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8/2 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.
Joel Dehnel, Lucha Underground recapper
1. Dolph vs. Dean. I have to be honest, I thought there was no way I could be sold on this match. Although I still believe Ziggler has almost no shot of capturing the WWE Title, after the promo on Smackdown, I want to see that match. Ziggler has never been the greatest promo, but he gave some of his best work on the mic selling people on Summerslam. He played the underdog who has paid his dues and wants to validate himself. Ambrose bordered on acting heelish, putting down Ziggler instead of showing mutual respect. He has moved away from zany Dean who shoots people with mustard and beats then with Christmas gifts into a confident champion. He proved in that promo his future could be as a cocky heel champion. I could see Bálor holding the Universal title on Raw as the babyface champion and Ambrose being the heel champion at some point. For now, Ziggler saved us from yet another Wyatt-Ambrose match.
(2) Brock strikes back. As you would assume, WWE could not help themselves having Brock interfere on SmackDown and attack Randy Orton. I thought WWE would go more than a week before a Raw Superstar appeared on Smackdown. I didn’t like Orton on Raw, and I was hoping they would refrain from Brock appearing on SmackDown. It could have been much more meaningful if these guys never touched and their first meeting together was at Summerslam. WWE could not resist capitalizing on the RKO out of nowhere phenomena; I just wish it would have happened before the roster draft. In the future, I hope WWE is disciplined about wrestlers not appearing on the other brand.
(3) Some habits never die. Raw has done a very nice job differentiating itself from the stale formula. Unfortunately that has left SmackDown rehashing old habits. I do give them credit for trying new things like camera angles, side slabs for entrances, and a new interview table. These changes do feel a bit cheesy and out of place, but I appreciate they are making an attempt to differentiate the show from Raw. Smackdown still retains the bad habits of the awkward backstage segments and especially long, drawn-out shots on the interviewer after the interviewee leaves. Smackdown also has the long promos to start the show. Besides giving the audience facts about the superstar on the way to the ring, Smackdown could have made itself different by laying out the matches you’re going to see at the start of the show. They could also alter the backstage segments to feel more natural. Smackdown wasn’t dealt a great hand with a shallow mid-card and all the grand ideas being used on Raw, but there is still room for improvement to be different.
Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles specialist
(1) Stop talking, please! There’s apparently a virus going around the Smackdown locker room, and everyone who comes in contact with it cuts an awful promo or says something stupid. Dean Ambrose cut a great, passionate, authentic promo. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. Everyone from Natalya to A.J. Styles went out and recited some writer’s inauthentic lines. Carmella is awful at reciting lines and playing hurt. Daniel Bryan botched Apollo Crews’s name. Mauro Ranallo told us that Shane McMahon’s “worst nightmare” was Brock Lesnar coming in through the crowd and hitting one F5 on Randy Orton, as all of the “extra security” stood around and did nothing. Cena cut the same 10-year-old, long-winded promo about being a company man and not leaving WWE. “You’re just here to be a really good wrestler,” Cena told Styles. Yeah, and LeBron James is only on the Cavaliers to be a really good basketball player. That’s supposed to be an insult? Just a brutal night on the mic.
(2) Who is in charge? Right now WWE has two commissioners, two general managers, Chairman Vince McMahon, and COO Triple H waiting in the wings. So why does Bray Wyatt have the authority to book Dolph Ziggler in a match where he could lose his title shot? What was the plan for the last 30 minutes of the show if Wyatt hadn’t booked himself in the main event? Raw and Smackdown have been given fresh coats of paint, but they’re still full of amateur hour writing and production issues that have plagued WWE for years.
(3) Dolph Ziggler, Superstar. Yes, this sudden push came out of nowhere. Yes, this feels like 2013, when Daniel Bryan was telling Kane and Randy Orton that he wasn’t a weak link. But this is the most interesting Ziggler has been in years, and he and Ambrose feel like two of the most authentic, believable guys on the roster.
Sam Hayward, PWTorch reader
(1) Ziggler Brings the Fire. Dolph Ziggler felt so much like he was shooting in his opening promo with Dean Ambrose at the start of Smackdown. The remark about his start as a male cheerleader in the company hit home how far he’s come. As his intensity grew it felt like he was screaming more at Vince McMahoj that he was good enough than Ambrose. Impressing with his passion and his fire in both his mic work and his match with Bray Wyatt, he feels certainly more like he belongs now than a week ago. Let’s hope this build continues as well as it has so far.
(2) Miz is Devlaued. Props to Apollo Crews for becoming the new number one contender for the Intercontinental Championship. But, Miz is starting to lose a lot of steam as champion, especially getting laid out by Baron Corbin so he isn’t even the last man standing. He’s also been put down consistently since the Draft. Whether it’s Randy Orton making short work of him last week, or Daniel Bryan showing how reluctant he is to have him on the show. It would work if they drew from their old NXT relationship as ersatz teacher and student, but they’re not. Bryan just keeps making it seem like he doesn’t value Miz as a wrestler, which isn’t good when this guy is your IC Champion.
(3) Rowan Follows the Buzzards. A surprise for me was seeing Erick Rowan help Bray Wyatt lay waste to Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler post-main event. Since Wyatt was drafted individually and Braun Strowman and Rowan were drafted separately to separate shows, I expected all three men to pursue singles careers going forward, with Luke Harper doing the same upon his return from injury. Since this has proven not to be the case, I predict we should see Harper return as the Prodigal Son to Smackdown and the original trio will reform on Tuesday Nights.
Brandon Warehime, PWTorch reader
(1) Dolph Ziggler HAS potential. The fire and passion that Ziggler showed during his opening show promo with Dean Ambrose is exactly what WWE fans have been wanting from The Show-Off. I believe Ziggler outperformed Ambrose is this head-to-head promo. It appears in the ‘New Era’ that a lot of promos are more ‘off the cuff’ than before. WWE needs to continue to write and produce honest promos like these. Although the crowd is not yet behind Ziggler, which was obvious by the cheers when Wyatt took him out, his stock in WWE can be restored with a near-win against Ambrose at Summerslam and more importantly, a feud following Summerslam that fans can care about. I would love to see an A.J. Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler feud.
(2) Bray Wyatt is still not taken seriously. I get it, Ziggler needed to beat Wyatt to be validated before facing Ambrose in a WWE Championship match at Summerslam. However, Wyatt continues to lose matches on TV and PPV. Wyatt may be a heel, but how is he ever supposed to be taken seriously as a threat if even can never win a big match? I believe it was Mauro Ronallo who mentioned that Wyatt has never held a singles title. I was shocked to confirm this statistic. The ‘cult leader’ needs a title. If not, his promos will return to sounding stale instead of threatening.
(3) The Vaudevillains OFFICIALLY have been buried. Setting aside Simon Gotch getting into a locker room fight, I do not blame the tag team for their status. This, like Tyler Breeze and The Ascension, are gimmicks that worked in the NXT, but do not work in the WWE. I thought this topic was worthy of my Top 3 because WWE did not even air The Vaudevillains’s entrance. Their entrance is one of few things that actually makes the tag team interesting. If there was not already a brand split, Gotch and Aiden English would most likely be split up and repackaged, but WWE needs tag teams now more than ever.
Chris Wooten, PWTorch reader
(1) Dolph vs. the World? The opening segment of this week’s Smackdown Live gave us a glimpse of what could be a new and improved Dolph Ziggler. WWE champion Dean Ambrose delivered a heelish style promo against Ziggler, drawing out the serious, fiery side of the “Show Off.” The premise of the segment boiled down to Dolph feeling overlooked and undervalued by everyone. By the end of the night, he even insulted Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan for “not believing in him.” Given his strong showing standing up to and beating Bray Wyatt in the main event, it looks like WWE is trying to make it believable that Dolph Ziggler actually has a chance to win at Summerslam. This may just be a good way to elevate the match, and make the outcome less predictable. On the other hand, it does position Dolph really well for a WWE Title win. The Wyatt Family also stood tall over both WWE champion Dean Ambrose & #1 contender Dolph Ziggler. Who knows where Bray fits into all of this, but as far as unpredictability goes, WWE seems to be hitting their stride.
(2) Revenge of The Beast. A major story-thread hanging over the entire show was fear of Brock Lesnar invading Smackdown and getting revenge on Randy Orton. Shane O’Mac & Daniel Bryan spent most of the night directing security forces around the arena, on the lookout for The Beast. In addition to being stronger than most men, Brock Lesnar must also be a master of stealth. Successfully evading security, Lesnar eventually crashed Smackdown Live and Randy Orton’s match with Fandango. He came looking for revenge and he got it; delivering an F-5 on the Viper to even the score. Much like Raw last night, this was an exciting segment, continuing the brand invasion. Lesnar getting revenge on Orton was necessary for the good of his character, but it also devalues the whole point of the brand extension. Keeping these two away from each other and on separate shows is what will make the match itself more special. If things are left as is, it’s an interesting twist in the story, but if this type of thing becomes a regular occurrence, it might cause some worry to those who see the potential of this brand extension.
(3) Ready, Willing, and Gable. This week marked the much-anticipated main roster debut of American Alpha. They showed off their impressive wrestling skills in a short match against the Vaudevillians. The biggest takeaway from this match wasn’t the great ring work, though, but the difference between the reaction they got coming in compared to the win. Coming out to the stage for the first time, they definitely got a lackluster pop for their debut; there must not have been a lot of NXT fans in the crowd. However, by the time the match was over, the crowd was absolutely on their side. Just a few minutes on Smackdown has already gained them new fans, and the sky is the limit for these amazingly talented Superstars.