After putting on their first brand-only pay-per-view, how well did SmackDown do in starting their build toward their next event?
SmackDown’s first brand-exclusive pay-per-view was a mild success. Starting with Tuesday night, they were tasked with building off of that momentum. With less than a month until their next event, No Mercy, there was little time for SmackDown to waste.
The show kicked off strong, with the new WWE World Champion A.J. Styles talking to the WWE Universe. John Cena and Dean Ambrose made themselves known, and we were off.
This show continues to be trending upward and with Monday Night Football back, there’s a decent chance that the ratings will begin to reflect SmackDown as the premier show.
With that in mind, WWE’s blue brand still has its fair share of problems. Time to re-book SmackDown.
Hype Bros take on the Usos
For the second time in the last three days, the Hype Bros took on the Usos in a tag team contest. At Backlash, these two squads were battling it out to earn the right to fight for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. On SmackDown, the teams faced off in a rematch, trying to re-establish themselves as championship contenders.
If there is one good takeaway from this repeat contest, it’s that the WWE is deciding to roll with the Usos as their top heel tag team. There’s no 50-50 booking. Jimmy and Jey are being put over in all of these matches, and for good reason.
The bad is that it’s coming at the expense of one team: Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley. Both of these superstars have talent, and have their certainly level of use for SmackDown. Building up the SmackDown tag division shouldn’t include one team getting squashed while only one team gets pushed.
With the Usos getting the push, the other teams are best served sharing the spotlight and sharing the losses. Then, when the WWE needs to move one of those teams (for example, Breezango), there isn’t a mountain of losses that needs to be fixed. Put Breezango in the Hype Bros’ spot for this contest tonight, and the long-term direction of the tag team division on SmackDown is in a much better place.
Heath Slater & Rhyno defend the tag team gold
After signing his contract to officially become a SmackDown superstar, Heath Slater made the claim that he would defend his title ‘anytime, anywhere’. To answer this challenge, the Ascension (remember them?) appeared and wanted to have the match right then and there. Commissioner Shane McMahon made the title defense official.
While the end result of Slater & Rhyno winning is better than a quick title change, it got me thinking. The ultimate payoff to Slater’s storyline was becoming a contracted employee again in the WWE. Once he got that, everything else became fluff. That includes the tag team titles. It would have been quite the scene for Slater to get what he wanted, and then lose the titles that earned him that contract.
Again, the Ascension wouldn’t have been the right pick. The Usos should have been strongly considered; even more so with what happened with them earlier in the evening.
Breezango is a heel duo that could have thrived with a shot to lead the division. Rhyno could have played a crucial role in the events as well. He teased some tension between the teams during their segment and if he would have screwed Slater out of the belts, the place would have rallied behind the One Man Band. Away SmackDown could go with their tag team division, while in the background Slater stays relevant by seeking revenge.
All of this is really just buying time until the WWE decides to give the belts to American Alpha.
AJ Styles in tag team action
The running storyline throughout the night was A.J. Styles finding a tag team partner. He needed that partner to take on the two superstars he will defend his world championship against at No Mercy: John Cena and Dean Ambrose. The new top dog on SmackDown was seen talking to Baron Corbin and Kane. Both wanted no part of teaming up with the new ‘face that runs the place’.
Swinging and missing on both of those options, Styles was seen strolling the background before stumbling across general manager Daniel Bryan. SmackDown’s boss wanted to see how Styles was progressing with his mission of finding a partner. Styles admitted that he didn’t have one, but Bryan came bearing good news. McMahon and Bryan appointed a partner for SmackDown’s champion: lovable jobber James Ellsworth.
During the course of the one hour and forty-five minutes preceding the main event, names continued to rack my brain. Corbin was the top option, but he wanted no part of teaming with Styles. Bray Wyatt was option No. 2, but the Eater of Worlds is busy jobbing to
Randy Orton Kane.
Ellsworth ended up getting a beating by The Miz, and the Intercontinental Champion was thrown right into the main event. The Miz was on the losing side, being pinned by John Cena.
Corbin would have been better, because at least it would have saved the IC champion from losing. Samoa Joe would have been a great choice, but that’s a bit of fantasy booking. Wyatt would have been a good choice, keeping himself around the championship picture while he deals with Orton. Miz, on the other hand, felt forced and un-needed.