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WWE SmackDown Live recap & reactions (May 8, 2018): Make good

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WWE SmackDown Live took place a couple miles from me last night (May 8) at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. And I was watching on the TV so I could give y’all some thoughts about it.

If you want to know every detail about what went down, you won’t find a better live blog anywhere in the world than the one Rev. Claire Elizabeth does for us each week - right here.

WRESTLING!

Who knew that a pro wrestling show built around matches where the outcome has a tangible impact on future matches and storylines would work so well?

(This is hopefully a rhetorical question)

The episode was promoted for its three Money in the Bank ladder match qualifiers, and ended up providing two other bouts which advanced storylines from last week in pretty meaningful ways. All but one of them is worth a watch, with two being pretty “shouldn’t miss” if you’re pressed for time.

Curtain-jerking show stealer

Following up his runaway match-of-the-night winner with Intercontinental Champ Seth Rollins from Backlash, The Miz delivered again in the opener with United States Titleholder Jeff Hardy in B-more. We’ve reached a point with Maryse’s husband that he doesn’t even necessarily need a microphone to sell us on his work. He also manages to take a beating like a babyface - his selling of the Twist of Fate is great, reminiscent of The Rock taking a Stunner from Stone Cold - while still drawing heat.

With each solo outing, Hardy is proving that separating him from Woken Matt was the right call. While he doesn’t do it with the character reinvention and creative gimmickry his older brother does, Jeff is into the third or fourth resurrection of his career at this point. If he can stay healthy, I’m expecting to see the WWE Title back around his waist at some point before WrestleMania 35.

Miz going from glassy eyed to successfully countering the post-Swanton Bomb cover pushed suspension of disbelief a little farther than I would have liked. But he’s the right call as one of the eight men in Money in the Bank - The Charismatic Enigma’s eventual shot should come another way. I’d definitely be interested in seeing this rivalry extended, too.

Disappointment, by Charlotte

Even as I cringe, I’m a fan of The IIconics promo work. And not just because Peyton Royce makes me break out in heart eyes every time she’s on my screen. Even when they’re funny, as I thought Peyton and Billie Kay were here with the story of Uncle Craig, the above perfume ad joke and in hitting The Queen with a “Sorry, Charlie”, you can’t wait to see someone shut them up. That’s their job. They do it well.

Unfortunately, the action which followed was a bit lacking. I’m not even sure what was missing - there were stakes, a clear rooting interest and what felt like a real chance Flair could lose. I bit pretty hard on the spin kick from Royce that followed Billie’s involvement with the referee.

But (something we also saw at the pay-per-view this past weekend), Charlotte’s matches with people who aren’t ring general-types or with whom she doesn’t have a ton of experience can be pretty sluggish affairs. There were stretches of this one that felt like both ladies were moving in slow motion.

Not a bad match, but the weakest of the three qualifiers.

Whoa. Whoa! WHOA!

In honor of the news John Wick 3 has started filming and Bill and Ted’s 3 is going forward, I offer three Keanu Reeves’ quotes regarding the outcome of this match.

There’s no problem with it, and it’s a very interesting call. Rusev is ready for... something, anything above what he’s been doing. I hope that doesn’t involve a split with Aiden English (Lana wasn’t around this week and that tease wasn’t followed up on in any meaningful way). All night, and really since Backlash, we’ve heard how damaged Daniel Bryan was by Big Cass’ post-match attack, so he’s amply protected (plus, did you hear the crowd cheering their encouragement of him after he was pinned? Not to make this about Omanray Eignsray, but that’s what it sounds like when the fans are behind an underdog babyface main eventer).

Like the other men’s qualifier, mostly what I wanted and still want from this is more of it. A twelve-ish minute match only gave us a taste of Rusev and Bryan can likely do together. They’ve both gifted performers and this was enough to prove they don’t suffer from a lack of chemistry.

Maybe we can revisit it down the line when The Elated One is WWE Champion? Okay, okay... one step at a time.


Various and sundry

  • Paige’s attempt to sell Backlash as great fell flat. Her pretending there was no way she could have foreseen the dick-punching double countout when she booked Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles in a No Disqualification match was laughable. I’m not sure why she flipped a switch from mentoring Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville and encouraging their heelish ways to suddenly trying to screw with them - although that can be fixed with one interview about tough love, I suppose. I’m not sold on Paige as General Manager, is my point.
  • At least the person Mandy was forced to face all by herself was Becky Lynch, who apparently couldn’t beat the dust out of a rug at this point. This is the bout you can safely skip if you’re short on time, btw.
  • While we’re talking about Ms. Rose... what was that entrance? I’m pretty sure her theme is lifted from Red Shoe Diaries, with the synthesized sax hook from Lana’s entrance music sampled into it. And how can someone so attractive be so bad at acting sexy?
  • Doubling back to the WWE Title program, both Nak and Styles made it clear they have no intention of cutting out the cock-knocking. I don’t know how you blow off a feud that’s gone the way this one has... and I’m not sure WWE does either.
  • Another week, another bit of tension teased between tag partners. This week, it was The Bar who looked they might be split apart due to the frustrations The New Day are causing them. I mean, bags full of pancakes will do that to a team - but as Big E pointed out on Twitter, Cesaro and Sheamus should just be thankful Randy Orton didn’t get to those bags first. A solid match which saw the Swiss Cyborg do what Sheamus couldn’t and defeat Xavier Woods could right their ship. Or it might further the divide between the multi-time Raw Tag Champs.
  • Maybe it doesn’t matter, anyway. Everybody in the division is headed toward... getting their action figures crushed by Harper and Rowan’s big rubber hammers? The Bludgeon Brothers sound creepy as hell delivering lines like “come play with us”, but everything still comes across too goofy. The SmackDown Tag Titleholders have a weird gimmick, is what I’m saying.
  • Also, they’re gonna have to work hard to differentiate the tone of SAnitY (Eric Young’s incoming faction)’s “chaos” gimmick and the Bros Purge-y act.
  • Luckily, they have time to figure it out. Because even with people heading out early for the European tour and pushing segments such as Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega’s debut and Carmella’s Royal Celebration off to next Tuesday’s show from London, SmackDown is still routinely leaving big names out of each two hour show. As NXT proves, that can be a good thing. But it’s weird to see a main roster brand not use folks like Samoa Joe and Randy Orton, or relegating names like The Usos and Asuka to Money in the Bank promos shot with handheld cameras.

As this isn’t a show I think about grades for on the regular, I don’t really have a scale in mind as I do on my normal beat. Still, an entertaining show which delivers quality wrestling and sets the stage for more interesting things over the next month seems safely above average.

Grade: B