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.

A.J. Styles Wins 2017

[Updated] The winner of 2017 was A.J. Styles. He consistently gave good matches and put his opponents over. He gave Jinder Mahal his best televised match of the year and made him compelling—something few other wrestlers did. He started the year as a heel and was a convincing heel, but once he turned face, he was a clear, convincing face. He took shortcuts when he was a bad guy and stayed on the straight and narrow as a face.

WWE's Clash of Champions Blurs the Line Between Heels and Faces

This weekend’s “Clash of Champions” pay-per-view highlighted the fluidity of face/heel designations in the WWE this year. The A.J. Styles/Jinder Mahal match was one of the strongest because the face/heel roles were clearest, while the Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan match that took place while Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura battled Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn was the hardest to parse because the roles are so unstable. Owens and Zayn are heels, but good guy GM and referee McMahon was clearly, obviously screwing them.

Is Shane Turning Heel? No, He's Just the Boss

The WWE has got a lot of mileage out of the McMahon family as the onscreen bosses. Vince—Mr. McMahon in the ring—as Stone Cold Steve Austin’s greatest enemy, and Stephanie McMahon with husband/WWE C.O.O. Triple H manipulated Raw to stack the deck against Daniel Bryan and countless others. Now, Shane McMahon is running the same game, plotting the humiliation, punishment and sacking of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn on Smackdown Live. The tricky part of that he’s plays a faces, and those are all shitty things to do.

Triple H Reasserts What Matters in WWE at "Survivor Series"

It was a depressing moment when Triple H announced himself to be the final member of Raw’s Survivor Series team. The COO of the WWE doesn’t return to television to play a peripheral role, so you knew he would be crucial to the conclusion of the Survivor Series match against Team Smackdown Live and likely episodes of Raw to follow.

The Beat Downs Go On Forever

A basic rule in the WWE playbook is that if you want to build heat on a character or in a feud, go for a beat down. Time and again, heels have taken the last 10 minutes of Raw to waffle someone with a folding chair again and again, usually in a two- or three-on-one situation, just to amplify the cruel unfairness. A week ago, The Miz and the Miztourage pounded on Roman Reigns well after he’d stopped moving, going so far as starting to leave the ring and come back down the ramp to beat on Reigns’ prone body some more.

The WWE Recalls Its Sideshow Roots with Jinder Mahal

In the New York Times story on WWE Champion Jinder Mahal that ran before last weekend’s SummerSlam, Mahal remembered how an in-ring promo he cut on Randy Orson put him on the map. 

“Randy, you’re just like all of these people!” Mr. Dhesi [Mahal] said, shooting his opponent a piercing glare. “You disrespect me because I look different! You disrespect me because of your arrogance and your lack of tolerance!”

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