The road to WWE Hell in a Cell continued for the Smackdown Live brand as Kevin Owens was a major focal point of this week’s show. Owens, who is set to headline the Oct. 8 pay-per-view event in a Hell in a Cell match against Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon, faced off with an old rival in Sami Zayn this week.

For the second week in a row, it felt like an average show without much in the way of excitement.

Sami Zayn tried to talk some sense into Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens started the show talking about his big HIAC match with Shane McMahon. His remarks were similar to what he said last week, that he liked Vince McMahon and beat him up, so imagine what he’s going to do to Shane, who he doesn’t like. Shane, if you’re wondering, had not arrived yet and didn’t show up until the final few minutes because this is WWE, where adults don’t know how to book their travel appropriately.

Sami Zayn interrupted the Owens talk by telling Owens that he was losing his mind. Zayn reminded him how heinous his attack was against Vince McMahon and said he had seen Owens snap in the past as well and it’s never good for anybody.

Owens fired back on Zayn by ripping on him, pointing out that Zayn signed with WWE two years before Owens, yet Owens is the one who’s won the Universal Title and the Intercontinental Title twice, and he won the United States Title at WrestleMania this year while Zayn was watching in the back — which he’ll be doing on Sunday. Zayn admitted that Owens has accomplished more, but when Zayn does those things he’s going to do it the right way. The crowd got behind Zayn when he said that.

When it looked like Owens and Zayn were going to fight, Smackdown general manager Daniel Bryan made the predictable interruption. Bryan told them they would have a match later.

I write all the time about how WWE loves using the same formula to start their shows. They did it on Raw with The Miz and Roman Reigns, leading to a match later in the night. They did it on Smackdown here. I wonder what it’s like in WWE’s creative meetings if a writer pitches doing something different. It just seems like Vince McMahon is so set in his ways with this formula that they feel like they must do it every week. Repetitiveness is boring, though. Variety is better.

Kevin Owens defeated Sami Zayn and ran away from Shane McMahon

Owens and Zayn got about 10 minutes for this match, which is fine because they have wrestled hundreds of times in their careers and probably a dozen times in WWE by now. The chemistry is always very good between them.

The match was exactly as I expected it to be with Zayn getting in some offense, but I didn’t expect him to win at any point. Reality is Owens is main eventing the next PPV while Zayn is inexplicably off the card, so of course Owens was going to end up looking like a badass here. After Zayn was on a roll, Owens went to the floor and Zayn nailed him with a somersault dive over the top. Zayn went for his DDT on the floor, Owens avoided it and hit a superkick. He then finished off Zayn with a Powerbomb against the ring apron. Referee Charles Robinson rang the bell because Zayn was knocked out, so Owens won by knockout basically.

Owens attacked Zayn after the match when he was getting looked at by doctors at ringside. Owens put a steel chair around the head of Zayn going for a final attack (similar to what he did to Chris Jericho earlier this year), but that’s when Shane McMahon finally showed up. Owens shoved Zayn into Shane, so the chair hit Shane in the face and that allowed Owens to jump into the crowd to get away. The show ended with Shane and Kevin staring at each other.

The match was fine, but Owens and Zayn have had better contests. Check out Battleground 2016 if you want to see them at their best in a longer match that meant a lot more than this. No surprise that Owens got the win here, as I mentioned earlier.

As for Owens and Shane, the build has been pretty good. Keeping them away from each other from a physicality standpoint will make people more interested when they finally get together for Hell in a Cell in less than two weeks. I think next week’s Smackdown should have a promo battle between them and maybe a pull-apart brawl to end it. If WWE opts to have them not touch again, that’s fine too. The match is already set well. There’s not much more that needs to be done or said.

This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches

Here’s a look at this week’s Smackdown matches, besides the main event.

Baron Corbin defeated Tye Dillinger by countout

AJ Styles, the United States Champion, was on commentary for this match. They only got about four minutes. Dillinger got in a bit of offense, Corbin did the heel-leaves-the-ring spot a few times and Dillinger went after him. Corbin slapped Styles in the face and then whipped Dillinger into Styles to knock them both down. Dillinger couldn’t get back to the ring, so that ended the match with a countout win for Corbin. Countout finishes are okay if they further a story well, like it did in this case. I wouldn’t do them often, but occasionally it’s fine.

Post-match, Corbin did a promo saying he knew Dillinger and Styles would work together, so he outsmarted them. Corbin told Styles that he knows he can beat him for the US Title in a singles match at Hell in a Cell. Styles seemed interested in it and the match was officially announced later in the show.

The Usos defeated Hype Bros 

Quick match that got about three minutes. Usos won after Mojo Rawley tagged himself in when Zack Ryder thought he was going to finish the match, so they bickered a bit, Rawley was shoved into Ryder by one of the Usos and then Rawley was pinned after a Superfly Splash by The Usos.

The New Day were in the crowd watching the match and talked about their Hell in a Cell match with The Usos. They suggested making their match at the HIAC PPV an actual Hell in a Cell tag team match. It was announced later in the night that it’s official. That should be awesome and it’s a match that this feud deserves because of how long they have been feuding.

Charlotte Flair defeated Carmella

I thought this was a poor match. They only got about six minutes with a commercial (it aired during the break in the US, but not here in Canada) and Carmella’s offense looked poor. There was a spot where Carmella did a reverse DDT that looked so sloppy. The crowd was dead for most of it. Charlotte came back and hit a boot to the face for the win. She barely did anything on offense to beat Carmella, which made Carmella look like a loser who’s also holding the Money in the Bank briefcase.

Post-match, Natalya appeared on the stage with the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Simple promo by Natalya talking about how she’s glad that Charlotte’s dad Ric Flair was doing better because he can watch her beat Charlotte at Hell in a Cell. Not much more to it than that. This story needs more than just booking two good workers in a title match. Give us something worthwhile.

Instead, it’s just a simple match. It’s as if the creative team doesn’t care, so why should the fans? It’s disappointing because both women are talented.

Other Key Items From Smackdown

1. Jinder Mahal mocked Shinsuke Nakamura and Nakamura shut him up

Jinder Mahal did the same in-ring promo that he’s done the last two weeks with the Singh Brothers by his side, laughing at Nakamura’s facial expressions. When Mahal laughed at another Nakamura pose, it turned out that it was Nakamura standing there. The crowd cheered when they realized Nakamura was in the arena.

Nakamura went out to the ring, beat up the Singh Brothers easily and destroyed Mahal in the ring. He finished him Mahal with the Kinshasa knee strike.

This feud is weak. I like Nakamura a lot, but he wasn’t on the show two weeks ago and last week he was briefly on to do a backstage promo, This week, it was just a beating of Mahal. Put Nakamura in a match on television and let people mark out of the guy. Mahal hasn’t wrestled much either. It just doesn’t excite me that much. Once again, lazy booking by the creative team.

2. Dolph Ziggler impersonated The Undertaker and Bobby Roode interrupted

Ziggler, much like Mahal, did the same routine as the past few weeks except in this case, Ziggler was mocking wrestler entrances. On this show, Ziggler came out dressed like The Undertaker. The poor announcers were booked to be like idiots because they didn’t realize it was Ziggler until he got down near the ring. Most sane people could see it right away and we knew Undertaker wasn’t going to be there, but the announcers had to treat it like it was real.

Ziggler ripped on The Undertaker, noting that it’s not like Undertaker was going to show up more than once in a year. That was an insult, but also an incorrect statement since Undertaker was a big part of the Royal Rumble both in the build to that contest and in the match itself, so he was there for more than WrestleMania.

Bobby Roode interrupted him, which is what I’ve mentioned in the last couple of weeks. I thought Roode should have done the interruption last week. Ziggler told Roode he is what is wrong with WWE with the cheesy entrance, the smoke effects for the entrance and the catchy song. Roode challenged Ziggler to match at Hell in a Cell and Ziggler accepted, so it’s on.

If this feud feels familiar it’s because it is. Ziggler was the first feud for Nakamura on the main roster, losing to him a bunch of times. Now Ziggler gets to be Roode’s first feud on Smackdown. That is Ziggler’s role now. He could be doing more, but that’s it.

3. Randy Orton ruined Rusev’s celebration

Rusev had a faux celebration ceremony as he got the key to the city of his hometown in Bulgaria. He was celebrating his 9-second win over Randy Orton last week. They even went so far as to say it was “Rusev Day” for the celebration. My favorite part of this segment was Aiden English singing the Bulgarian anthem for Rusev. There was also a guy in the ring who spoke in Bulgarian and gave Rusev the key. When English did a song for Rusev, Randy Orton predictably showed up with a RKO for English and a RKO for Rusev as well.

Whenever a heel gets a celebration ceremony like that, they usually get it ruined by the face they are feuding with, so it was no surprise that Orton dropped the heels with RKOs. The crowd popped for it as Orton celebrated.

After that segment, Orton was backstage and talked to Renee Young about how he wants to face Rusev at Hell in a Cell. Orton wished her a “Happy Rusev Day” and left.

Looking Ahead to WWE Hell in a Cell

The next WWE Smackdown pay-per-view is Hell in a Cell on Sunday, Oct. 8 in Detroit.

WWE Championship: Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Hell in a Cell Match: Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens

United States Championship: AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin

Rusev vs. Randy Orton

Smackdown Tag Team Championships (Hell in a Cell Match): The New Day vs. The Usos

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Natalya vs. Charlotte Flair

Dolph Ziggler vs. Bobby Roode

That’s seven matches in all and it might be the full main card with a Kickoff Show match added to it as well.

In Closing

It was an average show again. Two weeks ago, they did the big moment with Kevin Owens destroying Vince McMahon and I applauded WWE for doing something that felt big. They followed that up with two regular shows of Smackdown that didn’t really do much except slowly build up the Hell in a Cell card.

I don’t think interest is that high in most of the undercard matches, though. It’s mostly about Kevin vs. Shane and I think most fans know Kevin is going to win since Shane isn’t a regular wrestler and shouldn’t win that match.

The booking of the Mahal/Nakamura, Ziggler/Roode and Rusev/Orton segments were essentially the same thing. The heel talks crap and the face shut him up. In Roode’s case, it wasn’t physical while the other two were. See what I mean about he creative team being lazy? They just aren’t doing interesting things anymore.

Here’s a look at the crowd from last night’s Smackdown in Glendale/Phoenix.

That’s tarp covering those seats by the hard camera, which means that entire side of the arena was tarped off. Bad look. It’s not the first week for this either because it happened last week with a similar look. Part of the reason is the show started at 5 p.m. Arizona time.

I’ll be back next week for more, although I am going out of town for a wedding in the middle of the week, so there may not be a Smackdown review. I will be here for Raw on Tuesday, though.

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.