Wilkes-Barre, Pa. hosted this week’s episode of SmackDown, a show that WWE continues to fill with plenty of talking segments instead of in-ring action. This week was a little better in the sense that there were two good, lengthy matches to begin and close the show, but many of the same issues still remain.
So, since we’ve already discussed what worked on this show (relative to most fans’ expectations of WWE), it’s now time to talk about the things that didn’t work so well and dissect why those things didn’t (or potentially won’t) pan out.
These are two of the things that went wrong on the Oct. 29 episode of SmackDown.
The direction WWE is headed with Mustafa Ali
After his loss to Drew McIntyre, Mustafa Ali decided to air some grievances to the Wilkes-Barre crowd. Unfortunately, it was the sort of promo everyone feared he would cut once WWE exhausted all other ideas for him.
In a vacuum, there was nothing wrong with what Ali said about folks booing him because his name is “Mustafa Ali”; in a lot of ways, he’s right. Because he said this as a heel, though, you just know the babyface rebuttals will be something in the range of “stop making everything about race” or “your just making excuses for your own shortcomings”.
A nuanced approach to this COULD work, but expecting nuance from WWE (or most wrestling promotions) is like expecting Ben Simmons to take an open jump shot. Hopefully, Ali has some hand in this. Otherwise, this could head in a concerning direction.
Heel GM Sonya Deville is the heel ref for Shayna Baszler vs. Naomi
Naomi took on Shayna Baszler this past Friday, but before their match started, a referee was noticeably absent from the proceedings. Anyone who has followed the Naomi/Sonya Deville story or is well aware of WWE’s heel authority figure tricks knew what was coming next: Deville came out and announced herself as the special guest referee for the match.
The heel ref trope sucks for two reasons. First, it basically guarantees that the match won’t be good since the focus is on the ref and not the wrestlers. Second, it forces fans to turn their brain off to ignore the obvious plotholes that pop up, like when Baszler had Naomi trapped in a heel hook and Deville asked if Naomi wanted to tap out instead of simply ringing the bell and awarding the match to Baszler (though that would’ve sucked, too).
To be fair, Deville at least didn’t even try to count the fall when Naomi had Baszler covered and administered a fast count when Baszler had Naomi pinned, giving “The Queen of Spades” the win. But that doesn’t erase the larger issue of this Naomi/Deville program doing nothing but generate heat for Deville (and relegating Baszler to a lackey role).
Eventually, Naomi is going to have to get some shine in this program, and not only when she finally gets her ultimate revenge on Deville and Baszler.