Nobody stays on top of the mountain forever. Hulk Hogan, John Cena, The Rock, Steve Austin, Randy Orton, Ric Flair and the list goes on and on. The only consistent in life is change, and, sometimes, that change can be good for a person, and, sometimes, that change can be very bad for a person. In 2017, The Usos were on top of the mountain on Smackdown Live. They were given consistent promo time, competed in one of the best matches of the year (see, Hell In A Cell 2017), and held the Smackdown Live Tag-Team championships for a respectable amount of time. Their character adjustment -- one that seemed to more closely align with their real-life personality -- paid dividends both in the ring and outside of it. You remember those early “Usos Penitentiary” promos; you remember that July 4 episode of Smackdown Live where The Usos broke the fourth wall on Xavier Woods; you remember 2017 as the Year of The Usos on the blue brand.
2018 hasn’t been as kind to The Usos as the dynamic duo has drifted back into the background while the creative team gives other tag-teams an opportunity at catching fire the same way The Usos did last year. 2018 has been about getting fans emotionally invested in the Bludgeon Brothers. Since dropping the titles to Harper and Rowan, we’ve seen the twins sporadically -- like most Smackdown Live roster members -- but it’s clear following their loss to the Bludgeon Brothers that creative doesn’t have a plan for them in 2018 like they did in 2017. The decision to move away from The Usos to try and create a new hot, tag-team act is an understandable one, but like Tennessee after they fired Phil Fulmer -- they just chose the wrong one. The Bludgeon Brothers aren’t working, fans don’t care, and it’s clear this veteran duo isn’t going to have a 2017 Usos-like run in 2018.
That’s what made this week’s episode of Smackdown Live fun. In the opening segment, we were given a heavily-scripted back-and-forth promo between Daniel Bryan and Kane that mercifully came to a close once The Usos’ music hit. It was a surprising moment to see the twins in this spot, but it also felt right. While even The Miz couldn’t even get fans to really hate The Bludgeon Brothers to promote their feud with Team Hell No at Extreme Rules, The Usos stepped right back into the spotlight as though they had never left. Their quick wit, their speedy delivery and funny one-liners hit. The fans in the audience were intrigued -- The Usos vs. Team Hell No could be a lot of fun. The Usos greatest achievement on this night? The phrase, “Ay, what up Kane!” was uttered and I didn’t reflexively cringe at just the thought of another Kane storyline.
Should Kofi Kingston have the Jeff Hardy US Title Open Challenge Spot?
Kofi Kingston is in great shape. Jeff Hardy is 40-years-old. Sure, when John Cena was doing his own iteration of the mid-card open challenge gimmick he wasn’t a young guy, either, but open challenges should feel less like a Curtis Axel vs. Matt Hardy match and more like an average Seth Rollins match. Kingston, who we know still has the athleticism to put on quality match after quality match, has nothing going on right now. Since subtlety has never been the WWE’s strong suit, Big E not joining Kingston and Xavier Woods in wardrobe choices was a strong indication as to what’s in store for the New Day this summer. Kingston’s addition to the Money in the Bank ladder match last a few weeks ago was a nice moment for a veteran who has earned it, but he’s too good to not be wrestling on Smackdown Live on a semi-consistent basis. Yes, Hardy is still over, but so is Kingston, and wouldn’t most wrestling fans prefer to see Kingston vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at Extreme Rules instead?
The Asuka and Carmella feud is about out of gas.
This was a good week for Asuka. The Empress of Tomorrow got promo time, connected on the hit of smack of the night, and looks to have finally found her footing again as the serious, dominant character she thrived with on NXT.
After losing to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34 in a stunner, Asuka has stumbled. Granted, so has Flair, but losing her undefeated streak briefly hindered the Asuka mystique. The draw, for years, was that Asuka just didn’t lose professional wrestling matches. It was simple, but it worked. She didn’t say much, but her wrestling said it all. Asuka is still the best wrestler on the blue brand, and you can make the case that -- outside of Tamina Snuka and Lana -- the Smackdown Live Women’s champion is the worst. But it hasn’t mattered as what Carmella can’t do in the ring she can do on the mic -- bring it. That sort of contrast is inherently interesting, but only to a point. Eventually, these two have to have a real wrestling match, a match that gets time, and a match that doesn’t include a whole lot of James Ellsworth. That time is here, and Asuka is ready to run the gauntlet through the talented women’s division on Smackdown Live.
Lifted from the Legal Pad:
When did Daniel Bryan become a better talker than Kane? It was unbelievable how much Bryan had to carry Kane through that opening segment. Good luck, Knoxville.
The Miz brought back the ridiculous, goofy headband this week. Please stop, Miz.
Speaking of, The Miz and Jeff Hardy doing a tribute to the Axel vs. Hardy match on Raw with its snail-like pace was a beautiful thing.
Jeff Hardy has his back turned for these promos because he doesn’t want the crowd to see his Thesaurus.
“You tried to abduct my wife!”
The Usos calling out Paige for her Kurt Angle-esque blunder of giving Team Hell No a title shot for reuniting last week was perfect.
Jeff Hardy gets toasty during his matches.
Vince McMahon wrote the James Ellsworth promo, and he believes all of it.
Where the Hell is Andrade “Cien” Almas?
James Ellsworth push-ups are good.
The reactions to that Asuka slap from the crowd were the best.
Was this AJ Styles first match on Smackdown since before WrestleMania? Seemed like even the fans were shocked to see the champ.
Rusev was excellent in his back-and-forth with Styles. Shame he has zero chance of winning in two weeks.
Peyton Royce has all the stamina in the world. Becky Lynch continued her win streak, but it felt like Royce actually tired her out. Fun match.
The Bludgeon Brothers ended Smackdown Live by just staring at Team Hell No for ten seconds. Who thought this was a good idea? Why intentionally end the show with crickets?