If ever World Wrestling Entertainment produced a placeholder episode of SmackDown, Friday night's broadcast was it.
Roman Reigns squared off with The Miz for the second week in a row, while Seth Rollins met Jack Swagger in an inconsequential contest. There were more video packages replaying the outcomes of SummerSlam and Monday Night Raw than fresh content.
Still, a handful of Superstars can definitively be considered winners and losers from the show. They are the men and women who, despite WWE Creative apparently taking the week off, made an impact for better or worse.
Winner: Randy Orton
The Viper rebounded from his SummerSlam loss to Roman Reigns with a brutal beatdown of Rob Van Dam and a show-closing brawl with Reigns on SmackDown.
As Orton continues to shed the label of The Authority's lapdog, every instance of him regaining his status as one of WWE's most dangerous Superstars is beneficial both to him and the company.
Friday night, he was vicious and ruthlessly aggressive as he assaulted RVD and left him lying in a heap. It was exactly the sort of segment Orton needed to recover from the SummerSlam loss. The beatdown put heat back on him and his impending rematch with Reigns, which was set up by the brawl to end the broadcast.
Winner: Seth Rollins
After sidelining enemy Dean Ambrose following a vicious assault on Raw, Rollins set out to make Jack Swagger's miserable week even worse as he squared off with the Real American in the night's first match.
He succeeded by defeating the former world heavyweight champion via count-out.
A pinfall win following the Curb Stomp would have been a more emphatic way to put Rollins over, but considering the fact that WWE still clearly has plans for Swagger, it is better to allow him to keep some heat than strip it all away with continuous losses.
Rollins is surging right now, and if WWE Creative can continue to book him as strongly as it has, there is no reason that he could not get a run with the WWE world heavyweight title sometime between now and WrestleMania.
That is, if the plan is not for Brock Lesnar to hold it until the Showcase of the Immortals.
Loser: The Miz
Remember when The Miz returned with the Hollywood Superstar gimmick and started getting over as a viable midcard heel again? Yeah, apparently WWE Creative does not, as he was thoroughly trounced by Roman Reigns in this week's main event, never once looking like a star anywhere near Reigns' level.
Couple that with the fact that the Intercontinental Championship was taken from him far too early at SummerSlam, and you have a man whose week has been abominable.
There are only so many times WWE can ask us to take someone seriously and then pull the rug out from underneath him before we, the fans, give up on him. It is reaching that level with The Miz, whose best shot at getting people to forget the last year was with his new gimmick. Now, after being beaten as decisively and in such a non-competitive match, there may be no going back.
Luckily, it happened on SmackDown instead of Raw, meaning fewer fans witnessed it.
For the second time this week, Natalya scored a win over the current Divas champion.
Forget for a moment that neither win was clean and that AJ Lee factored heavily into them, but the history books state that Natalya defeated Paige in two consecutive matches and thus should be in title contention. Right?
Probably not. WWE Night of Champions is shaping up to be a night of SummerSlam rematches, and it appears as though the first title defense of Paige's second Divas Championship reign will come against AJ Lee.
A Triple Threat match involving the third-generation Diva, however, would freshen things up a bit and prevent the overexposure of the feud, meaning WWE could run with Paige and AJ through the fall and not completely bore the fans when WWE Creative inevitably runs out of interesting things for the ladies to do.
Natalya, as she proved with her absolutely stellar match against Charlotte back at NXT Takeover, is one of the best workers in all of women's wrestling. After a 2014 that has seen her play a far more important role in the developmental brand than on main roster television, she should be rewarded with a pay-per-view title opportunity.
Losers: Luke Harper and Erick Rowan
The loyal followers of Bray Wyatt have not had a stellar post-Battleground period in WWE.
Despite stealing that show with a phenomenal tag title match against The Usos, they have become the whipping boys of the tag division, dropping consecutive bouts to Big Show and Mark Henry and losing to Stardust and Goldust on Friday night.
What they did to upset management and suddenly be forced to endure the losing streak they find themselves on is a mystery, but whatever the reason, it cannot be valid enough to risk killing the heat of such a talented big-man team.
Harper and Rowan still have the potential to make WWE a great deal of money, but that potential relies on them being portrayed a certain way.
Being the basement dwellers of the tag division is not that way.
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