Three matches. Three. That’s how much wrestling we got on this taped episode of SmackDown Live.
And I don’t even know how many matches SmackDown usually has, to be fair. Four? Five? But this episode was such a nothing-happening go home show that I’m struggling to find something to talk about.
I guess I’ll start at the beginning. Roman Reigns wanted to bring Miz to SmackDown Live to continue their joint effort of thwarting Shane McMahon, but Shane flexed his Authoritative muscle to ban Miz from appearing any further on the show. He also had Elias and the new SmackDown Tag Team Champions Erick Rowan and Daniel Bryan by his side to protect against any babyfaces doing babyface things.
And then, after a brawl that brought out the Usos from Raw, Shane booked a handicap match for the show: The Usos and Reigns vs. Shane, Elias, Rowan, and Bryan.
And like...that’s not bad! That’s a handful of really good wrestlers putting on what turned out to be a fun match. My issue here is talking about the show as a whole. When you consider that the other two matches were similarly without stakes other than “building momentum” to Money in the Bank, this just isn’t important television. This is the sort of stuff you record or watch YouTube videos of.
Hell, I’ll be honest with you, Cageside. I recorded this episode, turned it off to go watch the NBA Draft Lottery – GRIZZLIES GET THE 2ND DRAFT PICK EAT IT SOOOOOO HARD NEW YORK AND LOS ANGELES! - and then followed that up by watching Ja Morant highlights and basking in the glow for another half hour before returning to the show.
Here’s where I’m at with folks like Shane, Corbin, and WWE as a whole: they’ll either get theirs eventually, or they won’t. But it certainly won’t be happening on some random episode of SmackDown.
...Sorry for the rant. I’m doing a disservice to this match. I’d be so down for some Reigns/Usos 6-mans if they can muster up some worthy competition. But as it is, this is just two dudes chasing Shane to no avail.
Match number two
What do you do with 4 men who are all competing in a Ladder Match in a week? Throw ‘em into a match against each other. That’s what happened on this episode with Randy Orton, Andrade, Ali, and Finn Balor.
This is very similar to the match above. Tons of ridiculous talent in the ring, some very fun wrestling, but it’s all very surface-level entertainment. The most notable thing here was probably Andrade and Balor really getting into it near the end of the match. They’ve been having a bit of a rivalry over that Intercontinental Championship and sure enough, Andrade was able to capitalize on a Balor dive, throw him into the steps outside the ring, and pick up a victory on the champ with a Hammerlock DDT.
What does that mean? Who knows. I could see Balor winning after his loss to really piss Andrade off, Andrade winning the briefcase while continuing his IC Title pursuit, or neither winning at all and spinning off into a proper title rivalry. Again, there’s not much intrigue here. No dots to try to connect. Ricochet came out to brawl with Andrade on a ladder post-match, but there’s just not much to that other than trying to add a surprise to the show.
Match number three
When I hear the word “Kabuki,” I think of Whose Line is it Anyway?. They had a skit they’d do where they’d act out a scene and have to change styles as they went. Kabuki theater was one of those styles.
The more you know.
I actually don’t hate the name of Kabuki Warriors. In fact, let me pull from the worldwide homework helper that is Wikipedia: “Since the word kabuki is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning “to lean” or “to be out of the ordinary”, kabuki can be interpreted as “avant-garde” or “bizarre” theatre.”
Bizarre. Out of the ordinary. Those aren’t awful descriptions of Kairi Sane and Asuka. I’m dealing with a very limited scope of Japanese culture other than watching anime and New Japan from time to time, so perhaps this could be construed as lazy or insensitive. I wouldn’t know, and at least the name fits.
The nice thing here is they actually faced the team of Fire and Desire as advertised....and they won! Hooray for good guys winning a match. I wish the build to this match had been better, but it still works fine as an introduction to the Kabuki Warriors. Plus, the IIconics were on commentary; that’s always a good time.
A bunch of promos
Now THIS is interesting – Kofi Kingston agreed to come out and meet Kevin Owens face-to-face, and guess who showed up?
This is the intrigue that I need much, MUCH more of out of WWE. Is Zayn looking for allies? Will he scratch Owens’ back on Sunday while Owens scratches his in the ladder match? It’s a continuation of Zayn’s plotting on Raw, and I’m actually interested.
Aleister Black is still intriguing – I know we’re all on the Firefly Fun House train, but Black’s low-key killing it with these promos. There’s something about the verbiage he uses, the turn of his head, the gaze in his eyes. It feels like he’s putting things mildly when he speaks, actually. I feel like WWE could have something here if they do something particularly buzzworthy when Black gets back in the ring.
Women’s ladder match contestants cut promos – This was just like the men from Raw. No one said anything particularly noteworthy.
Charlotte/Becky video package – Very similar to AJ and Seth’s video package on Raw. Where the dudes were hyped up for their individual histories, this video focused on Charlotte and Lynch’s relationship and rivalry through the years. Charlotte vows to end it at Money in the Bank; I’m skeptical.
Lacey Evans promises to beat Lynch – Basically don’t forget she fights Lynch too on Sunday.
Lars Sullivan scowls menacingly – So...as the dude who’s been saying Lars is my jam? I read his stuff, and uh...yeah. That changed.
By night I’m a wrestling show reviewer, but by day I work as a PR guy. And let me tell you this: WWE has done a HORRIFIC job PR’ing this whole situation.
The show was fine. In fact, I bet it was really fun in person. But viewing it as a tv show, you missed very little if you skipped it.