Friday, January 23, 2015

Smackdown: Friendship is Magic

This friendship is never coming back
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This week's Smackdown was built almost entirely around the recently returned Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Erick Rowan, and even Daniel Bryan earning spots in the Royal Rumble match. This was actually a really good idea. I never expect much out of the last show before a pay-per-view: a ton of recaps, meaningless matches, and the main players getting their final say is usually what I can look forward to. There were still recaps and backstage bits aplenty, but this time there were also stakes and an ongoing theme to the episode that made for an actual narrative arc. Fantastic. Now, if only I cared even in the slightest about Ryback, Rowan, or Ziggler. I've never connected with any of them or found their stories compelling. I know I'm in the minority on Ziggler, and I do understand in theory why many people are so high on him. I'm not. BUT, with all that being said, I'm all-in on Smackdown being more relevant and important.

Worst Friends – Dolph Ziggler and Ryback
To open the show, Daniel Bryan came out to introduce the newly re-instated Ziggler, Ryback, and Rowan. He celebrated their comeback in the warmest tones and everyone had a feel-good moment of triumph over the Authority. It's just too bad that Ziggler and Ryback did not show themselves to be deserving of Bryan's, or anyone's friendship. First Ziggler decided to lambaste Seth Rollins for bailing on Brock Lesnar, like anyone in their right mind wouldn't do the same, and like Rollins didn't single-handedly bring back the Authority when Ziggler did absolutely nothing to get his own job back. I can appreciate being full of ambition and ready to go on your first day back, and that Ziggler and Rollins kind of had a thing going before Survivor Series, but...ugh. What a clueless douche. Ziggler went on to win his match against Bad News Barrett and so has a pass into the Royal Rumble.

It was a fun match (hey, you'll never hear me say that Ziggler's matches, at least, aren't exciting), but I honestly think that Ziggler should be a heel. His attitude is just the worst. Ryback also won his match against Rusev in the least satisfying way possible – taking Rusev to the outside, pummeling him during the ref's count, and slipping back inside the ring just before the count hit ten. Hardly the act of someone fair-minded or friendly. While Lana and Rusev are still supporting each other in all things, Ryback is picking up cheap wins and acting like he's doing something amazing. Daniel Bryan can do so much better when it comes to his pals. Also, neither Ziggler or Ryback (or Rowan) were at ringside during Bryan's match against Kane, when the latter had borrowed Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury from Rollins. There was nothing to stop them from being there -- it was a no DQ match -- but instead they waited until the post-match beat-down to help out the guy who was singing their praises at the beginning of the show. Worst friends.

Most Mysterious Friendships – Nikki and Brie Bella/Natalya and Paige
 Soooo, we're just never going to get any explanation for why Nikki and Brie Bella are friends again, are we? It's doubly frustrating because this could easily be brought into a main storyline with the Authority. I don't think I've mentioned this before, so here it is: it pisses me off that Nikki Bella never comes out with the Authority and the gang when they do their shtick. Stephanie McMahon was heavily involved in Nikki's acquisition of her title, but for some reason Nikki isn't allowed to be a full member of the club. Why doesn't she get to be their representative in the women's division? Is the Authority even a little bit concerned that she and Brie have apparently made up? Are they worried that the twins might turn on them? Are they concerned about keeping the women's title in the hands of someone affiliated with the Authority?

The answer to all of those questions appears to be a resounding “NOPE,” and it's annoying. At any rate, Brie won a match against Naomi – the only match on the entire show that had nothing to do with building toward the Rumble, lest we forget the complete lack of stakes in the women's division right now and how little fucks are given about it. Paige and Natalya were on commentary, another partnership that makes little sense, since apparently we ARE supposed to be taking the events of Total Divas into consideration and Natalya is suddenly super defensive of her husband even though she clearly approved when Paige smacked him for costing her a match. I should be thankful that the lack of grounds for their partnership was at least addressed, and that Paige showed that she can definitely be AJ Lee's heir when it comes to enlivening commentary during women's matches. However, I was too busy being irritated that the Rumble match between the Bellas and Paige and Natalya is based on nothing but jealousy (women amirite?) and that poor Naomi is back to having no momentum or purpose at all. Her brief feud with Alicia Fox wasn't brought up at all, nor was the prospect of her being in line for the women's title. Disappointing all around.

Friendships That I Am Finally Over – Luke Harper and Erick Rowan/Daniel Bryan and Kane
It's true. I never thought this day would come, but I couldn't work up any feelings about either of these former friendships. It helps that Harper and Rowan are apparently done with their history too, as there were no more hints of conflict from either of them. Rowan's never been much of an actor anyway. Rowan lost his match against Harper and it should have meant something that his loss of a Rumble spot came at the hands of his former family member, but nobody was that fussed about it except for Byron Saxton, who mentioned that the two had formerly been as close as brothers and now it's like they don't even know each other. Thanks, Mr. Saxton, but your continuity has no place here. I'd still like SOME explanation for why the Wyatt Family split up, but I'm not holding my breath. The dissolution of Team Hell No likewise no longer fills me with dismay the way it used to. Maybe it's the passage of time, maybe it's that I increasingly just want Kane to take a step back (Kane, my dear, no one thinks you're capable of “depraved levels of sadism” anymore), but either way I feel no friendship pangs anymore. However, I was thrilled that Bryan won their match and I'm excited to see him in the Royal Rumble – the ultimate test of friendship, when it's every man for himself!