WWE Smackdown Live: Stumbling To The Finish Line

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There is another WWE PPV on Sunday night. That means Tuesday night’s episode of Smackdown Live was indeed another go-home show. Outside of a last-minute Shane McMahon infestation, everything about last night’s show was written and produced in a way to get you, the viewer, hyped for the blue-brand’s matches on the card at Clash Of Champions.

They failed.

This show started with a familiar sound, the Undertaker’s gong, not to be confused with The Undertaker’s [redacted], and while I audibly sighed at home the fans in attendance were both surprised and overjoyed that we were mere minutes away from another rambling, incoherent monologue from the Deadman. Madison Square Garden is a legendary venue, and the Undertaker is a legendary figure. Booking him for this show is fine, I suppose, but unlike Stone Cold Steve Austin, who appeared to further the storyline between Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman and AJ Styles, the Undertaker appeared to lay out Sami Zayn? We never saw the Undertaker again after that opening segment, Zayn didn’t appear with Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura later on in the show, and none of this needed to happen.

It sucked.

After this segment, Shane McMahon appeared after weeks away in a backstage segment with Chad Gable. Unlike the Undertaker, this would not be the last we saw of McMahon for the remainder of the show. McMahon slithered his way into a match with Gable for a chance to compete in the King of the Ring final on Monday Night Raw next week. Granted, with Elias out at the last-minute, placing McMahon in this spot makes sense. It fits his character, it garnered him more heat, but unlike the Baron Corbin push on Raw, there is nothing to be gained with the Shane McMahon push on Smackdown. McMahon overpowering Gable for significant stretches in the main event was a poor decision for the same reasons it was stupid to have McMahon overpower The Miz and Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens -- this guy is 49-years-old and does not look like someone who should be able to keep up with any of the company’s top talent. With Corbin, he’s in his prime, he’s capable of putting on good matches, and fans genuinely enjoy hating him -- the man got John Cena-type dueling chants in the triple threat match on Raw this week. Fans just want Shane to go away and he was splattered all over Smackdown this week.

Perhaps the most frustrating part about this show was how glaringly obvious it was that, outside of the Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton blood feud over the WWE World title, the build to all of the blue brand’s matches heading into Clash Of Champions have bombed. This show wanted you to be excited about Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair, but you’re not. This show wanted you to be excited about Rowan vs. Roman, but you’re not. (It’s the John Cena thing where, unless you’re CM Punk or Randy Orton or Daniel Bryan or The Rock, it’s hard to get emotionally invested in their PPV matches because you know who is going over.) this show wanted you to be excited about The Miz vs. Nakamura, but you’re not. This show even wanted you to be excited about Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville, but you’re not. (More on that disastrous Rose promo in a bit.)

Smackdown is in a holding pattern right now, and you can understand why, a writer’s room that is undergoing personnel changes,  a move to a new network on the horizon, and a roster without very many lovable babyfaces. This show needs a makeover, needs a reset, and, after Clash of Champions, hopefully we get that. 

Here are two other major thoughts I had about this week’s episode:

  1. Erick Rowan is good. Erick Rowan can be something. The former Daniel Bryan bodyguard cut a promo on this show, and while it was cut short by Reigns, it was another example of Rowan offering a lot more than one might assume just by taking a gander at him. That’s what his character was talking about here, that people have assumed, incorrectly, that he is not capable of being a machavaleion-type figure, but his actions against Reigns and Bryan prove otherwise. Sure, this storyline went off the rails during the Reagan administration, but without it, we don’t get to hear these promos from Rowan. His charisma, delivery and overall body of work here has been a delight. No, I don’t think his ceiling is high with his look and theme song, but, like Bray Wyatt, you could have something here if you repackage him, give him a microphone, a mask and better music. Even if it’s a demented Doink The Clown, you would still get a lot out of a guy nobody thought you could get a lot out of. Kudos, Rowan.

  2. Turning Bayley heel was the right decision. In a backstage segment with Ember Moon, where Moon struggled to speak like a normal human with more difficulty than Natalya usually does, Bayley was more relaxed and came across more normal. Like an adult who finally realized that the only way to get where you want in life is to stop being the punching bag and start punching back. She punched back at Lynch. She punched back at Flair. She is a serious human again, and it’s the same formula the company used with Lynched that propelled to her to the WrestleMania main event. Lynch lost all the time, her Becky Balboa persona was cringey, and she snapped. Fans like wrestlers who kick ass, take themselves seriously and win a lot of matches. The way Lynch speaks now works; the way Bayley speaks now works. Bayley beat Moon clean, stared at Flair, and came across as a legitimate champion who could have a good, serious wrestling match against Flair keep her from her tenth title win. I dig it.

Lifted from the Legal Pad:

  • Still dumbfounded how many fans love The Undertaker. Did you catch the grown-ass man with the perplexed stare once it was clear ‘Taker was there? Yikes.

  • Sami Zayn is Heath Slater now. This will come across as very smark-y, but he needs to put the mask back on and re-debut on NXT. the Zayn character is toast.

  • “Very interesting, Shinsuke.” - Corey Graves

  • Did you enjoy the 45 minutes of commercials during Miz vs. Andrade?

  • Matt Hardy & Apollo Crews would be a fun-ass team and I need it to happen.

  • Serious Chad Gable is so damn good as a likable babyface. He better beat Corbin.

  • “She’s ugly.” Whoever wrote that promo for Rose should be fired on the spot. Atrocious.

  • “Byron will remain romantically dehydrated for the rest of his life.” - Corey Graves

  • Randy should win. I think Randy will win.

  • Could Otis be Rikishi? MY COLUMN:

  • Owens and Gable are the audience when Shane appears.

  • No more Kevin and Shane drama. STOP!

  • SONJAY DUTT ALERT!

  • Get Gable some new music.