Thursday, January 26, 2017

Learning to Live with Smackdown

Discord in the Wyatt Family!
Photo Credit:
This week on Smackdown I'm learning to live with:

Bray Wyatt's Poor Friendship Choices
The Wyatt Family saga continued apace with nary a divergence from the expected formula...but I still liked it! This week Luke Harper and Randy Orton were set to fight each other as means of “settling their differences,” but really it was to determine who was getting kicked out of Swamp Wizard Club. Despite the fact that Harper is clearly the tragic hero in this situation, the crowd still chanted for Orton and the RKO. However, Harper immediately launched a furious offence, including nearly superkicking Orton's head clean off, that I'm pretty sure won a few hearts and minds. Not Bray Wyatt's mind, though, as after Orton won (with an RKO sold to perfection by Harper), Wyatt pulled Harper into a comforting hug only to Sister Abigail him, and my heart may never recover. Poor Harper was left to lie in the ring while Wyatt and Orton skipped off together, and if I were Bray Wyatt I wouldn't be looking so smug about having to hang out with JUST Randy Orton all the time now. What can he possibly offer that Luke Harper can't? Anyway, literally nothing about this whole story has been surprising, but, like I said, I'm still enjoying the execution. And we got a good match out of it to start the show, something that this episode desperately needed.

Potential in the Women's Division
Mickie James and Naomi both got to talk about their returns on this episode. James' delivery seemed super weird to me and the reasons she gave for coming back doesn't really wash (I'm supposed to believe that Alexa Bliss, of all people, was respectful of someone else's achievements? And that James came back to reinvent and reassert someone else's sidekick? Okay), but if we're shifting Becky Lynch over as her opponent, I'll be more than fine with that. Likewise, I was all ready to complain about Naomi's return being brushed off in favour of yet more Natalya/Nikki Bella backstage brawling, but she got a nice little back-and-forth with Alexa Bliss, and if we're slotting Naomi in to be the next contender for Bliss' title, I'll be super more than fine with that. May The Glow grant me these two wishes.

Pure Pain
Did you, like me, think we would be spared the “Carmella takes James Ellsworth shopping” segment since it didn't air last week? Congratulations, we are bitter fools together. I felt terrible for both Carmella and Ellsworth as they sold the “comedy” material with about as much conviction as it deserved. I was cringing so hard for both of them I think I've permanently shrunk. I'm pretty sure the only reason this segment aired was to prod me into saying aloud, “Oh, thank God, it's Baron Corbin,” which I never would have said otherwise.

A Royally Fucked Battle Royal
The reason why my unexpected saviour appeared was to sit in on commentary during a 10-man battle royal, the winner of which would earn a spot in the Royal Rumble match. This segment probably shouldn't have bothered me as much as it did. It was a throwaway match for what will be a throwaway spot on Sunday. There are people out there who like Mojo Rawley (or so I'm told) who like to see him win things. Why rag on any of this? Allow me to tell you exactly why.

1. Why on earth was Baron Corbin out there? I'm pretty sure he hasn't interacted meaningfully with anyone who was in the match and he's miles above all of them in the current pecking order. Plus, the combination of his soft speaking and the relentless action of the match meant I couldn't hear anything he said anyway.

2. The 10 men included the remnants of the Tag Division minus Zack Ryder and plus Curt Hawkins, and while it's true that a few of them are nothing to write home about, they still deserved more than being flung out of the ring at a breakneck pace without ever being allowed to make the slightest impact. What is even the point of a match like this? Everything happens so fast to people that we've been conditioned not to care about that the entertainment value is practically nothing. I expect pre-pay-per-view shows to waste my time a little, but this was insultingly blatant to me, the people who paid for tickets, and the men in the match.

3. What on earth are the Vaudevillains still paying for? Aiden English and Simon Gotch actually eliminated THEMSELVES as soon as the bell was rung, and the fact that they show up so seldom only to be brutally humiliated is really bumming me out.

4. Heath Slater and Rhyno, so beloved by LITERALLY EVERYONE not that long ago, are apparently just another couple of cogs in the tag machine now. Rhyno tried to eliminate Slater first (unsuccessfully) and it barely got a reaction. And if I'm understanding this correctly, Rawley gets to be in the Rumble match because he won, but NO ONE else in this match does because they lost? Heath Slater, folk hero and haver of kids, doesn't get to be in the Rumble? Is he officially the new Damien Sandow?

5. This is the second week in a row that we've seen nothing from American Alpha. You know, the Tag Champions? The ones who could really use some attention and could perk up your lacklustre pre-Rumble show? If you're going to have a segment for the division, why not use them?

A Shocking Twist!
Hey, did you want to see the exact same Dolph Ziggler/Kalisto/Apollo Crews segment that we saw two weeks ago? Me neither! This time, though, there was a ~twist~. You see, after Ziggler beat Kalisto (who did his damndest once again to make an impact when given, like, a minute of match time), threatened to further beat him with a chair, prompting Crews to come running to help, Ziggler was successfully run off! See, it was the same but different! Why was Crews successful this time? Why was cocky Ziggler suddenly running scared? Who knows! This is how we tell stories!

I will forgive so much if it turns out Apollo Crews is a time traveller constantly trying fix history and creating new realities in his attempts.

A Lumberjack Match and it was Okay
It was more than okay, actually. The main event of this episode brought us full circle, giving us a show book-ended by enjoyable matches with a lot of pointless filler in between. Terrible person Daniel Bryan let Miz challenge for Dean Ambrose's Intercontinental Championship in a lumberjack match, and the results were pretty great. Miz bounced off of everyone wonderfully and Ambrose put in a good effort, too. At one point, led by Baron Corbin, everyone piled into the ring (predictably, given the Rumble coming up), but instead of going off the air with everyone aimlessly brawling, things got back under control and Ambrose eked out a win after a tense end-of-match sequence. It was a great way to end the show and I hugely appreciated the effort that went into it. If only I could have said the same about everything else.