Coming on the heels of a very good edition of WWE RAW this week, and standing in a holding pattern until after RAW's WrestleMania-worthy PPV in a couple of weeks, WWE SmackDown is kind of out of the focus for the time being.
Surely the brand that spent most of the year as the most exciting wrestling show on the USA Network will rise to prominence once more, but for right now, they had a lot to live up to on Tuesday night. SmackDown's next PPV isn't until October 8, Hell In A Cell. In the days of a PPV happening seemingly every other week, October might as well be next year.
So what did we learn on this week's edition of SmackDown? Are they going full steam ahead with new storylines or running in place? A little of both, actually. There's still some good stuff going on Tuesday night's, mostly on the under card, while the top of the card seems to be getting the retread treatment.
Read on for five things we learned on this week's edition of WWE SmackDown Live.
1. Kevin Owens Is Now A Referee
This Kevin Owens storyline is developing nicely. Owens made his way out to the ring, frustrated with the way things went last week (where he failed to defeat AJ Styles despite getting to choose the referee).
Interrupting a match that was supposed to involve Aiden English, Owens blamed Shane McMahon for his loss since Shane and special referee Baron Corbin had a face to face just before Corbin quit on assignment and McMahon took over as ref. Owens blamed McMahon for putting his hands on Corbin.
McMahon came out this week, reminded Kevin that he had his choice of referee and still couldn't capture the U.S. title. Shane basically said that Kevin has nobody to blame but himself. Kevin later took this as motivation to prove that he can referee better than McMahon.
McMahon booted Owens from the ring and started the next match, Aiden English vs. Sami Zayn. After joining the announcers on commentary for a while, Owens got in the ring, tore the referee shirt off the actual ref, and made himself the new official. He ended up giving Sami the pop-up powerbomb and using a fast count to award English the match.
Obviously this is headed for a McMahon/Owens match, but I like the character development we are seeing with Owens. The story has all kinds of directions that it can take, especially if Owens continues to try to referee in some kind of crusade for justice. This week's interaction with Sami Zayn could bring these two back together down the line as well, and who would complain about that?prevnext
2. Lana Has Gone Full Lana
Lana is essentially back to the Lana that originally emerged on the scene as Rusev's manager, full-on Russian accent and all.
They're starting to build up Tamina Snuka in the same way that they did Nia Jax over on RAW. This week, Nia defeated a local independent wrestler in a squash match, even featuring a "Crush!" yell from Lana.
After the bout, Tamina still appeared a bit confused about what's going on with her new manager. Lana brought photographers into the ring to take pictures of Nia from two angles as she celebrated her victory.
Wherever this goes, Lana is far better in this role than as a wrestler. It's a shame that she was ever split from Rusev as the pair had a natural charisma together that few wrestler/manager duos have had in many years.prevnext
3. The Slow Build To A Great Singles Feud Begins
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin debuted their new tag team this week. They came out to a brand new theme song, which was an upgrade from Gable's formerly awful American Alpha theme, but not by much. They wrestled The Ascension, just in case you were wondering if they are still on the main roster.
The pair worked well together in the ring, as you'd expect from two former world class athletes. In particular, the closing portion of the match with both men working together in sequence was well done. However, I'm just left waiting for the inevitable turn and feud between the team.
Whenever we finally get the Benjamin vs. Gable series, we're in for a treat. Prior to being thrown into this tag team, Gable had shown that he has tremendous potential as a singles star. Having his first feud be with a guy like Benjamin will be a bonus. I can't wait.prevnext
4. The New Day's Losing Streak Continues (And Xavier Is Great)
The feud between WWE SmackDown tag team champions the Usos and the New Day is continuing, which is fine (for now). The story has been fantastic so far, with The Usos really coming into their own over the last couple of weeks.
This week on SmackDown, a match was made where the winner would get to determine the stipulation for an upcoming title rematch between the teams (a date has not been announced). The New Day had Kofi Kingston and Big E wrestling, due to Xavier Wood's knee injury. He came out with a massive sign around his neck that said "It's Sore," which was hilarious.
In the end, New Day continued their losing streak. They lost to the Usos on the SmackDown preceeding SummerSlam, they lost at SummerSlam, and now they lost a week and a half later. Will the New Day get their redemption soon? Stay tuned.prevnext
5. A Tale of Two Vastly Different Title Pictures
The WWE U.S. title and WWE title are heading in vastly different directions.
U.S. Champion AJ Styles once again began the "open challenge" segment that John Cena pioneered two years ago. If the Styles incarnation is anywhere near as good as what Cena produced two years ago, we are in for some great television. Every week, there's a reason to watch the show and a genuine possibility of real surprise. Think back to when John Cena produced matches against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens in 2015, two legitimate surprise appearances. Now add the wrestling talent of AJ Styles to the mix, potential dream matches on the horizon, and this could be really good.
On the other hand, the WWE championship is starting to toe the line between modestly interesting and irrelevance. Though Mahal's reign as champion overall has been a breath of fresh air, his championship feuds are starting to get repetitive and one has to wonder how long this run can last.0comments
Next week on SmackDown, Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura will battle it out for a shot against Mahal for the title. The problem is Orton spent the spring and early summer feuding with Mahal, and Nakamura just got done wrestling Mahal at SummerSlam. Given that the Mahal/Nakamura feud had far less television time dedicated to it, I'd have to imagine they go back to a Mahal vs. Nakamura rematch rather than bringing back the "done to death" Orton/Mahal story.
And if Nakamura does get the title shot, you have to wonder if he walks away with the belt this time. As good as Mahal has done as the torch bearer, it may be time to switch things up again to keep it interesting. When's that India tour again?prev