Smackdown Live Recap – May 23, 2017

The Good

The Usos retain again over Breezango: This segment was surprisingly good.  It started off a two singles matches scheduled by Shane McMahon. Tyler Breeze beat Jey Uso after Fandango shoot Jey with a water gun and distracted him. Then Fandango beat Jimmy with a distraction roll-up. Breezango, who used their gimmicky shenanigans as a “mind game,” which is how this should have been portrayed all along, asked for a rematch for the titles, and the Usos were so angry that they accepted. The match was made, and it was decent although a little short. The Usos ended up winning cleanly with some tag team trickery to retain. Ultimately, if Breezango had been booked as a little smarter through the past few weeks, as trying to get under the Usos’ skin, this might have been better. Hopefully, Breezango doesn’t get pushed down the card now as they’ve proven entertaining and good enough in the ring.

Nakamura gets the pin in his Smackdown debut: Even if the rationale behind the booking of this match was not inventive, the match itself delivered through the story in the ring and the talent of the wrestlers involved. Nakamura got a pinfall victory on the U.S. Champion after the Kinshasa.  Even if this was good overall, there are minor problems with the presentation of Nakamura. First, putting him in tag matches right away and having him stand in the ring with the other competitors makes him feel like every other guy on the roster as if there is nothing special about him. Second, instead of making him look or feel special, commentary is insistent about telling the audience how “unique” he is and labeling him with terms like “The Artist” and “The Rock Star.” They simply need to let this guy be who he is, and he’ll get over. The one thing that can make that not happen is WWE tampering with him too much, which is what’s happening now.

The Bad

Participants announced for the Money in the Bank match: Yet another multi-person opening segment this week as the MITB competitors are announced by Shane McMahon. They are AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, and Kevin Owens, who came out to complain about not being in the match and Shane let him in.  This led to the men talking trash on each other, and Shane putting them all in matches with each other – Zayn against Corbin and Styles/Nakamura against Owens/Ziggler. This was a little better than normal with all the men in the ring, but it’s still trite. Putting all the men that will be in a multi-man match in matches against each other is exactly what they are doing on Raw right now. It’s not good storytelling there, and it’s not here.

Women’s division stuff: They lump in everything woman-related together on the show, so it feels like the recap should as well.  Becky and Charlotte took on Natalya and Carmella in a short, unexciting affair. Becky got her win back by making Carmella tap out. This led to everyone wanting a shot at Naomi’s title. Shane McMahon puts them all in the match together against each other next week to determine the #1 contender. WWE is so lost in terms of telling stories right now. Their only solution is to throw everyone together.

The Maharaja’s Celebration: The new WWE World Champion, who will have a rematch with Randy Orton at MITB, came out to celebrate his victory, replete with Hindi music and dancers and fireworks. The celebration aspects were great and a nice touch. Jinder’s promo was not. It was more of the same of what he’s been doing for weeks now, down to the exact same language.  Beyond having poor delivery and repetitive content, it seemed disingenous when nearly half the crowd was clapping and cheering for Mahal, probably in an ironic way or due to them being sick of Orton has World Champion. Either way, this didn’t come off well, and while it’s okay to be open-minded about Mahal’s title reign, right now, he doesn’t feel like he’s ready for the main event.

Sami Zayn beats Corbin again, but pays for it: Surprisingly, Sami Zayn won again tonight within a few seconds with a quick roll-up. Usually, these situations are 50/50 booked.  However, earlier in the show, Corbin accused Sami of having a “flunk” win. This almost confirmed that accusation. Then, after the match, Corbin beat Zayn so bad that he had to be stretchered away.  Ultimately, this doesn’t make Sami look strong at all. It makes Corbin look strong despite two losses, which he probably what booking intended to some degree.

The Final Analysis: While this show was entertaining enough throughout, the booking decisions were atrocious. It feels completely like Raw right now. Last year, when Smackdown was thriving, they felt like two completely different shows. Smackdown had long term storytelling, little pieces of the story unfolding week after week. They made James Ellsworth interesting and engaging in a feud with AJ Styles, for Christ’s sake. Instead of making Raw more like Smackdown, they’ve homogenized the entire product again and now Smackdown feels just as poorly thought out and nonsensical.  Hopefully this changes, but these recent weeks don’t bode well.


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