Smackdown has been on a roll since the WWE Draft. Each week seems to be better than the next in everything from storytelling to match variety. They’ll probably never stop mentioning it on air, but Smackdown even beat Raw in the “Ratings War” last week for the first time.
This week’s episode of Smackdown kept the momentum rolling.
FIRST STAR – AJ Styles
Anyone who has ever tried to critique AJ Styles in a negative way attacks his mic work. If tonight is any indication, the dude can hang with anyone in WWE when it comes to stick handling. John Cena did his usual thing, but AJ Styles playing the voice of marks everywhere was fantastic. The way he brings Daniel Bryan into the conversation reminded everyone just how far he came in the past calendar year. Cena finally found the perfect guy to pass the torch to.
The best thing about AJ Styles is how he sneaks his heel tactics in. He’s basically the Ric Flair of this era to John Cena’s Hulk Hogan. Styles is the best in the business in the ring, but he also takes the opportune moments that the perfect villain always should. You can try to make a case for AJ Styles being Superman, but all of his evil bits make him Lex Luthor, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Second Star – Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose has a clutch factor that you usually only see in more mainstream sports. Something about a Championship Match seems to light the fire under Dean-O, and his Intercontinental Championship Match with The Miz was TOP NOTCH. Probably the best match of Miz’s last two I.C. Title runs. Maryse was great with her relevant use of distractions, but the near-falls were extraordinary. Ambrose is on that SUPER HERO TIER that can kick out of Finishers (and attacks from foreign objects). Not quite the tier Miz usually faced as Intercontinental Champion.
Dean Ambrose was I.C. Champ at last year’s Royal Rumble, and the title has missed him ever since. The man makes the title seem like it matters as much as anything on a WWE card with the way he lives and dies for it in his matches. The perfect antithesis to what the Miz does as a cowardly champion.
Third Star – La Luchadora III
This La Luchadora family has taken the Smackdown Women’s division by storm. La Luchadora I defeated Alexa Bliss, LL II helped beat Becky, and the third member of the family showed up on tonight’s Smackdown. I love a wrestling show with a solid comedy storyline going on, and “The Mystery of La Luchadora” is right up that alley.
Without La Luchadora I/II/III we’d just be getting Becky versus Alexa for months on end.
Naughty Nattie – Natalya as a baddie is always the right choice. Fits her submission/Hart Dungeon grinding style.
Baron Corbin – Dude would have been TOP 3 if he didn’t have to speak into a microphone.
Maryse – Best Valet in WWE. I’m a sucker for the old school managerial role in wrestling, and Maryse has played that perfectly since her return.
Star of 205 Live – Neville
He and Jack Gallagher are about the only reasons that 205 Live is able to showcase some top flight talent. It may just be more fun to play the bad guy, especially when you’re able to sport some facial hair. Neville just seemed to be suffering from the same problems as Apollo Crews. Great in-ring talent, but no real character outside of ‘nice guy’. Neville may not be a villain forever, but now he has more edge in the WWe for the rest of his career due to snapping on some 205 Live-ers.
Star of Talking Smack – The Miz
Best tantrum of 2017. I know it’s only the third day of the year, but Miz shows he doesn’t need a title to do his thing.