Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Smackdown : Friendship is Magic

Was Bray Wyatt secretly helping Ziggler by challenging him?
Photo Credit:
Picture, if you will, a charming guest house near the shores of Lake Windermere in the United Kingdom. Your humble reviewer arises, remembers that the WWE draft has now taken place, and reminds herself that it's her honeymoon and she's taking a break from everything, including wrestling. “But it's the DRAFT,” she tells herself. “These are important things I need to know about. I'll just see what went down and get on with my day.” Thunder rumbles outside. Lightning illuminates her laptop screen. And channeling Anakin Skywalker from the end of Revenge of the Sith she wails, “NOOOOOOOooooooooOOOOO.”

Seriously, the fuck am I supposed to do with this? They took away my Canadians (except Natalya. Thanks for leaving me with Natalya, guys!) and Cesaro and Rusev and Sasha Banks and saddled me with John Cena and Randy Orton. They finally heard my plea to get rid of Jerry Lawler and replaced him with JBL. No thank you, sirs. No. Thank. You.

I completely agree with the venerable TH that the biggest problem with the Smackdown draft results is the lack of any solid identity. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan promised innovation and a chance for up-and-comers to prove themselves, so we've got...Orton and Cena? I'm happy to have Dean Ambrose and Becky Lynch and American Alpha and, to be honest, most of the Smackdown roster. Just give me a reason to care about them, and I will. (well, I'll try to care about them. Obviously Baron Corbin the Younger and I have a long way to go)

This is the first Smackdown episode I've watched since leaving the country waaaaay back on July 11. Time to see how much friendship was drafted along with all the new faces.

Boss Who Is No Friend to His Employees – Daniel Bryan
“Apollo Creed?” Really? Honestly, I can't even be mad. I'm actually shocked that no one has made that slip before. I do it all the time, myself, but I'm not the secondary authority figure on Smackdown. Get to know your employees better, Mr. General Manager!

Anyway, Apollo Crews was in a triple threat match against Kalisto and Robber Baron Corbin to determine who would be the number one contender for the Miz's Intercontinental Championship. I really enjoyed this match. I wish it hadn't taken 20 minutes to get to it, but it was worth the wait. All three men looked good, and I will even go so far as to say that Corbin was a definite asset. Commentary certainly spent most of their time talking about him and not Crews, the eventual winner, but I think Crews is beginning to endear himself to the crowd on his own. I wouldn't be at all be surprised if the Intercontinental match at Summer Slam turns out to be a fatal four-way, but I think having Crews go it alone would also be a solid choice.

Worst Friends – Whoever Booked the Women's Division
We had the opportunity for two women's matches on this episode. Neither of them took place. First Eva Marie appeared to fake an injury in order to get out of facing Becky Lynch. Then instead of having an interview with either of them, we had Natalya being outraged that Carmella was being interviewed and then attacking her on her way to the ring later in the show. And that's all we got. Two abruptly ended segments and absolutely no characterization other than that Natalya feels hard done by. Remember when I asked to be given a reason to care about these people, Smackdown? Yeah, let's work on that.

Most Promising Friends – American Alpha
In startling contrast to the muddled mess that the revamped women's division has already fallen into, American Alpha had a pretty much pitch-perfect debut. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan were a whirlwind of wrestling from start to finish, and their energy was infectious. The two were clearly having a blast together, and I'm really glad to have them on Smackdown. I'm sad that the Vaudevillains have become so forgettable, though.

Friendship Break
Let's take a break from our regularly scheduled gimmick and talk about some shit. I really, really didn't want John Cena to end up on Smackdown. I find him exhausting. But if we had to have him, I thought maybe I could at least look forward to AJ Styles continue to not give a single fuck and just keep beating up Cena for funsies using whatever means possible and refuse to rise to Cena's bait. Because he, at last, had found the secret to truly beating John Cena: do not give him a platform.

That is not what we got. Instead Styles came out to deliver a confusing diatribe that started out with some typical slights against the kind of people who cheer for Cena but ended up in angry Baby Boomer territory. He vowed that he would prove Cena a fraud because he suddenly desperately cares about how people feel about John Cena. You can probably predict word for word how Cena responded.

I know guys like Cena. You think you're having a conversation with them and you're not. They're just waiting for when they can unleash their spiel all over you (if that sounded gross; good. Whatever I can do to convey how unpleasant this experience is). You can't argue with them. You can't point out how ridiculous it is to argue that just wanting to be a good wrestler on a good wrestling show somehow makes you a lesser person. You can't get them to stop. All you can do is wait for it to be over. John Cena is an endurance test that I don't want to take.

Luckiest Friends – Fandango and Tyler Breeze
Fandango had a match against Randy Orton while surrounded by security meant to prevent Brock Lesnar from appearing, and everyone and their goldfish knew how this was going to play out. However, Fandango still gave it a good try, and Breeze was there for moral support. When Lesnar made his sudden but inevitable appearance, Fandango and Breeze were lucky enough to make their escape without being forcibly dispatched by either Lesnar (who was successfully run off by vigorous pointing) or Orton, who only had eyes for each other. Run free, team FaBreeze!

Secret Friend – Bray Wyatt
The theory on which I'm about to expound was kind of undermined by the very end of the show, but I'm going with it anyway because this is my review show and I can do what I want.

Okay, so the show started off with Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler having a friendly chat during which Ambrose was my favourite version of himself (focused, chill, but with a dangerous edge) and Dolph Ziggler actually made me care about him a little. He's been saying he deserves this shot all these years and now he's got it, but we, Ambrose, and Ziggler himself know that there's that nagging self doubt and the paranoia that no one really believes he can win.

Enter Bray Wyatt. Wyatt goaded Ziggler into putting his title shot on the line, and Ziggler agreed. Now, I personally want to believe that Wyatt doesn't care a whit for actually winning the title. He just likes manipulating people because he can. Forget all that Undertaker spooooky bullshit. Bray Wyatt should be dangerous because he can talk anybody into doing anything, and I really like the idea of him being the shoulder devil of Smackdown.

But what if he fully intended to lose the match against Ziggler and in so doing pump Ziggler up and give him the confidence and the edge that he needs to beat Ambrose? Thus Wyatt gets his final revenge on Ambrose AND he knows that he can successfully manipulate the future WWE Champion if he wants to. Ziggler owes him one without even knowing it, and the door is open for them to be uneasy allies.

Of course, at the end of the show Erick Rowan appeared and he and Wyatt took out Ambrose and Ziggler, so I'm probably full of shit and we're in for yet another dead-end Wyatt Family story.

Other notes: Dolph Ziggler is so good at ruining things that he ruined my interest in him just as it had barely struggled into being by snitting “Oh, I get it. YOU don't believe in me either!” at Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan when all they did was first SPECIFICALLY SAY that they believed in him and then point out that accepting Wyatt's challenge was a profoundly terrible decision because he had everything to lose and nothing to gain. That's not “not believing in you.” That's just giving good advice!