I’m here to talk about SmackDown Live again because as always, it’s the show that continues to make any sort of progress around here.
Yes, there’s something to be said about RAW and how it’s turned Kevin Owens back into the destroyer he originally was back in NXT, and the impending stable with Samoa Joe and Triple H. But if you’re still a show that manages to get people to turn on Bayley—Bayley, a wrestler who’s destined to be a babyface forever—I’m still judging you, and I still refuse to watch you.
SmackDown, on the other hand, makes the most out of its shallow roster and tries to elevate its modest stars as much as possible. This week’s episode featured a huge 10-man battle royal to determine a new #1 contender to Bray Wyatt and the WWE Championship, after Randy Orton essentially gave way to his master. Because there were 10 men in the ring, the coverage expanded beyond the usual suspects atop the roster; dark horses like Apollo Crews, Kalisto, and even Mojo freakin’ Rawley had a shot for that WrestleMania spot.
Granted, everyone else was there to continue their own respective storylines, but the blue brand once again proves that they’re masters of hitting two birds—multiple birds, actually—with one stone.
Now, this week’s star du jour is the forlorn ex-Wyatt Family member Luke Harper, who’s seemingly on his way to that coveted main event spot at WrestleMania. However, it’s not without its issues, as the finish of this battle royal was pretty controversial.
First, it’s a draw. Second, they say it’s a draw, but with a finish like that, you don’t even need a replay to tell you that it isn’t a draw. Harper and AJ Styles intended to tumble out of the ring in such a way as to have both feet land on the floor at the same time, and not even deliberately obscuring the camera angle can hide the fact that Styles looked like he landed first.
Listen, it’s tough to do a spot like that. Not even the best wrestler with the best coordination and agility in his prime, like an AJ Styles, can pull off a spot like that flawlessly. Maybe with 10,000 hours of practice, sure. But not reliably on a TV show where you only get one pass.
But maybe there are other things at play here, so let’s take a look at all the possible directions they can go with from that finish.
The draw holds up, so Styles and Harper fight one-on-one next week
This is the most logical and most-likely-to-happen move if the draw is upheld, and they really ignore the fact that Styles landed first. If Harper is going to be pushed as the face (or not-heel) element against Bray Wyatt, then having him truly earn his title shot at WrestleMania will be a good look for him.
Depending on what the WrestleMania endgame really is for Randy Orton, he could interfere in this match and cost both men a title shot, declaring his intent to turn on Wyatt. However, that’s a convoluted path that leaves a lot of loose ends.
The draw holds up, so Bray Wyatt defends against both Styles and Harper
A fun outcome because it’s a fun match, but since there are other rumored plans for AJ Styles, it’s not likely to happen. But if a Harper win predicates that his title shot isn’t happening at WrestleMania (assuming it’s still reserved for Randy Orton) then this could also happen on a big episode of SmackDown next month. This is where SmackDown’s optimistic unpredictability looks best. It’s a long shot, but I won’t completely discount it; if it happens, I’ll love this show more than I already do.
After a week’s study of the footage, Harper is declared the winner
This is what I expect a reactive SmackDown creative team to do. If the objective is to make Harper the winner, and to eventually advance an AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan/Shane McMahon feud for WrestleMania, then this should be what happens. I also won’t be surprised if the draw call was deliberately made—especially after being that blatant—in order to stir up some controversy about the finish and incense Styles further.
The only problem is that it kind of makes Harper limp a little heading into a title match against Wyatt (and Orton, presumably). Sure, Harper did a good job of sustaining his heat after the finish, but you’d think that it could have been a little more dominant.
(You know, though, if this sets up an out-of-nowhere feud between Harper and Styles, I’d also be all for that.)
Randy Orton destroys Harper, maybe Styles, finally declares his intent to challenge Wyatt at WrestleMania
I said earlier that SmackDown’s established an atmosphere of optimistic unpredictability, but the caveat of being unpredictable is also the fact that they’re also likely to do something wrong.
If the endgame for Orton is really the one-on-one match with Wyatt for the title, then this is the simplest, shortest way to go about it. But it’s also the way that destroys much of the buildup that came with the battle royal, and leaves nothing for Harper to do if he really is blocked out of the match. The terrible thing is that because anything can happen on SmackDown, I can’t count this possibility out.
I hope this isn’t what happens, though, and SmackDown Live has been way too hardworking for its own good the past few months for them to just settle with this. Let’s hope for the best.
PWR Path of Gold 2017 is happening tomorrow (depending on when you read this), and it’s their version of the Royal Rumble—or the Aztec Warfare match from Lucha Underground for you hipster wrestling fans out there! The biggest match in PWR history is for a shot at either the PWR or PHX Championships at Wrevolution X. It’s gonna be a fun time at the Unilab Bayanihan Center. Show starts promptly at 2 pm, so get your tickets at only P350 a pop. Groups of three can get ‘em at P999!
If you don’t know how an Aztec Warfare match goes, check it out here:
Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring Mellow 94.7 DJ and PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer and Wrestling God Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! This week, the boys talk to Filipino-Canadian wrestler and Lance Storm Wrestling Academy graduate Billy Suede, who’s making his PWR debut this Sunday in a special attraction match at Path of Gold! Find out who he’s worked with, who’s trained him, and who his favorite guy to wrestle is (hint: it’s a former Ring of Honor World Champion)! Listen to it here!