Oh my God, look who’s back reviewing Smackdown!
See, I’ve got this flag. It’s got the Uproxx logo on one half, and…wait, where are you going? This is going to turn out great. Great! Worst case scenario, everybody reading this fails a drug test.
As you may or may not recall, I reviewed Smackdown from 2013 to late 2015, during which the show was profoundly pointless. And yet, I usually found something amusing and/or semi-insightful to say about the program most weeks. So, now that the brand split has returned and things actually happen on Smackdown from time to time, I thought I’d take another crack at it. I’m also hoping to test out a few different review formats, so feedback is very much welcome.
With that said, scroll down for the Smackdown…
The Big Story
Zombie Smackdown Shambles Past Another Milestone
Welcome to the 900th episode of Smackdown! The b-show has been b-showin’ for over 17 years, and hey, the first two or three of those years were actually pretty decent! Okay, sure, Smackdown has been fun in fits and starts over its almost two decades of existence, but for various reasons a lot of its history has been scrubbed from the WWE record books. The “Smackdown Six” era was anchored by problematic names like Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle, and admitting it was great would be giving Paul Heyman far too much credit. Eddie Guerrero’s rise is a prelude to WWE’s greatest tragedy. Celebrating Smackdown’s 2011 hot streak would require WWE to acknowledge they once put a world title on Christian.
With all that uncomfortable stuff excised, the history of Smackdown becomes, “The Rock and Triple H wrestled for the title on the first episode (in 1999), then John Cena debuted (in 2002). The End.” Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan announce Edge and The Undertaker will be on the show, because they wrestled ever-so-marginally more often for Smackdown than they did for Raw. Edge has been retired for six years. Undertaker has been a part-timer for even longer. Smackdown’s glory years are so far removed our present reality, it feels like we’re celebrating a completely different show. What percentage of the current WWE audience even remembers when Edge and Undertaker were “Smackdown guys”? Does the average kid in the audience even know who/what a Teddy Long is? Or Al Wilson? Or Mr. America? Okay, maybe glossing over some Smackdown history isn’t such a bad thing.
After a certain amount of mediocrity, big milestones stop feeling like accomplishments. When The Simpsons recently hit 600 episodes, all I could think was, “Boy, the 200 good episodes sure are buried under a lot of crap now.” Every new milestone makes that period of the show you loved a little bit smaller. But hey, 900 episodes is a lot. An accomplishment, of a sort. Onwards and upwards.
Daniel B & the Women
One on the things about Smackdown I’m guess going to have to get used to, is Daniel Bryan’s weird, kind of shitty attitude about the women’s division. Like, at the initial draft, Mick Foley accuses Smackdown of overlooking the women, and Bryan fires back that Foley just wants to get all creepy uncle on the division. I mean, it’s kind of true, but still a crappy thing to say.
Meanwhile on Smackdown itself, the otherwise endlessly peppy Bryan acts annoyed and exasperated whenever a woman walks into his office. Granted, the woman who walks into his office most often is Natalya, but he also gets pretty condescending with Alexa Bliss on this episode. Does Bryan just get off on looking down on the only members of the roster shorter than him? Is he having Total Divas acid flashbacks? I dunno, but “Daniel Bryan rolls his eyes at a woman voicing legitimate concerns” is one of my least-favorite regular Smackdown segments.
Glass Houses, King Booker
I can’t decide what to think about Breezango’s new “Fashion Police” gimmick. On the one hand, they walk around in Halloween cop costumes and gold lamé pants specifically so they can insult other people’s sartorial choices, but on the other hand, um…you know what? I take it back. I do know what to think about Breezango. They’re wonderful. Sometimes you just have to talk these things through.
So, anyways, Booker T is backstage being King Booker again, because that was a thing that happened on Smackdown once, and Breezango write him up for a fashion crime, then insist Booker and their Survivor Series team all change into Seinfeld puffy shirts. They also call Booker “King Booger”. Heh, yup, love these guys. Unfortunately, Booker rejects Breezango’s help, saying he doesn’t want to dress like some “reject from the Pirates of the Caribbean”, whilst unironically parading around in a cartoon robe and crown. Heal thyself, King Booger.
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. The Miz (Intercontinental Championship Match)
Anybody who’s read my previous rasslin’ rantings knows I’m probably the world’s biggest Miz booster/apologist, and I can assure you, sexy ringmaster Maryse and the Spirit Squad being added to his entourage has not dimmed my enthusiasm. In his current form, The Miz adds immeasurably to the Smackdown midcard. Typically only main eventers are allowed luxuries like character motivation and purpose, while everybody else is stuck with a basic gimmick (if they’re lucky) and left to writhe in the hellish ouroboros of the WWE midcard. The Miz being allowed to carve out his own niche, to create his own little stable, is a huge boon to both himself and his opponents.
Dolph Ziggler is a good wrestler. Great even. That said, I struggle to recall or care about the vast majority of his matches. He’s the textbook definition of the aimless WWE midcarder, and most of his opponents are just as directionless. It’s hard to get worked up over two nobodies fighting over nothing, y’know? Miz’s little faction gives Ziggler something to work against. A tower to topple, albeit a slightly pathetic one. There’s a reason Dolph’s No Mercy match was his most memorable in months (maybe years), and it wasn’t because Miz is a great worker (although he’s better than people give him credit for).
This match was a clear demonstration of the value of Miz’s entourage. Early on, the Spirit Squad were missing in action and Maryse was keeping it low-key, and, as a result, the match was merely fine. A bit cartoonish, as most Ziggler/Miz matches are tend to be, but fine. Ah, but then the Spirit Squad hit ringside, Maryse started getting involved, and Miz began pulling out his passive-aggressive Daniel Bryan moveset, and just like that, the match took off. The final minutes were fast, physical, and furious, in the way most WWE matches aren’t. It felt more like an 80s WCW match, than the modern “make sure nobody misses anything” WWE style. Admittedly, Maryse rolling over a small package with the light brush of her fingers was a bit cheesy, but it was a good finish in theory, and putting the belt back on Miz was the right decision. When Miz vs. Zayn ends up being one of Sami’s best matches since coming to the main roster, just remember, I called it.
Kalisto vs. Oney Lorcan
So, Oney Lorcan showed up on Smackdown, and for all of 30 seconds, he was damn impressive. Dude was throwing uppercuts that would knock Cesaro’s tearaway socks off. Then he was immediately, decisively beat by Kalisto. Heads up – if you show up at the WWE Performance Center and are given not one, but two names that don’t sound like real names, don’t bother unpacking your bags. Your WWE journey isn’t going to end well.
That said, I’m kind of enjoying Kalisto’s inexplicable new monster push. Last week he bullied and destroyed Baron Corbin (lol), and this week he crushes a younger, more-motivated Cesaro. They’re going to be mopping up Brian Kendrick with his own pirate beach towel.
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
I can write about any dang show I want here on my own site, so you may wonder why I’m writing about Smackdown. Y’know, aside from habit. Well, I’m mainly here for the women’s division. Sure, Raw has its big, historic, slightly terrifying Charlotte vs. Sasha spectacles, but Smackdown has a surprisingly deep division of women dedicated to good, solid in-ring work, and satisfying, character driven stories. Raw constantly tells us how important its women’s division is, while Smackdown just puts in the work. Also, they have Nikki Bella.
What? Speaking of Ms. Bella, she has a pretty okay match with Carmella here. Nikki seems a bit reticent following her neck surgery, and Carmella is the best worker the Kelly Kelly era women’s division never had (I’ll let you decide whether that’s compliment), but they worked with what they had. Carmella’s neckbreaker to the floor was legit nasty, and apparently somebody other than John Cena has been teaching Nikki selling, because she did a solid job of it.
Then Charlotte showed up in the crowd, and I found myself distracted wondering why Becky Lynch wasn’t involved in this segment. Becky’s the only champion who isn’t captain of their Survivor Series team. It feels like an intentional slight, which is weird, since WWE seems to be pretty solidly behind Becky otherwise. Anyways, eventually all the girls, including Becky, run in for a brawl, and we’re treated to the odd sight of Bayley happily joining in on a gang stomping of Nikki Bella. Half-assed, poorly-thought-out invasion angles aren’t just for the guys anymore!
The Usos, American Alpha, Hype Bros. & Breezango vs. The Ascension, Vaudevillains, Spirit Squad & Headbangers
Well, this match didn’t instill a whole lot of confidence for the Survivor Series 20-man tag (Jesus). This was pretty much just 10 minutes of guys taking turns doing moves. The good guys got in the last move, so they won. Shrug. I will say, it is rather impressive that Smackdown managed to dig up four regular tag teams in addition to the five teams going to Survivor Series. You can judge a division by the depth of its jobber pool, and the Smackdown tag scene has plenty of losers to go around.
Your Main Event
Well, That Was Awkward
Smackdown saves all its extra-special greying guest stars for last, trotting out both Edge and The Undertaker for a show-closing installment of The Cutting Edge. Edge has grown his hair out again, which is definitely a good thing, but he also has a giant hobo beard that makes him look like friggin’ Dan Haggerty. Or a Mick Foley “after” picture. His voice also seems to have lowered an octave or two. Is it just getting muffled by the beard? Anywho, Edge does not give a shit about anything happening on this show, and invites the Smackdown Survivor Series team down so he can joylessly needle them. He rags on AJ Styles for no particular reason, exploits James Ellsworth for a quick cheap pop, then harasses Randy Orton about his life choices. Eventually he just stops talking and wanders off to the side.
Shane McMahon tries to rally the troops, but it doesn’t go particularly well – “Nobody on this team has to like each other or get along, but at Survivor series, you have to like each other and get along! Wait…”
And then The Undertaker shows up. On the plus side, Undertaker’s entrance looked particularly rad tonight. The way they filmed that smoke and shit was downright artsy. On a less positive note, Taker had a microphone with him, and proceeded to speak words. After giving the boss’ dorky son props, Taker proclaims that WrestleMania will no longer define who he is, and that he’s coming back to “take souls and dig holes.” So, uh, that means The Undertaker is wrestling at Survivor Series, right? No?
No. He’s just here to tell everybody on the Smackdown team that he’ll be a very disappointed grandpa if they lose at Survivor Series. Because I guess the mystical undead wrestling god really cares about bragging rights. And then Taker leaves and everybody’s all, “uhhh, okay.” Personally, I’m hoping James Ellsworth screws up at Survivor Series, setting up an epic Ellsworth/Undertaker confrontation at WrestleMania. Given Smackdown’s current creative direction, I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment below (you don’t need to sign up for anything), or hit that share link if you’d like. See you next week, maybe!