Liam Hoofe rounds up this week’s episode of SmackDown…
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon
I have been very vocal over the last few months about Shane McMahon on WWE television. His ongoing feud with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn has, for the most part, been pretty terrible. The feud, however, has been saved over the last few weeks thanks to some excellent segments, and the incredible return of Daniel Bryan.
So, after months of struggling against each other for power, Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon simply hugged out their differences. In any other circumstance, this would have been a bit of a silly way to draw a line under things, but Daniel is so over that the crowd ate it up and the whole segment just worked. Having Daniel apologise to Shane was a bit lame, but Shane then returned the favour, at least making sense of some things. Is it possible that Shane may turn on Bryan at Mania? Some people have speculated that this may be the case, and it would certainly give Shane nuclear levels of heat, but personally, I just want Shane to fade into the background a little bit after Mania.
The segment later in the night, which saw Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens come down to ringside was also a nice final piece of build, with Sami and Kevin playing their part expertly. Bryan getting the crowd to sign goodbye to them was a nice touch, and I hope that Mania draws a line under all of this while the going is good.
The Main Event
This week’s main event saw AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura team up against Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable in what was a very entertaining match. The real focus of the match, though, was the feud between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, which finished this week with AJ one-upping his Mania opponent after the match.
Following their victory, Shinsuke was attacked by Benjamin and Gable, which led to AJ running down to hit the save. AJ then jumped up on the ring ropes to hit the phenomenal forearm on Shinsuke before stopping just as he was about to hit it. He then padded Naks on the head in the same way Shinsuke did to him last week. I really enjoyed this, the mind games between the two have been fun to watch. This match sold itself to most of the WWE universe, and the build has been really enjoyable.
Okay, so I’m singling out one performer for this week’s bad section. Rusev’s match with Jinder Mahal was watchable because the crowd were so invested, and Rusev is a great performer, but Jinder’s performances are painfully dull to watch at the moment. He has brought nothing to the US title feud, and if anything, has just dragged the whole thing down. Rusev should have been playing the role that Jinder has for the last month. He is massively over, and a triple threat match would have been just as interesting, if not more so. If Jinder wins at Mania, there is no hope for SmackDown’s mid-card for the next few months.
Carmella Cashing In Attempt
Charlotte and Natalya had a good match on SmackDown this week. It was nothing special and Natalya’s current character is pretty boring, but it passed the time quite nicely and made Charlotte look good before Mania. My issue with this was more the laziness of the booking. For the second time in three weeks, Charlotte wrestled Natalya, and Carmella ran down and tried to cash in her briefcase, unsuccessfully. When Carmella’s music hits, it isn’t a surprise, and if the company wanted her Mania cash-in (which is definitely happening) to be a surprise, they would have been wise to stop having her try every week, or at least get innovative with the booking a little bit.
The WWE has made a bit of a hash of the women’s division on SmackDown recently, booking themselves into a corner by having Asuka come over, seemingly rendering Carmella’s chances of cashing in successfully obsolete. However, I do think there is a way out if Carmella cashes in on Nia or Alexa, leading to Asuka returning to Raw with the SmackDown belt, and Carmella going the opposite way with the Raw belt.
Battle Royal Build
The Andre the Giant Battle Royal has quickly become the least exciting thing on the WrestleMania card. The concept was great for the first one, but the match has gotten worse every year. This year’s match is another collection of lower-tier wrestlers, with only Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler being the notable names in there.
This week on SmackDown, there was a tag match between 8 of the competitors and while the match wasn’t that bad, it just felt out of place on a go-home show before WrestleMania. I appreciate they are trying to create hype for the battle royal, but ultimately, they’re just flogging a dead horse here.
Verdict: This week’s SmackDown was very average for a go-home show. The company’s last chance to build hype for Mania didn’t particularly get the blood pumping and added little to the excitement for the event. The Daniel Bryan stuff was fun, as was the AJ Styles/Shinsuke segments, but the rest of the night ranged from poor to average.