Friday, February 19, 2016

Smackdown: Friendship is Magic

Ambrose and Reigns are "brothers," but the Dudley Boyz were the better friends this week
Photo Credit:
Best Friend – Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens was a good friend to the absent Mauro Ranallo and to me, since we had to deal with Michael Cole as Ranallo's replacement. Owens made sure we didn't forget that Ranallo has quickly become one of the draws of watching Smackdown (as though we could forget) by just eviscerating Cole while he was on guest commentary during the opening match, first by asserting that Cole must have tried to get Ranallo fired because he was clearly superior to the alleged voice of WWE. Then, when we found out that Ranallo was simply ill this week, Owens snarked that said illness must have occurred because Ranallo listened to Cole's commentary on RAW. Zing! Hilariously (and pathetically) Cole tried to earn cool points by picking on Byron Saxton (way to be original, dude. And poor Saxton for having to put up with this nonsense twice a week), but Owens just shut him right back down. Never leave me, Kevin Owens. And come back soon, Mauro!

I spent most of the trios match cackling gleefully over Owens shredding Cole, but the wrestling action was still fine. The League of Nations (with King Barrett the Fragile at ringside) against the Lucha Dragons and Dolph Ziggler wasn't anything we haven't seen before from either team (in fact, it was only slightly different from the match that occurred on RAW, with Neville in Ziggler's place), but still enjoyable enough. It's the last Smackdown before a pay-per-view. One can't expect too much.
A side note to mention that Rusev being so supportive of and affectionate to his team mates is my favourite thing. I loved him lifting up Alberto del Rio in joyous celebration.

Most Hapless Friend – Becky Lynch
Poor Becky Lynch. Last week she tried to help out Sasha Banks and failed miserably. This week she successfully fended off a Team BAD beat down after Banks made Tamina tap, but Banks did not appreciate her efforts and snapped at her to mind her own business. Becky Lynch is a Hufflepuff in a Slytherin world and her poor, confused face after just trying to be helpful made me just want to give her a hug. At least the two reconciled their differences backstage, if only because Banks wants to keep winning. I also appreciated Lynch trying to convince us that their match at Fast Lane is going to have consequences for WrestleMania and they can't let Team BAD ride that momentum. I mean, it didn't stop me from thinking that everything has been shoved aside in order to make room for Brie Bella's long goodbye, but I still appreciated the idea of stakes, if not the reality.

Worst Friends – Commentary sans Mauro Ranallo
The Miz continued to be an odd but welcome third wheel in the Chris Jericho/AJ Styles feud and had a match against Jericho on Smackdown. Unfortunately, with Ranallo out of the picture and Byron Saxton being swatted like a bee any time he dared to open his mouth, we were back to the familiar yet awful commentary method of running everyone down. Thus, instead of doing what I lauded Chris Jericho for a couple weeks ago and talking about how important the Miz has been, we were treated to endless commentary about what a loser he is. Never mind that he and Jericho were having a pretty compelling back and forth and that Jericho himself gave the Miz props after making him tap. The matches on this show weren't terrible by any means (well, watching Tamina dominate the early part of her match against Sasha Banks was pretty painful) but listening to the commentary was excruciating.

As an aside, good though I'm sure their next match will be, I don't buy that Jericho would be so easily manipulated into giving Styles what he wants. Heel Jericho should be too smart for that, but, then again, it's still unclear what exactly his alignment is here. Unless, of course, he just can't resist giving Styles what he wants because his alleged intense dislike is merely a disguise for another intense sort of feeling. Just saying.

Should Not Be Friends – Charlotte and Ric Flair
Seriously, enough with this. Charlotte isn't a particularly good actress or much of a character, but she's never going be either if her only talking points have to do with her father. In my opinion, Flair adds nothing to the proceedings and mostly just gets on my nerves with the constant “woo”ing and jacket throwing. Plus, we have to listen to Jerry Lawler go on and on about how people are just “jealous” of their “father-daughter relationship,” which just sounds so skeevy coming from him. And then he always follows it up with some uncalled-for crack about how Byron Saxton's parents hate him. For the sake of Byron Saxton, get rid of Rid Flair!

Also a match happened. I was glad to have two women's matches on the show, though both were pretty short, and the second subjected us to Brie Bella's theme music after it was over. Can I just ask: Does anyone move less naturally less than Brie Bella? It's like you can see her brain and body trying to work things out between them.

I really felt for Natalya here. She didn't even get an entrance or a story; she was just fodder for Charlotte. Meanwhile, her husband's been out with a possible career-ending injury for a while, but I don't see a sympathy run coming her way any time soon.

Best Friendship Turn – The Dudley Boyz
I complain a lot about old dudes infiltrating my show, but I have to say that I do like the direction the Dudley Boyz have taken in swearing off tables and nostalgia. It's weird that a duo that we're all so familiar with can suddenly feel so fresh, but that's what happens when one is so used to WWE relying heavily on nostalgia and recognition. I'm doubly impressed that they've declared themselves to be villains and are actually acting like villains, unlike when the New Age Outlaws returned ostensibly as heels but still did all of their stupid catchphrases to raucous cheers.

This is not to say that I still necessarily want the Dudley Boyz taking up main events in 2016, but this show was already kind of wonky from the get-go, so why not end with a match with a confusing premise (I know the Dudleys attacked Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose on Raw, but it made little sense then and makes little sense now, other than the Paul Heyman connection), a disqualification finish (that old Smackdown chestnut) and the appearance of both Brock Lesnar AND Triple H, neither of whom are usually to be found on the B show.

Like the rest of the show, the match was our usual fare – Dean Ambrose took most of the damage before Roman Reigns came in to look cool and clean house. Michael Cole managed to annoy me one last time by declaring, “This Dean Ambrose is a whack job, isn't he?” Yes, that's exactly how you should talk about the guy turning out to be the grassroots hero in your upcoming pay-per-view main event. Christ. We also finally got Ambrose apparently turning on Reigns like they've been teasing for ages, but it was really jarring here. Reigns bumped into him, but it was clearly an accident. I get acting in the heat of the moment and that Ambrose is a volatile character to begin with, but he's not an idiot (um, sometimes. Not in this current story, anyway). Lesnar was obviously there to incapacitate both Ambrose and Reigns. It made no sense to lash out at Reigns when the two of them needed to take down the bigger threat.

And as for Brock Lesnar's much-hyped Smackdown appearance, well, here comes the pain of me alienating most of you by admitting that I cannot stand Brock Lesnar. You know how when his music hits most people get super jazzed because there's about to be a lot of suplexing and that's so thrilling? I sigh quietly and wait for it to be over. I find watching snow melt to be more interesting than anything Brock Lesnar has ever done. That felt good to type. I feel much better for getting that off my chest. Come to me with your unpopular opinions, children. I will shelter you from the storm.
See you all after life in the Fast Lane. It'll surely make you lose your mind.