After last night’s RAW drew more heat than Vladimir Putin in the White House, Smackdown didn’t need to do much to come out on top in the weekly battle for brand supremacy. Amazingly, though, with only four matches over the course of two hours, this show seemed even longer than the dreaded three hours and change it takes to make it through an episode of WWE’s “Flagship show.” Below I break down this talk-heavy edition of Smackdown segment-by-segment as WWE attempts to convince viewers to watch the first Smackdown-specific PPV since July’s draft.
The show started with Daniel Bryan and the Smackdown Women’s Championship, though to a casual fan, it could’ve been any championship considering how similar they all look. He talks about how the 6-pack Women’s match will be an elimination match, which I applaud as it will help develop a hierarchy to the division. He plugs yet another 6 woman tag, which I wasn’t looking forward to, but then he says we first have to endure a “Women’s Championship forum.” He may as well have asked viewers to change the channel.
The “forum” was quite bad, as woman after woman awkwardly came to the ring with no music, no substance to their words, and no heat to the impending match. That was a theme for the rest of the show.
Backstage we had some bad comedy from Dean Ambrose who put a bunch of sugar into a random guy’s drink for some reason.
After the commercial break, Shane McMahon flubbed some lines in a conversation with Daniel Bryan before Miz showed up. Bryan dissed him and Miz headed to the ring for the first match of the evening: another burial of Apollo Crews.
Match of the Night: Match 1: The Miz vs. Apollo Crews
Dolph Ziggler was on commentary. He and JBL talked about Dolph’s recent failures as the decent match between Crews and Miz raged on in the ring. It was essentially the same match that they had at Summerslam, which if you’ll recall, was the worst match on that show with the possible exception of the 6 Woman Tag. Tonight’s version was no better, but ended up being the best match on the show. Not a good sign. Near the finish, Miz argued with Dolph outside the ring, Apollo missed a Baseball Slide, inexplicably turned to speak with Dolph, got hit from behind by Miz, thrown into the ring, and pinned.
Winner: The Miz
My Rating: **
After the match, Ziggler chased Miz out of the ring. Miz left his title in the ring, but was too cowardly to go in the ring and get it and so Maryse had to do it. In other words, Daniel Bryan was right, Miz is the same guy he was before cutting his promo, and now we have another match with no heat for Backlash.
Backstage Renee Young interviews AJ Styles. She shows footage of him getting racked on the top rope at the end of last week’s show. He gets pissed and harasses a cameraman for some reason.
We have an American Alpha package and then a backstage interview with The Usos. They come off like total geeks.
Bray Wyatt then rambles on for several minutes which I tuned out. Until he wins some matches, his words mean absolutely nothing.
Fifty minutes into the show we finally have our second match.
Match 2: Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch and Naomi vs. Carmella, Alexa Bliss and Natalya
David Otunga says Nikki Bella is the longest reigning Divas Champion of all time despite the fact that Charlotte surpassed her reign. I hate him. The match was nothing special, but it does help set up the idea that the Sunday’s match will be unpredictable. Frankly, I have no idea who is going to win, and I do have some interest in finding out who does.
As I watched this match and the opening segment, I remembered how good Becky Lynch was in NXT. The reason she was so great, however, was because she was surrounded by other great talents and in an atmosphere with a crowd that cared about her and her opponents. Now she is on a show surrounded by mediocre talent (and Natalya), has been saddled with a bad gimmick with a bad name, and so she is nothing special. The match broke down toward the end with all of the women hitting some signature spots. In the end, Carmella got Nikki Bella to tap to her leg choke.
Winners: Carmella, Alexa Bliss and Natalya
Based on this victory, Mauro Ranallo laughably said that we had to consider Carmella the favorite going into the title match. I do not.
My Rating: *1/2
Match 3: The Usos vs. American Alpha
I fully expected this to be the best match on the show, but instead, American Alpha whooped the Usos in about 30 seconds. Interesting.
Winners: American Alpha
My Rating: 1/2*
I gave the match half a star because the quick finish was unexpected and because the post match beatdown with the Usos finally turning full heel was excellent. They beat down Gable and Jordan, and then targeted Gable’s leg. One Uso kicked it hard, and the other nailed it off the top rope. It looks like The Usos may advance to the finals if WWE pushes the injury angle, which would be fine given the outcome of the next match.
We have a backstage interview with Randy Orton. Once again, Orton cuts a much better promo than Bray Wyatt. It was my favorite promo of the evening and Randy Orton is excellent.
In the ring we have Fandango dancing with some woman wearing a Dean Ambrose shirt. She has a lot of tattoos. He doesn’t like her dancing, she disses him, and leaves. Kane shows up and chokeslams him. Ok.
AJ Styles breaks some dude’s phone backstage.
Main Event: Match 4: The Hype Bros vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno
This was the last match, so I guess that makes it the main event. Never thought I’d see Mojo Rawley in that position. Seven children of varying ages who the announcers claim are Heath Slater’s kids are in the front row with his supposed wife. I agree with Bryan Alvarez of Figure4online that none of these people have any real relationship with Heath Slater, but that just makes the gimmick better. Hype Bros dominated early and got the heat on Heath Slater, but he eventually tagged Rhyno who destroyed them and got the victory.
Winners: Rhyno and Heath Slater
Decent little match. If Slater and Rhyno face The Usos at the PPV, it could be a nice match. Slater hugs his “kids” after the victory.
My Rating: *1/2
We have an update on American Alpha with Renee who says it is “questionable” whether they will be able to compete at the PPV. The Usos show up and cut a heel promo. This is already one of the best things they’ve done as a team and they seem quite rejuvenated. Good move on the part of creative, as they were getting booed anyway since teaming with Roman Reigns, and it gives a legitimate team with whom American Alpha can feud.
Lastly, we have a confrontation between Styles and Ambrose. They cut good promos on each other, then Styles low-blows Ambrose as the show goes off the air.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty weak show, mostly because it dragged like hell. Four matches is fine for NXT, but we need a bit more action on a two-hour network television show. The PPV matches should be good for the most part, but there is little to no real heat attached to any of the matches. I think that’s because nobody cares much about the performers as characters with the exception of the two main eventers, Heath Slater and Randy Orton. In other words, Smackdown is having trouble getting over its talent, which is the most important thing for the show given its limited roster.