Last week's SmackDown Live succeeded for fairly basic reasons: it was a well-structured show built around a variety of good comedy segments and matches. That's it, that's the whole secret to success. Well, maybe not the whole secret, but you get the idea. Keeping things simple has been a boon for the show, and that continues tonight, as the structure of the show once again allows for a compelling two hours.
The success of any SmackDown Live isn't solely reliant on structure or variety, but rather the superstars themselves. They need to be put in a position to succeed, and that happens when there's an understanding of what makes the characters thrive. The handling of Nakamura post-WrestleMania is the perfect example. A slight tweak in presentation—a heel turn, yes, but it's essentially just Nakamura turning his arrogance up a notch—changed everything for him and his segments. On the opposite side of the coin is Raw's handling of Sami Zayn and Bobby Lashley. Their feud shows no understanding of what makes Zayn work as a heel, and what Lashley can competently handle/project as a supposed babyface.
Samoa Joe, power player
This week's show is one that, like last week, gives the characters plenty of moments to shine. This is another compelling, lean show that spends the right amount of time on the feuds that matter. It all starts with Samoa Joe, which is never a bad way to kick things off. He comes out to cut a promo and does so in the most baller way possible, grabbing a ladder from under the ring and then climbing it to retrieve the Money in the Bank briefcase. It's so, so good. Joe just doesn't give a damn anymore; he knows he's the best.
He says as much in his opening promo, but then he goes too far, mentioning Brie and Birdie, which brings out Daniel Bryan. This is where things go off the rails a bit. Rather than just give us the Bryan vs. Joe match we all want and deserve, WWE has to force Big Cass into the mix. Look, he has a kayfabe reason for being there, but he's just such a non-entity right now that it's difficult to care about anything he does. The reaction isn't heel heat, it's "go away" heat. So, we get robbed of Joe vs. Bryan and instead get stuck with a triple threat Money in the Bank qualifier. Thankfully, it's really the only misstep of the night.
New Day have the match of the night
Every other match or segment essentially accomplishes what it needs to. Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger have a real good match after Samoa Joe's promo. It's the type of match that, again, tells us so much about Nakamura. This is character work at its finest, as he beats down Dillinger and, rather than go for the pin, starts the 10 count in order to make a point about his upcoming Last Man Standing match with AJ Styles. It's so obnoxious and cocky, which is why it's great heel work.
Similarly, The Miz and The Bar do wonderful heel work in a six-man tag match against New Day. If you're looking for a perfect example of good, fundamental wrestling storytelling, this is the match. It's structured in a way that makes sense for everybody. Kofi gets caught in the ring early on, allowing The Bar and the Miz to take control and keep him isolated with a few shady moves behind the ref's back. That all builds to an Xavier Woods hot tag, and then redemption for Big E as he gets the pin on his Money in the Bank ladder match rival, the Miz. The crowd is hot, the performers show a ton of energy, and it's simply thrilling to watch something unfold this beautifully.
The rest of the show ranges from good to pretty good. The dance-off between Lana and Naomi is, thankfully, more silly than cringe worthy, Asuka gets a solid win over Mandy Rose, who looks damn good in the ring for maybe the first time ever on SmackDown Live, and the main event accomplishes what it needs to, giving Samoa Joe the spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match, and allowing the underdog story of Daniel Bryan to build. Hopefully SmackDown Live can continue to keep things this simple and entertaining.
- Man, how good is Samoa Joe in that opening promo? Dude's spitting promos that are all hellfire and brimstone biblical verses followed by threats to a man's family. That's some seriously good work.
- Samoa Joe promises to get that briefcase and begin "a campaign of anxiety and fear." How does he know about my writing career?
- Samoa Joe also promises to show Daniel Bryan that there are "things far worse than forced retirement."
- It's pretty much impossible to care about The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Gallows and Anderson right now.
- I'm definitely here for Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch next week.
- A quick note: WWE reviews will be on hiatus until mid-July, after the World Cup. See you all then!
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Tye Dillinger; New Day defeated The Miz and The Bar; Asuka defeated Mandy Rose; Samoa Joe defeated Daniel Bryan and Big Cass (Money in the Bank qualifier).
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