Friday, February 13, 2015

Smackdown: Friendship is Magic

Opponents as tag team partners? But Bryan and Reigns found a good way to explore friendship during it
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Unfinished Friendship Business – Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose
Bray Wyatt won a match against R-Truth. The match was fine – about as good as an R-Truth match can be – but mostly I found myself wishing that Wyatt's previous engagements with Dean Ambrose had been continued into something more. Their feud went pretty much nowhere and added nothing to the stock of either man. I kind of wish that, if the plan IS for Wyatt to face the Undertaker at Wrestle Mania, Ambrose could be inserted in as well. Both men are consistently billed as “eccentric,” so why not have them both vie for the chance to face the Undertaker? And if it turns out, as some have speculated, that the Undertaker is too broken down to handle another WrestleMania match, then Wyatt and Ambrose could fight each other, perhaps this time without all of the props and holiday themes that seemed to accompany their matches in the past. I was really excited when these two first confronted each other – they're two of my favourite performers – and I'd like them to have another chance to shine together. And at the end of it they'll both realize that they're just a couple of weirdos who should be weird together. Eccentric friends for life!

Deserves a Friend – Summer Rae
Summer Rae lost her match against Paige and, if that wasn't bad enough, I don't think her name was mentioned once outside of her entrance. It was so unfair to Summer. I enjoyed the match when I was allowed to watch it (when we weren't focusing on the Bellas on commentary) and Summer was clearly trying to make an impact. She could have succeeded a lot more if anyone at all was paying attention. Not only do I miss Layla being in her corner (oh, those halcyon days when I thought their partnership might lead to something cool), but I'm tired of only focusing on two or three women at a time. I didn't expect Summer to suddenly be inserted into the story, but to not talk about her at all? How about making her out to be a good opponent for Paige? How about doing anything at all to make sure she sticks in people's minds so that we remember her in the future? Then again, I suppose that's an awful lot to ask for given that they couldn't even call the match. I know I said last week that I appreciated Nikki Bella's comments about Paige not really being that different from the rest of the women, but now it's just repetitive, particularly with Brie acting as an echo that somehow makes everything worse. Even worse was when Michael Cole had the nerve to chastise the Bellas for not focusing on the match when he was the one who set them on the “talk about yourselves and nothing else” path in the first place.

Most Improved Friendship Break-Up – Adam Rose and the Rosebuds
Last week I was pretty dismissive of the seemingly glacial pace of Rose breaking up with his followers. While I still wish they would just pull the trigger already, I am actually enjoying how increasingly aggressive Rose is getting and I admit that I'm curious about the hold he seems to have on the Rosebuds, as they keep hanging around even while he yells at them. So, despite the fact that Rose's match against Fandango was nearly identical to last week's, I somehow enjoyed it more.

Best Friendship Story – Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns
The main event of Smackdown was Tag Team Turmoil, during which Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns were forced to team up and faced a series of other teams for no reason. Seriously, I was more than happy to watch a bunch of tag matches, but this exercise was pointless. Kane and Big Show tried to sell the participants on making a name for themselves and seizing the opportunity, but there was no opportunity. Not even a chance to be contenders for the tag team titles. Nor was there any reason for Bryan and Reigns to go along with it just so the Authority could have themselves a good chortle over their enemies being forced to “co-exist.”

That aside, I also wrestled with how I was going to spin this because for most of it Roman Reigns mostly annoyed me and parts of it just dragged. In the end I was happy, but we'll get to that. Journey with me through this turmoil of teams and tags. Bryan and Reigns faced the Miz and Damien Mizdow first. Normally I would have been sad that this match was so short, but with both teams doing the passive aggressive tagging-themselves-in thing, I think it was a good idea to cut it short, with Bryan pinning the Miz.

Next up were the Usos, in a match that featured a whole lot of standing around. It eventually built up to an exciting and fast-paced finale, but most of it was so plodding, with brief bursts activity punctuated with posturing and little else. On the upside, this was also where Reigns got to have some character growth, as it was acknowledged that the Usos are his relations and he didn't like Bryan beating them up. It was a good idea to give Reigns some depth and add something to his beef with Bryan outside of “they both want to go to WrestleMania.” Unfortunately, it also made Reigns look a bit dim. It's a wrestling match, friend, not a family reunion. Also, the hilarity of former Shield member Roman Reigns objecting to an outside-of-the-ring attack was sadly not mentioned. I also wish that the idea that Reigns should be the one to face the Usos because he knows them and knows how they operate had been played with more. Still, though, it was a step in the right direction. After Bryan pinned an Uso for the win, he also quickly got the win against Los Matadores.

During the (not so) triumphant return of team Slater Gator, Reigns switched up the formula by pinning Heath Slater. I feel like this was supposed to be another character thing for Reigns – “look at him prove himself! He's so strong!” – but,'s Heath Slater and Titus O'Neil. Good job pinning literally the worst team you've faced, if it makes you feel better. Reigns also stared intently at Bryan like a weirdo the entire time he was pinning Slater and it just made me laugh out loud. “I HAVE PINNED THE HAPLESS GINGER. ACKNOWLEDGE MY ACHIEVEMENT.”

Then the Ascension showed up and were disqualified and my mind was seriously beginning to wander. Then Big Show and Kane came out for the finale, started squabbling, and commentary was finally able to hammer into our brains the point that everyone thought that Bryan and Reigns would implode as a team, but actually it was the Authority that fell apart! Oh ho ho ho, the hilarious irony that no one saw coming! Bryan and Reigns won and no one ever wanted to see any combination of these four face off again. And then while Roman Reigns stood beside a kneeling Daniel Bryan after their victory, Reigns pulled his partner up and gave him a manly nod of appreciation while Bryan grinned at him. It was fucking adorable. My heart grew three sizes and this entire exercise was worth it. Taking out some of the middle bits, we got a cohesive story going from outright dislike and lack of teamwork, to adding dimension to the personality clash, to overcoming the odds together and developing mutual respect. Nice.