Thursday, September 22, 2016

Learning To Live With Smackdown

Ambrose gets the rarest win of them all; a clean pin on regular TV over Cena
Photo Credit:
This week on Smackdown I'm learning to live with:

Iffy Dialogue Being Delivered Well
Neither Alexa Bliss nor Becky Lynch had anything new to say during the start-of-show contract signing, but I still liked it because they're both capable of delivering the usual spiel without sounding like they're just reciting lines. Lynch especially manages to make every “I worked hard and I will continue to work hard!” promo sound passionate and compelling. She really makes me believe that the Women's Title isn't just a prop; it MEANS something and she'll do anything to hold onto it. Bliss had a tougher row to hoe because whoever writes for the women can't seem to pry themselves away from the same catty cadence for every heel. Bliss' material could just as easily have been for Charlotte or Natalya, particularly with the whole “born to be a champion” thing. Differentiate between these women, please! Still, though, I'm glad the the Smackdown women's division is still being portrayed as competitive and important and that Lynch and Bliss are the ones heading it.

*Heart Eyes* For the Tag Division
I loved everything about the Usos and American Alpha on this episode. Chad Gable returned looking to avenge his knee, but the Usos proved too much for him again. I can't emphasize enough how well the Usos are working as villains right now. Everything they do in the ring looks vicious as hell. I am a tiny bit concerned about Gable being made to look so fragile, but it's not something I'm losing sleep over since I'm pretty sure he'll be amply allowed to get his own back in the future.

And how much did I clasp my hands and “awwwww” over Jason Jordan's valiant decision not to tag in Gable because the latter was literally on his last leg? SO MUCH. And the beautifully dramatic visual of Gable trying to crawl to Jordan's aid anyway while he was being pinned? Ugh, I loved it. This match was such a great display of heroism and villainy, and it was the BEST.

And then there were our lovable Tag Champs in the back, with stoic but supportive Rhyno ultimately willing to throw away his crackers and cheese in order to defend the honour of Heath Slater and his 28 children. A direct quote from my notes: I love everything and everything is love.

Jack Swagger's Presence
The good news is that we actually got to see the Apollo Crews/Baron Corbin match that was supposed to happen last week, with Crews starting out dominant but Corbin finishing strong and getting the win. The bad news is that neither of them have much to do other than fight only each other for the foreseeable future, and also Jack Swagger is still here. I should be glad about adding someone else into this mix so that it won't get stale, but not like this. Not like this! If Swagger is here to actually put in some effort and give a fuck then that's super, but until I see evidence of it I'll continue to be annoyed that Crews keeps being batted back down every time he starts gaining traction.

The Glow
The more Naomi talks about The Glow and what it means, the more I am convinced that it is some kind of alien life force with which she has allied herself. Does she have The Glow or does The Glow have her? Who will have The Glow next? Why was the women's tag match so unceremoniously ended for no real reason? It was The Glow.

It is always The Glow.

The Dolph Ziggler Situation
I think the main reason why I get so grumpy about Dolph Ziggler is that he IS capable of making me care about him, but most of the time he's content to act like a smug prick. Speaking of Daniel Bryan, what's the deal with the abrupt and off-screen conclusion of the Miz's contract negotiations? Suddenly that's done and I'm supposed to believe Miz didn't read the fine print that forced him into defending his title? Bizarre.

But back to the troublesome Mr. Ziggler. He finally acknowledged that he's been on a losing streak, and even though he was just repeating the same “self-doubt” stuff from his feud against Dean Ambrose, albeit with a more subdued delivery, I still bought it. I believed that he was desperate for a win and that he deeply loathes someone like the Miz holding the Intercontinental Championship. There was a lot less smiling entitlement and a lot more sincerity. I believed that he wanted this for HIMSELF and not just out of some smirking desire to get one over on the Miz.

This was borne out in their match, too, with Ziggler fighting like his life depended on it and the Miz trying out every trick he could think of. The match was wonderfully intense and it built up to the breathtaking culmination of Maryse finally getting tossed out by the ref, Ziggler hitting a killer zig-zag that I thought for sure had won him the match, and Miz once again resorting to cheating to win. No more accidental heroism for him! All good guy and bad guy roles are as they should be, and it was a heck of a match.

Sensible Scheduling
Ziggler and Miz were going to be a tough act to follow no matter what, so I appreciated that Randy Orton and Erick Rowan were slotted in and got their business over with quickly. I didn't care, and no one could have reasonably expected me to care. Good times!

Third-Wheel John Cena
Soooo Dean Ambrose beat John Cena clean in Smackdown's main event. The match was pretty good and the end was, of course, surprising. It could be a big deal or it could not. AJ Styles also beat John Cena clean and Cena has cared not a whit since then, as we have seen. I've learned better than to hold my breath for character or story beats that make sense on this show.

Instead I am amusing myself with the story of John Cena the hilarious third wheel awkwardly inserting himself into Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles' love/hate story. Think about it. Ambrose is mad because Cena is trying to swipe Styles' attention for himself. Even during Cena's big return speech, when Ambrose made his appearance he marched right over to Styles and ignored Cena at first. Then tonight I feel like Ambrose got Cena out of the way quickly because he's got more important things on his mind. And when Styles made his sudden but inevitable appearance he, too, got rid of Cena quickly so he could run to Ambrose. Then Cena was all but forgotten on the sidelines while Daniel Bryan threw our two leading men together for a title match next week.

Because I want to see how this story plays out I'm willing to ignore that this is kind of a dick move on Bryan's part since I'm pretty sure Ambrose would have wanted to save his rematch until after No Mercy in case he doesn't win the triple threat match. Just exactly the kind of lack of feeling for his employees that I've come to expect from our general manager!