Friday, January 8, 2016

Smackdown: Friendship is Magic

Stop shitting up Smackdown, Cena!
Photo Credit:
Welcome to the first Smackdown of the new year! It wasn't a completely awful way to start the new year, but neither did it indicate many sweeping, positive changes. And there were only four matches on the show, none of which accomplished anything much. Yeah. This is why we STILL can't have nice things, Smackdown. However, Mauro Ranallo is now the number one guy in the three-man booth, and I really liked him. His voice and attitude immediately leant legitimacy to the proceedings, and, get this, he actually called the matches, naming moves and everything! Forget what I said before; this is ONE nice thing we can have, Smackdown. I just hope that no one on high messes with Ranallo and tries to turn him into a Cole clone.

Should Not Be Friends – John Cena and Kalisto
Not that they will remain friends, of course, since Kalisto was just on hand as Cena's lil' buddy of the week to serve as fodder for the person currently not giving Cena whatever he wants, in this case Alberto del Rio. We'll probably never see them interact again. The unfortunate thing is that Kalisto absolutely does deserve a shot at the United States title, and I deserve a good, long Kalisto/del Rio match. The match we got was fine, though not for the title. It was also completely dominated by Cena, and this is the John Cena I hate the most - the entitled, bullying jerk who dresses up his demands as reasonable and “for the fans” and who draws focus from performers who could use it more.

Since del Rio wouldn't give Cena a title match “right here tonight,” Cena threw Kalisto at him and made it all about Nice Guy Cena giving his good pal Kalisto a match. Commentary kept talking about the stake Cena had in the match, too. And rather than just let things play out, Cena stayed at ringside, resorting to Aggressive Shirt Removal when del Rio got in his face (and may I just say, though, that cocky, belligerent Alberto del Rio is the best Alberto del Rio, and I'm glad to see this version of him again). Cena-centric chants erupted even though he wasn't even in the ring, and it was his distracting presence that helped Kalisto get the pin. The man couldn't even let Kalisto celebrate on his own, practically bowling the loveable Lucha Dragon over with his “support.” If this actually leads to Kalisto getting a title match, fine, but I'm betting it won't. Bottom line - please stay off my show, Cena. I know people think I'm weird because I only watch Smackdown and never RAW, but at least on Smackdown I don't usually have to deal with his dramatic, spotlight-hogging antics.

Worst Friend – Dolph Ziggler
New year, same old terrible person Dolph Ziggler. He teamed with Goldust, Neville, and R-Truth against the New Day and the Miz in a match that seemingly occurred for no reason (Lawler even admitted that he had no idea what was going on, but “somehow” a match had been made). Ostensibly it occurred following the usual Miz TV shenanigans, in which the supposed good guys first attacked Miz just for talking and then Xavier Woods when he was literally just sitting in a chair, eating popcorn, and enjoying the proceedings. Our heroes, everyone! Three of the four also ganged up on the Miz at at end, enabling Ziggler to get the pin. He followed it up by superkicking Truth and tossing Goldust over the top rope, stating that it's every man for himself in the Royal Rumble. Um, okay, dude, but it's not the Rumble right now. Also, do you really think R-Truth and Goldust are going to be main contenders in the Rumble whom you need to put in their place? Also, also, that match isn't for another three weeks. Calm the hell down.

Most Welcoming Friends – the New Day
Ziggler's actions stood in stark contrast to the New Day, who really had no reason to team up with the Miz. They were the first to interrupt his show, after all. However, they worked with him during the match, even rolling with his dorky dancing. Poor Miz deserves to have a good time once in a while.

Continuing Friendship Fallout – Charlotte and Becky Lynch
Speaking from a purely aesthetic point of view, Becky Lynch deserved to win the title here solely because her eye makeup was excellent.

I'm still mostly enjoying the story we're getting with Charlotte and Lynch going from best friends to bitter enemies. Admittedly, this is largely because I was suffering from Bellas and Paige fatigue in the worst way, but I do also like the arc of Charlotte embracing the inevitability of becoming a terrible person simply because she's a Flair, and I'm also still liking Lynch as our hero who is gradually realizing she's going to have to do some unprincipled things if she wants to win the title. Normally, I wouldn't be much of a fan of the match that we got. In set-up it was a pretty typical Smackdown affair, giving us a title match to make it seem like important things happen on Smackdown, only for it to end in shenanigans and nothing we haven't seen before. I actually did like it, though. For one thing, it was longer than any women's match I can remember having on Smackdown in a while. For another, it really hammered home just what Lynch is up against. The end of the match was kind of a perfect storm of cheating, with Charlotte and her father doing whatever they could get away with.

Another thing that I like about Charlotte and this feud is that she doesn't always have to cheat. She's already a pretty formidable opponent. Her willingness to break the rules just gives her that extra edge. It's totally possible for Lynch to beat her one-on-one in a fair fight, but first she needs to get that fair fight, and even then a victory isn't a sure thing. Seeing that knowledge and desperation build up in Lynch is necessary to her story, which is why I feel that instead of this match being just another retread of the same beat in the story, it did feel like another logical step on her journey.

Continuing Lack of Friendship – Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose
Kevin Owens' and Dean Ambrose's match for the Intercontinental title, however, did feel like typical Smackdown fare: a match-up we've seen plenty times already in a title match that ended in a double count-out, resolving nothing. Mind you, I might not be being quite fair to it, since there was a massive gap between the women's match and the main event, mostly filled with movie shilling. Was it because of the move to USA Network? Are we going to have to put up with this every week? Add the usual Raw recap fest on top of that and by the time we got to Owens versus Ambrose I was pretty much out of my wrestling mind-set. It was disappointing because I really enjoy both wrestlers, particularly Owens, and, like I said, there is every possibility that this was a good match and I just wasn't in the mood for it.

However, I did love the post-match stuff, which involved Owens and Ambrose battling outside the ring and up the ramp, hitting each other with whatever was handy, and culminating with both of them lying amongst debris. Owens even smacked his head against the giant WWE logo, and I got to see one of my favorite wrestling tropes: feebly protesting refs. They have to show their disapproval of what's going on but they can't actually do anything, so mostly they just wave their arms and go, “No! Hey! No! Listen!” like so many striped Navis.