KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN TAKE – HOUR ONE (7/26): Start of the Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan live era

By Wade Keller, editor

WWE Smackdown Live logo - new July 2016 (c)


JULY 26, 2016

ANNOUNCERS: Mauro Ranallo, JBL, and David Otunga.


Basics: They opened with Shane McMahon asking Daniel Bryan if they are ready for Smackdown Live. Full of irony, Bryan said Smackdown Live isn’t about them, it’s about giving wrestlers opportunity. They then walked through the curtain and said it’s also about the fans. They started a “Yes!” chant.


StaffKeller08_120Basics: The new Smackdown opening then aired. Order of wrestlers: Dean Ambrose, A.J. Styles, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley, Becky Lynch, John Cena, Randy Orton, Miz & Maryse, Kane, Kalisto, American Alpha, Natalya, Apollo Crews, Summer Rae, Baron Corbin, Carmella, Alberto Del Rio, Breezango, Naomi, Ambrose again, The Usos, Styles again, Cena again. The fist is back, integrated into the theme.

Reax: The Smackdown Streak continues of inferior theme songs compared to Raw.


Basics: Shane and Bryan entered the ring, surrounded by the Smackdown roster of wrestlers standing on the ring apron. Shane said on Sept. 11 they’ll start doing Smackdown-only PPVs. The first will be called Backlash, exclusively live on WWE Network. That got no pop. Shane said since Smackdown is home to the one-and-only WWE Champion, they need to find an opponent for Ambrose at Summerslam. He introduced Ambrose, who came out with his belt. After a few words from Ambrose, Bryan announced that there’d be a Six Pack Challenge match with the winner faces Ambrose at Summerslam. He looked around the ring apron and revealed the six: Cena, Wyatt, Ziggler, Corbin, and Styles. Shane pointed out that Bryan only chose five. Bryan explained that the sixth spot is open to everyone else who fights in a battle royal.

Reax: This is pretty stale. It’s a mere variation on how Steph and Foley decided on the Universal Championship challenger. The beginning of the show didn’t give off any sense of it being different in any meaningful way compared to Raw.


Basics: They showed JBL, Mauro, and David Otunga at ringside in the usual spot. Otunga pointed at his purple shirt and said he was so excited to be on the A-show, he was decked out in blue. #ColorBlind

Reax: So Shane said he was going to innovate and change everything including camera angles and production style and then Smackdown ends up with announcers at ringside as usual?


Basics: The announcers age generic talk about friends getting along or not in battle royals. Del Rio was eliminated by Kalisto and Ryder. It came down to Kalisto, Ryder, Kane, and Crews, and eventually Crews flipped out of a chokeslam and ducked a charging Kane to win. WINNER: Crews at 12:42.

Reax: Taking the top six wrestlers out of the mix and then presenting a battle royal unfortunately accentuates the shallow depth of stars on Smackdown at this point. Opening the show with what amounts to a Lower Card Battle Royal wasn’t ideal… Good to see Crews get a win as they need him to become a top tier star on Smackdown to add some depth. Would have preferred, though, ADR in the final two instead of Kane. Kane just gives off the vibe of retread at this point when he’s positioning in any serious type of way… The camera angles are markedly different. There is a crane showing footage up close, basically cutting past the front row and zooming in. It reminds me of the old studio wrestling shows where there were fans on three sides of the ring, but not on the camera side.


Basics: Renee Young interviewed Crews at ringside who said won’t celebrate yet until he goes on to win at Summerslam. Then he, ironically, went on to celebrate with the hand-slapping fans at ringside.

Reax: It was tone-deaf of JBL to say Crews just “won a lottery ticket.” It undercut the achievement of winning the battle royal by actually fighting, not paying a $1 and scratching off a winning ticket.


Basic: A commercial for Raw next week hyped that Brock Lesnar returns…


Basics: A video hyped the pending return of Shelton Benjamin to Smackdown.

Reax: Good hire. He could be a top tier player. I think fans generally have the impression he was underutilized before. Let’s see if he can deliver better this time around, as he has some shortcomings – relying on his athleticism and seeming a bit casual if not complacent in terms of promos. He also seemed to be one of those wrestlers who performed to impress but didn’t always seem to be “fighting to win.”


Basics: Ziggler gave a speech about losing his way, but tonight it starts all over again. He said it’s not in the general manager’s hands or commissioner’s hands, it’s in his hands. He said when the main event ends, he’ll take his place at Summerslam.

Reax: At least he didn’t talk about wanting to “entertain the fans,” but I just feel like we’ve gone down this road of Ziggler being “reset” and talking about wanting to improve on his recent string of losses. What I want him to do is “show me,” not “tell me,” he’s going to be better.


Basics: They cut to a commercial mid-match, so those haven’t gone away… Becky landed an enzuigiri and then landed a top rope legdrop for a near fall… JBL was a cliche-machine here talking about “Natalya having Becky’s number” and “Natalya pulling out all the stops.” That’s usually a sign of someone who’s not really engaged and is just going through the motions… After some mat work reversals, Natalya landed a discuss lariat after a soft rebound off the ropes leading to another two count… Natalya set up a sharpshooter, but Becky countered with her armbar finisher to get the tapout… WINNER: Lynch at 10:21.

Reax: This doesn’t speak well for Natalya’s push on the Smackdown brand. She’s back to being “the good hand”… (*3/4)


Basics: Renee interviewed Lynch who said, “Just call me Becky Balboa, baby!” She was promptly interrupted by Alexa Bliss who said she is the personification of what the New Era looks like. She was interrupted by Naomi. She told Bliss to stop running her mouth until she steps into the ring and wins a match. Carmella then danced onto the stage and introduced herself. She introduced herself as the Princess of Staten Island. Then Eva Marie came out with her voiceover guy introducing and hyping her…

Reax: That was just awkward and felt heavily orchestrated and produced. I get wanting to present a parade of the new women’s roster on Smackdown, but the idea that they ere all lined up and walked out one after another to “rudely interrupted” the previous person just felt cheesy. The presentation of the women is as sex objects parading out and trash-talking each other. If the sexiness spoke for itself but they were presented as serious athletes, it’d make everything feel less bush league and tawdry and low-brow.


Basics: Corbin promoted his six-pack main event. He said unlike his opponents tonight, he’s not winning the match for a mom and a dad, or for anyone on the Smackdown roster, or anyone in Buffalo. He’s winning it for the only person who counts – him.

Reax: Good to hear a heel saying he’s not loyal to the blue team and he’s fighting for himself. In a way that makes him a babyface because it makes more sense than fighting for a team in an individual competition sport.


Basics: Maryse introduced The Miz. He talked about representing the Blue Team. He talked about having a Legend Killer and former World Champion as his guest. He revealed he was talking about himself, though. He began to interview himself. JBL said, “Miz is going to interview himself. This is fantastic!” Miz said he had so many questions for himself, such as how can he remain so humble when everyone loves him and looks up to him. He would switch seats to answer his own questions. He said he is everything the average person is not. He told Maryse she is basically married to Hans Solo and asked how she feels being Princess Leia. He was interrupted by Randy Orton’s ring entrance as the first hour ended.


HOUR TWO: VIP members can read my Take on hour two later tonight at the AD-FREE VIP-website at

BIG $1 SALE: Go VIP for just $1 with a limited-time sale right now: (Use coupon code “draft16” to save $9 on a full month. You pay just $1).

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