Friday, February 26, 2016

Smackdown: Friendship is Magic

Good enemies, better friends?
Photo Credit:
This episode was...weird. Not necessarily awful, but just...weird. The mood for the night was set when Triple H showed up to ramble awkwardly through a promo that began with him quoting and then citing the Rolling Stones' “Sympathy for the Devil.” Way to be hip to what the kids are listening to. I honestly thought that he must have just briefly glanced at the material before coming out because he kept repeating himself and spoke with a distinct lack of conviction. He ended up doing a bit about, like, physically collecting blood, sweat, and tears from Roman Reigns, and actually produced bloody rags from Monday's assault. Just whipped them out from his suit pocket. Not very hygienic, my friend! Reigns didn't appear on the show at all, so it was just an odd thing to sit through, especially since we got plenty of Raw recaps to fill us in on what happened on Monday anyway. It was just the most obvious, uncool thing ever, and not at all what one would expect from Triple H, who is generally a pro at the whole speechifying thing. The rest of the show was filled with short matches and awkward set-ups. Just weirdness all around.

Friend Back in Action – King Barrett
The League of Nations was whole again as King Barrett made his triumphant return to in-ring action and didn't have to scurry away from oncoming harm! The League took on the Lucha Dragons, Neville, and Dolph Ziggler. Every match on the show was short, and some, like this one, seemed to end before they had really got going. Like I said, not awful – I really enjoyed this match – just a weird choice. Everything was fast, hard-hitting, dramatic...and then Sheamus was pinning Neville and I was trying to remember if Kalisto had even been tagged in yet. It seems ridiculous to me that we're speeding toward WrestleMania and none of these eight men (yes, even Sin Cara) have much to do and will probably end up in yet another multi-man tag or a battle royale. What a waste.

However, Rusev continued to be the very best, taunting Ziggler as he struggled to reach his corner and celebrating like mad with his team mates. They're such good friends!

Wiliest Friends – The Dudley Boyz
In an apparent crusade to get me to revise my No Old Dudes policy, the Dudleys continued to impress the hell out of me this week when D-Von faced Jimmy Uso in singles action. The match was short, so he didn't have to do much, but D-Von looked pretty good. Bubba Ray, meanwhile, completely stole the segment by first grabbing both a table and the attention of Jey Uso and the ref, then using the distraction to take out the Uso in the ring and enable D-Von to get the pin. Smooth as fuck. The Dudleys looked smart but, true to their word, they're also still not pandering to the crowd.

Anything not involving the Champions in the tag division doesn't usually get much of story, but I'd actually really like it if the Usos kept facing the Dudleys and somehow learned to be better competitors. Between this and their matches against the New Day, they're just constantly losing due to stupid mistakes, and I'd like to see some development.

Absent Friends – Kane and Ryback
More weirdness. Big Show did the thing that he keeps doing lately – popping up where there isn't really reason for him to pop up. In this case he decided to fight Kevin Owens, for funsies, I guess. The existence of the match itself was weird enough (it ended in a count-out win for Owens), but the pre-match package was all about Show and Kane being betrayed by Ryback on Monday, and neither of the latter two showed up on Smackdown. I mean, Kevin Owens is still the highlight of any show, but I wish he'd had something more substantial to do.

Unlucky Friends – Naomi and Tamina
Poor Team BAD. Their persecution of Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch has resulted in exactly zero gains for them. Meanwhile, Banks and Lynch being forced to work together put them in the spotlight where they continued to distinguish themselves and led directly to a title opportunity for one of them (maybe both if WWE does the smart thing and just makes the WrestleMania match a triple threat). Naomi and Tamina once again made a play for a spotlight of their own when they disrupted Lynch's match against Natalya, but they were quickly run off by Banks and were immediately forgotten when Charlotte came out to announce Monday's match for the number one contender.

I felt bad for Natalya again this week. She did get an actual entrance this time, but she, too, was forgotten after the kerfuffle ended what looked to be a promising match. I'm mostly enjoying this story, but I was really getting into that match, darn it! I don't understand why Charlotte couldn't have made her announcement after the match came to its logical conclusion. Banks could have been on guest commentary or at ringside; there was no need for the interruption that went nowhere.

Unnecessary Friends – R-Truth and Goldust
When I first started this gig, the unofficial rule I made for myself was that I would make sure to cover every match but not the interviews/promos/backstage stuff unless I felt like it. Thus I have avoided talking about the R-Truth/Goldust thing until this episode, wherein Goldust assisted Truth in his win against Heath Slater. So here we go: I just don't see the need for another tag team like this. I'm not getting much out of the cheap bids for laughs. And I think Goldust could be of much more use elsewhere. I mean, here's my biggest question: If WWE is determined to recycle a Goldust thing – i.e. his former tag team with Booker T – then why not get back into his feud with Stardust or Cody Rhodes? Why not give the people what they want? Or, at least, why not give me what I want?

Best, Though Most Nonsensical, Friends – AJ Styles and Chris Jericho Boy, am I glad we spent all that time on the intense rivalry between AJ Styles and Chris Jericho. Such posturing, such emotion, such good matches, all so that they could immediately decide that actually they like each other because they're both, like, dads or something. All that talk about how Styles has to prove that he can be a major player in WWE, and now he's in yet another hastily thrown together tag team of guys who have nothing else to do. A+ use of your big surprise Royal Rumble entrant, WWE. Really, top notch, there.

And they're not just a tag team. Jericho, at least, is ALL IN on their new friendship. He literally pushed Styles out of harm's way and took a Trouble in Paradise kick from Kofi Kingston in his stead, which also enabled Styles to pin Xavier Woods. It was a beautiful display of friendship, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't kind of love it. It's such a complete turnaround in attitude, though, that I have to wonder if getting Styles to spend more time with him wasn't Jericho's plan all along.

I was disappointed that when tasked with finding a third partner for their match against the New Day, they didn't get the Miz. It would have been such a nice way to acknowledge his role in their road to friendship, but alas. Instead we got humourless, disapproving Mark Henry, which was honestly just as good. I loved him going to Chris Jericho, of all people, in order to teach the New Day that wrestling is Serious Business. You should never try to top or match New Day. Instead, frown vigorously at them. They'll never expect it.