'Tis the season, right?
This isn't necessarily a lazy creative decision. The foundation of the next few months needs to start somewhere. We've had so many tweet-me-now moments between the new call-ups and the roster overhauls that SmackDown had to stop, breathe and let some of these narratives play out.
Tuesday night's show felt more like filler time. More accurately, it was your garden-variety go-home show. If the Backlash pay-per-view coming up Sunday feels like a bridge to get us from WrestleMania to Money in the Bank, then SmackDown was a bridge to get us to that bridge.
But let's not harp on the negatives. Sure, there wasn't a ton of action, but there was The Miz, and I'd like to extend my gratitude for whoever decided to bring The Miz back to the blue brand.
Whether he is directly involved in the narrative or not, he, more than anyone, can stir up heat with his lips alone. Without Miz, this episode of SmackDown might have been the opposite of whatever must-see TV is. His segment alone served three purposes:
To hate on Seth Rollins and promote their match Sunday for the Intercontinental title.
Jump into the ring in the night's opening (and best) match.
Miz again proved he doesn't need a title or any slice of hardware. Just a mouth. He was able to get Hardy to deliver one of his better interviews since returning to the WWE a year ago.
"[You're] an annoying, overbearing, Hollywood wannabe," Hardy said when asked to compare The Miz to Rollins. "If you were better than Seth 'Freakin' Rollins, you would have won at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Like I did."
When Orton eventually made his way to the ring, The Miz mocked him for falling so low on the SmackDown top-10 list from a few months ago. Orton didn't seem to fall for The Miz's antics, saying only he will strike when he'll strike, whether it's against Miz or Hardy.
Turns out it was against both. In the opening bout, Orton and Hardy teamed up to face The Miz and Shelton Benjamin. Miz did his best Bryan imitation with some running drop kicks, but the battle belonged to Orton.
First, he put The Miz through the announcer's table with a side slam, then delivered a DDT from the second rope with Miz in one arm and Benjamin in the other. Finally, Orton struck Benjamin with an RKO, setting up Hardy's match-winning Swanton Bomb before -- you guessed it -- catching Hardy with another RKO, a not-so-subtle warning about what he can expect Sunday.
If the show had ended at that point, we would have been satisfied.
Hits & misses
Yes, it seems like Samoa Joe is going in 15 different directions at the moment, but Tuesday he teased a probable storyline with AJ Styles after Backlash. They had a memorable rivalry in their Impact Wrestling days, but revisiting this feud on the WWE platform would be even bigger and better. Further, Joe could potentially find himself entangled with Shinsuke Nakamura in the near future. Everyone remembers their encounters at NXT, so please, bring it on.
In the main event, The IIconics, along with partner and women's champion Carmella, fell to Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Asuka. Not exactly a stellar beginning for Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, who hope they don't fall into the same vortex as Absolution did while on Raw or The Riott Squad. Both are solid in-ring performers who need to blossom into bona fide women's heels, something SmackDown is sorely missing.
Love the fact that Big Cass has been given some leeway to build up his bad-boy aura. However, the irreverent nature of bringing in a midget to mock Daniel Bryan's size was just plain silly. Cass just isn't a funny guy, and that's OK. Let him be organic and just talk smack. Better yet, perhaps have him talk less and let his big boots do the work. That'd serve him even better. Unless you're The Miz, the last thing either Raw or SmackDown needs at the moment is another loquacious, annoying personality, when it's clear the fans would rather see slams and suplexes.
Looks like Lana is going to join Rusev Day. Her experiment as a SmackDown heel was somewhere between meh and awful. Anyone who joins Rusev at the moment is bound to turn to gold -- never mind his own wife.
It was by and large a throwaway match, but Sheamus and Xavier Woods put on a good show, with the New Day member winning via a fluke roll-up. It seems unlikely given their strong marketing as a team, but splitting up the New Day would not be the worst thing. Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E could all thrive (and for the latter two, have thrived) as singles competitors. Imagine this: The threesome is going at it against any high-profile opponents, when Big E channels his inner Seth Rollins and demolishes his teammates with a steel chair. Just throwing it out there.
Just like that, Absolution has been declared a thing of the past. In a backstage segment, new SmackDown general manager Paige told her former partners, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, they are no longer a faction. We'll say it again: Give them a chance to succeed as singles competitors. Even if only one pans out in the long run, it'll be a win.