WWE SMACKDOWN is back on track

Joshua Waddles
Staff Writer

SMACKDOWN has had a lot of flaws these past few weeks, but Tuesday’s SMACKDOWN felt like a return to form. SMACKDOWN, which had previously been the better show, dropped in quality after the “Superstar Shakeup” while RAW took on a level of awesome. But if we get more booking like we saw last night, SMACKDOWN is coming back to challenge RAW again.

SMACKDOWN opened by giving us the gift of Jericho. I knew he was on tour with his band, Fozzy, but I had no idea he’d be back so soon. Jericho threw his hat in the ring to challenge former best friend Kevin Owens for the United States Title, and it ended up being a three-way match with AJ Styles as the main event.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Baron Corbin

In a rematch from Battleground, Shinsuke Nakamura took down Baron Corbin for a pin fall. This was a slug fest and both of these two are certain to be in the World Title Picture very soon: Nakamura because the WWE is clearly hyped on him and Corbin because he holds the Money in the Bank Briefcase (meaning he can challenge the World Champion at any time, even right after a match.)

Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch vs Tamina and Lana

Lana is very green. She came to the WWE as a manager and hype person with Rusev and is now performing as in-ring talent. The fans chanted “You can’t wrestle,” at her, and while that’s true, it doesn’t necessarily mean she can’t get a push to the top. Just ask John Cena and Roman Reigns.

But although she’s green in the ring, she’s great on the mic. Once she gets time (maybe a year or two) to learn what she’s doing, she could be at the same level as Charlotte Flair. That’s of course assuming she improves a lot. There are some wrestlers who just never improve past a certain point, but I don’t think Lana will be one of these. Her mic skills make me think she has a spark of genius and will be able to improve by leaps and bounds, much like Luke Harper has.

Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch are already top level and it’s good to see Charlotte Flair as a face again. I’ve always felt that her character could go for a little tweaking because she felt so artificial trying to be the evil queen heel of RAW.

Jinder Mahal and John Cena

I like Jinder Mahal a lot. So many fans don’t, but I just love this guy. Even so, through no fault of his own, his Punjabi Prison match at Battleground just didn’t work. It was too hard to see what was going on in the ring and there was too much focus on the gimmick. I also believe they missed a great idea: I was hoping to see one of them get thrown through fake bamboo bars. (Breaking through real ones probably would have been way too dangerous. Bamboo can be crazy sharp when you break it.)

When Jinder Mahal came out and demanded an opponent for Summerslam, I found that very refreshing. Heels (bad guys like Mahal) almost always act like they don’t want a match when they have these belts, so I loved seeing a heel come out and say “Bring it!” Easy enough because he’s got a lot of backup, but I kind of like that too. Even though it’s kind of formulaic that a heel doesn’t win clean, I enjoy Mahal and his allies so much that it almost feels fresh and new.

I groaned when Cena’s music started playing. Here’s where I know a lot of people are not going to agree with me. I’m looking for a Jinder Mahal match that succeeds in everything the Punjabi Prison match tried to do. I’m looking for one of those matches that gets the crowd chanting “This is awesome!” and propels Mahal to super stardom.

I don’t think Cena is the right guy to deliver that. I could be wrong, he’s been in “This is awesome!” matches before, but this was against top-level ring technicians like Seth Rollins. Mahal has more of an old school style, which runs the risk of alienating fans who like high flyers, but I think his personality and physicality make him more appealing.

At the same time, I can’t help but be a little worried that fans will start thinking of Mahal as the hell version of John Cena, which is another reason why I really don’t want these two in the ring together. At least not when one of them has the belt.

But it may not be Cena vs Mahal. SMACKDOWN general manager Daniel Bryan announced that Cena wouldn’t just be given his match, he will have to face Shinsuke Nakamua in a number one contenders match. Normally, I’d call it now: Cena for the win. But I really don’t know at this point. Cena announced he will be slowing down as he approaches retirement. It could be that he plans to lose more often in order to get other wrestlers over, like Chris Jericho does.

Aiden English and Mike Kanellis vs Sami Zayn and Tye Dillinger

I often skip matches in these reviews if I feel like they didn’t really add much, but I’m not skipping this one because Aiden English was so funny before the match open. He put on a cape and an opera mask and sang deliberately bad songs about himself.

The New Day and The Usos

This wasn’t an actual match, but a brawl, and it took the feud up a notch. The New Day came out, looking like they were about to put on one of their famous victory celebrations when the Usos came out and attacked all three. This makes the Usos look legit mad over losing their belts and the feud feels a lot more personal now.

Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho vs AJ Styles

This is one of those “This is awesome!” matches I was talking about.Kevin Owens, after winning the United States Title back at Battleground, did the heel thing and tried not to defend it. With three top-level wrestlers brawling for a title, it was inevitable that the crowd would love every minute of it.

Jericho, after a long and successful career, has been content to lose as many matches as WWE’s creative team pleases in order to help younger wrestlers look better to the fans. (What a guy, Jericho.) I still wasn’t 100 percent sure he would lose this one. He doesn’t always lose title matches, he just usually loses the feud. But Kevin Owens put him out of commission with a pop up powerbomb.

This is when AJ Styles jumped in the ring, to throw Owens out and steal the pin. If I were being nit picky, the timing was a little off. Owens had to get up, giving up the pin, and go after Styles so Styles could throw him out of the ring. But that sort of thing happens from time to time and fans have to suspend disbelief a little. All and all, I liked the ending too.

Styles got the win, regaining the belt. Some fans hated that he lost the belt so soon, but they’ve probably forgotten all about that.


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