Thursday, October 13, 2016

Learning to Live with Smackdown

Ziggler brings Smackdown back to square one
Photo Credit:
This week on Smackdown I'm learning to live with:

A Return to the Status Quo
I'm not saying that Dolph Ziggler shouldn't have won at No Mercy – I like a triumphant underdog story as much as the next person – but did he have to revert to form so quickly? Yes, gone is the passionate, sympathetic Dolph Ziggler and back is the smug, smirking prick that so often ruins my Smackdown experience.

The Miz, however, continued to be one of the best parts of the show, coming out to mourn the death of the Intercontinental Title and calling Ziggler the Empire Strikes Back of Intercontinental Champions as an insult because of course the Miz only sees things in terms of first and last and can't see that the middle, transitional film could also be the best one. Star Wars references as brilliant character beats – I love you sometimes, Smackdown. And how did Ziggler respond to Miz's manic reminder that he was willing to do ANYTHING to keep the title and will do anything to get it back? By mocking him for crying over its loss. Quite apart from the total and toxic bullshit that is men mocking other men for having sentimental feelings (feelings of violent rage are totally different and fine, though, right, guys?), Ziggler himself has spent the past few weeks either in tears or close to tears out of sheer passion for This Business and what it means to him. The disconnect here is staggering, and I don't know what the writers were thinking. We've been awash in nothing BUT feelings for the past little while but now we all have to be too cool for school because...reasons? Terrible work. Subtract half the points I previously awarded Smackdown for this story (Miz gets to keep his).

The Ability to Leap Division Barriers at a Single Bound
The Spirit Squad are apparently hanging around to do the Miz's bidding, and while Ziggler was a match for them during a handicap match (which Daniel Bryan, champion of the masses, was apparently fine with sanctioning), the addition of the Miz piling on after the match was too much. But who should run to Ziggler's rescue but Heath Slater and Rhyno, whose good deeds cannot be confined to the Tag Division. They are the heroes that Ziggler doesn't deserve, but I sure do. Never leave me, you beautiful do-gooders.

Keeping Calm and Carrying On
Becky Lynch being out of commission is a massive blow to the Smackdown Women's Division, and I'm hoping like hell that the rumours of the severity of what happened to her are overestimated. However, the best thing to do right now is keep things going, with Carmella and Nikki Bella continuing their feud and slotting Naomi in to take on Alexa Bliss. Everything's going to be fine, paint-by-numbers distraction roll-ups aside. The Glow will see us through.

Rad Dudes With Bad 'Tudes
The Usos have apparently given up on wrestling attire altogether now. They sneer at your conventions! Wrestlers in street clothes always make me laugh because it's such a “we're too bad and cool for TIGHTS” thing. “We'll put our bodies on the line in a display of athleticism, but we will NOT dress appropriately!” If this were a '90s kids movie they'd snicker while refusing to high-five you and then skateboard off.

An Exhibition of Incompetent Refereeing
Jimmy Uso beat Chad Gable with Jey Uso pretty blatantly lending aid to his brother's pin, not that the ref saw. Also on this show was a ref being so distracted by Kane that he didn't see Luke Harper sneak in and superkick Randy Orton. One ref with poor periphery vision is unfortunate; two indicates carelessness. I'm almost convinced Dean Ambrose's own referee antics were actually a pointed commentary directed at his striped brethren. Y'all are costing people matches with your lack of spatial awareness!

The Ship That Sails Itself
Dean Ambrose did most of my work for me this week when he declared that he's not done with AJ Styles yet, even outright stating, “You belong to me.” I mean, what is there left for me to say at this point? Anyway, Ambrose was mad because Styles decided to spend some time with the internet's folk hero du jour, so he went out of his way to insert himself into the situation. There was no reason for him to interfere other than to get Styles' attention because Ambrose's shenanigans didn't do anything for his own championship chances – he got James Ellsworth a title opportunity instead!

Are we just treading water until Cena shows up again or are Ambrose and Styles just reluctant to be pulled away from each other? You decide!

The Opposite of Mind Games
When WWE finds a word or a phrase that they like, they will not. Let. It. Go. Even when it doesn't make any sense. Thus, literally everything Bray Wyatt does is apparently “mind games.” Teaming up with the guy he's pretty much always teamed up with? Mind games. Begging Orton to spare him during a match? Mind games. Using swamp magic to teleport Kane away? Mind games. That isn't mind games! It's just straight up magic! Speaking of which...

One Moment of Happiness
I've been waiting months and months for Luke Harper to come back and all I got for my trouble was a tag match featuring Kane and Randy Orton. This is not what I ordered. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty checked out for most of the main event. Between Randy Orton droning about how he wants to make Bray Wyatt live in his world of pain and suffering and hell and blahblahblah and Kane's presence and the commentary team talking all the way through the Wyatts' entrance, I was definitely in “wait for it to be over” mode. But then came the screen wipe mid-match followed by Luke Harper holding his hand out for Orton to tag, having supplanted Kane. It was a cool visual that I wasn't expecting, and for that I'm willing to forgive, well, not a lot, but some stuff. I don't care even a little bit where Kane is, but Bray Wyatt finally got to effectively use his swamp wizard magic, and that makes me happy.