Ah, 2014! I have a feeling this is going to be a good year for pro-graps. Or who knows, maybe Stephanie McMahon will win the title on the next Raw. I'm not f--king Nostradamus. I am a guy with opinions about Smackdown though, so let's do that.
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Proceed for the hot new 2014 edition of the Smackdown report...
Worst: Ambrose Is Forced To Drop The "Be A Star" Bomb
Dean Ambrose has been pretty good about shutting down stupid commentary in the past, but Jesus, Cole was on a tear during Smackdown's initial Usos vs. Shield match. None of it was particularly insidery or anything, but still -- The Shield's supposed to be the most destructive unit in WWE history. Michael goddamn Cole should not be allowed to spend 10-minutes badgering and being a condescending prick their leader. He should be pissing his pants every time Dean Ambrose twitches.
Ultimately Ambrose had to resort to the nuclear option and outright tell Cole to Be A Star and stop f--king bullying him. It only sort of worked. Why Michael Cole has the most secure job in the WWE I'll never know. He's not only a bad announcer, he's a bad f--king person. Yeah, that's strong language, but you know what? After listening to the guy talk for 15-years, I'm ready to make that call.
Worst: Why Would Dancing Distract Fandango?
I am officially over Xavier Woods. Not that I was ever particularly into him, but he was a new guy who seemed reasonably talented. I'm always willing to give that a chance! But no, the guy is a TMJ-inducing worst-of-both-worlds situation. All the pandering of R-Truth mixed with the namby pambiness of Kofi Kingston (and uh, the hair of Carlito so I'm not only referencing black guys).
The guy comes out, starts taking selfies, responds with "golly shucks, I dunno" dorkery when JBL s--ts all over him getting his Phd, then two minutes into R-Truth and Fandango's match is all "WRESTLING IS BORING" and jumps up on the table and starts yelling and dancing like a child. What a f--king tool.
Also, Fandango should never ever be distracted by dancing. Or if he is, it should be because he's so excited dancing is happening that he can't help but join in.
Worst: The Problem With Enjoying The Journey
A few weeks ago Brandon cut an impassioned blog promo (blomo?) about how you should enjoy the journey without worrying about the destination when you're watching WWE, because when you're dealing with this company Walley World is always closed in the end. It's sound advice for the most part -- you shouldn't let your own fantasy booking or worries about what you read in the dirt sheets keep you from enjoying a good match or entertaining segment.
That said, the fact that WWE storylines never end up anywhere good ever is a problem. That we have to act like it's not to enjoy the product is frankly kind of insane.
Take the whole Daniel Bryan/Bray Wyatt thing -- if the events of this week's Raw had happened on any other TV show (or in any other book or movie) I would've had no problem enthusiastically embracing them. Why? Because I'd know it was going somewhere. That this was just another obstacle for Bryan before his ultimate triumph.
Unfortunately in a world where nothing ever leads anywhere, fans have to cling to the here and now. If there is no destination, there's no journey to enjoy. That's why fans fly into hysterics when Bryan is seemingly shuffled out of the title picture and tied to Bray Wyatt. There's no assurance this is going to end up anywhere good, or satisfying or even remotely conclusive, so what was a really well-executed segment just ends up making you feel nauseous.
Maybe this will be the 1 in 10 WWE storylines that actually does have an ending. Maybe this will all lead to that rumored Undertaker/Bryan match at Wrestlemania. Maybe! But when 90% of your cat's trips out of the house end up at the vet's, you can't blame him when he pisses in his cat carrier. Stop making me piss my carrier WWE.
Best/Worst: This Rhodes/Wyatts Match Is Smackdown In a Nutshell
The match between The Brotherhood (ugh, nope, not calling them that) and The Wyatts was of course good for all the reasons we've discussed at length in the past, but it was also oh-so-Smackdown, as both Wyatt and Bryan (aka the important people) weren't there for some reason. That's Smackdown for you -- four guys wrestling their asses off in front of an empty rocking chair.
Worst: The Curator of the Hall of Pain Wasn't Looking For a Brawl
Refresh my memory -- how many times have Big E. Langston and Mark Henry teamed? Once? Twice? Anyways, they're best friends now, so Big E. is just fit to be tied about Brock Lesnar beating up Mark Henry on Raw. Even though Mark Henry came down looking for trouble of his own accord. But no, the guy who has his own painful beating-themed hall of fame wanted a wrestling match and Brock Lesnar gave him a slightly different kind of physical altercation! The CAD!
Seriously Big E., if you want to take a crack at making a name for yourself at Brock Lesnar's expense, just go for it -- Mark Henry doesn't make for a great damsel in distress.
Worst: Aw, No Undeserved Royal Rumble Title Shot For Aksana?
So, we're not getting our traditional Hardcore Holly Royal Rumble title match this year, which is sad, but when Aksana scored a surprise pin on Raw, I was hoping we'd at least get a hilariously undeserving Divas title challenger.
Hell, I even got a little ahead of myself and was getting a bit giddy at the thought of Aksana, Divas champion. Listen, I'm all for women's wrestling being taken seriously, but the Divas title looks like a giant butt tattoo. Maryse is the belt's CM Punk. Aksana robbing AJ of a record title reign would be wonderfully apropos.
But no, Aksana had to go and lose to lady John Cena on Smackdown. I just want to see a Lithuanian woman brandish a belt while porno sax plays in the background -- is that so wrong? Hmmm, maybe don't answer that.
Worst: Let's Tone Down The Langston Lovefest
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the announcers talking up guys the company wants to do something with. It's certainly better than them screaming about how they're overrated fry cooks and goat faced B+ losers. That said, the announcers' fawning over Big E. Langston is getting to be a bit much. Langston's match with Curtis Axel was basically just thin pretense for the announcers to have a sweaty five-minute Big E. jerk-off session.
When a guy rises to the top it should feel natural -- the fans should believe they're the ones propelling him. When a guy is Dolph Ziggler's bodyguard one month and the next the announcers are suddenly calling him the next big thing every other sentence it starts to come off as forced. Like he's somebody those in charge have selected as opposed to a guy who's needs your support as he earns his way to the top.
Just...ease up on it a bit. The giant, athletic, charismatic guy is going to do fine. That is, unless he starts to get an air of chosen one-ness about him, in which case, trust me, the backlash is going to be harsh.
Best: Bad News Barrett is Now Dumb Enough To Enjoy Ironically. I Guess.
Okay okay, fine, the giant 20-foot-tall motorized lectern is pretty funny. Bad News Barrett is bad good instead of bad bad this week. Hopefully they've got another sight gag lined up for next week, because I'll be damned if I'm going to chuckle at, "Hey look, Wade Barrett's standing on an unexpectedly tall thing!" more than twice.
Best: This Shield Break-up is Going Even Better Than I thought It Would
I've been on record for some time as being pro-Shield break-up. I think they've literally beaten every other person on the roster in six-man tags at this point. It's time. Besides, this break-up is getting better and better by the week.
Originally it seemed like they were going with a fairly standard jealousy thing -- Ambrose thinks he's the best, Reigns thinks he's the best and eventually the team implodes. That's of course still there, but they continue to add extra layers, with each member having their own motivations, which will dovetail nicely into the characters they're going to play after the break-up.
Ambrose is unstable, but up until now he's channelled his intensity into the unit. Now he finds himself obsessed with an individual goal (beating CM Punk) to the detriment of his teammates. Rollins is the showboat performer who needs to break free of the team to shine. Reigns is the only one who still truly believes in the team, and will stick to it until the bitter end when Ambrose snaps on him or Rollins tries to pre-emptively grab the spotlight, at which point bam, huge sympathetic babyface.
You are very very good The Shield. I can't wait for your fiery destruction.
Best: Have You Heard The Good News?
All that stuff I said about it being hard to enjoy the journey with this Wyatts/Daniel Bryan storyline? Well, maybe it won't be so hard if we get more stuff like this. Also, damn, that is one nice barn Bray Wyatt has. Calling it now -- Wyatt's secretly in league with the Amish. Never trust the Amish.