Thursday, December 15, 2016

Learning to Live with Smackdown

The ruiner of good times, pictured
Photo Credit:
Yikes. I did say that my posting schedule would be getting wonky, but I had no idea I would have to halt production altogether. Would it be too Canadian if I just filled an entire paragraph with the word “sorry?” Probably. It's good to be back, though!

Let's see, what did I miss? Well, Survivor Series happened and didn't matter in the slightest, so thanks for all those speeches about how nothing in the world mattered more, Shane! Then TLC happened like two seconds later and we've got a new Women's Champion and new Tag Champions. I've got plenty of new things to learn to live with, including:

The Rise and Fall of a Beautiful Friendship
Since AJ Styles was let off of title defense duty for this episode due to James Ellsworth being down with the sickness, the Miz was kind enough to invite the champ onto Miz TV for a cozy chat. The two got along splendidly and I greatly enjoyed the establishment of their mutual admiration society until it was shattered just as quickly as it began when the Miz put himself forward as a challenger for Styles' title. It was peak Miz, and I loved it. I was also intrigued by the idea of a match between these two.

Of course, then those perennial party crashers, Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler, had to show up and ruin everything. Hilariously, Ziggler was promptly felled by both Miz AND Ambrose, but he STILL got a potential title shot out of it. So did Ambrose, despite Styles himself incredulously asking how many times he has to beat him. And then Luke Harper apparated in to toss his own hat into the title shot ring and I started typing in all-caps out of sheer excitement. Styles vs. Miz could be a lot of fun; Styles vs. Harper could be the MOST fun. (spoiler alert, we are getting neither of those things at this time)

Nikki Bella's “Acting”
So I'm actually enjoying the Who Attacked Nikki Bella story. No, it's not super original, but I think it's being executed well. Carmella may be spiteful and an opportunist, but she's HONEST, damn it! She and Natalya are both walking a grey-ish morality line pretty well. Unfortunately, the story is not being elevated at all by Nikki Bella's stubborn refusal to show any expression at all. I think she's maybe going for cold and detached because she can't trust anyone, but mostly she just looks mildly bored. She lights up like a Christmas tree when talking about Total Divas, though. Priorities, Nikki.
In the ongoing battle for the Truth, though, Natalya and Carmella had a good little match. Natalya has more momentum than she's had in ages, and it's nice to see Carmella finally getting some reaction out of the crowd. Smackdown is doing such a good job having a secondary women's story going outside of the title picture, giving the whole division a chance to shine (cough *RAW* cough).

Twists in the Tag Division
Our tag match this week wasn't a proper tag match at all but rather a battle royal featuring all the available tag teams to figure out who would be the next challengers to Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton. I admit that it took me a while to get into the match with everybody just kind of milling around at the start, but that's the way things usually go with battle royals. Notable early moments included Simon Gotch being eliminated immediately after the bell rang and Aiden English being emphatically eliminated by Jason Jordan, and what the heck are the poor Vaudevillains being so thoroughly punished for, anyway? Chad Gable was also eliminated surprisingly early, by Konnor of all people. The slow and sad disintegration of Rhyno and Heath Slater's partnership continued with Slater accidentally knocking Rhyno out of the ring.

Happily for me, Team FaBreeze both lasted for quite a while. Fandango even got a nice, dramatic back-and-forth with Slater on the ring apron before being eliminated. Slater looked like the plucky, working-class hero we've come to love, but he, too, was eliminated earlier than I would have predicted. But the biggest surprise of all was Jason Jordan's elimination. I thought for sure American Alpha would take the win, but no. I then dared to hope that Tyler Breeze would be the last man standing but instead it was Zack Ryder. Huh.

I mean, okay, I don't like the Hype Bros. There's my bias out of the way. But I'm not crazy for thinking it's weird that they won, right? We all assumed American Alpha would finally be next in line, right? And why aren't they? This decision doesn't make a tonne of sense to me, but, hey, at least they're still above the Vaudevillains (the poor, poor Vaudevillains).

Fun-Ruiner Alexa Bliss
This is mostly in jest because Alexa Bliss is perfection, but, damn it, I was really enjoying her match against Becky Lynch and then she had to go and fake an injury to get out of it. However, that just means that we're going to get to see them fight again, which is all to the good. Becky Lynch loses points, however, for not doing anything to get Bliss back in the ring and then attacking her afterward. To me that says that Lynch bought into the sudden injury enough to let Bliss get away with taking a count-out, so what's with attacking the woman you apparently believe has a legitimate injury? Bad form! And if you knew she was faking it all along, then why not just drag her back into the ring? It was a weird outcome either way.

Luke Harper's Time to Shine
It was like Smackdown knew I needed a pick-me-up so it gifted me with the main event four-man match to see who would face AJ Styles. The match prominently featured Luke Harper being awesome – Miz even applauded him – but everyone else was on their game, too. For all my cracks about Ambrose and Ziggler, neither of them are chumps in the ring and they can both bring it when the heat is on, and this match was so, so good.

I was so geared up for Harper to win, though. Miz was eliminated first, which left Harper as the unexpected and therefore totally expected winner (at least in my mind). We had Styles on commentary talking about how he's never faced Harper before and wouldn't want to because Harper is so scary, which, again, to me made Harper the obvious choice. Even the crowd was noticeably into Harper, and when he was eventually eliminated the wind just rushed right out of my sails. It was such a letdown. Ziggler and Ambrose absolutely still put on a good match up until the end when Miz's interference ensured Ziggler's win (how do you feel about cheating NOW, Dolph?), but, man, I'm disappointed.

Anyway, much as I'm NOT looking forward to Ziggler telling us about how super hard he's worked for this and making fun of AJ Styles' hair, this was a really solid episode of Smackdown. It was exactly the best way for me to settle back into things after almost a month away. God, I missed wrestling.