Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/10/24/wwe-smackdown-review-analysis-10-23-2018/.)
Before I begin the review of this week’s SmackDown, I have to make a mention of Roman Reigns, and the shocking revelation that he is battling leukaemia for a second time, thus bringing his wrestling career to a sudden standstill. It was heartbreaking to watch, but even more heartbreaking to consider the impact this will have on both Joe Anoai and his family. It goes without saying that I, along with all other wrestling fans, wish nothing but the best for him, and while his return to wrestling could potentially be a massive moment, the immediate priority has to be for him to battle and defeat this horrible disease. Everyone is behind Roman, and everybody hopes that he will overcome this major setback and be on the road back to good health as soon as possible. Get well soon Roman.
Moving onto SmackDown, this week’s episode had a feeling of After The Lord Mayor’s Show due to the major focus on the 1000th episode of SD last week. There was no chance that this edition would be anywhere near as noteworthy, not to mention the confusion as WWE is days away from Evolution, the first all-women’s PPV in WWE history, and less than two weeks from Crown Jewel (assuming it even happens), and of course the wrestling world still coming to terms with Roman’s health situation.
Kofi Kingston vs. Big Show
Proceedings began with a New Day promo, which discussed their SmackDown Tag Team Title loss last week to The Bar following yet another Big Show heel turn. Big E humorously said that Show flip-flops more times than a pancake in regards to his frequent alignment changes, and they joked that Show helping the Bar would make him the “Bar-tender” (there was a great chance to call him a “Bar-sted”, but they went in a different direction). They challenged any member of the newly-formed alliance to a singles match, which Sheamus, Cesaro and Big Show quickly answered. They changed their minds twice on who would face Kofi, settling in the end on Show, who destroyed Kingston with three Chokeslams, and prepared for a WMD Punch before Big E and Xavier Woods interfered for a DQ finish. But The Bar pummelled Big E, and Woods was knocked out by the giant. In the midst of this segment, a Bar/New Day rematch was announced for Crown Jewel.
Before the next match, the announcers introduced a video covering the Reigns announcement on Raw. Kick leukaemia’s ass, Big Dog.
AJ Styles & Daniel Bryan vs. The Usos
This was a rematch from SD 1000, where The Usos beat Styles and Bryan following an accidental strike to AJ by Daniel. Here, the match got a little more time, but was otherwise a very similar encounter, right down to miscommunication leading to the finish: AJ stopped short of accidentally Phenomenal Forearming Bryan, but then a ducking Uso led AJ to Pele Kick Bryan, and The Usos struck with a superkick/splash combo for the win. Both Usos provided nods to their cousin Roman during the match, including a cocking of the arm, Superman Punch-style, on the match-ending splash. Afterwards, AJ and Bryan argued backstage, with Bryan accusing AJ of intentionally striking him. Not the most creative of builds-ups so far for their upcoming WWE Championship match at Crown Jewel (which, rumour has it, Bryan may not even compete in, but that’s another story).
Charlotte-Becky Lynch Angle
We were then shown pre-taped footage of Charlotte Flair providing a speech to female competitors at the WWE Performance Center, before being interrupted by Becky Lynch, who criticised Charlotte (obviously), as well as the other females present, and then attacked Flair, leading to a wild pull-apart brawl. We then had another pre-taped promo, a brief one, with Charlotte claiming that she will defeat Lynch in their Last Woman Standing match at Evolution. This felt like a segment we should have gotten earlier in their feud; assuming their rivalry ends on Sunday, this felt like a slightly anticlimactic final stage to set up their LWS bout.
Miz TV w/ Rey Mysterio
The latest episode of Miz TV saw the ever-obnoxious host introduce Rey Mysterio as they discussed their involvement in the WWE World Cup. It looks like, at least for now, Miz has moved on from the Bryan feud (though it wouldn’t surprise me if he screwed Daniel out of the WWE Title), because here it was purely about stating why he would prove himself to be the best in the world at Crown Jewel. Rey’s response: “I thought this was Truth TV”, leading to a Truth TV chant. We didn’t get a Truth TV segment, but we did get an impromptu match between Miz and Re after the break.
Rey Mysterio vs. The Miz
This was a fun match, and the best bout of the show. It followed the standard formula and offered little innovation, but we did see Rey’s cool sliding splash to the floor again, which Miz turned on its head by sending Mysterio to the floor hard himself later in the match. Rey tried several times to position Miz in the ropes for the 619, and he eventually succeeded, leading to a splash off the ropes for the pinfall win. It was interesting that Rey is no longer wearing a tank top, meaning he is performing topless (no jokes) for the first time in many years, which is a sure sign that Mysterio is in peak physical condition. He also looks healthy and fresh from a physical standpoint, meaning that he could prove to be a very valuable part of the SmackDown roster in the coming months.
Rusev vs. Aiden English
This match literally lasted around 90 seconds, with Aiden barely getting in any offence before tasting a Machka Kick and the Accolade for the submission win. I didn’t feel that their feud (which had been hinted for ages) was flat-lining to the point that a hurried conclusion was necessary, but it looks like that is what we have here. After all, additional time could surely have been allocated to this match if the creative bods felt the desire to do so. That they didn’t indicates that this is the end of their saga, which is particularly bad news for Aiden, since I expect him to flounder post-Rusev.
We were supposed to get a doubles match pitting Asuka and Naomi against Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, but before the bell could ring, we had an interruption from The IIconics, Lana and Carmella, which led to an eight-woman brawl as a final dose of hype for the Battle Royal at Evolution, which has a Women’s Championship shot at stake for the winner. I have to say that the SmackDown promotion for Evolution hasn’t been great overall, and on this show in particular, it was very underwhelming; it reminded me of the old ECW brand, where there would be minimal promotion for the likes of (shudder) December To Dismember. I will say that Corey Graves cracked me up during this segment: when Carmella was about to state what Newark (where this show was held) wants, Graves quipped, quick as a flash, “Bail money!” Corey is becoming more and more like Bobby Heenan from a wise-cracking standpoint, which is a very good thing.
Shane McMahon Promo
Shane O Mac popped up next to briefly touch upon Evolution, before discussing the World Cup tournament at Crown Jewel by wondering aloud who will win the competition. Chants of “CM Punk!” resurfaced after he asked who the best in the world would be (which in this case is fair enough), and McMahon replied “I don’t believe he’s entered into it.” Shane then quickly threw it to the main event, which was Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton. Shane’s promo seemed unnecessary, and since it didn’t lead to an interaction with anybody else, it could have easily been dropped (especially since this marked only Shane’s second SD appearance since the post-WrestleMania episode).
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton
The announcers acknowledged that this was their first collision since their brutal encounter at Hell In A Cell, but it still felt weird to see such heated rivals competing in just another match. And the content of the bout was nothing to shout about: Orton again tried to pull on Hardy’s earlobe (the guy must have a fetish), and Hardy missed in his attempt to hit a Swanton Bomb off the apron to the floor. Ouch, man. Hardy’s attempted Twist Of Fate led to the RKO and the win for Randy to close the show. It hasn’t been explained why Orton is suddenly using the RKO again after not utilising it for months (which I thought was a cool layer to his heel persona), and despite racking up wins, it feels like Orton has lost steam in recent weeks. The same goes for Jeff, who has felt like just another wrestler since reappearing after HIAC. His face paint here was cool, though (it made it appear that he had a face on each side of his cheeks, which was a neat yet creepy look).
This was a poor episode of SmackDown. It felt phoned-in, more from a creative standpoint than anything else, and while Rey vs. Miz was fun, none of the matches will be remembered a week or two from now. Evolution feels unimportant on the blue side, and while Crown Jewel has major SmackDown involvement, who knows whether that card will even happen? (We’ll know by next week, but Evolution will be in the books by then, assuming the blue brand creative team even notices.) To be fair, we were going to have a lacklustre episode eventually, following a string of consistent and productive shows, so hopefully things will be back on track next week.