Friday, January 15, 2016

Smackdown: Friendship is Magic

Even if they're fun, maybe they're a two members too large
Photo Credit:
First, some more notes on Mauro Ranallo, who is still proving to be a massive asset, particularly in the face of Jerry Lawler randomly slipping into a heel persona that I find too grating for words. I appreciate when Ranallo throws some things over to Byron Saxton, like getting him to explain the rules of a tables match. It's a small thing, but I honestly think that Saxton has potential and that his biggest problem is lack of confidence and experience, and he isn't going to gain either of those things when every other announcer he's been paired with on Raw and Smackdown just constantly ran him down and disparaged him. I don't know who he pissed off or whether they think the unrelenting verbal smackdown counts as fun banter, but I appreciate him being treated like a colleague for once. Thanks for being nice to Byron Saxton, Mauro Ranallo!

Also, it's so, so apparent when someone is barking in his ear. The Golden Globes references fell like anvils. They were so out of place, and the lack of enthusiasm in Ranallo's voice when compared to how he talks about, you know, the actual wrestling on the wrestling show really made me feel for him. “This could break the internet!” Yikes. Hang in there, friend.

Friendship That Has Run Its Course – The Dudley Boyz
So, we're all done with this, right? The Dudley Boyz came back, we all went, “Hey, I remember those guys fondly! Oh, they said the thing! I will also say the thing!,” they went up against some tag teams that I really like, there were tables, it was a whole thing. Do we really need to go another round? Do we really need to see them against the Wyatt Family yet again? Look, I have missed the hell out of Luke Harper on Smackdown, and it was nice to see him. Him and Erick Rowan against the Dudleys even got pretty fun in the latter part of the match, when there was much enjoyable chaos. But I'm done. I'm done. And not “done” as in “let's break up the team for singles action,” which I know is the rumour concerning Bubba Ray. “Done” as in “enough with the old dudes.”

That being said, Braun Strowman is still kind of the worst. The tables match was no disqualification, but he waited forever to get involved, then made a big show out of reaching under the ring only to pull out a kendo stick. Now, kendo sticks can deal an impressive amount of damage, but when a dude that huge pulls out a skinny, little kendo stick while roaring like a rhinoceros, it just looks ridiculous. He then proceeded to deal precisely no damage, and during the post-match beat-down he let Rowan and Harper do all the heavy lifting. Meanwhile, Harper steadily looking the announce team straight in the eye while he dismantled their table was unsettling as hell. More Luke Harper, less everyone else.

Friendship That Should Be Cut In Half – The Social Outcasts
Don't get me wrong, and don't take this too seriously. The Social Outcasts are a lot of fun, as was their match against the mishmash team of Damien Sandow, Goldust, Jack Swagger, and Zack Ryder. However, to be honest, Adam Rose and Curtis Axel don't add a ton to the proceedings. They can't match the enthusiastic awkwardness of Heath Slater and Bo Dallas, and that's why I think Slater and Dallas should just go it alone. Dallas even got the pin for his team! Granted, it was against the worst member of the opposite team, Zack Ryder, but it was still nice to see him and Slater come out on top.

Weirdly, there was absolutely no mention of the fact that Axel and Sandow teamed together for quite a while, which brings me to my next point; Damien Sandow was finally back on Smackdown! Let me tell you a thing about Damien Sandow. At the last house show I went to, I don't know if it was an Edmonton thing or a house-shows-in-general thing, but the crowd was terrible. There seemed to be a high concentration of people who hadn't actually caught a WWE show in ages and weren't interested in learning about any of the current talent.

But when Sandow and Axel had a match against the Ascension, Sandow single-handedly got the crowd into it, rallying them against the Ascension and in support of Axel. He has such a gift for that, and it is astonishing to me that a company that relied too heavily on too few people and that is now terrified that without those few people the audience has no one to care about is not utilizing this man. Damien Sandow is a god damn treasure, and just like with the Outcasts, I think he and Goldust should put something together and lose the dead weight of Swagger and Ryder. They could go up against Stardust and the Ascension and eventually Stardust will see the error of his ways and then he and Sandow will be friends again. Yes, literally all of my fantasy booking ends with the Rhodes Scholars getting back together.

Deserves All of the Friends – Kalisto
Speaking of treasures that shouldn't be hidden but apparently are - Kalisto! On RAW, Kalisto won the United States Championship from Alberto del Rio (hey, look, Last Week Lacy, you got what you wanted!), and on Smackdown, del Rio won it right back. I do not understand this decision, frankly. Again, if WWE is worried about lesser-known performers not having a connection with the audience, Kalisto did a lovely pre-match promo about how he used to look up to Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio. Bam, instant connection with WWE history and people who also fondly remember Guerrero and Mysterio. Add that to his infectious energy in the ring and you've got a wrestler that people will love. The audience wants SO BADLY to love Kalisto, and with this title loss WWE was just like, “NOPE. Let's get back to the guy who could not care less about being here.” Their match wasn't even as much fun as past interactions have been, with Kalisto mostly getting kicked around and taking damage like nobody's business. Granted, the offense that he was able to get in was innovative and made him look scrappy as hell, but, Jesus Christ, did it have to look like he was completely out of his element?

I'm sure what they think they're doing is making him an “underdog,” but the sooner WWE gets over this obsession with underdogs the better. Kalisto can be plucky and loveable and charming AND consistently successful at the same time. Kalisto winning the title was fresh and cool, and taking it off him so soon just shows how terrified WWE is of trying anything new. Instead, they fell back on the League of Nations cheating to win just so that Cena can dismantle them when he comes back. Like I said, people already love Kalisto, and he just needs the elevation and exposure of a title reign to cement himself. I guess I'll “wait and see where this goes,” as the refrain always goes when shit like this happens, but Kalisto deserves better.

Bizarrely, the WWE website also straight up spoiled the match result. Right on the main page. If this title change was so unimportant that you actively discouraged any suspense for it, then what is the point? What is the point of any of this?

They're Still Friends, I Guess – Brie Bella and Alicia Fox
I really hope that whatever Alicia Fox is getting out of still being on Team Bella is worth having to stand by and watch Brie Bella lose and then have to console her afterward. Bella lost against Becky Lynch in a quick match that I guess was made to show how confident Lynch is going into her upcoming title match against Charlotte, but if we're going to have throwaway matches then why not give them to people that we don't see wrestle all the time?

Weirdest Friends – Dean Ambrose and Neville
I don't really mind that Neville was involved in the main event. It's just that it kind of made no sense for him to be there. He's had run-ins with Sheamus and Kevin Owens in the past, but nothing really long-term, and neither have he and Dean Ambrose had much to do with each other. This whole main event situation was just weird anyway. Ambrose started the show with an announcement in the middle of the ring, and Ambrose's character is just not that guy. He's not a guy who makes speeches. He's a guy who'll go hunt down the person he's looking for – in this case, Owens – and tell him they're going to have a last-man-standing match. This grandstanding for such a minor announcement just came out of nowhere. Plus, Ambrose was already set to have a match against Owens at the end of the night. Why not just wait until then?

The ensuing brawl between Ambrose, Neville, Owens, and Sheamus would normally be used as reason to set up a main event tag match, but in this case, as I already stated, the tag match was already set. There was just no need for ANY of that opening segment. The main event itself once again ended inconclusively, this time due to disqualification, and once again the fight continued after the bell rung, with Ambrose and Neville coming out on top. Yay, I guess? I don't know what any of it accomplished, but at least the match was pretty fun.

Smackdown: Confusing but sometimes entertaining!