The Best And Worst Of WWE Friday Night Smackdown 5/22/20: Can’t Hardy Wait

Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown: Braun Strowman and Otis née Dozovic had a breakdancing party, King Corbin ruined Elias’ guitar (which was seen as unforgivable, even though Elias used to break his own guitar like every week), and Drew Gulak lost what we didn’t know at the time would be his last WWE match.

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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Friday Night Smackdown for May 22, 2020.

Best, In That “I Can’t Believe This Was Their Idea For A Segment” Kind Of Way: What’s That Smell?

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Up first this week is The Dirt Sheet, wherein MC M-I-Z and Johnny Drip-Drip accurately bag on Braun Strowman with commentary like, “Bray Wyatt had a choice: Braun Strowman or stuffed animals. He chose stuffed animals.” The term “stuffed animals” is so nostalgic and funny to me for some reason. They also introduce us to, “other Firefly Funhouse puppets that Bray Wyatt rejected, but still likes more than Braun Strowman,” and if we’re being honest, both of them have more lore and deeper backstories than anyone on Smackdown.

First there’s, “Shiloh The Lonely Laundry Lass,” a sock wearing fake eyelashes and a giant Sia bow on its head (so you know it’s a girl, a la Ms. Pac-Man) that is on a quest for vengeance because her brother got eaten by the washing machine. Then there’s Dookie the Diaper Boy, a … [checks notes] a diaper puppet with googly eyes that speaks in fart noises and has a brown sock in his mouth so it looks like he’s shitting when he talks. We’re through the looking glass here, people.

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There’s also “Mandyquin Rose,” a random burn on Mandy Rose about how she’s a pre-Crisis Kim Cattrall who wants to manipulate Otis into the Universal Championship. Braun interrupts, of course, confirming that he is, in fact, less entertaining than a passive-aggressive mannequin, a vengeful sock puppet, and a diaper with poop hanging out of its mouth.

Worst: The Damned Numbers Game®

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Miz ends up getting volunteered for a match against Braun and loses handily in only a couple of minutes. Call me a nitpicking smark if you want (and I’m sure you will), but there’s probably someone better to lose your “cowardly heel gets squashed because bad guys are weak and can’t back up anything they say” match than your attempted multimedia crossover star who has done nearly everything you can do to succeed in WWE and is more or less the physique is so unrealistic you’d laugh if you saw it on an action figure. This is what happens when Sami Zayn stops coming in to work, I guess.

The payoff is that Miz and Morrison are facing Strowman in a handicap match for the Universal Championship at Backlash, which, again [gestures at previous paragraph]. Smackdown’s got the tag titles being decided in a series of singles triple threat matches, and now they’ve got one of the top tag teams wrestling for a singles title. Maybe they’ve got a really clever idea, and that’s why they’re doing it? Maybe Bruce Prichard never learned how to count?

The IC Weiners

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The Intercontinental Championship Tournament to crown a new champ after Jordan Devlin Sami Zayn was stripped of it due to there being NO consequences for choosing to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic continues this week with two more first round matches.

The first, and the better (and shorter, somehow) of the two, is Shinsuke Nakamara vs. AJ Styles, who is a ghost. Like every WWE Nakamura vs. Styles match it’s technically good to very good, but without any of the gravity or emotional experience most of us are looking for when we see that match on the card. I wrote about it a lot back when they were feuding over nut shots, and the best way I can put it is that their Wrestle Kingdom 10 match was so goddamn good and both men were so cool and at the top of their games at the time that any WWE rematch comes with an initial rush of, “YEAH LET’S DO THIS,” and is followed by the stagnant reality of, “Oh, yeah, I guess we’re doing this.” It’s not fair to them as performers, but context can be a killer. It’s like watching Ric Flair fight Mick Foley in TNA.

For some positive analysis, it was nice to see Styles win the match without anybody catching an uppercut to the balls. Nakamura deserves better than this, but I suppose making a lot of money to go through the motions for 5-15 minutes a week for 400 grand a year is good work if you can get it.

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At the end of the night we get the other first round match, Jeff Hardy versus Sheamus, which is roughly the same length as Styles vs. Nakamura but with a commercial break in the middle. Your enjoyment of this will vary based on how much you like watching 42-year old Jeff Hardy still dressing like 25-year old Jeff Hardy and working his way through 25-year old Jeff Hardy’s offense. I don’t necessarily mean that as a criticism, by the way. Dude’s had multiple instances where you think his career’s over, and then a year later he’s back on TV doing his thing and everybody loves him. He’s oddly timeless.

It’s a tough call to make, but I think they did as well as they could be expected. You’ve built up this Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy feud over a month of Sheamus reacting to video packages, and then Jeff returns and quickly kicks his ass. And then you have them go one-on-one in an Intercontinental Championship Tournament, so what do you do? If you have Sheamus completely wreck him you’re making your hero too vulnerable — WWE HATES IT when one of their heroes has flaws or failings or acts like a three-dimensional human being — but if you have Hardy roll through him, you’ve more or less turned Sheamus into a handsome Erick Rowan. So what’s the call? Sheamus dominates most of the match, and Hardy surprises him with a roll-up. Roll-ups are wrestling code for, “this isn’t really the finish, stay tuned for the rematch.” The next round is Hardy vs. Daniel Bryan, which is probably Sheamus’ ideal scenario for a match he could ruin with face kicks.

Best/Worst: Charlotte Sometimes ALWAYS

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Speaking of roll-ups ending matches without really “ending” anything, here’s Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley pinning NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair with a handful of ropes in a champion vs. champion match. It’s probably better than I’m giving it credit for, because when you run a wrestling site you have to watch all the shows, and I am filled to the goddamn breaking point with Charlotte content. Moonsault jokes aside I really LIKE Charlotte, too, I just don’t need to see her for 15 minutes on every Raw, NXT, and Smackdown coming off the empty PC assembly line. Charlotte could be the secret entrant in the casino ladder match at Double or Nothing and I wouldn’t even look up from my laptop.

Bayley vs. Charlotte is always pretty good, but admittedly did make me long for the days when Bayley’s character really meant something to the audience, and she wasn’t just a fatigued “bad haircut” joke. I did think it was funny that Bayley was doing the THIS IS MY HOUSE thing about Smackdown, as though Raw Superstar and NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte isn’t also constantly on Smackdown. Between Charlotte randomly showing up for feuds and matches and AJ Styles being “traded” to Smackdown for “future considerations” (that we’ll never hear about again), it looks like the Brand To Brand Invitational already has one foot in the garbage can.

At this point I’ll type your weekly, “I really can’t wait for crowds to return, because the empty, echoing Performance Center is making even the good stuff seem kind of bad, and after months of this anything a crowd’s reacting to with energy is going to feel like the first drop on a roller coaster,” addendum.

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P.S. on Monday Charlotte Flair is in a number one contender match for the Raw Women’s Championship, presumably because she’s the NXT Women’s Champion who just lost to the Smackdown champion? Nia Jax is in there after getting her ass kicked by the champion twice on the same Raw, and Natalya is there because she lost in embarrassing fashion two weeks in a row and threw a temper tantrum about it. Say what you want about the tenets of AEW’s janky rankings system, but at least it’s an ethos.

Worst: The Forgotten Sons Want To Kill You For Not Loving The Troops Enough

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Do you love the troops? How much? Because if it’s not the most possible, the Forgotten Sons are going to kick your ass all across the (Fox) nation. These inset promos really need Kevin Owens wandering in with his hand on his forehead to be like, “guys, people don’t hate you because your The Troops, people in the United States LOVE The Troops, they don’t like you because you’re two split-end ponytails away from being a skinhead biker gang and Jaxson Ryker’s got the wrestling ability and charisma of an overturned turtle.”

Best: Mandering

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Finally this week there’s the main event of Mandy and Otis Rose against Dolph Ziggler and Sonya Deville. The highlight is Mandy debuting a new denim vest and cutoffs attire to match Otis. I wish they’d gone the other direction with it and had Otis wrestle in his Mandy Rose cosplay. There’s also a brief mention of Tucker by Corey Graves, with Michael Cole giving an empty “will you stop” about it. I hope Tucker ends up being revealed as the Smackdown hacker, and we get vignettes of him like, hacking the CIA and then scooting his chair back, rubbing his hands together, mouthing “oh yeah,” and nodding his head happily until the camera cuts away.

The highlight of the match is Sonya absolutely WRECKING Mandy with a running knee strike to the head. You can’t really tell from this angle, but on the replay you can see the point of her knee practically going into Mandy’s brain.

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Sonya’s really on a roll lately in and out of the ring, and is even giving a workable context to Dolph Ziggler in the year of our Lord 2020. Making Dolph seem motivated instead of broadly entitled, kayfabe or not, is an accomplishment. And I don’t think I’ve typed it out-loud, but I like that Ziggler, a handsome and muscular athlete who doesn’t seem like he cares about anything, is the blood rival to Otis, a fat guy who looks like a Fraggle Rock Gorg and cares SO MUCH about EVERYTHING. Otis is truly the modern every-man, down to the fact that he has an uncool but super friendly friend he’s ready to ditch the second he gets a girlfriend.

Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week

AddMayne

“I gotta get me some Forgotten Sons merch”

JayBone2

Based on her character’s evolution, I can’t wait for Mandy to appear in a Whitesnake video next week.

Harry Longabaugh

Jeff spent seven years in TNA. Empty arenas are a second home to him.

mandrew

Saying Charlotte is known for her moonsault is kind of like saying Jeffery Dahmer is known for his cooking. Yeah, its true, but not for the reasons you think.

Taylor Swish

(Sasha’s internal monologue after Bayley tells her to stay away from ringside tonight)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4ga_M5Zdn4

EvilDucky

Edge: I’m not allowed to jump off ladders any more, what can I do instead that’s equally ridiculous?
Charly, grabbing a mic: I got you, fam

Dave M J

…why does this show pull in more viewers than AEW and NXT combined?

Bigsexy75

I wanna see someone in the mid card “develop” the roll up to the point it’s their preferred, promoted finisher. Let it play out so that it’s as feared as the RKO, and it takes said midcarder all the way to the IC or US title. Let’s lean into this.

The Real Birdman

Mandy Rose is smart. We all know jorts give you +50 to all stats

What are the odds WWE confused the word “greatest” with “longest”?

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It’s such good shit.

That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of Smackdown. This week’s episode wasn’t notably terrible or anything, but boy, is it hard to comprehend from a creative standpoint. I’m just really not sure what they’re going for, or what they want to do, or why it’s like it is. Incredibly it’s still better off now than it was a month ago.

Anyway, thanks as always for reading. Your comments, shares, and readership are appreciated tremendously, and we hope you’ll be here again next week for another exciting block of Charlotte Flair, roll-up finishes, and puppets that literally crap out of their faces. See you then.

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