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New SmackDown gets more focused, but it’s still so messy

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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.

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  • Results: AJ Styles defeated Baron Corbin; American Alpha defeated The Colóns (Beat The Clock Challenge, 5:17); Randy Orton defeated Erick Rowan (No Disqualification); Breezango defeated The Ascension (Beat The Clock Challenge, 2:36 for #1 Contendership to the SmackDown Tag Team Championship); Naomi (c) versus Charlotte went to No Contest (SmackDown Women’s Championship)
  • Regarding the opening Nakamura/Ziggler segment: Comparing Nakamura to Michael Jackson is perfectly fine. Ziggler and WWE certainly aren’t the first to do it. But sticking with a very bad analogy as the crowd stays completely silent is not fine. Honestly, I can’t blame anyone who does a full body cringe at this segment. Because you know what? After years of discussion and jokes about Ziggler being held back or buried (both from the audience or himself), what would be the worst that could happen if he called an audible on the promo after it just completely killed the audience? What was the expected reaction? It couldn’t be laughter, because they’re at least committing to Ziggler being heel here. Plus, it’s 2017. As much as you can judge someone’s taste for not being familiar with the Jackson Five or the family’s musical talent, who possibly expected an audience with kids who do RKO poses to react to this? Who was this segment for?
  • The Styles/Corbin rematch is another good TV match, and this time, it actually gets a proper finish. Sure, Styles wins with a flash roll-up, but Corbin stays looking “strong” because it’s all in the aftermath of a Kevin Owens distraction and Corbin getting cocky off of that.
  • We get tag team matches this week and Breezango finally get what they deserve as #1 Contenders to the SmackDown Tag Team titles. Sadly, the problem with this isn’t even the Beat The Clock concept itself, though it’s never been a great concept. These two matches quickly reveal just how dire SmackDown is on the heel tag team side of things (outside of The Usos), as both matches rely exclusively on the classic structure of the heel beat down of the babyface… and oh boy is that not what you want with these teams at this point. In the American Alpha/Colóns match, bless the crowd’s heart for trying a couple of Chad Gable chants, but there is absolutely no reaction to any of the Colóns’ offense or heel work. (Then it has the finish of all their offense meaning absolutely nothing compared to one Grand Amplitude.) Then in the Breezango/Ascension match, there’s of course the case of The Ascension getting no entrance (officially marking them as the lower heel tag team by default)… followed by no reaction to any of their offense of heel work either. That’s where you can blame the Beat The Clock aspect: No chance of much-need back and forth action here.
  • It’s pretty ridiculous that Rusev has never had a main event championship shot, but now we have something to look forward to in his official SmackDown debut and at Money In The Bank.
  • How awkward will it be if/when the House Of Horrors match is nowhere as good at this episode’s No DQ match between Orton and Rowan?
  • I truly wish I believed WWE knows that Jinder Mahal is an absolutely delusional heel, because that’s the most interesting part of his character. And this isn’t just because he pulled the old R-Truth Special and stole Orton’s title. Remember when he won the #1 Contendership and brought up how we were all jealous of his education? What was he talking about? Kyle Fowle, do you know how good the University of Calgary is? Should we be jealous? And now Mahal tells Randy Orton that he’s clearly jealous of his wealth. He tells one of the highest paid Superstars in this entire company that he’s jealous of the monetary status of a guy who previously only peaked on the card when he was blackmailing Great Khali.
  • Note: I’ve never had a problem acknowledging Mahal’s entertainment factor as part of 3MB, but it frustrates me when people say Jinder Mahal’s been a “jobber” who never got a chance his whole career. No, he hasn’t. He started on the main roster with a push, then went nowhere fast. This happened with Drew McIntyre pre-3MB as well, but then Drew worked post-release to prove it was never a life sentence. Jinder has shown nothing new or different (other than his body) inside or outside the ring. His promo this week starts off with “USA” chants from the crowd, only for them to get bored and alternate between the even more basic “WHAT?” chant or no reaction at all. But he’s a meme, so maybe that’s a reason to care.
  • Our first clue was that she quickly made enemies of one of the least intimidating heel crews in recent memory in the form of Natalya/Tamina/Carmella/James Ellsworth (who are being referred to as “The Welcoming Committee”), but with this week’s SmackDown, cockiness be damned: It looks like Charlotte’s turning face. It’s not even in anything she necessarily does, because she still cuts cocky heel promos (that the crowd enjoys, mind you), but then you have babyface Becky Lynch cutting a promo about her “complex relationship” with Charlotte. Becky basically notarizes the face turn when she goes on about how she can “appreciate” Charlotte’s ability and tactics. If likable Becky Lynch can accept Charlotte, we can all accept her, no? We’re probably going to have to, especially since she comes out after the champ in their main event.
  • “WE WANT BECKY,” the crowd chants, yet Becky is nowhere to be found. On the plus side, at least she doesn’t have to eat a “super” kick from Tamina. People negatively compare Becky Lynch to Sting all the time, but this week’s refusal to run-in and help Charlotte (or at least Naomi) is much more John Cena’s style than anything else. Yes, Sami Zayn ran in to save AJ Styles earlier in the show, but since WWE hasn’t met a trope it doesn’t love to re-use in one night, that can’t possibly explain why Becky didn’t do the same.

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