By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Wyatt Family Attacked WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler
This was the second straight week that the show kicked off with a talking segment, and while I'd rather see a match open the night, this was necessary in explaining the ending to last week's show and setting up the main event tag team matchup involving the four for later in the night. I was worried Ziggler would continue the paint-by-numbers segment with a promo of his own, so I was glad he cut to the chase by immediately attacking the Wyatts. Ziggler "accidentally" striking Ambrose was predictable albeit effective in establishing tension between the babyfaces.
American Alpha def. Mikey O'Shea and Mike Vega
It looks like the jobbers won't be exclusive to just Raw, which is reassuring. This wasn't much of a match as American Alpha merely hit their signature spots, but it was a nice showcase for them, nevertheless. All of SmackDown's tag teams (sans Breezango and The Usos) coming out was a rehash of what they did with the women two weeks, and I disliked it this time just as much as I did the first time. When you have the entire division out there at once, each tandem is overshadowed by the other. This segment also served as a reminder that American Alpha is on a completely different level than everyone else on SmackDown right now.
Becky Lynch vs. Eva Marie Ended in a No Contest; Alexa Bliss def. Lynch
You had to assume Eva Marie's in-ring debut for SmackDown would get delayed again, so not only did we not have to suffer through an Eva match, she had a wardrobe malfunction, too! Oh holy day! In all seriousness, Lynch vs. Bliss was a solid substitute and a decent match while it lasted. Bliss isn't the complete package in the ring yet, but Lynch carried her to a competent contest. Eva's distraction at ringside furthered her feud with Lynch, gave Bliss a big win in her debut (and birthday!), and protected Lynch in defeat, so this was very well done all around.
Randy Orton def. Alberto Del Rio by Disqualification
All right, so Del Rio may not be the most exciting character right now (he personally bores me to tears), but at least he's a natural in the ring. Orton was on offense throughout, so this wasn't as competitive of a contest as I originally expected, but that might have been for the better so Orton could display his aggressive edge heading into his upcoming encounter with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. The crowd didn't seem all that engaged in the action, and it's hard to blame them because they had zero incentive to believe Del Rio had a chance of winning. Furthermore, I guess the non-finish was meant to protect Del Rio, but I don't understand why that was necessary given he is as cold as ice right now.
Rhyno def. Heath Slater
We all assumed going into the match that Slater wasn't winning, but they did do a decent job of suspending my disbelief for a brief second with Slater dodging the Gore and nearly beating Rhyno with a roll-up. Rhyno took NXT Champion Samoa Joe to the limit no more than a month ago, so it would have made no sense for him to lose to Slater here. More importantly, Slater's free agency storyline continues. Speaking of which, why did he come out to entrance music if he technically isn't employed?
Carmella def. Natalya
Although Carmella has improved immensely in the ring compared to where she was a few years ago, she still has to reintroduce her character to the main roster audience because for now, she comes off as a second-rate Enzo Amore. This was a fine match and Natalya's in-ring excellence masked Carmella's weaknesses. Carmella scoring the upset victory was wise in order to give her credibility from the get-go, making it a big night for the former women of NXT.
WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler def. The Wyatt Family
While this was mostly a formulaic tag team affair, it was well-wrestled and all four Superstars played their parts nicely. It's cool that Wyatt has been prominently positioned on SmackDown since arriving on the scene and I imagine that will continue to be the case until either Ambrose or Ziggler go heel. Some fans might have been disappointed Ambrose didn't "push the envelope" here after Stone Cold Steve Austin challenged him to on Monday's WWE Network podcast (if anything that botch through the ropes did not look good at all), but it was a solid match, nevertheless. And no, Ambrose attacking Ziggler afterward did not constitute as a heel turn, though it wouldn't surprise me whatsoever if he was the one to go rogue eventually.
After SmackDown and Raw were neck-and-neck in terms of sheer entertainment value last week, this week was the exact opposite: neither brand excited me in the slightest. I would still say SmackDown was superior to Raw this week, but not by much. The John Cena and AJ Styles video package was very well put together, and even though that was due to both of them having to attend a live event elsewhere, I like the idea of them not appearing on every episode so they feel more special. At any rate, this was not a must-see show, so I'm hoping next week's go-home edition is a home run to get fans amped for SummerSlam.
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