Not so hyped for TLC? Dean’s with you.
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Worst: No Future
Well damn, they must be worried about TLC & S, because here’s Johnny C to make one of his half-dozen yearly Smackdown appearances. Thankfully before Cena could get more than 10 words into the usual song and dance about how his opponent doesn’t know who he’s dealing with and how he’s gonna fight, fight, fight come Sunday, Rollins interrupted him to point out, rightfully, what a tired spiel this is. Unfortunately Rollins’ own spiel was pretty tiresome in it’s own right – he’s the future, John Cena’s time is at an end, winning the title is his destiny and so on. An Alberto Del Rio promo with fewer perros and gringos.
Cena wasn’t done yet though, oh no. Once Rollins was out of breath, Cena did that classic Cena thing where he unilaterally declares that X will happen if his opponent loses. If you don’t beat me in Hell in a Cell, nobody will respect you CM Punk! If you don’t beat me in a Last Man Standing match it will prove you’re a fraud, Bray Wyatt! If you don’t beat me in a tables match it will prove you’re not ready for the main event, Seth Rollins! It’s the most shitty, passive-aggressive thing Cena does, and worse, none of his opponents ever push back once John makes these pronouncements. Instead they grit their teeth and stomp their feet like, “You’re a dork loser who can’t hang if you lose LOL” is a real stipulation they’re contractually bound to accept. And hey, what’s good for the Goose and all – if Cena loses to Rollins, he’s now the dweeb who can’t hang, right? Haha, of course not.
After laying down the gauntlet, Cena turned on the shouty, voice-cracking intensity. WWE is his LIFE (I suppose it’s just a hobby to Seth Rollins) and he’s survived everyone from René Dupree to The Rock because of heart and guts and passion (and preferential booking). The future is not now, the future isn’t Sunday, the future isn’t next year, because JOHN CENA IS HERE. That’s right, John Cena isn’t going to let the inevitable march of time itself get over at his expense. No future. Throw away your calendars, we tell time by John Cena shirt colors now.
Worst: The Chode Warriors
Welp, the first main roster hype video for The Ascension debuted on Smackdown and they’re The Road Warriors. I mean, like even more than before. They now have big crazy shoulder pads and paint their faces, they snack on danger and dine on death. I guess it’s really the only thing to do with these guys, and who knows, it might work – Hawk and Animal relied pretty heavily on the gimmick themselves. We’ll see if The Ascension turn out the be weasels or weasel handlers I ‘spose.
Worst: The First Half of The Usos vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd
Hey, wait, a fresh-ish match in the WWE tag division? One that involves Cesaro and Tyson Kidd? This could be pretty good! Oh wait, no, Miz and Sandow are doing guest commentary, so this segment isn’t about dumb ol’ wrestling. Sure enough, it was impossible to actually pay attention to the match, because Cole wouldn’t stop being belligerent about the whole Naomi thing. Speaking of which, according to Miz, Naomi actually got her screen test and apparently it went well! So, there’s no way Miz isn’t the good guy now, right? This man who walks around selflessly volunteering his own time to give chances to unappreciated talents? In the past year Miz has legitimately plucked both Damien Sandow and Naomi from obscurity and given them the greatest opportunity to shine of their WWE careers. But no, you’re right Cole, Miz is human garbage. Totally.
Minor Best as usual to Damien Sandow for being wonderful. His tiny, stunt Slammy was adorable and heartbreaking, and him mimicking Miz talking on the phone was hilarious, because people fake talking on the phone is always funny. But why is Miz helping Damien Sandow? What does he REALLY want? Hmmm!
Best: The Second Half of The Usos vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd
Around halfway through Miz and Sandow left the commentary booth to go engage in some backstage drama, allowing me to pay attention to the match again, and hey, I was right! It was good! Cesaro was throwing crazy belly-to-belly suplexes and uppercuts and the finishing sequence was some hot stuff. I really hope Cesaro & Tyson continue to be a thing, because they’re just the kick in the ass the tag division needs.
Best: The Miz Making Things Better With ACTING
Don’t look now folks, but I think this Naomi storyline just got good. Yeah, I didn’t see it coming either. Miz approaches Naomi backstage and she accuses him of having ulterior motives, and I thought for sure Miz was getting slapped, because stand by your emotionally abusive man, right? But no, Miz drops some hard entertainment industry truths on her – nothing’s happening for her in WWE, opportunities in music and Hollywood are incredibly rare, and drama isn’t tolerated, so Naomi needs to shape up and take this seriously. So, Naomi’s all “damn, huh, maybe you’re right” and then Miz lowers the sincerity boom on her, telling her he really thinks she’s talented, he really does and it’s not about her husband. Miz put some legit acting stank on the line, and it was actually really effective.
Within the span of a two-minute backstage segment this went from being a dumb, dated, “Don’t talk to my woman or I’ll punch you!” thing, to a storyline with some depth, legit characters, real dilemmas and an unpredictable outcome, and that’s all thanks to the Miz. This guy has been operating on a different level for most of 2014 – he’s even turning shitty Divas romance angles into gold.
So yeah, either Miz is still playing the long con, in which case he’s the biggest turd ever for pulling out that “I really think you’re talented” stuff, or more interestingly, he might be legitimately be a good, mid-western kid under the smug surface, and Jimmy Uso becomes the bad guy for trying to quash Naomi’s dreams. Honestly, I’m interested in seeing either outcome – how often can you say that about a WWE storyline?
Best: Strong Female Character
After the commercial, Jimmy Uso comes up to Naomi and is “Heeey girl, so proud you told Miz where to stuff his opportunities, now show me dem tittays” and Naomi is all “What is wrong with you? Stop making me doubt myself, I’m a strong woman and I’m going to make own decisions.”
Naomi standing up for herself is great in theory, but just saying Naomi is a strong woman doesn’t mean shit if WWE doesn’t follow up properly. If this is all leading up to Naomi going full-Jezebel on our man Jimmy or Miz turning on poor, naive Naomi forcing her to make Maria faces, then I’m going to be very disappointed (although not surprised). If, on the other hand, Jimmy Uso is the heel of this little drama for trying to keep his sassy, talented wife under his thumb, then we’ve got something, and it actually seems like that may be where they’re going. Jimmy was definitely portrayed as the heel in this segment, with his brother having to talk some damn sense into his fool skull, so we shall see.
Of course the absolute best case scenario would be if Damien Sandow secretly falls for Naomi during all this, cuts a dramatic face-turn promo about how neither the manipulating Miz or her jealous husband deserve her and Team Intellectual Funk lives happily ever after.
Best: You’re Going to Miss Me When I’m Gone
Okay, so I know I just complained about when guest commentary distracts from a match, but I don’t think I was missing a catch-as-catch-can classic in Nikki Bella vs. Alicia Fox, and AJ was pretty hilarious on commentary. She’s soooo over all this, to the point she was cracking Cole and company up with her apathy, and then she launched into a pretty good routine about how we’ll all miss her when she’s gone — because she won’t be in the next segment, not because she’s leaving WWE. Noooo. It’s pretty clear WWE sends AJ out with the directive to “act like that husband of yours”, but this was maybe the first time she truly matched his snarkery. Oh, and Nikki beat Alicia while looking quite attractive, so wins all around.
Best: Big E Winning Matches
The New Day is still a waste of talent, but there’s so little to the act that it’s hard to stay mad at it. Really, I’m neutral on the whole thing – it certainly doesn’t add anything to these guys, but it doesn’t detract radically either. So yeah, Big E got to look like a competent wrestler tonight and beat Goldust, and that’s a good thing even if he did it in ugly powder blue gear.
Worst: Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger may be my least favorite act in WWE right now. Well, okay, Los Matadores are still worse, but Swagger is my least favorite singles act. Nobody instantly saps my enthusiasm like directionless, Zeb-less, unmotivated late-2014 Jack Swagger. What’s worse, unlike Los Matadores, I’m actually a fan of Jack Swagger. I don’t want to be so bored by him, but I am. So yeah, Swagger wrestled Titus and it was slow and formulaic and rote, and I admit, I may have hit fast forward about 40-seconds in. Shrug.
Best: Crushing It
Dean Ambrose is a gutter rat! A chimpanzee! A rabid dog who loves to fight! A carrot!
Is it weird that I’m totally enjoying AJ and Dean Ambrose even though they obviously don’t give a f*ck? I suppose not – not giving a f*ck has been key to a lot of WWE’s most successful characters. Stone Cold didn’t give a f*ck. Rock didn’t give a f*ck. So yeah, keep not caring Dean, you’re on the right path.
Worst: The Current Smackdown Main Event Crew
The truly top level stars rarely wrestle on Smackdown. Typically the show is main-evented by your just below the top level guys, and man, the current crop of just below the top level Smackdown main eventers are not my favorite. Ryback, Rowan, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Kane and Seth Rollins – don’t get me wrong, there’s some talented guys in that pack, and some good match combinations can be made with them, but get ’em all together and it’s all aboard for Snoozeville, USA.
This match featured way too much Rowan, who is in no way ready for a big singles push yet and was absolutely hacked to death by commercials. By far the most exciting, dynamic part of the match was when Ryback was in, which really isn’t a compliment. Really, the match was just an excuse to get everyone in the ring so they could use their assigned TLC weapons on each other one more time before the show. Also, Dolph did a dangerous bump off a ladder to the outside, because sure, why not, kill yourself on Smackdown. I’m not even the biggest Roman Reigns fan, but man, I can’t wait for him to come back, because the Smackdown main event scene is desperately in need for a new Superman punches.