The July 25th episode of SmackDown Live was one of the best shows, from beginning to end, that the company has put on in a long time. Needing to follow up Battleground (a very lackluster pay-per-view) with a strong outing, the blue brand did just that. They made sure Raw wasn't the only show to get a fantastic grade.
The WWE Universe learned that the WWE feels the U.S. Title is extremely important as a returning WWE Superstar kicked off the show to challenge for it, Jinder Mahal demanded a new opponent for SummerSlam and unfortunately, the women's divisions of SmackDown Live is still the weakest part of the show.
Did Kevin Owens walk out of this episode with the U.S. Title still around his waist? Or, would another quick title change be in order?
Here are your 5 Winners and 5 Losers from SmackDown Live July 25, 2017
I get that the idea is to hate Aiden English. That's his job as a heel character. But, it's easy to miss The Vaudevillians when this terrible "let me sing for you" gimmick is the alternative. The WWE wouldn't even need to bring back Simon Gotch to get English back on track. They just need someone else who looks kind of like a carny to take his place and that can't be that difficult to find. This is new/rebooted gimmick English is playing from NXT will not turn into anything substantive for him. The company would have seen better results keeping him in the tag division.
To see Chris Jericho come out in the opening segment of the show was not expected and the pop he got from the crowd shows how much the WWE Universe missed him. The List is/was one of the most popular things going on WWE programming and throwing Jericho into the mix for the U.S. Title adds a nice wrinkle to things. The Styles vs. Owens match would have been good anyway. Adding Jericho made it that much better.
The WWE is still clinging to pointless tag matches in an attempt to fit people into the show. Sami Zayn and Ty Dillinger taking on Mike Kanellis and Aiden English or Charlotte and Becky Lynch taking on Tamina and Lana didn't elevate any of the parties in the match. If a tag match can help tell a storyline then it's a useful tool. When the match doesn't elevate anyone, there really isn't much point.
Baron Corbin is looking like less and less of a serious threat every week and that's not good. His saving grace appears to be the Money in the Bank briefcase. But, Shinsuke Nakamura coming over strong is good for the WWE. It feels like the company took a misstep upon Nakamura's arrival and his victory gets him back on track. It wasn't the greatest of Kinshasa's, but it was enough.
The WWE needs to tread very carefully with Lana. They are the on verge of ruining two very good characters. Rusev lost another big match to John Cena and he could be in trouble and Lana's in-ring work isn't strong enough to warrant receiving a push. If she continues to struggle, she could find herself taking the old role of Eva Marie and on Tuesday's show, fans were already chanting "you can't wrestle".
It was easy to be critical on the storytelling when the New Day and Uso's were fighting in singles matches each week. That was just lazy booking. While it was somewhat of a surprise to see New Day win the titles, having the Uso's jump them on SmackDown Live, take out Big E and decimate all the members gives this feud a fresh feel. The WWE needs more of this and less of the other stuff.
It didn't take long for the WWE to make Mike Kanellis into an enhancement talent. In two consecutive weeks, he's looked like he can't hang with Sami Zayn and the gimmick between Maria and Mike appears to be ready for a nosedive before it even gets out of the gate. If Vince McMahon and company insisted on this kind of character, it would have made more sense to go all the way and have him cheat, steal and win. The vase to the head appears all for nothing at this point.
That Nakamura got a big win was deserved for his character. That he was then announced as the new opponent for John Cena next week makes next Tuesday a show the WWE Universe will feel compelled to tune into. Nakamura vs Cena is a big match no matter how you slice it. That Nakamura is viewed as someone who could win that match adds intrigue to the story that Cena is moving onto SummerSlam to face Mahal. Corbin will probably cost Nakamura the match, but it was still a smart play by the writers.
It's hard to judge the feeling when you see the U.S. Title change hands so frequently. It doesn't yet feel like the title is a joke, but there's something to be said for giving a champ an extended reign and making it feel like the title is difficult to win. Better that it goes back and forth between two people, but when it the hot potato action going to stop?
If you're going to take the U.S. Title off Kevin Owens — again — you might as well give it to A.J. Styles. It was another classic matchup, this time including Chris Jericho, and that Styles won the title without pinning Owens gives K.O. a legit beef and reason to demand a rematch next week. It wouldn't be shocking if the title changed hands again, but when do the rematch clauses no longer take effect? There are worse matches to watch over and over, but somehow the WWE will have to bring a solid ending to this battle.
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