Thursday, February 16, 2017

Learning to Live with Smackdown

Wyatt murking Cena? CATHARSIS!
Photo Credit:
This week on Smackdown I'm learning to live with:

The Eater of World Heavyweight Championships
If you haven't read the venerable TH's essay on the subject of Bray Wyatt's win in the Elimination Chamber, you should probably do that. I completely agree that a character like Bray Wyatt shouldn't ever need a championship – I'd much rather see him manipulate others into and out of championships solely for the fun of fucking with the status quo – but my sweet Lord was it ever satisfying to see him win the title and then successfully, definitively defend it. I'll never get tired of watching replay of him pinning Cena. It's cathartic as fuck.

Not that being champion means that commentary are going to shut up during his entrance, of course. Yeah, I'm devoting a separate paragraph to this because I mention it every week in my notes but never include it in my write-ups. It's something that's been irritating me for a long time, though. Bray Wyatt's entrance has a meaningful role to play. It's atmospheric. It's the calm before a storm. It deserves respect. It's also one of my favourite entrance themes of all time, not to mention one of the few these days that doesn't sound like a slight variation on the same guitar riff, and I want to hear it! And it's always the same: silence to start with and then one person (usually JBL) starts yakking and it sets the rest of them off and the spell is completely broken. The worst is when they talk in a hushed tone like they understand something important is happening but they're going to ruin it anyway. It's exactly like watching a movie you're really into while someone beside you is constantly whispering because they somehow think it's magically not annoying if they just keep it down. It's still annoying and terrible! Stop doing that!

Anyway, our new champion had to defend his title against John Cena and AJ Styles in a triple threat match, which conveniently got both rematches out of the way, let Wyatt look formidable, and gave us all a really great main event. Look at you multitasking, Smackdown! The match was excellent, with everyone acquitting themselves well. They kept up a fast pace with lots of high-impact offence, near-falls, and a tense finishing sequence. Once again, Styles in particular was the glue holding everything together, and Wyatt looked like a star. I've always been torn over the fact that, as leader of the Wyatt Family, he usually has other people do his wrestling for him. On one hand I like that he's kind of a Final Boss, but on the other hand I really like to watch the guy wrestle. Since he's the champion now, here's to much more Wyatt wrestling!

Finally, Randy Orton's declaration that he won't fight his leader at WrestleMania coupled with Luke Harper's attack on Wyatt right before the match makes me dare to hope that I'll actually get the Harper/Wyatt Mania match that I want. I don't want to press my luck but as long as the wrestling gods appear to be listening to me, can we somehow get AJ Styles in there as well?

American Ascension
I've gone back and forth on the American Alpha/Ascension tag match several times and I'm still not completely sure how I feel about it. I'm glad that we finally had a proper tag match rather than the tag potpourri of previous weeks, and I'm also glad that American Alpha looked good and had more of a chance to endear themselves to the audience. I'm also in favour of giving the lower-profile tag teams a chance to break out and I like that the match wasn't just a quick squash.

All that being said, I'm not sure that the Ascension are the team that I would have chosen to run against American Alpha for their first meaningful match since winning the titles. It wasn't a terrible match, but the Ascension are still not that great and the match was weirdly paced. There was a particularly strange moment near the beginning when Viktor just retreated to his corner to chill for a bit. He didn't tag Konor in or even talk to him, he just kind of...hung out and Chad Gable had to wait around for him. It ground everything to a halt and I don't think the match ever really picked back up, though there were some fun moments. Like I said, though, I support getting to see more of the division, and even though American Alpha are going to be moving on with the feud against the Usos that we all knew was coming (so I'm not sure why they've delayed it for so long) I hope the Ascension and the other teams aren't just going to disappear.

“Oh Thank God, It's Baron Corbin” Moment of the Week
Stop making me appreciate Baron Corbin, Smackdown! Last week it was mercifully interrupting Daniel Bryan starting to talk about his impending fatherhood; this week it was preventing the Dean Ambrose/James Ellsworth match that no one wanted to see. Terrible Person Daniel Bryan was completely fine with Terrible Person Dean Ambrose demanding a chance to beat up Ellsworth just for kicks, which was bad enough, but we were also faced with the certainty of JBL screaming himself hoarse as he always does when Ellsworth appears. However, instead of a match we got Baron Corbin dragging Ambrose out from backstage on all fours and with his shirt all ripped up. Between that and Randy Orton kneeling while calling Bray Wyatt his Master, Smackdown had a real Valentine's Day After Dark vibe going on...

A Fun Follow-Up
Mickie James didn't waste any time getting her own back after losing on the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, for which I was glad because her rematch against Becky Lynch was way better paced than their Chamber match, and there was more of a sense of urgency to it, with both women eager to prove they deserve their cred. I liked how James won, too. Realizing she was going to need to rethink her strategy against Lynch, she was perfectly happy to feign an injury and end things in a draw, but when Lynch happened to drift into her orbit she quickly took advantage and laid out Lynch for the win. It made James look like a cagey veteran without making Lynch look stupid. I'm very much looking forward to these two continuing to match wits.

The Least Possible Amount of Effort
Wow, I can't believe I had the nerve to complain about WWE's tribute to Rosa Parks last week. This week all Nelson Mandela got was a single quote on top of a picture and a brief blurb from David Otunga. Way to show how very much you care about Black History Month with these dwindling efforts, WWE.