With Hell in a Cell firmly behind us and a month until Survivor Series, it is time to start building new storylines on Smackdown. Last week gave us promising glimpses of heel Sami Zayn, new tag team contenders and things heating up in the women’s division. Will this week see the pace pick up or will this be a week of freewheeling as we wait for RAW’s TLC PPV to be done and dusted? Let’s find out:
Daniel Bryan/Sami Zayn Promo
The General Manager kicks things off to a rapturous reception from his home crowd in Seattle. Attendance numbers are obviously up as we see glimpses of the hard side of the arena for the first time in several weeks. The crowd are so hot that they even cheer the announcement of a six-woman tag match. He runs down the other matches for the night before calling out Sami Zayn to explain his actions at Hell in a Cell.
Since turning heel, Sami seems to have upped the goofiness levels on his entrance as he hops, skips, and smiles his way to the ring. He says he is still the same guy but he has just taken control of his career. He claims the fans have let him down by not showing the same support for him as they did for Bryan during the height of the ‘Yes!’ movement. He adds that he longer cares about them and get some cheap heat by making jibes about Daniel Bryan’s early retirement, calling him a ‘housewife’.
KO then joins the party and calls out Bryan for becoming one of the authority figures he used to battle against. Sami thanks KO for opening his eyes to it all. As they self-congratulate, Bryan departs but pauses on the ramp to announce he will find two guys to ‘punch you guys in the face’ later in the show. That segment really helped get Sami some heel heat – good job all round.
Natalya, Tamina & Lana v. Naomi, Becky Lynch & Charlotte
This match was apparently booked due to last week’s backstage brawl, which begs the question why Lana is in the match and not Carmella (she is on commentary but doesn’t contribute much). Naomi starts the match with her usual high-energy and hits a huge dive to Natalya and Tamina early on. After that, the heels take charge and it is all about building to Charlotte’s hot tag. She finally gets in the ring and has Lana beat when Natalya breaks things up. Every woman in the match hits a signature move, except for Lana who eats a big boot from Charlotte then taps out to the Figure Eight. After the bell, Natalya brings out a chair but Charlotte blocks the attack and chases her off. A fun match if a little on the short side. Winners: Naomi, Becky Lynch & Charlotte
Baron Corbin v. Sin Cara
Sin Cara still lives! Corbin gets on the mic to tease a title opportunity before announcing that the open challenge is now closed. This match is brief as Sin Cara gains the upper-hand early on and unloads with high-flying attacks. He hits a big splash from the top of the ring post to Corbin on the outside and that is enough for a count-out win. No injury or getting stuck somewhere, just a straight up count-out loss. I guess Corbin hasn’t learned his lesson yet. Winner: Sin Cara (!)
Tag Team Teasers
The tag division is only shown in backstage segments this week. We see The Usos give an almost face-like interview interrupted by Gable and Benjamin doing a cheesy rap before a fake-out handshake. We also see a slightly creepy, slightly cheesy vignette from The Bludgeon Brothers, who finish by smacking the forest floors with their mallets for no particular reason. We also have a cheesy Royale as Breezango spoof Pulp Fiction. The Ascension get in on the act as well but we are, of course, no closer to solving the Fashion Files mystery, whatever that was in the first place…
Later in the show, we see The New Day interrupt an impromptu Aiden English performance. Rusev joins the fray to say ‘no more New Day – it’s Rusev Day!’ As English launches into his ‘Rusev Day’ song, Rusev delivers the best line of the night telling him ‘now’s not the time’.
Jinder Mahal Announcement
Jinder, fresh back from a trip to India, has something to tell us. As he approaches the ring, Michael Cole (filling in for Tom Phillips this week in a move that has nothing at all to do with him, Graves, and Saxton being the commentary team on WWE 2K18) seriously over-sells him as champ. Jinder is popular in India apparently.
And the moment we’ve all been dreading – after claiming he has no worth opponents left on Smackdown (if a name immediately springs to your mind, don’t worry – we’ll get to that), Mahal challenges Brock Lesnar to a match at Survivor Series. Great – no Universal title match at TLC this weekend and no title on the line next month either. I actually hope Jinder goes over in this one. At least he’s not part-time.
AJ Styles then comes out to the second biggest pop of the night and points out Jinder has not faced him yet. The soon come to blows with AJ coming out on top. Not sure when this match will happen but I hope it is not another attempt to put Jinder over when all he has done to date is drag his opponents down. In the meantime, we get Samil Singh v. AJ Styles next week.
Dolph Ziggler v. Bobby Roode
Roode gets his full pompous entrance and Ziggler goes for his scratched music, light-free new entrance (could this be production budget cuts put into a gimmick?) As soon as the match starts, Cole announces an ‘exclusive commercial break’ whatever that means and we come back to a decent match. The pace is fast and the crowd are into it. Much like their match at Hell in a Cell, we see counter after counter until Ziggler rolls Roode up and grabs his tights for the pin – classic 50-50 booking. Ziggler leaves to his full music… the guy is nothing more than an exit! Winner: Dolph Ziggler
Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura v. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
The main event sees Daniel Bryan’s two guys who want to punch KO and Zayn in the face in action once again. The commentary team make several references to Nakamura and Zayn’s classic match in NXT as they begin the contest. When Orton tags in, Zayn immediately backs off and we see Randy and KO take it to the outside. Owens slams The Viper into the barricade as we go to a break. Back in the match, Nakamura and Owens are in the ring and we see Sami save his best buddy from a knee strike in the corner. The heels work Shinsuke’s knee for a while until her gets the hot tag to Orton. He hits his signature offence including a backdrop that (unintentionally) sends Zayn through the announce table (chairs earlier in the night, tables now – which brand is doing TLC again?) KO distracts the referee as Orton is about to hit his draping DDT, allowing Sami to hit a low blow. He then nails the Helluva Kick for a big scalp. After the match, the heels head backstage and gloat in Daniel Bryan’s face only to be told Shane will be back next week. They then return to ringside to gloat some more while Orton and Nakamura stand there (weird staging – that should have been the other way around and it feels like they needed to fill another minute of broadcast time). The show ends with the two reunited friends embracing as KO shouts ‘hug me tight!’ Winners: Owens & Zayn
I enjoyed this week’s show. It was no classic but there was a good balance of matches and promos. Each wrestler used their mic time and ring time well and we saw storylines develop. Zayn getting the win over Orton was a good call to get his new heel persona over and Jinder Mahal finally delivered a promo that didn’t have me reaching for the remote. The only segment that seemed out of place was the Corbin-Sin Cara match but I am sure we will see follow up to that next week (most likely a title match that Corbin wins quickly). Better showing SD Live – keep it up.