I had such a hard time with last night’s episode of Smackdown Live that it took me a full five hours to get through it all. That isn’t to say that it was a bad episode, because arguably it was a pretty good episode. It had some good wrestling, very effective segments, not too much in the way of filler, and one great big obvious misstep. But the episode ended perfectly and beautifully? Let’s get into it.
Daniel Bryan and Vince McMahon handed out B pluses to everyone
The episode opened with the New Day, complete with full entrance, pancakes, and dancing, while commentary remarked on how professional they are to come out and entertain the audience even though they’re upset and strongly considering leaving the company. Big E and Xavier Woods spoke to Vince McMahon, advocating for Kofi Kingston while Kingston himself remained silent. This segment started to mirror that great one they did two weeks ago with Vince McMahon in the ring to set up Kofi’s gauntlet match, but Daniel Bryan interrupted. As invested as I am in this storyline, something about it just didn’t quite work. Kofi standing there looking sad, not speaking up for himself felt uncomfortable. After 11 years in WWE of having to be the fun, smiling, dancing guy, it’s no surprise that he hasn’t had a ton of practice. Vince McMahon and Daniel Bryan’s repetition of “B+ player” got to the point where it felt silly. Vince decided that he would give Kofi the Wrestlemania match if Big E and Xavier Woods could win a gauntlet tag match, taking it out of Kofi’s hands. Again, I’m still invested, but this was a surprisingly clumsy start to the show.
No one is ready for Asuka, including the WWE writers room
After showing the same video package from this week’s Raw about the historic first women’s main event at Wrestlemania, Becky Lynch appeared backstage to ask: “What does Charlotte Flair bring to this match? What has that undeserving third wheel ever added to this match?”
Well, what does she bring? (Other than the much needed actual heel character that a rivalry like this needs and Ronda Rousey isn’t capable of delivering, I mean.) The show immediately gave us an unannounced title match between Charlotte Flair and Asuka. Charlotte won, giving Becky the answer of “the Smackdown Women’s Championship.”
As I’ve said in previous recaps, I have been very concerned about Asuka’s Wrestlemania prospects. I wished that Asuka wouldn’t have to defend her title against Lacey Evans at Wrestlemania, and the monkey’s paw curled, I guess.
Listen, I really wouldn’t have minded as much if Asuka had dropped the title as part of a storyline, even a bad storyline, as long as it was her storyline. Losing her championship less than two weeks from Wrestlemania as a footnote in someone else’s story just because Smackdown’s writers couldn’t think of anything for their own women’s champion? Some Women’s Evolution this is.
Randy Orton interrupted the Kurt Angle Farewell Tour
You could say that Randy Orton sneaking into the ring to RKO AJ Styles during his farewell match with Kurt Angle stopped an instant classic from happening, but my take is that he was just trying to help Angle out. Wrestling Samoa Joe and AJ Styles back to back sounds exhausting for anyone, let alone someone with a body as messed up as Angle’s. I’m glad he got a break.
How did I forget about Rey Mysterio’s son Dominick you guys!?!?
Last week I referred to Dominick Mysterio as “Rey Mysterio’s tall son,” forgetting about the 2005 Summerslam angle between Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero involving that same child!! I wasn’t watching WWE then, but the “custody of Dominick ladder match” graphic is a classic that transcends pro wrestling. Their promo last night about Rey’s ‘Mania match with Samoa Joe wasn’t super important but I had to correct this egregious error.
Miz vs. Shane McMahon will be a falls count anywhere match
The Miz challenged Shane McMahon to change their match stipulation to falls count anywhere. Shane accepted, standing behind a security team and a handful of heels who don’t get TV time to protect him from the Miz. Shane lamented that Papa Mizanin impregnating Mama Mizanin was the biggest… miztake of his life. The Miz beat up all the security guards and undercard heels while Shane got away. It was stupid, but no one can make stupid work for me like the Miz.
The New Day vs Everybody: for friendship, brotherhood, and justice
The final 40 minutes or so of this week’s Smackdown more or less turned into a really good shonen anime. Big E and Xavier Woods had to beat a gauntlet of tag teams to secure Kofi’s championship match at Wrestlemania. They beat Gallows & Anderson very quickly, Rusev and Nakamura a little less quickly, and then struggled to overcome the Bar in a very competitive, athletic, impressive bout. Which makes sense because this is the New Day and the Bar, and that’s just what they do together. Structurally it followed Kofi’s gauntlet match last week pretty closely, complete with reaction shots of the locker room’s babyfaces watching intently backstage.
What really clinched the whole “Kofi Kingston, hero of the locker room” thing, though, was Jimmy and Jey Uso. The Smackdown Tag Team Champions (who, now that I think about it, have no storyline going into Wrestlemania) stood over the exhausted bodies of their long time rivals to cut a short, beautiful promo about how their respect has already been earned. The Usos are so good on the mic but so rarely sentimental that them forfeiting the match because they want Kofi Kingston to go to Wrestlemania as well was tremendously moving.
The gauntlet match ended with Big E and Xavier Woods beating Daniel Bryan and Rowan by countout after Big E trapped Rowan under a desk.
The image of the New Day hugging in the ring, knowing that Kofi Kingston will get his WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania while the babyfaces of the locker room celebrate around them was a perfect ending to a very, very imperfect episode of television.