Three championship matches, lots of entrances, and an appearance from Vince McMahon. There was a lot going on this week on Smackdown Live. How did it all pan out?
Smackdown Live opened with Kevin Owens continuing on from last weeks threat of legal action against WWE for Shane McMahon’s vicious attack on him. He promised to sue Smackdown out of existence and turn it into The Kevin Owens Show – even more heinous was his promise to end the Fashion Files, too far, Kevin. Too far!
I like this angle a lot. I’d like Owens to be in the WWE Championship picture soon, but until then this kind of top level story works. It suits Owens and keeps him at the top of the card where he belongs. Petulant, a little childish but cruel and vindictive. Kevin Owens is a master Heel and revels in the spotlight.
He followed up his threat by inviting Vince McMahon down to the ring. An invite that was seemingly answered by a different McMahon. The supposedly suspended Shane McMahon’s music sent Owens into fits of rage only for that to dissolve quickly into laughter. Because instead of Shane O’Mac we were greeted with Dolph Ziggler’s continuing mockery of overblown entrances. When Dolph made his exit Daniel Bryan made his entrance. He promised that when Vince got to the arena (why is he always late to his own shows?) that Kevin wouldn’t like what he had to say.
Later in the night we were treated to a couple of Kevin Owens shenanigans backstage. Most notably he sought out his old friend Sami Zayn and told him that when the Kevin Owens Show came into effect he’d send Zayn back to the armoury’s and sports halls they used to work in together. Have to say, I feel a little bad for Sami right now. He exists to enhance Heels by leveraging his inherent likeability. He is languishing in the lower mid card when he belongs nearer the main event. I hope WWE fix this sooner rather than later.
The night’s closing segment came when finally Mr McMahon deigned to show up. Face-to-face with the man threatening to sue him. The sight of Kevin Owens in the ring with the chairman of the board was quite something. Imagine showing this image to an indie wrestling fan a few years ago! Vince told Owens that he did not suspend Shane because of the attack – he suspended him because Shane didn’t finish the job. McMahon told Kevin Owens that he has no fear of legal battles and claims to have never lost one. What is interesting to note about this is that Vince was not playing a face here. He was very much the uncaring boss we associate him with. Another example of WWE’s recent blurring of the lines between good and bad.
Vince McMahon then made a match for Smackdown’s next PPV. Kevin Owens will go one-on-one with Shane McMahon inside of the Hell in a Cell. At first Owens seemed defeated by this idea until he asked or a promise. A promise that he wouldn’t be fired for brutalising a McMahon. Something Vince agreed to. What followed was a shocking attack on the chairman. A headbutt that drew blood, followed by numerous attacks that kept McMahon on the floor. Kevin Owens provided an exclamation mark by squashing his boss with a Frog Splash from the top rope. In theory all of this has been done before. We have seen Vince attacked many times. But there was something different here. Perhaps it was that there was blood involved, perhaps it was Vince’s advanced years, or perhaps because Kevin Owens is so good at playing his role. Whatever it was it created a remarkable moment. An end to a fantastic edition of Smackdown.
The through-line involving Kevin Owens was just the spine of the show. There was plenty of meat on those bones. The entire show delivered in some way. In the opening match of the night we saw Tye Dillinger make good on his promise to answer AJ Styles’ US Championship Open Challenge. The match was energetic, fast paced and extremely engaging. AJ Styles may be the best wrestler in the world depending on your perspective. And his ability to make so much out of matches like these is a good argument to bolster that claim. He ultimately got the win here via submission after locking in the Calf Crusher. But not before interference from Baron Corbin. The Lone Wolf went on to vow to answer next week’s Open Challenge.
Later in the night we got our second championship match of the evening. A Street Fight in which The Uso’s would defend their SmackDown Tag Championships against the New Day, represented tonight by Kofi Kingston and Big E. The match started fast and didn’t relent. Tables, chairs and splintered kendo sticks sent the crowd into overdrive. The match, if one was being picky, dropped a few spots here and there and felt a little sloppy. But what it lacked in finesse it made up for in energy and intensity. It provided another great chapter in the excellent series between the two teams. In this bout the New Day got the victory and became four time tag champs and two time Smackdown tag champs. Perhaps Hell in a Cell beckons for this rivalry?
Next up was Naomi with her rematch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship she lost at Summerslam. The match was not at all bad, but far too short to gain any momentum. A little distraction from Ms Money in the Bank, Carmella was enough for Natalya to gain the upper-hand. One slightly awkward Sharpshooter later and Natalya is still champion.
I have to say I continue to root for Carmella. She has been continually knocking it out of the park over the past few months, capitalising on every bit of screen-time WWE offer her. I think she will make an excellent champion when given the chance.
Sadly, once again, there was no Becky Lynch or Charlotte on the show. We were reduced to small cameos from them in the crowd during the Mae Young Classic final. I have to hope there is a long term plan for those two. Perhaps they will come back to the fore as Wrestlemania season begins to loom?
Elsewhere on Smackdown Live
The WWE Champion came out with his two stooges to cut a promo on the absent Shinsuke Nakamura. Jinder Mahal began by mocking Nakamura’s facial expressions with the Singh Brothers providing the canned laughter. He then flipped the segment quite cleverly by saying that this kind of mockery and hatred is what the King of Strong Style will have to look forward to if he is ever WWE Champion. It was an interesting idea and retained Mahal’s characterisation smartly. But ultimately the promo was awkward and you sensed the crowd lost track of it. No interruption from Nakamura perhaps also contributed to the underwhelming feel of the whole thing.
Dolph Ziggler returned later in the night to continue his protests against overblown entrances. Once again proclaiming himself the best in-ring performer of all time. Tonight’s entrances included a take off of Bayley complete with wacky waving inflatable tube men, and then a parody of the Ultimate Warrior – which was a tad awkward considering Warrior’s widow Dana was in attendance. I am sure she agreed to the whole thing… but still. If I am honest this whole angle is lost on me. And judging by crowd reactions, I’m not alone.
Neither of these disappointing segments dampened what was an excellent night though. Smackdown was energetic, lively and exciting and offered two excellent matches and one very memorable closing segment. A very fun show.
AJ Styles defeated Tye Dillinger via submission to retain his United States Championship
New Day hit the Midnight Hour to defeat The Uso’s. New Tag Team Champions!
Natalya defeats Naomi via submission to retain the Women’s Championship
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin defeat The Hype Bros