The WWE's Top "Smackdown" Story is Great and a Mess

As Smackdown Live approaches “Fastlane,” its best story is also its dumbest. The ongoing drama between Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan is incomprehensible as they manipulate the careers of A.J. Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. At the same time, Styles, Owens, and Zayn are three of the best performers on Smackdown Live—reliably creative on the mic and in the ring.

Jason Jordan's Angle Got Real in the WWE

Maybe the WWE always intended for Jason Jordan to become a heel. Maybe when Kurt Angle announced that then-member of American Alpha was his illegitimate son, WWE writers knew that crowds wouldn’t buy it or him. They certainly reacted to him with suspicious indifference, then wariness. Theoretically, he was a babyface, but once he became Seth Rollins’ tag team partner, Jordan got real heel heat, particularly as his serial bumbling cost them the tag team belt.

The WWE Changes its Mind on A.J. Styles

Last week on Smackdown Live, Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers beat down A.J. Styles. Afterwards, Shane McMahon announced not that Styles would face not Mahal for his WWE Smackdown Championship but Rusev for a spot on the Survivor Series team this week. Days later, the WWE changed its mind and announced that Styles would face Mahal this Tuesday for his championship belt. If Styles wins, he would represent Smackdown Live and face Brock Lesnar at the Survivor Series pay-per-view.

Did Jinder Mahal, WWE Go "Too Far"?

The WWE’s efforts to build Jinder Mahal look remarkably like flying a plane into the side of a mountain. I keep waiting for the company to treat its champion like a champion, but the top story on Smackdown Live is Kevin Owens versus Shane McMahon, where no titles are on the line. Mahal currently holds the most prestigious belt on the show, but he remains mired in angles that are unconvincing if not demeaning. Tuesday, he cut a promo on Shinsuke Nakamura that was too complicated as well as racially problematic.

The WWE Keeps It "Real"

Pro wrestling has always asked you to believe what you think you see, and the WWE has raised that to an art form. When it launched Total Divas on E!, the reality show quickly meshed with WWE in-ring “reality” as storylines crossed for a mindfucking reality-squared effect. That cat-and-mouse game with reality has become WWE writers’ favorite tool recently, used most effectively in the John Cena/Roman Reigns program. Three weeks ago, the two seemed to be shooting, telling the truth on each other.

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