With two weeks to go until Clash of Champions, the final WWE pay-per-view of 2017, all that was accomplished Tuesday on SmackDown Live was the company making a mess of what looked like an interesting card with bland storylines and forced multi-person matches when none were needed.
Underlying the entire show was the fact that its supposed main eventers were nowhere to be seen as a feud that has done little to draw serious heat keeps taking center stage. Rather, it’s the potential for a rift between commissioner Shane McMahon and general manager Daniel Bryan, who himself has not been cleared to wrestle in WWE, that remains the primary focus of the show despite only getting a couple minutes of air time per week.
Let’s take a look at Tuesday night’s mess of a show.
The continuation of a go-nowhere feud
SmackDown opened with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn crowing about how they outsmarted McMahon last week. After Randy Orton hit the ring to catch Owens with an RKO outta nowhere, McMahon set a tag team match between Owens/Zayn and Orton along with a partner of his choosing at Clash of Champions. He then put Orton and Zayn head-to-head in the main event with Owens handcuffed to the bottom rope. Late in the match, Zayn found some bolt cutters, which Owens eventually used to free himself. Orton dove away from a Helluva Kick and rolled up Zayn to pick up the win. After the match, Owens attacked Orton from behind only for The Viper to be saved by Shinsuke Nakamura, who cleared the ring.
Bryan asked McMahon backstage if he was done punishing the two, but McMahon shook his head and said not only was he not done with them, he would be the special referee in the tag team match and both Owens’ and Zayn’s WWE careers would be on the line in the bout. Bryan stared at him the entire time he said that until he walked off the screen and the show faded to black.
It is this feud and not the WWE title — now on AJ Styles — that has main evented SmackDown every week since Survivor Series. And every week, it is only mildly interesting and seemingly going nowhere, which is strange because we actually know where it is going. We have already come to understand that Owens and Zayn hate McMahon, and McMahon hates them back. Orton and Nakamura have been placed together over the last couple of months that even their union for this upcoming tag team match is not a surprise.
WWE has these guys basically going through the motions on a week to week basis while teasing a potential rift between McMahon and Bryan. Even if that comes to pass, how would Owens or Zayn participate in a meaningful way? And even if they figure that out, what do Orton and Nakamura have to do with it?
Is Dolph Ziggler about to … get a push?
It was previously announced on social media that the United States title match between champion Baron Corbin and challenger Bobby Roode had been turned into a triple threat match with Dolph Ziggler added for no apparent reason. WWE did little to provide that reasoning on Tuesday. Corbin and Roode discussed backstage why the match was changed, and Ziggler stepped in only to say, basically, “because I’ve been a champion before.” This is a guy who has not won a meaningful match in months and has mostly been used to put over NXT call-ups in Nakamura and Roode. Now he’s suddenly in a title match. Later in the show, Roode beat Corbin via disqualification in a singles match when Ziggler interfered, first to hit the Zig-Zag on Roode and then again on Corbin.
WWE has a history of teasing us with potential Ziggler pushes only to fail to follow through, job him out or give him an opportunity and take it away in a matter of weeks. What’s different in this case is that he was actually put over decently strong on Tuesday with two weeks to go until Clash of Champions. Ziggler has a role in WWE and on this show; he has been consistently underutilized throughout his career. What if that’s about to change? The fact that it’s even a possibility makes an uninteresting match worth watching, even though it’ll probably end with Corbin pinning Ziggler so he retains the title and Roode doesn’t look bad.
What else happened on SmackDown?
Rusev & Aiden English def. The New Day via pinfall: A late distraction from English allowed Rusev to kick Kofi Kingston in the back of the neck for the 1-2-3. The Rusev/English team was then added to the Clash of Champions tag team title match in what is now a strange Fatal 4-Way with New Day also involved.
Mojo Rawley put together a couple sentences: Rawley said a whole bunch of nothing when asked to explain his attack on Zack Ryder, basically making the claim that Ryder has held him back as they reformed their tag team after Rawley won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33 nearly a year ago.
The Bludgeon Brothers def. Adam James & Josh Carr via pinfall: Straight squash match. The Bludgeon Brothers’ finisher still does not have a name one month into their reemergence.
Charlotte Flair def. Tamina Snuka via submission: Earlier in the show, the women not competing in the title match, along with the Riott Squad, argued with Bryan backstage about his biases. Later on, Natalya sweet-talked the Riott Squad backstage in hopes of them not attacking her. Flair tapped Snuka out with her Figure Eight. Natalya looked like she was going to attack Flair along with Carmella and Snuka after the match, but the Riott Squad came out instead and engaged with that trio as Flair escaped. The women’s title match is now going to be surrounded by lumberjacks at the PPV.
Where were the champions? Two weeks before the last pay-per-view of 2017, neither the WWE champion nor the SmackDown tag team champions were on the show. Styles’ absence was particularly noticeable considering, you know, it’s the biggest title in the company and it’s supposed to be contested in what’s being billed as a big rematch.