Dolph Ziggler’s win in the main event of SmackDown Live gives him a WWE Title shot against Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam next month. Ziggler has been ready for a bigger push since 2012, it feels like, but WWE has never pulled the trigger. In that sense, his win felt “new” but when you’re touting your company as being in a “New Era,” pushing someone who has been in the company for almost a decade seems like old news.
Ambrose-Ziggler will be a really good match, because they’re both really good workers, but Balor-Rollins feels more appropriate for a “new era” and also has more potential to steal the show.
Just a few weeks ago, in a backstage segment, Ziggler was “on the phone with his mother” and said something to the effect of, “no mom, I lost again, but it’s OK.” … They have jobbed him out so many times and used him to get over new talent like Baron Corbin, it’s going to be hard for them to push the reset button this quickly and have people accept it.
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The better story for Ziggler might be that comeback story. For these first few weeks, use him to put over Corbin, Apollo Crews, Kalisto and some other younger guys you want to get over. Then have him beat some jobbers and work his way back up the ladder, getting those wins back and maybe he is in a good position to challenge for the WWE Title by December or the Royal Rumble. Now seems too soon because they’re not going to have time to do the proper repair to his character.
Looking back on the last two days, it’s pretty clear that Raw won the week, despite that it was a positive first impression for SmackDown Live, and we’ll see how the ratings shake out later today, but from a critical standpoint, Raw won the first week of the battle. Raw was more newsworthy and the changes in production on Raw outshined those on SmackDown.
SmackDown’s lack of roster depth was also very evident on this show — a six-pack main event will do that for you — and the addition of Rhino and Shelton Benjamin to the roster should hopefully give the show a little more depth in matchmaking.
1 — Apollo Crews won a Battle Royal to be added to tonight’s main event
This wasn’t the star-making moment for Crews that it was for Finn Balor on Raw, but it was good to see them give him a nudge of a push here. Crews was a good addition at his debut right after WrestleMania, but he has been lost in the shuffle since then. It has only been three months since he debuted and it feels like he has been on the roster for the last two years because he has done so little. They need to use him better or he runs the risk of just being another guy in a crowded locker room, and he’s much better than that.
2 — Becky Lynch beat Natalya
The Natalya-Becky Lynch match was good, and their feud should be the focus of SmackDown’s division for the time being, but the post-match promo that included every other woman in the locker room was a mess.
Alexa Bliss interrupted Becky, Naomi interrupted Bliss, Carmella interrupted Naomi and then Eva Marie interrupted Carmella. Especially with the two-hour show, there isn’t going to be time to focus on more than two (maybe four) women at a time, so throwing them all out in this segment just to get them on TV felt like a rushed waste of time.
It was a forgettable way for Bliss and Carmella to make their main-roster debuts, which was unfortunate. It was interesting to see them give Eva Marie the big shining moment during the mess, with the full entrance and she said a lot by not actually saying anything at all, instead having a pre-recorded announcer tell the crowd how great she is. For those who lack in promo skills, you usually get a manager of some kind, but having a narrator instead was a unique spin on that practice.
3 — Randy Orton beat The Miz
This was a good week for Orton in his return to WWE. His promo on Sunday night at Battleground was better than the one here on SmackDown, but it was still good selling for his match with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Lesnar showing up on Raw this coming week will certainly be interesting as well, especially if Paul Heyman isn’t returning, as has been rumored.
Considering this was his first match back, I thought Orton looked crisp and really good. I’m not sure that using the IC Champion is the best fodder to get him over in the ring, however. WWE needs to protect the IC and U.S. Titles even more now that they will receive a central focus on each show.
Miz doesn’t lose much steam by getting pinned by Orton, because Orton is perceived as a big main-event star. It helps Orton in letting the people know that he is above IC level on the show, but I do think that it downplays Miz and diminishes the value of his title.
If you’re not willing to put your champion over in a match, then give the other guy the belt. That’s always been my philosophy. An IC champion losing a non-title match once per year means something. This happens all too often on WWE television.
4 — Dolph Ziggler beat Barton Corbin, John Cena, A.J. Styles, Apollo Crews and Bray Wyatt in a six-pack challenge to become No. 1 contender for the WWE Title
We’ll see if WWE can pull this off with Ziggler. As I wrote above, I think too much damage has been done for such a quick reset, but the proof will be in the crowd reaction.
I do wonder if they turn Ziggler heel rather than go with the babyface match against Ambrose. If you notice the picture along with this story, Ziggler had some attitude on his face after winning the main event.