Thursday, August 25, 2016

Learning to Live With Smackdown

Are Ziggler and Styles fighting for the affections of Ambrose?
Photo Credit:
This week on Smackdown I'm learning to live with:

Suspension of Disbelief
Baron von Corbin has spent the last few weeks relentlessly pursuing poor Kalisto for costing him a match for the Intercontinental Title, but I'm supposed to believe he would calmly engage in locker-room chit chat with Apollo Crews? Nonsense! Way to completely ruin the illusion, Smackdown. Worst wrestling show ever (just kidding, this episode was actually really good).

New Hardware
I think we've all been impatiently awaiting the arrival of something worth fighting for in the tag and women's divisions, and lo and behold! Shiny new championships! I really like the designs for both titles, so I think they're well worth fighting for based on aesthetics alone.

The methods of actually winning said hardware are still pretty wonky since the tag teams are going to take part in a tournament of which the rules have not yet been explained, while all six of the women are going to take part in a title match at Backlash no matter what, so nothing they do really matters until then. But still – belts! We got 'em! They're pretty! Yay!

Heath Slater, Folk Hero
Heath Slater's heroic struggle continued this week, and it was a much more lighthearted affair than last week's violent unpleasantry. Shane McMahon is still being a prick to him for no reason (he has to win the ENTIRE tournament, dude? What is your problem?!?), but Good Guy Rhyno stepped up to the plate to become Slater's tag partner. I'm sure Slater's trials are far from over, but I'm so glad I was able to enjoy them again.

Dolph Ziggler's Ability to Ruin Anything
For the first time in years, I cared about Dolph Ziggler. I enjoyed his speeches (occasional overacting aside) and I felt sorry for him at Summer Slam. Losing a fair fight because you just plain weren't good enough? That stings. I even went “awwwww” aloud at his sad stance in the locker room at the start of the show. Enter dirtbag AJ Styles. Now, Styles was a big, gloating jerk...but he was also right. Ziggler lost. He lost because he wasn't good enough, and all of his speeches over the past few weeks meant nothing. That's tough, but that's life. Did Dolph Ziggler react with dignity and grace? No. Instead, he ruined all the sympathy I had for him by physically lashing out at Styles in the back, attacking him from behind while Styles was on his way to the ring, and then ruining Styles' celebration about beating up John Cena. That behaviour wasn't justified at all, and it made Ziggler look like a poor loser, not a hapless hero. I heavily side-eyed Daniel Bryan's decision to give Ziggler a chance for another chance, but then Ziggler went and lost that match, too. I should feel sorry that Ziggler is living his worst-case scenario right now, but actually I'm just happy that I got to watch a great main event AND someone actually got their comeuppance for once. Be good sports, everyone!

Good Wrestling, Bad Talking
Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss kicked off the evening's wrestling, and I enjoyed their match a lot. Lynch is definitely my pick to be the first Smackdown Women's Championship holder. In what should have been an admirable effort to showcase all the women on the roster during the episode, Natalya and Naomi sat in on guest commentary, and the results were pretty brutal. It created such a jarring atmosphere. Watching Lynch and Bliss tearing it up in the ring contrasted terribly with the stilted words and awkward pauses going on at ringside. Both women seemed unable to tear themselves away from one or two talking points, and when JBL asked Naomi the pretty straightforward question of “What is your strategy?” all she could say was that she wants the title and thinks she deserves it. That's not a strategy, Naomi!

Becky Lynch can both wrestle a compelling match AND sound natural when she talks to an audience. Just putting that out there.

Unexpected Competence
Tag matches this week included the Usos against the Ascension and American Alpha against FaBreeze (I'm never using BreezeDango and no one can make me). The results are pretty obvious, right? Well, yeah, but even though the outcomes were pretty clear from the start, we still got some good wrestling out of it. No one was squashed. This was especially true with the American Alpha/FaBreeze match, which allowed Tyler Breeze and Fandango to look great, and some of their sneaky ploys almost worked. I knew they weren't going to win, but I was able to think that maybe they could, you know? I like both of those guys a lot, so I appreciated that they were in the first main roster match that made it look like Gable and Jordan really had to WORK to win. It was also a smart choice to make those two look a tiny bit vulnerable as we gear up for a tournament that will be more exciting with a level playing field.

Shifting Alignments
Nikki Bella's return from injury has apparently magically made her a face, and since the law of balance must be upheld, Carmella is now a bad guy because of reasons. I'm actually pretty fine with that. Carmella wasn't really connecting with the audience, and Bella has a feel-good story going for her. I do wonder if she can pull it off, though. I like Nikki Bella and I admire her a lot for coming back, but her character has never been anything approaching likeable. Time will tell, but for now I do think that it's nice to have things shaken up a bit.

Telling and Not Showing
Bray Wyatt popped by to interrupt Randy Orton's fireside chat with the audience, and I cannot fully express how cringeworthy it is every time Wyatt says that he is a god. Bray Wyatt should never say that he is a god; it should just be apparent that he is clearly some kind of supernatural force. Like a terrifying Tom Bombadil. The whole thing with him being able to disapparate away from ringside? That's more than enough! That shows us that he's a swamp wizard who doesn't even need a wand to work magic! Magic actions speak louder than magic words.

Sexual Tension You Can Cut With a Knife
I didn't mention this before, but for the past couple weeks I was convinced that Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler were seconds away from furiously making out. This week when AJ Styles and Ambrose confronted each other at the end of the show, all smirky and manly posturing? Same thing. Does Dean Ambrose just have ridiculous chemistry with everyone? I was already looking forward to seeing Styles versus Ambrose because I think it'll be a really good match, but also I want to see if those two crazy kids can make a go of it. Jealous Dolph Ziggler will probably ruin it, though.