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: Carmella and Alexa Bliss defeated Becky Lynch and Mickie James; John Cena ethered The Miz and Maryse on MizTV (Nikki Bella was there too); Mojo Rawley, Heath Slater & Rhyno, and American Alpha defeated Breezango, The Usos, and Dolph Ziggler; Bray Wyatt defeated Luke Harper
- I honestly love the WWE “Little Lung” commercials for the anti-smoking Truth campaign, and not just because they’re 100% better than every single anti-smoking campaign commercial. They make me laugh. These are my confessions.
- This is a good go-home show for WrestleMania, which is probably the best result of the brand split; before, RAW’s go-home show was the only one that mattered. Lackluster or not, it was all that mattered, because SmackDown was just considered a weak rerun. Remember the RAW Rebound? But because both brands have to deliver individual programs, if you’re not pleased with RAW’s joint PPV go-home show, there’s still hope with SmackDown’s joint PPV go-home show. If RAW’s go-home show is good and SmackDown’s go-home show is bad when it comes to a joint PPV… Whoops?
- I addressed this last week, but since it continues: WWE’s approach to AJ Styles/Shane McMahon moves along as though AJ Styles is not… “AJ STYLES.” Fans love Shane—because you’re supposed to love Shane!—but they’ll still “WHAT” his promos (they won’t for Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles, which pleases me as a nerdy mark). In fact, they continue to boo him when he tries to push the narrative that ignores how Styles was screwed out of his rightful (after the weird two-week program with Luke Harper) #1 contendership and requisite rematch. Seriously, the “casual” crowd or whatever you want to call it sees how Styles has been screwed over by Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan. They see the bullshit in this story, especially when Shane brings up this being the “land of opportunity” where management doesn’t become the center of attention. This is not Shane’s first time inserting himself into a match, as we know, and Bryan has been essentially feuding with The Miz for the entire brand split. But they still want to see the match itself, so I truly do hope it’s good.
- The women’s segment is one of those SmackDown segments that feels like it’s great… if you’re the live audience. The initial one-on-one between Carmella and Becky is good-ish, in the sense that it could be something good, but unfortunately, Becky’s hits on Carmella very clearly don’t connect. That could explain why the set-up for the Alexa Bliss/Mickie James brawl spends way too much time with the camera focused on the commentary table. Naturally, the match becomes a (“HOLLA HOLLA”) tag team match. The good thing about it the entire segment and match is that it’s long enough to have a couple of commercial breaks. The bad thing is the couple of commercial breaks, which again brings up the need for the return of commercial break picture-in-picture. What we see of all of this is overall good though, especially the cringe-inducing moment of Carmella giving “Jimmy” Ellsworth her used gum (is that better or worse than Joey Ryan and his lollipop?), Ellsworth yelling at Alexa, and honestly, Mickie James. (The worst kept secret in all of wrestling is that Mickie James is really good, right?)
- The worst part of the match is not the commercials but David Otunga asking Mickie what went wrong with Alexa. Because Otunga clearly does not watch the product—that would take away from his mugging for the camera—even when he’s got a front row seat.
- I’m pleasantly surprised by how genuinely over Naomi is in her return, especially in the moment crowd chimes in on “FEEL. THE. GLOW.” My problem with Naomi has always been in her athleticism clearly existing over her concept of wrestling psychology, but I genuinely do want to see her succeed. Hopefully, it happens in her hometown. Wherever that is. She hasn’t mentioned that once, has she?
- 205 Live Update: Alicia Fox should also succeed. She sprayed perfume into her mouth, y’all.
- There’s the obvious tendency to worry about WWE ruining a good thing by doing a second consecutive week of Total Bellas “Total Bullshit,” but The Miz is on such a hot streak right now, the pessimism ends up no longer being warranted. As someone who’s followed Mike Mizanin since The Real World, I’ve always felt a sense of pride when Miz succeeds (especially in WWE), and these segments right here are pure success. The standing ovations from the Richmond, Virginia crowd are even more proof of that. Now for the aftermath. John Cena is excellent at what he does. At this point, it honestly makes me upset he’s not one of my favorite of all time. He kills it here. But the best I can really say about Cena just going in on Miz and Maryse (other than the fact that it makes no sense to call Maryse out for ”enhancements” when Nikki is his girlfriend—and this is me saying neither should be called out for it) is that Miz and Maryse will still definitely be fine after the fact. They won’t be lost in the blue shuffle at all, especially not after all the stellar work they’ve done. But damn did Cena pull his nuclear promo on them.
- My real reaction to the aftermath of the promo? Do you think The Miz and John Cena watch Riverdale? Is it their new Gossip Girl? I still can’t believe Miz ships Chuck/Blair. Come on, Mike! He probably thinks Archie Andrews isn’t a dummy.
- Holy crap was the 10-man tag fun. The match honestly gets off to a good start by having Ziggler go against Jason Jordan and Chad Gable; because as insufferable Ziggler’s character has been lately, there’s nothing to hate about seeing him pull off some technical wrestling against American Alpha. In fact, it made me want to see him in a tag team; though an appropriate tag team partner for the guy truly escapes me. (Cody Rhodes or Wade Barrett would have been a great partner for him in this iteration, honestly.) The rest of the match is just non-stop fun though, the type of thing you absolutely want to hype you for WrestleMania.
- Speaking of, this tag match is a hype match for the WrestleMania Battle Royal, and it’s built up by the Breezango and Daniel Bryan backstage segment… with Bryan wholly accepting everything about Tyler Breeze and Fandango? I mean, he doesn’t allow “Breezy Bella” to join the SmackDown Women’s Championship match, but he allows the team to enter the Battle Royal, and then he puts them in the 10-man tag match. Bryan is at his best at GM when he’s not patronizing to heel talent (though patronizing Bryan still has a place), and this segment is the perfect example. Breeze may take the pin the tag match, but he—and everyone else—look great. In fact, this is the best Mojo Rawley has ever looked, and in a small miracle, JBL actually puts Breezango over hard (he points out that their goofiness is a smokescreen, instead of just mocking them) as potential tag champs.
- We discuss WWE as television and a storytelling medium here, but we rarely discuss the individual writers. Until now, because I feel like Jimmy Jacobs—if he were to move from RAW’s creative team to SmackDown’s—could work wonders for Breezango (and American Alpha, since they need the character hook). He’s been The Guy when it comes to Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho’s work, but we also know that Owens and Jericho are two guys who need very little help in general. Bring Jimmy Jacobs to SmackDown! And no, not just to allow me to endlessly write about my appreciation for Jimmy Jacobs. I can do that any time.
- Luke Harper is, what you call, championship material. His new look is great, and despite the time constraints, his First Time Ever match with Bray Wyatt is a winner of a way to end the episode. It’s also a good choice to have Harper mostly get the better of Bray, especially with all of his babyface “I told you so fire.” But it’s understandable that Bray wins with a Sister Abigail “OUTTANOWHERE.” He’s the champ, and he’s being booked strongly… and it’s in a different way than how Styles and Ambrose were booked. SmackDown has actually been really good about booking its WWE Champions in different, but effective, ways. As for the aftermath, I truly don’t understand how Randy Orton got a “weapon of the apocalypse.” But I love it. I love it so much. This Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt feud is more of an Undertaker feud than the actual Undertaker feud on RAW.
- Neither Dean Ambrose nor Baron Corbin appear on this week’s SmackDown, but this week’s Talking Smack has Renee address the fact that they can’t even be in the same room together any more. Cue the “Earlier Today” footage from one of those split screen interviews. They even get to a point where they just start yelling at each other to “shut up.” Then Ambrose literally changes the channel on Corbin, which would certainly get a pop from the crowd but is slightly ridiculous outside of that realm. I can understand them not having enough time for it though; in a way, it’s frustrating that it doesn’t appear on the show, but it’s still a good use of a supplemental source. It also gets points for the reminder that Corbin is honestly a huge wrestling fan, as he remembers the very specific fact that death match Ambrose once literally wrestled for the payment of a hot dog.
- Tom Phillips on SmackDown! Live and 205 Live are like night and day. On the former, poor, beige Tom can’t figure out how to say anything other than “tag” when a tag is made in a tag match. On the latter, he’s immediately sassy about Ariya Daivari wiping his nose before shaking Rich Swann’s hand. If you’re still not sure if he’s getting different direction depending on the shows, you’re just not listening.