Thursday, June 15, 2017

Learning to Live with Smackdown

Almost a giant spoiler for Sunday saying "NOT GOING TO HAPPEN"
Photo Credit:
This week on Smackdown I'm learning to live with:

A Good Tag Match
I'm trying very hard not to resent the New Day for rolling in and taking over Smackdown's Tag Division. I do like them a lot, but I've also been really happy with the Usos and the Fashion Police and, of course, the MIA American Alpha. At least the New Day do give us fun matches. On this episode Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston teamed up with Tyler Breeze and Fandango against the Usos and the Colons. Everyone got a chance to look good in the match, with a couple of my favourite moments being Breeze fending off both Primo and Epico by himself, some great teamwork between Breeze and Woods, Big E supporting a hurt Tyler Breeze during the victory celebration (awwww) and Jimmy Uso starting the match by insisting that Kingston tag in... only to immediately tag out himself. Excellent trolling. I can't talk enough about how much I'm enjoying the Tag Division again, but can I have American Alpha back? Please?

A Good Women's Match
Last week I complained that the women's division keeps getting put into an endless stream of tag matches while the male Money in the Bank participants got singles matches where they could stand out more. It turns out that assessment might have been a little premature because this week it was the men who were put into a tag match while the women got a couple of singles matches. That concept was fresh enough in itself, but I also enjoyed both matches as well. First up were Naomi and Tamina. Tamina still isn't great and she steadfastly refused to up the pace, but weirdly I think that worked well with Naomi having to get her kicks in quickly in order to take down her larger foe. I thought it was odd that no one mentioned the fact that Naomi and Tamina were a team back in the early days of the Women's Revolution™, since that would have added a bit of story to the match, but whatever.

Lana stood at ringside the entire time but didn't get involved until after the match was over, when the entire announce team lost its collective mind over the fact that she was able to execute a competent spinebuster, and now I have a terrible feeling about the title match on Sunday. Look, I'm trying not to be a judgmental asshole about this. New blood in the division is great, and you can absolutely wear a sparkly floor-length gown and still be taken seriously. But Lana deciding to wrestle out of the blue and immediately getting a title shot feels like something fabricated entirely for Total Divas purposes, and if one is going to go around spinebustering people, one should perhaps not wear something that makes standing up afterward look supremely awkward and ridiculous.

Also I'm pretty sure I heard JBL take a shot at Mauro Ranallo when he said that Naomi “might as well take two weeks off and then quit” if she lost to Lana. Just in case you wanted to add something to the JBL is the Worst file.

Another Good Women's Match
Charlotte Flair and Natalya also had a match that I enjoyed. It was technically better than Tamina and Naomi's, but not spectacular. Just a straight-up, good little wrestling match with no shenanigans. These two have great chemistry, and I always enjoy seeing them face off against each other.

I noticed that Flair's entrance infographic states that she's the Queen of WWE, like that's a verified stat and not just something she claims to be, which I love. Does that technically make her more powerful than Shane McMahon? Or is she more of a figurehead? I need elaboration!

Another Good Tag Match
Our main event involved the six entrants in the men's money in the bank match, and to be honest I wish more of the show had been built around their interactions. I needed more of AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura hanging around being way too cool for school and graciously tolerating the presence of a dorky, chatty Canadian. I needed more of Kevin Owens rolling his eyes and condescending to Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler while they kept getting irrationally angry about everything. I liked having the two Canadians in the “hey, guys, let's work together!” role, and, as they're both Québécois, I'm choosing to believe the “we're stronger together” talking points were a direct response to the thorny debate of Quebec's place in Canada being opened up yet again (there's some Canadian political content for you. Impress your friends!). At some point I needed Zayn and Owens to make the briefest of eye contact after trying and failing to truly connect with their team mates.

Anyway, the story of the actual match was that of Sami Zayn getting beaten half to death and not being able to tag out. A simple story but an effective one, and I liked it a lot. Top marks for high drama. There was an amazing sequence when Zayn managed to fend off Corbin, Ziggler, and Owens only for Styles and Nakamura to be taken off the apron just as he was about to make a tag. I actually gasped aloud. And then when he managed to gut out a win against Corbin, I clapped. Getting the audience emotionally invested: that's how you do it. Of course, Dolph Ziggler immediately ruined the moment (because of course he did) by attacking Styles and kicking off the post-match shenanigans. We ended with Nakamura holding the briefcase, so he's almost definitely not going to win on Sunday. I don't know who will win, but I'm still excited to find out!