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Kevin and Sami’s Punishment Continues…
Recap: The show led off with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn coming to the ring (to a decent crowd pop). In the ring, the pair compared themselves to earlier WWE figures that have been subject to McMahon vendettas, such as Bret Hart and Steve Austin, but were quick to add how superior they are to those that came before. Kevin and Sami portrayed Randy Orton as a tool of the McMahons. Sami then gave a gloating explanation of where “ringside” begins and ends to bolster his claim that he did not violate his ringside ban last week. The gloating was interrupted by an RKO out of nowhere. Shane then set Randy Orton and a partner of his choosing against Kevin and Sami at Clash of Champions. He also set Sami Zayn vs Randy Orton for tonight, with Kevin Owens to be handcuffed to the ring rope.
Kevin Owens appealed being handcuffed to Daniel Bryan, however after some thought Bryan decided to let the match proceed as planned. During the match, Sami Zayn pulled bolt cutters from under the ring, which Kevin Owens eventually used to free himself. It was not enough, however, as Orton rolled up Zayn for the pin. Owens and Zayn attacked Orton after the match, however Orton was rescued by Shinsuke Nakamura. Orton and Nakamura delivered RKOs and Kinshasas to the heels.
Backstage after the match, Daniel Bryan attempted to confirm that Shane was done punishing Owens and Zayn. Shane indicated that he wasn’t done, adding himself as special guest referee for their match at Clash of Champions. He also added a stipulation that if Owens and Zayn lose, they are fired not only from SmackDown, but from all of WWE.
Evaluation: Sami’s heel character continued to be great, as his technical nitpicking at the top of the show regarding the definition of “ringside” was perfect.
Overall, though, Shane is coming across as overly vindictive. This not only is making him out to be the heel in his brewing conflict with Daniel Bryan, but is also engendering sympathy for Owens and Zayn. I don’t think this is the reaction WWE wants.
As often happens in WWE, the heel (Zayn in this case) found exactly the tool he needed (bolt cutters in this case) in the exact spot he first checked under the ring. Since the handcuffing stipulation wasn’t decided until after the show began, it would be nice if we found out next week how Zayn schemed to get bolt cutters under the ring exactly where he needed them. Being that this is WWE, I doubt we’ll get that logical consistency.
Speaking of logical consistency, it would have been nice if Shane explained how he was able to ban Owens and Zayn from not only Smackdown, but also Raw. A simple statement like,”I spoke to my sister, and due to Owens’ prior actions against our father, we put our differences aside on this one…” would have sufficed.
As soon as Shane announced Orton having a mystery partner for Clash of Champions, it was pretty obvious that Nakamura would appear. They’ve teamed before recently, and Nakamura was one of the only guys with no match or ongoing storyline going into Clash of Champions.
Forecast: I hope that when the Shane-Bryan feud to comes to a head, WWE realizes that they’ve boxed themselves into Shane taking on the heel role. His vindictiveness, his pleasure in the pain of Owens and Zayn, and the overall popularity of Daniel Bryan will make Shane fail in the face role.
Nakamura continues to be an afterthought. Hopefully he’ll get a real storyline after Clash of Champions.
All the Women are Thrown Together Yet Again…
Recap: Backstage, Carmella lobbied Daniel Bryan for a title shot, as Lana lobbied on behalf of Tamina for the same. The Riott Squad then appeared, demanding to know why none of them were in the title match at Clash of Champions. Bryan tired of their bickering and made all six of them lumberjacks for the Charlotte-Natalya title match at Clash of Champions.
Later backstage, Natalya attempted to curry favor with lumberjacks Carmella, Tamina, and Lana, reminding them of their prior alliance against Charlotte as the Welcoming Committee. The Riott Squad then appeared, and Natalya likewise sucked up to them, referring to them as the most powerful women in WWE.
After Charlotte defeated Tamina with the Figure 8, the old Welcoming Committee approached the apron while Natalya trash talked Charlotte. The Riott Squad then came to ringside. Tamina and Sarah Logan then tangled, only to be separated by their respective stables.
Evaluation: With the introduction of new women on Raw and SmackDown, my hope was that WWE would develop multiple concurrent women’s storylines rather than feeling the need to throw everyone into multi-person matches just to get all of the women on TV. Unfortunately, it appears that even with three new women, they’ll be throwing everyone into the title match at Clash of Champions. At least they’re being thrown in as lumberjacks instead of the match becoming a Fatal 4/5/6 Way.
It’s a small thing, but I did chuckle when it was revealed that Carmella has named her Money in the Bank Contract “Frankie”.
Forecast: Hopefully, there will be a series of ringside scuffles among different women at Clash of Champions which will then be used to branch the women off into separate storylines going forward from the pay per view.
Every Day is Rusev Day…
Recap: During their pre-match promo, Rusev revealed a “Every Day is Rusev Day” shirt (to a crowd pop), while Aiden English sang “The 12 Days of Rusev”. Rusev and English then defeated the New Day. During the match, Corey Graves claimed that 12% of 2017 births in Bulgaria were named “Rusev”. Due to their victory, English and Rusev were added to the tag team title match at Clash of Champions.
Evaluation: While Clash of Champions has far too many multi-way matches, I do like the idea of Rusev and English as a tag team. They have good comedic chemistry, and the Rusev Day gimmick is over.
Forecast: Rusev hadn’t been getting much use as a singles wrestler, so a run in the tag team division with English should be good for him. Hopefully this pairing continues past Clash of Champions and gets some traction.
Mojo Rawley showed good intensity in his backstage promo, and seems to have made a hard break from his happy go lucky face character. At least on the mic, he seems to have what it takes to be a heel so far….
Mojo made an interesting choice to mention that Gronk was displeased with his recent turn. Considering Gronkowski’s real-life heelish actions this past week, maybe he should’ve said that Gronkowksi was fully on board with Mojo’s new outlook….
Bobby Roode and Baron Corbin both made the exceedingly common WWE math error of claiming that adding a third person to a match reduces the odds of winning to 1 in 3, as if the match results were totally random and unaffected by the skill of the competitors themselves….
There was barely anything about the AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal title match tonight. Neither of them appeared on TV; there was only a recap video package. We’ll have to wait longer to see if the split between Mahal and the Singhs is permanent…
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – SMACKDOWN: Shane vs. Bryan heats up, Women’s Invasion continues, Jinder attacks Singhs, plus Random Thoughts