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WWE SmackDown Recap & Reactions (July 19, 2016): False Dawn

WWE Smackdown Live! began a new era in WWE last night (July 19, 2016) in Worcester, Massachusetts. The show's major focus was obviously the brand split draft, but several other angles were advanced—including a rerun of the WWE Championship match from last night on Monday Night Raw. For full results and the live blog, click here. For full results of the WWE draft, click here.

For even more coverage of Smackdown Live!, check out the very first episode of Live! After Smackdown Live! with myself and Tonya Rodgers.



When the brand split was announced, I had big hopes that WWE realized it needed a fresh start—even if it was only half the product. Ratings have sunk massively in the last few years, and I thought maybe, just maybe, we could get a fresh new brand with a strong, relevant women's division; consistent character work—even if its just short little backstage vignettes—for every wrestler on the roster; and intelligent booking that didn't rely on running the same match over and over and over and over again.

There are, by my count, four legitimately "over" acts on the show:

  • The New Day
  • John Cena
  • AJ Styles / The Club (who they of course split tonight, seemingly instead giving the stable to Finn Balor)
  • Enzo Amore and Big Cass
  • (And maybe, maybe, Kevin Owens.)

One of those acts has almost zero input from Vince; another is the last actual star the company ever made, well over a decade ago; another includes the best wrestler in the world; and finally the last contains arguably the greatest talker in the company and was in NXT as of four months ago. That's it.

Product wise, WWE is a disaster right now. They can't make any stars—gotta keep Kane strong!—and don't treat anyone as important other than part-timers and wrestlers who debuted at least ten years ago.

There is some really, really good stuff in WWE, and there are some unbelievable talents on that roster. It's not nearly as deep a roster as some think, but there are probably 15 acts that you could build up to carry main event angles. None of them are in that spot, and that's on management.

So to shake things up, we get ... more befuddling decisions.

  • Alexa Bliss would be the best heel in the women's division by a mile. So she gets drafted on a Network overrun, clearly stating that she's an afterthought. And that's like the 12th most upsetting thing tonight.
  • Big Show was drafted on the live show tonight. Not on the Network special. Live. In 2016.
  • Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were drafted to the same brand, despite the company billing their match at Battleground over and over as a bout to settle their feud for good. And Smackdown had, I believe, two chances to take Owens after Zayn was picked.
  • Paige and Alberto Del Rio were put on different shows. I guarantee you that's deliberate. That's perfectly representative of the person who runs this company.

I'm sure some will ask, "Why do you still watch?" Because there are good things on this show, there are very talented people in this company, and there are a few wrestlers in this company that I am invested in.

Want to know know the only thing WWE does really, really well?

Make me question my choice to continue following their programming.



There is no legitimate reason for WWE to run two championship matches, one with a double pin finish and then one clean as a sheet, in back-to-back nights. And they have another one on Sunday, this time a triple threat with Roman Reigns!

How many mediocre Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose matches do we need to see? Though it's not just on the booking—you'd think after working this match so many times, the two would actually develop an understanding of psychology. Instead, Ambrose (and Rollins, to be fair!) no-sells a Superplex and immediately hits Rollins with Dirty Deeds, and pins him clean.

They ran this match on back-to-back nights, and if you stripped out the graphics and commentary mentions of the show, there's no way I would be able to tell which happened last night and which happened tonight. These are world title matches. And they're just more fast food, cookie cutter nonsense without any real feel or logic to them. I feel for Ambrose, a guy that, if they allowed him to keep a consistent character and not make him look like an idiot compared to Brock Lesnar, would probably be a bonafide star. I feel for Roman Reigns, who has put on several match of the year candidates over the last 18 months. I feel for Seth Rollins, who can spark crowds with fast-paced matches filled with incredible feats of athleticism.

None of these guys are stars, and none of them should be main eventers. They've been the focal point of the show for two straight years, and ratings have dropped something like 25 percent over that time span.


All the rest

John Cena defeats Luke Gallows with an Attitude Adjustment. This match kicked off the in-ring action, and was mere minutes after AJ Styles was selected to Smackdown Live!—the Phenomenal One proudly wearing the shirt of the blue brand ringside. A short match, but both did their part, and Cena especially was exceptional—selling Gallows as a powerful heavyweight by having difficulty raising him for the AA not once, but twice, (the first time even letting Gallows fall on him), and also invigorating his usual offense with significantly more force (the shoulder tackle actually look like it hurt). After both were knocked down, Enzo attempted to rouse Cena on the apron, which drew The Club into the ring—but not for long, as the Realest Guys tossed them out and Cena won with an AA.

Xavier Woods is doing exceptional work in the feud between The New Day and the Wyatt Family, but lost tonight to Bray Wyatt. To be honest, I'd love to see him have more influence in the rest of creative, because he seems to have an exceptionally bright and well-tuned mind. He is literally the only one on the roster that has ever sold Wyatt as the threat and scare that Wyatt is supposed to be. Early on, Bray attempts to hypnotize Woods, who slowly walks toward him, before at the last minute snapping out. Bray controls much of the match, at one point dragging a prone Xavier to the corner and harassing Big E and Kofi Kingston. Xavier rouses and starts a fighting comeback, but when he attempts to hit the Honor Roll, Bray pops into his crabwalk pose, making Xavier hesitate long enough for The Face of Fear to grab him and pull him into Sister Abigail.

Kevin Owens walks out after the first round of picks and berates both management teams for not picking him. Wonderful. He is blindsided by Sami Zayn before he can make it to the ring for a match versus Kane. But at the end of the segment, Kane doublechokeslams both. Gotta make Kane look strong. Good luck on Monday, boys.

We came back from commercial about 10 seconds too late to see Becky Lynch attacking Natalya at ringside. The top woman on the blue brand gets the best of the exchange, and gets a loud "BECKY BECKY" chant and strong reception. Here's to hoping she goes over Sunday in D.C.

Zach Ryder and Darren Young defeat Rusev and The Miz in a Champions vs. Challengers match. As always, Rusev's character work is incredible, early in the match walking into the ring and demanding The Miz tag him in so he could get at Ryder. Rusev and Ryder end up taking each other out, and the Intercontinental Champion squares off with his Battleground challenger. Rusev saves the match when Young hits a Gutcheck on The Miz, but is taken out of the picture by a missile dropkick off the apron by Ryder. Young looks to his life coach Bob Backlund (who earlier in the match got a "WE WANT BACKLUND" chant) at ringside, who gives the signal, and to a BIG pop, Young locks The Miz in the Crossface Chickenwing. The Intercontinental Champion quickly taps, and the faces celebrate with Backlund.

The Crossface Chickenwing got an enormous pop. 2016.

Chris Jericho is a bad, boring, wrestler. I'm very glad he's going to Raw. Of course he had to get a win over Cesaro before moving to the Reds. The Swiss Superman did some great things in this match, including a Springboard Russian Leg Sweep and a marvelous Frankensteiner sell. But when he attempted a springboard uppercut, Jericho countered into a codebreaker, and pinned Cesaro. Way to put the young guys over, Chris.

Charlotte and Dana Brooke defeat Sasha Banks in a handicap match.


The brand split and draft were my big hopes that WWE would undergo a real change—an actual new era. After tonight, it's hard to retain that hope.

Grade: While I truly, truly, TRULY want to give this show an F, I'll try to be objective and give it a C. The draft is an inherently exciting concept. Unfortunately, too many of the draft picks make zero sense in kayfabe, and what they did to Sasha Banks, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn on this show was absolutely criminal. I feel for all three of them having to work on Raw—especially Banks.

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