WWE Smackdown Live Review
August 2, 2016
By: Mike Tedesco of Wrestleview.com
WWE’s brand extension is already a week old. It officially kicked off last week on both RAW and Smackdown. Both shows needed to be good to give this “New Era” (an already worn out and banal term) a good start, and I felt both show delivered in a big way. WWE is really good at coming through with a good to great show when they need to (just look at the last three WrestleMania events). It’s the follow-up that is always kind of wonky. In truth, the follow-up is very telling as to the reality of this brand extension because you can’t hotshot a bunch of angles into one show every week. The WWE followed up last week’s great RAW with an episode that my colleague and dear friend Adam Martin described as “a pretty lackluster follow up to the big ‘New Era’ debut last week.” Did Smackdown fall into the category of lackluster? Let’s break this show down.
Good build for the Dean Ambrose/Dolph Ziggler match
I have to admit that WWE did a very good job building some interest and intrigue in the perennial bridesmaid Dolph Ziggler this week. Last week on Smackdown, Ziggler surprised everyone by coming out on top of a six-pack challenge to earn a shot against WWE Champion Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam. However, when Finn Bálor was booked to go over Roman Reigns and challenge Seth Rollins for the newly created WWE Universal Championship, that created some real buzz because a good majority of the casual fans don’t know who he is and he’s a fresh face. Ziggler is an established guy, but after a year of feuding with Rusev in an ill-fated and momentum killing storyline love triangle with Lana and having a couple of completely unremarkable (and never-ending) matches against Baron Corbin, the huge pop that he used to get and the desire to see him get that “one big push” has disappeared from the crowds. Just listen to the pops he got even a year ago compared to what he gets this year. It’s night and day. The onus is on WWE now to portray him as a serious threat to the title because he’s been treated as a joke for nearly a year now.
WWE was successful in that endeavor. Ziggler wound up having a really good night. The show kicked off with Dean Ambrose coming out to the ring and calling out Dolph Ziggler. They had a really good back and forth. Ambrose was playing the subtle heel role as he was talking about Ziggler being great, but never concentrating on the important aspects of the business, such as winning. Ambrose did a really great job of putting himself over as well by talking about how he scratched and clawed to get the WWE Championship and won’t ever give it up. Since he had that promo against Seth Rollins on RAW the week before the WWE Draft, Ambrose has really been on fire promo wise.
Ziggler followed up with what started out as a sappy speech about how he was a five year old attending his first WWE Live Event and thinking that would be him one day, but it quickly evolved into probably one of the top promos of his career. Ziggler showed some intensity in this promo that he has never showcased before, at least in my memory. Ziggler said he was coming to SummerSlam to beat Ambrose’s ass and take the WWE Championship because he’s been overlooked and underutilized for far too long. It was a very good promo with pangs of truth to it. Ambrose was great by simply saying Ziggler isn’t what he thinks he is and walked off. Bray Wyatt then made a surprise appearance attacking Ziggler and challenging him to a match later in the evening with his #1 Contender spot on the line.
I have to say I absolutely loved how Smackdown laid out exactly what you were going to see on the show very early on. They opened up with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan walking around meeting various key guys and booking matches. Then Wyatt offered a compelling hook to stay watching until the main event. This was very well done.
The main event was a pretty decent match between Ziggler and Wyatt. There was one scary moment when Wyatt rolled his ankle something fierce on a roll-up and we went into the commercial seeing the referee checking on him. Luckily he was ok and the match continued on. WWE did a really good job showcasing a potential new edge to the Ziggler character and what could be the seedling of a heel turn. In the build to the main event, Ziggler said, “Screw you” to Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan for not believing in him. In the main event itself, Ziggler resorted to using an exposed turnbuckle to defeat Wyatt and beat him at his own game. They certainly gave Ziggler’s character an edge. We’ll see how they continue to play with this. Wyatt and Erick Rowan attacked both Ziggler and Ambrose after the match was over, so it appears they’re setting up a tag team main event for next week. It’ll be interesting to see how they have Ziggler and Ambrose coexist. I’m guessing someone walks out on a hot tag. It’s simple but effective booking.
John Cena and AJ Styles deliver another good segment
Before I start this, I have to say for the supposed “wrestling show” Smackdown was supposed to be, this sure had a lot of talking on it. That sometimes just has to happen when you’re building up to a PPV, so that can’t be avoided. As long as the talking segments are good, I don’t mind, and this one was good.
AJ Styles did a good job tearing into John Cena and talking about the reasons that he doesn’t like him. Styles verbally attacked the kids and their parents in a humorous bit (but one that definitely had some truth to it with today’s society, but that’s just me) before saying that he thought Cena was a fraud and would prove it. Styles also made what I thought was a reference to TNA by saying that the people in Nashville are the weakest minded of all in America and he should know. It was a cute reference I thought.
Cena then responded with a very passionate promo about how much he loves the company and will never leave. Cena pointed to a child at ringside and talked about how much he loves making that kid smile and thanks the parents as well. Cena was great here and delivered a real money promo. Styles said this was exactly what he was hoping to get Cena to do before challenging him to a match at SummerSlam. Cena accepted it. This was another simple angle to set up a big match at the show.
Brock Lesnar gets some retaliation against Randy Orton
Another thing they built up well on this show was the thought of possible retaliation from Brock Lesnar. They showed Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan with security all throughout the show. When Randy Orton came out for his match against Fandango, there was security all around the ring. You knew what was going to eventually happen, but to me that doesn’t make it any less fun. Orton went through the motions in a glorified squash match against Fandango before Lesnar appeared at ringside. Lesnar charged the ring and dropped Orton with an F5 before walking off. This is the big attraction match and, as I’ve harped on a few times in this review, simple works!
Good win for Apollo Crews (accidentally called Apollo Creed by Daniel Bryan earlier) to get a WWE Intercontinental Championship shot. Crews needs a little more character development to get people behind him because right now he’s just a body with some decent moves, but he should have a good showing against Miz at SummerSlam. It’s strange that they went with Baron Corbin laying out both champion and challenger at the end of this.
I have no clue where they’re going with this Eva Marie thing. What was the whole point of that?
American Alpha looked good in their debut against The Vaudevillains. My only issue is what’s the point of tag teams on this show? There’s still no mention of Tag Titles coming here and honestly there aren’t enough teams to even have a real division on this show. I like American Alpha, but it comes off as silly because what are they fighting for?
It is so much fun to watch Heath Slater get beat up on both shows.
A second women’s match booked for the evening never started when Natalya attacked Carmella from behind. Earlier in the night, Carmella talked about wanting to be on the top of the Women’s Division, but like American Alpha, where’s the top? There’s no title. What’s the point? They really need to address this soon.
Smackdown was the superior show this week. The angles were all effective and definitely got me excited for SummerSlam. It was also so well paced being two hours as opposed to the three hour albatross that is RAW. RAW is going to get pretty ugly a few months from now. There is a lot of great talent on this show and it definitely breezed by. It’s becoming a joy to watch every week now.
Bump of the Night: Bray Wyatt rolling his ankle
Match of the Night: Dolph Ziggler vs. Bray Wyatt **
Final Rating: *** 1/4
Well those are my thoughts. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know by commenting or using one of the other two options to get in contact with me.
Please check out my live recap of RAW every Monday at 8 PM EST.
Thanks for reading!
Mike Tedesco is the official recapper of WWE Monday Night RAW for Wrestleview.com.