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: Natalya (with the Welcoming Committee) defeated Becky Lynch (with Naomi & Charlotte); Erick Rowan defeated Luke Harper; Breezango defeated The Ascension; Jinder Mahal (with the Singh brothers), Kevin Owens, & Baron Corbin defeated Randy Orton, Sami Zayn, & AJ Styles
- Charlotte: “Whatever. Because I am the greatest at bonding.” I assume this means the tag match at Backlash will end up being called the “Welcoming Committee vs. Gold Bond” because of that backstage segment, and I can’t wait. Neither can Becky, lover of wordplay and the only voice of reason on this roster, apparently. As for Naomi, she is honestly a real hothead this week—though they all have reason not to trust Charlotte—but it works simply because it’s the only thing preventing her from fading to the background. And remember, she’s the Women’s Champion.
- Want to know a fun way to suck all the heat out of an arena? Have Erick Rowan beat Luke Harper with an eye poke.
- Dolph Ziggler: “He’s never had match one!”
WWE Universe: “NXT! NXT! NXT!”
Dolph Ziggler: “This will all be edited out.” Oh, what a difference actually treating this feud seriously makes. To be fair, “serious Ziggler” didn’t quite work in that atrocious feud against Kalisto and Apollo Crews, but since Shinsuke Nakamura is someone the WWE Universe actually cares about, it’s such a much better way to go about things this time. In fact, Ziggler appears to have fine tuned the serious approach in this SmackDown, both in his call out of Nakamura and his pre-tape Talking Smack interview with Dasha (where he tells her to call him “Dolph Ziggler,” not “Dolph”). This segment (which sounded awful on paper) was needed for this feud, to raise the temperature going into Backlash in Chicago.
- I would never want WWE to overdo it on the Fashion Files and take the magic away, but if The Usos were to cut a promo on every SmackDown, I would not complain about that. It’s funny how things can change. Even Becky Lynch would agree that the “12 Days” promo is straight fire, and I honestly cannot wait for their match against Breezango at Backlash.
- I should mention more about the Fashion Files though. Like the fact that The Ascension apparently uses lead face paint, which explains so much. Especially how Konnor went from rat boy to… whatever he’s actually supposed to be in The Ascension. Also, of course Fandango realizes it’s lead paint after tasting the paint. This segment (and the previously) honestly feels like something out of NXT Redemption, and those of you who’ve read my WWE pieces for a long time know how much that means. Breezango even finds a way to make the WWE’s requisite Holmes/Watson London cosplay fetish work. Also: “Let the girl go, you creeps!”
- I assumed the point of the Mojo Rawley segment was to reveal that the Andre the Giant trophy had been defaced, so when that didn’t happen, it really did mean we got a Mojo Rawley segment that was just him giving children a backstage tour. We also kind of got confirmation that Mojo’s current character is “obsessed with Andre the Giant,” which is kind of a lateral move from “my popular best friend helped me win matches, but now the guy we beat is #1 contender.”
- Because of Shane McMahon’s poor management skills, Rusev is coming to SmackDown next week to demand his Money In The Bank pay-per-view title shot. You do you, RuRu.
- Tom Phillips: “Two men the WWE Universe would love to see fight forever.” That’s re: Owens and Zayn, and… yes and no, Tom. Yes and no. (Funnily enough, Styles and Corbin’s moments against each other in this match did make me want to see them against each other again and again.)
- “This isn’t a Best of Seven series,” JBL says about Orton/Mahal, and for Mahal, that’s for the best. He’s easily the least impressive man in the main even tag match, and in the opening segment, it’s even more obvious just how far out of his league he is compared to Orton, Owens, and Styles. In terms of what WWE is doing with Mahal, I’d say the best person to compare him to is Corbin. And while that’s troubling in a way (since Corbin is still quite a new wrestler and Mahal is definitely not), Corbin’s existence and push is an example of how to take someone who is out of his league against company like Orton, Owens, and Styles and make him look like he belongs there, even though it’s still clear he’s not on their level. Corbin has had to prove himself in the ring against these guys in a way that Mahal didn’t before he was thrust into this #1 Contender role and still hasn’t since being in this position. As for why Jinder Mahal is the bad guy here—a question I’m seeing a lot—I wouldn’t even call it the interference from the Singh brothers, though that’s the obvious reason. I believe I mentioned it before, but it’s the fact that he’s so delusional to think anyone (fan or wrestler) hates him for certain reasons… even though we still honestly know nothing consistent about the guy after all these years. He says everyone hates him for his education, his wealth, his difference—even though you can say “footage not found” for the first two and call the third one simply tacked on “my people” moments at the ends of his promos (long after folks have checked out). Long story short, if Randy were to hit an RKO in the first 18 seconds of their Backlash match for the win, nothing would be surprising about this (after all this build-up), and nothing would change for the WWE or WWE Universe.