Thursday, August 3, 2017

Learning to Live with Smackdown

Thanks to WWE for actually listening to Lacy
Photo Credit
This week on Smackdown I'm learning to live with:

A Promising Beginning
I know Smackdown basically just redid the wonky finish from AJ Styles and Kevin Owens' match at Battleground, but I don't care. Any episode of this show that starts with a wrestling match and not 20 minutes of chatting is welcome. I liked the match a lot, right up until the end. Kevin Owens was fighting like his life was on the line and not just the United States Championship. He dominated the beginning of the match and then when Styles got him in a calf crusher twice it was like watching a bear caught in a trap as he scrambled to get out of it, managing to headbutt Styles the first time and then trying to pull his hair before teasing a tap-out and then getting to the ropes the second time. There was some high drama going on in this match, and it was fantastic. I've never thought much of the United States title, but matches like this really make it seem like MATTERS. Or, at least, it matters very much to Kevin Owens. Styles doesn't seem like he wants it that bad despite commentary spinning some yarn about how he's always been proud to represent America. I tuned that shit right out.

Now let's get back to that finish because – yikes. Owens exaggeratedly missed hitting Styles and just kind of brushed past the ref's shoulder, causing the ref to drop and apparently lose sight in one eye, which in turn caused him to not see that Owens' shoulders were clearly not down when he was pinned. You guys got all that? That would have been complicated enough if it had gone according to plan, but with Owens basically making no contact with the ref at all, everything that followed was just ludicrous. There have got to be better ways to build to an Owens vs. Shane McMahon pay-off, with the best option being to just not have Owens vs. McMahon because fuck off, I do not need to see Shane McMahon in a wrestling ring again. But if we must have shenanigans, can we at least have competent shenanigans? Anyway, McMahon's involvement did at least allow me to hear Owens call him the worst and most incompetent person on the show, which was cathartic.

No More Metaphors
The Fashion Peaks segment was so next level I don't even know how to talk about it except that I loved it and sent it to all my Lynch-loving friends. Who says wrestling isn't high-brow? One day the Fashion Police will run out of niche parody material, but it was not this day.

Things That Are Apparently Not Over
Sami Zayn and Aiden English had the beginnings of what promised to be an enjoyable little match and then it was over, with English winning. As if that wasn't confusing enough, Maria and Mike Kanellis then showed up to gloat over Zayn because I guess that's still happening even though I'm pretty sure Zayn already won that feud. Whatever, I'm choosing to focus on Aiden English's giant, almost manic grin after his win because it was adorable.

Uncredited Work
Ahem. From last week's searing commentary:
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?
YOU'RE WELCOME FOR THE SWELL IDEA, GUYS. The writers must have also read my rant about the endless quest for coexistence, too, because not once was Natalya and Carmella's teamwork called into question, though maybe they SHOULD have squabbled a bit, because co-operation sure didn't help them win.

So, yes, we had yet another women's tag team match but it was at least slightly different, and at this point I'll take what I can get. I also fully expected Naomi to be pinned, but I was thrilled to be wrong (not the only time I was happily mistaken on this episode). I've missed Naomi in the ring so much. She brings a ton of personality to everything, and it was nice to see her be a dominant champion, and the team of her and Becky Lynch was a lot of fun. The Glow brings happiness.

As for next week's announced match, ahem:
Why doesn't Naomi just challenge Carmella to a match to get rid of her?
I mean, okay, Carmella “demanded” a match, but still, MY CHEQUE BETTER BE IN THE MAIL.

Jinder Mahal's Tie Style
It is on point. He wore a lovely bright floral print this week, but I've noticed his tie game for a while. Mahal continues to impress me except in the ring, but great taste in ties does go a long way with me.

A Very Good Decision
Last week I lamented the state of Chad Gable, so in a blatant attempt to placate me after all of my complaining, this week Smackdown plunked him in the ring against Rusev and magic ensued. Gable was throwing out suplex after suplex and grappling his little heart out while Handsome Rusev reminded us that he is also Good At Wrestling Rusev, and this match could easily have been the main event solely based on how much I enjoyed it. Gable got time to shine and show people what he can do, which is all it should take to make everyone love him, and Rusev gained back some of the gravitas lost after his latest drubbing at the hands of John Cena. I was in such a good mood during and after this match, and it felt amazing to remember that, oh yeah, I really love wrestling and that's why I watch this dang show every week. Good job, Smackdown.

A Very Bad Decision
Alas, all good things must come to an end, usually at the hands of Randy Orton. Instead of running Rusev vs. Gable a couple more times, which would be amazing, Orton has apparently decided to tag in to Cena's foreign foe feud. If you listen closely you can still hear my wailing “whyyyyyyy” on the wind. In one fell swoop (well, in one meandering swoop. More a lazy glide than a swoop, really) Gable was forgotten and Rusev was rendered ineffective once again. Randy Orton aids no one by working with them. He sucks the life out of every potentially interesting angle. I know people were cheering for him – I heard them – but the buzz that existed after Gable and Rusev had finished was killed stone dead. That was the complacent cheering of people acknowledging the familiar, not the excited cheering of people surprised into genuine enjoyment. Smackdown, we were doing so well!

A Decision
John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura faced off, the words “dream match” were thrown around a lot, the match was good, Nakamura won, and you've all already seen footage of Cena nearly breaking his neck. The end.

I mean, I don't really know what else to say. I mostly liked the match and I was once again surprised and pleased that the expected outcome didn't happen. I have absolutely no idea of what I think might happen between now and Summer Slam, not to mention during Summer Slam, and I really like that feeling. For the first time in weeks it actually does feel like Smackdown is the land of opportunity again. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship (probably (barring shenanigans (competent or incompetent))). What a wild world.