WWE SMACKDOWN REVIEW 18/10/2016: AJ Styles Defends Against James Ellsworth!

The art of professional wrestling is one of the most socially active mediums of entertainment across the world. Millions watch men and women grapple for championships, financial success, accolades, celebrity status, and supposed immortality within the squared circle. The Hype Train provides a glancing review of WWE’s Tuesday night show, SmackDown Live, evaluating the show itself, and then commenting on the good, the bad, and everything else in-between. All aboard.

SmackDown Live Review: 18/10/2016

It’s been quite the week in the WWE. After 12 years Goldberg has come back to the company to challenge Brock Lesner, with a match seemingly on the horizon at Survivor Series. Hell in a Cell is on the horizon, there’s pink ring ropes, Eric Young’s debut on NXT as the leader of Sanity was perfect (considering he was once scared of his pyro in TNA), and there was a WWE World Championship match on this edition of SmackDown Live, featuring one of the better champions in recent years AJ Styles, against James Ellsworth. Originally brought in for a squash match against Braun Strowman on RAW, the man who believes anyone with two fighting fists has a chance of winning (what about those with one hand, James?), a literal nobody whose existence is purely mocked by numerous commentary teams, entered SmackDown on the potential cusp of winning the sport’s greatest prize.

All things considered, Ellsworth’s match against AJ Styles is perhaps as big of a moment from a viewership point of view, as it was watching Goldberg step foot in the ring again. Obviously the latter will be remembered more as, but Ellsworth’s dramatic rise, which now includes entrance theme music, a fully lit pyro, and a range of clothing on WWE’s shop, will undoubtedly be referenced for years to come. Seeing as the main event itself, which saw Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, and Ellsworth, embrace the diversity of their professional wrestling talents, was enjoyable, light hearted, with a ton of fun for all ages, Ellsworth has actually set the bar pretty high in championship matches – which will go against any and all superstars that perform badly when the World Championship belts are on the line. That type of impact may very well have a bigger impact than Goldberg’s return, because as far as the return goes, it’s just the beginning, and won’t be the most memorable element of a campaign against Brock Lesnar. By just referencing Ellsworth and Goldberg in the same light highlights just how effective SmackDown has become at giving everybody and anybody a chance on the show.

Shane’s dying words on RAW, about giving “superstars an opportunity” was really promoted on this edition of SmackDown, on a show which the booking of its talent was once again flawless. Ellsworth aside, the likes of Alexa Bliss, Baron Corbin, Jack Swagger, and especially Bray Wyatt, have been allowed to showcase their wrestling talents. Contrast this to RAW where the spotlight is solely on the ‘big’ name assets and older performers – i.e. Lesnar and Goldberg – SmackDown continues to present a brand that is ahead of the curve at galvanising the interest from viewers in their entire roster (the likes of Ellsworth) included, and unlike Monday Night RAW, allowing their to be more than one flavour and multiple paces on the blue brand.

What SmackDown highlighted ever so well this week was that its lax form of entertainment, especially in the main event for the WWE World Championship, is that sometimes it’s ok to allow a show to breathe and just have fun. In comparison, sister show RAW is being presented as one constant one track string of moody and brooding feuds, without any genuine release or natural change of pace. Everything on the red brand is fully paced at delivering a series of serious feuds that are aimed at selling the idea that every single member of the RAW roster is a legitimate bad-ass. Even in the Cruiserweight division, TJ Perkins’s energetic theme music is weighed down by perhaps the most serious member of the roster, Brian Kendrick. SmackDown this week offered a genuine release that we appreciate even more the further away we get from the show, as if you were holding your breathe for far too long, or sitting on edge for far too long, but finally allowed to exhale and sit comfortably.

By no means was SmackDown perfect this week, however. Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt’s feud continually threatens to stagnate because their promos are eerily similar each and every week, whilst the showdown between Nikki Bella and Carmella on the microphone was perhaps too long. Curt Hawkins has also assumed the role of Eva Marie, backing away from wrestling matches at any given time. There’s also a mixed response about the World Championship match, with many believing the title was made out to be a joke with AJ’s name being dragged through the mud. Our view is that we’ve had some very serious moments involving the title in recent months, and it is a welcome addition to take the continued feud with AJ and Dean in a different direction, especially since the duo have squared off before for the title.

Compact, enjoyable, and multi-dimensional. SmackDown isn’t RAW, and right now that’s enough to take top billing once again.

SmackDown Live Results: 18/10/2016

Randy Orton defeated Luke Harper via DQ

Alexa Bliss defeated Naomi

Apollo Crews vs. Curt Hawkins was DOA

The Miz and the Spirit Squad defeated Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater, and Rhyno

Baron Corbin defeated Jack Swagger

James Ellsworth defeated AJ Styles {c} via DQ (WWE World Championship match)

Next on Pay-Per-View: WWE Survivor Series (Sunday November 20th 2016)

AJ Styles defends the WWE World Championship against Dean Ambrose and John Cena.

Heath Slater and Rhyno defend the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships against The Usos.

Becky Lynch defends the WWE SmackDown Women's Championship against Alexa Bliss.

The Good…

Carmella’s in-ring promo against Nikki Bella, for the most part, was an entertaining piece of television, if not a little long. The kicker is that we almost want to side with Carmella for outing Nikki. The majority of the WWE audience have been rooting against Cena for many years, and if there is a chance of her profiting because of a relationship with Cena (which has almost definitely been the case), it’s hard to side with Superman’s girlfriend, even if most men would love to spend a night with the Bella.

Jack Swagger’s return to SmackDown should have reinvented his character, but instead all we got was the same old catchphrase and character. We were very happy to see Corbin mow through the former World Champion – who for weeks has claimed that he’s been kicking serious ass for years, when obviously not true.

Corbin was particularly on point for this edition of SmackDown, especially when he cried out that the people don’t care about Swagger.

We were very happy with the main event. It was fun, and showed the diversity of Dean and AJ. Their feud needed a different direction after they originally feuded, and it’s a refreshing turn that they’ve gone down the lighter route.

When Otunga shouted “No Chin Music!” after James Ellsworth nailed AJ Styles with a super-kick might just perhaps be the single best bit of commentary SmackDown has produced since the draft.

Kane appearing from the casket after the Randy Orton and Luke Harper match descended into a DQ and madness, was a very good moment. Overall, Kane’s been booked to look very strong on SmackDown since the draft, which is a good thing because they’re probably building him up to be knocked down by an up and comer.

The overall booking on SmackDown was correct, building up to next week, even without an exclusive PPV on the horizon… Talking of that, it is actually quite refreshing having a longer build. Nothing on SD Live felt rushed.

Match of the night once again goes to Ziggler and the Tag Champs (Rhyno and Slater) taking on Miz and The Spirit Squad, followed by Bliss’s victory over Naomi. When isn’t Ziggler and Miz involved in the best match?

Alexa Bliss is continuing to grow into a very good number one contender. She really needed time to establish the threat, and fortunately with Becky’s injury, this has been allowed to happen.

Lastly on the good side of things, Dean Ambrose has been a pleasure to watch the last 2 weeks. He has been very good on the microphone but has taken a big knock of affection after losing the gold to AJ. He’s been a good comedic relief, helping bring out the best in AJ Styles and James Ellsworth.

The Bad…

Nikki Bella’s logic: I don’t need to reference my man to make it in the business, I paved my own path. – This was said just a minute after talking openly about being in a relationship with John Cena.

Another downside to the Women’s segment, though different, was that it felt like more of a ‘Divas’ segment than it did a Women’s segment. Furthermore, it’s easy to back against Nikki when it is blatantly obvious that her priorities are with the Total Divas show.

Besides a casket being involved in the Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt feud, the promo to open the show didn’t really go anywhere, or add anything to the feud. It’s all leading up to a potential casket match, but besides a few lines in a future promo package, this segment led nowhere.

The less said about Curt Hawkins, the better. We loath his character, and not in the good way which makes you want to watch.

As cute as Natalya’s cats are, her segment with Daniel Bryan was nothing more than wasted filler. It also made no sense as the Women’s roster on SmackDown is only half a dozen deep, so of course Natalya is going to be involved.

Everything else in-between…

WWE’s next live PPV featuring SmackDown will be Survivor Series. We’re getting the feeling that they’ll make the most out of a bumper SmackDown in Glasgow, which already features one championship match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.

Where is the company’s number one heel, Eva Marie?

Survivor Series is now on the agenda, and in truth, there should only be one winner. SmackDown’s been head and shoulders above RAW now for a solid 2 months.

The Tag Team division was absent this week from the show, apart from Rhyno and Slater mixing it up alongside Ziggler against Miz and the Spirit Squad. If they’ve nothing for the Usos and American Alpha, it’s best they’re left off the shows. The show didn’t miss any of the team teams though, as they are the least established element on SmackDown – the Hype Bros and The Ascension mainly.

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