Hey, Blue Team.
Last week I challenged the creative team behind Smackdown to not do the same tropes that they do week in and week out. I tuned into this week’s show to find that they had failed. This week’s show features a lot of new and creative stuff sandwiched between the same old same old.
If this isn’t enough of me talking about wrestling for you for one week, then boy do I have a treat for you. I’m the guest on this week’s You Should Love Wrestling Podcast. It’s an awesome podcast from the group Local Business Comedy. They’re the guys that turned Yeezus into a Christmas album a few years back. Two of their three members love wrestling, but the third guy hates it. Each week they bring in a guest to help them convince their friend that he should wrestling too. This week, I’m that guest, and I had an absolute blast being on the show.
And now without further ado, here is The Best and Worst of Smackdown for May 5, 2016.
Best: Miz And Jericho, Truth-Tellers
This past Monday on Raw, Stephanie McMahon sent the Wrecking Ball to the Asylum by announcing that she was officially bringing back Chris Jericho and his highlight reel. This ended with Jericho hitting Dean Ambrose with a plant he had named Mitch. Or as Mauro Ranallo said, “Dean Ambrose found out that life’s a Mitch.” That line must have been fed to him by Michael Cole in his headset, right? Anyway, a few days later, Smackdown kicks off with Jericho making his way to the ring for the first Highlight Reel of the New Era. Before bringing out his guest, Jericho himself talks about what he did to Ambrose, and brings up some really good points. Jericho says that when Ambrose first started to tangle with him, Dean thought it was okay to be wacky, zany, and funny, but things have become serious now that Jericho has hit him with a plant. Take out the part about the plant, and Jericho is right. Wacky, zany, and funny (also the names of the little people on the team Jerry Lawler put together for the 1994 Survivor Series) have their place in wrestling. They’re all great qualities in Dean Ambrose, and qualities that were had by the other “loos cannons” that Ambrose gets compared to often, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Brian Pillman. You can be as wacky, zany, and funny as you want to be, as long as you take your opponent seriously. And that is a silly string drawn line that Ambrose sometimes crosses. Someone needs to teach Ambrose that lesson and now it looks like Dad is home to do just that.
Jericho’s guest this week is Sami Zayn, who just so happens to be the arch enemy of Jericho’s new BFF, Kevin Owens. Chris calls Sami a sore loser for attacking Kevin after their match at Payback, and a dirty thief for holding up the Intercontinental Title when it doesn’t belong to him. This all leads to Jericho putting on his most professional wrestler voice ever to ask Sami Zayn what kind of person he is. Sami says he thinks he’s a pretty good person, and to prove it he insults Jericho’s scarf in the nicest way possible. Sami says he didn’t attack Owens because he lost, he attacked him because Owens continued to beat him up after their match. Zayn starts to talk about the IC Title, but I CAME TO PLAY! and out comes The Miz and Maryse. Sami doesn’t look happy to see them, and neither does Jericho. The Miz doesn’t take too kindly to Sami touching his belt this past Monday and warns him not to do it again. Sami immediately touched the belt again and Jericho starts calling out The Miz to do something about it. Jericho says if someone touched his $15,000 jacket the way Sami just touched The Miz’ Title, he would do something about it. Of course Sami makes fun of the jacket, leading to Jericho throwing a fit and leaving. The Miz then cuts a great promo on Sami about not showing him enough respect, and Sami immediately disrespects him by touching the Title once again. The Miz is fuming at this point, but he’s not as big of a dick as Roman Reigns, so instead of punching Sami in the face, he just angrily looks at him. This all leads to Sami kind of challenging him to a match and Maryse kind of accepting.
Everybody did a great job with the material here, and most of the material was good. But the character of Sami Zayn seemed a little off-model to me. I just don’t see Sami as a disrespectful guy. He comes off as one of the most respectful people on the roster. But I guess that now that he’s on the main roster, he has to slowly transform into a weird dick with all the other babyfaces. This wasn’t too bad, it also wasn’t on the dick-level of Roman Reigns, but let’s be careful, okay? If WWE is having trouble painting Sami Zayn as anything other than a nice respectful dude, then what chance do the other good guys have of ever looking that way.
Best: These Guys
After the commercial break, Sami Zayn vs. The Miz is made official and that match starts right now. We have seen Sami and Miz wrestle each other a lot on Smackdown these past couple months, but they never disappoint. The same could be said here while it lasted. It starts off with a couple of wrist locks, then a bunch of Sami Zayn arm drags. Man, I love Sami’s arm drags. Best arm drags in WWE today by a long shot. He could do a twenty minute match with just arm drags and I would be a happy man. If Smackdown is going to do the same thing over and over and over again, that thing may as well be something beautiful like a Sami Zayn arm drag. Anyway, things go back and forth for a few minutes until Zayn hits Miz with a stiff looking lariat then clothesline him over the top rope to the outside. Miz pulls Sami out, runs him into the ring apron, then attempts to throw him into the barricade. But Sami jumps up on the barricade and comes off with a moonsault.
Once back in the ring, Kevin Owens’ music hits and out he comes. Kevin is running about twenty minutes late for his second job as a WWE Commentator. I love Kevin Owens on commentary, but he does it so often these days that they fired Rich Brennan because there wasn’t a need for both of them. We cut to another commercial break and when we get back, The Miz has the upper hand. He comes off the top rope with a double axe handle, then attempts the Skull Crushing Finale, but Sami turns it into a victory roll. Eventually both men end up on the outside and Surprise Surprise (note to reader, Surprise Surprise should be read with enough sarcasm to power a thousand suns), Sami and Kevin end up staring each other down because The Guy You’re Feuding With Doing Commentary During Your Match, Then You Getting Distracted By Him is the Smackdown equivalent of Norm having a beer on Cheers. Sami and Miz get back in the ring and Owens immediately follows with an attack on Zayn. Soon Cesaro hits the ring and takes out everybody with upper cuts, including on that gets away from him and hits Sami. Cesaro tries to swing The Miz, but Maryse holds onto him. This all leads to Cesaro grabbing the IC Title.
Once again, everyone involved does a great job. Great wrestling, great commentary, great Cesaro. But once again, it’s more of the same. The same thing we see on Smackdown week after week. Opening Interview Segment Turns Into A Match — check. The Guy You’re Feuding With Doing Commentary During Your Match, Then You Getting Distracted By Him — check. Intercontinental Champion Losing A Non-Title Match — check. You have amazing talent out there, some of the top people in their fields, they came do anything. But unfortunately, the WWE can only come up with a few things for them to do. The same few things week after week. The Flintstones writers came up with a thousand Stone Age puns, but you can’t come up with more than ten things for wrestlers to do? To quote the great Steve Austin, “WHAT!?”
Best: Another Kind Of Old School
The Vaudevillains are up next against Social Outcast members Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. This whole segment reminded me of something we would have seen on a 1991 episode of Superstars, and I love it. First off, we get on of those great old school pre-tape interviews played in a little box as the Vaudevillains make their way to the ring. This promo is spot on perfect. They do another great job of explaining who they are, why they’re here, and what they plan on doing. They say that three clowns have been masquerading as Tag Team Champions, but the Vaudevillains represent a time when men were men, and champions were respectable. They say that at Extreme Rules, they will turn back the clock on New Day and ensure that the New Era represents the values of a bygone era. The interview makes these guys look badass. Then they follow it up by looking just as badass in the match, which is pretty much a squash, but that’s okay. We need more segments like this. We need more squash matches. The commentary team also does an excellent job of selling The ‘Villains. Jerry Lawler points out that a lot of rough tactics went on in the era that the Vaudevillains represent, and Byron Saxton follows up by talking about how impressive their main roster accomplishments have been. It’s like they were played back Michael Cole and JBL’s work trying to get over The Ascension and were told to do the opposite. This all works great. The Vaudevillains look like a real threat to New Day or any team that WWE has to offer.
After the match, Big Cass comes out for some smack talk and to drop a catchphrase. Then jumps into the ring to avenge Enzo by taking on both Vaudevillains by himself. The ‘Villains get the jump on him, but Cass fights back and eventually sends them packing. By building up the Vaudevillains for the first half of the segment, Cass looks like a monster when he can hold his own against both of them. That’s wrestling math, and it always works. Two plus two will always equal four. WWE should be doing this kind of stuff all the time. No one would be impressed if Cass took out both members of The Ascension as Cole and JBL laugh at them. The segment ends with The Vaudevillains escaping and Curtis Axel coming into the ring to join Cass in the role of Enzo, taunting The ‘Villains who are outside on the floor. Cass doesn’t take too kindly to this and gives Curtis an East River Crossing. Cass looks great, The Vaudevillains look great, and Curtis Axel is on television. Everybody wins.
Best: The Women’s Tag Team Revolution
Becky Lynch and Natalya vs. Emma and Charlotte is up next, but before the match can start, Mauro Ranallo has to refer to Becky Lynch as Becky with the good hair. There’s no way he know’s what that means. Is Michael Cole in Mauro’s headset feeding him misused pop culture references to try to torpedo him so he can’t take his job? Once we get past that, we have a pretty solid tag team match. The beginning of the match had Charlotte and Emma in control for most of it, and mostly against Natalya. I like Charlotte a lot, but the more we see her wrestle, the more her green-ness shows. It’s a lot easier to hide that stuff on NXT when you are only on TV wrestling once a month. Now that she is wrestling on TV up to three times a week, it starts to get a little noticeable. But I don’t want to throw too much shade her way because she continues to improve all the time and is still a better wrestler than 98% of the women who were in WWE from 2002 — last year.
I also think it’s easier to notice those things when her partner is Emma and Emma is wrestling on another level. One of my favorite things in WWE as of late has been when Emma gets nasty. There’s a point in this match where Emma grabs Nattie’s hair while she puts her foot on the back of Nattie’s calf, then plows her face into the mat. Emma follows this up with a Ground and Pound. It’s as if all those matches against Asuka has made her fear no one. Natalya eventually tags in Becky, who unloads on Emma. It’s at this point that Mauro says Becky is “treating Emma like an internet troll.” I’m onto you, Michael Cole! On the flipside of the commercial break, Charlotte and Emma are dominating again, but this time it’s over Becky. Nattie gets the hot tag and it looks like she has the match won once she has Charlotte in the sharpshooter. But Flair manages to make the tag to Emma who almost gets the pin, but it’s broken up by Becky. Nattie gets the sharpshooter on Emma and she taps out.
Best: Different Is Good, Even If It’s Crazy
This next segment is one of the weirdest things I’ve seen on WWE this year, and I’ve seen every Golden Truth segment, I’ve watched every episode of the Edge & Christian Show, and about five minutes of Swerved. Out of absolutely nowhere, Darren Young returns to WWE television in a segment that is so doomed to fail, WWE didn’t even upload a video of it to their YouTube channel. That means, they couldn’t even waste the time of an unpaid intern dragging and dropping a video file onto YouTube so they can make free money off the ad revenue. This thing is practically nonexistent. Darren Young comes on the screen and in a roundabout way says he’s looking for a life coach. And then says there’s a person he needs in his life, and that it’s Bob Backlund. The image then goes into a split screen and Bob Backlund appears on the other side of the screen. Darren Young asked Bob is he will be his life coach, and Bob says yes, but thinks Darren is asking him if he’ll be his wrestling coach. Darren Young says he doesn’t need a wrestling coach, he needs a life coach. Bob Backlund says that he’s never been a life coach before, but as his life coach, the first rule is “Wrestling is life!” And then a graphic comes on the screen that says “Make Darren Young Great Again.”
This was amazing, and even if it was really weird and out of the blue and made no sense, it was great because it was definitely something I’ve never seen before. And my interest is peaked. I could see this ending up being one of those things that we see one time and they never acknowledge again, like Fryer Ferguson or Xanta Klaus. Or this could turn into a really cool thing. Either way, I’m entertained.
Best: Rusev Crush Again
Rusev and Zack Ryder go hard for two minutes and it’s great. It felt like both men had something to prove and were there to win. That’s my favorite kind of wrestling. Ryder wrestles so smart here. He gets the jump on Rusev as the bell rings. Rusev rolls out of the ring, but Ryder knows he has stunned him. So he follows him out and stays on Rusev, pushing him into the ring post. Back in the ring, we see a giant bump on Rusev’s head from the ring post shot. Rusev hits Zack with some impressive suplexes, then locks him in with the Accolade for the win. Kalisto comes out and stuff happens after the match, but you’re better off pretending that didn’t happen, and instead let’s go out on the image of Rusev looking like a strong competitor again.
Best: A Turning Point
Year’s from now when the WWE puts out the Golden Truth Anthology DVD, I think this week’s backstage bit will be look upon as a turning point. It’s the first time that Goldust and R-Truth show signs of being able to work together as a team. Goldust beatboxes for R-Truth to dance to. It all ends in a challenge for a match next week and some dancing. Next week it’s Gold-Dango vs. The Gorgeous Truth. This is my WrestleMania.
Worst: They Did It Again
It wouldn’t be a true episode of Smackdown if it didn’t end just like Raw. Smackdown is famous for taking a match that happened on that week’s Raw and doing it again, but with extra people added to it. This week they shake things up by taking the main event from Raw and moving two of the participants slightly to the side. Then they just end up doing the same match that main evented Raw.
The main event was scheduled to be The Usos vs. Anderson & Gallows, but after some backstage segments earlier in the night, now AJ and Roman are going to be at ringside. We get a few minutes into the match when Surprise Surprise (note to reader, that should be read with somehow even more sarcasm than the Surprise Surprise from earlier), Roman Reigns and AJ Styles get involved in the match and all hell breaks loose. When we get back from commercial, the Smackdown mystery GM has turned this into a six-man tag. And now it’s the same main event that Raw had. The match is perfectly fine, but completely lacks the intrigue and excitement of the Raw match. There’s no big moment here like the one on Raw where Gallows and Anderson are holding Reigns and they want AJ to hit him with a chair. And there’s no element of surprise because I know nothing big happens. I didn’t read any spoilers, but I knew going into tonight’s show that nobody turned heel and Balor didn’t show up because neither of those things happened on this week’s Raw, and if it didn’t happen on Raw it can’t main event Smackdown.
Until next week, I’m Justin Donaldson and I had no idea Santino Marella was still employed by WWE.