Welcome, everyone, to this week's Smackdown Breakdown! It is time for the return, for one week only, of the Innovator of Breakdowns, Jesse Sherwood! I want to take a moment and thank Jamie for allowing me to return to my old stomping grounds as he is off enjoying himself on WWE's tour of the UK. He will be back next week. So WNW... Are you ready? I SAID, ARE YOU READY?!?!?!
Break it down!
Opening Video: A+
I love the fact that Smackdown is opening with the music intro and pyro, slightly adjusted to show the UK flag in there for the fact that they taped it there this week. Honestly, the opening montage is something I wish Raw would get back to on a regular basis, because it gives fans a better chance to get some facial recognition of some of the stars who don't always get screen time.
Announce Segment: A
I have to say that this year has been quite a handful with the injury bug seeming to have hit more often, and in a much more noticeable way, than it usually is. We've had a lot of the top of the card get hurt in some way or another, not just on the main roster but in NXT as well, and it is really damaging the product as a whole. And while guys like Seth Rollins would be the first to say "This isn't ballet, it's professional wrestling", I feel there is something more that could be being done here, mainly in the amount of dates they are expecting the guys to work. Most of the main roster works 250-300 days a year. In an impact sport like this, it's no wonder that they are constantly battling some sort of injury. These men and women NEED some sort of protections in place, or at the very least for WWE to pay for them some sort of medical care for them. I mean, come on! WWE is making record profits right now. They can afford to pay for their workers health care.
With that being said, however, I would like to mention that I like the opportunity that has been presented to the rest of the roster in this tournament. It's going to let a lot of people get to know some of these workers a lot better, and give some of the less featured ones, like Cesaro, Kalisto, and Stardust a chance to shine and make a case as to why they should be at the top of the card. Is there a huge degree of predictability here? Yep! But just because it seems like a near lock for Roman Reigns to go over doesn't mean that it won't be fun in the process. You just have to hope WWE can throw us a curveball.
Wyatt Family Promo: A-
I haven't had a lot of a chance to write about the reformation of the Wyatt Family, but I have to say that I absolutely love it! I'm pretty well a known mark for the Wyatts, but I seriously feel Bray works best with an army at his back. He was postured as a creepy cult leader when he debuted, and him "letting go" of his followers just seemed off. I love that it seems like they have a direction for the Family with the Brothers of Destruction, but I have to hope they can stretch this until WrestleMania. Wyatt needs a big win, especially after the last two years of languishing in the midcard. And with this seemingly being Taker’s retirement tour… I think it would only be fitting for him to right the wrong that happened at this year’s WrestleMania and put over the next Dark Passenger gimmick.
I love that they have been placing more faith into Luke Harper, and the rest of the family in general, on the mic. Harper has the talent to hold his own, and we can’t always have Bray ramble on for 5-10 minutes. The fans get as burnt out on that as they do every Raw opening with a 20 minute promo. Rowan and Strowman both could still use some work, but they are commanding a presence. Bray’s posturing that Taker and Kane have become a part of him could be an interesting way to finish their careers. I feel WWE needs someone with this mystical, larger than life persona to remain successful. The question is, can WWE pull it off without making his followers seem useless in the process?
Braun Strowman vs. Fandango: C
Well, it’s time for the bi-annual dusting off of Fandango for the UK tours, where Fandangoing is still apparently a thing. I don’t know whether to feel ashamed that it ever was a thing, or pity the UK for holding on to it for so long. Braun more than lives up to the moniker, as he may be one of the strongest looking guys on the WWE roster in a VERY long time. As for the match itself, I don’t see a reason to write about it, as it was your standard squash fare.
Winner: Braun Strowman
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament First Round:
Neville vs. King Barrett: C
Earlier, I talked how this tournament is a great way to show off some of the guys on the roster that haven’t been able to break through the glass ceiling or be featured much on WWE TV. Well, this match right here is a prime example of that statement. WWE started really hot on Neville, and he just seemed to fall off the map. And don’t get me started on the many starts and stops of Wade “King” Barrett! He’s a guy with the tools, but has never really connected with the fans. And when he finally did… He got injured and then won KotR and dropped the only good part of his gimmick! And being honest, I don’t know much about MU, but if nothing else, it’s keeping heat on Barrett in his home country.
Honestly, I wasn’t very impressed with this match overall. We’ve seen a long series of these two men over the summer thanks to them facing off in the KotR tourney and all of the Stardust shenanigans. It was formulaic, and hit most of the spots we expect both men to perform. I am glad that this match actually ended with a finisher, as 3 of the qualifiers on Raw ended with some form of a rollup. Otherwise, it was just another in their seemingly endless series.
Uso Interview: B-
I have certainly missed the Usos on WWE TV, so seeing them return a couple of weeks ago was a nice surprise. But them facing the juggernaut that is the Wyatt Family when they are supposed to be in the Tag Team Title hunt is absolutely abhorrent. It’s only going to make them look like they can’t hold their own. But what is up with their facial hair??? They look a LOT like their cousin Roman with it. And that isn’t exactly a good thing. Their return to action should have them trying to differentiate themselves from the crowd, not blend further into it. Also… I wish Uso Crazy would just die. It is easily the worst catchphrase WWE has tried to force for the past few years.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament First Round:
Kalisto vs. Ryback: A-
WWE has always been concerned with making or bringing in the next big Latin star, so they can continue to appeal to that fanbase. But while VKM is bound and determined that Alberto Del Rio is that person… He is ignoring the man that has made Rey Mysterio seem like a bit of an afterthought in my mind. Kalisto has the charisma and the exciting move set to wow just about any crowd, and hasn’t shown any issues with injuries. I don’t see him as WWEWHC material yet, but he has a very bright future ahead of him. But Ryback is perfectly situated in the spot he should be. He’s shown that he isn’t set for the top of the card without some serious revamping, and while I do commend him for the ego and attitude changes he’s made, as well as being safer in the ring, I think he’s had the only real chance he will ever get.
Whoa! Code of Honor, and right off the bat, we had some great action! Selina Del Sol early in the match was a bit shocking, and while I am not a fan of the overuse of finisher kickouts in wrestling, this is a spot that it makes sense. Ryback is a huge guy, and someone like Kalisto has to throw his entire arsenal at Ryback just to hang. And Ryback did a great job in showing the differences in the two of them. Differing ring styles take a lot to balance and look good, and these two men did it in spades. Between the Meathook, the aerial spots Kalisto did, and the sheer power Ryback displayed, this was arguably one of the better matches I’ve seen on WWE free TV in a while. And the fact that Kalisto won, which in just about EVERY WWE fan’s book would count as an upset, shows that Creative can pull a rabbit out of their hat when they want to. And I loved the sign of respect between Ryback and Kalisto after the match. Honestly, it’s one of the things from ROH I wish was done in WWE more often. I just hope this doesn’t end up in the obvious matchup between ADR and Kalisto in the next round. That storyline more than played out when ADR debuted against Rey.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament First Round:
Alberto Del Rio vs. Stardust: B+
Ok, I love Zeb Colter. I grew up watching the Dirty Dutchman in Memphis’ territory days. But this pairing with Alberto Del Rio, especially after the feud he had with him about this time 3 years ago, seems absolutely asinine. ADR has more than proven over the years that he is more than capable, when he isn’t being lazy, to cut a great promo. ADR doesn’t need a mouthpiece, especially if you let him have a bit of freedom on the mic. Just look at his Lucha Underground stuff for proof of that. But damn if he doesn’t look good! I think the time away from WWE did him a lot of good. And while this match against Stardust is clearly a heel/heel match, Stardust got a great face pop! Being honest, his promo reminded me a bit of the Riddler and Joker mixed together, and that’s not a bad thing. Maybe he can use this chance to propel himself into a more visible position? I do like the fact that WWE has acknowledged his AAA reign, and seems to be more open to discussing their talents outside of WWE successes. Maybe VKM is learning that we fans aren’t as stupid as he thinks? I have to give credit where it is due, and say that ADR has really stepped up his ring work in his return. So far, he has yet to have a bad match. Sure, he’s had a couple of botches, but nothing like the tripe he was producing a little over a year ago. And that enzigiri/double stomp combo he is using is perfectly suited for him. I am just thankful we don’t have to see that horrid Cross Armbreaker anymore! And while this ended exactly like I hoped it wouldn’t, it does create an interesting set of quarterfinal matches. Reigns/Cesaro, ADR/Kalisto, Owens/Neville, and Ziggler/Ambrose… Almost all of those make it to where I can’t deny that Raw will be must see TV this week. Bravo Creative!
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
Roman Reigns Interview: A
I love it when Reigns is allowed to flow somewhat naturally. Unlike “Storytime” Reigns from earlier this year, him talking about climbing Mount Everest seemed completely like something he would do. It was a natural extension of his character. And he didn’t talk down or try to dismiss Cesaro. He seemed like he felt like he was a viable threat, but his determination is what he needs to continue on. It’s the quiet, determined badass we’ve wanted him to be. He doesn’t need a lot of lines or a huge script. He’s like his cousin, The Rock. Just let him be himself, and he will shine through.
The Usos vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan: B
I don’t want to be “that guy”, but dang… It really seemed like the Usos’ crowd reaction was piped in. And for a freshly returned tag team… That’s really not a good thing. I do love how The Wyatt Family just appeared without their music! It’s just another level of the creepiness that they seem to exude. And starting with a huge, all out brawl is perfect for the feud they had earlier in the year! Harper and Rowan have been sleeper hits in amongst the past two years, and are honestly a bit criminally underrated. I could see Harper being like Kane, in the sense he will become a long term big guy star. Booker talked about The Usos having a bit of ring rust, and while it is there, it wasn’t too pronounced. I’ve seen guys return from injury with much worse than they had. But there is something to be said about how in sync Harper and Rowan are with their spots! They have a great flow in the ring. I do like the fact that the match ended in a DQ, so it preserves all four men’s integrity heading into Survivor Series. Any other ending just would not have worked. And of course, with the ultimatum made at the top of the show, we knew that we’d be hearing from Taker and Kane about now. I wish they had actually made an appearance, but the message served its purpose.
Winners: The Usos via DQ
I was going to post about the format of Smackdown and why Raw should be emulating it, but as I was writing this blog, there was a terrible and horrific terrorist attack in Paris, France. Over 100 have died, and many more are sure to be injured. I am not normally a person to pray, but tonight is a clear exception. I ask that everyone who reads my words tonight will say a prayer for the souls of those whom lost their lives tonight, and keep their families, as well as the injured and their families in your thoughts this weekend.