SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Corbin Beats Down Zayn: After Sami Zayn got a surprise quick win in under a minute over Baron Corbin, Corbin responded by beating the crap out of Zayn. While I did not like the opening segment (more later), I did like how Zayn pointed out that he didn’t get a fluke win over Corbin at Backlash, but kicked him in the face and pinned him in the middle of the ring. Here he did get a fluke win, but it worked in the context of what they are doing with these two. The beating afterwards was well done and physical. It fit in perfectly with Corbin’s character. It continued to show Zayn as a physical underdog who will now have another reason to want revenge on Corbin.
Breezango vs. The Usos: I didn’t like seeing Tyler Breeze defeat Jey Uso with a quick roll up considering it was the same exact ending as Zayn vs. Corbin. They followed up by having Fandango defeat Jimmy Uso right away with a roll up. Those two quick wins worked fine, but would have been better without Zayn vs. Corbin earlier on the show. This led to the impromptu Tag Team Championship match. I liked the detail of the referee calling to the back to get clearance for the match to make it legit. That is a simple thing to add some reality to the situation which worked well. The match that followed was a good 7 minute Tag Team Title match. They did away with most of the silly humor at that point. While that humor in their match at Backlash was hit or miss, the actual wrestling was strong and it was good to see more of it here. The ending was strong with the Usos retaining their Titles.
Nakamura & Styles vs. Owens & Ziggler: I have issues with WWE normalizing Shinsuke Nakamura. Having him in a tag match like this without advanced hype makes him seem like every other wrestler on the roster. At least he was in the same category as AJ Styles and Kevin Owens who are the top two wrestlers on the brand as far as I’m concerned. I’ll talk more about Nakamura later, so for now I will say that despite my reservations, I did enjoy this tag team main event. It went over 25 minutes and was very strong. It was pretty formulaic, but well executed within that formula. Nakamura did get to show off his signature spots, but I wish he wasn’t selling as much as he is. He should be more of a badass. But in the end, it was nice to see him getting the three count over Owens to possibly set up a United States Championship match down the line which I certainly would pay to see.
Opening Segment: Part of the problem with the original brand split was there was often a feeling of repetition between Raw and Smackdown. That continues to be a problem with the new brand split. So we get a segment on Raw a few weeks ago where the authority figure, Kurt Angle comes out to announce the five wresters who will be in the Fatal Five Way Extreme Rules match to determine the #1 contender for the Universal Championship. Now on Smackdown we get the authority figure, Shane McMahon coming out to announce the five wrestlers who will be in the Money in the Bank Ladder match. You get all those wrestlers coming out to talk about it. None of them stood out other than Kevin Owens who wasn’t one of the five. It was lame that he wasn’t part of it to begin with. A heel like Owens shouldn’t be able to logically show why the babyface authority figure treated him unfairly as he did here to get added as the sixth man. It made Shane look stupid for not having him in the match to begin with. And having Shinsuke Nakamura standing in the ring with five other wrestlers and Shane standing around and talking makes him seem too normal. He is special. But, WWE is doing a great job of bringing him down to the likes of Dolph Ziggler which is a shame.
Jinder’s Celebration: I thoroughly enjoyed the dancers who started out Jinder Mahal’s Championship celebration (check out the Maritime Bhangra Group on Youtube for some great Sikh dancing). Why should I boo that? It was a great show. I continue to feel that in addition to Mahal not being ready for this position, nor being good enough for it, the writers aren’t doing him any favors by going to this lame anti-USA character. And if the real goal is to get a stronger foothold in India, why have such a despicable character representing 1.3 billion people? Not that 1.3 billion people were actually celebrating the way that Mahal and JBL claimed. In fact, I’d say a very small percentage of them know anything about what is going on. But, do they really want a heel as their national hero? Would Indians really be happy about seeing this guy as their representative? I just don’t get this at all. He isn’t good. I tweeted on Sunday that he only has one facial expression which I called roid rage. It was a joke, but it is based on reality. Even when he is celebrating, he looks super angry. He has no range. His promos are not strong. His in ring work is solid, but rudimentary. People compare him to JBL in terms of someone coming out of nowhere to win the WWE Championship, but let’s not forget that JBL was a multi-time Tag Team Champion. The APA were around as a popular tag team for several years before that. He had won the European Championship and the Hardcore Championship, neither of which meant much, but were more that Mahal has done. He was involved in angles and matches with guys like the Hardys, Edge & Christian, Undertaker, Kane, the New Age Outlaws, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. So, stop the JBL comparison. JBL was far ahead of Mahal in terms of time in the company, kayfabe success, and being over with the crowd. He also had the break up with Ron Simmons right before getting that big push and a major overhaul of his character going for him. Mahal has none of those things. He has nothing to deserve this opportunity.
Women and Shane: I did not like this backstage scene with the five women who aren’t Women’s Champion Naomi barging into Shane McMahon’s office one at a time to demand a Title opportunity. It was a shorter version of what WWE often does with longer in ring segments like this, so at least it didn’t last too long. But it made whatever the women have done recently seem totally meaningless. It doesn’t matter who has won what match recently if the entire division is being put into a #1 contenders match. And what is up with all the fatal five ways recently?
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES 5/16: Styles vs. Mahal, Six-Woman Tag Match Contract Signing, Corbin jumps Zayn, Usos-Breezango