Moment of the night?
Joseph Nardone: This has become a regular answer to this question, but the Dolph Ziggler-Miz segment. Not so much to do with the Spirit Squad, but the promo that came before those dopes came to the ringside.
Honestly, enough nice words can’t be said for both men as they’ve continued to make this mid-card title scene all that and a bag of chips. The intensity in the promos are off the charts, The Miz is doing some of the best work in all of the WWE right now, and Ziggler has finally found his sweet spot.
When The Miz said he made the IC strap relevant again, he wasn’t lying.
Adam O’Brien: The Miz continuing to push himself in terms of emotional delivery, even without the Intercontinental Championship. While the Spirit Squad handicap match was a head-scratcher (why on earth would Daniel Bryan allow that match to happen?), the events leading up to it were pure gold. A big part of me hoped that Miz and Ziggler would head their separate ways following No Mercy, but I do suppose it wouldn’t make sense for the former champion to forego invoking his rematch clause. The Miz’s promo was all heart, proving yet again that as of this moment, he is the blue chipper of the blue brand and any segment involving him has all the potential to steal the show.
Brandon Jackson: James Ellsworth getting the pin on AJ Styles. It was good fun for the audience, furthered the feud between Styles and Ambrose, and somehow didn’t make Styles look weak in the process. Ellsworth was clearly beaten, but it was shenanigans from Ambrose that allowed the victory. Ellsworth was just a prop in the larger story, and for him that is OK. Styles is going to be furious next week, and that will make for great television with Dean Ambrose.
Ronnie Rowlands: That whole deal with Ambrose, Styles and Ellsworth. Hilarity from start to finish, but totally believable in the context of the storyline. Obviously there ought not to be joke matches of this type week in and week out, but it really helped to set the scene for continued animosity exclusive to Styles and Ambrose now that Cena’s out of the picture.
Chris Schubert: Bray Wyatt picking up another victory in a feud. It seems rather simple, but for Wyatt, it hasn’t been. First off, he picked up a huge victory at No Mercy in a premier level rivalry. Secondly, the 50-50 booking wasn’t there. The follow up to this match at the pay-per-view saw Wyatt continue his momentum with another victory. Could this finally be the moment when Wyatt’s character starts to trend in the right direction? It certainly feels like the WWE is starting to put some stock behind Wyatt and push him as a main event level player. We’ve been tricked by this game before, but the brand split changes the game dramatically. SmackDown Live needs more main event talent, and Wyatt is young enough for the WWE to groom and build around for the future. So, because of how much I love Wyatt as a character, this was a big moment on this week’s show.
Do the Spirit Squad have a place in SmackDown’s tag team division?
JN: Nope. Not at all.
This appears to be a ruse to get Heath Slater and Rhyno another heel tag team to defeat before moving on (or back, really) to The Usos. Outside of that, this makes zero sense. One of the two guys is more out of shape than a blogger who does roundtables every Wednesday.
AO: No. They were brought back in the first place to highlight the worst parts of Dolph Ziggler’s career. If you want a returning duo to look credible, that’s not the way to go about doing so, and you’re not going to have people just forget that by giving them a championship-tier feud right off the bat. The Spirit Squad was never viewed as a legitimate force to begin with, despite their few successes and brief allegiance to Vince McMahon, so to expect any different now would be a mistake. SmackDown has already had to dig itself out of a hole with regards to the depth of the roster, so it shouldn’t have to do it again when the Spirit Squad further dilutes the tag team division.
BJ: No. There didn’t need to be any more comedy in the tag team division. They need serious competitors in order to get the division over. They have one of the best tag team’s in the world waiting in the wings in American Alpha, but they can’t be maximized because there is no true opponent for them. It could’ve been The Usos, but they’ve already lost to Slater and Rhyno twice. They might not be able to come back from that while on SmackDown. Tuesday nights need The Revival more than ever.
RR: Nah. They never had much longevity in the first place really, did they? Weren’t they originally brought in by Vince McMahon with the specific purpose of putting PG-Generation-X in their place? They were always lackey figures doing someone else’s bidding, much like they are now with The Miz, and I reckon things would become a little aimless for them if they outstayed this feud.
CS: Every division in professional wrestling needs a team like the Spirit Squad. They have some name value, and wins over them could help push a team forward. In a division with young teams like The Ascension and Breezango, there is a useful role for the Spirit Squad to elevate these teams by jobbing to them. Raw has this with teams like The Shinning Stars and Golden Truth. They get wins here and there to keep them creditable, but at the end of the day, those teams lose to the real teams that the WWE wants to push. SmackDown needs some depth to allow that to happen, and the Spirit Squad work in that role effectively.
Given his popularity as a comical jobber, can James Ellsworth ever create a legit spot on the WWE roster?
JN: This is tough. I so badly want to say yes, however, there’s really no reason to believe that in sincerity.
While we have very little evidence of it either way, Ellsworth doesn’t appear to be the world’s greatest in-ring worker. Save for him underdog, he-has-no-chin gimmick, I’m not sure what else he brings to the table that will give him any sort of lasting power.
I am hoping like hell I am wrong, though.
AO: He has a serious amount of work to do, but never say never. If it’s something the fans want to see, which I honestly don’t know about in the long-term, then maybe he could land himself a firm spot on the payroll, but right now I don’t see it. He’s a funny guy, and he’s a lot of fun to root for, but that can only get you so far. There’s nobody in the company, including Raw’s cruiserweight division, that Ellsworth could believably stand toe-to-toe with in his current character, and although that’s kind of his appeal in the first place, I don’t see the act lasting long before fans start to lose interest. For me, giving the guy a championship match next week could be the start of a steady decline from funny to downright nonsense.
BJ: Of course he can. Wrestling fans are enamoured with lovable losers. As long as he can continue doing what he’s doing, and showing fighting spirit, James Ellsworth will be over with the WWE audience. He has a great and unique look for himself, and he garners sympathy very easily. WWE was very smart to keep him around. It’s been proven you can have a long WWE career as a jobber, and sometimes if you’re good enough at your job, they’ll let you beat the WWE World Champion.
RR: Depends on your definition of legit spot? There’s nothing wrong with keeping a guy on as a prolific jobber, much like the Brooklyn Brawler, but if by “legit spot” you mean he might become World Champion one day then no.
CS: His legit spot is as a comical jobber. That’s what is working for him and for the WWE, so why change it? The fans still love him, just like they did when he debuted against Braun Strowman. The comical jobber gimmick is one that is long time wrestling tradition. WWE got away from that for a long while, but is starting to return to the old-school roots of professional wrestling. Because Ellsworth is a popular jobber, fans will root for him more than the average jobber. That affords the WWE a multitude of opportunities. Ellsworth can be a main event jobber, rather than a mid- or low-card enhancement talent. A random no-name doesn’t work in a match with WWE World Champion AJ Styles. Ellsworth worked. Albeit not the smartest booking decision, the fans were in to that. So Ellsworth has a legit spot on the roster, and the WWE is wise to continue to use him while he remains popular.