WWE SmackDown Live

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Forget Sunday’s disappointing Backlash pay-per-view, and don’t harp on the mediocre Monday Night Raw a day later. And while you’re at it, if you had any issues with either WrestleMania or The Greatest Royal Rumble, just let it all go.

Why? Because the latest edition of SmackDown Live was a stark reminder that as frustrating as the broken narratives and dubious creative decisions of WWE can be, there is always some silver lining waiting just around the bend with one or two bold decisions.

That’s exactly what we got on Tuesday night. The show accentuated the three most important words in wrestling today: action, opportunity — and Rusev. It was that kind of night. Unlike a week ago, when the majority of SmackDown was wasted by gratuitous chatter and filler material, this episode focused on in-ring theatrics and cohesive storytelling.From The Miz’s performance in the first bout of the night — one that was as solid as the rhetoric that rolls from his mouth — to the work of art from Rusev, who also earned a place in the Money in the Bank match as the curtains closed, this was the finest two hours of WWE action we’ve had in quite some time.

As the show opened, Paige stood in the ring, succinctly reminding us that Backlash and its surrounding storylines had (mercifully) come to an end — and the Money in the Bank chapter was commencing. It was more or less a Cliffs Notes version of the past few weeks, but also an indirect way of acknowledging it was time to move on from a string of underwhelming events.

Have we mentioned Rusev yet? After months of feeling like the creative team was neglecting our pleas for a Rusev push, the Bulgarian phenomenon got his biggest win since moving to SmackDown more than a year ago — and perhaps one of the most crucial victories of his career.

It came against one of most beloved performers on either brand, Daniel Bryan. The moment the match was announced, there seemed to be no doubt that Bryan would end the show by squashing Rusev’s day and punching his own ticket into the Money in the Bank ladder match. There was seemingly no way SmackDown would conclude with anything other than a roar of “Yes!” chants in unison.

But a funny thing happened along the way: Fairly and squarely (well, perhaps with a small assist from Aiden English), Rusev took out Bryan with a devastating “Machka” superkick to earn a spot in one of the most prestigious matches of the year and a possible free shot at the title-holder if he can prevail.


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