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    Thursday, January 18, 2018

    SmarkDown RunDown Live (1/16/18): America Just Got Glorious!

    I didn’t realize how slow the progression of the Shane McMahon-Daniel Bryan storyline was until they hit pause on it to give way for the United States Championship tournament. Who knew I’d get sick of watching Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and AJ Styles play their little cat-and-mouse will-Shane-or-Bryan-interrupt type of main events. And hey, Jinder Mahal once again made it to the main event. That’s always fun, right?

    U.S. Title Tourney: Bobby Roode and the what-could’ve-beens

    It was a great and sensible move to host the rest of the U.S. Title tournament this week. The card for the Royal Rumble is a bit too stacked for its own good (we’re having two Rumbles, people), and after seeing who advanced, I don’t think the finals deserve to be on a PPV. 

    But first, let me commend Jinder Mahal for his great in-ring work this week. He finally perfected his character as a thinking man’s brute. His match with Xavier Woods effectively revealed his vicious side while his in-ring psychology during the finals with Bobby Roode was on-point. He definitely carried the lessons he learned from his rivalry with AJ Styles, so yeah, his consistency deserves praise. Pushing the finals this week also worked wonders for Jinder’s character work since he can just claim he wasn’t prepared and bitch about it until he gets a rematch. So yeah, I guess Roode and Jinder now has a storyline to work on. Great.

    So why were the finals undeserving of a PPV spot? Mainly because how predictable and bland it was. It’s so predictable, I actually predicted it like three weeks ago. And I was fine with it until I saw the rest of the bracket. If I knew guys like Xavier Woods, Aiden English, and Mojo Rawley would be part of the tournament, I probably would’ve changed my opinion. I’m not saying Roode didn’t deserve it. We’ve been asking Creative to give him something and there, wish granted. But I can’t help but wonder how better this tournament would be if the expected winners were eliminated in the semi-finals and either Woods or Mojo won.

    Either of them winning the U.S. Title presents far more compelling and intriguing implications. Imagine Xavier Woods winning the title for the New Day. It’ll be the first time three men shared a singles title. WWE won’t probably recognize them as such, but we won’t know for sure because they eliminated Woods. Meanwhile, they could’ve legitimized Mojo Rawley’s heel push by giving him his first title reign. Not only will it prove that turning his back on everyone boosted his career, it’ll guarantee him a constant spotlight for his great heel work. He was so underutilized in the past few months, he had to upload his fiery heel promos on social media because Creative couldn’t find time for him on the show. That’s just wasting potential.

    It just sucks that the guys who are making more efforts to get themselves over are the ones getting the shorter end of the stick. They had the chance to push new faces to the spotlight since, lest everyone forgot, SmackDown Live is the land of opportunity. Even Rusev was relegated to a Fashion Files segment, and he’s probably one of the few over people on the roster. Compared to these guys, Roode’s the most boring choice to win. He can barely pull off a babyface act so unless he turns heel, expect a dull title reign from the Glorious One. I don’t know where the losers of this tourney will go from here since the writers of SmackDown Live seems to be clueless on how to craft compelling midcard storylines. They used to be good at that. I wonder what happened.

    Next week will be the Blue Brand’s go-home show for the Royal Rumble. The slow burn of the Shane-Bryan feud will resume and expect another week of hecking bamboozles and wacky stipulations for their wrestlers. Someone better turn on someone before I lose my interest.

    So what’s your take, #NitPickRick? This week’s episode deserves a B despite my grievances because I enjoy episodes structured around a tournament. Remember when the King of the Ring tournament had its own PPV and the subsequent ones were held on RAW? Every match had implications and deep inside, I just really enjoy tournaments. Minus the terrible promos littered all over the show, this episode was a fun, action-packed watch.

    Some Blue Brand Vibes and Blues—Live!

    Blue: What’s up with these terrible “personal video message” promos? They didn’t even bother editing some parts out, including that moment when Tamina realized she exceeded her word limit. If anything, this is their cheap attempt to cash in on the great promos the likes of Miz, Mojo, and Xavier have been uploading on social media. Those promos were great, not because they shot them using a smartphone, but because they were raw and unfiltered. They allowed their personalities to speak for themselves. You want promos that are as good as those? How about you stop micromanaging what your Superstars say?

    And what exactly do these promos show, that these people had to shoot themselves with their phones to cut a great promo? What stopped Baron Corbin, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura from delivering their promos in front of a proper TV camera? Did Braun Strowman ruin your equipment, too? They were backstage, for fuck’s sake! And don’t bother giving these women airtime if you’re only giving them a sentence each to stake their claim. I’d rather not see them entirely and have them cut genuine promos online than see them fight for three seconds of TV time.

    Vibe: I’m giving the Riott Squad’s victory a Vibe because it was generally a good match. It’s the best match of the trio, mainly because they didn’t screw things up and Liv Morgan's italic Codebreaker is starting to grow on me. Finally, the Riott Squad received a decisive win over three proper babyfaces, something they should’ve done for weeks. If only Creative bothered to give the Squad a string of victories, they would’ve been a bigger threat on the women’s division. Their inconsistent and lazy booking pretty much made them irrelevant, so who cares if they win or lose?

    Vibe: Give it up for the Usos for delivering a great promo under short notice. Also, give it up for Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin for being effective dicks, trashing the champs and keeping their message short and sweet. And I love how they were attacked right before the Usos got to say the word ‘penitentiary’. Because, you know, Jey’s DUI arrest and all.

    Thoughts That Never Made It

    • Jinder Mahal’s high knee counter to Xavier Woods’ Honor Roll was one of the best counters I’ve seen in months.
    • AJ Styles could’ve weaseled his way out of the fat joke by counting Daniel Bryan as the third man. I’m surprised they didn’t shoot this segment using an iPhone X.
    • Forget the stuff I’ve been advocating for the past two weeks. Creative isn’t clever enough to develop a complicated heel GM character.
    • To borrow a joke I saw on Twitter, Baron Corbin’s nostrils have entered the Royal Rumble match.
    Did you enjoy this week’s SmackDown Live? What phone did they use to shoot those cringey promos? Find out if all my columns are 100% Filipino-owned at the comments below.


    Ricky Jay Publico (@NitPickRick) is a wrestling fan who enjoys watching high flyers and brawlers battle it out in the ring. A known Botchamania binge-watcher, he claims to have memorized the chronological order of Royal Rumble winners, but fails to remember who won in 2004. He writes stories about life and nonsense.
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    Item Reviewed: SmarkDown RunDown Live (1/16/18): America Just Got Glorious! Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ricky Jay Publico
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