Welcome to the SmackDown React-Down
That supa-hot-fire promo exchange lead directly to this week's main event.
Also, The Miz continues to hate Daniel Bryan and vice versa. They teased a contentious contract negotiation all over social media, but apparently that was all cleared up by Tuesday night.
Somehow, Dolph ZIggler is still hanging around. Hanging around. Kid's got alligator blood. Can't get rid of him.
Also of note, two weeks ago, The Usos turned heel decided to go ham sammich on poor Chad Gable's left leg, kayfabe spraining his meniscus and putting him out 2-4 weeks, causing him American Alpha to miss out on their tag title opporuntiy at Backlash.
All caught up?
Here's the deal for this week's episode of Smackdown:
There wasn't a whole lot to make fun of. Which is kind of my primary job description.
Also, they did everything well, but nothing was exactly spectacular.
It was very very good, but by no means great. I mean, compared to Raw, it was one of the best shows ever.
It was goddamn Wrestlemania X-Seven.
I mean, I kind of hate grading on a curve, because that creates an environment where mediocrity passes for excellence, and that doesn't help anybody.
However, I can't ignore the fact that WWE itself can't stop pitting these two weekly shows against each other, so yes, in comparison to Raw, this was amazing.
Unspectacular, but amazing.
Let's dive right in, shall we?
This very good but unspectacular Contract Signing featured Alexa Bliss telling Becky Lynch that she wasn't destined to be a champion, and Becky Lynch agreeing with her, which is usually not the way to go when crafting a compelling promo battle.
However, I particularly liked Becky's "I wasn't born to be a champion. I was born to be a squalid little hobo living in the soot-stained alleys of Dublin, picking pockets for potato money in the morning and fighting stray dogs for the dregs of a bottle of whiskey at night."
That's kind of the jist of what she said, yeah? I just pretty much picture all of Ireland as being straight out of Angela's Ashes.
Pictured: Becky's kid brother, Bucky.
Anyway, the actual line "I wasn't born to be a champion. I had to fight to become one" was pretty great.
But I do love Alexa Bliss with my whole heart, and when she says "I was born to be a champion," I f*cking BELIEVE her. So good on the mic, her facial expressions are nonpareil and she's always getting better in the ring. Plus that gimmicky nickname she dropped for herself on Talking Smack last week? "Five Feet of Fury?" That sh*t is DOPE.
After Becky shuts down Alexa verbally, Alexa resorts to getting physical, hitting Bex with the ol schoolroom 1-2 punch.
Hit 'em with the notebook.
Hit 'em with the desk.
Becky does stand tall at the end of this, but Alexa showed she's not one to trifle with, no matter if she is fun-sized.
Ready, Willing and Dis-Gabled.
First off, you can't give enough superlatives to the people who designed the Usos' new look.
The look is great.
The attitude is great.
All of it. Great.
On to the match, I love the story being told; Gable rushed back from injury too quick, the Usos know it, and they capitalize on it.
Boy howdy do they.
Jason Jordan decides to not make the tag late in the match, saving his partner from himself. Gable will always go 1000%, pushing that needle into the red, and if it wasn't for Jordan taking it by himself at the end, Gable might have (kayfabe) further injured his knee so that he would have to be out for a (kayfabe) extended period of time.
Watch this again:
This is an interesting in-match storyline, told flawlessly.
As an added bonus, Heath and Rhyno are in the locker room watching the match and sucking down EZ-Cheez.
After the match, they do a skit for a while as The Usos apparently had to sprint all the way to the other end of arena to get to the lockeroom, because when they finally show up to threaten Rhyno's crackers and Heath's "26 raggedy-ass kids", they're as out of breath as I am after climbing a single flight of stairs.
(I am out of shape.)
Bully for you, Apollo.
I could watch these two in the ring every week, but eventually this has to build to Apollo getting a big win and blowing off the feud right?
Otherwise it's just one big guy bullying another big guy over and over again.
Still, if they keep coming up with new and interesting ways to have Baron bully Apollo, like this:
Then they can continue this for the rest of time.
However, it looks like Corbin's going to have something else to do soon, and that something is going to be "Bully Jack Swagger."
"I beat up tough guys all the time. Also, I totally have a girlfriend, but she goes to a different school and you wouldn't know her."
I actually feel sorry for Swagger.
He got to leave Raw, where he was buried on Superstars, and he joins Smackdown, the undisputed "A" show, and the first thing they have him do is sit on commentary.
Speaking is not Swagger's strong suit, people. And then they have him say stuff like "Baron Corbin's a tough guy, but I've been beating up tough guys my whole life."
Well, yeah, Jack — apart from the past two years where you've been buried on Superstars.
Swagger sounds like that kid in middle school who talks about how his dad is in special forces and his uncle has a pet tiger and his older sister's best friend let him touch her boobs like TWICE.
Actually, you know who really sounds like that kid in middle school?
This f*ckin' guy...
I know you're not even here yet, Curt Hawkins, but I'm already tired of you.
Cary Grant is tired of you, too.
Always check the fine print.
So apparently The Miz didn't, and neither did his team of lawyers and agents, so he has to defend the Intercontinental Title against Dolph Ziggler tonight or he's in breach of his contract.
This is exactly the type of thing I was so mad about in my Uncooked Raw Reaction. They should have just come up with something like this to give a reason for Kevin Owens to actually try to win that cage match instead of doing what he should have done, which was to just curl up in the corner with a good book and let Roman walk out the door. It would have saved me about 1000 words of complaining.
The match is very good (if unspectacular) and features more and more of The Miz using Daniel Bryan's moveset. I hope he retains the IC Title at No Mercy with the Yes Lock or the damn Busaiku Knee.
There's a wonderful false finish after Maryse gets banned from ringside for bringing out the "Can of Mace" that in no way looks like a can of mace.
Ziggler hits one of the most perfect Zig Zags in the history of him doing that move—
And The Miz kicks out at like 2 and 7/8.
I genuinely think that 98% of the crowd in Birmingham thought that they were going to see Ziggler win right there.
But that's not what happens. Miz has turned chickensh*t heeling into a frigging artform, and he's basically the Vincent Van Gogh, or Baryshnikov, or the-guy-who-wrote-Pootie-Tang of this new artform.
He rolls back into the ring, carrying his IC Title belt and having picked up the "Can of Mace" from where Maryse discarded it. He throws the belt into the corner, causing the ref to be distracted by a moving shiny object, and "maces" Dolph Ziggler in the eyes with the "Can of Mace." Skull Crushing Finale. 1-2-3.
It's a thing of beauty. Like "Starry, Starry Night." Or Pootie Tang.
However, I can't help but want to see Miz win one on his own. No Maryse. No "Can of Mace." Just him and his considerable in-ring savvy and abilities.
Ric Flair played an arrogant buy chickensh*t heel for most of his career, but he did win a match clean every once in a while.
It's time for The Miz to win one clean, too. Not every one. Just one.
Also on the list of things it's time for:
It's time for you to do something new with Dolph Ziggler, WWE.
And holy crap, I think they might be doing it!
The interview he gives with Renee Young before the match is more of the same old crap.
"I keep losing, keep getting knocked down, but I'm gonna keep getting back up again! And eventually things're gonna start lookin' up for ol' Dolphin Q. Ziggler!"
But the post-match interview is as depressing as a Cure concert in 2016.
In the interview, some guy asks Dolph how he feels after the loss, to which Dolph says nothing, then asks while pointing, "Is that the way out of here?" Then the camera follows him as he walks, dejected, not to the locker room, BUT ALL THE WAY OUT OF THE BUILDING.
I'm assuming that Wednesday morning, Dolph was found alone at a local playground, "just thinking some things through."
Here's hoping he comes back next week with a new character to match his new pessimistic worldview.
He already looks like he shops at HotTopic, have him go full-on Goth Kid.
"I don't know what you're smiling about, Apollo. Life is pain.
Suffering is the end, and the end is unavoidable.
I was happy too, once, but that ... was long ago.
Now, my heart is broken, just like those perfect teeth are gonna be after our match at No Mercy."
YOU'D WATCH THE HELL OUT OF THAT.
You know what you wouldn't watch the hell out of, though?
The Dark Knight came out over eight years ago.
I know it seems like yesterday, but it was eight damn years ago.
So your guess is as good as mine why Erick Rowan's Sheep Mask decided to cos-play as one of the Bank Robber Henchmen from the opening scene.
I mean, I know some of us have been wanting Bray's character to slowly start morphing into Swamp Cult Joker, but not like this.
Not like this.
Although, I gotta say, an 8-year-old reference isn't too bad, when you consider that just last week on Main Event, they had Breezango wear the puffy pirate shirts from the famous Seinfeld episode from TWENTY-THREE YEARS AGO.
So, you know. Progress.
The Rowan vs Randy match is entirely useless, and the aftermath, with Rowan disappearing from the ring in darkness, and Bray giving yet ANOTHER promo about how he's a god that cannot die, even though we have precious little evidence of him being a decent mortal wrestler, is kind of willfully stupid at this point.
Mind you, I don't blame Bray for any of this.
This remains the one glaring problem with Smackdown. They can't figure out what the hell to do with THE MOST CHARISMATIC MAN ON THE ROSTER.
I mean, that's just my opinion, but you know if they started booking Bray to win some stuff, those promos would start sounding pretty awesome instead of like the delusional ravings of a pitiable mental patient, and he'd move up your ladder of personal favorite wrestlers pretty damn quick.
Bitches be crazy, amirite?
I mean, I actually kind of like how much Carmella hates Nikki Bella. Like she won't even let the tag match that she's a part of go more than 30 seconds before she has to pull Nikki out of the ring WHILE SHE'S IN THE SHARPSHOOTER, mind you, and put the boots to her up against the barricade.
But I think she might be a tad overreacting. Like, you don't like Nikki because everyone cheers for her. We get it. It's not like she stole your boyfriend, though, or I don't know, borrowed your favorite top without asking, then spilled red wine all over it and then tried to hang it back up in your closet and actually thought that you wouldn't notice. IT'S A HUGE RED WINE STAIN, NIKKI, GOD.
That is what girls fight about, right?
Like in real life, and not wrestling?
I'm kind of out of touch in that area, I admit. I guess I need to watch more Total Divas.
Quick note: Naomi could seriously be the breakout star of this women's division by next Summerslam.
There's no way this kind of thing doesn't get over HUGE.
Feel the Glow, indeed.
October 19, 2009.
That was the last time John Cena got pinned, clean, in a non-gimmicked, one on one match, not on a PPV.
That was the last time any of us saw him make this face:
You know, provided that's a different face than the one he makes when he loses via cheating.
The match itself is very good, if unspectacular.
It has a couple of very effective false finishes. Ambrose kicks out of the AA. Cena goes for the AA again, Ambrose reverses it, Cena kicks out of the Dirty Deeds.
Cena goes for the AA a third time, gets rolled up, kicks out just after the Three.
This furthers the narrative that they seem to be pushing (through Dean Ambrose's excellent promo work): That John Cena has lost a step, and while he's still very good, he's not the man he used to be.
Of course, this will lead to a redemption story the likes of which we've never seen before and will never see again, with Cena battling back to win a string of matches, all by the skin of his teeth, culminating in him tying Ric Flair's 16 Championship Reigns record at Wrestlemania 33.
Hot Damn is that gonna be great.
But for now, he's in a triple threat at No Mercy, and he's got the least chance of winning among the three competitors.
JOHN CENA. Has the longest odds. For real this time. Not through a stupid Vince narrative. For realsies.
I mean, I guess we should have seen this coming. Father Time being undefeated and all.
The notion of an athlete, past his prime, watching other athletes surpass him, unable to compete at the higher levels of his youth, that's well-trodden ground now, to the point of cliché.
At the very least, in a vacuum, devoid of context, it's unsurprising. Unspectacular.
But still, John Cena losing clean, on Smackdown. That's always going to be a little amazing.
What do you think, Rusev? Did I do a good job coming full circle with the "Unspectacularly Amazing" gimmick for this column?
Yeah, you're right, that was awful.
(Oh by the way, we're getting a WWE World Title Match on Smackdown next week.)
(AJ Styles vs Dean Ambrose)
(Dean Ambrose, who says John Cena has no friends.)
('B' show my 'B'utt.)
Until Next Time, I've Been Alex Pawlowski
and this was me watching
the last two years of Bray Wyatt booking