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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.
Greg Parks, PWTorch columnist/Smackdown Reporter
(1) Dolph Ziggler is your WWE World Championship #1 Contender: Yes, I’m surprised I’m typing that sentence, too. Ziggler came out of nowhere to win a main event Six-Pack Challenge in which the winner would face Dean Ambrose for the title at Summerslam. Ziggler has long been the avatar for some fans who claim WWE doesn’t give a real, sustained push to those who deserve it. Thus, presenting Ziggler in this light on the first Smackdown of the New Era is likely not coincidental. If WWE wanted to give fans the impression that opportunities will be afforded wrestlers who have previously been “held back,” mission accomplished.
(2) Randy Orton can’t wait ’til Summerslam: Orton’s in-ring return took place unceremoniously on this show, in a quick five-minute match with The Miz. It was expected that Orton would be held off until his Summerslam match with Brock Lesnar. What did this achieve for WWE? By not advertising Orton’s return ahead of time, WWE may have lost some eyeballs. However, in the transition to Smackdown airing live, it helped foster a can’t-miss atmosphere for the previously taped show.
(3) Smackdown’s thin roster already gets help: A vignette early in the show advertised the impending return to the company of Shelton Benjamin. Later, Rhyno made his main roster return by goring Heath Slater. Much was made of Smackdown’s depth chart in comparison to Raw and how Smackdown came out on the short end of the stick after last week’s draft. Adding the veteran presences of Benjamin, Rhyno, and perhaps others, could help.
Dominic DeAngelo, PWPodcasts recapper
(1) EMULATING RAW (BUT NOT IN A GOOD WAY): While Raw seems like to be on the right track with a new philosophical paint job, Smackdown Live picked up where the old Raw left off, embracing its unsuccessful ideals and only echoing yesterday’s pivotal moments in cheap fashion. “Hey! Let’s throw the roster in a battle royal to start the show, because we only did that a month ago (people won’t remember and having Kane be the last elimination is always a home run).” “Hey! Let’s have a Miz TV segment because we only do that on a regular basis (everyone loves a good heel ‘self interview’ – plus we gotta get that sweet ‘playing with yourself’ punchline in).” Aaaand “Hey! Let’s have a segment where our entire women go in one-by-one and interrupt one another (complete with everyone’s theme music, ya know, to make a statement).” All those didn’t work on a three-hour show and they sure won’t work on a two-hour show.
(2) AWKWARD, JUST AWKWARD: I was pretty excited with how Smackdown differed in the beginning by having a camera follow Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan backstage to the ring – it seemed like big things were in store, but from then on, things did not click. Most matches had a clunky overtone to them, there were too many botched spots, and just odd pacing, particularly in the battle royal and especially with Randy Orton vs. The Miz. (Were they just trying to fill time with those two RKOs? That’s totally what it felt like.) And if you just pick any of the talking segments, you’ll find at least one awkward moment. Having the new blood of Alexa Bliss and Carmella try to introduce themselves in a minute’s worth of TV time not only seemed rushed, but really took the shine off their main roster debuts.
(3) TOO LITTLE TOO LATE FOR DOLPH? “Seizing the opportunity” was the phrase of the night. Dolph Ziggler becoming the Number One Contender was certainly an unexpected surprise, but hasn’t this steak been on the skillet for far too long ? The character of Dolph has let his supporters down one too many times with too many losses – it’s going to be a huge uphill battle to heat him up for a Championship match at Summerslam. It may be doable, but it’s going to take a lot of good, consistent storytelling. Tonight’s episode should not be foundation for that.
Mike McMahon, PWTorch TNA reporter
(1) ZIGGLER’S TIME? — Dolph Ziggler’s win in the main event gives him a WWE Title shot against Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam next month. Ziggler has been ready for a bigger push since 2012, it feels like, but WWE has never pulled the trigger. In that sense, his win felt “new” but when you’re touting your company as being in a “New Era,” pushing someone who has been in the company for almost a decade seems like old news. Ambrose-Ziggler will be a really good match, because they’re both really good workers, but Balor-Rollins feels more appropriate for a “new era” and also has more potential to steal the show. Just a few weeks ago, in a backstage segment, Ziggler was “on the phone with his mother” and said something to the effect of, “no mom, I lost again, but it’s okay.” … They have jobbed him out so many times and used him to get over new talent like Baron Corbin, it’s going to be hard for them to push the reset button this quickly and have people accept it. The better story for Ziggler might be that comeback story. For these first few weeks, use him to put over Corbin, Apollo Crews, Kalisto and some other younger guys you want to get over. Then have him beat some jobbers and work his way back up the ladder, getting those wins back and maybe he is in a good position to challenge for the WWE Title by December or the Royal Rumble. Now seems too soon because they’re not going to have time to do the proper repair to his character.
(2) RAW WINS WEEK 1 — It was a positive first impression for Smackdown Live, and we’ll see how the ratings shake out later today, but from a critical standpoint, Raw won the first week of the battle. Raw was more newsworthy and the changes in production on Raw outshined those on Smackdown. Smackdown’s lack of roster depth was also very evident on this show — a six-pack main event will do that for you — and the addition of Rhino and Shelton Benjamin should hopefully give the show a little more depth in matchmaking.
(3) WOMEN’S DIVISION LACKS FOCUS — The Natalya-Becky Lynch match was good, and their feud should be the focus of Smackdown’s division for the time being, but the post-match promo that included every other woman in the locker room was a mess. Alexa Bliss interrupted Becky, Naomi interrupted Bliss, Carmella interrupted Naomi, and then Eva Marie interrupted Carmella. Especially with the two-hour show, there isn’t going to be time to focus on more than two (maybe four) women at a time, so throwing them all out in this segment just to get them on TV felt like a rushed waste of time. It was a forgettable way for Bliss and Carmella to make their main-roster debuts, which was unfortunate. It was interesting to see them give Eva Marie the big shining moment during the mess, with the full entrance and she said a lot by not actually saying anything at all, instead having a pre-recorded announcer tell the crowd how great she is. For those who lack in promo skills, you usually get a manager of some kind, but having a narrator instead was a unique spin on that practice.
Samuel Hayward, PWTorch reader
(1) WWE Creative have made a mistake by booking Dolph Ziggler as the number one contender. Because of Ziggler’s recent downward spiral, it makes no real sense for him to be in the six-pack match, let alone actually win the thing. Ziggler has become an enhancement talent within the mid-card, putting over newcomers like Tyler Breeze and Baron Corbin. His anticlimactic low blow contest with Baron Corbin demonstrated how unlikely he is to ever win the belt again, and now we’re expected to take this push seriously? Smackdown’s main event for Summerslam, when compared with Raw’s, is flat out unappealing. Had they spent time giving Ziggler a push before putting him in this spot it would have felt more credible, rather than just a filler opponent for Ambrose before he moves on to feud with Styles or Cena or Orton.
(2) No American Alpha tonight. I was really looking forward to the “first Smackdown of the New Era” purely because of this team’s anticipated debut to the main roster. That wasn’t to be tonight. Thankfully, a video package showed us it would be next week. With their absence tonight I was worries that with the duo currently feuding with Authors of Pain on NXT until the next TakeOver event, they might be held off Tuesday Nights until that’s wrapped up. Going through their opponents, unless they get shoehorned into a tag title match at Summerslam, representing the blue brand, they might be squaring off against The Vaudevillains for a while.
(3) I’ll admit, I marked out when Shelton Benjamin’s return was announced. I’ve been a huge fan of his since with Team Angle run at the start of his WWE career. Hopefully, “soon” actually means soon and not, say, after Summerslam. The roster on Smackdown seems pretty thin and a strong performer like Benjamin could really help bolster the ranks.