All in all, how did the first episode of SmackDown Live stack up to Raw?
Ronnie Rowlands: Like a toddler leaning on a tree. Seriously, Raw opened with fireworks, with the commentary team standing majestically before the arena and heralding in the new era. SmackDown opens mid promo with the ring surrounded by the horrifically slim roster with no real plan or direction. With Raw, the question on its world title situation was immediately answered. It wasn’t a great answer, but it put us at ease. With SmackDown, we saw 90 percent of the roster being literally dumped on its head within the first 10 minutes, and a bunch of women arguing over nothing. No direction for the tag team division, no direction for the womens’ division, nothing.
Chris Schubert: Such a tough task for SmackDown Live, and if we truly are comparing it to Raw, it was the weaker of the two shows. Overall, I thought it did it’s job and setup the future of what is going to happen on Smackdown Live. I think the idea is for Raw to be the fast paced, “new era” show (as evidenced by the rocket strapped to Finn Balor), while SD Live will have more long-term nuanced storytelling. That’s at least the way I’m looking at it after one week of these shows.
Brandon Jackson: It did not live up to the high expectations set by Raw. Even though there are different commissioners and general managers on each show, we all know there is one man pulling the strings, Vince McMahon. It would not have been fair to expect a spectacular show like Raw was, but it was fair to expect a good show. Smackdown Live was an average show at best. The battle royal was not particularly entertaining, the women’s segment after the Lynch vs. Natalya match seemed thrown together, and the main event had a great surprise finish, but the match was just average.
Adding Shelton Benjamin to SmackDown makes the program ___________.
RR: The same. SmackDown seems to be going for the “retirement home” vibe. Actually, that’s hugely unfair on Shelton Benjamin. He is a great wrestler, but he’s in his early 40s now, and he didn’t exactly depart from the WWE on a high note. If he’s going to be treated a little better upon his return then great – those who come back after a vacation in the indies usually are – but there absolutely should not be too much focus on positioning Shelton Benjamin as a priority when there is so much work to be done on getting most of SmackDown’s existing roster over.
CS: The net result is probably the same. He’s a good addition. A name people know, and he will be able to help get some other guys over. Picture Shelton Benjamin being the Kurt Angle to American Alpha’s “Team Angle” and tell me that doesn’t get you excited.
BJ: Better. Shelton Benjamin is a good talent to have on the roster. He can fill a couple segments with a good match and put some young guys over. You could even pair him up with a young Superstar and make a new tag team. He can provide some great spots in some ladder matches on pay-per-views down the line. As long as Benjamin doesn’t come in and beat Bray Wyatt or AJ Styles or someone of that caliber, then nothing but good can come from a Shelton Benjamin return.
What chances do you give Dolph Ziggler of winning the WWE Championship against Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam?
RR: I’d say he’s in with a decent shot. I am deeply passionate about Ziggler having won that No. 1 contendership, because he deserves it. He is an excellent wrestler, and putting him in a top card match with an evenly matched guy means that I get to see him wrestle. Do I think he should win the title? I really don’t mind at all, because I’m happy with either guy holding the gold. So long as Ziggler doesn’t lose at SummerSlam and plummet back into the abyss like he normally does, I’m easy.
CS: Can I give a negative percent? Because if I can, it’s -100 percent. They are rolling with Ambrose and are probably going to set up his next feud over the next month or two. It’s a way to make Ziggler relevant. So it’s OK with me.
BJ: I say he has a 40 percent chance of winning. A month ago, I would have laughed at the thought of this question. With Balor pinning Roman Reigns and Dolph Ziggler pinning AJ Styles, anything can happen in the WWE right now. And the fact is, Ziggler deserves this opportunity and he deserves to win. Fans have wanted to be able to cheer for Ziggler for years, but were never able to because WWE kept pulling the plug on him. Ziggler is a breath of fresh air and it is really possible he wins the WWE Championship at SummerSlam.