The Best And Worst Of Smackdown 4/4/14: The Last One That Matters

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It’s the Wrestlemania go-home show! Oh boy, for once Smackdown is sure to be packed with exciting important stuff, right? Uh, right?

Pre-show Notes:

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Okay, on we go…

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Worst: The Smackdown Before Wrestlemania

Man, you thought the Raw before Wrestlemania was mostly pointless time filling? The Smackdown before Wrestlemania is a two-hour answering machine message.

“You’ve reached the WWE. We’re busy celebrating ourselves right now, so here’s 500 video packages and a Titus O’Neil match.”

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Worst: Dolph Ziggler has Never Been Hotter!

And speaking of that Titus O’Neil match…

Well, this was fairly lousy. Titus is carrying around his Wrestlemania muscles, so he’s extra stiff and clunky and Dolph, well, I’m not sure what the hell Dolph was doing here. At one point Dolph goes for the Fameasser and Titus is just “nah, rather not” and doesn’t go down so Dolph slides off him like a goob, then both guys just sort of start swinging their arms in each others’ general direction and nobody is selling anything, and it’s probably the worst sequence I’ve seen on WWE TV in a long time. Eventually Ziggler wins and JBL pipes in with a comment about how he’s “never been hotter”. STOP SAYING THAT ABOUT A GUY WHO WON TWO WORLD TITLES WWE.

Worst: This Pairing Is Unacceptable

Much of the show was dedicated to promoting Fan Axxess in segments hosted by Renee Young and Jerry Lawler. Renee and Jerry Lawler. That pairing is like having your creepy uncle whisper dirty jokes about high school crush in your ear. Appalling.

That said, Axxess does look pretty rad. There’s a Fruity Pebbles foam pit guys. I know you’ve got a movie to premier and NXT Divas to stalk Brandon, but I sincerely hope you took time out to give the Fruity Pebbles foam pit the attention it deserves.

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Best: The Orton Soaring Eagle

Guys, we’ve been all wrong about Randy Orton and his chinlocks and I feel terrible about it. As evidenced by this high school picture, the man clearly has a condition that causes his hands to twist into chinlock position even when there isn’t a chin available to lock. He can’t help it guys.

So, they did the candid interview thing with Orton and Batista on Smackdown. The last time I recall WWE doing this was the legendary Brock Lesnar “I’m not a superstar, I’m an ass-kicker” promo. The Orton and Batista promos on this show weren’t anywhere near that good, but they were fun and made both guys seem more like real people I might want to see fight.

Batista’s “I thought he was talking about the Rock” response to Triple H calling him a spoiled movie star was perfect, because come on, everyone’s first thought was, “Is Triple H talking about Batista or The Rock?” Batista came off as an almost tragic figure here. The guy who isn’t really a movie star yet, but can’t go back to the wrestling world either and is confused and kind of scared by the whole situation. Randy Orton on the other hand, um, at least he wore pants for his interview? Well, shorts. Randy Orton acting like a regular human being and covering up his balls while talking to somebody counts as character growth.

Best: Zeb Colter Unleashes Cesaro’s Hyper-Combo

Los Matadores vs. The Real Americans was shaping up to be okay, but nothing special until Zeb decided to use his palm-to-the-face motivational skills on Cesaro. Now see, you slap Jack Swagger and he gets maybe a bit more focused, but slap Cesaro and he launches into an insane Marvel vs. Capcom 100-hit hyper-combo. Cesaro just pummelled the crap out of, uh, let’s say Diego until I was sure we were going to see his mask (and a good part of his skull) European uppercutted into the rafters.

Sadly the match didn’t just end there, and we had to sit through a few more minutes of The Real Americans flipping around for Los Matadores ranas before Cesaro finally decided he’d had enough and ended the match decisively with a giant swing and Neutralizer. Of course, Cesaro and Swagger winning here means they won’t win the tag titles at Wrestlemania, but maybe it doesn’t have to be that way if all dozen of us who watched this episode of Smackdown stay quiet. Shhhhh.

Best: You Can’t Have This

I’m not sure if it was on the American version of Smackdown, but the international version had a really f–king badass AJ Lee promo/video package. It’s easy to forget, but when AJ isn’t being sent out to flop around for a minute then lose pathetically every week, she’s really damn good. Also, they showed the neck tattoo the commentators have mentioned every week for the past six months. How did that take so long?

This thing actually got me kind of excited for the Wrestlemania 14-Diva Debacle Royale. Yeah. Even if you don’t usually watch the videos attached to these reports, I urge you to watch this one.

Worst: Well I’ll Brother You This Brother, I’m Totally Brothered To Be Brother Brother Brother

This was the most pointless main event segment I’ve ever seen. Hulk Hogan came out, was all, “Brother, Wrestlemania is this Sunday, and maniacs, check out this sweet Andre trophy I made. Well, uh, bye. Brother.” I’m not simplifying for comedic effect. This is all that happened.

Well, I’m not going to let a 50-word paragraph about Hulk Hogan main event the go-home Smackdown report, so pull up a chair, because I’ve got some things to say about Wrestlemania, brothers…

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Best/Worst? Wrestlemania 30, The Last One That Matters

I’m pretty much dead center in between Wrestlemania 27 (on the low end) and Wrestlemania X-7 on the Wrasslemania hype scale. If you’d told be back in October that Daniel Bryan would probably win the WWE Heavyweight Championship (wait, the what?) in the main even of Wrestlemania I’d be all a-tingle with anticipation, but six months of screwjobs and bad storytelling have dulled my excitement a bit. At this point Daniel Bryan winning on Sunday is Martin Scorsese finally getting his Oscar for The Departed. It’s a nice thing I’d like to happen to Daniel Bryan because I like him and enjoy his work, but it’s not something I’m particularly invested in, and dammit, it really should’ve happened when he was in his WWE prime (the 2011/2012 AJ period).

Still, even if I’m not crazy about any of the storylines heading into Wrestlemania, I still feel a certain obligation to watch the show, because, well, it’s the last one that’s going to matter (and trust me, this one matters). WWE is using “9.99 Wrestlemania!” as the main selling point for the WWE Network, and we’re going to see the ultimate crowning of a guy who’s been the biggest fan-driven phenomenon since Stone Cold Steve Austin. That’s big! Sadly Wrestlemania won’t be this big again for a long time (if ever). Ironically Wrestlemania exists this year to sell the Network, and if Wrestlemania succeeds it essentially destroys itself.

The goal of the Network is to replace WWE’s ailing pay-per-view business, but Wrestlemania without PPV isn’t Wrestlemania. Wrestlemania’s importance is based on it being THE BIG SHOW (uh, the metaphorical big show, not the chokeslams guy) and when I say the big show, I mean the show that makes the most money. It underlies every Road To Wrestlemania storyline. All the stuff about wanting to have a “Wrestlemania moment” or “win the title at the grandest stage of them all” is code for “I want to have a high profile match at Wrestlemania because that s–t is crazy lucrative.” The storylines work because the element of truth is there — for up-and-coming guys, getting on Wrestlemania is the difference between making a decent middle-income and being the wealthy wrestler they always dreamed of being. For the established guys, a top spot can be the difference between a good year, and a “buy a second mansion” year.

If the Network succeeds Wrestlemania ceases being a product and becomes just another TV show. A star-studded TV show in a bigger arena than usual, but still, just a TV show. It will be “important”, but only because WWE tells you that it’s important. One more meaningless WWE trinket backed up by empty words. At one time, for instance, championships were used to draw audiences to shows, and the guy who held the championship could tour with it and make more money. Titles meant something concrete to wrestling promotions and the guys who held them. Today WWE tells you a dozen times per hour how important titles are, but nobody cares, because there is no concrete value. John Cena with and without the title is the exact same dude in the exact same place. The titles are props, and Wrestlemania will become a prop too once it loses that underlying concrete value. It’s all too fitting that Wrestlemania 30 features the debut of the Andre the Giant Memorial Trophy, a brand new prop WWE hasn’t made the slightest attempt to imbue with any real value.

WLSmackdown444The Andre The Giant Memorial Trophy — Wrestlemania’s new spirit animal.

It’s also going to be some time before we see another truly gratifying ascension at Wrestlemania. Your Roman Reignses and Big Es are good, talented guys, but they’ve been hand picked by WWE. They haven’t had to legitimately fight their way up the card like Daniel Bryan has. When Roman Reigns wins the title at Wrestlemania 31 it won’t be because the fans invested in him, and the same level of catharsis isn’t going to be there. It’s the difference between Eddie Guerrero winning the title at Wrestlemania and Batista winning the title at Wrestlemania. We’re in for a lot of Batistas over the next few years.

But perhaps I’m making things sound too bleak. The pomp and circumstance of Wrestlemania isn’t going away, there’s just going to be less substance behind the flashy lights. Ultimately, if Wrestlemania is going to continue on as an important thing, it’s going to be the fans’ doing. Over the past few years Wrestlemania has, more than ever before, become a massive gathering of wrestlers and wrestling fans from around the world and different walks of life. The Raw after Wrestlemania is now more important than Wrestlemania itself — it’s where the “Yes Movement” truly started, and quite possibly where the next big thing will happen too.

So hey, maybe we’ve just moved towards a more literal interpretation of Wrestlemania. Instead of it just being a big wrestling show, its value going forward is as a convention of sorts where people with a mania for wrestling gather. I can deal with that. Have fun on Sunday folks.

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