Thanks to the Women’s World Cup airing on FOX, this week’s SmackDown aired on FS1. With the temporary move to the cable network in order to accommodate Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and the rest of Team USA, WWE likely anticipated a viewership drop-off, which is why it heavily promoted Roman Reigns’ appearance on the show.
Indeed, the Universal Champion was scheduled to meet with Jey Uso to discuss the “rules of engagement” for their title match at SummerSlam. Additionally, the show featured a Fatal-4-Way match as part of a “United States Championship Invitational” and an impromptu North American Championship match. And with the show emanating from Orlando, Fla., the company sprinkled in a few NXT cameos.
For the most part, this felt like a throwaway show. Sure, we saw some fun matches and a couple of effective angles, but there were also plenty of booking missteps.
What went wrong on the July 21 episode of SmackDown?
The United States Champion gets pinned in a non-title match
For the most part, WWE has avoided booking its champions to take pointless losses in non-title matches, but as the saying goes, old habits die hard, as we saw during this week’s episode.
After brawling with Santos Escobar earlier in the show, United States Champion Austin Theory demanded a match with the LWO member. Of course, being a wormy heel champion, Theory insisted that the contest be made a non-title affair.
In the end, Escobar got the clean win over the champ after hitting the Phantom Driver. In a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong with giving Escobar a high-profile win to establish him as a viable contender. In fact, it’s something that’s very much worth advocating for given his many strengths as a wrestler.
However, that win could’ve come against anyone besides the U.S. Champion. If WWE feels comfortable with letting the alleged creep lose these sorts of matches, then he shouldn’t be the champion.
Booking IYO SKY to lose
WWE put itself in another impossible situation when it booked Charlotte Flair to face women’s Money in the Bank winner IYO SKY on this week’s show.
These are two women who don’t need any unnecessary losses on their record right now — Flair is one of the co-challengers for the WWE Women’s Championship and SKY has the MitB briefcase — and while WWE deserves credit for contriving a real finish to their match, booking them to wrestle other people would’ve made more sense.
It’s only one match and it was entertaining, to be fair, but using the MitB winner to put over other wrestlers (with the idea being that the eventual title win will rebuild that wrestler) is a familiar WWE trope from the old days that needs to go away.
LA Knight does not win the Fatal-4-Way
It’s one thing not to give LA Knight the men’s Money in the Bank briefcase, but he certainly should have won this Fatal-4-Way match to determine who moved on to face Santos Escobar in a U.S. Title number one contender’s match. Instead, Rey Mysterio picked up the win to set up an LWO vs. LWO match for the chance to challenge Austin Theory.
Knight didn’t get pinned — Mysterio pinned Cameron Grimes to win — so perhaps WWE has bigger plans for him, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that WWE will simply string along the fans that want to see the talented veteran in a prominent role.