WWE Smackdown Live: Tag-Team Wrestling Lives Here

Smackdown Live play-by-play commentator Tom Phillips may not have done the best job explaining what should be the simplistic intricacies of Smackdown Live general manager Paige’s No. 1 contenders tournament for the WWE Smackdown Live Tag Team Championships early on in this week’s episode of the show, but that’s not what was important here. No, what was important was Smackdown Live showcasing the depth in their tag-team division and the ability to utilize the depth in their tag-team division.

To kick things off this week on the blue brand, we were treated with a New Day championship celebration to start things off on a high note. Then, a man very familiar with winning a championship five times, Booker T, returned as King Booker to make the moment even more special. This opening segment had it all, it gave each member of the New Day the opportunity to showcase what makes them unique and genuinely likeable, it threw the hardcore wrestling fans who love the King Booker character a bone, it even had the perfect callback to Big E’s “Three ain’t enough, man, I need five more” character. Yes, Big E is at the point in his career where he shines the most in this trio, and yes, he should be doing more than still headlining the tag-team division. Still, this kind of stuff is still OK, too.

For now.

The New Day are the WWE Smackdown Live Tag Team Champions; the B-Team are the WWE Raw Tag Team Champions. At the moment, the two comedy-focused champions’ biggest rivals are tag-teams who are Very Serious Teams that are on a mission to make things less fun. The difference, of course, is the balance that the New Day has a team versus the B-Team. There is nothing wrong with a comedic identity in professional wrestling, but it’s tricky. If you’re too goofy, things can go south for you fast -- shoutout to No Way Jose, wherever he is. Well, we know where he’s not -- on Monday Night Raw. The B-Team are too goofy, but if they could work like the New Day once it came time to be serious in the ring, it wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, the B-Team can’t do what The New Day and the Bar did on Smackdown Live a few weeks ago. The New Day has found the perfect, rare balance between comedy and in-ring excellence. While the B-Team versus the Revival feels stale, the possibility of another Bar vs. New Day feud over the titles feels nothing of the sort.

It’s not just the New Day and the Bar on Smackdown Live that proves their dominance over the Raw tag-team division. No, it’s the fact that right after that opening segment, the creative team put on a triple threat tag-team match that included the return of the Colons -- with no entrance or anything -- and the match clicked. There was a spinning uppercut from Cesaro, there was some domination from Luke Gallows, there was even a double-backstabber spot that earned a pop from the crowd. This match got time, the right team won, and fans are somehow hyped for another New Day vs. The Bar feud.

***

Here are two other takeaways from this week’s episode of Smackdown Live.

  1. The Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton promo was fascinating. I don’t know the number, but I think if you added up the years that Hardy and Orton have been wrestling the number is high. They both feel like they’ve been around forever, they both feel like they should be part-timers at this point, guys who are there strictly to put the young guys over. Instead, they’re feuding with each other, and it feels genuine. Hardy’s confusion for Orton’s obsession comes across as authentic, while Orton’s contempt for everything Jeff Hardy comes across just as authentic. Orton is just having fun out there, as the kids say, getting back to his roots that made him popular in the first place -- zeroing in on a fan-favorite and making their life a living hell. Whether it was Ric Flair, The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, Mick Foley, Stacy Keibler, etc., Orton is at his best when he can just be the character he is most comfortable with -- an asshole who just likes to attack the good guys because he can.

  2. What a showing by Andrade “Cien” Almas against Daniel Bryan. Once it was clear this match was happening, I found myself to be a little nervous. Almas vs. Bryan is something that needs to happen, but it didn’t need to happen here. It may seem lazy and a reboot by building to an Almas vs. Bryan WWE title match at WrestleMania, similar to the Almas vs. Johnny Gargano in NXT a few months ago, but sometimes it can be that simple in wrestling. The slap from Almas alone in this match had me sold on a big-time title match at WrestleMania next year between these two. Thankfully, the Miz and Maryse got involved and saved this match from having a proper ending. There is a lot more meat on this bone, and that is a very good thing.

Lifted from the Legal Pad:

  • Pardon me, my liege.” - Big E.

  • Never go Full Saxon is a very good phrase.

  • The laziness of the “Triple Header” gimmick being used on both shows in the same week on back-to-back nights was embarrassing.

  • The Colons are back! Primo is at least fifty-three.

  • Rusev’s “C’mon” line had me cracking up. The man has comedic timing.

  • There is something there with R-Truth and Tye Dillinger.

  • “This is my life” from Dillinger was both sad and very true for the former NXT fan-favorite. Not great, Bob.

  • Billie Kay vs. Naomi was...not good. The IIconics looked to be a little in over their heads when the crowd erupted with the Raptors’ chant.

  • Almas should not lose a match for at least a year. Zelina Vega’s “he’ll out-wrestle you” line made that clear. He’s just too damn good.

  • Brie Mode music is back!

  • Brie Bella is still an unfathomably bad professional wrestler and seller.

  • I think Charlotte Flair has a Republican senate run in her future based on that backstage promo.

  • AJ Styles needs to wrestle on Smackdown Live more and run around the parking lot less.

  • The WWE creative team *really* loves it when they get the OK from management to use the b-word. It’s like when a parent gives in and lets the kid stay up an extra hour on a school night.

  • “Let’s go Becky!” roaring chants as she blindsides the babyface champion is probably not what the WWE wants, but it’s what they’re going to continue to get. The crowd was literally booing Flair as the credits rolled following her sneak-attack beatdown from Lynch. The crowd is hot for this, which is cool, but man, this is strange.