The RKO might be one of the most explosive moves in the WWE, but the latest one from Randy Orton served another purpose.
After taking out the team of Jinder Mahal and Rusev, Orton laid out partner Shinsuke Nakamura as SmackDown Live came to a close. This double-cross set the table for next week's showdown between Orton and Nakamura, who have never met in one-on-one competition.
But this feud has, fittingly, come out of nowhere. The forced and rushed hype exposed what looks to be some potential issues for SmackDown, at least in the next few weeks. Tuesday night's show highlighted the lack of current narratives. So much of what went down in the weeks leading up to SummerSlam ultimately ended in Brooklyn and new feuds have yet to emerge.
However, if there is an upside, the long lull between SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell on Oct. 8 will give SmackDown plenty of time to regroup and begin builds that expand beyond one-off marquee matches.
In a vacuum, Orton-Nakamura is a pay-per-view-worthy encounter, but how much more effective would this have been if not for just a sudden announcement on the show Tuesday night? Yes, it's true we've lauded SmackDown's way of leveraging moments, but a good story still needs context. Surely, there could have been a better way to begin the heat between these two. Perhaps if next week's match wasn't released earlier in the night, Orton's RKO on Nakamura would have been so much less predictable and explosive.
Or what about taking a page from Monday Night Raw's book and throwing 15-20 guys into a ring and letting Orton and Nakamura duke it out as the final two, setting up a single's bout?
It's clear that SmackDown is going through a transitional period, as even AJ Styles doesn't seem to have a good story to tell at the moment, unless you consider taking advantage of an already beaten-down Tye Dillinger as one. Yes, we understand that Dillinger was little more than a buffer between Styles and Baron Corbin, but there is still little organic bad blood between those two.
As far as Orton and Nakamura, it will be a great matchup. Both are athletic and are far more adept in-ring performers than current champ Mahal, which should lead to a fun dynamic. Yes, we need a reason to watch now and not wait until Hell in the Cell, but surely there must've been middle ground to allow some semblance of a build, even if it's only two weeks, before jumping straight to the main event.
At least in Monday Night Raw's case, its high-end narratives have put together a backstory before they go at it in the ring, with Braun Strowman destroying Brock Lesnar on multiple occasions, while John Cena and Roman Reigns have exchanged what seems like real-life Twitter barbs.
Give me Orton-Nakamura -- just not next week.
Hits or misses
As much as we scrutinize Mahal's lack of in-ring capabilities, the combo of his music and fighting words like "jingoistic naysayers" makes him must-watch TV. Now with his cronies the Singh brothers starting to take a larger subordinate role, it adds a possible new dimension in which, after they helped him so many times, could cost Mahal the title. Stay tuned.
Really fun to see Shelton Benjamin back, but call me a sucker for surprises. I'd rather have seen Chad Gable announce his new, unnamed tag-team partner a week before and have Benjamin's music hit Tuesday. Clearly, the fans love him. On the flip side, Gable looked like he had all the chops to be a fantastic singles performer. Hopefully, one of these days he'll break free from tag-team competition.
Yes, we criticized the lack of good storytelling above, but the exception is Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon, who took further steps toward their inevitable showdown, which, if we had to guess, will come at Hell in the Cell. Owens, in another brilliant rant, spoke with extra fury, lamenting how far he'd fallen from his Universal champ days on Raw. And here he is, getting screwed by McMahon week in, week out.
Making things worse on Tuesday, Owens ripped the shirt off the ref's back in a match between Aiden English and Sami Zayn, put in on, powerbombed Zayn, and then fast-counted to three. McMahon overruled the decision, saying it will be "stricken from the records." So ... when will Owens and McMahon finally come to blows?
Kudos to the creative team for at least trying to rebrand Tamina. Seems as through the blueprint is to follow in the paths of Nia Jax and Strowman and let her beat down merciless jobbers. Problem is that Tamina has very little, if any, charisma, which likely will make her ceiling lower than the other two.
Same deal with Bobby Roode. While a lot has been made of his ostensible babyface character, WWE is not overexposing him too quickly, at least not through two weeks. That seems far more important than defining whether he's good or evil, especially in an age of letting performers grow more organically and live in an undefined gray area.
Disappointed by the overall performance between The Usos and The New Day, who did not come remotely close to duplicating their brilliant showdown at SummerSlam. The Usos won the match and will get to choose a stipulation for another upcoming title bout. Please, no flag match.
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