Smackdown Live Recap – May 16, 2017

The Good

Jinder Mahal pins AJ Styles after interference: Whatever praise AJ Styles receives, he certainly deserves because he helped Mahal to a three-star match here. There was actual ring psychology and stylistic differences apparent between the two men.  Mahal’s ring work is improving even if his promo work isn’t. The end found the Singh Brothers distracting the referee long enough for Kevin Owens, who was on commentary, to smash the U.S. title into Styles’s knee.  This led to Jinder hitting his cobra clutch slam, now with a name – The Khallas, which simply means “finish” in Punjabi. Many will think this is yet another burial of AJ Styles, but he’s so over at this point that another pinfall isn’t going to hurt him. It makes Owens and Mahal bigger heels, and it gives Owens an advantage at Backlash since AJ will limp in with a bum knee.

Randy Orton’s short promo: Renee stops Randy backstage and asks him what he has to say about the audience’s reaction to Jinder Mahal. He said that Mahal thinks it’s because America is uncultured and prejudiced that they boo him, but he’s mistaken.  It’s just because “Jinder is an ass.” This brief, blunt response was probably Orton’s best promo since he returned last year before Summerslam. This is exactly what he needs to be at all times is short and blunt. Basically, his babyface character should be that he gives no fucks.

Breezango/Usos build: Finally, after three weeks, the “Fashion Files” segment was finally was amusing. Both men felt more natural in the comedy bit than before,  and some of the jokes, mostly at Breezango’s expense were funny. Previous weeks’ installments felt like they were trying to make the jokes about their opponents while this week felt more in-character and more that they were the joke, which is how it should be. Breezango wrestled the Colons is a rather pointless and dull match, which saw Fandango getting the pin after a Falcon Arrow. The Usos came out and cut another impassioned promo, not quite as good as last week but still good. Their new demeanor has significantly improved their mic work. They feel like true threats and bullies. The match wasn’t much, but what was around it was good.

Six-woman tag match build: Since when has there been a contract signing for a three-on-three match? When WWE needs a to fill seven minutes of screen time, it seems. Still, the segment was one of the better moments of this entire angle so far. Everyone was kept to less than thirty seconds on the mic and delivered effective, promos that stayed in character. James Ellsworth’s promo telling all the women that they have no shot with him because he’s “the Prince to the Princess of Staten Island” was as cringe-worthy as it was supposed to be. The segment ended with Naomi trying to attack him, but Carmella stepped in and smashed her face into the table. Shane McMahon, who was presiding over the signing, immediately ordered a match between the two women to start after the commercial. The match was good enough for what it needed to be. Carmella still needs some work to look smoother, and Naomi still over-zealously botches although she is improving each week with ring time. The heels were forced from ringside mid-match by the referee, but they started to fight with Charlotte and Becky outside the ring. Naomi got distracted by the fight, which allowed Carmella to get a roll-up for the pin. This worked to set the stage for the match at Backlash.

Randy Orton beats Baron Corbin but Jinder stands tall: Randy and Corbin had a really strong match to close this show. Randy looked like he cared about this match, and Corbin’s big man heel work is improving tremendously. He feels like he deserves to be at that level where he moves in and out of the main event. Randy hits the RKO for the pin to keep him strong going into Backlash, but Corbin by no means looks weak after this loss. After the match, Jinder came down with the Singh Brothers, and despite Randy trying to fight back, they laid him out; the show ended with Jinder holding the WWE World Championship with Randy on the mat. This was a fairly standard way to end a go-home, and based off history, Randy will definitely hold onto the title on Sunday.

The Bad

Kevin Owens’s Highlight Reel: Owens has taken over Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel because he says that he hurt Jericho so bad that he’ll never be back so he won’t need the show anymore. AJ Styles comes out and interrupts Owens, and he says that he’s going to win the United States Championship and bring it back to America. Jinder Mahal then comes out and says something. Ultimately, it segues into the already announced match between AJ and Jinder.  The writing staff for Smackdown must have been switched after Wrestlemania because the general writing for RAW has improved and the Smackdown’s quality in this department has absolutely plummeted. These multi-man openers are so bland at this point, and the words coming out of AJ’s mouth compared to three months ago are a completely different and more boring voice. Jinder has passion but his promo abilities are starting to be exposed now as well. Owens worked with his poor writing well because he’s Owens.

The Final Analysis: The go home builds for these feuds were executed well enough from a booking standpoint. The writing, as mentioned above, has fallen off some which makes the quality of the segments, at least from a verbal standpoint, extremely uneven. The poor segments included the opening segment, the Zayn/Corbin backstage segment before the main event, and Jinder’s final promo. Nevertheless, everything felt necessary in the show and actively worked towards Backlash plus the actual matches were middling to great all night long.


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