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WWE SmackDown Live Recap & Reactions (June 6, 2017): The Land of Handouts

Lana arrives on Tuesday nights, and the blue brand’s Women’s Division sips some major tea.

SmackDown Live Women’s Division

Last night (June 6, 2017) Rochester, New York, played host for SmackDown Live’s penultimate show before Money in the Bank. United States Champion Kevin Owens went one-on-one with Shinsuke Nakamura. For full results and the live blog from the exceptional Reverend Kain, click here.


The show opened with all five participants in the first Women’s Money in the Bank ladder match in the ring, along with Commissioner Shane McMahon running down the scenario. James Ellsworth got on Shane’s case for mansplaining, which was a decent bit—and frankly true. Then Carmella, Charlotte, Natalya, Becky Lynch, and Tamina all got the chance to say why they were destined to win the briefcase.

SmackDown Women’s Champion Naomi came down to the ring, and expressed disappointment that she wouldn’t have the opportunity to be involved in the match.

Then Lana’s music hit.

Same, Bex. Same. (And forever a shout out to @totaldivaseps, whose GIF work remains downright tremendous.)

Lana proceeded to ask Shane put her in the ladder match as well—a request which Shane, point blank, shot down, saying she hadn’t earned her way into the match.

Literally everyone in the ring laughed at Lana’s desire to be placed in the match, with Charlotte and Becky notably sipping some tea.

Naomi got in Lana’s face, correctly noting that Lana had not, in fact, done anything to deserve being placed into the ladder match.

Chastised, the Russian walked to the back. The Rochester crowd, however, chanted “YES” for her possible entry into the match, and gave a brief “We Want Lana” chant after she walked to the back.

Oy vey.

During the six-woman tag match that followed, Lana again made her presence felt, coming down to the ring and pulling Naomi hard onto the apron while the referee was distracted. One superkick from Tamina later, and the heels won the contest.

Naomi, the champion, has not won a televised match since April 4, and has been pinned four times on TV in that time span.

Incensed at the interference, Naomi went to Shane’s office later in the night to demand that she be given a chance to fight Lana at Money in the Bank—and that she would even put her title on the line.

Oh, oh no.

Look. Doing “something new” and interjecting a “fresh face” into the title picture is not inherently good just because it’s “something new.”

But who knows, maybe Naomi will win in St. Louis! After all, NXT ran a similar sort of angle when Eva Marie challenged Bayley—you remember her, right?—and it worked to a tea ... tee ... in helping make their babyface champion a megastar and the face of NXT.

We shall see if that’s the case here. It’s worth noting that Naomi is currently the only true babyface champion in all of WWE. Literally every other champion is either a straight heel or an unaligned force of nature (Brock Lesnar, Asuka).

It wasn’t just Naomi and the two Horsewomen who found Lana’s appearance amusing. Shane McMahon literally could not stop from breaking after Lana’s appearance on Talking Smack, in which she used the word “ravishing” what seemed like at least a dozen times:

Let’s be real here. While there’s been advancement on the main roster for women’s wrestling (#history) in the last two years, this feels like a tremendous step backwards.

Now, to be fair, it’s entirely possible that Lana’s turned into something of a wrestler during her occasional reps on NXT’s Florida tour. But on its face, it is a wild advancement for someone who has wrestled in one televised match—and was only one of 10 wrestlers in said match—to get a title opportunity.

“The Land of Opportunity” was always branding—good branding with some truth to it, but branding nonetheless—but SmackDown has now elevated an enhancement talent playing a generic foreign heel to the WWE Championship and is putting a literal novice wrestler into the women’s title program. That is not presenting a natural scenario of opportunities—that’s doing whatever you want without any care for the show’s stated ethos.

It’s a mockery of the brand and the brand split. These aren’t opportunities—they’re handouts.

New. Case Rocks.

Enough about all that.

Because, lord on high, the SmackDown tag division is lit.

It’s no surprise that again Breezango killed it with another edition of “The Fashion Files.” But this time Fandango and Tyler Breeze were joined by The New Day, who wanted intel on their opponents at Money in the Bank—the SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos. To help their cause, the trio brought RompHims for both Fandango and Breeze. Fandango initially took umbrage at the apparent bribe, but was quickly won over when he noticed Breeze thoroughly enjoying the latest fashion, and the Fashion Police agreed to take up the case.

All of this was terrific. Integrating Breezango, and the Fashion Files gimmick, into the very fabric of the show is an inspired choice. One hopes that everyone on the roster gets a chance to play off the Fashion Police, because they’ve elevated everything they’ve touched for months now.

Imagine Becky Lynch on a caper with Breezango. Imagine!

After The New Day defeated The Colons in short order, Jimmy and Jey confronted their once-again rivals. They slung some smack talk to the longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history, but said that the jokes would cease come Money in the Bank.


Shinsuke Nakamura pinned United States Champion Kevin Owens clean for the third week in a row, and this time did it without much of a fuss whatsoever.

The sidestory here was that Baron Corbin was sitting on commentary—it was supposed to be Sami Zayn, but Corbin had attacked him backstage with a ladder, so The Lone Wolf filled the “open spot” on commentary.

Though he didn’t make it ringside, Zayn still shone tonight. Bless his heart, because every single promo he cuts is chock-full of information that benefits the viewer and promotes the idea of a “lived-in” universe on Tuesday nights. It’s exposition delivered in a very human way, and works tremendously. Given that Becky Lynch hasn’t been given time to shine on the mic for months, Zayn is currently rather clearly the best babyface talker in WWE.

After Nakamura dispatched Owens, Corbin hit The King of Strong Style with the End of Days and stood tall on the entryway to close the show.

After his first week, in which the blue brand made Nakamura look a legit megastar, SmackDown has very quickly settled into making him just another guy on the show. This seems like a colossal mistake. The relentless desire to force everyone on the roster into very narrow boxes is an egregious misuse of the most talented roster WWE has ever had.

Shinsuke Nakamura’s working TV matches every week. Compare the sort of treatment that Samoa Joe got on Monday night to Shinsuke’s last month. It’s stunning.

He ain’t hyped ... sadly

Mojo Rawley made a rare appearance to remind Shane McMahon that he was the only person to have pinned Jinder Mahal since The Modern Day Maharaja made his way to Tuesdays, and that all he wanted was an opportunity to get into the ladder match in St. Louis. Shane agreed, and gave him his chance—if he beat Jinder again, he would be placed into the Money in the Bank match.

To some he comes across as grating, but it feels increasingly like Mojo is really finding his voice as an authentic, humble character—with, yes, a lot of energy. WWE really might have something with Mojo if they handle him right.

Despite his best efforts, Mojo came up short when Mahal used a massive eye-rake to gain an opening and eventually hit the Khallas. Later on Talking Smack, Rawley once again genuinely thanked Shane for the chance and said that he just needed to work harder.

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like this guy is a really good and natural babyface.

Jinder, however, remains a bit of a non-factor. He’s surely being presented with plenty of bells and whistles, but it’s hard to look past the fact that he’s not a particularly good wrestler or talker. It’s no fault of his own—he’s performing the generic foreign heel role about as well as can be done in 2017. But it’s not a gimmick that screams “main event” talent by any means.

When Luke Harper was name-dropped by Shane while conversing with Mojo, the crowd responded very favorably. Granted, it was his hometown crowd, but it still seems like WWE made a big mistake not including him in the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania.

All the rest

AJ Styles beat Dolph Ziggler in a really strong match that played off of last week’s bout in Atlanta. Several instances of learned psychology impacted the course of the fight, really making it seem like part of a continued story rather than a one-off. Even better, Styles overcame Ziggler’s numerous attempts at cheating to win with a Styles Clash.

This was very, very good.

Randy Orton cut a very brief promo to say that he didn’t need to say any words to Jinder Mahal—that his actions in St. Louis at Money in the Bank would do all the talking.

John Cena is returning July 4.

Last night’s SmackDown Live was, on the whole, a reasonably entertaining show. Styles-Ziggler was terrific and all the tag team stuff was a blast. And there was this bit, worth highlighting once more, from a pair of bonafide legends:


When the show’s ethos that gave it an enormous reserve of goodwill is so blatantly discarded, it can only be viewed as a ... curious direction. As an individual, stand-alone, quintessentially New York ‘wrasslin show, this was very good. In that sense it worked to a tea ... ahem, tea.


But in the bigger picture, the identity of the show took a big hit last night, as indeed it has ever since WrestleMania. Can it recover? Certainly. But it seems like that question—will SmackDown Live get back to what it was—is asked every week at this point. It feels very ... common. It’s not a surprise that the one thing that feels unique—the Fashion Files—is consistently the best thing on the brand.

Really, what’s the point of a brand split if the shows are fundamentally the same? It increasingly feels like WWE has gone back to 2015, where the only in-house alternative to a staid product that’s largely the same as it was 25 years ago is on Wednesday nights. (But now with an immensely more talented main roster, making it even more grating.)

Raw, by the way, has been better since WrestleMania.

Grade: 50

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