Last night's SmackDown was one of the year's most hotly anticipated weekly TV episodes. With three big title matches and Vince McMahon's long-awaited return to television on tap, WWE put significant effort into hyping the show up, all but promising a blockbuster night to shake the blue brand from its current slump.
Did they deliver? Kind of.
Two of the title matches were excellent, but one fell short of expectations. It was great seeing Vince, and he once again confirmed his skill at putting a story over, but the events leading up to his appearance were spotty and uneven, creating a real Jekyll and and Hyde show. While some of it was excellent, there were a handful of legitimately terrible moments peppered throughout, though the night galloped forward at breakneck pace.
Shinsuke Nakamura wasn't in attendance, but Jinder Mahal ripped into him regardless. Elsewhere, Dolph Ziggler's entrance-copying antics continued, Kevin Owens opened the show with another fiery promo, and the Shelton Benjamin/Chad Gable tandem were in tag team action once again.
Some segments delivered on the hype, while others represented the worst WWE has to offer in 2017. Let's pick them apart...
The second of SmackDown’s three big title fights, Women’s Champion Natalya vs. Naomi took place as the show crept into the second hour, and while mechanically solid, it did little to get the crowd excited.
The duo had a good match at SummerSlam, but this was barely passable. There weren’t any glaring mistakes and the action was reasonably well put together, there was just nothing to distinguish it from any other basic TV match, and heat was non-existent.
The conclusion was predictable too. Carmella and a leashed James Ellsworth were on commentary for the bout, and decided to stick their nose in towards the end, leading to Naomi taking them both out. Natalya then capitalised on the distraction, blindsided her challenger, and forced her to tap.
A minor ‘down, but a ‘down’ nonetheless, this contest will be completely forgotten about next week, and did little to further the tension between Natalya and Carmella, whose appearance helped the champ retain.