The Best And Worst Of WWE Smackdown 10/29/15: Boo-Lieve That

Renee Young Boo Dallas

Pre-show notes:

– Wait, is this the blue show? Hi, everybody. Brandon here. I’m gonna be taking over the Smackdown report going forward, which should be great news for anyone who wanted to be incredibly pessimistic and preachy about TWO multi-hour primetime WWE shows per week. If you aren’t familiar with me, I anchor the Best and Worst of Raw report and also run the rest of the site. I like battle royals, Shield and Nexus reunion fantasy bookings and anything new, but only for the first couple of weeks.

With Spandex is on Twitter, so follow it. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter.

– If you want me to keep doing these and not just make keyboard-based wanking motions in the weekly spoilers column, click these buttons and share this around.

And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown for October 29, 2015.

Best: Wyatt Bar Mitzvah, Spooky Scary

This week’s show opens with the Wyatt Family going full Disney’s Haunted Mansion, standing shoulder-to-shoulder to deliver scary snippets of dialogue we’re assumedly riding past on a Doombuggy. Bray is introducing the, “Face the Fear Challenge,” which is a lot like the White Boy Challenge, except the white boys who accept it have to wrestle sheep.

The most interesting thing about it — besides the fact that it’s a Bray promo that gets to the point and takes it home in like two minutes, which simultaneously feels like a revelation and a vacation — is that Wyatt is in possession of not only The Demon Kane’s hair-mask, but The Undertaker’s hat. Kane’s mask I get, but where’d he get that hat? They beat up Taker and carried him away after his match with Lesnar at Hell in a Cell. He wasn’t wearing a hat. Did Bray send Rowan back out to find it? Did Bray just go out and buy a similar hat to make a point? Does Undertaker just magically create those things? I mean, we’ve seen him as a flying bat and the Phantom of the Opera, his clothing could be a shape-shifter situation where they just grow out of him as an extension of his mood. Or hell, maybe they just brainwashed him into letting them into his house and rummaged through his closet.

You want to read five more paragraphs about how I think Bray Wyatt procured a fancy hat, right?

Best/Worst: Kevin Owens Vs. The Shadow Of John Cena

I like that when Kevin Owens first showed up, they established a character motivation for him — “jaded, pessimistic Canadian Dad who has low expectations for everything and is pissed off enough to try to change them, but doesn’t actually believe in himself enough to stick with it” — and feuded him with the living, breathing reason for that: John Cena. That was the hook with Owens/Zayn, too. Owens tries hard and thinks he’s awesome, but he’s constantly confronted with the truth that he’s never been able to make it or enact change on his own. He only made it to NXT because of his relationship with Zayn, who he immediately had to crush and end to justify his spot. He picked on Alex Riley, the lowest hanging fruit in the history of wrestling, and just kinda vaguely feuded with everyone to stay as incognito as possible and not face any real, direct challenges. He eventually ran into Finn Bálor, got his ass kicked, got his ass kicked again and left NXT. He shows up on Raw, beats up Cena and actually DEFEATS HIM CLEAN, but Cena instantly negates it. “You’re not a man!” It doesn’t make any f*cking sense whatsoever, but it hits Owens where he hurts the most: it makes his brain go, “you know what? I’m not a man. I couldn’t get it done.” So he lowered his standards and went after the least prestigious championship in WWE.

The rub, though, is that Owens WANTS to be the best, and feels like he deserves it, even when Kevin Owens is saying he doesn’t. That’s a real, complex emotion. It’s why we sabotage ourselves all the time at work or in relationships. We work hard to get the thing we want, then doubt ourselves and f*ck around until it blows up in our faces. He came very close to becoming #1 contender to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on Raw, but who stopped him at the last minute? A guy with zero confidence issues, born giant and muscular and handsome to a famous family and grandfathered into WWE stardom. A guy who doesn’t give a sh*t about anything, but wins anyway.

A guy who says corny stuff like this: “I don’t know, Phoenix, sounds like a bunch of excuses to me! You over here talkin’ about luck, the way I beat you was so pretty, there ain’t no luck involved with that, that was straight skill, son!”

The match continues to tell that story. If he’d just stay in there and wrestle, Owens could beat Roman. If he couldn’t, he could at least get really close. Instead, he tries to bail when the going gets tough. Roman runs out and throws him back in, and Owens CONTINUES TO DO WELL. But later, when the going gets tough again, Owens chooses to take a countout loss instead of trying to win. He loses because of his own crippling self-doubt, and his internal belief that he’s never gonna be “the guy” in WWE no matter what he does, because he is and looks like what he is and looks like, and Roman is Roman.

That’s a really great character study, but also another wishy-washy intentional count-out loss for a heel that doesn’t make anyone look good, so you take the good with the bad.

Best Ever: Boo Dallas

From the August 24 edition of The Best and Worst of Raw:

Becky Lynch mentions ghosts when she’s rambling off the different character types Divas are as good as, so why not bring Bo back as a ghost? He’s already dressed in all white, just throw some powder in his face and give him some Junkyard Dog chains and you’re set. He doesn’t even have to be scary, he can be friendly. Instead of “Bo,” he can say “boo.” All you have to do is BOO-LIEVE. Bring in Christina Ricci to guest host and have them fall in love. It writes itself, people.

Don’t get me wrong, “Bo” to “Boo” on Halloween isn’t the kind of joke that you can’t get to independently, I’m just happy it finally happened. Bo Dallas spends the entirety of Smackdown as Boo Dallas, his greatest character side-piece since Mr. NXT, and tries to scare everyone with gentle boos. Watch him hop up behind Renee and yell “boo!” like he’s a puppy. I love Bo Dallas so much, even the dead version.

Even the payoff is fun, with Boo finally succeeding in scaring someone — Mark Henry — and getting punched in the face. Mark’s “made me drop my DAMN PHONE” and “gave me a damn heart attack” really bring it home.

Now that he’s wrapped in a sheet and trapped in a crate, I want a segment where Bo wakes up and discovers he’s been mailed back to OVW.

Best: Unicorns, Pumpkins, White Guy Commentary Voices And Tag Team Wrestling

Continuing this weirdly wonderful episode of Smackdown is a fatal fourway tag team match — fatal eight-way? I guess you’re still only going in one of four ways — with The New Day on commentary. Also, they’re wearing unicorn horns on headbands. ALSO, they hijack commentary completely and call the match in their best black comedian white guy voices. “We know this maneuver!” What’s funny is that Kofi and Big E f*cking around was legitimately better match commentary than Lawler and Booker. Just leave Rich Brennan out there and have Kofi and E ridicule him for two hours. It’d be one of those accidentally constructive moments like when you send out King Barrett to say “all hail King Barrett” during throwaway undercard matches and he accidentally gets everyone over.

The match itself was a lot of fun, too, with Sin Cara being on top of his game (for once) and Kalisto continuing to be the guy I’d love most if I was still 15 years old. I would be SO INTO Kalisto. That outside-in version of the Salida del Sol is money, and somehow improved the best WWE finish named after a Fallout location. Sin Cara should start calling his swanton the “Paradise Falls.”

Anyway, the Lucha Dragons get a surprise win, and the New Day are excited about it, which is interesting (and super funny). They do the lucha dance and call the announce team the Halloween equivalents of Scrooge. I want them to be on TV and improv-scream at people for as long as wrestling continues to exist.

Best: The Goofy Holiday Street Fight, Always

So yeah, whenever there’s a major holiday, particularly Halloween or Thanksgiving or Christmas, WWE sets up these ridiculous and routinely wonderful holiday-themed hardcore matches. You’ve probably seen a Miracle on 34th Street Fight before, so you know how this goes. They put a bunch of pumpkins around the ring, paint a kendo stick to look like candy corn, provide a Bobbing For Apples station for wacky spots and create scenarios in which Miz thinks he’s gonna defeat Dolph Ziggler with a toy lightsaber. They’re dumb as hell and almost uniformly meaningless, but if you watch them and hate them you might have a lump of coal where your heart’s supposed to be. Or the Halloween equivalent of coal. Mary Janes. You have Mary Janes in your heart.

Best: Look Everyone, It’s Tyler! And He’s, Uh, Winning?

After the match, Tyler Breeze shows up and tries to attack Ziggler, who sells the hell out of the leg and creates one of those ideal Ziggler scenarios in which he’s an injured underdog trying to pull off a desperation win. Ziggler is never, ever better than when he’s doing that. It’s the reason they keep trying to turn him face, despite literally every other aspect of his existence screams “heel.” Ziggler’s wrestling ability is almost working against him.

Anyway, Breeze attacks him in the leg with the candy corn cane (the candy cane?), and we’re legitimately two weeks into Tyler Breeze looking like a threat on main-roster WWE TV. I’m happy, but I’m confused. I’m so used to Tyler as an NXT afterthought who is GREAT, but only exists to make everyone else look better. Is Breeze the anti-NXT call-up? Usually they go from being tough and cool to being helpless nerds. Did Breeze go from being a helpless nerd to being cool and tough? Let’s … let’s keep this going, everybody. KEEP IT GOING.

Worst: How Short Does Tom Phillips Want Us To Think He Is, I Mean Seriously

Tyler Breeze is billed as being 6-feet tall, which is generous. Summer Rae is 5-foot-10. Tom Phillips is supposed to also be 6-feet tall. Watch this clip and see how they line up. Summer’s taller than Tyler, and they’re both TOWERING over Tom. Tom’s notorious for going splits-out in these interviews to make the wrestlers look bigger, but this is ridiculous. Is Summer Rae supposed to be like 6-8?

Worst: Those Fake-Ass Boos For Sasha Banks

Here’s something you wouldn’t have expected WWE to book: Natalya loses to Paige when Team B.A.D. causes a distraction. Whoops!

The spooky Halloween mystery of “Who attacked Natalya?” (followed closely by the secondary mystery, “who the f*ck cares”) continues. Sasha Banks and Her Amazing Friends show up to rub it in and make fun of her, then beat her up. The Smackdown crowd boos mercilessly, which is interesting because all of the crowd shots feature people standing and clapping. Sh*t like this is why I don’t usually sit through the taped shows. I get that there’s a value in re-editing your history to make it look like Steve Austin cut that Austin 3:16 promo and instantly created a boom period that made WWE #1 THEN NOW FOREVER or whatever, but the organic response of a crowd at a wrestling show is really all we have left, you know? If you make the crowd do or say things they aren’t doing or saying, you’re compromising the one truly “real” thing about wrestling. Your job is to run the show and write stories that cause the crowds at your shows to react the way you want. Writing in spite of them and changing it in post is lazy bullsh*t. Besides, when Sasha turns up on Raw next week she’s gonna get cheered. Do you honestly think anyone’s watching Smackdown and forming their opinions on how the laugh track reacts?

Worst: Welcome Back, Meaningless Alberto Del Rio Midcard Matches

Now we’ve officially entered the “second hour of Raw” portion of Smackdown, with the regressive-ass Divas match and Alberto Del Rio wrestling R-Truth. Raise your hand if you missed Del Rio beating up the WWE roster’s lost souls every week. Anybody? Anybody?

As much as I want to like Del Rio (especially after the second half of season one of Lucha Underground), I don’t have very high hopes for any of this. With Cena already having a return date announced, there’s a 100% chance Del Rio will just tread wrestling’s stalest water for a month and a half until Big Match John returns and starts Leg 3 of his U.S. Open Challenge. Then we’ll have nerfed it as much as possible by having two guys who didn’t need the belt or a rub being the only two guys who could beat him, and this continued narrative that he’s running these matches as a humanitarian effort, and not just having good matches with great wrestlers he can beat.

Damn, that was pessimistic as hell. Can we get back to the pumpkin spots and Bo Dallas in a sheet? I don’t like what these Del Rio/R-Truth matches do to me. They both should’ve morphed into King Barrett mid-match and Bullhammer Elbowed each other so hard they exploded like dead Mega Men.

Best: CESARO In All Caps, And Braun Strowman As Doomsday

Okay, this is more like it.

Dean Ambrose assembles a team of the strongest, baldest men he can find for the Face The Fear Challenge, teaming with Cesaro and Ryback against The Wyatt Family. If you want to know how the match was, imagine a really good Shield/Wyatts six-man. Now add in one of those Royal Rumble moments where two beefy monster guys are in the ring eliminating everybody and suddenly turn and notice each other. That plus that equals this. You’ve got Ambrose and Cesaro throwing themselves into everything that happens, offensively or defensively, and Ryback getting tough guy showcase spots with Braun Strowman. It’s great. At one point Ryback charges in from off-screen and tackles Strowman over the announce table, and it’s the best Ryback moment in ages. That guy should be booked like a locomotive. It’s easy to not get on the track, but if you get in front of him he’s gonna run your ass over.

Cesaro is particularly brilliant here, which is not a unique analysis. On top of being Cesaro, he’s figured out how to milk the pace of a WWE-style match, so he’s speeding around doing the Daniel Bryan pinball thing but stopping to make big eyes and hold out his arms. WWE crowds need those punctuation marks to let what they’ve just seen sink in, and let them react. It’s why almost every Shawn Michaels match is him doing something cool, then punching for five minutes before doing anything else. He knows how to do it. Cesaro’s getting there.

I like everybody in this. The Wyatts are so much better as a foursome than as a splintered threesome, and Dean Ambrose is one of the best wrestlers in the world when he’s asked to be a cool, fun wrestler and not a f*cking idiot who falls for spooky ghost traps and exploding televisions. WWE should devote at least a quarter of every show to letting cool wrestlers be cool wrestlers. That way when it’s time for them to stumble into a story about bayou kidnappings or whatever, we give a sh*t about it. We aren’t just trying to sit through it to get to the parts where they get to be cool again.

Anyway, great show this week. I will remain confident that Smackdown will always be this fun, and will never be hours four and five of Raw again. Yep.

(Do this for me, WWE.)