Tonight we’ve got a gauntlet match between Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio… and a bunch of people who lose all the time. IN the past three weeks of Smackdown, plus TLC, Corbin, Zami, and Nakamura are a combined 0-9! They all lost on last week’s show, and not one of those losses mattered. Would it really have been that hard to have them everyone earn their place in this match by winning a qualifier last week instead of doing nothing relevant?
ROMAN CALLS OUT ADAM PEARCE- didn’t like it
Roman’s delivery was good, but his reasoning has past the point of being a caricature. Demanding to pick your own opponent in the way Roman did feels like something he’s doing to be a heel rather than something anyone but the most deluded of people could actually believe they deserve.
Yes, Roman has been manipulative, and bullying Pearce into letting Roman choose a tomato can of his choice to defend the title against would be obviously be to Roman’s advantage, but demanding to pick your own challenger, in my mind, signals a fear of at least one of the competitors, and one thing Roman has shown to be without is fear.
Also, the fact that nothing came from this segment other than Roman getting to look like a bully makes it feel less like something relevant to a storyline and more like them writing a segment just so Roman could be a heel.
WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH: Big E.(c) vs. Apollo Crews- 6/10
They started off very hot, but then they did one of my most hated spots, which is when one guy his a superplex but the other no-sells and is able to trap the opponents’ legs in a small package. This time they did it as a double-pin, which is only slightly better. We went to a commercial, and when we came back, the referee was going to call it a draw but Crews wouldn’t accept it and slapped Big E., leading to a restart. Big E. dominated the beginning of the restart, to the point where I was terrified that he was just to win easily and make Apollo look like a chump, but Apollo countered, got his own offense in, and we had a real match on our hands.
This was still short, but was very exciting. That being said, if it wasn’t leading to Apollo Crews turning heel, there was no reason to interrupt the match with the restart.
ADAM PEARCE & SONYA DEVILLE BACKSTAGE- fine
Did I miss something? Why does Sonya think that Pearce is going to wrestle Roman Reigns tonight? Pearce clearly said he wasn’t going to put himself in the gauntlet match (a line that seemed so unimportant at the time that I didn’t even mention it earlier), and he has been portrayed as nothing other than honest on WWE TV, so why should anyone doubt him? But is Sonya doing just that, and the announcers would later as well.
Sonya volunteered herself for an assistant GM role, and her reasoning that Pearce clearly needs help running both show all by himself makes sense to me (for G-d’s sake, Randy Orton BURNED SOMEONE TO DEATH and hasn’t been disciplined for it in any way).
As for Sonya’s return overall, obviously I’m not wild about someone who lost a “loser leaves WWE” match coming back, but there were special circumstances in this case, so I’m a little more forgiving. With hindsight, it obviously wouldn’t have been better to have her lose to Mandy and then quit on her own volition, but I don’t blame them for not thinking that through in the moment, regardless of circumstance.
Sonya’s promo made it clear that she’s actually not okay with Mandy starting up a new team with someone else, but with Mandy not being on Smackdown (for the moment), it will probably take a while for Sonya to return to the ring, so I’m not too annoyed by the inevitability of it.
BAYLEY INTERRUPTS ASLYSE ASHTON’S INTERVIEW WITH BIANCA BELAIR- good
We were given a reason to think that Bianca has a good chance of winning, while Bayley was able to point out that “you might have done really well last year, but you didn’t have to deal with me.” There was none of the usual lame WWE dialogue, and while it was still scripted, they were allowed to turn and face each other while talking like normal people.
CARMELLA PROMO- Carmella cut a very good heel promo on Sasha Banks. The quality of the promo doesn’t excuse the fact that some idiot thought the best place to put this was between the champions and challengers making their entrance.
WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: The Street Profits(c) vs. Dolph Ziggler & Bobby Roode- 5.75/10
Roode & Ziggler are getting this title shot because they beat up the champions last week. The announcers are telling us that “there is no way” the babyfaces can possibly be at 100% after last week’s attack… which just makes me wonder why management made the match for this week. Or why they made it a title match.
The heels won because Ford was injured. This does nothing for anyone. Roode and Ziggler are a team of guys who have pretty much been defined as failures at this point. I’m not trying to mean by saying that. It’s what they are. They are guys who were treated as if they could have become big deals, but never did (aside form a short run of a few months with Ziggler). It’s not their fault; it’s the booking (although Dolph’s whiny promos certainly haven’t helped). But that doesn’t change the fact that that’s what they are.
This problem is then exacerbated by the fact they have become what I like to call “false credibility” guys. Essentially, they are guys who the company thinks they can pass off as having real credibility without actually giving them any. They’re the guys who when WWE wants to put over an up-and-comer, this is who they stick the up-and-comer in the ring with so Michael Cole can list off all of the accomplishments of the person this up-and-comer just beat to show us what a rising star he or she is. The problem with this is that every time you have them put the new star over without building Roode/Ziggler/whoever up in between (perhaps by winning a feud with an established midcard wrestler), the list of accolades begins to feel more and more empty. A former multi-time US and IC champion isn’t who that person is, but rather who they used to be; now they’re just a jobber to the stars, and beating them really doesn’t mean much because everyone does it and they can almost never win clean against someone who is even in the midcard.
For a very stark illustration of this, just think back to the reaction to Dolph Ziggler being programmed as with the world champions the past two springs/early summers (against Kofi in 2019 and Drew in 2020). The reaction was “they might actually change the title here” or even “this should be a good match” but rather “Really? Dolph Ziggler?” These are people who, due to the booking, the fans have completely written off.
You might think that putting them in a tag team is a good way to remove some of this stigma by giving them a fresh coat of paint (like happened with Ziggler when Drew McIntyre was called up from NXT to team with him), but the key there was that the other partner was someone new. This is packaging two failures together, which really just creates a team of failures (and this one is worse than usual, as they have tried this Roode before- his team with Chad Gable- that also ended in failure).
Obviously, having a failure for champions doesn’t make the belts look important and doesn’t help the Street Profits, either, but the circumstances of this one (where the story was that Ford was injured from last week’s attack) just made even less helpful, as the failures maintain their complete and total lack of credibility, and the best-case scenario is that the Street Profits win the belts back at the PPV in a few weeks when Ford is healthy, and we’ve changed the belts back and forth for zero gain (and if the plan is for Roode & Ziggler to win clean at the PPV, why did you not just wait until the PPV to do the title change, then you can do a rematch quickly on TV where they win clean again, ending the feud?).
ADAM PEARCE & SONYA DEVILLE DISCUSS THEIR BOOKING OPTIONS NOW THAT THE TAG TITLES HAVE CHANGED HANDS- Holy crap, they’re actually discussing business during the show instead of futzing around on their phones until someone comes to bother them! Speaking of someone coming to bother them…
PAUL HEYMAN SHOWS UP TO BOTHER ADAM PEARCE- bad
Holy crap, Paul Heyman remembered that putting your hands on an authority figure has been an established way to get suspended in WWE. Paul tried to convince Pearce to wrestle tonight. He referred to him as “Scrap Daddy,” which is a nickname that doesn’t really work if you don’t know that it derives from the old “Scrap Iron” moniker.
Paul then tells Pearce that he has pulled some strings and gotten Pearce booked in this match. HOW?! I guess it has been established that non-wrestlers can be ordered to wrestle, but it seems to me that the only person with more power than Pearce- the GM of both Raw and SD- would be a McMahon, and that begs the question of WHY one of the McMahons would want to put Pearce in this match. If the idea is that they’re kowtowing to Roman, shouldn’t Roman be asking for the thing he seemed to actually want before, (to get to handpick his own challenger)? He doesn’t really think Pearce has a chance of winning this match, does he?
BILLIE KAY & THE RIOTT SQUAD BACKSTAGE- bad
Billie Kay wants to join the Riott Squad. They tell her no, so she starts crying. Liv falls for the fake crying and tries to console her, but Billie takes this as them letting her into the group. Billie Kay is a clown. The only way this will not have been extremely stupid is if it lads to Ruby Riott snapping and breaking all of Billie’s limbs and thus Billie has to disappear from TV for a long time.
SAMI ZAYN PROMO- good
He has a film crew with him now. I popped hard when he was said he was “surprised” that WWE officials obliged his request to be in this match. I know that’s not what he meant (he thinks there is a conspiracy against him), but in my mind it came across as an acknowledgement that he really shouldn’t be in the match. I don’t know if Sami having asked to be in the match and WWE letting him in is better or worse than him them booking him in the match of their own accord even though he’s completely unworthy.
Anyway, Sami complains about being one of the first two in, then vowed that he would win
GAUNTLET MATCH FOR A WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE SHOT AT ROYAL RUMBLE 2021 Rey Mysterio Jr. (w/Dominik Mysterio) vs. Sami vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin (w/the Knight of the Lone Wolf) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Adam Pearce- 7.75/10, followed by a bad segment
Dumbf*ck Sami Zayn distracted himself talking his camera crew, so he immediately got hit with a dropkick, 619, and top rope splash, then pinned. Normally there isn’t a break between falls in a gauntlet match, but this time there was because there was a commercial.
Nakamura beat Rey cleanly. Corbin attacked Rey after the match and we went to a commercial, so once again we got a break between falls. If you’re going to change the way you do something like this, it’d be nice to let the viewers know in advance. I know it doesn’t matter, but it makes the show come across as more authentic if you say “hey, we’re going to try something new” rather than just doing it and pretending things had always been this way, and that’s always something you should strive for.
Nakamura beat bot Bryan and Corbin cleanly. The segment with Bryan was really great (and the segment with Rey was very good, too).
Roman and co. coming out after the Bryan vs. Nakamura segment instead of Pearce and Pearce only coming out after the commercial was weird.
Jey Uso got into the ring and attacked Shinsuke, then Reigns joined in. It would have been nice if the announcers had said something along the lines of “Bryan must be in the shower already” to explain why he’s not coming out to help after showing Nakamura respect just a few minutes ago.
Roman then tossed Pearce into the ring and Jey knocked him out with a superkick. Props to them for doing this, as it prevents Pearce from doing the obvious thing here and forfeiting. My problem comes when Roman orders the bell rung and timekeeper listens to him, even he’s not the referee, and two people who aren’t in the match (Roman and Jey) were in the ring at the time. Then Jey pulled Pearce onto Nakamura, right in front of the referee. Shouldn’t that be a DQ? The ref then counted the pin, so Adam Pearce is now the #1 contender at the Royal Rumble.
Straight up, I think is stupid. Why can’t Pearce, for example, book himself against Nakamura with the title shot on the line next week and immediately forfeit? But if you’re going to do this ridiculous story, can’t you do it logically and have them knock Pearce out, but his body on top of Nakamura, then LEAVE THE RING AND ORDER THE REFEREE TO HAVE THE BELL RUNG?!
This was mostly a good episode of Smackdown, but there was definitely room for improvement. The sooner they knock off the bullsh*t and actually use their undercard to build up real challengers for Roman, the better.
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