Welcome to the weekly SmackDown React-Down, where I take you through all of the Tuesday night happenings on SmackDown Live.
Previously on The SmackDown React-Down: I may have over-reacted just a touch when I said that Smackdown "sh*t the bed so monstrously" in comparison to last week's Raw that they may never recover from it.
Just a touch, mind you.
Now, this week's episode of Raw wasn't nearly as off-the-charts amazing as last week's, so that left Smackdown open to make a statement with last night's offering.
Did they step up? Let's find out.
The night starts out with Shane-O Mac and Daniel Bryan prepping a bunch of performance center rookies in black polos and black Dockers, getting them ready "just in case" Brock Lesnar shows up to retaliate after Randy Orton invaded Raw to RKO Brock out of nowhere.
Of course, by acknowledging this as a possibility, they just implicitly told us that Brock was absolutely, positively, 1000% going to show up and attack Randy Orton.
On Monday night, I really didn't expect Orton to show. In hindsight, I totally should have, but I didn't. The element of surprise totally got me.
On Tuesday night, after the first 10 seconds of the episode, I knew exactly what to expect.
Building suspense. You're doing it wrong.
But you know what they did right?
You want to know how you get me to care about a Dean Ambrose/Dolph Ziggler match?
That. That is how you do that.
A Dolph of a Different Color.
Maybe I was wrong about Ziggler. Maybe his lothario douche character was all just bad creative, and there really was an actual human being underneath the Ramen noodle hair and the rebellious 14 year old girl wardrobe. And maybe I wouldn't mind seeing the guy who started out in the Spirit Squad make it all the way to the top of the mountain. After being the Sole Survivor in 2014, he got tossed in to the dirt pile and he's been firmly in the midcard ever since. And maybe that's not his fault. So yeah, congratulations, Smackdown. You got me to do a 180 on Dolph.
Also, three cheers for newly heelish Dean Ambrose. Everyone expected a Dolph heel turn, but maybe that's not what we're getting at all. Maybe we're getting evil Ambrose. This is a million times better than wacky lunatic Ambrose, who has a chainsaw under the ring but can't figure out how to start it. This new Ambrose doesn't need a chainsaw, his words are sharp enough. That "you're not as good as you think you are" line was as cutting as a sword made out of Ginsu knives and razor blades, wielded by a robot made entirely out of chainsaws.
Note to self: Find out how to become a contestant on next season of BattleBots.
Another Note to self: Go back in time and major in robotics engineering, instead of Theatre Arts.
Still one more Note to self: If time machine not available, watch YouTube videos on "how to make killer robot."
But babyface Ziggles and evil Ambrose aren't even the best part of the opening. Bray Wyatt shows up out of literal nowhere, Sister Abigails Dolph and challenges him to a match with the #1 Contendership on the Line.
Now, make no bones about it, I am an unabashed Bray Wyatt superfan. I believe he is capable of being the top anti-hero in all of wrestling--Like a swamp-billy Joker, using his powers to tear down the system from the inside. Of course they continue to book him as a big dumb stupid moron with even bigger, dumber, stupider moron buddies, who kidnap the damn Undertaker and then just let him go, I guess.
My boss, Sean Ross Sapp seems to think that Bray shouldn't care about things like The #1 Contendership for the top title in the company, and he's not wrong. What does a backwoods cult leader need championship gold for, really? Well, I'm glad you asked, chief. His newest merch reads "Down With The Machine." How better to take down that machine than from within it? He's been shunted to the margins for so long, maybe he realizes that the only way they can't ignore you is if you wear the gold around your waist. The Champ gets to call his own shots, maybe even set fire to the system while he's at it.
So yeah, I'm all for #1 Contender Bray. And from the sounds of that "Yes!" chant, so is most of the Nashville crowd.
There were a lot of people who thought that Vince might have been paying attention to negative reaction to Dolph winning the Six Pack Challenge last week, and abruptly changed his mind, booking this match to change course and put Bray Wyatt in the title picture instead.
But of course, Bray doesn't win this match. He starts to expose the turnbuckle, gets interrupted, Dolph finishes exposing it, slams Bray's forehead directly into the steel in full view of the referee and is not disqualified, because babyfaces, amirite?
Ater the match, Erick Rowan comes down and attacks Ziggler. Dean Ambrose gets up from commentary and intervenes, and Rowan hits him with the Matt Hardy Side Effect. Bray Sister Abigail's Ziggler, and here is the scene we're left with at the end of Smackdown.
Last week, on the first Post-Draft Smackdown, Wyatt and Rowan never interacted with each other. They weren't even standing near one another during that whole "everybody stand on the apron and listen to Shane and D-Bry say stuff" segment. With Braun Strowman on Raw squashing jobbers while sporting a new haircut, and Luke Harper out of sight out of mind rehabbing a knee injury, one could be forgiven if they inferred that the Wyatt family had been split up for good.
But nope. Apparently swamp-billy blood is thicker than water, and Rowan is still firmly in the Wyatt camp. This is interesting for two reasons:
1. If the Wyatts are still a thing, they must really have something planned for Strowman, otherwise why split him off from the faction? It can't be just to pick up middle-school-P.E.-teachers-with-two-hands-and-a-dream and slam them on their faces, can it?
2. When Harper is back from that knee injury, he's definitely coming to Smackdown, yes? And he and Rowan are going to be part of the Tag Division, yes? Which means we'll get to see Wyatt Family vs American Alpha for the new Smackdown Tag Belts, yes?
But my main takeaway from the way Smackdown ended was that Bray Wyatt is definitely getting inserted into this WWE Title match. Dean's going to demand it, because he's a fighting champion who takes on all comers. Ziggler's not going to like it, because he earned the #1 Contendership (mostly) fair and (mostly) square. Shane-O Mac's going to make the match, because he knows its best for business.
Also, if Wyatt's not in the match, who does he have to work with at Summerslam? He's one of Smackdown's most marketable stars, they'll find a way to put him on the card.
And then you have three compelling characters, with three different motivations, all on an equal footing, in an entirely unpredictable Title Match.
They'd be foolish not to make it a triple threat at this point, and I'll be disappointed if they don't.
Cena would do anything for love ....
This is how you get me excited for a match that I'm 99% sure John Cena is going to win clean LOL.
You have two old veterans lay into each other on the mic, getting personal, going deep.
I'm a sucker for when Cena puts that bass in his voice and lays down the law, and contrary to popular opinion, I really enjoy AJ's promo work as well.
I really love AJ's seething frustration at the knowledge that if he has spent his prime in WWE, he'd have been bigger than John Cena ever was.
(I mean, he wouldn't have, there's no way 2006-2009 Vince McMahon books AJ Styles in the Main Event of anything, but it's fun to dream, y'know?)
I was struck by John Cena talking about how he stays at WWE out of "love," love of the fans, of the kids who cosplay as him at all the events, of the parents who beam at him with pride and gratitude, love of this company that has given him everything in life.
"Great, you love this place so much, fight me again, one on one, at Summerslam. After I embarrass you again, you'll have to admit that I'm better than you."
Still like 92% sure that Cena wins clean LOL, but I'm fairly certain that it'll be a ton of fun getting there.
Expecting the Expected.
So, yeah. Back to the beginning of this episode and the whole "we-hired-extra-security-specifically-to-stop-Brock-from-attacking-Randy" plot device.
If that's what you want to prevent, how about you keep him locked in his dressing room, or send him back to the hotel. This match with Fandango couldn't have been that important.
I stand corrected. That is an insult that must be answered. (By the way, Breezango is the best act in the entire company right now.)
So, with a fleet of big dudes encircling the ring, prepared for the very thing that we're all expecting, Brock Lesnar enters from the crowd, jumps the barricade, waltzes past the big dudes, gets in the ring and Orton walks into an F-5.
What exactly were you fellas trying to SECURE? Whatever it was, you're bad at your job, and you should feel bad about yourselves.
Monday's suprise attack was just that, a surprise. This was like the opposite. This was a forgone conclusion. There was no suspense. The writers telegraphed this thing so badly, it's an insult to telegraphs. They painted it on the wall of a cave. They cave painted it.
We were all sitting there, watching, knowing this was going to happen. It happened. Moving on.
Lone Wolf Gotta Lone Wolf.
So way back at the beginning of the episode, after Shane's gentle rebuke of Randy Orton and his pep-talk to the terrible security staff, The Miz demands to be treated with more respect. D-Bry says I don't respect you, I respect the title, and we need a match to showcase it at Summerslam, so I'm making a #1 Contendership Triple Threat match tonight between three guys who have nothing better to do: Kalisto, Baron Corbin, and Apollo Creed, a fictional boxer who's been dead since 1985.
Miz is on commentary for the match, alternately putting over and insulting each of the particpants. He makes them all seem worthy of a shot at the title while making you want to see Miz get beat, no matter by whom. That's great heeling, and Miz is fantastic at what he does.
Apollo Crews wins in the weakest way possible. Seriously. He takes a huge Deep Six from Corbin (another move that needs to be a secondary finisher) and Kalisto jumps on Corbin. Corbin blocks the Hurricanrana attempt and gets Kalisto in power bomb position, and Crews drop kicks Corbin in the back, sends him over the top rope. Kalisto gets back in the ring and Apollo SCHOOLBOYS HIM. He stole a roll-up pinfall victory against the smallest guy on the roster. I mean, if you're going to give the guy with no character a mini-midcard-push, the least you could have him do is look strong while doing it.
But the big story for me, coming out of this match, takes place after the match. Corbin attacks Kalisto, Crews makes the save, Miz enters the ring (in a full suit, mind you) and delivers the Skull Crushing Finale to Crews. And then, because Baron Corbin cares not for your traditional heel-face dynamics, he hits the End of Days on The Miz.
I love Baron Corbin. Lone Wolf Gotta Lone Wolf.
I hope they make the IC Title Match at Summerslam into a triple threat, too. Why not? Apollo is a little too cocky for the guy who won with a roll-up on a dude who's 4 foot 6. Hell, you can even throw Kalisto in the title match, too. Fit everybody on the card. The more the merrier.
Say hello to the best new thing in wrestling.
This is nothing. This is a damn warm up act.
If you haven't seen these guys wrestle in NXT, you have no idea what you're in for. These two are so special. Chad Gable wristlocking fools to death and Jason Jordan hot tags melting the ring ropes with overhead release belly to belly suplexes and pulling down the straps of his singlet to pulverize a dude's pancreas via flying shoulderblock.
I love American Alpha, and I can't wait to see where their careers take them.
I don't care how weak the rest of the Tag Division is, with American Alpha on board, Smackdown is in good shape.
Now for the bad news...
1. The Women matter so little on Smackdown, they can't even get a match started. Meanwhile, on Raw, last week Sasha and Charlotte had a championship match for the ages that went 22 minutes. And no, that's not a typo, I didn't accidentally include an extra numeral 2, though if you watched Raw during the AJ Lee/Bella Twins years, you might think that was more likely. No, the match lasted TWENTY-TWO MINUTES, and every last damn second of it was compelling as f*ck.
Then two nights ago, the opening segment was all about Sasha and Charlotte, their feud, and their upcoming match at Summerslam. Chris Jericho, a future hall-of-famer, came down to the ring to back up Charlotte just because he respects her, and Enzo Amore, probably the most popular guy on the whole roster right now, came down to the ring to I think ask Sasha if he could have unprotected sex with her ... okay, so not exactly progress there, but still.
Here on Smackdown, there is no Women's title (Yet), their best athlete, Naomi, is nowhere to be found, and Alexa Bliss, who is amazing, hasn't even had her debut match yet. For shame. FOR SHAME.
None of the women are even appearing on Main Event. None of this makes sense.
Hell, last night they devoted two segments to starting a feud between Natalya and Carmella, and they didn't even let them have a match. Nattie jumped Carmella during her Enzo impression and put her in the Sharpshooter. That was it. Time constraints during a live show, I know, but wow. They didn't even get a YouTube video.
And then there was the (intentional) debacle in the above video. Eva Marie comes down to the ring with her Heel Magnet entrance and fakes a hamstring injury. Heat for days. If you're not going to give the ladies a match, at least this was a clever way to get out of it. Eva Marie, for those who don't know, was advertised last night as the winner of the 2013 Diva Search, a contest that Wikipedia says didn't even exist. She's been in NXT for a while, being just about the worst wrestler in the world. One time, she forgot to kick out at two. There was once the widely held belief that she was going to get a big push because of her look, no matter how bad she was in the ring. This, of course, led Full Sail to go nuclear whenever she would appear. Keep getting that heat, sister. If she can even get to be passable in the ring, she's a gold mine.
2. Either give Heath Slater a contract or don't. At this point, send him down to NXT and let him put over people who need it, like Andrade Almas and
Biff Busick Oney Lorcan, instead of people who don't, like Jinder Mahal and Rhyno (twice).
I will say, though, that I am disappointed in Heath Slater. Chris Jericho's made up tag team partner is not named "Jumpin' Marty Lundy."
How dare you.
He is named Jimmen Marvenlooter and he is the toughest guy west of Winnipeg.
How dare you.
That's all for this week. Did Smackdown have a better episode than last week's? Yes. But they need to stop cutting to so many commercial breaks during the matches, they need to figure out what the heel they're doing with their Women's Division, and they need to hire better security guys.
Until next time, I've been Alex Pawlowski
and this is how I feel about them holding back
Alexa Bliss's Smackdown debut
until next week at the earliest.
You can follow me on Twitter @pawlowskithe4th