KELLER INTERVIEWS ROB VAN DAM FOR FIRST TIME...
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The Rock and The Man – HIT: The first ever Friday Night Smackdown (not Live) on FOX got off to a good start with Becky Lynch (after the brief intro). She was interrupted by Baron Corbin who was good in his antagonistic role. We knew that The Rock was going to be on the show, but we didn’t know when he’d show up. It might have been smarter to save him for later to keep fans tuned in to see him, but having him come out right near the beginning worked well to make the show feel special right away. Rock was great as you’d expect. It was a lot of fun to see him and Lynch work together. Corbin was the good foil for them. The fans ate it up. It was just a very entertaining opening segment.
The Announcers – HIT: Just having two announcers instead of three was refreshing and Hit-worthy. Michael Cole and Corey Graves did a nice job throughout the show. It was good to hear them just call the action and not constantly bicker with each other. Graves isn’t great. But, he was much better here than usual.
Big Show Feel – HIT: WWE did a nice job of making this show special. It had the big intro from Vince and Stephanie McMahon. They showed highlights a few times from the blue carpet special that aired before hand. They had several celebrities and WWE Hall of Famers sitting in the crowd. One of those celebrities, Tyson Fury even got involved. Erin Andrews from FOX did a backstage interview with The New Day. They had a nice highlight video of some of the great moments in Smackdown history. You had The Rock. You had Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. They had Cain Valesquez (more later). They made the show feel like a bid deal.
Banks & Bayley vs. Flair & Lynch – HIT: This was a short match at only 8 minutes which was interrupted by a commercial break. That was disappointing. So I will call this a marginal HIT as the actual wrestling action that we saw was quite good. If Charlotte Flair is going to keep doing the moonsault (which I don’t think she should), this was a good example of how to do it. She always looks better doing it onto the outside of the ring where she lands on her feet than in the ring where she has to land on her opponent on the mat. The camera angle stayed on her as she climbed the ropes, so we didn’t see what Sasha Banks and Bayley were doing below, unlike a similar spot a few weeks ago where we saw that they had to stand there waiting for her to climb.
Firefly Funhouse – MISS: I’m just not a fan of this gimmick. Having Seth Rollins stand in the ring and watch the Firefly Funhouse play out on the big screen isn’t a good idea. It makes him look bad. This version went on far too long with the puppets having a Hell in a Cell match. I’m still not sure if Bray Wyatt is supposed to have a split personality, or is he playing games? The character doesn’t work for me in a 2019 pro wrestling environment.
Ladder Match – HIT: The ladder match between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon was a fine way to (hopefully!) end what has been a terrible storyline. I am giving it a Hit in part for it being a solid to good hard hitting ladder match, and in part for putting an end to this feud with Owens getting the win to earn his job back and fire Shane. Shane will hopefully be off of WWE tv for a long time after this, which is Hit worthy itself.
Reigns vs. Rowan – HIT: This lumber jack match was pretty good. Daniel Bryan was a nice touch doing guest commentary during the match. I liked how he didn’t get involved as one of the lumberjacks until Luke Harper came out to the ring. Bryan was able to counter Harper’s presence. This was a bit messy at times with so much fighting at ringside, but that is to be expected in a lumberjack match. This set up for Reigns and Bryan to reluctantly shake hands afterwards setting up their tag match for the Hell in a Cell PPV.
Kingston Loses in 5 Seconds – MISS: At least give Kofi Kingston the same amount of offense as some of the other smaller wrestlers who have had solid showings against Brock Lesnar in the past. Instead, his six month run as the WWE Champion came to an end in 5 seconds. It will be hard to view his Title reign as anything other than a golden watch life time achievement award at this point. I wasn’t sure what WWE was going to do with this match, so I knew that Kingston losing was a distinct possibility. However, I certainly didn’t see it lasting only 5 seconds.
Cain Valesquez – HIT: I don’t follow UFC, but I know the name Cain Valesquez. I wish his debut had followed something other than Lesnar squashing Kingston, but it was a good show closing angle with Rey Mysterio introducing Valesquez to confront Lesnar. The announcers did a nice job of quickly recapping the history between Lesnar and Valesquez from UFC to fans who aren’t familiar with it. Lesnar did a very good job of showing shock and maybe even fear when he came out. The brief physicality was the perfect amount to show that Valesquez can get the better of Lesnar physically, without giving much away. I’ll be interested to see where they go from here, but I also have to say that I’m not all that interested in WWE using a 9 year old UFC fight as the basis for a major feud over the WWE Championship.
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Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JonMezzera