Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

SmackDown reminds us that House McMahon always wins

AJ Styles

Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • Results: Becky Lynch defeated Natalya; Mickie James defeated Alexa Bliss; Mojo Rawley defeated Dolph Ziggler (via count-out, the ultimate instance of show-stealing); The Usos defeated American Alpha
  • The SmackDown ladies basically playing the Dozens on Talking Smack is the most fun part of this week’s show. Renee had to unfollow 2Pawz on Instagram! “It was too much.” As for the women’s segments on the show, the Becky Lynch/Natalya mach is pretty good in that Dolph Ziggler/Kofi Kingston sort of way, and the Alexa Bliss/Mickie James match has some nice moments highlighting how that Alexa must’ve scouted (or Googled, as Becky once said) Mickie before she brought her back to WWE. However, I’m pretty sure Alexa dropped Mickie on her head a couple of times during their match. That’s less fun.
  • There are only two commentators on this week’s SmackDown: JBL and Tom Phillips. Mauro Ranallo had travel issues, and I guess David Otunga just disappeared. (I actually have no idea where he was.) Sadly, this does not lead to the renaissance of the SmackDown commentary table; it’s serviceable, but Tom Phillips and JBL are more like cordial acquaintances than commentary partners. The frustrating part is that it appears to have been a producing choice, as Tom was allowed to let loose when reunited with his buddy Corey Graves on 205 Live.
  • Randy Orton commits arson, and he gets a spot in the WrestleMania main event. Baron Corbin commits kidnapping and attempted murder, and he gets a WrestleMania match against a former WWE World Champion. Even though everyone keeps saying he “crossed the line.” AJ Styles attacks the Commissioner of SmackDown—after weeks (months?) of his genuine gripes being ignored—and he’s fired. Until he’s given a match against said Commissioner, that is. Still, Styles is the only one who has to face any repercussions in the first place. Remember fines? Corbin should have at least been fined. But there’s precedent that behaving chaotically and criminally gets you opportunities on SmackDown, so what was Styles supposed to do?
  • Daniel Bryan (bringing alternative facts to Talking Smack): “A large portion of our fans dislike AJ.” Also, the crowd is never going to boo Styles when he really is the conspiracy victim he claims to be. They literally boo Daniel Bryan’s decision to fire Styles.
  • A cookie to whoever posited that Randy Orton torching Sister Abigail would actually make Bray Wyatt stronger. Let’s just hope WWE doesn’t walk this back like they did Bray stealing The Undertaker and Kane’s souls. As for the decision to have Orton recap the entire feud, right down to the “screw ‘em” line, come on, SmackDown. You’re better than this. Case in point: That promo is immediately followed by Bray baptizing himself with Sister Abigail’s ashes. Pro wrestling is wild.
  • I say this as someone who has absolutely no stake in the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, as I am no longer a kid and I have no kids: It really looks like John Cena and Nikki Bella had a lot of fun there.
  • While Daniel Bryan’s “The Ultimate Face-Punching Extravaganza” slogan is so much better than “The Ultimate Thrill Ride” (and would probably lead to better commercials), his involvement in MizTV is exactly what Miz and Maryse are talking about. Bryan is upset with Miz for, well, talking and avoiding confrontation. On his talk show. While it’s obviously more than that, Bryan’s entire reasoning for making the WrestleMania match official is based on his own petty, personal issues with The Miz (and Maryse) and his allegiance to his family. As we already know, on the totem pole of offenses made by SmackDown Superstars, there are absolutely bigger fish to fry than The Miz and Maryse. And yet, here we are. The Miz and AJ Styles aren’t just sharing weekly impressions of John Cena—they’re sharing legitimate gripes with the way things are run around here. I’m not saying it’s even a bad thing, as it all makes Miz and Styles two of the most interesting characters on the show, but it would help if WWE addressed how Bryan and Shane are often really no better than the RAW authority figures they judge.
  • Congratulations, WWE. You have two great tag teams capable of great work and have done nothing to get the crowd interested in them. “WE WANT ANGLE,” they chant. It’s understandable. Kurt Angle is a talented wrestler who was written well—hell, he was actually written—back when he was full-time in WWE. (Also, this week’s SmackDown is a Pittsburgh show.) But American Alpha and The Usos are full-time in WWE now, and they’ve both proven they can be interesting when given the chance. The match here is nothing, since they’ve decided not to let them be interesting (by just keeping them off the shows) and the match is all a placeholder for a stumbling McMahon. They even do the “[wrestler] has pinned the champion” finish for the second time in the night, because who cares, right? Write for your tag teams, WWE. We know you can do it. So do it. Also, since there’s no chance anyone at WWE actually reads my pieces, if someone could pass along this plea, it would be much appreciated.
  • Just like that, the official beginning of the road to AJ Styles versus Shane McMahon makes Shane McMahon the focus of Smackdown. If you’re wondering why American Alpha versus The Usos is such a lackluster main event compared to most SmackDown main event, despite the talent, you might want to look to the two picture-in-picture updates of Jamie Noble and Fit Finlay slowly walking with Shane McMahon backstage. And of course those updates—which aren’t actually updates with any information—take up more space on the screen than the match, which is mostly a front chancery. The actual main event of this week’s show is a combination of Shane challenging Styles at WrestleMania and an all-new Chrisley Knows Best, since SmackDown is the blue-headed WWE stepchild that gets no overrun.
  • To think, Shane could have avoided the car window if he’d just shown up to work on time.