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7/26 WWE Smackdown Instant Reaction – Three-Pack Edition
In the spirit of PWTorch contributor Ben Tucker’s “Instant Reaction” series, we present the top three takeaways from Tuesday’s Smackdown from PWTorch staff, contributors, and correspondents.
Ben Tucker, Mr. Instant Reaction
(1) Tuesday Night… Raw?: There’s a real disconnect between the on screen authority figures and the brands that they represent. Raw has shaken up the typical WWE format much more than Smackdown, which still apparently relies on a similar format to television shows of the past. Featuring stars like Randy Orton, The Miz, and John Cena make Smackdown feel like the true “casual fan” show. Is that a bad thing, though? Or is it smart to entice casual viewers to the shorter show while encouraging hardcore fans to stick around on Monday evenings when kids will be less likely to make it through the broadcast anyway? That said, many good product changes are still present on the show, such as improved camera angles and updated visuals (stage, graphics packages, etc.). It’s not as drastic as Raw’s update, but still effective.
(2) Ziggler Zags into the Main Events: I see a lot of people unhappy with Dolph Ziggler being suddenly propelled into a World title match at Summerslam, but I enjoy the sudden change of pace every once in a while and it fits in with Ziggler’s gimmick of having all of the talent in the world but always being one step short of putting it all together. Is it as strong as a match between Wyatt and Ambrose could be? No, but it does establish Ziggler as a top-tier guy and a talent that can elevate Smackdown’s mid-carders into title contention in the future. In an age where everything has felt static and predictable, I can dig being thrown for a loop occasionally.
(3) Raw vs. Smackdown: Week 1 Results: Raw was the clear superior show of the week, with Smackdown lacking the star power to make an instant impact despite the reintroduction of older stars like Shelton Benjamin and Rhyno. That said, Smackdown has the opportunity to develop an exciting and frenetic main event scene with the six men found in the last match, alongside the likes of Randy Orton and even the Miz.
As a quick side note, I loved seeing the opposite introductions on both Raw and Smackdown. On Monday, Stephanie and Foley introduced the roster on stage from the ring. On Smackdown, Shane and Bryan went to the roster, letting them stand with them in the ring. It’s a small difference but an excellent detail.
Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles specialist
(1) Smackdown in 2016 feels a lot like Raw in 2010. Smackdown may ultimately end up being the better show, but in week one it didn’t feel as fresh or exciting as Raw. Between Orton, Miz, Cena, Kane, and others, there’s a real “been there, done that” feeling. JBL’s same tired routine for an audience of one doesn’t help. Smackdown doesn’t have that hot, new act that Raw has in Finn Balor, and it really shows.
(2) The Smackdown women’s division looks like it was put together by John Laurinaitis. Eva Marie, Alexa Bliss, and Carmella are straight from the Kelly Kelly mold. Alexa and Carmella recited generic, awkward promos that sounded like they were written by the same 25-year-old writer who’s never watched wrestling. Becky, Natalya, and Naomi have their work cut out for them.
(3) Dolph Ziggler? Raw gets a hot new act in Balor, and Smackdown gets a guy who just lost a feud to Baron Corbin. Ziggler in this position isn’t inherently bad, but WWE has pushed him up and down so many times and over the last 18 months he’s been treated as a jobber to the stars. A real head-scratcher.
Brandon LeClair, PWTorch correspondent
(1) Once the B-Show, Always the B-Show. It seems like everything Smackdown can do, Raw can do better. A couple of weeks ago, Shane McMahon promised wholesale change to the way Smackdown was one should be awarded control of the show. That included the way it looked, the way it felt, the way the focus was placed on the talent. Unfortunately, Raw beat them to the punch on all of the above, and did it much better. The show seemed to employ the same stylistic changes Raw presented on Monday, but with less conviction. It felt largely like a show that was holding onto the last remaining relics of the bygone era.
(2) Dolph Ziggler 2.0? This was a bit of a shocker, and one that felt like it came out of left field. Smackdown entered the night at an extreme disadvantage because of Raw’s stellar outing, and the decision to place Ziggler into a World Title match seemed like a hasty reactionary move in the wake of Finn Balor’s shocking rise on Monday. In short, Smackdown needed its “can’t miss” headline, and I suppose Dolph Ziggler in the main event picture gives that to them. I am a long time fan of Ziggler, and someone who held onto hope for many years that he’d rise to the occasion and finally get his chance at the top of the company. Like many others, though, I became disillusioned with him after his Survivor Series ’14 push and subsequent demotion seemed to suck the remaining life out of him. I really, really hope that it’s not too late to rebuild this character and make him a credible challenger, but I have my doubts. I’m quite fearful that the WWE Championship Match ends up as little more than a mid-card footnote on the Summerslam card.
(3) The Hottest Free Agent. No, not Rhyno. Heath Slater! I was shocked to hear the amount of support he mustered from the crowd. The “Slater goes undrafted” angle from last week’s show was one of the few aspects of the Draft Special I really enjoyed, so I was glad to see it touched upon again. Slater is very clearly a valuable role-player, and it seems the crowd has a lot of respect for his work. With Smackdown’s lack of depth in the mid-card already becoming apparent after one episode, Slater may be a guy WWE needs to look to utilize more effectively going forward.
Chris Wooten, long-time PWTorch reader
(1) SmackDown Stigma. After last night’s episode of Raw brought us so many new and interesting changes, expectations for the first episode of Smackdown Live were high. As Raw received a new logo, music, and stage, so did Smackdown Live. However, it didn’t have this new and interesting feel that Raw had; Instead it felt like more of the same. With JBL replacing Jerry Lawler on commentary, you have a very similar feel as before the Draft. David Otunga also has the same style of commentary as Byron Saxton. The announce table is also located in the same spot we’re used to seeing it in. The stage; while much bigger and, wider than days past, still remains reminiscent of “Payback” or some other generic Pay-Per-View (Special Event). All of these things together may explain why tonight’s Smackdown Live felt less engaging than I expected. It still has Smackdown Stigma; nothing feels very exciting or important.
(2) New Era? Not Really. The reboot of Raw this week accomplished a lot by spotlighting their new talent. Finn Balor was prominently featured throughout the show (and pushed to the moon), as well as Superstars like Nia Jax, Enzo & Cass, and of course, Sasha Banks. Smackdown Live did give the few new talents the roster has a chance to shine, but that’s part of the problem: the roster. Smackdown Live was promoted to be the “New Era” show, but there’s still a lot of old faces around. I don’t think WWE recognizes that Eva Marie does not count as a “new superstar.” The few new talent the brand does have, such as Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, and A.J. Styles, were not elevated outside of Crews’s battle royal win. Whereas a superstar from the “old guard,” Dolph Ziggler won a #1 contender’s match. Dolph Ziggler definitely needs a chance to break through that “glass ceiling,” but there were better ways to proceed given the state of this “New Era” we’re in. What about Heath Slater’s glass ceiling? That’s right, Rhyno showed up for some reason to Gore those hopes and dreams away.
(3) Return of the Legend Killer? The Miz TV segment during this week’s Smackdown Live showcased Randy Orton’s return to WWE television. When bantering with the Miz, Randy referred back to his “Legend Killer” days, and seemed confident in his chances against Brock Lesnar. He also defeated the Intercontinental Champion in under five minutes tonight, so he is being pushed strong. That begs the question; how good ARE his chances at Summerslam? Yes, I know Brock Lesnar is the Beast, the Conqueror, the Slayer of the Streak; but let’s be honest here, Brock’s not doing so well lately. After failing two USADA drug tests, it seems as if Brock has lost a lot of stock with the UFC, and who knows if we’ll ever see him fight again. The ramifications of this test failure may also follow him to WWE. Maybe the company still does see Brock Lesnar as a monster cash cow, but then again, maybe it’s time for Brock to do the job, and give a Superstar like Randy Orton a chance to break through his “glass ceiling.” If WWE is in the ceiling-breaking business (and it seems as if they are), there may not be a better time to use a huge superstar like Brock Lesnar to your advantage, and give the ‘rub’ of beating the “Beast Incarnate” to a guy who could use it, like Randy Orton. One thing I do know, is that I don’t know for sure who’s going to win at Summerslam, and that’s a good thing.