Friday, February 5, 2016

Smackdown: Friendship is Magic

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Most Condescending Friend – Dolph Ziggler
I came so, so close to liking Dolph Ziggler this week. He was on guest commentary during Kevin Owens' match against Kalisto. Much as I am in despair over Owens being relegated to joining Ziggler in his eternal purgatory after having dynamite interactions with both AJ Styles and Sami Zayn at the Royal Rumble, Ziggler sold the hell out of a feud between the two of them. He talked up Owens as a fierce competitor and expressed frustration over constantly losing to him. He managed to convey that beating Owens would really mean something to him, even though their feud is based on pretty much nothing and would achieve pretty much nothing in the grand scheme of things. But Dolph Ziggler cannot help ruining things, and even though he also supported Kalisto and was enthusiastic about his performance, it was in a super condescending tone. He even kept referring to Kalisto as “kid.” Dude. Seriously. However, it was nice to see Kalisto get another win, and the match was a ton of fun. Owens just launching Kalisto directly into Ziggler and then superkicking him was probably my favourite part of this entire week, let alone this episode.

Most Hapless Friend – Braun Strowman
Oh, Braun Strowman. What will we do with you? He was the only member of the Wyatt Family to accompany Erick Rowan in his match against Ryback. They keep assuming that his giant presence is enough to ensure victory, forgetting that the poor man needs direction. Near the end of the match he jumped up on the apron to do...something, and then even though it was obvious to everyone in the entire world that Ryback was going to propel Rowan at him, Strowman just kept standing there and was knocked off his feet. Ryback and his new gear won, and Strowman and Rowan demonstrated that they still need supervision. That'll be the last night that Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper take off.

Best Friend – Chris Jericho
Yes, you read that right. Just last week I was lamenting the appearance of Old Man Y2J, but there's a reason why I've loved Chris Jericho for so long. He was on guest commentary during AJ Styles' match against the Miz, and he spent the entire time putting both of them over hard. BOTH of them, because he understands that in order for Styles to be phenomenal his opponents have to be legitimate threats, and so Jericho set out to single-handedly bill the Miz as a credible foe in 2016. Imagine that. Thus we were reminded that poor Miz is a former WWE title holder and WrestleMania main eventer, brief as this resurgence will prove to be. The match bore this out, too. It wasn't a barn burner, but it was good. Miz ended up tapping, but it was the best we've seen out of him in the ring for a long while.

All of that being said, WWE has got to stop trying to have it both ways in every single story. They can't laud AJ Styles' international reputation and achievements (mostly because they can't avoid acknowledging them in this day and age), but then in the same breath try to sweep it all away by stating that none of that matters now. Well, clearly it DOES matter or he wouldn't be here in the first place, guys. Having beat Jericho once he now has to beat him AGAIN to “prove himself” even though Jericho, while a respected veteran, has never been portrayed as the benchmarks that, say, the Undertaker or Triple H have been, and beating Jericho (AGAIN) won't get Styles any closer to the titles that commentary keeps insisting he needs to cement himself. Still, I thought there were glimpses of Heel Jericho (aka Best Jericho) in his interaction with Styles, and if that's the road we're heading down then, sure, give me all the incoherent rhetoric you can throw at me.

Most Divided Friend – Bo Dallas
Bo Dallas was absent from the Social Outcasts' match against the New Day. His team mates claimed he was in the studio recording, hot on the heels of his melodic burial of Flo Rida, but if he was recording a song it was undoubtedly a ballad of heartbreak and indecision. I doubt that Dallas could forget the glorious time he teamed up with the New Day, and he couldn't bear to go up against them, so he sat this one out. I felt his absence keenly, as did his team, who were out-cheated by the New Day, but the match and the verbal sparring that preceded it were still a lot of fun. Curtis Axel struggling to pronounce “rhinoceros'” continued his trend of endearing himself to me in the weirdest ways, but I'll be happier when Dallas can safely return and not have to face his former friends.

Most Reluctant Friends – Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch
In lieu of talking about the Charlotte versus Alicia Fox match that played out in exactly the same way we've all seen before, I'll mention the brief interview segment Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch had together. It was pretty cliché: two enemies forced to work together (in this case, because they're both targets of the remnants of Team BAD), culminating in shouting “Fine!” at each other and storming off...but I kind of liked it? Becky Lynch, Decent Person, is still a relief to have around, and Sasha Banks as her reluctant ally could be a lot of fun, especially if a genuine friendship grows out of it. Yeah, it's pretty reminiscent of Team Hell No, but Team Hell No gave us a lot of good moments. Lynch's bewildered and frustrated delivery of “I don't know!” in response to Renee Young asking if the women just became allies was perfect.

Clumsiest Friend – Dean Ambrose
Poor Dean Ambrose just can't seem to stop banging into his buddy Roman Reigns (for all the shippers out there: that wasn't a euphemism). Yes, it's once again time to tease dissension in the remnant ranks of the Shield, but since Roman Reigns can never look anything less than cool and collected, it's up to Ambrose to supply the tension. And by tension I mean “tension” because we've already seen this teased several times, and with Jerry Lawler refusing to shut up about it and therefore doing the exact opposite of building suspense, I was nonplussed. I don't know if WWE will actually follow through and turn either Ambrose or Reigns and, invested though I remain in their friendship, I'm honestly starting to not care one way or the other so long as they do SOMETHING.

Really, though, it has to be Reigns betraying Ambrose, right? The focus on Ambrose constantly blundering into him is just telegraphing a turn SO HARD that comes off as a pretty desperate attempt at a fake-out on the writers' part. I know that WWE is hardly the home of subtlety, but even so it seems a bit much. There's also the fact that Dean Ambrose is obviously a secret squishy marshmallow who has so many ~feelings~ and loves his friends, while Roman Reigns is a pretty fair-weather friend and kind of a selfish prick. Even when the Shield broke up, Ambrose took it far more to heart than Reigns.

At any rate, despite Lawler constantly insisting that it would happen, there was no breach between the two on Smackdown. They fended off the League of Broken Nations together. Poor Rusev had to deal with the main event tag match pretty much by himself, but I did enjoy King Barrett and Alberto del Rio furtively scampering around outside the ring trying to cause trouble. And, hey, if nothing else of note happened, at least Smackdown had a main event that resulted in a pin and not a disqualification!