SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – HIT: Smackdown got off to a good start with the opening promo from Kevin Owens. It was interesting to hear him say that he wasn’t the one who attacked Big E last week. It raises some different possibilities to see where WWE is going to go with the story. Owens gave a good performance. Kofi Kingston was also good in his interruption. I wish he would stop the pancake bit at this point. It seems beneath the WWE Champion. But, otherwise he was good. It set up the idea that Owens was going to try to hurt Kingston in their match so that when Dolph Ziggler beats him for the Title at Super Showdown, Owens would be able to take credit for it.
Kingston vs. Owens – HIT: The match that followed was also very good. Kingston has been built up into the Champion who takes all sorts of punishment only to find a way to win in the end. That is a formula that can work, as long as it doesn’t go into the Super Cena realm. The match went 17 minutes with two commercial breaks, but we still got to see a good amount of wrestling action. There were some believable near falls as it built to Kofi hitting the Trouble in Paradise for the win. WWE has done a great job of protecting that move since WrestleMania.
Bryan & Rowan – Heavy Machinery – MISS: AEW doesn’t have as much talent in terms of sheer volume as WWE when you look at the rosters of Raw, Smackdown, 205 Live, NXT and NXT UK. The way that AEW is going to be better is how they have that talent concentrated and not stretched out, and more importantly, how they use the talent. I have no doubt that their tag team division is going to be better than WWE, but that isn’t because WWE can’t have a great tag team division (when healthy between those shows they have The Usos, Revival, The Bar, New Day, Gallows & Anderson, Viking Raiders, Mustache Mountain, Fish & O’Reilly, AOP, The Hardys) . They just don’t have a good division on purpose it seems. Notice Heavy Machinery wasn’t on that list. They are a solid team, but I wouldn’t put them in the top 10 potential teams in the company. It feels like Daniel Bryan is getting punished for some reason after being in the best match at WM in the WWE Title match. He went from that to the pre-show of Money in the Bank in a tag match with Rowan. They are the Tag Team Champions, but that still feels like a major demotion. The idea that Heavy Machinery is their first big challengers for the Titles is not great, but WWE doesn’t have a better option on Smackdown right now.
Shane McMahon Appreciation Night – MISS: I get that the point of this segment was to make the fans upset at Shane McMahon for honoring himself with his own appreciation night. From that stand point, it worked I suppose. But, I am so over the heel authority figure gimmick. My biggest concern about AEW is that Brandi Rhodes is going to play a heel authority figure. We saw a little of that at Double Or Nothing when she added Awesome Kong to the triple threat match and constantly interfered for Cody in his match against Dustin. I want something new and different from WWE. I don’t want to see authority figures taking up so much time. If they do, I don’t want them to be heels. I don’t want them to wrestle. It is frustrating watching Shane do his heel schtick with a long video package. The interruption by R-Truth as part of the 24/7 bit wasn’t good. It was predictable what would happen at that point and at the very end of the show. The whole segment came across as a waste of time. Here are some of the Smackdown wrestlers who were not on because we got so much of Shane and the 24/7 silliness: Ali, Asuka, Buddy Murphy, Chad Gable, Kairi Sane, Mickie James, Rusev, Sheamus, and Shinsuke Nakamura. Some of them may be hurt and I haven’t heard, but when you throw in a few like Andrade who were barely on, there was a lot of talent who were underutilized this week.
Bayley vs. Evans – HIT: This was a good match between Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley and Lacey Evans. Bayley is showing more of an edge which is good. I don’t think the old hugger Bayley would have attacked Charlotte Flair at the announce table like she did. I was convinced that Evans was going to win, so it was good to see WWE protect their new Champion with the win. However, they want to protect Evans who is the top challenger for Becky Lynch’s Raw Women’s Title (part of the problem with the Wildcard Rule is that you shouldn’t have to be protecting Bayley at the expense of Evans). That’s how we end up with Charlotte accidentally distracting the ref helping Bayley win the match. The physicality between Charlotte and Evans afterwards seemed to come too quickly into their relatively new alliance.
Triple H vs. Orton Video – MISS: Under other circumstances, this would be a good video. WWE does a nice job with these videos hyping matches. It told the long history between Triple H and Randy Orton. But, the match is totally cold. There is no reason why it is happening at all, other than the fact that the Saudi prince wants to see legacy stars facing each other. So, WWE gives him this match which means nothing at this point. It feels like it is outside of the actual WWE storylines. It is not a selling point for people, so why waste time hyping it at all? It is part of why the Super Showdown will be “equal to or better than WrestleMania.” But it isn’t nearly as big as Triple H vs. Batista. And you can’t call a show equal to or better than WM if you don’t have The Man on it, or any other woman.
Reigns & Truth vs. Elias & McIntyre – MISS: This was just sort of a dull, but decent formulaic tag match. The problem is that the whole point of the match was to soften up Roman Reigns for Shane’s match against him next week. But, the majority of the match was the heel team beating down R-Truth. How did that fit into their evil plan? Keeping Reigns out of the match for that long meant that they weren’t softening him up for Shane. Having Reigns win what amounted to a handicap match isn’t going to make his detractors like him more. It hurts Drew McIntyre to be a part of it. And as I alluded to earlier, it was predictable that Reigns would beat Elias so that Truth could win back the 24/7 title afterwards.
Follow me on Twitter @JonMezzera (pretty clever handle right?). Just be aware that I don’t live tweet Raw, I don’t tweet much about wrestling, and I don’t tweet much at all.
For another viewpoint, check out Jason Powell’s original “Hitlist” column on ProWrestling.net covering this episode 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.