Smackdown Thoughts- Hungry Like A Wolf
So, coming off writing my longest blog yet for Raw, I was going to put off my Smackdown blog until tomorrow, but I'm buzzing over the show so I figured I'd write about it while I'm still excited and it's all fresh in my mind. Was it better than Raw? Hard to say. Smackdown is a different animal. Raw always has the 3 hour issue in play. I think 3 hours is too long for a movie, let alone a weekly episodic TV show. Smackdown's 2 hour run time flies by by comparison.
I do believe this episode of Smackdown was actually at a faster, more frantic pace than usual, and that's due to the fact that the blue brand has to build towards the Elimination Chamber. Really not sure why there's two weeks between PPVs, but it does make things a little tricky for creative. Luckily, Ryan Ward is the head writer on Smackdown. Ward was responsible for the peak of NXT creatively, so he can make this situation work, and has done so very well.
-Case in point, the open of Smackdown. A Rumble recap video transitions nicely into a disgruntled AJ Styles watching the highlights of him losing the WWE Championship. And the place he's watching it? Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon's office. AJ logically ensures that he's getting a future one-on-one rematch, a fair request which is granted. But Smackdown's Road to Wrestlemania stops at the Elimination Chamber PPV, and AJ asks who will be in it. Obviously, new champ John Cena, former champ AJ Styles, then Bray Wyatt, Baron Corbin, The Miz, and Dean Ambrose, who walks in as his name is announced for the Chamber. Former rivals Dean and AJ trade snide comments, and that sets up the night's main event. Five minutes of TV time sets up a future Cena vs. AJ rematch (maybe on a future SD episode), the Chamber main event, and the Smackdown main event. That's a lot of housekeeping in a very short time.
-Speaking of the WWE Champion, the now 16 time world champ opens the show in the arena. We're in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is historically a pretty quiet crowd compared to the bigger towns. Cena does a decent job waking them up, briefly acknowledges his milestone and then turns his attention back to business, with the Chamber less than 2 weeks away and Mania to follow.
-Logically, this brings out one of the Chamber participants, Bray Wyatt, with fellow Wyatt Family member, Randy Orton, who also happens to be the Royal Rumble 2017 winner. So far, every event on screen has had a significant purpose, and every character on screen plays a significant role in the show. This helps the show feel like a big deal. Both Wyatt and Orton have microphones, and it's the Eater of Worlds that speaks first. Bray is such a charismatic talker, but he often gets bogged down in vague stories and metaphors. With a clear purpose of going for the championship that Cena "so dearly covets", Bray sounds energised. Orton's brief line references his history with Cena, the dangers of the Chamber and the potential match at Mania. Then Bray says, "We're here", and apparently that meant here for a fight, as they head from the stage to the ring to confront Cena. The lights go off and come back on to reveal Luke Harper, who was booted from the Family last week and had a confrontation with them at the Rumble. Shane O Mac comes out to pop the crowd and make a tag team match, playa!
-Luke Harper appears conflicted, he has no problems punching Orton in the fucking face, but he hesitates when it comes to Wyatt. Cena and Orton have a little callback to the feud or preview of Mania. Cena and Wyatt have a callback to their feud or preview of Elimination Chamber. Shit breaks down between Harper, Wyatt, & Orton. Cena gets involved with an AA attempt on Bray, but Orton takes the opportunity to hit the RKO outta somewhere. Could this happen at Mania? Maybe. Yay for things having a tangible purpose!
-Carmella and James Ellsworth... meh. Their shopping skit was funny, and I guess Ellsworth's wigger attire is a little amusing, but I don't really care for seeing him help Carmella beat jobbers.
-Ziggler squashes Kalisto. Didn't that happen last week? Ziggler goes for the mask post match, Apollo Crews makes the save. I guess Crews vs. Ziggler will go down at the Chamber PPV, which should be a fun dose of athleticism.
-Naomi and Becky team to face Alexa and Mickie. This is Mickie James' first match on SD since returning, and Mauro notes that this is the arena that she made her WWE debut in in 2005. Cool stat. Really good action throughout. Becky gets the advantage over new rival Mickie. JBL, being a good heel, covers for Mickie saying she has ring rust, but that's not true in the slightest, she's as sharp as ever. Naomi brings some high flying antics and pins the champ Alexa Bliss with the split legged moonsault. A much more credible finisher than the Rear View- which is basically an ass to the face. A good finisher shouldn't be one that a lot of guys wouldn't mind taking. On a serious note, Naomi is being built up well as a challenger for Alexa. They had a last minute match at No Mercy last year after Becky Lynch got injured, and it was a little clunky, but I think they could put together something pretty cool for the title match at Elimination Chamber. I'll be interested to see if they add Becky vs. Mickie to the EC PPV card too, or if they're thinking long term and saving it for Mania. Anyway. this Smackdown tag match, as the second proper match of the show, was really well done. I actually think it was far superior to the opening match, so well done to the ladies.
-American Alpha get to show some personality in a backstage interview! I always liked Gable's unique brand of goofiness in NXT, and how his persistence eventually loosened Jordan up. Smart to push them as fighting champions as well. The big brawl with all the tag teams lead to a Tag Team Turmoil match being made for Elimination Chamber on Talking Smack. Always enjoyed that gimmick, and with the main event players tied up in the Chamber match, the tag teams could get a nice opportunity to shine if given enough time on PPV.
-Main event time! Dean and AJ have really good in-ring chemistry, and judging by the clock they'll get plenty of time here. Excellent. Miz joins to make a 5 man announce booth. Fortunately, JBL and Mauro lay out a little bit, basically allowing Miz to give Otunga shit, which I'm very okay with. Miz has gotten to the point as a performer in the last year where I would miss his presence on the show, so kudos to him, and this is a great way to use him. Few talk shit as well as The Miz, and he's very good at switching his talking style between promo mode and being a commentator. Makes me think he'd actually make a pretty good one once his wrestling days are done.
-Baron Corbin interrupts mid-match to make a 6 man commentary booth. Fuck me. Plus, Maryse is sitting out there with Miz too. Corbin's another valuable asset as a speaker too, he's not the motor-mouth Miz is, but he's a believable badass and had some good lines that revolved around kicking Miz's ass in the Chamber match. He's kind of aloof, but also getting gradually more pissed off at Miz, who rants his way through the whole match. To Miz's credit. he alternates between putting himself over, putting the Chamber match over, calling the action in the ring, needling Otunga for the lolz, and giving Corbin shit too.
-By the way. Dean and AJ are having a very high quality main event while all these shenanigans are going on. Both men are having their moments of offense, with some great counters. As overused and convoluted as the Lunatic Lariat is, AJ sells it like death for a cool visual. Ambrose also nails a flying elbow drop to the outside on a standing Styles. Mauro calls it "Macho like Randy" which is a combined historical reference to Randy Savage and a current pop culture reference, being a line from the song "Panda". Good for you, middle-aged uncle that tries to be hip, Mauro.
-Late in the match, Baron Corbin snaps, realising he's sick of Miz's shit (honestly, he showed commendable restraint waiting for so long). They brawl ringside, distracting the ref, causing Ambrose to miss a near fall opportunity. Ambrose sees what's happening outside the ring and wipes both Miz and Corbin out with his patented suicide dive. He re-enters the ring and walks into a Styles Clash. AJ Styles pins the Intercontinental Champion semi-clean in the main event to bounce back from his title loss at the Rumble, and Dean Ambrose has the distraction as an out. Well done.
-But wait, there's more. Miz picks the bones and hits a Skull Crashing Finale on Ambrose. Corbin delivers End of Days on Miz, followed by another End of Days on Ambrose. Good night in all for Corbin- does a nice job on the headset, and the Lone Wolf gets to stand tall to end the show. Baron Corbin is starting to live up to the potential he started to show in NXT before getting called up too early.
Super enjoyable two hour show that truly flew by. Outside of Ellsworth and Carmella, everything had a solid purpose in building towards the PPV and was entertaining in its own right. Despite the truncated build, Elimination Chamber is shaping up to be a high quality show.
Until next time, take care,