By Kyle Jones
A half-baked SmackDown, a half-baked Raw. WWE was having a hard time figuring itself out this weekend, and it showed on two shows that wound up lackluster. It’s time to break down the weekend that was and get ready for the week that will be.
This is the first true SmackDown we’ve gotten since the move to Fox. The premiere was an anomaly, and last week was burdened with the WWE Draft. So how did WWE do with their first real opportunity?
Roman Reigns and Shinsuke Nakamura opened the night with a match for Nakamura’s Intercontinental Championship, a match whose only build was a tweet or two between Nakamura and the “Big Dog.”
The in-ring action went well. Two quality wrestlers put together a satisfying match. Throw in some Sami Zayn on commentary (who interfered a bit as well) and you’ve got a good thing going. The problem came at the end, when King Corbin interfered and clubbed Reigns with his scepter. Corbin looked to beat Reigns to a pulp, but Daniel Bryan ran in for the save.
This twist in the tale set up the night’s main event: Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan vs. King Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura.
This is a problem.
The only gripe that set up Corbin’s interference was that he insulted Reigns’ draft status, which would have worked if WWE made their draft seem more important, but they didn’t. Furthermore, Corbin pairing with Shinsuke makes no sense as they have zero reason to team up. Stand at ringside? Sure. But tag-team?
Your main event should be compelling and should entice me to watch the entire show. A match that I know for a fact Bryan and Reigns will win before they step into the ring is an immediate reason to switch channels.
The next match was between Shorty Gable and Curtis Axel. It was a squash match, which is to be expected, as Gable is getting a pretty decent push and Axel is, well, Axel. But the real story came at the end of the match.
After his win, Gable grabbed the mic and delivered a moving speech about embracing his size, about being proud of who he is and fighting hard no matter what. A beautiful narrative and a beautiful message. At the end he gave himself a new name. In embracing his height, or lack thereof, he decided even his name can be short. His new name is …
Yeah, Shorty G. All that bravado and all you can come up with is Shorty G. Honestly, it’s par for the course for WWE, but come on. This whole segment was trash.
Next, the New Day and Heavy Machinery squared off against The Revival, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. This was supposed to be a preview of the Tag Team Turmoil match that will happen at Crown Jewel, and if this is what we’re getting then great.
The match was fun, and there was a great in-ring story. It was back-and-forth and, most importantly, entertaining. Heavy machinery and New Day win after Big E, and Xavier Woods hit the Midnight Hour. Give me more.
A Miz TV segment followed the match, and tonight’s special guest was Bayley. She and Sasha Banks walked to the ring to explain why she turned heel. Bayley looked great again here, telling Miz that for so long she had done everything to make the fans love her, and they never truly did. Finally, she’s taking matters into her own hands. She even gave the crowd a few words of wisdom: “Life sucks, and then you die.”
At the end, a carousel of superstars enter to set up a match to decide the No. 1 contender for Bayley’s championship.
Bayley’s new persona is exactly what she needed. She truly does not care, and that’s the best part.
On to the Six-Pack Challenge to decide Bayley’s No. 1 contender.
This was a well worked match, much better than what I expected. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville were in control for a good chunk of the match, duking it out with Carmella and Lacey Evans. But it was Nikki Cross who would pick up the win in the end, hitting Mandy Rose with a twisting neckbreaker. A fun match where the right woman won.
The next segment featured Drew Gulak lecturing Braun Strowman on how he can beat Tyson Fury at Crown Jewel. Braun didn’t care, and then proceeded to nearly kill Drew. Another pointless segment on the road to Crown Jewel.
Now for the main event … which ended five minutes early.
Five. Minutes. Early.
A good wrestler can build a great story in five minutes, hit a death defying spot in five minutes, work am excruciating submission hold in five minutes. Instead we got some extra commercials.
You have four great wrestlers in the ring and you do nothing with them. Pathetic.
Roman and Daniel Bryan win, because of course they do.
Raw opened with Ric Flair, so this show was already rendered perfect and could only go downhill. Flair announced his team that would face Team Hogan at Crown Jewel, but it still needed one more member. That mystery man would be none other that a returning Drew McIntyre, who fought Ricochet in the night’s opening match.
McIntyre was quite dominant throughout the match, tossing Ricochet around like a ragdoll. This emphasized just how great Ricochet is at selling when he’s being pummeled. Every move looks like it’s deadly.
Ricochet did get some offense in, with acrobatic springboard maneuvers and high-flying action, but it was the Scottish Psychopath who would pick up the victory.
Up next was Aleister Black taking on a local jobber by the name of Jason Reynolds. Black wins almost instantly with a Black Mass. Usually I don’t like squashes, but for Black it’s better than just watching him sit in a dark room asking for someone to fight him.
We then got more of the stupid Lashley-Lana-Rusev storyline. The whole thing sucks. Burn it, get it off the air. It will only work if Rusev actually kills Lashley at the end of it all. Lashley needs to stay far away from TV as soon as this thing ends.
Next we had Sin Cara taking on Andrade in a match that could have been more. Given more time, and more build, WWE could book this into a true showcase of Lucha Libre, with high flying masked men and hard-hitting spots. Hopefully they do. Andrade won with a hammerlock DDT.
The Viking Raiders took on Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins in another Tag Team Turmoil preview bout. This match felt like the prime example of filler. The Viking Raiders dominated for the majority of the match, Ryder and Hawkins fought back for just a bit, then the Raiders ended things with the Viking Experience. A general waste of time, but it is always fun watching Erik and Ivar toss humans like sacks of potatoes.
There was a cool segment where Rey Mysterio stepped in the ring to get fans excited for Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar’s match at Crown Jewel. Paul Heyman came out to interrupt, then Shelton Benjamin ran in and began to antagonize Rey.
Benjamin insulted Rey and asked where Velasquez was to run in and be the hero. As if right on cue, Velasquez showed up, beat up Benjamin and choked him out. Cain Velasquez’s strength was shown once again and he looks ready to face Lesnar.
Seth Rollins took on Raw newcomer and former 205 Live star Humberto Carillo. The match itself was fine, but the crowd has lost interest in Rollins. Fans chanted for The Fiend and outright booed Rollins throughout. It’s unfortunate that this was Carillo’s introduction to the Raw crowd, because he has star potential. Rollins won with the Stomp and shook Carillo’s hand afterward.
The main event of Raw was between the Street Profits, with a mystery partner and the OC. The match started as a two-on-three, so naturally the OC dominated. But just as soon as they fell behind, the OC surged and regained control. AJ Styles attempted to interfere illegally, nearly getting thrown out, when the Street Profits’ mystery partner appeared.
Kevin Owens made his return, fought AJ Styles, and helped the Street Profits pick up their first win on the main roster. It was a wonderful end to and up-and-down Raw.
So what’s next?
This weekend’s shows will be the go-home shows for Crown Jewel. Look for final builds towards the matches that will feature on that pay-per-view. Lesnar and Velasquez will probably square up, and the same goes for Tyson Fury and Braun Strowman. If Crown Jewel is like any other Saudi Arabia show, then it’s going to be garbage, which is what the WWE deserves considering the circumstances of their deal in that country. Hopefully WWE surprises us, but I doubt they will.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org