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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

On SmackDown, the Superstar Shake-up does its worst

Illustration for article titled On SmackDown, the Superstar Shake-up does its worst
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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.

  • Results: Randy Orton versus Erick Rowan went to No Contest; The Usos (c) defeated American Alpha (SmackDown Tag Team Championship); Mojo Rawley defeated Jinder Mahal; Tye Dillinger defeated Aiden English; AJ Styles defeated Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin (Triple Threat for United States Championship #1 Contendership)
  • Very interesting Byron Saxton is now on SmackDown, and not once did JBL mock him. In fact, Byron actually threw some verbal shots JBL’s way—all in good fun, of course.
  • After the pillaging known as the “Superstar Shake-up” on this week’s Monday Night RAW, the natural assumption is obviously that SmackDown is screwed. But optimism (and the way RAW has a history of raiding SmackDown, only for SmackDown to end up succeeding anyway) and the aftermath of the original “brand extension” back in July meant “the land of opportunity” could still make the best out of a less than ideal situation. But this week’s SmackDown isn’t a particularly good show, even with the Usos/American Alpha and main event, which are good individual matches in an otherwise underwhelming show. New additions like Kevin Owens (and his new suit), Sami Zayn (who looks fantastic in the main event), Charlotte, Rusev, and The New Day on the blue brand—as well as the very good decision to have AJ Styles stay to be the Edge/Batista of the brand—are fun, but they don’t quite feel like they’re changing the game by no longer being on RAW. I expect good things from their time on SmackDown, but then you have to remember that Jinder Mahal, The Shining Stars, Tamina, and Sin Cara are also newcomers to the brand. Assuming you remember they exist in the first place, which has rarely been the case in these particular Superstars’ careers.
  • Also, what a jerk move to tease Charlotte only to bring out Tamina. Yes, Charlotte eventually comes out, but the move kills the crowd for a moment, and then they chant for Sasha, who’s staying on RAW. None of it is a good luck.
  • Unsurprisingly, the strangely shirtless Shining Stars don’t get much of a reaction in attacking American Alpha, until the crowd starts a “DELETE” chant. (You see, The Shining Stars took the pin against the Hardy Boyz last night.)
  • I initially found it peculiar Rusev was announced as a new member of the roster, without Lana, since Miz and Maryse are considered one unit. Then we found out why that is, and oh boy. Lana’s gimmick is now apparently a Fandango dancer, minus Fandango? Or she’s Sally Bowles, which I’m very curious to see in a wrestling setting.
  • “WE WANT GRONK!” It’s an interesting push tactic for Mojo Rawley, no? What’s he going to do when his best friend isn’t around for matches? After this week’s RAW, I’d encourage Mojo to protect this head when he’s near Jinder Mahal.
  • The return of original recipe Aiden English was so delightful that it didn’t even matter that he lost. He got a good amount of heat against Tye’s routine, so let’s do this.
  • Dolph Ziggler is finally given a competitor he’s able to get heat against in Shinsuke Nakamura, but I’ll also note that he cuts a pretty good promo beforehand, where he basically threatens the audience by telling them they’ll have to endure him. As for Nakamura, he’s the kind of cool Ziggler pretends to be but absolutely isn’t. It’s a match made in heaven.
  • But true heaven is the Triple Threat main event of this week’s show. Baron Corbin’s continued “THREE!” rants (and the ref talking back to him), the most beautiful Blue Thunder Bomb ever, that kick spot, all the times I thought Sami might win but sadly didn’t. These guys go to war for a chance at the United States Championship, and while the WWE Championship is currently in a creative wasteland (oh how the snake has turned), it’s good to see this title get some appreciation. AJ Styles is “The Face That Runs The Place,” but a match like this at least brings back some of that optimism that SmackDown’s earned.

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