SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
ORTON GIVES HIS MOTIVATION…
Recap: At the top of the show, Randy Orton came to the ring to address the fans. He said that his attack on Jeff Hardy last week wasn’t driven by Jeff Hardy, but rather the fans. Orton blamed the fans for not respecting him despite him working his “butt off” for 16 years. He wondered aloud if the reason he wasn’t respected was because unlike others he shows up all year long rather than just during WrestleMania season, or because he doesn’t change the color of his t-shirts once a month to steal money from the fans (clear references to John Cena).
He continued to question the fans, asking if they didn’t like him because he doesn’t risk his body with death defying stunts, didn’t come through indie bingo halls, and didn’t steal a hand gesture (as he made the Bullet Club “Too Sweet” gesture with his hand).
Orton called the fans the true Legend Killers, and vowed to destroy every wrestler they put on a pedestal, starting with Jeff Hardy.
Evaluation: This was the least bland Randy Orton has been in a while. I liked the promo a lot. The criticism of indie wrestling and Bullet Club reference helped to get him heat with the more passionate fans. On the other hand, the thinly veiled criticisms of John Cena probably weren’t the best idea for heel heat. Cena is controversial enough as it is, and Orton actually highlighted many fans’ most common criticisms of his.
Considering the character being setup here, it is an odd choice to begin with a feud against Jeff Hardy, who is perceived as a “WWE guy” similar to Orton moreso than an indie wrestler. This seemed to work tonight nonetheless.
Forecast: My hope here is that this new Orton heel character continues to be put into feuds with fan favorites after Jeff Hardy. Feuds with “indie darlings” would be particularly effective for this character due to Orton’s biting comments and lack of independent background. So far, this has gotten more more interested in Randy Orton than I have been in some time.
JOE VS AJ AT SUMMERSLAM…
Recap: At the top of the second hour, Paige was in the ring for the WWE Title defense at SummerSlam. She first called out AJ Styles, who after some platitudes about the Evolution PPV event, quickly signed the contract.
Before Paige could announce his opponent, James Ellsworth came to the ring, claiming he deserved the title shot due to his previous wins over AJ. Paige dismissed him as a joke. Ellsworth responded by mocking Paige’s pale complexion. Paige had enough and fired him. She called security to remove him, and followed security as they carried him to the door. Security dropped him and Paige literally kicked him out of the building.
In all of the Ellsworth hubub, AJ didn’t notice Samoa Joe sneaking up behind him. Joe caught him in the Coquina Clutch, signed the contract, and left.
Later backstage, Paige chastised Joe, but Joe responded that his way of announcing the match was “phenomenal.”
Evaluation: This was straightforward and there was nothing to complain about. Joe came across as a tough heel willing to do anything to win, and AJ came across as the classic all-American face.
Forecast: With the lack of faces on SmackDown, it would be tough to have the title on a heel champion right now. As a result, I expect AJ to retain at SummerSlam.
CARMELLA VS BECKY LYNCH AT SUMMERSLAM…
Recap: After Ellsworth was fired, Carmella approached Paige backstage to tell her that her power had gone to her head. Carmella guaranteed she would hold the title all the way until the Evolution PPV.
In a mostly uneventful match, Becky Lynch defeated Carmella with the Disarm-her, earning the Number One Contender slot for SummerSlam. Corey Graves focused on a supposedly slow count on an earlier pin attempt by Carmella, claiming Carmella to be the rightful winner.
Evaluation: Nothing tonight was anything special, but in general the storyline of Becky racking up wins in coming back from a prior string of losses has been a good one. It culminated tonight with Becky earning her title shot.
Forecast: Having Becky Lynch as champion serves a dual purpose for the Evolution PPV: it upgrades the quality of the SmackDown Women’s Title match and also provides a feel good story for the fans. I predict she wins the title from Carmella at SummerSlam.
The coming Rusev Day breakup is one where nobody gets stronger and everyone gets weaker. Rusev loses a popular part of his act, and Aiden English will revert to being a nobody….
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – SMACKDOWN 7/17: Becky Looking Like Number One Contender, Funeral for Team Hell No, Orton Goes Crazy