Friday, May 1, 2015

Smackdown: Friendship is Magic

Sandow's new character isn't that friendly
Photo Credit:
Worst Friend Worst Everything Worst Worst Worst – Damien Sandow
This is a terrible time for me. I hate Damien Sandow's new persona so much, and it pains me to not love everything that he does. Heretofore he was an absolute gem no matter what he was asked to do, but this “repeat everything the other person says like an overgrown child” thing? It's so fucking obnoxious. Who thinks this is a character we should cheer for? On SmackDown he first deployed his shtick by interrupting and imitating Jojo's ring announcing duties. She valiantly plastered a smile on her face and tried to laugh it off like it was all in good fun, but there was nothing charming about it. Then out came poor precious cinnamon bun Curtis Axel to bear the brunt of Sandow's “wit.” Not only did Sandow mimic him, but he also called him a “village idiot” and a “pigeon-toed disappointment.” It was so needlessly mean!

Just looking at Axel's confused, hurt face while the gears in his head ground painfully around trying to figure out what Sandow's problem was broke my little heart. I now live in a world where I want to fire Damien Sandow into the sun while I hover protectively over Curtis Axel, and I don't know how to deal with it. I actually liked their match quite a bit, and I think it's clear that Sandow is relishing being able to wrestle for himself again. But...ugh. Can we please have the intellectual saviour of the masses back? Please?

Best Friendship Call-Back – Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt
I can't fully express how disappointed I am that Bray Wyatt's next opponent is apparently Ryback. That seems like such a waste to me, but I admit that's mostly because I have zero interest in Ryback while I maintain an affinity for Wyatt and the hope that he can regain some ground. However, if this feud mostly involves Ryback picking on people associated with Wyatt, only for Wyatt to show up out of nowhere to avenge them, I will be all for it. Such was the case on SmackDown, where Ryback dedicated his match against Luke Harper to Wyatt in an effort to “send a message” to the former leader of the Family by picking on one of his erstwhile disciples. I thought that the match was agonizingly slow, and it was absolutely not Harper's fault. It was saved when, after Ryback's victory, the lights went out and Wyatt suddenly appeared in the ring, took out Ryback, and, while looming over the Big Guy's prone body, shared a Significant Look with Harper. It was a brief but awesome moment and a reminder of how effective Bray Wyatt can be.

Best Friends – New Day
Big E and Kofi Kingston defended their recently won Tag titles against former champions Tyson Kidd and Cesaro, and the four of them had the match of the night by far. Everything was fast and furious and so much fun. New Day ultimately lost the match due to disqualification, thus retaining the titles, but I really wish this one had ended clean. It was a hell of a fight, and Cesaro and Kidd looked great; they wouldn't have lost any prestige in losing, but I do understand that the narrative is trying to make clear that New Day has just discovered the joy of cheating. I still love Cesaro and Kidd, and I certainly look forward to more match-ups between these two teams, but New Day were on another level. Another level of FRIENDSHIP, that is! They've gelled into such a well-oiled machine: Kingston as the high flyer who knows when to get out of dodge and tag in Big E, the muscle who is also agile as hell. And then there's Xavier Woods on the outside, who, during this match, perfectly transitioned from cackling maniacally at Kidd's expense to cowering when faced with Cesaro coming to help his partner. Woods is walking a beautifully fine line between comedy and villainy at the moment. In fact, it's the whole third party interference thing that really puts New Day on top: Natalya really needs to step up her game if her menfolk are going to stand a chance in the future. And while I'm on the subject: WWE, if you're ever going to finally give intergender wrestling a significant chance, here is a golden opportunity to have Natalya face off against Woods. GIVE ME THIS ONE THING.

Least Self-Aware Friends – Nikki Bella and Cameron
Nikki Bella and Cameron's match arose from Cameron approving of Naomi's actions against Brie Bella, while Nikki objected to anyone talking about her sister. Apparently Naomi's new attitude has impressed Cameron so much that she's forgotten all about stabbing Naomi in the back and viciously turning on her, while Nikki has similarly forgotten all about stabbing Brie in the back and viciously turning on her. All water under the bridge! For some reason. Both women also doing the, “Omg, would you PLEASE just shut up?” thing with the exact same cadence and tone really exposed the fact that these two characters are essentially the same. I mean, worlds apart in terms of wrestling ability, but the same otherwise. At any rate, their match showed Bella to still be dominant, while Cameron...was Cameron. I'm going to give Cameron some props though. Is her general skill level anything to write home about? No. Resoundingly, no. However, what she CAN do she throws herself into one hundred per cent. She constantly trash-talks and makes noise. She tries to make an impact the only way she can, and if she's not entirely successful then at least I can respect the effort.

Best Combination of Friendships Past and Present – Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, J and J Security, and Kane, I Guess
Yeah, I'm using the same heading as last week, but this time we're minus one Luke Harper and plus one Kane, so your mileage may vary. Personally, I'm getting a wee bit tired of the Kane/Rollins story and its omnipresence. This week it resulted in a pointless match between Kane and Roman Reigns to start the show. I actually enjoyed the match until Kane just bailed and absolutely nothing was lost or gained for either man. However, Kane's insistence on interfering also led to one of my favourite non-wrestling moments of the night: Rollins fist-bumping Noble and Mercury at ringside, but pointedly not extending the gesture to Kane, who was standing right beside them. It was a beautifully petty moment.

Kane and Rollins aside, this episode also gave us some more Shield reminiscing and continuity, as Rollins was set for a match against Ambrose. In yet another awesome moment (and such a Seth Rollins-type move) the former Shield architect actually went to Ambrose to ask him to step down from the match, and Ambrose just laughed in his face. I love that Ambrose is no longer foaming-at-the-mouth furious over Rollins' betrayal; instead he's progressed to this almost wry bitterness. There's still anger and hurt and he'll take every opportunity to dismantle Rollins in the ring, but he's recognized that there's no point to actively pursuing revenge anymore. The past is the past, but it's still a grudge he'll probably never get over. Their match was, of course, very good, with Rollins winning and actually getting to look like a champion. Kane's post-match temper tantrum brought out Roman Reigns to help Ambrose, and the two of them stood tall at the end. More than anything in the world I wanted Rollins to inadvertently take out Kane and save his former brothers. That didn't happen, but we did get the poignant moment of Ambrose and Reigns embracing in the ring, loving and supportive of each other, while Rollins faced them from the ramp – once again having had to deal with his volatile ally, failed by his well-meaning and loyal but somewhat inept security team, alone except for the title clutched to his chest. Was it worth it, Seth?