This week’s edition of WWE Smackdown Live represented a show that’s in a holding pattern of sorts because they have over a month to go until their next pay-per-view, Hell in a Cell on Oct. 8. Due to such a long stretch between PPV events, they don’t have that sense of urgency that you might normally see.

Because of that, they produced a show this week that was very disappointing in terms of delivering a quality show. Quite frankly, I thought it was a weak effort on the part of their creative team. I was bored during most of it. I pride myself on trying to think of the positives, but I’ll warn you now that it’s going to be tough for me to do that this week.

Jinder Mahal and Rusev got the upper hand on Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton

As Smackdown came on the air, it was announced that Mahal and Rusev would team up against Nakamura and Orton, yet WWE still felt the need to do the same generic opening segment to set up the tag match for later.

Mahal did his usual promo about how the fans are mean. At one point, he said the word “revered” and pronounced it wrong, which shows that sometimes having wrestlers memorize lines is a mistake especially if they can’t say the word right. The Singh Brothers were with Mahal and they apologized for not taking care of Nakamura last week. The Singhs wanted to kiss Mahal’s feet to make their apology official, but Nakamura’s entrance ended up interrupting that.

Nakamura got in Mahal’s face, they got into a fight and the Singh Brothers grabbed Nakamura to make it unfair, so that brought out Orton. Rusev was next to join the party and nailed a jumping kick to take out Orton. Mahal nailed Nakamura with The Khallas slam to end it as the heels were left standing tall.

Was any of this necessary? No. It’s as if WWE doesn’t know how to start a show without the usual formula. I understand they did it to get some heat on the heels and for the faces to get their revenge, but it was just a tag match for one show. It did not feel like a big deal to me. Starting the show with a hot, competitive match would be a welcome change. It didn’t happen this week.

Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton defeated Jinder Mahal and Rusev

I was going to say this was the most predictable main event tag match in a very long time, but I remember Raw had John Cena and Roman Reigns team up to beat The Miz and Samoa Joe last week, which was equally predictable. Can we get some variety, WWE? I just want the creative team to learn to be more inventive because what we’ve been seeing of late has been disappointing on both brands.

They had a standard tag match with the heels working on Orton for most of it, Nakamura got the hot tag and the faces cleared house from there. There was a bit of a botch when Orton tried to do his Draping DDT off the ropes on Mahal, but there was a slip and he did a regular DDT instead. Rusev was the legal man for his team, Orton kicked him, Nakamura hit him with a knee strike off the middle rope and Nakamura finished off Rusev with the Kinshasa knee attack for the win. It went 12 minutes and it was very predictable.

After the match was over, Nakamura and Orton were in the ring celebrating the win. They also had a bit of a staredown to set up their match next week. That’s when Nakamura let his guard down a bit and Orton dropped him with a RKO out of nowhere. Nakamura sold it beautifully by landing right on his head with his feet landing shortly after. Some guys take it all in one motion, but I like how Nakamura took it similar to what Rusev did at SummerSlam. The show ended with Orton posing while Nakamura was out in the ring.

The best part of the entire night was Orton’s surprising RKO on Nakamura. I didn’t expect it, but it adds intrigue to their match. That’s a good thing. Does it mean Orton is a heel now? Nope. It just fit his character as “The Viper” and a guy who doesn’t get along well with others.

Looking Ahead to Next Week

Next week’s Smackdown will have Randy Orton face Shinsuke Nakamura for the first time ever, with the winner getting a WWE Title match at some point in the future. They didn’t announce it during the show, but I assume the winner gets the WWE Title shot at Jinder Mahal at Hell in a Cell on Oct. 8.

I’m going with Nakamura to win next week. Orton has already faced Mahal three times in title matches and lost all of them. Orton beat Mahal clean non-title a few weeks ago, which has already been ignored by WWE’s broadcast team. I think Nakamura’s going to beat Orton like he beat John Cena before SummerSlam. I’m likely going to pick Nakamura to win the WWE Title at Hell in a Cell too, just because I’ve been so bored with Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion and I hope there’s a change coming soon.

This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches

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

Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable defeated The Ascension

This was Benjamin’s first match on WWE since he was released seven years ago. The crowd was hot for Benjamin and gave him a good reaction. Gable was the face in peril for most of the match, Benjamin got the hot tag and he worked well with Gable to beat The Ascension easily. That’s no surprise since The Ascension lose all the time.

Benjamin got the win with his Paydirt finishing move, although the announce team didn’t call it by name because they generally do a poor job of calling moves — especially Tom Phillips. I’ll give Tom credit for getting excited at the right time, but he’s not good at calling moves by their names.

I hope the Benjamin and Gable team get a solid push. Smackdown is hurting in terms of tag teams, so adding them as a face team was a smart move.

AJ Styles defeated Tye Dillinger to retain the US Championship

Styles said the US Open Challenge is back with the challenger getting a US Title shot. Tye Dillinger answered, but was attacked by Baron Corbin. Dillinger managed to get back to his feet, knocked Corbin down and started the match. They wrestled for about one minute with Styles winning easily with his Calf Crusher submission move. Corbin tried to get at Styles, but Styles knocked him down to end it.

It was a rushed segment that didn’t make Dillinger look good at all. I understand the story is about Corbin wanting his title shot, but I hate that it was done at the expense of Dillinger. Corbin continues to be booked like an idiot. It should lead to Styles vs. Corbin for the US Title at Hell in a Cell.

I should point too that Smackdown was a much better show when Styles was WWE Champion last year and earlier this year. He’s the best guy on the show, so when you have the best guy featured more, it leads to a more enjoyable product.

Bobby Roode defeated Mike Kanellis

Easy win for Roode in about three minutes. This was Roode’s second match on Smackdown. The crowd was hot for his entrance as usual. Roode won clean with the Glorious DDT. No sign of a feud for Roode yet, who is in a face role on Smackdown.

Aiden English defeated Sami Zayn, thanks to Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens did a promo at the top of hour two complaining about the previous week’s Smackdown where Shane McMahon subbed in as the referee when Baron Corbin left. Shane showed up on the ramp to tell Owens that he did it because Corbin was not a fair referee and was against AJ Styles in the match, so Shane had to take over when Corbin quit. Shane told Owens to leave the ring so English could face Zayn.

Owens started the match on commentary, but then went into the ring, took the shirt off the ref (the ref had on a tank top under it) and Owens became the ref. Zayn yelled at Owens about what he was doing. English hit Zayn with a forearm and Owens hit Zayn with the Popup Powerbomb. English covered Zayn, Owens did a fast count and declared English the winner. Owens threw the shirt at the ref and he left.

In a backstage interview after the match, Shane said that English beating Zayn doesn’t count because of what Owens did.

The Usos defeated The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Big E)

Xavier Woods was at ringside with a brace on his left knee and a sign around his neck saying “It’s Sore” on it. Woods hurt the knee at a live event on Monday. It’s a MCL sprain, according to Woods, so not that serious, but he should miss about one month of action.

They only got a few minutes for this match. There wasn’t much excitement like their SummerSlam match either. The Usos got the win with the lame rollup and pulling the tights for the win. The win means that The Usos get to pick the stipulation for their next title defense against New Day.

Tamina defeated Tina Stock

Tamina won in less than a minute after Lana encouraged her to “crush” this woman. Tamina hit a superkick and got the pin. Post-match, photographers took pictures of Tamina with the announcers trying to say Lana is helping Tamina become more of a star. At least they are trying something with Tamina, but she gets no crowd reaction whenever she is out there. I don’t think it’s going to work.

Other Key Items From Smackdown

1. The Fashion Files Are In “Season Two”

Two weeks ago, Breezango did a skit where it seemed like their backstage segments were over as they said Breezango will return in two weeks. It turned out to be back to normal as they returned with “Season Two” of the Fashion Files.

There wasn’t much to their skit except when Fandango held up a belt and said it’s a title, so Breeze said that it’s a belt. What’s funny about that is WWE doesn’t let their superstars say “belt” referring to titles, so this was their cheeky way of joking about that.

The skit ended with some arrows pointing to their “Two B” sign in the room that said “Two B or Not Two B” on it, so they figured it was Shakespeare and connected it to Aiden English. Trying to make sense of this or expect it to lead to something worthwhile would be wrong. It’s just stupid comedy designed to get these guys some cheap laughs, which is fine. I just wish they got to wrestle on TV more because they are good at that.

2. Dolph Ziggler teased his return… next week… again

Dolph Ziggler was interviewed backstage for the second week in a row as he mocked other superstars in WWE like Elias’s singing gimmick, Steve Austin driving around on a four-wheeler (that was around 2003-04) and Finn Balor’s body paint. He was over the top and sarcastic about what things work in terms of winning over the fans.

Ziggler said all the years, dedication and sacrifice have meant nothing, so you won’t get anything, but maybe next week. I hope there’s some substance to this and some kind of creative angle because I’m not optimistic about it.

3. Two matches were set up for Smackdown Women’s Champion Natalya

There was a backstage segment with Money in the Bank holder Carmella admonishing her idiot friend James Ellsworth for giving away her plan to cash in recently. Ellsworth got her flowers, which she revealed were stolen from a funeral… because he’s an idiot. Natalya showed up and mentioned that she has a match with Carmella next week, which Carmella seemed pleased about and then left.

Naomi walked into the picture to tell Natalya that she gets her rematch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship in two weeks on Smackdown. Natalya, who was wearing her new cat shirt, didn’t look thrilled about that. Good job by WWE setting up future matches. That’s something they do well, especially on Smackdown.

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. There are still no matches announced yet.

In Closing

This was probably the worst Smackdown of the year. If you missed it, there really isn’t anything I would recommend watching other than the Orton RKO on Nakamura. I posted that multiple times in this review, though, so if you read it then you saw it probably. Some stories progressed well, but there was nothing that I would label as “great” from the whole night. That’s disappointing.

I’ll be back for more next week. Raw has advertised The Miz vs. Jeff Hardy for the Intercontinental Title while Smackdown has Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Randy Orton to determine the No. 1 Contender to the WWE Title. Both matches should be awesome.

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.

  • BK

    Hey John, I know nobody usually comments on these recaps, but just wanted to say I look forward to reading them every week. Keep up the good work.

  • Patrick Ryan Williford

    I wish you did NXT and NXT Takeover reactions.