Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: Kofi Kingston and Mustafa Ali ended up being involved and/or not involved in a sudden triple threat match for the WWE Championship that didn’t make a lot of sense and made that whole “contract signing” bit ridiculous. Also, Asuka retained the Women’s Championship when Mandy Rose slipped on a banana peel.
One more thing: Hit those share buttons! Spread the word about the column on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you use. Be sure to leave us a comment in our comment section below as well. I know we always ask this, and that this part is copy and pasted in every week, but we appreciate it every week.
And now, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for March 12, 2019.
Best: The New Day Is Tired Of This Bullshit
Watching the several entrances and commercial breaks of The Hardy Boyz, Aleister Black, and Ricochet vs. The Bar, Rusev, and Shinsuke Nakamura, I thought to myself, “how does this end?” I settled on, “a Brogue Kick to Jeff Hardy, probably,” but then here comes the New Day to kick ass and eat pancakes, and they’re all out of pancakes.
There are few things in pro wrestling that feel as good as when a long-suffering babyface who always tries to do the right thing is finally pushed too far, and strikes back with righteous indignation. It made a lot of sense, too, because The Bar are the guys who took advantage of Kofi Kingston in an impromptu 2-on-1 tornado handicap match at Fastlane, and Rusev and Nakamura are the guys who jacked New Day from behind and kept them from helping their friend. New Day also dumping the good guys showed that it’s about a larger point than personal grudges, but I’m glad they mostly kept the focus on putting the boots to the heels.
The last thing we need from an 8-man tag with a 3-man run-in is more last-minute branching grudges, but what better way to get Xavier Woods and Big E their deserved spots on a WrestleMania card than by having them run afoul of the entire Smackdown tag team division? The Usos (with ‘Rock With You’ lighting) clearly laid out a WrestleMania challenge to the Hardys, so that leaves The Bar, Rusev and Shinsuke, Ricochet and Aleister, and the New Day. That could be a hell of a match, whether you do it on Smackdown or the WrestleMania kick-off. Make it a number one contender match and give the winner a shot at Backlash, or the following Tuesday where they can get attacked by whoever just got signed or called up.
This sets up an absolutely incredible final segment, in which New Day once again tries to calmly argue for the validity of Kofi Kingston as a WWE Championship challenger and get put through the wringer by a senile, 73-year old white billionaire. There are so many layers to this I can’t even begin to break them all down, and if you’ve ever worked hard and kept your head down only for your bosses to constantly pass you over and underestimate you, you have an idea of what Kofi was saying with his face throughout the entire bit. Great non-verbal acting and communication on display from Kofi here.
When he finally gets a chance to talk, he nails it. He means what he’s saying. He’s still out here trying to be a good dude, not “making demands” of crazy Vince McMahon and remaining humble and respectful … and Vince is hitting him with shit like, “you don’t go into the Hall of Fame by yourself, you go in as a member of New Day.” That is a real pro wrestling insult. It’s a backhanded compliment of the highest order, and the kind of thing you accept as reality when you haven’t been kicking ass for 11 years and didn’t just blow up in popularity a month before the biggest show of the year.
And man, I can’t tell you how it felt to hear Vince McMahon say he had a clandestine conversation with Daniel Bryan, and that Bryan called Kofi Kingston a “solid B+ player.” I clapped my hands once, as loud as possible. It’s the most vile, hypocritical thing for a heel Daniel Bryan to brush off his challengers by saying they don’t seem good enough, and are just good hands who don’t deserve an opportunity. I’m probably the world’s biggest Daniel Bryan mark, and even I hate the dude for saying that. It’s a perfect way to illustrate how corrupt the higher-ups and the people in charge of the business are, and puts Kofi and the New Day up against odds way more believable and insurmountable than a heel cutting promos on them in a wrestling ring. It’s the real life struggle shown through the lens of pro wrestling, and truly portrays the WWE Champion as a man who sold his soul to get back the dreams he thought he’d lost.
Fucking fantastic content. I hope Kofi puts his entire foot up Bryan’s ass at WrestleMania and shakes it around.
Before that can happen, though, Kofi Kingston has to win a gauntlet match against Randy Orton, Samoa Joe, The Bar, and Erick Rowan. While I am still very, very tired of evil general manager stories — especially since they literally told us they were gonna stop doing this shit like two months ago in that lying-ass “you’re the authority now” promo — I like that Kingston’s journey to WrestleMania began with a surprisingly great performance in a gauntlet match, and will either end or move forward based in his performance in another.
I’m guessing at least a few of these will be helped out by outside forces. Randy Orton’s obviously going to get knocked out of the match by AJ Styles (more on that in a bit), Samoa Joe is gonna get taken out by whoever ends up challenging him for the United States Championship next, The Bar can get dispatched by The New Day to keep that Smackdown tag team division scramble going, and then Kofi can just straight-up beat Rowan. Or Rowan can fail because Daniel Bryan gets too involved, or maybe via an assist from Mustafa Ali, who (1) gets trounced by Rowan in this episode, and (2) probably needs to show he’s on Kofi’s side after taking that third spot in the triple threat at Fastlane.
Look at all this stuff coming together. I like you, Smackdown.
Best/Worst: Shane [Rings Bell] Shane [Rings Bell] Shane [Rings Bell]
For a more classic approach to the tired evil general manager play, look no farther than the show-opening, Greg-harassing bit from Shane McMahon. He was a good guy three days ago but now he’s a bad guy, so he’s bragging about being the “best in the world” and treating his co-workers badly. Shane (the character) has always been kind of an unforgivable dirtbag, but I wish they’d gone a little subtler here.
That said, it’s going to be GREAT if (and/or when) Miz takes a page from the babyface Ric Flair playbook by returning from a beatdown in street clothes with a baseball bat and his head taped up to put the fear of God into Shane. A fired-up, semi-screaming, blood-red-faced Miz babyface promo is the one thing he truly needs to become the safe style Ace he can be. Do the Talking Smack promo again, but against someone we hate. It’s gonna be magic.
Best: Building Up Rowan As A Threat
The tag team match between the Social Justice Warriors and Mustafa Ali and Kevin Owens (KO-Ali bears? I need a better joke than that) accomplishes three important things:
- it establishes Rowan as a major physical threat, especially to smaller opponents, which sets him up nicely as the “final boss” in next week’s gauntlet match
- it reminds us that while Daniel Bryan is great, he’s staying champion by relying on help from a monstrous guy he can control, which is another important aspect to Rowan’s appearance in the gauntlet match
- it keeps Mustafa Ali in the championship picture, and reminds us that he could probably pull off the upset of a lifetime if the also very cruiserweight WWE Champion didn’t have this big dude palming skulls on his behalf
As a bonus, it didn’t end with, “____ has pinned the WWE Champion!”
Worst: Rey Mysterio Has Pinned The United States Champion!
Or, “honey, no.” Who told Rey he should wear gear that makes him look like he’s mostly naked and wearing a thong?
This is the most confused I’ve been by wrestling gear since Shawn Michaels showed up wearing those brown pants. Was this a rib? Rey, please never wear this again, you have infinity other fits that look better than your Big Dick Johnson tribute.
Worst: Whoopsidoodle, Part Two
At Fastlane, formerly dominant super champion Asuka only beat Mandy Rose — a challenger who pinned her on Smackdown — when Mandy’s tag team partner, Sonya Deville, tried to get a kendo stick from under the ring to cheat (?) and left the ring apron up on the mat for Mandy to slip on. It was kind of a terrible finish that looked a lot better on paper than in practice.
So of course they do it again on Smackdown, with Mandy “accidentally” tripping Sonya with the ring apron on purpose and costing her the match. It’s supposed to build tension for a Fire and Desire breakup, I guess, but it’s mostly just making me wonder why Asuka can’t win a goddamn match against mid-card challengers without divine intervention. It’s a lot like how they turned AJ Styles from the best worker in the world into Paddington Bear every time he had to defend the WWE Championship.
Best: Stop Dodging The IIconics, You Cowards
Bayley and Sasha Banks: “We’re going to defend the Women’s Tag Team Championship on all three brands!”
Also Bayley and Sasha: [only defend against Tamina]
Peyton and Bill need to get their WrestleMania dream entrance where they enter out of a giant Best Friends necklace and win those belts so they actually get defended as promised.
Here’s me fantasy booking an IIconics WrestleMania win and then thinking about what’ll actually happen:
Best: It’s Still Real To Me, Dammit
How much better is this story without Ronda Rousey cutting Micro Machines-commercial promos about how wrestlers stomp when they punch? I seriously wish this was just Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch at WrestleMania, so we could enjoy good matches and promos from the people who are still gonna be here in May.
Best: A Hot Fire Promo From … Randy Orton? And AJ Styles??
Here’s something I didn’t expect to ever type: one of my favorite moments from Smackdown was a promo battle between Randy Orton and AJ Styles. Bruh, I know.
In this week’s Best and Worst of Raw, I complimented the Seth Rollins and Paul Heyman promo battle because it acknowledged character histories, referenced past matches, and set up a sort of “tale of the tape” based on both to argue for both sides of the Universal Championship match at WrestleMania. The Orton/Styles promo did the same thing, with a more direct clash of personalities and ideologies at its center.
Orton’s (very valid) point of view is that it’s stupid of AJ Styles to call Smackdown “the house that AJ Styles built,” because Orton’s been here since 2002, winning championships and main-eventing WrestleManias. He openly references Styles’ history on the indies, his time in Ring of Honor (“shaking hands”), and even his time in TNA with the line, “down in Florida getting a tan with Dixie Carter.” To his absolute credit, Styles eschews his normal promo style to point out that yeah, Orton shits on the indies a lot, but he should look around the locker room because 2019 WWE is basically 15-years ago independent wrestling. Styles, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, half the Chikara roster, the ghost of CM Punk, all of it. Also, for infinite bonus points, I believe he’s the first person on WWE television to call the RKO a “knock-off Diamond Cutter.”
Orton pulls his second Too Sweet on record (the first was back in July) to talk about how Styles has ripped off more popular guys in the past as well, and Styles busts out a hilariously deadpan “release the doves” gesture to show how Orton wouldn’t have gotten over on the indies with his garbage persona. He also points out all the times Orton has dick-ridden other stars to success, like Evolution, Legacy, and Rated R-KO. It’s refreshing as hell to hear these characters talk to each other about each other the way me and you might argue about them. It’s like they finally realized they can watch the show they star in every week. LOVED IT.
Plus, Randy Orton does his best acting since 12 Rounds with the line, “As long as you want to rent a room out in my house, you see, I’m the landlord, and rent’s due, you son of a bitch!” WWE is corny as hell, and I love it. That RKO Styles eats at WrestleMania is going to be legen-
-wait for it-
Best: Top 10-ish Comments Of The Night
For all this talk of the Women’s Evolution challenging gender roles, two female wrestlers were held back by an apron.
AJ is pissed off he had to mention Evolution and act like it existed. Not a great Intelligent Design to the Creation of that promo.
Randy also burned down at least one house, and then fought in a haunted house. Maybe his track record on houses shouldn’t be investigated too much, not to (Big) short the guy.
Charly: “Ali how does it feel to know that not only does no one sympathize with you losing a title opportunity to injury, but actively spite your return in favor of a dancing unicorn man who reviews gaudy sneakers?”
Ali: “Charly are you even supposed to be on SmackDown?”
Charly: “I go where I’m needed. speaking of which. are you aware that you are absolutely not needed in this WrestleMania build?”
Next MMC should be Sami & Asuka as “Aw Ska!” Or Ah…Ska ?
KOFI: I’ve never been trick or treating with my kids. Why do you think we dress up like unicorns man.
You Just Made The List
Mysterio’s ring gear makes him look like a sex doll come to life, and unfortunately i have a feeling he’s about to take a pounding.
Vince: “All you have to do Kofi…”
*Orton’s theme plays*
Vince: “…is put pants on this man.”
Shane calling anyone’s face a baked potato is the Spider-Man pointing meme moment of the night.
I was gonna get some fast food later. I just remembered I haven’t been to Wendy’s for a while.
Big Baby Yeezus
“No one deserves anything”- The Baby Boomer Generation’s Gravestone
That’s it for this week’s Smackdown. Thanks for reading, as always.
Drop us a comment to let us know what you thought of the show, and share the column on social to help us out. WrestleMania’s seriously beginning to take shape now, with Shane vs. Miz, Styles vs. Orton, and (presumably) Bryan vs. Kingston either being added to or about to be added to the card. Let’s just hope Triple H and Batista realize they can wrestle a solid, exciting 12-minute match and don’t have to go 35.
See you next week!