man tag team main event was a lot more fun for me, bolstered by a weird episode-long running joke where Kane is really into N*SYNC lore and thinks Justin Timberlake is too cool and popular to accept a comparison. They bring it back in a great backstage bit where he jumps from exploring the logistics of a Satanic pro wrestling “gateway” to quoting the 2000 romance banger ‘This I Promise You.’ I love that the five-man team dynamic breaks down into “strong guy, smart guy, fast guy, and two weird jilted supernatural ex-lovers who want to help with their magical powers but can’t stop screaming at each other about reality stars and pop music.” More on that supernatural stuff in a bit.
But yeah, the 10-man tag is the kind of fun you’d expect from a go-home main event on a show that is actually trying sometimes. Sorry, Raw. It ends with a big signature move sprint, culminating in a couple of dives and Daniel Bryan creaming Eric Young with a Knee-Plus to win. That doesn’t bode well for Team Hell No’s chances at Extreme Rules — I still think Miz is in on it, and dropped that “Kane’s gonna betray you at the pay-per-view” line in Miz TV as blatant foreshadowing of his plan — but hey, they used the show-long angle to put over two big matches for Sunday. I just wish that New Day/Sanity tables match wasn’t on the damn Kickoff, especially since it’s (probably) going to end with Nikki Cross showing up and throwing Kofi through something.
Best: Lucha Libre
It’s Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, and he’s wrestling on Smackdown! He’s not dead! Hooray!
I really enjoyed the (long awaited) showdown between Almas and Sin Cara, mostly because it represented something I feel like is really lacking in WWE’s current television product: variety. Back in the day, Raw and Nitro sorta prided themselves on being a “three-ring circus.” If you don’t like the clowns, maybe you’ll like the elephants. There was something for everybody. You had old ’80s stars doing their thing, young workhorse guys, cruiserweights, Japanese stars working a completely different style, luchadors flying around, celebrities, hardcore stuff, the works. Now what do we have? WWE’s a global product, so everything’s this one homogenized version of “sports-entertainment.” The only real variety is “will this be a singles or tag team match” and “will the wrestlers be men or women?” Nakamura wrestles like a WWE star. Sin Cara usually wrestles like a WWE star. He dives, sure, but so does Dean Ambrose, and so does Samoa Joe, and so does Seth Rollins, and so does Daniel Bryan, and so does everybody. Fucking Undertaker dives sometimes. Smackdown can’t even get 30 minutes into an episode without doing the exact same booking trope twice.
Almas and Sin Cara didn’t wrestle a ridiculously broad lucha libre match or anything, but they worked an interpretation of that style, which amped up the pace, made the athleticism involved a little “extra,” and used lucha libre as a way to frame a feud between two guys who come from it. It ain’t Mysterio and Psicosis at the ECW Arena, but shit, it’s not that same fucking Nakamura/Styles match we’ve seen six times since April. It’s not a tag ending in signature moves, or 15 minutes of WWE style to set up a DQ. A little variety goes a long way, and if the angles and characters were ambitious and still failed, we’d at least have something to talk about.
Worst: Team Ell No
Immediately making me scroll back up and delete that entire section about variety is the Lumberjames match between James Ellsworth and Asuka. Holy shit this is terrible. It’s one of those bits so bad they even have Living Mannequin With An Earpiece Byron Saxton look directly into the camera and tell the audience what they just saw sucked.
You know what Asuka vs. James Ellsworth should be? Asuka vs. Liv Morgan. Bell rings, Ellsworth postures and hits her with a couple of terrible forearms, Asuka drags him to the ground and taps him out. End of match. You don’t need a month of sneak attacks, hair spray in the eyes, a ring surrounded by alignment-impaired extra characters and a bunch of drama about Ellsworth trying to escape that doesn’t really connect. Nobody in the world thinks Ellsworth has a chance here. Just let him take the vicious loss. It nerfs Asuka tremendously by having her, say, stare blankly at someone for two minutes because they’re dressed like her, or needing everybody else’s help to finish this guy off. If we do Asuka vs. a male wrestler with an overall rating higher than 65, sure, play with it a little. Otherwise you’re just spending five minutes to say what you could say in five seconds.
Oh, and after the match we continue our “add more rules to Extreme Rules, the show where there aren’t supposed to be rules” by breaking out the NXT Crash Cage and making the Smackdown Women’s Championship match a “guy in a shark cage above the ring” affair. You know how those end, almost exclusively. Guy in the cage still cheats by dropping something into the ring from the cage.
Suggestion: end every single feud you have going right now (except for Miz and Daniel Bryan) at Extreme Rules and do a hard refresh on everything. Get your footing between now and whenever Lesnar finally drops the Universal Championship — SummerSlam, for Christ’s sake — and move into the fall with some kind of creative urgency and a larger point to all of this.
I know, I know.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
D-Bry vs. EY is the most overdue gimmick infringement beating ever.
Rowan tagged in and said, “GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE SMALLER ME!”
The Real Birdman
Never forget Big Show once called Rowan an upside-down Sheamus
Carmella’s career began after a mishap with a hairless dog.
She is now working alongside James Ellsworth.
And they say there’s no metaphorical storytelling in WWE.
hey look, it’s the man Smackdown writers Almas forgot
Jimmy is in a shark cage eh? That’s what he gets for being Carmella’s chum.
IC Champion PdragolphZiggler
Guys they need at least 4 more matches before that shark tank pays itself off.
Asuka: “On the contrary, I’m looking forward to fighting Ellsworth. He will be a great contender to the Women’s title.”
Backstage Interviewer: “Ellsworth doesn’t qualify for the Women’s title. He’s a guy.”
Asuka: “Give me time.”
The C Team (aka The Coolest Team, duh!)
With all these tag matches I think Paige is trying to unlock Teddy Long as a tagable character.
“What? Two Teddy Long Alarms in one night? The kids are overstimulated. Willie! Remove all the colored chalk from the arena!”
Pretty good show this week, at least in comparison to Raw, mostly for Daniel Bryan’s will being so strong he’s able to taunt fire into existence.
That’s so funny. Ugh, Kane’s turning on him so hard.
That’s it for this week’s column, thanks for reading as always. Drop a comment below, share Best and Worst on your various social media things to help us out, and be here this week for WWE Extra Rules® brand pay-per-view.