SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
New Day – HIT: I didn’t like how New Day came to the ring, like their old selves, throwing pancakes to the crowd. After they got into the ring and started talking, they were much better. I like serious New Day. Xavier Woods and Big E were strong on the mic. The idea that they were considering quitting over the way Kofi Kingston has been treated set up an intriguing hook to find out what would happen when they confronted Vince McMahon. Daniel Bryan was also good in the opening segment. I laughed at his suggestion of calling up three NXT wrestlers to form Fresh Afternoon who could throw waffles to the crowd. But, I didn’t like how he shut up when Vince yelled at everyone to shut up. That makes Vince the alpha and everyone else look like children. Vince wasn’t good. His announcement about New Day having to run the Gauntlet in order to get Kofi his WWE Title match at WrestleMania fell flat. It was eye rolling. Plus, it makes no sense that Vince would keep giving chances to Fofi if he didn’t want him in the match. So, I can’t give the opening segment as a whole a Hit, but New Day’s role in it certainly was.
Charlotte vs. Asuka – HIT: This Hit is for the quality of the match itself. Charlotte Flair and Asuka put on a very good match. This match would have been perfectly fine at WM. This should have happened there, not here. This Smackdown Women’s Title match would have felt in place on the biggest card of the year, and with a proper build, the fans would have been excited to see it. And if Charlotte and Asuka performed as well as they did here, and put on this high quality of a match, the fans would have been happy to see it.
Women’s Title Change – MISS: As I said, this match shouldn’t have happened on this Smackdown. There was no build to it. There was no storyline explanation for it. I appreciate the fact that the announcers questioned why Charlotte was getting the Title match, but there should eventually have been an explanation. The other thing is that Charlotte seemed to be getting this Title match as an answer to Becky Lynch’s question about what she is bringing to the WM main event. She even said on her way to the ring that she was going to show why she was deserving of being in the main event. But, that was right after Becky’s interview where she asked the question. So, there is no way that Charlotte could have answered that question by getting a Title shot. This match wasn’t going to happen if Charlotte wasn’t going to win, so the outcome of this match was very predictable. This turned out to be a very disappointing Title reign for Asuka. The WM main event didn’t need another Title. This felt like a last minute decision. I hated this Title change.
Angle vs. Styles – HIT: I may be in the minority, but I don’t care if WWE announced this match ahead of time and then didn’t deliver on it. I don’t care that this was the advertised final match for Kurt Angle on Smackdown ever. I don’t want to see Angle wrestle. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing him in the ring with AJ Styles. This gave WWE a chance to get Angle on the show, while at least doing something to advance the storyline between Randy Orton and Styles which had a great moment a few weeks back, but nothing since then. Angle did stand tall to end the segment, but Orton got some heat for ruining the match. So, I was good with this.
Mysterio & Dominic – MISS: WWE has done a terrible job of building up the United States Championship match at WM. I don’t understand why Rey Mysterio’s son Dominic has suddenly been inserted into the storyline. I’m assuming something will happen with him and Samoa Joe on the final Smackdown before WM to put heat on the match, but the introduction of Dominic has been odd so far. I don’t know that enough has been done to connect him with the audience to make some type of attack by Joe next week feel like a big deal. The two long gauntlets have hurt WWE’s own ability to build to other WM matches, and this is an example of them not having the time to fully invest in this match.
Miz – Shane – HIT: The Miz continues to do a nice job of coming across as a babyface, without totally reinventing himself as a character. It has been a pretty believable switch. The same can also be said about Shane McMahon becoming a believable heel. I don’t care about a Falls Count Anywhere stipulation being added to their match. I don’t want to see the match. But, the physicality at the end of the segment did help sell the idea. I didn’t buy Miz as the type of badass babyface who could easily fight off a group of security guards and five wrestlers to try to get his hands on Shane. However, the announcers did a great job of selling it in terms of showing how Miz’s anger at Shane is pushing him to do things that he wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do. They actually added to the segment for a change by making what Miz did more believable.
The Gauntlet – MISS: Like last week’s gauntlet, there were positives and negatives to this week’s. The idea behind it didn’t make sense. If Vince wanted Kofi to prove himself as being above a B+ player, how would this help? The idea that the rest of New Day ended up winning Kofi’s spot at WM is a let down. This gauntlet did nothing for Gallows & Anderson who jobbed out in a minute. The next two matches were good with Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev followed by The Bar taking on New Day. Those matches featured good wrestling action and didn’t feel like such a burial to me. But, after the Bar lost and attacked them and put Big E through the table, the announcers talked about how long New Day had been in the match, but it wasn’t that long. And the fact that there are two of them made it even less special. It didn’t have the same feel like last week when it was Kofi on his own in the ring for 30, then 40, then 50 minutes. Like last week, it was good to have the babyfaces watching in the back, rooting on New Day along with Kofi. But, what was Asuka doing there? She should not have been celebrating like that right after losing the Women’s Title. Why wouldn’t Vince put the Hardy’s in the match? I know that would have made them look bad, but that’s a behind-the-scenes answer. What is the in-front-of-the-scenes answer? I loved that the Usos forfeited. It made perfect sense given their characters and their long history of respect for New Day. That was the best part of this. Will they be punished next week? Having New Day beat Rowan & Bryan in the end did make sense. But, they couldn’t have Bryan take the loss. And for whatever reason, they decided to protect Rowan to make it a count out victory. That felt so anti-climactic to me. The celebration at the end was a nice touch, but I’m still waiting for the other shoe to fall. The interview with Vince at the very end didn’t really work. I’m still not totally convinced that Kofi is officially facing Daniel Bryan for the WWE Title at WM.
For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section 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 email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMezzera.