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    Thursday, June 14, 2018

    SmackDown RunDown Live (6/12/18): Encounters of the First Kind

    Call me Britney coz I’m back, bitch! And yo damn right I’m gonna do it again. Yes, I’m definitely back on duty this week, for better or worse.. I’d like to give a quick shoutout to the great Romeo Moran for taking over last week's column while the fat guy in charge was out sick. Hey, even the greats need a break sometimes. Also, he actually thinks I’m funny. Finally, affirmation.

    MITB Go-Home: When Creative Actually Gets Creative

    Someone got excited booking this show because good Lord, they didn’t hold back in booking these first-time encounters. Is it selfish to wish Creative should be this creative on a weekly basis? Producing fresh matchups shouldn’t be that hard given the amount of unused talent SmackDown Live has. So Creative, feel free to get crazy with it. Let’s see at least one unique matchup every week. Wouldn't hurt to try, right?

    Let’s start with the women of SmackDown Live as they closed the show the way it started. They already earned plus points for not opening with the MITB participants atop ladders. And hey, the IIconics are back! They always steal the goddamn spotlight and they’re not even booked for the PPV. While the opening segment had little to write home about, it achieved what it needed to in setting up the main event. If anything, it was a showcase of how deep the women’s division of SmackDown Live really is. Eat your heart out, RAW.

    The main event had all the ingredients for an average multi-woman tag. Everyone got a few finishers in, Becky was the sacrificial lamb, Charlotte dished out a moonsault, and of course the babyfaces (and a tweener for good measure) won. Standard stuff. It would’ve been better if anyone other than Carmella took the fall so as to not make ‘Mella look weak, but I’m sure they’ll make it up to her somehow. What I enjoyed about the match was the fact that it ended with a classy stare down rather than the predictable brawl. The final image even teased the possibility of Asuka winning the title, only for either one of the four women to cash in on her on the same night. I’m probably just reading too much into it, but I still love the scenario they presented.

    SmackDown Live
    also didn’t pull any punches in hyping the men’s MITB ladder match for the last time, and they did so with style. For the second first-time encounter of the night, Rusev faced Samoa Joe and the match was as hard-hitting as you can imagine. My wrestling always has room for two big guns slugging it out. The dynamic caught me off-guard for a bit because Joe came out as the pseudo-face. What? And before I forget, Miz was the guest referee so you know shenanigans would ensue. This allowed Rusev to pick up the huge win, only for the Miz to take him out, climb the ladder, and grab the prop briefcase.

    And just when we thought Miz was going to run off with the momentum, he asked Saxton to open the briefcase and found a seemingly bottomless pit of pancakes in place of a title contract. That’s some M. Night Shyamalan shit right there. I love how the New Day sent the strongest message by not actually being there. They didn’t even have to show the New Day laughing backstage. And since they’re here, we still don’t know who among them will compete on Monday (Manila Time). What a clever way to draw curious fans in. That’s how you hype an MITB ladder match (or at least half of it)—with simplicity, intrigue, and the right amount of bonkers.

    I almost gave match of the night to Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. I’m surprised this wasn’t the main event and by the time the match ended abruptly, I’m glad it wasn’t. They wasted an explosive match that saw Hardy’s reckless style clash with Nakamura’s hard-hitting strikes. And sure, I get that Nak’s the heel and they have to shoehorn his count-to-ten gimmick, but it didn’t have to end with a low blow in full view of the referee. How about a proper Kinshasa to the face or the back of the head to properly cap off the final first-time match of the night? And he didn’t even act like a complete maniac this week. It’s like he lost the edge he had just a couple of months ago and went back to his old likeable self. Where are the creepy mannerisms? The demonic smile? The malicious attitude?

    So match of the night automatically goes to Daniel Bryan vs. Shelton Benjamin, a match I didn’t expect would be ground-based. I keep forgetting that Benjamin is a technician, too. I’d always remembered him as this flashy, highlight reel type. And he has ring psychology, too? Nice. This match did a great job adding another wrinkle to the Bryan/Cass rivalry by giving Bryan a tweaked knee. Now they both have tweaked knees coming in to MITB. Isn’t that fun? In the end, D-Bry picked up the win by reversing a half Boston Crab into a nasty looking Heel Hook. Someone better give that a proper finisher name already. The Yes Leg Lock?

    As much as I tolerate D-Bry’s program with Big Cass, what I can appreciate is the solid storytelling. They keep adding these little wrinkles to slowly justify why these two should meet in the ring one more time. This is the advantage SmackDown Live has over RAW—they care about their stories. I’m actually hyped to see this match now that both men will have apparent weaknesses they have to defend. But please, can this be their last match already? Poor Miz is hovering around annoying everyone else. We all know who he’ll end up feuding with, so let’s start building this one already. Are they saving this match for WrestleMania or something? Can we wait that long?

    SMACKDOWN RUNDOWN: If you think about it, this one episode achieved more compared to what RAW did in five. While the show obviously had to constantly hammer MITB onto our collective noggins, it did so by bringing us fresh-from-the-produce matchups and solid promos to boot. The entire build for MITB has been one hell of a ride, and that’s me saying that after bitching about some questionably booked matches. I’m grading this episode—and pretty much the entire build—an A for a fantastic effort.

    Some Blue Brand Blues That Didn’t Make It

    • Finally, a Big Cass segment I could get behind. It had the perfect length, it didn’t drag, and the insult was creative. More of this, please.
    • AJ Styles hasn’t wrestled for three straight weeks now, so I guess he’s nursing a light injury or something. I didn’t know we could do interviews in the stage area. They should do that more often.
    • I would appreciate if Jeff Hardy defended his title against literally anyone in the back. Thanks. On an unrelated note, I think I’ve grown sick of opening segments. Whatever happened to starting the show with an explosive match? 
    • I like how Paige is all hands on deck every week, with no Authority drama looming above her. GMs should be a complementing role, not a distracting one. You’re doing good, Paige.
    • It’s sad how they’re still billing Nakamura as the 2018 Royal Rumble winner. It’s as useless as Stephanie McMahon’s disguise on Undercover Boss.
    • Oof. Bludgeons on the Kickoff Show. That’s gotta sting.
    • I can rock Samoa Joe’s killer new ‘do. 
    • “I’ll show you who’s got it from here!” *plants Big Cass into the roller coaster ride sign with Dirty Deeds*

    Photos from WWE.com


    Ricky Jay Publico (@NitPickRick) is a wrestling fan who enjoys watching high flyers and brawlers battle it out in the ring. A frequent 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: SmackDown RunDown Live (6/12/18): Encounters of the First Kind Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ricky Jay Publico
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