Friday, January 16, 2015

Smackdown: Friendship is Magic

Bryan's back and he has TOO MANY FRIENDS
Photo Credit:
New Friends – Byron Saxton and Jerry Lawler
With Smackdown moving to Thursday nights also came a commentary shuffle. We've lost Tom Phillips and JBL and gained Byron Saxton and Jerry Lawler. I am ambivalent. On one hand, FUCK YES, I don't have to deal with JBL's constant belligerent bellowing anymore, but on the other hand...Lawler? Really? After his latest health scare I honestly thought he might finally retire, but apparently it's not to be and his commentary career will keep limping along. I also don't understand why we're still stuck with Michael Cole, when I had assumed that the point of having Phillips there was to ease him into the main play-by-play role for Smackdown. At any rate, Saxton is going to be the heel commentator, and I definitely enjoyed him in the role for this episode. However, the fact that Saxton didn't try to dominate the entire broadcast the way that JBL does, coupled with Lawler's general disinterestedness, reinforced how stale and awful Cole's commentary is. He calls every match the same, hits the same beats every time, and even has the same phrases that he uses for certain matches (I can call to the SECOND when he's going to say “Uso crazy!” when one or both of the Usos dive outside the ring). In conclusion: Yes to Saxton and No to the other two. Bring back Tom Phillips!

Friendship Overload – Daniel Bryan and Everyone Involved with Him
I should clarify: friendship overload in a good way. Daniel Bryan returned to Smackdown and the people rejoiced and it was fantastic to see him compete in the ring again. And just to make it clear what an underdog he is, out came LITERALLY EVERYONE arrayed against him: Kane, Triple H Big Show, Seth Rollins, and J and J Security. It was a little ridiculous, but we did get a Team Hell No callback prior to Bryan's match with Kane. All these months, I've never stopped looking for Kane to suddenly reveal that he's still been on Bryan's side the whole time, but it was not to be. Their initial match was pretty slow, whether due to Kane's tendency to take things slow in general or wanting to be careful with Bryan's comeback. However, the aftermath brought us even more displays of friendship gained and lost when Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns came out to back up Bryan against the advancing Authority.

Reigns and Ambrose both tried to downplay it in a couple of segments wherein they talked about how they just despised the Authority and come the Rumble it would be every man for himself, but I was not fooled. It was beautiful friendship on display and I will not hear otherwise. The resulting six man tag match (Bryan, Ambrose, and Reigns against Rollins, Show, and Kane) was a lot of fun, with Bryan seeming to be fully re-energized. I got to revel in my post-Shield/Rollins/J and J feelings once again (You used to be the smaller guy with Ambrose and Reigns, Rollins! Don't you miss it even a little? OF COURSE YOU DO). It was a good time all around, our heroes won...and then Triple H arranged for yet another Bryan/Kane match to take place next week. Thanks for ruining my buzz, dude.

Best Friends – The Miz, Damien Mizdow, and Alicia Fox
Alicia Fox teamed up with the Miz and his stunt double to take on the Usos and Naomi. I noticed right away that Naomi didn't get to come out with the Usos for their initial entrance, instead running out when they were finished and already walking down the ramp. She didn't get any fanfare for herself. Fox, on the other hand, was a fully integrated part of Miz and Mizdow's entrance, proving once again that Jimmy Uso is the actual worst and Naomi should have jumped ship when she had the chance. Fox eventually broke up a pin that allowed Miz to get the win, showing their solidarity once again. Miz was even nicer than usual to Mizdow during the match, actually tagging him in instead of being a jerk about it. Friends forever!

Doesn't Need A Friend – Seth Rollins
It's true that the only thing I love more than composing odes to the friendship between Rollins and J and J Security is waxing nostalgic about his days with the Shield...and yet Rollins' segment with Paul Heyman demonstrated that the erstwhile Shield architect is plenty compelling on his own. This may amount to blasphemy for some, but I've taken to tuning out whenever Heyman comes out and I was ready to do just that on this episode. However, Rollins' passionate spiel about how he's sick of hearing about Brock Lesnar and of people counting him out was fantastic, his threats to Heyman appropriately well-thought-out and chilling, as we might expect from our favourite opportunistic vile traitor. Heyman's rejoinder was likewise effective, trying to keep Rollins in his place while also letting us know that an alliance between the two is not wholly out of the question. I really wish this had been the last show before the Rumble.

Worst Friendship Spin – Regarding Paige
Paige accompanied Natalya to the ring for her match against Nikki Bella. It was a good enough match and Natalya picked up the win. Commentary, however, was consumed with conversation about Paige and Natalya's friendship, which they found suspect. Apart from the usual “women can't be friends because they all hate each other” bullshit, apparently Paige is known for always looking for friends, but they don't last for very long. Um, what? Since coming up from NXT Paige has only been linked to AJ Lee and Alicia Fox. That's hardly an established pattern, or anything different from pretty much every story in the women's division. Furthermore, the only animosity between Natalya and Paige has occurred on Total Divas (and I honestly have no idea where or to what degree Total Divas is supposed to figure in the women's narratives at any given time). It was Tyson Kidd whom Paige was angry with on RAW, not Natalya. So where is this idea that Paige and Natalya are on the rocks coming from, exactly? And what purpose does it serve? Please stop spinning bullshit out of nothing and give the women's matches something more meaningful. Bonus kudos to Brie Bella for the most inadvertently hilarious line of the night when she flatly yelled, “NOOOOOOOOOOO, Nikki, NOOOOOOOOOO” without any trace of emotion whatsoever. Where's the spin there, huh? Clearly Brie didn't actually care about Nikki tapping out and we still haven't gotten a reason for the sisters' reconciliation. There's a story sitting right there, guys!

Most Pointless Friendship Omission – Sin Cara
Yeah, you can pretty much just insert exactly what I wrote last week regarding the match between Sin Cara and Bad News Barrett. This time it was for the Intercontinental title. Barrett retained, and Sin Cara once again appeared without his tag partner or his NXT tag title. I enjoyed the hell out of the match, but there was never any doubt in anyone's mind of the result. Like I said last week, there was an easy way to make this match more important, but instead we're still just pretending that NXT doesn't exist.