Friday, June 12, 2015

Smackdown: Friendship is Magic

Rollins was all smiles and was one of the things that was enjoyable this week
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Dusty Rhodes is dead and Christopher Lee is dead and I have to write about Smackdown. Super. So... Smackdown sure did happen. Frankly, even without the sad news clouding things over this wouldn't have exactly been a report of relentless positivity. Smackdown has been in an awful rut lately and this was the last show before a pay-per-view, which usually makes for a repetitive affair. However, my usual quibbles about WWE's inability to adhere to basic storytelling tenets seem trivial. Instead of a usual report, here is a (sadly short) list of things that I actually enjoyed on this week's Smackdown.

Seth Rollins' Character Arc
Seth Rollins came out this week bereft of both his championship belt (stolen and hidden by that wacky Dean Ambrose) and his security team. He cut an almost comically pathetic figure while still snarling viciously at everyone in his path. It was an image symbolic of his entire character arc: a tough exterior masking the fact that all his cunning plans never work out quite the way he wants them to. Rollins desperately wants to be seen as a devious architect, using people to get ahead and then sacrificing them to his ambition, but he keeps developing these pesky relationships that run deeper than he meant them to. His turn on the Shield is still a huge plot point a year later, and it wasn't just a coincidence that he almost immediately formed another trio with Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury. They were his subordinates, yes; he wouldn't make the mistake of developing the kind of brotherly bond that he had with Ambrose and Reigns again.

However, he still clearly enjoyed J and J's constant support and affirmation, and on more than one occasion he showed that he cared for them, too. All of his crowing about how he doesn't need anyone and never has is meant to be heelish bullshit – we've all seen the countless times his wins were aided by those in his corner – but there's a sad sort of self-delusion there, too. Rollins clearly draws strength from the people close to him, yet he can't stop himself from rejecting such support, time and again, due to his obsession with proving himself. He can't make a clean break when he moves on, and the betrayals are piling up behind him. He's a misguided puppy who wants to be a lone wolf, but can't pull it off. It's kind of a poetic story. He looked so happy when he beat Dolph Ziggler and while this might have been out of relief at having got through a single segment without Kane barging in, I think it was actually an indication of the heart of Rollins' problems: for all of his boasting and arrogance, he doesn't actually believe that he can do anything on his own. Maybe once Seth Rollins has proved himself to himself he can start repairing some bridges. Until then, I'll keep enjoying the weird tragi-comedy in which he seems to be starring.

Alicia Fox's Moxie
Alicia Fox told Paige that Paige categorically does not speak for all of the Divas and that Fox can fight her own battles, thank you very much. Paige has been getting on my last nerve with all her talk about being tired of the same old, same old (when she's been in the title scene constantly since coming up to the main roster) and preaching about changing the world if you don't like it (which was exactly what Naomi was trying to do). It would be easier if I could tell whether she was meant to be a heel or face, but wishing for clear alignments in the women's division is just foolish. Either way, I enjoyed both Fox's confrontation with Paige and their subsequent match. From now on I will also keep myself entertained with thoughts that Fox and some of the other chronically underused women have quietly formed their own underground resistance to the Bella regime and are constantly engaging in covert operations to try and take them down.

Xavier Woods at Ringside
During the main event three on three match, Big E and Xavier Woods were present to support and cheer on Kofi Kingston, who teamed with Sheamus and Kane against Neville, Roman Reigns, and Randy Orton. Woods is a treasure and once again managed to be a highlight on a mostly lacklustre show. Any time Kingston did something, Woods exclaimed that it was a “veteran move.” He also helpfully kept up a narration for commentary, gleefully informing them that “Neville is getting annihilated right now!” Even the other members of Kingston's team weren't safe: after Sheamus did his “Are you not entertained?” bit, Woods immediately chimed in with, “I'm entertained by Kofi!” It was delightful. The New Day in general has consistently been making me smile and laugh for a while now and, on today of all days, I'm so glad they exist to make things a little bit brighter.