This episode of SmackDown Live was all about the cream of the crop.
Take the main event for example; there were no big frills this episode, no hard sell to stick around for the match. Asuka vs. Charlotte: A WrestleMania rematch. That’s all the sell you need.
And guess what? It kicked ass. Shocker.
I could list a bunch of superlatives for you, but Asuka and Charlotte are two absurdly talented wrestlers who could main event any show in the world and make it work. The match felt like a tease, featuring just enough cool signature moves to feel like a major matchup, but also leaving enough in the tank to sell the upcoming TLC match on Sunday.
A Figure Four, an Asuka Lock. A leaping moonsault from the top rope. Some mocking kicks by Asuka on her fallen opponent. All of it used to trade control as The Man Becky Lynch looked on from ringside.
The finish is kind of brilliant, by the way. Charlotte pulled the exact same stunt on Asuka as she did to Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series. When the going got tough, the Queen reached for a kendo stick and got herself disqualified. It infers that Asuka is on Rousey’s level and I love taking the time to make that clear.
And why shouldn’t she be? Asuka eventually ripped the kendo stick away from her opponents and used it to beat the ever-loving tar out of them. Asuka stood tall to cheers to end the show.
This was clearly just a teaser, but I want to be clear here. This is the cream of the crop on SmackDown. This is your TLC main event. And it ain’t even close.
Consider this a petition: Give us more cool things like this match, WWE.
Good guy or bad, Daniel Bryan is one of the best wrestlers of all time. Good or bad, I want to see him fight other incredibly talented wrestlers. And I don’t need a long, flowing storyline to make it happen.
Enter Mustafa Ali, the Heart of 205 Live and the literal anthesis to all of Bryan’s ranting on this show.
Bryan accused the crowd of “cultivating ignorance” and being selfish, always taking from the world and the performers and giving nothing back. Folks...who gives more than Ali?
Ali’s considered the Heart of 205 Live because he’s quite literally the heart of the dang show. It’s a show that’s dismissed by the majority of the fanbase...and yet there he is, quietly kicking ass. He mentioned his wife and kids as well. He sacrifices, he gives to his family with his effort.
Ahhh but let’s get back to Bryan. Bryan added a cool wrinkle to his villainy to go with that cultivated ignorance remark. He told the truth.
“Hold on, I know who you are,” Bryan said. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mustafa Ali. He is the Heart of 205 Live. And he is an incredible performer.”
All true, right? Bryan went on to educate Ali about the crowd. See, after their match...no one will care. No matter how good he does, no one will care. The people are too self-absorbed. They’re too consumed with their mindless consumption. They’re too xenophobic.
Xenophobic! Woooo, we’re getting real now. My mind instantly flashed to Muhammed Hassan, to Ali’s old quote about wanting to inspire folks and not be the easy Middle Eastern-gimmicked heel.
And then, you know. These two did what they do. They tore it down. I still feel like they could have sold this a bit better, but I really can’t complain much. Give me more Ali in just about everything.
The Rest of SmackDown
Rap Battle - Segments like this always seem to be fantastic or miserable. In this case, I lean more towards the latter. I can appreciate how committed The Bar was at their Vanilla Ice parody, but uh...yeah. Stick to the grapplin’, guys.
Shane McMahon beats some Vegas Villains – The Miz is still trying to get Shane to be tag team partners with him and went so far as to book them in a tag match. It was a very short match against god knows who, featuring a bunch of comically bad Shane McMahon wrestling.
But you know what? All of that makes it even funnier that the Miz can see this dude fight and salivates at the thought of being tag team partners. Paige helped save the bit for me as well, fuming over the fact that the Miz forged papers for the local talent and told the referee that Paige had sanctioned a match. McMahon left Miz hanging once again, and I can’t find it in me to feel bad for the guy.
R.K.Oof - Randy Orton was super creepy tonight. He expressed annoyance with the fact that Rey Mysterio agreed to a Chairs Match at TLC after all that he’d done to the man with a chair. Mysterio must think he is capable of getting revenge. Well...once a victim, always a victim.
GEEZ, Randy. Getting a little dark there, aren’t ya? This feud’s not exactly lighting the world on fire, but I do like that Orton’s taken a different route than the other heels on the show and is giving us a clear reason to believe he’s a scumbag. Kick his ass, Rey.
Rusev and Jeff Hardy def. Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe – This was a fun little match in your customary “let’s throw some feuds together” tag match. It also featured a dance break from R-Truth and Carmella which disappointed me.
You’re supposed to troll Miz, guys!!!
Anyway, I kind of like the team of Hardy and Rusev. I feel like those promos could be really fun. Either way, Rusev picked up a win over Nakamura headed into TLC.
Look, let’s be fair here. We all like to complain about Raw, right? Well, none of the undercard really clicked with me on this show. It was just some casual, average stuff. WWE needs to do better there.
But C’mon. Bryan vs. Ali? Asuka vs. Charlotte? I can’t get too uppity about it.
I’m struggling to figure out my grading scale now that I’m working on SmackDown as well. I thought this show was better than Raw. It had none of the really bad stuff and featured two matches that are roughly on par with the Rollins match.
Ugh. I’ll work on it.
By the way...TLC has like 20 matches, right? It’s going to be a looong Sunday for yours truly.