The heel turn of Sami Zayn at Hell in a Cell over a week ago remained the focus of WWE Smackdown Live this week. Zayn was heavily featured on this week’s show in the opening segment and the main event.
I’m cool with that because Zayn was one of the most overlooked guys in WWE all years, so seeing him get a chance to show what he can do is great. Here’s a look at what happened this week.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens ripped on Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan, Smackdown’s general manager, got a great reaction when he entered the ring because he grew up near Seattle where Smackdown was held. The crowd was really excited to see Bryan, chanting his name as well as plenty of “yes” chants as well. Bryan went over what matches he had booked for the show while also mentioning that he wanted to talk about what Zayn did at Hell in a Cell, which brought out Zayn.
Zayn did a fantastic job of getting across the point that he used to care about what the people thought, but now he doesn’t care. He ripped on the fans, saying they never got behind him like they should have. Almost every wrestler that turns heel blames the fans because it’s such an easy way to get heat.
Zayn then praised Bryan by saying he was the best wrestler of their generation and that he was always chasing after him. However, now he has no interest in that because Bryan is just a housewife. Zayn also took a shot at Bryan for not being able to wrestle anymore by saying they are both gifted in-ring performers and then adding “well, I still am.” The crowd hated Zayn for that. I thought it was such a great touch from Sami to add that in.
Kevin Owens joined Zayn and Bryan in the ring to continue to rip on Bryan for being a housewife. Owens had an even better line by saying Bryan was “Mr. Bella” now. Bryan said that Owens doesn’t care about Sami and only cares about himself. Owens fired back on Bryan saying he has become what he hated the most, The Authority. Zayn called Bryan a sellout and then he hugged Owens.
Bryan walked away from them, so they mocked him for it and he said he was going to find two guys to punch them in the face.
I thought it was a great segment with Sami showing the kind of heel charisma I never knew he had, yet he came off as a natural heel. It was easy to hate Sami for the things he said to Bryan in that segment. Since Bryan was in front of the hometown Seattle crowd, he was loved more than usual too, so this was the perfect crowd for Sami and Kevin to cut that kind of promo. This was one of those instances where it’s okay to have a long promo segment because it was successful in pushing Sami’s heel act.
In a backstage segment, Bryan informed Sami and Kevin they would face Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura in the main event.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens defeated Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton
As soon as this match was announced, I thought Zayn had to get the pin for his team. As a new heel, it’s important to give Zayn credibility right away by winning big matches and doing things he couldn’t do when he was a face. I can’t remember the last time Zayn wrestled in a TV main event, so having him in the main event with best friend Owens was the right match to book at the right time.
They got about 13 minutes, which is pretty good for a main event level match. The heels worked over Nakamura for most of it. At one point, Nakamura looked like he was going to break free for a tag, but then he hit a knee lift in the corner and was beat up a bit more after that. That was a bit weird. Anyway, Orton got the hot tag and he was on fire.
It was great to see Orton destroying both Zayn and Owens with his moves. I love the back suplex spot that Orton does where he dropped Owens back first onto the guardrail and then he gave Zayn a back suplex onto the announce table. Normally, the table doesn’t break like that, but Orton lifted him up pretty high and there was enough momentum that Zayn broke it.
The finish was really well done. Orton tried to hit Zayn with his DDT off the ropes while Owens sent Nakamura into the steel steps. Owens got on the apron, the ref was distracted and Zayn did the classic heel move by hitting a low blow punch that the ref didn’t see. Zayn hit the Helluva Kick and pinned Orton for one of the biggest wins of his career. I enjoyed the match.
When Owens and Zayn got backstage, Daniel Bryan told them that Shane McMahon will have something for them to do next week. Good way of teasing Shane’s return after two weeks off.
— WWE (@WWE) October 18, 2017
Owens and Zayn ended the night by celebrating their win on the stage with a big celebration and Owens telling Zayn to hug him. It was cheesy, over-the-top heel behavior that I love seeing.
Zayn was booked exactly the way he should have been as a new heel. I’m excited to see what’s next whether it’s a rivalry with Nakamura or Orton or a continuation of this tag team with Owens. That Zayn turn has really freshened up Smackdown, but there are still some problems elsewhere on the show.
This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches
Here’s a look at the other Smackdown matches this week.
Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Naomi defeated Natalya, Tamina and Lana
It was the usual six-person tag in WWE. Work on one of the faces for most of the match, hot tag to Charlotte against Lana, near-fall by Charlotte broken up by Natalya and then everybody got in a move to clear the ring. That led to Charlotte finishing off Lana with the Figure Eight submission. It was fine and the crowd was into it, but it was the usual stuff here.
Post-match, Natalya tried a cheap attack with a chair against Charlotte. It didn’t work because Charlotte kicked the chair away and Natalya went running through the crowd. I like that they are continuing the feud, which should lead to Charlotte winning the Women’s Title at Survivor Series if they do the match there.
Sin Cara defeated Baron Corbin by countout
That is not a typo. Sin Cara won a match over Corbin in about one minute. Corbin stated it would not be for the US Title. Cara was aggressive, knocked Corbin out of the ring and hit a cross body block off the ring post to knock Corbin down. Corbin couldn’t get back in the ring, so Cara won.
This feels like more of a TV angle where they had Corbin take a loss on Smackdown to build to a title match in a week or two and Corbin should get the win.
Dolph Ziggler defeated Bobby Roode
I was actually excited for this because I thought they might get more time than their disappointing Hell in a Cell match. Nope. This wasn’t very good either, although they worked at a very fast pace from the beginning. That’s because they were only given four minutes and two minutes into it they were selling as if they were in a 20-minute classic.
Anyway, the finish was similar to HIAC, except this time Ziggler was the victor with the dreaded rollup while holding Roode’s tights for the cheap heel win. That means this series is 1-1 after cheap wins for each guy.
This feud has been disappointing. I like both guys a lot, but the way these two matches were structured have really hurt them in terms of having a good match. When guys are great in-ring performers, let them actually show what they can do instead of limiting them. I don’t think this feud is helping either guy while Roode is miscast as a face because he’s much better as a heel.
Other Key Items From Smackdown
1. Jinder Mahal challenged Brock Lesnar to a match at Survivor Series and was interrupted by AJ Styles
Jinder Mahal, the WWE Champion, did a promo talking about how he got a hero’s welcome when he was in India over the last week. Mahal claimed that he was the greatest WWE Champion of all time because he beat guys like Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura multiple times.
Mahal said a young boy in India talked about how he beat everybody on Smackdown, so he had to do something even greater. That led to Mahal saying that at Survivor Series he was challenging Raw’s Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. Michael Cole (replacing Tom Phillips this week) on commentary said “Are you kidding me?” Mahal claimed he was going to beat Lesnar and wanted people to kiss his feet after he did.
Mahal was interrupted by AJ Styles, who told Mahal that he has never beaten him. Actually, they had a match back in May that Mahal won (due to cheap attack from Owens), but Mahal wasn’t the WWE Champ at that point. That led to an argument, with Mahal saying in his country they don’t think Styles was worthy and Styles reminding him that they were not in his country, so that drew a loud “USA” chant. Styles ended up clearing the ring of the Singh Brothers and hit a Pele Kick on Mahal.
It should lead to Styles vs. Mahal before the end of the year, but with Mahal focused on Lesnar at Survivor Series, it may be the Clash of Champions PPV in December and Royal Rumble in January. Sadly, I think Mahal is going to keep the WWE Title during his feud with Styles, even though I think he should lose it.
Later in the show, Mahal wanted Daniel Bryan to do something about what Styles did. That led to Mahal telling Sunil Singh that he’ll face Styles in a match next week, which Bryan was fine with.
— WWE (@WWE) October 18, 2017
It was announced later in the show that Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman, I assume) will be on Raw next Monday in Green Bay to respond to Mahal’s challenge. The answer will likely be yes, since this was the reported plan from last week as reported by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer.
I’m not a fan of doing the match and I think it’s going to be a bad one, since there’s a clash of styles between the two guys, but Vince McMahon probably think it’s a big deal. If you’re wondering, it is expected to be a non-title match. I assume Lesnar would go over at Survivor Series.
2. The Usos exchanged words with Gable and Benjamin
On last week’s episode of Smackdown, Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin earned the right to face The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at some point in the future. The Usos talked trash about them this week, so Gable and Benjamin showed up to confront them. Gable and Benjamin countered The Usos with a weak rap of their own. When Gable and Benjamin extended their hands for a handshake, The Usos fell for it, leading to Chad and Shelton pulling their hands away.
The good old “pull the hand away handshake” trick was used. It works on young children too. Maybe next week they can play peek-a-boo as well. Or perhaps hide and seek! Thrilling. I like both teams, but give them something better to do if there’s going to be trash talk.
3. The New Day may have started a feud with Rusev and Aiden English
In another “let’s spend two minutes to get people on the show segment,” there was Aiden English singing backstage when The New Day went in there, which upset English. That led to English’s sometimes partner Rusev saying it’s not time for New Day because it’s Rusev Day. Xavier Woods of New Day ended up playing Rusev’s theme song on the trombone and Rusev was mad that they made a mockery of it.
This could lead to a tag match next week with New Day vs. Rusev/English although nothing was announced.
4. An episode of “Pulp Fashion” aired
The backstage antics of tag team Breezango saw them in a “Pulp Fashion” video where they did a parody of some scenes from the great mid-90s movie Pulp Fiction. At one point, Breeze (dressed like Uma Thurman in the movie) altered the “royale with cheese” line to say “Royal Rumble with cheese.” That was mildly funny.
The Ascension were part of it, trying to be friends with Breezango and Fandango actually agreed to be friends while Breeze was passed out. But when Breeze woke up, Fandango denied being friends with them. Anyway, the “major” story here is that the briefcase in the room was stolen.
Like usual, it was a silly segment to draw some laughs. The missing briefcase will probably have no pay off to it similar to the last six months of videos featuring these guys.
5. The Bludgeon Brothers are coming to Smackdown
There was another video promoting Luke Harper and Erick Rowan as the Bludgeon Brothers tag team. They talked about annihilation this week.
Looking Ahead to WWE Survivor Series
The next WWE pay-per-view featuring Smackdown talent is Survivor Series on Nov. 19 in Houston. Nothing has been announced yet, but Mahal vs. Lesnar is likely going to be official next week.
It felt like an average Smackdown. The duo of Owens and Zayn were clearly the best part of the show. They got over as jerk heels in Daniel Bryan’s hometown in the opening segment and then Zayn cheated to win in the main event. The rest of the show was full of short matches and segments that really didn’t mean a whole lot.
Mahal’s challenge to Lesnar doesn’t excite me at all. I’m sure Vince McMahon thinks it’s a great idea, but it’s hardly a dream match or something that the average fan is going to care about.
I’ll be back on Friday with a preview of Raw’s WWE TLC event.