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8/16 WWE Smackdown Instant Reaction – Three-Pack Edition
In the spirit of PWTorch contributor Ben Tucker’s “Instant Reaction” series, we present a three-pack of takeaways from Tuesday’s Smackdown from PWTorch staff, contributors, and correspondents.
Brandon LeClair, PWTorch correspondent
(1) Time Is On Their Side. Four weeks in, and one thing has become abundantly clear: Smackdown holds an inherent advantage as a two-hour show. All things considered, if both shows are relatively equal on any given week, I’m likely going to give Smackdown the edge coming out, simply because its running time avoids that sinking drag that Raw seems to (almost) always hit right around the start of the third hour. Tonight was no exception. Smackdown was largely uneventful, but it was well-paced and void of filler, making it feel more substantial while producing less content.
(2) Where’s the Intercontinental Championship? One of my biggest points of interest coming into post-draft Smackdown was the focus on the Intercontinental Championship, and Miz’s continued run as the champion. Unfortunately, the title has been largely pushed to the side, and, at times, seemingly forgotten about. This feud with Apollo Crews (can you even call it a feud?) leading into Summerslam has been relegated to “during the break” recaps, failing entirely to elevate Apollo Crews despite having the perfect opportunity to do so. I was really looking forward to seeing The Miz try to bring something out of Apollo (in fact, I made note of that in an instant reaction two weeks ago), but thus far, he hasn’t even had a chance. Hopefully there’s some plans to give this program a boost post-Summerslam, which is, admittedly, quite crowded.
(3) The Not-So-Main Event. This was a recurring theme carried over from this week’s Raw. We’re seeing to many inconsequential, multi-segment main event matches that close the show on a thud. Neither Cena-Del Rio nor Reigns-Rusev were bad matches, but I had virtually no reason to want to see them on their respective nights, especially after looking at the clock and realizing how long they were likely to run. This has been a recurring problem in WWE for quite a while, one they were able to get away from in the first week of the Draft, but have since fallen back on quite heavily. Thankfully, the show-closing angle between Cena and Styles sent Smackdown home on a relatively high note leading into Summerslam.
Brandon LeClair, PWTorch correspondent
(1) Trading Wins. Raw left the door wide open for Smackdown to “get its win back,” so to speak, in Week 2 of the brand split. They did just that, putting on a consistently entertaining show that helped to define Smackdown’s new look and feel just a little bit more. While far from perfect, the show benefited from settling into a groove after last week’s frantically paced, undercooked premiere.
(2) The Dolph Ziggler Experiment. Last week, I said that Dolph would have to undergo some serious rehabilitation in order to be taken seriously as a WWE Championship contender. Tonight’s show was a solid start to that project. Dean Ambrose laid out Dolph’s plight to start the show, and something about hearing it acknowledged on the product helped me believe that maybe they were going to take this whole thing seriously. Thankfully, my hunch hadn’t changed by the end of the night. While I wasn’t a fan of the Wyatt’s revenge post match (too much 50/50 for my liking – I understand that they want to keep Bray strong, but they committed to Dolph and that needs to be the priority), Dolph showed some edge when necessary and got a big main event win that should help his cause.
(3) Raising Apollo Crews (or is it Creed?). Joking aside, I liked the decision to go with Apollo as The Miz’s next challenger. Miz and Maryse have been so effective as of late, and I’d like to see them really try to draw some personality out of Apollo, who is in desperate need of something beyond a nice smile. This is a good spot for Apollo, and a nice undercard match for Summerslam.
Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles specialist
(1) Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose show good fire. Some of the content was too “insider” and Dolph flubbed a couple lines, but overall both guys were believable and felt authentic. They didn’t feel like they were reading a writer’s lines, which unfortunately is a rarity.
(2) McMahon’s misshapen morals are intact. Top good guy John Cena ends the show by putting bad guy A.J. Styles through a table. Good guys Randy Orton, Shane McMahon, and Daniel Bryan bully the hapless loser Heath Slater. Is it any wonder Vince McMahon can’t get over a new top babyface? He doesn’t know how a good guy acts.
(3) The roster split is a failure so far. The recent ratings are proof of this. WWE has a champion of the universe and a champion of the world, and neither one matters as much as the disgraced UFC fighter who doesn’t have to pee in a WWE cup. Trying to watch five hours of weekly WWE programming was already a chore; WWE took a thin talent roster and has stretched it to the point of breaking. Add in two three-hour “live network specials” per month and supply is grossly exceeding demand. WWE has a big mess on its hands that can’t be fixed with last-minute re-writes.
Tyler Sabo, PWTorch correspondent
(1) Tag Teams. Tonight’s tag team action was good, but not what I want to see. I want to see individual tag teams pit up against each other, not just a giant match with 12 Superstars. I do not believe it gives anyone enough time to truly shine. I believe Smackdown Live has a great tag roster, and can make something great out of it.
(2) Eva Marie. I’ll be short and sweet on this one. No one cares about this rivalry with Becky Lynch or the rest of the Women’s roster, and the “Sorry, can’t wrestle tonight” thing was okay (not really) the first time, but for the what feels like millionth time, it’s stupid and dull.
(3) Heath Slater. Pretty hilarious segment tonight, but I truthfully hope Heath finally gets a place somewhere. I think he’d do best on the Smackdown Live brand, and he would be good comedic relief. But, he also has good in-ring talent that I do not believe should be wasted on this long-lasting and starting-to-get-old free agent thing.
Chris Wooten, PWTorch reader
(1) Why So Serious, Dolph? This week, Ziggler dawned his newly found no-nonsense persona, making a statement, superkick style, on the WWE Champion, Dean Ambrose. The opening segment pitted the two against each other in a verbal joust of wit on Miz TV, and it came across very organic. Ambrose’s character has evolved week after week, as he tiptoes the lines between babyface and heel almost gracefully. Dolph was full of emotion, and fire. He got so caught up in the moment, that he threw a “I wanna kick your head off your face!” line. I’ll give him a pass on that, but it does show a lack of composure when the spotlight shines on him. In this new era of the not-so-scripted, you gotta be able to roll with the punches and think on your feet. Dolph’s gotta learn some poise before he’ll be able to do that effectively. Considering that, I don’t see Ziggler winning this Sunday. Between the two, Dean is far and away more prepared to carry a segment, and lead the “blue brand” into the future, for now at least.
(2) Wyatt Family Feud. As if the Wyatt Family were unstable enough (being split apart by the Draft), Bray Wyatt teased a possible turn on his fellow “family member” Erick Rowan. Since the Draft, the Wyatts have been a fraction of what they were in numbers, and there seems to be no creative direction for Bray. From being thrown into the #1 contender’s match for the WWE Title to standing over both the Champion and #1 contender the next week, Bray had no presence in the title picture this week. It looks like WWE Creative are trying to keep him hot by placing him in various high-profile and dramatic angles until they can find a program for him to work in. They teased a possible Wyatt-Orton confrontation for the future, but you never know with teases; sometimes they follow up with those, sometimes not. Hopefully Bray will find his path, with or without his Family behind him.
(3) Tag Team Turmoil. Since the WWE Tag Team Championships (along with New Day) were drafted to Raw, Smackdown has made a noticeable effort to make up for that by showcasing all of their tag teams in the same segment together. There are some interesting teams here, including the Usos as former established champions who could use some character development, and The Ascension who were great in NXT, and could benefit by getting back to their roots. The problem with these segments/matches is that it reminds you just how bad these teams have already been hurt by bad booking in the past. As it stands, it’s hard to take any of these guys seriously except for American Alpha. You can’t fix all of them overnight, but given some time and attention, maybe some of these teams can turn it around. There might be a diamond in the rough that hasn’t had an opportunity to shine. That’s what the New Era’s all about right?