Thursday, July 27, 2017

Learning to Live with Smackdown

Drink it in, maaaaan
Photo Credit:
Apologies for the lack of review last week. I'd like to say I was just too broken-hearted about the dissolution of American Alpha (oh, we'll get to that) but actually it was just boring old technical difficulties. Luckily, Smackdown has been content to tread stagnant water lately, so whatever I might have said last week will probably do just as well for this week anyway. With that, this week on Smackdown I'm learning to live with:

A Sudden Break in the Walls
I'm getting impatient for the United States Championship open challenge to just happen already because I think it'll be a lot of fun whether the champion is Kevin Owens or AJ Styles, but in lieu of that this week we got a wild Chris Jericho appearing to give Smackdown a shot in the arm. I'm pretty sure commentary didn't mention Jericho and Styles' history together, but I appreciated that their interactions were just as tense as those between Jericho and Owens. The triple threat main even match was great; the kind of thing that I used to expect from Smackdown on a weekly basis. Jericho kept up with Styles and Owens despite his time off, and the three of them just tore it up. Highlights included Jericho breaking up a calf crusher with a Lionsault and a sequence of everyone kicking each other that was ridiculous in the best possible wrestling fashion. I wasn't expecting Styles to take back the title and I'm not even sure I wanted him to, but that match was such a breath of fresh air at the end of a largely stale show that I'm not going to question it too much.

The Circle of Strife
Pretty much this entire show consisted of a talking segment followed by some form of Battleground rematch, starting with Baron Corbin facing Shinsuke Nakamura. Again. For all that their interactions have been “incredibly physical match-ups,” according to commentary, including sneak attacks and whatnot, I have felt nothing for this feud and I'm so ready for it to be over. To be fair, I've found it hard to get into a lot of things on Smackdown lately, so it might just be the effect of my general restlessness with the show. There were nice moments in the match, like Corbin delivering a brutal clothesline and Nakamura dodging Corbin later on, but I'm so impatient for something – ANYTHING – on this show to move on already that I mostly just waited for the match to be over, and that's a terrible way to watch wrestling.

Stop Me if You've Heard this One Before
So the women had a tag match and please try to contain your shock. Yes, it's technically not a Battleground rematch, but it IS a rematch of every fucking women's match we've had on this show for months. Jinder Mahal has either wrestled or had a talking segment in the ring every week since he became champion, but Naomi is relegated to brief backstage bits. Baron Corbin has likewise wrestled constantly since winning the men's Money in the Bank briefcase, but Carmella is doing nothing but following Naomi around. We've now got a women's Money in the Bank holder and a number one contender. Why not let them face each other? Or if we must have tag matches, why not make them tag together and see if they can COEXIST? Why doesn't Naomi just challenge Carmella to match to get rid of her? She was goaded into several title matches by Lana! Why is she only a fighting champion on pay-per-views?

Finally, why – WHY – are these endless multiperson matches being used as a means to “develop” (there are not enough sarcastic quotation marks) Lana and Tamina's story? It's the only one the women's division currently has and it's already a complete hash. First of all, no one gives a fuck, and why should they? Second of all, Tamina is a terrible actor and Lana isn't much better despite having actually worked as an actor. Third of all, neither of them are capable of telling a story in the ring let alone through a script. Commentary acknowledging that we have more questions than answers is not progress.

Anyway, Charlotte Flair ended up pinning Lana and Tom Phillips had the colossal gall to call it “an important win,” and then I laughed and laughed and laughed to keep from crying.

Two Battleground Rematches for the Price of One!
Do you guys mind if I tell you how much I do not care about Mike and Maria Kanellis? Because I really don't care about Mike and Maria Kanellis. I honestly don't understand why they were brought in other than as yet another WWE signing designed entirely to get reactions of, “Hey, I recognize them from other promotions!” They're a downgrade from the Miz and Maryse and their addition is not improving the show. Again, I know I'm sounding harsh, but I am tired of feeling like it's a chore to get through this show.

At any rate, the tag match did give us a chance to see Aiden English and Tye Dillinger, and I really enjoyed Sami Zayn and Dillinger as the most affably Canadian team in existence, so that's...something.

Something New-Ish
One of the best Smackdown moments in a long time happened when the Usos attacked the New Day mid-backstage spiel. The dawning realization on the audience as they kept chanting along, gradually noticing that Big E's voice had stopped was fantastic. There was no reason to expect that New Day's celebration wouldn't go down as planned, and then things got turned upside down and it was FANTASTIC. The Usos look dangerous and smart, as they made sure to take out Big E first; the New Day look vulnerable, something they haven't been in a while; and Big E in particular looks like the Usos' biggest challenge, which he should be. I loved him valiantly staggering out from backstage to try and help Kingston and Woods, and then STILL trying to get up when the Usos knocked him down. It took a brutal looking double superkick to finally finish him.

This was fantastic, shaking the show up and getting me legitimately excited for another round of the Usos vs. the New Day.

Chad of Green Gables
I promised we'd get to the American Alpha thing even if Smackdown didn't this week. Yes, poor Chad with a G has been abandoned by his bosom friend and has nothing left but his sunny outlook and irrepressible spirit. What are we to do with this plucky orphan?

Well, for starters, we could just undo what has been done, but I suppose it's too late for that. The dissolution of American Alpha is the exact opposite of how to tell a story and the clearest indication that WWE writers have no idea what's happening from week to week. There could have been seeds planted for Jason Jordan jumping ship to RAW to take part in an asinine paternity reveal; instead, last week we got Chad Gable telling us that he'd noticed Jordan becoming distant, but we saw nothing. “Show don't tell” is one of the most basic storytelling rules in existence, but apparently the rules don't apply here! I just can't believe that this is how American Alpha ends. We didn't even get to see them say goodbye to each other! Gable assured us that he'd be on to bigger and better things but, as I said, he didn't even make it onto the show this week. It's such a bummer, and I wish I understood any of the rationale behind it. Kurt Angle mentoring American Alpha would have made a ton of sense. But this? What sense does this make?

Here's to Luke Harper and Erick Rowan mistakenly adopting our spirited protagonist to help out on the new Wyatt Family Farm (they were expecting someone taller) only to be slowly won over by his imagination and sincerity. And also his suplexes. I'd watch that.