|With friends like Strowman, you aren't gonna have a whole lot of enemies|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Most Hilarious Lack of Friends – Dolph Ziggler
We started the show with New Day coming out to engage in some sports-related taunting. Football talk is entirely lost on me, but it's New Day, so I still enjoyed it. Dolph Ziggler came out for a match against Big E as retribution for costing him a chance against his “good friend, John Cena,” a statement that was just embarrassing. While it's true that Ziggler has occasionally been positioned as Cena's little buddy, they hardly have a deep bond, and said “good friend” clearly had no interest in supporting Ziggler's efforts. Instead, to even the odds against New Day, Ziggler called on the Dudley Boyz to watch his back.
And it's not like the Dudleyz have any connection with Ziggler either; they were only in it to tangle with New Day. In the end, the hastily thrown together alliance could do nothing against the power of TRUE FRIENDSHIP, and Big E was victorious. While New Day can boast about being the most dominant group in the history of the ENTIRE WORLD (even more dominant than the Corre!), Ziggler is all by his lonesome, wishing he could be as effortlessly entertaining as New Day, whose highlights this time around included Woods and Kingston doing a news broadcast at ringside and Woods playing Ziggler's theme music on the trombone just to show how terrible it is.
Least Mysterious New Friend – Natalya
For their match against Team Bella, Team PCB (minus the P) was charged with finding a partner. The show seriously tried to play it up like some kind of mystery, with commentary wondering who on earth Charlotte and Becky Lynch might get to help them. Gosh, could it possibly be the person who's begun a feud against their erstwhile partner? Indeed, Natalya showed up and no one was shocked in the least. Unsuccessful attempt at suspense notwithstanding, I really enjoyed the ensuing match. Even Brie Bella looked more effective than usual. Team Bella all got some good offense in, and while I wish Lynch could break out of her role of “the one who takes a lot of damage,” Team NBC looked good, too. I'm not sure why Natalya wasn't paired with the other two to start with; she fits with them better than Paige ever did. After some rapid end-of-match action, with reversals and ringside fighting and everyone trying to get involved, Nikki Bella ended up tapping to Charlotte. Team NBC looked strong in the friendship department, while Team Bella also gave us the endearing image of Alicia Fox carrying Nikki to safety when the match was over. Friendship for everyone! Except Paige, who was left to glower and pout all by herself. She and Dolph Ziggler should start a club.
And an extra special “fuck you” to Booker T and Jerry Lawler, both of whom trotted out the old “All women hate each other! They can never be friends” nonsense. Also, who the hell told Booker about millennials? First he referred to the New Day as “millennials” who represent the future, but then he talked about Paige as a millennial who “feels entitled.” No more thinkpieces for you, Booker.
Should Interact More – Rusev and Kevin Owens
I watched a Brie Bella match followed by a Ryback match and I enjoyed both of them. (Ed. Note: IT'S A FESTIVUS MIRACLE!) Such is the power Smackdown can wield when it feels like putting in effort. Anyway, I'd say that Rusev and Owens should be friends, but I can't picture Owens actually being friends with anyone. However, I'd like to see Rusev more incorporated into the Intercontinental title picture, whether that involves adding a third to the Ryback/Owens thing or on his own against Owens. Rusev's match against Ryback was fine. As I said, I enjoyed it, primarily because both men looked super motivated, and Rusev is good enough that Ryback can't drag him down, even when he miraculously recovers from all the damage Rusev dealt when it's time for him to win. Owens was a delight on commentary, and his presence was what got me thinking about how much I want more of him against Rusev. They already have a history, with Owens having abandoned Rusev when they tagged together. Let's finish it, as Ryback would say. Only let's finish it without Ryback because, though this match was fine, let us not forget that I still think Ryback is the worst.
Should Be Friends – King Barrett and Neville
Barrett showed up for the first time on Smackdown since being taken out by Stardust and shocked me by winning his match against Neville. Glad as I was to see him again, I fully expected him to lose given that, well, it's Wade Barrett. However, since he's on a winning streak of exactly one match, and also ruined things for Neville on Raw, I'd like to see him use this momentum to get revenge on Stardust. I think he should take Neville under his wing as a fellow Brit and use his dominance over the past week to convince Neville that Barrett can teach him a thing or two, while making it look like he's actually joined forces with Stardust again against Neville. He can steadily lure Neville to the dark side, and once Neville has done away with Stardust he can realize his horrible mistake and turn on his mentor. Instead of a superhero thing we can have Star Wars, with Neville as Anakin Skywalker, Barrett as Palpatine, and Stardust as Count Dooku.
Most Effective New Friend – Braun Strowman
Both Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt overlooked their stalwart allies in favour of their shiny new tag partners, with Reigns teaming with Randy Orton and Wyatt with newest recruit Braun Strowman. I like to think that Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper went out for ice cream together. I don't know exactly what it is, but I cannot take Braun Strowman seriously. His ridiculously on-the-nose name might be part of it. My feelings aside, there's no denying that Strowman is a force to be reckoned with. Watching him toss Reigns around and stand firm while Reigns just threw everything at him was pretty darn impressive. I'm really liking the dynamic that Strowman is bringing to the Wyatt/Reigns feud. Wyatt looks like the malevolent puppet master that he should be, while Reigns has to start thinking more strategically against such a physically imposing opponent. He eventually managed to get Strowman caught up in the ropes, and while rightfully pleased with himself, he revealed the flaw in his armour; he gets too cocky when he pulls ahead, and he can't ever forget about Bray Wyatt.
Rather than finishing up the match as quickly as possible, he couldn't stop himself from having a go at Wyatt, which led to Wyatt taking him out with a chair and ending the match in disqualification. Orton popped back up in time to help Reigns fend off Wyatt and Strowman, but it's clear now that Reigns has to learn to focus on the task at hand if he's ever going to beat Wyatt once and for all.