Hey, Blue Team.
Welcome to what was a very bipolar Smackdown. The majority of the wrestling this week was good, it’s just there wasn’t a lot of wrestling on the show. Four matches in two hours, and one of them’s a Brie Bella squash. Outside of a great promo by Jericho, the rest of the show was pretty much just RAW recaps. If you include the Shane McMahon video package that first aired on RAW, we got twelve minutes of RAW footage on this week’s Smackdown. That means without commercials, 15% of Smackdown was RAW.
I still can’t wrap my head around this. Don’t they pay Tyler Breeze the same amount of money to sit in catering and not eat as they do when he wrestles a match? What is the point of keeping these guys off TV? What’s the point of re-airing RAW instead? Was anyone out there on the fence about ordering the network to watch WrestleMania after they saw the segment between Vince and Shane on RAW, but then magically whipped out their credit cards and ordered the network as soon as they saw that same segment played on Smackdown? What is the logic behind it? I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but don’t worry, I don’t get too deep into this stuff in the body of the column.
And now without further ado, here is The Best and Worst of Smackdown for March 10, 2016.
Best: When Fantasy Booking Comes True
This week’s Smackdown opens up with The Miz in the ring welcoming us to Miz TV. His guests are Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. I’m going to be real honest with all of you. It’s incredibly hard for me to be unbiased when it comes to segments involving Zayn and Owens. I am a longtime hardcore Pro Wrestling Guerrilla devotee. I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, and I freely admit that a lot of it is logic-less spot fests, but there’s nothing quite as fun as being in that hot sweaty legion hall in Reseda, California. Which if you don’t know, is the armpit of the San Fernando Valley, which is itself the armpit of Los Angeles County. I spent years watching Zayn and Owens literally almost kill themselves inches in front of me, and it warms my heart to see these guys in WWE, let alone against each other. This is not something I ever thought we would see, and without the invention of NXT, we wouldn’t have. We never got Chris Hero vs. CM Punk on a RAW or Smackdown. When Raven and Tommy Dreamer hit the main roster, they didn’t pick up where they left off in ECW. Hell, it wasn’t that long ago that WWE wouldn’t even acknowledge that wrestling took place outside of its company. Yet now, not only are Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn feuding with each other on the main roster, the WWE has so far booked it like a cut and paste from a Reddit thread. It’s a major step forward that the main roster acknowledges NXT history, let alone pre-WWE history.
Sami Zayn is out first, and he’s here to quickly catch us up on who is he and what he’s doing here. Fourteen year veteran, NXT Superstar, etc. The Miz cuts him off by literally yelling “Cut!” and tells Zayn to jump forward to his history with Kevin Owens. Which doesn’t really jump forward at all because their relationship goes back thirteen years. Sami talks about the close friendship he used to have with Kevin and how he’s not sure when they became enemies. He recaps their time at NXT, and explains that he’s still confused at to why Owens turned on him. This is all fantastic and very necessary. I think a lot of us forget sometimes that NXT is still watched by a fraction of the audience of RAW or even Smackdown. No matter who they are, every Superstar and Diva needs to be reintroduced when they hit the main roster, and WWE has done a horrible job of that the past few years. They may have pulled out of a nosedive with Charlotte, Becky, and Sasha, but for every one of them there’s a Tyler Breeze. Sami Zayn’s a hard guy to mess up. He’s quite possibly the most likable guy in the history of the company. All you have to do is let him be himself and tell his story, and people will fall in love with him. Thank the wrestling gods that’s exactly what WWE is doing here. But on top of all of that, maybe the most important thing WWE is doing with Sami Zayn is giving him a clear reason to be here. Why did Adam Rose come to the main roster? To party? He could have kept doing that at NXT. Why did Tyler Breeze come to the main roster? As far as I can tell, it was so WWE had an ending to Season One of Breaking Ground. Sami Zayn has a clear purpose and a clear story to tell. Those are two things that are constantly lacking all over WWE.
The Miz brings out Kevin Owens who tells Sami that he should already know why he did what he did to him in NXT. He’s told it to him many times. It was all about business. Owens says it has nothing to do with their history, it wasn’t personal, it was just the best thing he could do for his career. Owens tells Sami that he’s the one who made it personal, by attacking him last Monday at RAW and at the Royal Rumble. Sami responds by telling Kevin that he’s going to beat him for the Intercontinental Title, and he’s going to do it at WrestleMania. And with that, Sami Zayn gets to do his first ever point-to-the-WrestleMania-sign. It’s all I can do not to squeal like a teenage girl at a Tyler Oakley personal appearance. Owens tells Zayn he’s delusional if he thinks he belongs in the same ring as him, and begins to leave until he’s met at the ramp by the Ghost of NXT Past, Neville. Now that Neville’s here we have four competitors, and as the Smackdown Rule Book clearly states, if four or more people are involved in a Miz TV segment it must be made into a Tag Team Match during the commercial break.
Best: Living In A Dream
Sami Zayn and Neville vs. The Miz and Kevin Owens is Sami Zayn’s first match on Smackdown and his first match as an official member of the main roster. It’s fitting that it’s against Kevin Owens due to their history, but it’s also fitting that it’s against The Miz, as The Miz has become the WWE’s front door; you go through him when you first get there. If you’re someone like Zayn or AJ Styles and have “wrestled all over the world,” which is WWE-speak for Ring of Honor or TNA, you must defeat The Miz within your first thirty days to prove you’ve “got what it takes” to be on the main roster. This match was exactly what I wanted it to be. It’s a solid in-ring introduction to Zayn without giving you everything at once, and a nice showcase for Neville. Plus they worked together to do some fun team stuff, like Neville hitting a corkscrew moonsault off of Sami Zayn’s back. It’s two segments long, yet Owens and Zayn never touch each other. They shouldn’t lay another finger on each other until ‘Mania. How refreshing would that be after months of Alberto Del Rio and Kalisto Pay-Per-View matches being built to with lots of RAW and Smackdown Alberto Del Rio and Kalisto matches?
Late in the match, Zayn takes control and puts The Miz through the ringer. Sami does a perfect flying crossbody after spring boarding from the middle of the top rope, then gets Miz in the corner for a ten count of punches, and follows it up with a Tornado DDT. It all leaves The Miz needing to make a tag. Sam stares down Owens, but Kevin’s having none of it. Instead of tagging in he leaps off the ring apron, grabs his belt, and heads toward the ramp, leaving The Miz to get suplexed into the corner by Zayn, and then hit with the Helluva Kick. Zayn and Neville get the win and it looks like all four men head toward each other on the Road to WrestleMania. A lot of people are talking about being disappointed if the Intercontinental Title match at WrestleMania is some sort of four, six, or eight way match, and not a one-on-one between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, but I like it. For two reasons. One – it gets guys like Neville and the Miz out of the Andre the Giant Battle Royale and onto the main card in what could end up being a fairly high profile match. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get guys like Tyler Breeze and Stardust in there. Though that may be real fantasy booking.
Second – Owens and Zayn are just getting rolling on the main roster. If they can stay healthy, they have years to feud with each other over all sorts of titles in all kinds of matches. If you save their first one-on-one WrestleMania match for a year from now in Orlando, it will seem that much more important than if it happens three weeks after Sami’s main roster debut. One way or another, Generico and Steen are going to be in the ring with each other at WrestleMania, and that is still pretty unbelievable. It’s a dream come true for both men, and for me.
Worst: Living In A Nightmare
Winter pays for the summer. The WWE somehow found out that I enjoyed the first half hour of Smackdown too much. So they managed to pack the worst of the worst into one Smackdown segment. A cacophony of horrible. First, The Rock graces us with his almighty presence by turning on his gold-plated iPhone and jumping on Twitter to give us a taste of what I’m looking forward to the least at WrestleMania XXXII. The only way you’re going to see The Rock on Raw or Smackdown over the next three weeks is by them playing clips of his social media account, because The Rock’s Road to WrestleMania only consists of a private jet ride the morning of.
This segues into an announce team plug for the network, which is basically them insinuating that you’re an idiot if you don’t subscribe to the network. Before my blood pressure can come down from The Rock’s tweet, they quickly shoot into a backstage segment with Goldust and R-Truth. If you don’t think this could possibly get worse, you couldn’t be more wrong, because this classic bit takes place in the restroom. Goldust is stuck in a stall, he’s out of toilet paper and not wearing pants for some reason, when R-Truth shows up to make a bunch of poop jokes and offer him toilet paper in exchange for tagging with him. The segment ends with the sound of a toilet flushing, which is the perfect way to lead us into the Raw Rebound. Four minutes of replayed RAW footage that also includes a graphic for the Triple H/Roman Reigns World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania. Just in case Owens and Zayn left you with too much hope earlier.
This is all topped off with the poop cherry on the crap sundae: Brie Bella.
Worst: Off Mode
You know who would make a good first opponent for Lana? Literally anyone other than Brie Bella. Yet they’re headed for a showdown with each other because Lana has a problem with Brie Bella due to unknown reasons. Remember everything we talked about earlier involving Sami Zayn having a reason to be here? The complete opposite is happening with Lana and her feud with Brie Bella. Here, Brie Bella and Summer Rae face off in a rematch from RAW while Lana sits in on commentary and sits on the announce table. The announce team doesn’t understand what Lana’s issue with Brie Bella is, and Lana doesn’t seem to know that either. Because what are the chances Creative even has an answer? Brie makes quick work of Summer in what could best be described as a mercifully short match. The best thing I can say about this segment was that at least Jerry Lawler was able to contain himself. That’s not true; the best thing I can say is at least Lana and Summer Rae are now involved in a storyline that doesn’t insinuate that they’re both whores. That’s a best, right? A sad, sad best.
The WWE has done an amazing job of getting me to like Chris Jericho again. When he first returned earlier this year, he was like the Attitude Era version of Y2J but with Back to the Future style old person makeup. He tried to make “rooty tooty booty” a thing and spoke other nonsense words and terms. Eventually Jericho started talking like a human and I liked him a little better. Then he started wrestling as much as he was talking and things got even better. Then WWE made it so every time I saw Chris Jericho, I also saw AJ Styles, and I actually began to enjoy Chris Jericho again. Now they’ve made it to the next level and I’m actually enjoying hearing him talk again. Jericho comes to the ring with a Y2AJ tee shirt and hangs it on the garbage can that sits in the middle of the ring. Jericho talks about turning on AJ last Monday on RAW because the fans were chanting for AJ instead of him. He rattles off a laundry list of reasons why you should be chanting Y2J instead of AJ Styles, including inventing the Money in the Bank Ladder Match and going seventeen years without an injury. Jericho runs down Styles and the fans that chant his name, picks up a bottle of lighter fluid, pours it in the trashcan and on the Y2AJ shirt, then lights the shirt on fire and tell AJ to watch his career go up in flames. He drops the shirt in the trash can and a fire erupts. We get a fantastic shot of Jericho behind the flames as he pronounces Y2AJ officially over and mockingly chants “AJ Styles.”
The only thing that could have possibly made this better is if the audience had actually been chanting AJ Styles. Jericho did his damnedest to try to get them to, prompting them several times throughout his promo but it never really caught on. Instead some people in the audience were even chanting “Y2J.” All the blame can’t be put on the live crowd though. As you may know, WWE has been known to do quite a bit of manipulation to Smackdown’s audio since it’s a pre-taped show. Why didn’t they give Jericho a hand and lay in a bunch of pre-taped chants for AJ? If Jericho’s promo had been about Roman Reigns it would have sounded like double the audience was chanting his name.
Best: Missing But Not Missed
The Lucha Dragons vs. The League of Nations includes the best possible version of League of Nations: the one where everyone’s out there except Alberto Del Rio. That means no one’s going to be phoning it in tonight. Also Del Rio and Kalisto should never be allowed to be in the same ring at the same time again. Not in a singles match, not in a tag match, not in the Royal Rumble. They’ve wrestled each other to a career-long time limit. Sheamus and Barrett represent the League of Nations inside the ring for this match and they’re advertised to be the two going up against New Day for the belts on Saturday. That’s a little weird because it’s been the combo of Sheamus and Rusev that have been the winning tag team in recent weeks. But I’ll take it since it doesn’t involve Del Rio.
It’s another fun tag match on this week’s Smackdown in the first match at all tonight that I would refer to as “competitive.” The LoN spend the middle of the match in control until Kalisto makes the hot tag to Sin Cara. He flips and flies and gets a nearfall on Barrett that’s broken up by Sheamus. Sheamus picks up Kalisto for what looks to be a slam, but Kalisto gets out of it and pushes Sheamus through the ropes to the floor. Sin Cara then flips Kalisto over his back to the outside of the ring onto Sheamus. Sin Cara knocks down Barrett with a kick and then leaps to the top rope where he is quickly pushed off by Rusev. The referee doesn’t see the interference and must have just assumed Sin Cara tripped and fell off the the top rope since he’s Sin Cara. Barrett hits Sin Cara with the Bull Hammer for the win. League of Nations celebrates their victory while we cut backstage to see Ryback creeping them on the monitor. JoJo shows up to ask Ryback what he thought of the match, and Ryback just talks about how he feels bad for people who are genetically inferior, yet at the same time appreciates their hard work? How did they manage to make Ryback even more confusing?
Your main event this week is Smackdown’s bread and butter; the eight man tag. It’s the Wyatt Family vs. Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, and the Usos, and it was super enjoyable. The majority of these guys work really well together. The last few years of Wyatt weirdness had almost made me forget about those great matches Harper and Rowan had with the Usos. But their chemistry together is still there. Luke Harper and Dolph Ziggler had one of my favorite matches on 2014 at TLC that year, and they do some nice work together again here.
I also like the fact that at no point in the match does Ambrose wrestle Bray. We just don’t need to see that again anytime soon. Everybody takes out everybody else out until the last men standing are Ambrose and Rowan. Rowan attempts a roll-up on Ambrose, somehow managing to rip off Dean’s shirt in the process. Ambrose kicks out, but Rowan catches his with a kick to the gut then attempts a powerbomb. Ambrose slips out, catapults off the ropes, ducks a spinning back kick from Rowan, then catches him in Dirty Deeds. As the referee counts the three, the crowd in the arena counts along with him and then jump to their feet in celebration when Ambrose wins. Ambrose just pinned Eric Rowan in a pointless eight man tag on Smackdown and the crowd is celebrating like he just won the title at WrestleMania. Do you know why that is? It’s because Dean Ambrose is great. Dean Ambrose is a star. You want to see Dean Ambrose win. You just want to see Dean Ambrose period. The audience looks so happy, everything feels so right. But there is a darkness looming in the distance. It’s only a matter of time until Roman returns to Reign on this parade.
Until next week, I’m Justin Donaldson, and I’m already campaigning for Rhyno, though I know nothing about his politics.