This week’s Smackdown was an anticipated show following Sunday’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view because of what happened in the main event. The big development during HIAC was when Shane McMahon went for an elbow drop off the top of the cell to destroy Kevin Owens for good, but Sami Zayn showed up to pull Owens away. Zayn saved Owens and not only that, but Zayn put Owens on top of McMahon to give him the win in the match.

The move was a huge surprise to me, but it also had me marking out when I saw it because for most of the last year I’ve been whining in these reviews (first Raw, then Smackdown when he was moved there) about how Sami Zayn needs a bigger role. He is too good to not be a more featured performer, so when Sami did what he did on Sunday, I was excited.

Finally, Smackdown has done something in the last few months to get me interested in a character. How did they follow it up?

Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens explained what happened at Hell in a Cell

Kevin Owens entered for a promo at the end of the first hour. Owens talked nearly being sent to the pearly gates at Hell in a Cell, but claimed that while St. Peter said that they would love to have him, he was sent back down to Earth because “they need Kevin Owens.”

I thought that was a great line. Very cheesy, but perfect for a heel like Owens. Owens added that they provided him with a guardian angel in Sami Zayn. Owens wanted to turn Smackdown into “Kevin’s Heaven” or better yet, ” The Kevin Owens Show.” Owens then introduced his best friend, Sami Zayn.

Zayn walked out to his usual theme song and did his usual excitable entrance, but there were not cheers for him like we were used to. Instead, there was mostly silence with some boos.

Owens wanted Zayn to tell people that he wasn’t asked to do what he did at Hell in a Cell. Owens also thanked Zayn for doing it.

 

Zayn delivered a really good speech that was really the most important of his career up to this point. Zayn talked about how Owens giving him a Powerbomb against the apron a few weeks ago opened up his eyes because Zayn had been mediocre. Zayn put over Owens for winning the Universal, Intercontinental and United States Titles in his career. He thought that things would work out better for him on Smackdown since it’s the “land of opportunity.” Upon coming to Smackdown, Shane McMahon told him things he wanted to hear, but that was the last meeting he had with Shane.

He continued by explaining that he tried to warn Shane about what Owens was capable of, but Shane brushed him off as a nobody, which made Zayn realize that Shane never cared about him. Zayn said he was watching the Hell in a Cell match and thought that Shane could have pinned Owens after KO went through the announce table, but Shane wanted to do more so he went back up the cell.

Zayn called Owens everything from his best friend to bitter rival to everything in between, but he will always be his brother. That’s why when Shane wanted to end KO’s career, Zayn saved his brother because it was the right thing to do. That’s one of those key phrases that a heel says to make them believe in what was right. “The right thing to do” is the justification in the eyes of the heel. Zayn claimed that Shane had become a psycho with his quest to try to end Owens.

The promo ended with Zayn giving Owens a hug. The fans booed that loudly. They each raised the hand of the other guy and then Zayn called him “The Victorious Kevin Owens,” which is also how Owens was introduced by ring announcer Greg Hamilton for his promo. Both guys smiled to end it, showing that they are back to being best friends again.

It was a great promo that did what it needed to do. Zayne pointed out that doing things the “right way” wasn’t working for him, so he decided to do things more like Owens. It was justified by Zayn saying it was the right thing to do.

I know that people reading this will bitch about how Zayn siding with Owens doesn’t make sense since they were bitter rivals for so many years, but they were friends too. It’s one of those things where Sami can say “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” and the fans will hate Sami for that because it’s a cowardly thing to do. He’s a heel now. They lie, they do cheap things and they disappoint us because of how they act. I feel like Sami is going to do a great job.

Bring on heel Sami vs. Nakamura and AJ Styles. Those matches would be amazing. I also think Zayn teaming with Owens will be a joy to watch because they have great chemistry. Like I said earlier, finally there’s something on Smackdown we can be excited about. It’s been way too long.

Zayn also offered up this statement on Twitter.

Simple enough. I’m excited about heel Sami. I imagine that they will change his theme music and his entrance while altering his in-ring style a bit, but I have no concerns about him adapting because he’s a 15-year pro who knows what he’s doing out there.

This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches

Here’s a look at the matches from Tuesday night’s program.

Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable defeated Hype Bros, Breezango and The Ascension to earn a WWE Tag Team Title match

This match was set up by a show-opening promo by The Usos, who invited The New Day out there to talk about their awesome Hell in a Cell match on Sunday night. The Usos said the fans know what they saw on Sunday, but they didn’t see Jey Uso with his eye shut because of what happened in the match or that Jimmy had to drive with one arm because he had ice on his other shoulder and the woman at the hotel had to ask if they were okay.

The Usos praised The New Day for their performance while bragging about how they are the best two teams in the business and everybody else can’t touch them. The crowd was really appreciative of it, giving them a big ovation for what they were saying. I thought it was a cool touch and I also agreed with every word The Usos said. Kofi Kingston of The New Day called it a “Uce Truce,” which I thought was pretty clever.

That led to an interruption by the other Smackdown teams that wanted to get their shot at The Usos, so The Usos ripped on all of them. Basically, it was The Usos respecting New Day for how good they are and then going heelish on the other teams by bragging about how much better they are. It was a great promo by The Usos, who are absolutely killing it as a heel team.

The Fatal 4-Way tag match was full of action with two guys in there for most of it while the other six were on the apron. It broke down from there with a lot of the wrestlers hitting big moves at different points. There was a moment in the match where the Hype Bros looked like they were going to win, but there was a miscommunication spot and they failed to capitalize. I thought Breezango might win because Fandango kept saving Breeze, so I figured they were the next face team in line. Nope. Benjamin ended up hoisting Breeze up in the Powerbomb position leading to Gable hitting a clothesline off the ropes for the win.

Benjamin and Gable are a new face team that should have a great match with The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. I doubt it’s going to happen at Survivor Series because that’s over a month away, so it will probably be a TV title match in the next few weeks. Don’t forget also that there will likely be another Usos vs. New Day match since former champions New Day will get a title rematch.

It was nice to see the tag team division featured so heavily in the first 30 minutes of Smackdown this week.

Becky Lynch defeated Carmella

Quick match to put over Lynch in under five minutes. It’s been a while since Lynch was featured in a singles match on Smackdown, so this felt like an easy way to give her a win. Lynch has been in the background for too long over the last few months. I hope she gets more involved soon because she is a great babyface that is arguably the best women’s face wrestler in all of WWE.

Carmella continues to be booked like a loser while holding the Money in the Bank briefcase. That’s a booking strategy that WWE has done for many years even though it is the opposite of what they should do.

Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton defeated Rusev and Aiden English

I think everybody watching this show knew how this match was going to go. Since Nakamura lost clean to Jinder Mahal on Sunday (a move that I’m not a fan of at all), this was all about booking Nakamura in a strong way to make people forget about the loss. The story of the match was Rusev and English worked over Orton for a few minutes, Nakamura got the hot tag, he cleaned house, Orton went back in to drop Rusev with a RKO (Rusev sells it so well) and Nakamura finished off English with a Kinshasa knee strike. It went around six minutes and was the most basic tag match you’re ever going to see.

I’m intrigued to see what happens with Nakamura after this. I assume he’ll be part of a tag team elimination match at Survivor Series whether it’s Smackdown vs. Raw or Smackdown faces vs. Smackdown heels. There usually isn’t much in December in terms of big storylines, so January will be interesting at the Royal Rumble. I want Nakamura vs. Styles for the WWE Title at WrestleMania and I want the one who isn’t the champion to win the Royal Rumble.

Does that mean it’s going to happen? Of course not. I’m just saying what I would like to see.

Baron Corbin defeated AJ Styles to retain the United States Championship

This was the main event of the show and they got about 12 minutes for it, which is fine, but a few more minutes would have helped. I thought it was one of the better Corbin matches this year mainly because Styles was bumping his ass off for him. Styles is the best in-ring performer in WWE that has been hurt by the booking this year. But when he gets a chance to show off like he did in this match, he reminds us of how good he is.

They wrestled a back-and-forth match where Styles got plenty of offense in. Sometimes when a guy loses a match, he’ll be on offense for 80% of it and then come up short. In this case, it was more of a close match with each guy getting their big moves in there.

Towards the end of the match, Styles went for an attack on the floor, Corbin caught him and gave him a huge body slam on the floor. It was a hard bump by Styles. Hopefully, it didn’t hurt him. Corbin brought him back in the ring and hit the End of Days to pin him clean. I like that it was a clean win because it helps Corbin’s credibility. Styles losing the US Title match and rematch doesn’t bother me at all.

Post-match, Corbin did a quick, awkward interview talking about crying fans and how he’s going to ride his boat as the US Champion over their tears. The whole thing was a bad idea. Anyway, Smackdown ended with Corbin holding up the US Title.

I’m looking forward to what’s next for AJ Styles. Now that he has lost the US Title and his rematch for the title, it’s time to get him back in the WWE Title picture. If anybody is going to get a good match with Jinder Mahal, then it’s Styles. If WWE chooses not to put him in the WWE Title picture for Survivor Series, then he can easily fit in on a face team against newly turned heel Sami Zayn or re-start the rivalry he had with Kevin Owens. Styles is the key to Smackdown’s success because he’s the best performer on the show. The more Styles there is on a broadcast, the better the show is going to be.

Other Key Items From Smackdown

1. Charlotte Flair got some revenge against Natalya

The women of Smackdown were featured in one of those awkward backstage segments where one person stands there, then others walk in on either side of them to deliver their scripted response. This is such a common thing that they did it on Raw as well. Anyway, Natalya bragged to Tamina, Lana and Carmella about how she’s still the Smackdown Women’s Champion and then Charlotte Flair showed up to attack Natalya.

Natalya had this line: “Why the long boo-boo face Charlotte, did you break your pathetic father’s heart again?” Charlotte decked Natalya and had to pulled off by referees. It was revenge for Natalya getting disqualified at Hell in a Cell on Sunday. Other than the cheap “boo-boo face” line, it was good and what it needed to be.

2. Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler set up a match for next week

Bobby Roode did a promo about his first WWE PPV match at Hell in a Cell and his victory over Dolph Ziggler. He also mentioned Ziggler’s cheap attack after the loss. That led to Ziggler walking out there to show an image of how Roode won the match by holding Ziggler’s tights to keep him down. There was an awkward moment in there when Roode appeared to forget his line, so Ziggler tried to help him get through it. It wasn’t that noticeable, but I’ve watched wrestling enough that it felt weird to me.

They teased having a match here until Ziggler walked away like the heel that he is. It was announced later in the show that Ziggler will face Roode in a rematch next week.

I like Roode a lot, but I enjoyed his heel act a lot more in NXT and when he worked for TNA Wrestling. Roode as a face feels a lot more forced. Yes, he has the theme song that people like and the fans chant “Glorious” right on cue, but other than that it just feels like he’s uncomfortable in the face role. I hope he turns heel soon.

3. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan will now be known as “The Bludgeon Brothers”

There was a one-minute backstage segment with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan reuniting as a tag team. They talked about causing pain and ended it by telling us they are “The Bludgeon Brothers.” I’m glad they are back together as a team because they were good as part of the Wyatt Family and neither man took off as a singles wrestler. Harper is incredibly talented, so I just want him on TV more often.

It’s also worth pointing out that the “search for 2B” mention in the Fashion Police segment at Hell in a Cell was likely done to set up a rivalry with Breezango.

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.

In Closing

It was a better than average Smackdown this week thanks to the promos from Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and The Owens, as well as the quality main event match. I also liked the four-way tag match that was full of action. Most of the rest of the show was boring, but there was enough here to leave me satisfied.

Next week’s Raw has Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman in a Steel Cage match, while Smackdown has Dolph Ziggler vs. Bobby Roode announced at this point. I’ll be back for those reviews and more. Have a great week.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He's written for WhatCulture, Bleacher Report, Layfield Report, Rajah.com and many other places. You can follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at mrjohncanton@gmail.com with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at TJRWrestling.net.