A Wrestling Unicorn
Smackdown began this week on what I assumed would have been the closing segment in the contract signing between Shane McMahon and AJ Styles for their WrestleMania match. Shane began the conversation by explaining how Smackdown LIVE was built on opportunity and AJ Styles was the man who took the biggest advantage of this to become the biggest star on the brand (that isn’t named John Cena). While all of this is arguably true both in kayfabe and in reality, the point is kind of dulled when you realize that despite this being the case in Shane’s mind, he STILL failed to put him in a WrestleMania match before their confrontation and the company itself STILL failed to put him in a match with someone who is an ACTUAL wrestler.
AJ retorted with his own effective (to a degree) point after his usual bravado that Shane isn’t known for fighting regular wrestling matches and will be fighting an uphill battle against the man who is arguably the best wrestler in the world. This argument helps to make a singles match with no extra stipulations more interesting between the two but will almost make Styles seem stupid when he inevitably struggles against Shane on Sunday despite the fact that McMahon’s son is, as Broken Matt Hardy would say, a “spot monkey”.
As tensions rise, Daniel Bryan (who has been officiating this signing) steps in to make the two shake hands and settle their differences like a father controlling his unruly children. This leads to Styles leaving the ring before giving in to Bryan’s request and the rarest of occurrences happens: a contract signing doesn’t end in physical confrontation.
This segment seemingly happened in the wrong order in the buildup to Mania as this seems as though it would have occurred prior to the animosity in the past weeks so the intensity could ramp up rather than down. Regardless, it was an effective, if stunted segment, and added further complexity to the conflict.
Overall Score: 6/10
John Cena: Wanted for Verbal Murder
The Miz and Maryse debuted the final part of their “Total Bellas Bull**** Segment” during the middle of the show and although it was generally more of the same as last week’s segments (and far too long, with a commercial even being inserted between the parody) it still managed to be entertaining with Miz portraying Daniel Bryan as a child with a beard who needs a juice box and The Miz and Maryse breaking character to provide a final statement. If the segment had ended there, it would have been a great go-home visual but unfortunately John Cena and Nikki Bella had to come out.
As much as I appreciate John Cena’s control of the mic and his verbal banter, Cena’s face offs with a heel too often end up with the heel being suffocated and this was no more apparent then in this segment. John shut DOWN The Miz and Maryse and the two never got a single rebuttal in before leaving the ring with his tail between his legs. It doesn’t matter HOW good a promo is, if there is no conflict from it, then I honestly don’t see much point when building up a feud. At least John Cena said “P***y” on TV. So that was cool.
Overall Score: 7/10
A Weak Consolation
Luke Harper deserved to be in the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. He was an integral part of the Orton/Wyatt story and while I understand the appeal of a one-on-one match, the story shouldn’t have been built so around Harper if he was not ultimately part of the climax. I bring this up as Harper vs. Wyatt taking place on the go-home Smackdown as the main event is not a fitting consolation. The match itself was honestly quite good with Harper doing his best to show his amazing in-ring ability and look strong in the process. Unfortunately this showing had the unfortunate side effect of making the world champion look weak after apparently absorbing the powers of satan from Sister Abigail last week?
Wyatt did manage to win, but only after Harper hesitated to take out his former mentor and for some reason, left Wyatt bewildered after the fact. Whatever the reason was that Wyatt had done this, it was not clearly explained in the match or by the commentators and left me really confused. What happened next left me even more perplexed as Randy Orton appeared on the TitanTron and the lines between over-edited pre-recorded video and the live footage was annoyingly blurred as Orton announced he was comically at the Wyatt compound (again) and about to drive a crusix(?) into Sister Abigail’s unguarded grave to drain Wyatt of his power.
Was this supposed to be taking place when Wyatt hesitated in? Is Luke Harper just so strong that he was beating “Satan Wyatt” for 75% of his match? Why would Wyatt accept a match which could expose his weakness? Why isn’t someone guarding the Wyatt compound? Orton’s nonsensical sermon was both overcomplicating the story further and raised all of these greater questions that do nothing but make the situation comical.
Overall Score: 6/10
Average Total Score: 6/10
Smackdown this week managed once again to be an overcomplicated show that largely made WrestleMania seem less appealing rather than more so and has made me decide that Raw is currently a far stronger show than Smackdown. As bloated as Raw sometimes is, Smackdown is just far too complex for it’s own good and hopefully WrestleMania will act as a reset for the show.
Winner This Week: Monday Night Raw
Raw continues it’s sweep of these weekly contests with ease and it simply comes to down to better storytelling both in the ring and out. It’s unfortunate that Smackdown has seemingly fallen from grace after the shallow roster depth was fully explored and again, I hope WrestleMania ending or a draft will refresh the show soon.
Till Next Time,