KELLER INTERVIEWS ROB VAN DAM FOR FIRST TIME...
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Opening Segment – MISS: Roman Reigns is supposed to be one of the alpha wrestlers in WWE. It is fine to start him out on Smackdown in a feud against a lower card wrestler like Elias. Elias is over with the crowd. Reigns doesn’t have to be in a main event program right away. In fact, he shouldn’t. So, I’m ok with that. It is the Shane McMahon part that I don’t like. This opening segment became a Miss the moment that Shane made it clear that he is the alpha in the situation by ordering Reigns to the ring. WWE always sends the message that the McMahon family are the stars of the show and everyone else is beneath them. Having Reigns of all people come out like a dog (not the Big Dog) when his master calls was a terrible look. Moving past that, WWE hadn’t finished the story of Shane vs. The Miz, but appeared to just move past that this week to Shane vs. Reigns. That is poor storytelling.
Balor vs. Andrade – MISS: I appreciate the fact that WWE gave Andrade and Zalina Vega a mission statement. I thought they were about to tell a story about how Andrade ended up back on Smackdown after being moved to Raw last week. Vega talked about Balor running away from Andrade which made no sense given the wrestlers have no power in the Shakeup. I thought she would say that they had gone to the McMahons and requested a move back to Smackdown since Andrade deserved an Intercontinental Championship match, but she never connected those dots. Moving on to the match itself, it was good for the most part. The issue is that Vega is presented as a major asset to Andrade. They went to the trouble of showing how she had helped Andrade beat Finn Balor the previous week. I don’t understand why they would book her to be an asset one week and a total idiot who cost Andrade a match the next. There was no way she could think she could attack Balor in the middle of the ring without causing a disqualification. That made her look so stupid. This was also a case of WWE’s 50-50 booking where Andrade can’t get momentum, because they can’t have Balor lose again.
Sane vs. Royce – MISS: I chuckled at the IIconics using dehydration as an excuse for their loss the previous week, but Payton Royce had drunk a gallon of water in preparation for this match against Kairi Sane, only to have Billy Kaye question her needing to drink that much water. That was amusing. The problem is that the Women’s Tag Team Champions are jokes. I don’t mind that the IIconics are jokes. I mind that the Women’s Tag Team Champions are jokes. They have lost every match that they’ve been in since winning the Titles at WrestleMania. I said at the time that it was a mistake to take the Titles off of Bayley & Banks who hadn’t had them long enough to fully establish them as something important. Now you have the Champions looking like losers on Raw to Naomi who doesn’t have a partner and to Sane & Asuka on Smackdown who look to be more likely to feud with Amber Rose & Sonya Deville next. So now, the Champs are losers who don’t have a clear challenger.
Aleister Black – HIT: I didn’t really understand everything that Aleister Black said in his sit down promo, but I think that was part of the point. This felt like the first page of a long novel where we have to get through the entire book to understand the plot. And that’s ok. WWE isn’t great at that sort of thing, but I am hopeful that they will tell a compelling backstory for Black. He is very talented in the ring. He certainly was over in NXT and he and Ricochet got over just on their in ring work as a team on the main roster. But, he does have a character that is different from most wrestlers. His character can help him connect with the fans even more. It is great to see WWE actually have a new wrestler introduce himself like this. I look forward to seeing more of these in the upcoming weeks.
Lars Sullivan – HIT: I didn’t need to see Jinder Mahal vs. Chad Gable. It isn’t a fresh match up. Why WWE puts two new Smackdown wrestlers against each other like this is beyond me. The point of the Shakeup is to get new match ups, not old match ups on new nights. They’ve done things like that after every Shakeup. So, I was ok that this match didn’t happen. Lars Sullivan has been impressive so far. He plays his character well. It would be nice to see Gable get a better reintroduction on Smackdown. But, this worked to continue to build Sullivan up as an unstoppable monster. The R-Truth attempted save worked well too.
Charlotte – Becky – Bayley – HIT: This was a good segment that started with Charlotte Flair coming out to claim her rightful place as Becky Lynch’s challenger for the Smackdown Women’s Title. Charlotte plays the entitled Queen perfectly. I loved when Becky asked her why she should be at the front of the line and Charlotte answered “because I say so.” The back and forth between them was strong. Becky was good in talking about the are others who deserve a shot first. Bayley was better here than she’s been in a long time. She certainly seems to be more serious and less huggy now which is good. She had a much needed edge. She actually got a good babyface reaction. The segment effectively set up the #1 contender match that followed.
Charlotte vs. Bayley – HIT: I would have preferred seeing Bayley win this match as it would be nice to see something new. It is kind of silly to have Bayley make a big point about how Becky vs. Charlotte is a rerun, teasing the fans that they wouldn’t have to see that rerun, only to go ahead and run the rerun. However, this was a very good match. These are two talented wrestlers who we haven’t seen against each other in awhile and it was fun to watch. It was good that if Charlotte has to be Becky’s next challenger that at least she earned it here.
Owens Turns on New Day – HIT: It felt like this was inevitable, but there was a chance that Big E might come back and turn heel, because he was upset that Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods would replace him with Kevin Owens. So, maybe it wasn’t inevitable? Either way, I didn’t expect it to come so soon. He did a great job of acting sincere in his support of New Day. He was fun on guest commentary during Kofi’s match against Shinsuke Nakamura. That match was fine, but it was just a set up for the Owens heel turn. The execution of this was very strong with Kofi actually saving Owens right before Owens kicked him. The beat down that followed on Kofi and Woods was well done. Owens hasn’t been a babyface for long enough for this to have as much impact as it should, but it was likely done due to an injury to Daniel Bryan. They need a strong heel challenger for Kofi’s WWE Title and this worked well to set Owens up as that challenger.
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