The Best And Worst Of Smackdown 11/14/14: An Intercatinental Title Classic

Bring it home for the cats, Tyson.

Pre-show Notes:

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Worst: It Isn’t Your Weekend Cool Dad

What’s Chris Jericho doing back so soon? Jericho’s last few returns may have been pretty disappointing, but at least they were well-timed. Jericho’s a master of letting demand build up and coming back just when a depleted WWE needs him the most – it’s the one area where the old “best in the world at what I do” boast still holds true. Except not anymore I guess, because here he is wandering out on some random Smackdown, wearing a Lite Bright jacket over a skull scarf, over a vest, over a t-shirt, over acid-wash jeans. Jesus.

Anywho, this was a Jericho/Stephanie/Triple H thing, so you know the dynamic. Stephanie came out looking like she was ready to have fun mocking Jericho’s pose in adorable fashion, and Jericho looked old and bored. So, Jericho insulted Steph in boring, limp, PG fashion, because that’s what he does, then Hunter spent the rest of the segment beating Jericho over the head with his dick, because that’s what he does. I like that Hunter is now this ultra-professional guy who will sell his ass off for Brie Bella if need be, and yet he’s still not over the whole “I hate any other guy who had long blonde hair during the Attitude era” thing.

And then the segment just sort of ended. Jericho vaguely threw his support behind Cena’s team, and Triple H threatened to not invite Jericho back for more pointless Smackdown Highlight Reels if he didn’t stop being such a jerk. Soooo yeah – you guys probably could have handled this business in like, two tweets, but why waste 280 characters when you have 15-minutes of unused TV time laying around?

Worst: Main Event Repeats on Smackdown

Ugh. I’ve come to terms with the fact that most of what I watch on Smackdown will be repeated on Raw and then likely repeated again on next week’s Smackdown. Thankfully most of the stuff that happens on Main Event tends to stay there, because come on, what are they doing to do, put Justin Gabriel on Raw? The show’s a little oasis of irrelevance. So, I was not pleased to see Bray Wyatt and Sin Cara in a rematch from Main Event on this show. At least I don’t have to recap that match again – just read what I had to say about the match in the Main Event Best and Worst. In other news, yes, there’s a Main Event Best and Worst and you ought to be reading it.

Worst: This Could Be Pretty Good if it Had a Foundation to Build Upon

As I mentioned last week, I think Wyatt/Ambrose is heading in the right general direction. Bray wanting to “fix” Dean Ambrose makes sense – Bray being out to corrupt/recruit mentally vulnerable people is one of the few consistent, established traits he has. That said, this would’ve been so much better if it was built on something. Anything. Imagine if, say, Dean Ambrose had mentioned his dad even once during his entire time on the main roster. Or if Ambrose had actually seemed like a troubled, directionless guy over the past couple months instead of Mr. Wackypants who hides in giant presents and unironically enjoys Kane horror movies. The storyline might have had some real emotional, dramatic heft to it.

Also, why is Bray trying to recruit Ambrose when he just set Harper and Rowan free? Does he want to increase his flock or not? Update me on this dude’s goals. Most cult leaders would rather have followers drink the special Kool-aid than lose influence over them, or is Bray Wyatt not a cult leader at all? Is he genuinely here to piece mentally damaged people back together? If so, why is he a bad guy?

It’s all very confusing, and it’s not heading anywhere satisfying, because, well, it can’t. Snarky, jeans-wearing Dean Ambrose is now a WWE brand, so whatever Bray wants to do to him won’t stick. It’s like I’ve been saying for months/years – you can’t drop Charlie Manson in the middle of the PG WWE Universe and have it make any sort of sense. There can be no cause and effect, no foundation or payoff. You get excited for a new Bray feud, imagining where it could head in a different company, but there’s no point, because it’s happening in this company. I’m done getting my hopes up.

Worst: The Mega Partiers Explode

Does the current writing team think a tag team needs to break up every time somebody turns heel? Certainly seems so. Rose has attacked the Bunny several times now and none of the turns have stuck, but now it’s time to pull the trigger for real, so here comes Rose and the Bunny as a mismatched tag team! Yup, clearly a tandem destined for a long, fruitful partnership.

Best: Bunny Gets Beat

Admittedly, I did not foresee the Bunny eating the pin at the end of the match. Following in Hornswoggle and Torito’s footsteps, the Bunny is WWE’s current magical cartoon character that never loses so seeing him go down was a genuine surprise and delight. He also took a hell of a bump for Adam Rose’s stupid finisher, which means there’s no going back now! Right? Please?

Best: They’re Accidentally Made Dolph a Likeable Character Again

Wow, this kind of snuck up on me – I think Dolph Ziggler might be my favorite WWE babyface right now. That’s no small feat considering the fact he may have been my least favorite WWE face as recently as a month ago.

I don’t think they did this on purpose. WWE rarely does good things on purpose. I suspect the logic trail went something like this – Lesnar-related circumstances forced WWE to promote an actual Survivor Series tag match as the main event of Survivor Series. Gross. They needed something to make five random guys wrestling another five random guys seem important, so they pulled Cena vs. The Authority for control of the company out of their asses. But that scenario totally benefits Cena since pretty much everyone (aside from Kane and Seth Rollins) want The Authority out of power. Can’t have the babyface team go into the PPV with an advantage, so they’re doing this storyline where nobody will join Cena because they fear Authority reprisal. Of course that doesn’t work unless you actually show the Authority victimizing somebody, and who better for that role than Dolph Ziggler? No great loss if he’s beaten up on every show.

So, Ziggler is where he is right now due to chance and necessity, but somehow it’s working for him. The smug, self-serving Ziggler we know has been replaced by a guy nobly standing up for a cause in the face of adversity. All the aimless rebelliousness he spouts is actually being directed at something concrete for once. Oh, and hey, he keeps overcoming The Authority’s stacked odds like an actual competent pro wrestler. If WWE keeps this up they might just go and get this guy over again.

Best: Holy Sh*t, This Match

Speaking of reasons to like Dolph Ziggler, holy moly, we interrupt your regularly scheduled boring Smackdown for 20-minutes of unremitting wrestling awesomeness. Ziggler, Cesaro and Tyson Kidd in an elimination match for the IC title was fantastic. A serious WWE match of the year candidate, and one of the best triple threats I’ve seen in a long ass time.

There was no “one guy takes a nap outside while the other two guys have a regular singles match” lazy business here – all three guys were almost constantly in the ring, and yet things never felt crowded or awkward. The level of timing on display here was astounding. Oh, and I’ve been getting on Cesaro a bit recently for not working up to his ability, but man, the dude was unleashed tonight. Cesaro had two little bouncy guys to work with here and he took full advantage of it, suplexing, uppercutting, and yes, even swinging the shit out of them.

There were too many creative, badass moments in this match to mention. Tyson Blockbustering Cesaro onto Ziggler’s knees. Tyson headscissoring Ziggler into the stairs. This whole sequence…

Cesaro got eliminated around two-thirds of the way through, and somehow the match just got better. I was with ever nearfall, and legitimately thought Tyson Kidd was going to win the Intercontinental Championship. Imagine typing that sentence even just a month ago. This was the kind of balls out, “what the hell, let’s just have a great match” stuff Smackdown used to be known for. Go out of your way to catch it.

Best: Holy Sh*t, This Match Part 2

Damn, what the hell is going on here? This Smackdown followed up one of the best triple threats in ages, with one of the best main roster Divas matches I’ve seen in a while. Natalya/Layla kicked into a different gear early when Layla accidentally put a little too much mustard on a forearm, and from that point on these girls were just belting the sassafras out of one another.

Eventually Layla boots Natalya out of the ring, and suddenly Nattie goes full Grumpy Cat, slaps Summer, tosses SummerLay into each other then she bulls Layla into the sharpshooter and wins. Takin’ care o’ bidness. After the match SummerLay are left cowering at the very sight of Natalya. This is who Nattie should be – a little bulldog (a little sexy bulldog) the rest of the the ladies’ locker room is afraid of because she’s got a chip on her shoulder and will beat you the f*ck down. Just look at how happy she looks like when she’s allowed to look like a competent wrestler and rough somebody up. Let Nattie be Nattie.

Worst: Feed Me Monotony

Let’s keep the great matches coming! What’s next? Ryback vs. Kane? Oh…oh dear.

This was about as dull as a decently paced match featuring two able-bodied wrestlers could be. There was just nothing happening here – no real story or build to anything. Ryback would hit a couple moves then Kane would hit a couple moves, back and forth, back and forth for eight-minutes until it was time for the shitty DQ ending.

Ryback’s big, yells a lot, moves around fast and does other “intense” things, but nothing he does feels visceral. None of his moves really feel like they have any impact. I’m pretty sure Nattie and Layla have significantly more bumps and bruises from their match than these two “monsters” have from theirs. Not even Ryback mangling a chair over Kane’s back after the match could rouse my interest.

Worst: No Thanks

Why are you guys standing so close? Take a big step back. Don’t you threaten me with a Triple H/Ryback feud, WWE. Don’t you dare.