Thursday, February 23, 2017

Learning to Live with Smackdown

The controversial ending to Smackdown
Photo Credit:
This week on Smackdown I'm learning to live with:

The New Women's Champion... the Old Women's Champion
Man, I'm just crushed for Naomi. She finally wins the title only to have to give it up because of injury. It was tough to watch her get through her tearful speech, but I was glad that the crowd was still completely behind her, and I hope she makes a quick recovery. I don't understand why The Glow doesn't just heal her, but I suppose we must trust to Its plan. The Glow works in mysterious ways.

On the other hand, you could do a whole lot worse than have Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch battle for the vacated title, and we got a good match out of them that nicely renewed their rivalry. The great thing about this division, too, is that anyone can now step up to challenge Bliss. They can keep going with Lynch again, Mickie James could turn on her, Natalya's done with Nikki Bella (I think?), and Carmella could finally actually get something out of her streak of local talent squashing. Whatever we end up with by WrestleMania, I'm sure things will work out fine. It's nice to have options.

Talking Heads
Remember when Smackdown did those brief, seconds-long backstage talking head segments that were so effective at telling us what was coming up as well as showcasing each person's character and motivations and then they abruptly stopped doing them for no reason? Well, they were back this episode as we geared up for the main event battle royal! Highlights included Dean Ambrose broadcasting from inside a giant pumpkin (what was with that orange light?) with the picture of Baron Corbin that he just happens to have, Dolph Ziggler ruining a good thing by taaaalking reeeeally slooowly to show that he means business, and Baron Corbin saying how much he wants a spotlight while he stood in almost total darkness in, like, a basement. Just turn on a light! Also his shirt said DREAM CRUSHER. That's adorable.

Disappointing Déjà Vu
If you've read my write-up on the live show I recently attended (which you should) you would know how much I flailed with joy over the American Alpha vs. Fashion Police match that I saw. What we got on Smackdown was essentially that match in a nutshell. Thrilled as I am that I got to see these two teams face off twice in a week, the in-person version was way better. Smackdown's Tag Division continues to suffer from not getting enough time, and while Fandango and Tyler Breeze did get more offence in than usual, Chad Gable quickly tagged in to save the day and that was it. This was especially baffling on an episode where pretty much everyone who mattered was in the main event. What a perfect opportunity to use time that might have gone to some of them to showcase the Tag Champions! But, no. We just couldn't spare, like, ten minutes.

The Usos showed up to chat after the match was done, and while their patter was pretty great, I also wondered why Jordan and Gable haven't been allowed to respond to them yet. For two weeks in a row they've just had to hang out in the ring and listen politely. If you won't let your champions talk OR have longer matches, how is anyone supposed to connect with them? Just let us love American Alpha, Smackdown! That's all I'm asking!

Sisters Doin' It For Themselves
Mother. Fucking. YES. After weeks of the terrible “You're only where you are because of a man” promos, Nikki Bella and Natalya got back to the only good part of this feud: throwing down and trying to destroy each other. Their falls count anywhere match was an all-out battle and I loved it. I thought both women did a great job, and I especially liked little touches like Natalya refusing to use any objects because that's what the crowd wanted. “Oh, you want tables?” *shoves table back under the ring*

Two things, though. One, I wouldn't have had Maryse interfere. I still would have had her get hit by a flying Bella, but I wouldn't bring it up until next week. I don't know why, but her appearance just wrenched me right out of the atmosphere of the match. This should have been about Bella and Natalya and no one else. Get to your couples' quarrels next week, please.

Two (and tied to the first thing), I wouldn't have had Bella lose. The only good talking point of this feud was that Natalya doesn't think Bella can hang with her as a wrestler. The end should have come with Bella proving herself once and for all. I mean, it's possible that this isn't really the end of this story, but even if not, I find it hard to believe they can top this match. I would much rather it ended here. And if this really WAS the end, I don't see the point in Bella going into her thing against Maryse having completely failed against Natalya.

Anything involving Luke Harper possibly getting a match at WrestleMania involves all of my emotions. Most of the 10-man battle royal was not really my jam, though. I'm not really sure why it included so many people. Nobody thought Mojo Rawley, Kalisto, Apollo Crews, or Dolph Ziggler was going to win. We didn't even get to see their entrances and after some of the usual battle royal milling about, the expendables were dispensed with. Thanks for coming out and killing time! Cena and Miz and Ambrose and Corbin all advanced their own conflicts, and then we were down to brass tacks. Things really got good when our final three were Harper, AJ Styles, and Ambrose. My notes devolved into all-caps and very little sense. From what I can decipher, I COULD NOT EVEN HANDLE all the tension and drama of all three men battling on the ring apron. AHHHHHH GET BACK IN THE RING YOU FOOLS I CAAAAAN'T

…yeah, thanks for that, Tuesday Night Lacy. Now we are going to calmly express how rad it was when the final two were Harper and Styles and I realized that no matter who won, I would win an amazing match. There was some great back and forth and yet more drama by the ropes as both men refused to quit playing games with my heart. Frankly, the end of the match, with Styles hanging on for dear life while Harper muscled him onto the floor, would have been impressive enough without the shenanigans they tried to pull off. As everyone on the internet has already pointed out, Styles pretty clearly hit the floor first and every official going “Whaaaaa?” afterward looked ridiculous. And then Harper and I were yelling “Do the right thing” at Daniel Bryan in unison because we are just that connected.

Now, there ARE some wins here, silliness notwithstanding. First of all, the people love Luke Harper (win!). Second, we're probably getting a Harper/Styles singles match next week (win!). After that,
one of two things will happen: Either Harper AND Styles will somehow face Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania, all my wishes will have come true, and we will praise The Glow; OR Harper will face Wyatt (and probably Orton) while Styles is shuffled off to the rumoured match against Shane McMahon, which will test the very limits of my “Just give me Harper vs. Wyatt and I promise I'll be happy” resolution.