A simple, unfortunate, but perhaps predictable truth: the Greatest Royal Rumble was meaningless. It was a show that didn’t do anything for anybody, a house show with the look of a PPV and the financial backing of a shady regime. If anything, the Greatest Royal Rumble did nothing but tarnish kayfabe records, with WWE now saying that Braun Strowman has the most eliminations in a single rumble match, and that Daniel Bryan has lasted the longest. Quibbling about kayfabe records seems silly, but my purist heart can help it. Anyways, if one good thing came out of that abysmal show, it’s the fact that AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura’s feud continues to escalate.
Progress for Nakamura and Styles
While their WrestleMania match was a disappointment in the sense that it wasn’t the lengthy back-and-forth bout we were all hoping for, the build since then has been stellar. Nakamura has unlocked his heel charisma, and the steady progression of the matches has been some of the best, if not exactly inventive, storytelling on SmackDown Live in some time. Going back to that well, and moving that feud forward before a massive No DQ match on Sunday, would be the easiest path to success for this week’s SmackDown Live, and yet the two only get a small portion of the show.
Isn’t that the larger issue with SmackDown Live in general? It’s always going to be in a tough spot, and I’m always going to feel conflicted about it. On the one hand, the two-hour runtime is a welcome bit of brevity compared to Raw. On the other hand, that often means each story only gets one segment a week, and that doesn’t feel like enough for some of the biggest feuds on the show. The segment with Styles and Nakamura tonight is undoubtedly great. It brings in an angry Samoa Joe as the man looking for the title, and then gives Nakamura another opportunity to be a cocky, dick-punching dude who just might have Styles’ number on Sunday. But it hardly feels like a segment worthy of a go-home show, but perhaps that’s always going to be the case with the two-hour show.
Some good ol’ fashioned wrestling
With that said, this is still a very good SmackDown Live. There’s not enough wrestling, mostly due to the need to set up a number of matches for Sunday, but the matches we do get are great. The first of the night seems like it should be a dud. The setup begins with a stellar Miz TV segment where the Miz once again carries everything, as Jeff Hardy is trusted to utter the bare minimum of babyface jokes. The tag match that comes as a result of both Randy Orton and Shelton Benjamin coming to the ring shouldn’t be much of anything, but the Montreal crowd, hot for the second night in a row, makes it all the more compelling. It’s incredible how much of a difference the crowd can make. Suddenly a meaningless tag match is filled with hot spots and babyfaces getting that massive positive reaction. For a TV match, it’s good!
Xavier Woods and Sheamus also have a good match, which follows a hilarious backstage segment that of course involves pancakes. The jokes extend to ringside, where Cesaro tempts Woods with pancakes hidden inside his jacket, acting as a distraction so that Sheamus can get the upper hand. Woods still gets the win though, and this feels exactly like the start of Usos vs. New Day. It’s two teams who haven’t had a ton of time together finding some immediate chemistry, which is no surprise when you consider the talent involved. The match leaves you wanting more, not only of Woods vs. Sheamus, but anything New Day vs. The Bar. There’s a good chance these two teams will lock up a ton over the next few months, and if they even get close to the magic that was Usos vs. New Day, we’re in for something special. Mark me down as very, very excited.
The match of the night is the main event though, as Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Asuka take on the IIconics and Carmella. It’s not dissimilar to the tag match that opens the show, in that it’s a rather flimsy, inconsequential way to hint at the conflict between Carmella and Charlotte. But, much like that opening match, there’s an energy coursing through the performers and the crowd that’s simply infectious. Asuka, Charlotte, and Becky are all absolute monsters in the ring, their shared charisma enough to power the Bell Centre during the time the Canadiens aren’t in the playoffs. It’s about as good as a six-woman TV match gets, even if it doesn’t mean much for Sunday.
Backlash, and a brighter future, on the horizon
In a way though, that doesn’t matter. This is an entertaining SmackDown Live, and one that does enough to build to Backlash. There’s room for improvement, and something like the Big Cass segment should never, ever happen again, but for the most part this is a good example of what SmackDown Live can be after the Superstar Shakeup. A little more storytelling focus, and a little more attention paid to the big feuds, and SmackDown Live will be back to its old self in no time.
- I love the Miz in that opening segment. His disdainful, unbelieving line reading of “a mutual agreement?” is gold.
- Mr. Bootyworth.
- Lana! Back with Rusev! That’s bad news for Aiden English. Here’s hoping that ditching English allows Rusev and Lana to be the babyface couple we know they can be.
- How many weeks in a row can I mention how good Samoa Joe is on the mic?
- Zelina Vega reminds us that Andrade Cien Almas shows up on his own time, not our time.
Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton defeated The Miz and Shelton Benjamin; Xavier Woods defeated Sheamus; Asuka, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch defeated The IIconics and Carmella.
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