SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Miz vs. Styles: While I did not like the set up for this match during the poor opening segment (more later), the match itself was good. It went nearly 11 minutes and featured good wrestling action. It isn’t great to have a heel vs. heel match, but AJ Styles was getting more of a babyface reaction so it worked ok in this case as there was clearly one wrestler to get behind. He and The Miz worked well together and put on a good match before the expected non ending with John Cena getting involved.
Nikki and Natalya: I feel like this is maybe a guilty pleasure for me. But, maybe it should just be a pleasure and there isn’t anything guilty about it. Nikki Bella and Natalya are playing their parts well. The fans are responding positively to their feud. It was very cartoonish this week which is why it starts to move into that guilty pleasure zone, but I enjoyed it. It was fun how Natalya destroyed the merchandise booth. It is interesting how she is incorporating anger towards her family, particularly her uncle Bret Hart into this storyline. The brawl that ended the segment was well done. This has been good.
Bliss vs. Lynch: This was a pretty good steel cage match for the Women’s Title between Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch. There were a few off spots early on which unfortunately tend to happen in Bliss’ matches. But for the most past, the match was well executed. It was well booked in the typical WWE steel cage match way to have the heel try to escape through the door right away while the babyface is actually trying to fight to win the match. I would be happy if WWE did away with the escape the cage gimmick. At the very least, they should get rid of the door and make the wrestlers climb out of the cage. But given the established rules, this was well booked and fun to watch. But the ending left a lot to be desired considering the cage gimmick was set up to specifically keep La Luchadora from interfering and yet because of the stupid door, she was able to block Lynch from leaving and then easily gain access to the ring to kick her in the head. So, WWE is killing the gimmick by contradicting the point of the gimmick.
Opening Segment: Sometimes, it felt like WWE was trying to take all the bad things about Raw which they eliminated on that show this week, and apply them to Smackdown in order to make the fans who say Smackdown is the better show change their mind. That was the case with this overly long talking segment which kicked off the show. I was happy that we didn’t see an authority figure on Raw, but Smackdown started off with Shane McMahon. I know he gets a nice pop in the arenas, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’m not a fan of bringing back the Elimination Chamber between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. I advocate for no PPVs between Royal Rumble and WM, but I know that’s not going to happen. But, now they are doing two – one for each brand which is ridiculous. And while I did like the job that Styles did on the mic, it still wasn’t a good segment. We got more interruptions from Miz and Cena. We got too much talking. Cena acting like a buffoon going back and forth between Miz and Styles to stir the pot was bad. That’s the type of performance that got fans to start chanting “Cena Sucks!” in the first place. It just didn’t work for me.
Set Up For Ambrose vs. Orton: I laughed when Dean Ambrose tried to get a new Intercontinental Championship belt from Shane because it smelled funny and was sticky. That was fine. But when he asked for a match against Randy Orton because of his problems with the Wyatt Family, I asked myself “what problems with the Wyatt Family?” I was trying to recall an encounter that they had last week or the week before, but I couldn’t. I honestly was confused as to what they were talking about. Then right before their match, they showed a video of them fighting like a month ago. Did Ambrose just wake up Tuesday morning and remember getting beat up a month ago and decide to ask for a match? This felt too random. It was like they needed an opponent for Orton to continue his tension with Luke Harper. They also needed something for Ambrose to do since they had something else going on with Miz, so they just stuck them in a match and then worked backwards to a month old incident. It was weak.
Orton vs. Ambrose: The match itself wasn’t much better. A match between Ambrose and Orton should feel more important than this. It wasn’t for the IC Title. It was more of a backdrop for the Orton vs. Harper tension than a match between two top wrestlers on the Smackdown brand. It was slow. It was boring at times. They failed in their performances to draw me into the match which I wasn’t interested in. They could have had a much better match where I would gain interest as it went based on their performance. That didn’t happen here. And then you end up getting a roll up victory for Ambrose after some lame distraction by Harper.
King’s Court: Based on Jerry “the King” Lawler’s performance on this King’s Court, I would say there is potential value to having these segments moving forward. He was very good here in trying to interview Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler was better than he has been lately in his more toned down presentation without all the yelling he’s been doing. But, the segment didn’t work. Bringing up Lawler’s heart attack was uncomfortable. I don’t like exploiting that real life very scary moment just to get over Ziggler’s new heel character. I know Lawler signed off on it, but still. It was forced. And this whole segment doesn’t lead to anything. We aren’t going to get a Lawler vs. Ziggler match (and thank God for that). This didn’t advance a possible feud between Ziggler and Apollo Crews. The only person to come to King’s aid was John Bradshaw Layfield who is a terrible bully with an inconsistent heel character which this played into. And, he isn’t going to wrestle Ziggler either. So, what did this accomplish? Not much. And on an aside, while David Otunga has been better lately, he should NOT have made fun of JBL tripping while trying to get out from behind the desk to get in the ring. They should have ignored that.
Mickie James Reveal: I will start by saying that I was happy to see Mickie James return to WWE at the last NXT Takeover special against Asuka. I was hoping it would lead to a bigger role on the main roster and it has. And I don’t mind her being La Luchadora although it wouldn’t have been my first choice for reintroducing her to the WWE Universe. But this particular reveal wasn’t good. Part of it is that La Luchadora hasn’t been around on long enough. It would have worked better with more appearances from her and more failed attempts by Lynch to unmask her. Drag it out a little while longer. Also, James has been gone from WWE for a long time. There are newer fans who don’t know her. And even long time fans need a bit of a reminder about her to get excited about her return. I’m not sure this gimmick is a great way to go for any returning or debuting wrestler as opposed to having someone on the main roster already.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE: SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES 1/10: Ambrose Asylum, JBL tearing into Lunde, Corbin loses, Natalya-Nikki, Kalisto-Ziggler-Crews, Tag Title match
OR CHECK OUT JASON POWELL’S HITLIST ARTICLES HERE.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Act now and become my 68th Twitter follower@JonMezzera (pretty clever handle right?). Just be aware that I don’t live tweet Raw, I don’t tweet much about wrestling, and I don’t tweet much at all.