Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.
- Results: Jinder Mahal defeated Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, Mojo Rawley, and Erick Rowan (Six-Pack Challenge, #1 Contendership for the WWE Championship); Charlotte defeated Naomi (#1 Contendership for the SmackDown Women’s Championship) The Colons defeated American Alpha; Kevin Owens defeated Gary Gander of Louisville, Kentucky (The First Ever Kevin Owens Face Of America Open Challenge); AJ Styles defeated Baron Corbin via Countout
- Watching this SmackDown, I felt like I was watching an episode of from around 2011/2012. In those shows, for every moment like Wade Barrett pushing Randy Orton down some stairs or Daniel Bryan: Shit Heel World Champion, there would be even more boring Jinder Mahal or Ted DiBiase segments (and RAW video packages, of course). So when I wrote about my frustrations with the Superstar Shake-Up on the SmackDown side of things last week, I wrote them with a very vivid memory of that time of SmackDown lows, because the signs were there and continue to be here this week. Jinder Mahal bridges the gap between then and now, as someone who hasn’t actually improved since that era (he’s just gotten bigger). The brand now has teams who couldn’t get a crowd reaction if they killed someone, like The Colons (The Shining Stars are gone) and The Bollywood Boys (who are honestly kind of an affront to Bollywood culture)—and honestly, this comes with a lack of effort in preventing American Alpha from suffering that fate as well. Just look at everything about Lana’s “coming soon” promos; it’s surprising they don’t immediately cut to Teddy Long in his office, nodding in approval. (The best part of the Lana thing is Shane’s inability to actually sell it as “exciting” on Talking Smack.)
- Randy Orton literally carries on with a promo to a completely different opponent while standing less than a foot away from Mahal. If that doesn’t make Mahal’s future pay-per-view title match a joke, I don’t know what does.
- The Six-Pack Challenge, unsurprisingly, isn’t a mess. The crowd chants “THIS IS AWESOME,” because with the combination of this match and Charlotte’s opening promo demanding a title shot (and getting it—way to use your brain, kid), they’re given something good to start this show. Then the finish happens, after we’d already had heart palpitations during that near fall where Sami just barely broke up Mahal’s pin on Ziggler.
- The fact that Natalya’s new crew with Carmella (and James “Jimmy” Ellsworth) and Tamina doesn’t ever jump Charlotte in this episode makes them look really lame, not patient. Also, the best thing about them is when Carmella and Ellsworth laugh at Tamina’s “What about my opportunity against the champ?” Yes, this is “the land of opportunity,” but even with acknowledgment of her past with Naomi, there’s probably no one who deserves a title match on this brand (who’s fully debuted) less than Tamina.
- Charlotte and Naomi are very “athletic” (commentary even calls that Naomi’s “calling card”), but both have a tendency to mistime moves, and their match tonight feels like the type of thing where the kinks should’ve been worked out on the house show circuit. The dueling chop spot ends up being surprisingly good, even as it segues into Naomi’s Speedball Mike Bailey kicks (100% because of how Charlotte sells) them, but things like their joint fall to the outside and how obviously Charlotte’s knees don’t connect to Naomi’s head are pretty glaring. I’d actually argue Charlotte has a lot of the same problems as Naomi in terms of working a match, but Charlotte mostly had the benefit of wrestling Sasha Banks. A lot. Hopefully next week’s title match is much better. (On the plus side, I was pleasantly surprised by how over Naomi was for the Louisville crowd. It was an early point in proving that the crowd was only quiet when they weren’t given anything to be excited about. They weren’t as loud for the match itself, because of the previously mentioned points.)
- It’s great SmackDown is working to make Shinsuke Nakamura (and Tye Dillinger) look important, but how long before “the artist known as Shinsuke Nakamura” gets old? JBL has already run “the face of America” to the ground, just in one commentary segment.
- Kevin Owens’ new TitanTron and full display is a thing of beauty. Kevin Owens sharing a gimmick with Jinder Mahal in the same show, on the same episode—as two Canadians who are all about their holier than thou approach to America, right down to being bilingual—is less so. I know they don’t acknowledge Mahal is Canadian, but that’s still what’s happening. (On Talking Smack, Mahal says his gimmick is now “The New American Dream.” So besides having the same gimmick as Owens, he might possibly upset Cody Rhodes. Stay tuned.)
- Corbin keeps his strength by losing via countout to Styles—and really, it’s nice to see the show doesn’t go with the early SmackDown! Live finish of Owens attacking Styles for being thrown into him—but at the same time… This particular show ending with a countout is pretty fitting, considering the overall weakness.
- Who wants to talk about the TV-PG slut-shaming conclusion (complete with some guy in the crowd trying to start a “SHE’S A WHORE” chant) to the Noam Dar/Alicia Fox/Rich Swann storyline on 205 Live? The hits just keep on coming.