Here we are at week three! I haven't run out of ways to say "I enjoy seeing the Shield and/or Daniel Bryan wrestle" quite yet.
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On we go! If the skyyyyy turns blaaaack it don't matter...
Best: Hey There Vickie
Triple H has been (mostly) fantastic since turning corporate heel, but I was glad he didn't open Smackdown. Partly because not every show needs to start the exact same way, but also because as good as Triple H has been lately, his segments aren't exactly enjoyable. Effective, yes, but not necessarily enjoyable. They're stressful man. I watch them through my fingers for fear Triple H could snap, pin Daniel Bryan down and give him a pink belly at any moment.
So yeah, it was a nice change to have Daniel Bryan face off against a villain who doesn't have the power to ruin his life for reals. Also, Daniel Bryan got to continue his streak of delivering truths on Smackdown that he can't on Raw (that the whole three-count thing doesn't matter, because Orton was down for the minute-count at least anyway) and as a bonus Bryan didn't have to deliver a single joke about Vickie being fat, ugly and/or a bitch. I would have accepted a joke about her hair though, because I'm pretty sure she's making it look that bad on purpose. I mean, she has to be, right?
Worst: Uh, No, No, No? I guess?
Things did go a bit awry towards the end of the segment when Vickie announced Bryan would be in an 11-on-3 handicap match against The Shield, and no, The Shield isn't suddenly every guy on the NXT roster -- Bryan would be part of the 11. Oh, and Bryan would also get to fight the Shield last.
So, Vickie starts cackling and Michael Cole get shouting about what a punishment this match is, and I'm scratching my head. Granted, the way the match actually played out was, maybe, I guess, marginally unfair, but as far as injustices go, "it's 11-on-3 and you don't have to fight until the bad guys are good and softened up" is pretty weak sauce.
Worst: Shut The F--k Up Natalya
I'm not as down on Natalya as some of the folks 'round these parts. I still contend she's good in the ring and, I dunno, I'm from Western Canada -- good, sturdy, whiskey voiced blonde ladies is what's going on up here. Anyways, Jesus Christ, why couldn't Natalya's headset have been broken again tonight? Every word out of her mouth during the AJ vs. Naomi match made me want to barf. I'm nominating "She's a title holder, but I was born a champion" for most pathetic catchphrase of all time. Sure you were Nattie -- and you're also the prettiest girl in the whole wide world. And I'm the most handsome guy! Aren't moms great?
Minor Best for Naomi's new silver tights. Sorry about the diaper comments a couple weeks back girl.
Best: I Never Sausage a Terrible City!
So, Zeb Colter, who's clearly not taking this seriously at all any more, decided to preface Jack Swagger and Santino's match with a barrage of pasta-related puns, and well, it was great. I support 100% Zeb Colter's transformation into the pull-my-finger "funny" uncle you just never mention politics, popular culture, music, TV, movies, sports that involve non-white players or what's going on "in the city" around.
The match itself was pretty good too. Santino is of course Jack Swagger's arch-nemesis, so Swagger was fired up (which is to say, he didn't look completely stoned the entire match) and I have no problem with Santino rolling Swagger up for the win, because that's just what happens whenever the these two guys are within 20-feet of one another. I hear they've had to start taking separate flights.
Best: Okay, Okay, I'm Saying Something Nice About This Ryback Segment
I wasn't terribly enamoured with the Heyman/Ryback thing on Raw. Yeah, Heyman Strangelove-ing it up should be good for some moments, but man, Ryback. The guy's just such a dork, all standing there with his bad fake tan and mom jeans and too-small leather vest. Ugh. His reaction to the Heyman kiss didn't read like the actions of a complex, affection-craving character to me so much as a green performer going "Whoa, uhhhh, how do I react to this?" and settling on DO SOME RANDOM S--T THEN BELLOW MY CATCHPHRASE.
I haven't been a big fan of the Ryback bully stuff either, because WWE clearly thinks they're being pretty clever with it, and there's nothing worse than a thing WWE thinks is clever. That said, they at least partially redeemed Ryback on Smackdown by letting him do the one thing he's unquestionably great at -- brutally pummelling random indie guys. For "bully Ryback hates bullies" to work, it needs to be taken to it's logical extreme, and Ryback hollering anti-bullying phrases at 150-pound jobbers before eating them alive is about as logically extreme as it gets.
The match itself was the usual entertaining squash, with Ryback adding a few fun touches, like being all "I'm sorry, let me help you up" to his victim before pie-facing him into the corner. Hopefully this becomes a fixture of Ryback squashes -- give Joe Pastygeek a hug then belly-to-belly overhead suplex him out of the ring into the third row. Offer Bob Skinnyfat a hearty pat on the back then forcibly shove his face through a table. The possibilities are endless.
Worst: Get The Title Back On This Man Immediately
I never would've imagined saying this a month ago, but WWE needs to get the championship back on Randy Orton. WWE Champion Randy Orton was the best heel WWE's had in forever, and he hasn't been quite the same since losing it. Orton's promo on Smackdown wasn't good guy Robo-Orton bad or anything, but it was a pretty uninspired YOU PEOPLE-fest. Bryan hasn't lost a thing by being screwed out of the title multiple times, but you can see Orton's motivation drying up faster than the baby oil on his pecs without the title.
Worst: 15 Straight Minutes of THE DAMNED NUMBERS GAME
Despite Michael Cole's deeply held beliefs, THE DAMNED NUMBERS GAME doesn't really come into play all that often in Shield matches. Typically the damned numbers are 3-on-3, 2-on-2 or 1-on-1 and the Shield guys usually spend the majority of their matches flopping onto their own heads for the good guys. They defy the orthodoxy that says a heel tag team's place is to clubber until such time as the faces decides to beat them via fiery comeback -- they instead lose most the match before winning with their dastardly brains. That's why they're different. That's why they're, in the immortal words of JBL, fun to watch.
Unfortunately the way this match was set up prevented the Shield from being their usual awesome selves. The Shield all got to be in the ring at once, while the other team had to file down to the ring one at a time, reducing the match to a series of dull beatdowns. Granted, "dudes who are always beating guys down" is about as far as WWE has got with character development for the Shield, but beatdowns are probably the least interesting thing they do.
Best: Roman Reigns General Zods Ziggler
That said, the handicap match wasn't without its moments of joy, most notably the best Roman Reigns on Dolph Ziggler spear to date. Okay, maybe it wasn't the best in terms of impact, but distance? No competition. I'm fairly sure Reigns temporarily gained the ability to fly mid-spear -- they should have set up a cardboard Daily Planet model at ringside for Ziggler the crash through to really drive home the point (that point being that Roman Reigns may be from Krypton).
Best: History! Subtlety! In the Same Segment!
So, the 11-on-3 handicap match didn't conclude because Triple H stormed out, cancelled the match then chewed Vickie out backstage, explaining that publicly punishing the 10 guys who made a stand on Raw might lead to further talent revolts.
They were clearly playing off the "we're walking out because we're afraid of Miz and R-Truth for uh, some reason" angle from a couple years back, and yet Hunter didn't expressly mention this. No elaborate video package recap of the storyline. No interpretive puppet show. Nope! Just a subtle reference that added a little extra depth to Hunter's character for those capable of paying attention and remembering things. In other words, actual, legitimate good writing on Smackdown, which means Smackdown must actually have writers. Who knew?
Minor Worst to Michael Cole for speculating that Triple H actually stopped the match because he was afraid RVD was going to beat the Shield single-handedly. No Cole. No, that wasn't going to happen.
Best: The Wyatt Family's Transformation Into The New Kane is Complete
People keep wondering when the Wyatt-brainwashed Kane is going to return, but I'm not sure I see the point -- the Wyatts are Kane now. The final piece of the puzzle snapped into place on Smackdown when they officially became the "scary guys GMs send out to kill whoever they're mildly annoyed with", which isn't the most exciting role for them, but eh, I think we can all agree the Wyatts being Kane is better than Kane being Kane.
Fantasy booking time -- Kane needs to return as a loyal moonshine jug-toting, barefoot Wyatt clan member until he discovers who Bray Wyatt's father is and destroys him for being in league with the REVENOOERS.
Best: Lillian Garcia's Transformation Into The New Ricardo Is Just Beginning. Hopefully?
When Alberto Del Rio came out for his match with R-Truth or Kofi Kingston or a roughly human-sized bag of sand or whoever, Lillian Garcia gave him this totally cheery, enthusiastic introduction in Spanish. Has this been going on for a while and I just missed it? Either way, it needs to continue. Alberto has made a career of trying to lord relatively unexciting things like "renting cars" and "hiring an indie guy to say your name" over people -- "banging the nearly 50-year-old announcer" would fit right in.
Best: When I Say "OOOOS!" Y'all Say "OHHH!"
So, the show ended with Bryan and the Usos scoring a rare decisive six-man tag victory over the Shield. It was very good. I know, I know, I should stop with the crazy contrarian opinions already. Daniel Bryan and the Shield of course had a lot to do with the match being great, but I don't want to undersell the Usos' contributions. Honestly, the Usos may be my favorite good guys in the WWE right now. Wait, no, hear me out...
I'm not saying they're the best faces in the WWE, but everything Bryan does comes with this accompanying low-level anxiety that the rug could still be pulled out, and as good as some of the Heyman vs. Punk stuff has been, I can't shake the feeling he isn't performing to his full potential. On the other hand, when the Usos come out all I think is, "Oh, yay! The Usos!"
Sometimes watching a couple nice guys with a cool entrance superkick jerks is all I want. Actually, that's pretty much always all I want.