While there were some good things to take away from this week’s episode of Smackdown Live, there were just as many negatives.
It was almost a microcosm of how I feel about the brand as a whole.
At the moment, Smackdown Live is very hit or miss, and this week’s show was representative of that.
Before I delve into my full analysis, here are the full match results from the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.:
- Randy Orton def. Aiden English
- Rusev def. Randy Orton
- The New Day vs. The Hype Bros
- Charlotte Flair def. Becky Lynch, Naomi & Tamina
Oakland thought Jiner Mahal went too far
For the second week in a row, Mahal, along with the Singh Brothers, made fun of Shinsuke Nakamura by putting his very expressive face on the big screen.
The Singh Brothers cackled with over-the-top laughter once again, but they were probably the only ones laughing, as fans in Oakland chanted, “That’s too far!” at Mahal when he joked about Nakamura’s accent.
As soon as the segment was over, people from all sides voiced their opinions on the content of Mahal’s promo.
On one end, you had people that believed Mahal’s remarks were racially insensitive. On the other, you had people that believed that since Mahal is a heel, saying insensitive things to get people riled up comes with the territory.
At the end of the day, everyone’s right.
Yes, Mahal’s remarks were racially insensitive, especially when he imitated a Japanese accent. For what it is worth, the video of Mahal’s promo is not on WWE’s YouTube channel as of this writing.
WWE typically puts at least a snippet of nearly every segment from every television on its YouTube channel, but conspicuous by its absence is this one.
Maybe WWE hasn’t uploaded it yet, which is plausible, or it recognized the backlash it would receive from doing so and decided to simply leave the segment to television history. There are also no references to it on WWE's Twitter account.
Exploiting racial stereotypes are nothing new in our country, especially in professional wrestling. A prime example of that is Mahal himself.
But for WWE to do it in this political climate makes little sense, especially with it being a publicly traded company that caters to families.
At the same time, though, WWE is trying to get even more heat on Mahal than he already has. In order to do that, he might have to step over a line or two.
At the end of the day, none of this is supposed to be real and Mahal is merely portraying a character on television. If he were on any other television program, he'd just be an evil character.
But we all know that very few will look at WWE in the same light as Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead.
And making fun of an entire race of people is the wrong line to step over. There aren’t too many correct ones to step over, but that definitely is not one of them. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as the wrong kind of heat.
We live in a different time in professional wrestling and in our world in general. Back some 30 or 40 years ago, Mahal’s remarks would have been the norm and he would have garnered all of the heat that came along with them.
Today, people are much more sensitive to racial stereotypes and are quicker to speak out against someone or something that is exploiting them. No one person (other than Vince McMahon) will receive the public’s wrath for this.
The heat will go on WWE as a company, as everyone knows that Mahal was given marching orders to say what he said about Nakamura Tuesday.
Shane McMahon, Kevin Owens made their intentions known
WWE did not follow up the heavy angle involving Owens and Vince McMahon with anything overly impactful this week.
Instead, it took the more subtle approach of having Owens and his opponent at Hell in a Cell, Shane McMahon, announce their intentions when they meet each other inside the steel structure in a couple of weeks.
A more stoic Shane McMahon opened the show by walking, not shuffling, to the ring and saying that he vowed vengeance on Owens for attacking his father a week ago.
Shane McMahon said that he and his father may not always see eye to eye, but McMahons band together when the family’s honor is being challenged.
Owens responded later in the night via satellite by first apologizing for attacking Vince McMahon, but then turning around and blaming Shane McMahon for pushing him to that point.
Owens then apologized to anyone that watches Hell in a Cell because what he did to Vince McMahon will have nothing on what he does to Shane McMahon.
I thought what WWE did this week with this story was good. It didn’t fully capitalize on the momentum it generated last week, but there is still plenty of time before Hell in a Cell, which means there is a lot more to come from what is the primary story on Smackdown Live.
Charlotte is headed to Hell in a Cell
Speaking of Hell in a Cell, the Smackdown Women’s title match has been made official for the event, as Natalya will defend her title against the returning Charlotte, who had taken time off due to her legendary father, Ric Flair, falling severely ill.
Now that the 16-time world champion is on the road to recovery, Charlotte made her way back to WWE television Tuesday to first thank the fans for all of their thoughts and prayers while her father was in dire straights.
Charlotte then announced her intentions to challenge Natalya for the Smackdown Women’s championship.
Before Charlotte could do that, however, Smackdown Live general manager Daniel Bryan booked her in a fatal four-way against Lynch, Naomi and Tamina with the winner earning a shot at Natalya.
The eventual match between the four women closed the show and was the best offering of the night. When it was all said and done, Charlotte pinned Tamina to clinch the title shot.
I know Natalya has her share of detractors — I am not among them — but her being paired with Charlotte for a championship match is something fans should very much look forward to.
— WWE (@WWE) September 20, 2017
Their matches together in 2016 didn’t knock anyone’s socks off, but they had one of the best matches in NXT history back in 2014. If they can find a way to recapture the magic they created three years ago, it should make for an entertaining match at Hell in a Cell.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin did not happen
Styles was scheduled to defend his United States championship against Corbin Tuesday night, but Tye Dillinger attacked Corbin before the match.
In the midst of the attack, Corbin hurt his ankle. Once he got back into the ring, the referee asked if he could take part in his scheduled match with Styles.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) September 20, 2017
If Corbin was a babyface, he might have fought on, but since he is a heel, he backed out.
I liked what happened, but I feel the need to deduct a couple of points for the fact that the match was promoted so heavily going into Tuesday, only to never truly happen.
With that said, I’d be more than happy to see all three men take part in a triple threat match at Hell in a Cell.
Hype Bros are about to do something drastic
It has been hard for even Mojo Rawley to remain hype when he and his partner Zack Ryder are on such a losing streak.
The Hype Bros lost again Tuesday, this time to The New Day, which spurred Rawley to insist that he and Ryder do something drastic in order to change their circumstances.
If that means a departure from the fast-paced music and neon colors, I am interested. Although it would be a change reminiscent to the one The Usos made last year, it would still be an intriguing turn of events for the team.
It would be especially intriguing for Rawley, who has essentially played the same hyped character since he was on NXT.
There hasn’t been any added depth to his character over the years. His name is Mojo, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is his friend and he is very excited to do pretty much anything.
If there is anyone in need of a drastic change, it is Rawley.