It's no secret that often the televised shows are often better than the pay-per-views they follow. Tuesday night was striking in the difference, featuring two great matches, a return, and a title change.
The new U.S. champion, Kevin Owens, kicked off the show celebrating his win from Battleground and announcing that next week would be the re-start of his open challenge series. However, A.J. Styles confronted him, demanding an immediate rematch.
Owens, of course, was going to decline, however, both men, and the crowd, were shocked as Chris Jericho's theme hit, and The Gift himself walked down to the ring, months before anyone expected him to return. He, of course, said he was owed a rematch as well, and demanded it.
Shane McMahon would eventually come out and make a triple-threat title match for the main event. At the end of the match, Kevin Owens hit Jericho with a big frog splash after a pop-up powerbomb on Chris Jericho. Styles slid in, tossed Owens out of the ring, and pinned Jericho himself to regain the U.S. title that he lost at Battleground.
First things first, Jericho's return was a genuine surprise in a time where we don't get surprised very often. Even Khali's return on Sunday had been teased on the Internet that afternoon. So to hear that music when most expected him to be out until Rumble season was a very cool moment.
It also explains the surprising title change at Battleground, as it's clear that they wanted an easy in for Jericho to return to, and that included Owens as champ. And the match itself was great. People grumbled at the quality of the U.S. title match on Battleground, particularly with the weird ending. This reminded us that there's nothing wrong with the U.S. title picture right now.
Add the rematch that Owens demanded last week, and SmackDown has made sure that the shows shortly after pay-per-views have equaled and exceeded the shows they followed.
They had a Money in the Bank match just nine days after the Money in the Bank pay-per-view that exceeded the show in many ways. This U.S. title match was much better than Sunday's encounter, and you can probably expect more on a stacked show next week, which will include Owens/Styles 3 AND the dream match of John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura (more on that later).
It's odd to see as a wrestling fan. While there were always times that RAW was better than the PPV, it never seemed to be a conscious decision to do that. Now, this seems to be a strategy by the WWE.
Clearly, the WWE Network has made it so that the “special events” don't need to be as special as they used to. People are paying for the network, you don't have to entice them to buy individual shows. This isn't the same as WCW burning a huge match on Nitro, or building to Nitro rather than a PPV. But as a wrestling fan conditioned for 20 years to believe that the televised shows should build to the PPVs, rather than the other way around, it's a bit weird. Perhaps this is WWE trying to make it clear that Tuesday night is an important night of the week, and that it's not simply the B-show.
This week's SmackDown Live was great, and next week's should be even better. Tuesdays clearly are becoming appointment watching for wrestling fans.
The Rest of SmackDown Live:
**I did mention that there were two great matches on SmackDown Live this week. In addition to the U.S. title match, Nakamura and Baron Corbin had a great match that vastly surpassed their match from Sunday night. The two worked in-sync, and the
ending sequence featured Nakamura showing off his striking and counter ability in a way we really hadn't seen on the main roster yet. Nakamura got the clean win, and looked extremely strong in the process. We found out exactly why he suddenly looked so good later on.
**Jinder Mahal came out and demanded to know his opponent for SummerSlam, as he dispatched Randy Orton yet again. This brought out Cena, who made it clear that he was going to get that shot. While it seemed very paint-by-numbers, Daniel Bryan came out and said that the wrestlers don't make the matches on SmackDown Live (despite Owens making a match later that night). He said that while Cena has a claim to the match, there was another who had won on Sunday, and even earlier that night: Nakamura. Bryan announced that next week, Cena and Nakamura would fight for the right to face Mahal at SummerSlam.
Clearly, this is a dream match that many had been waiting for. Some had even penciled it in as a possible major SummerSlam match, or even at WrestleMania. In addition to the high-profile status of both wrestlers, it should just be a great match, with Nakamura's striking ability going against Cena's power. I don't expect it to be clean. It wouldn't even shock me if there was no finish (though I'm more inclined to think that there's interference that gives Cena a win). So the true match will be preserved for later. And next week of course is a must-watch.
**Sami Zayn and Tye Dillinger beat Aiden English and Mike Bennett as Zayn pinned English. I would have liked to see Maria get involved to help Bennett get the win back, but at least he didn't get pinned.
**Charlotte and Becky Lynch beat Lana and Tamina in a tag match. Lana made a blind tag to put herself in the match before being pinned, and Tamina did not look happy after the match.
Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout