The Best And Worst Of SmackDown 5/7/15: We All Know How This Is Going To End Anyway

I never noticed before, but J&J’s ties and shirts and color coordinated with Seth’s t-shirt. This is wonderful.

Pre-show Notes:

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Best: All Hail King Barrett

SmackDown started on a less than promising note, with a half-embalmed looking Jerry Lawler in the ring recapping last week’s King of the Ring tournament like a zombie. Thankfully, things picked up once the true king strode out. Barrett rightfully laid into Lawler for trying to horn in on his already well-established king racket, declaring the bloody toilet to be the only throne Lawler should be sitting on. Considering Lawler’s Memphis connections, that was actually a mildly edgy line. Also, why is Lawler’s toilet bloody? Probably best not to think about it.

Barrett insisted Lawler hail him like a proper monarch, and, after thinking about it for a second, he refused. I’ll admit, I’m still pretty into the brief moments when Lawler decides to be a pro wrestler instead of a WWE watchword and skeevy uncle joke squawking parrot. Lawler carried an entire promotion on his back for longer than pretty much any other wrestler ever. He knows how to do this shit. Of course, a feud with Jerry Lawler is a roadblock every new King of the Ring winner lives in fear of, but Lawler can’t get in the ring any more (a WWE ring at least), so I was able to enjoy this without too much anxiety.

After Lawler declined to show the proper respects, Barrett declared the interview over and began calmly flipping his elbow pad in preparation for some casual murder. Unfortunately, Lawler got a stay of execution when Dolph Ziggler came out (boo!) leading to our first match.

Best: Bowling With Boogers

Barrett vs. Ziggler was okay, but it was clearly one of those matches where the guys were just filling time until the show’s next checkpoint. Both guys did some moves, but none of it really built to anything.

The real story of this segment was Lawler. Still all hopped up on getting to do a real pro wrestling angle, the guy was actually pretty killer on commentary. He went after Barrett in a way that actually felt heartfelt, and when the other commentators rightfully pointed the absurdity of Jerry freakin’ Lawler being incensed about somebody taking their king gimmick too seriously, he dropped some history bombs on them. He brought up his feud with Bret Hart and the fact that any time he was a dick about the king thing, it didn’t end well for him. It’s true, and just like that, Lawler’s kvetching feels like it’s coming from hard-won experience as opposed to jealousy. I know Lawler doesn’t have the stamina to keep this kind of commentary up for more than a couple minutes, but man, it’s so frustrating to know this stuff in there somewhere, buried under all the bathroom book jokes.

Anyways, back to the match. Sheamus ran in for the DQ, which I was fine with. The match wasn’t going anywhere anyway, and the combination of Barrett and Sheamus can do no wrong in my eyes. Sheamus rearing his stupid-looking head also brought out Neville and the little fellas cleared the ring.

Best: WWE Finally Declares General Managers Obsolete

So, after the break Sheamus and Barrett were wrestling Ziggler and Neville in a tag match. No “Hold on a minute!” moment from Kane or anybody else required. A tag team match just burst forth into existence of its own accord. I dunno, maybe Kane announced it on the app or something, but I’ll be God-damned if I’m going to watch even a second more SmackDown than I strictly have to.

The match itself was fine. Neville did a little too much selling. Ziggler just had a full match, and nobody’s excited to see him get the hot tag. The finish was pretty solid. It was a distraction finish, but one that was actually integrated into the match in a natural way. Neville broke up a rope-assisted pin by Barrett, so Barrett went after him and got Zig-Zagged for the pin. And Barrett’s royal losing streak begins!

Best: An Easy Win

Luke Harper wrestled Fandango, and things were thankfully kept brief. Harper is in that place Cesaro used to be, where he has all these long, hard-fought matches, in which the commentators praise how “game” he is, but then he almost always loses. So, it was fun to see Harper just truck on through a guy for once. Also, we got Harper Fandango-ing, so uh, that was something.

Best: You Can Only Be Entertained By A Rubik’s Cube For So Long

After the match, Erick Rowan, apparently having escaped his “Ship to OVW” crate, stomped down to the ring. He teased a showdown with Harper, but then laid the boots to Fandango instead. Well, it’s about damn time. I’m sure there’s a lovely dude in there somewhere (we’ve all seen that Christmas card with his family) but generally speaking, massive pug-ugly redheads with giant butts are better served playing the bad guy. Now, we just need to have Bray wander out sheepishly after one of Harper’s matches leading to the reformation of the Wyatt Family with Harper as the new de facto leader.

Worst: Sad Lana

Unsurprisingly, I’m not really digging Lana’s transformation from hilarious Russian cartoon character, to standard issue WWE face. I know this isn’t an easy turn to pull off. Lana has been so zealous in her dedication to Putin and Mother Russia, that you just have to flip the switch and say “Okay, she’s a good guy now!” to some extent. That said, the Lana we’ve been getting for the past few weeks isn’t the Lana we all know and love.

The real Lana has faced off against everyone from John Cena to The Rock without blinking. There was no question in her mind that she, Rusev and Vladimir Putin were the six-man tag team champions of the world. Hell, the whole damn universe. Oh, and there was also no question about who was calling the shots between Lana and Rusev. This Lana who pouts her lip and hangs her head whenever Rusev raises his voice, who breaks into a junior high grin whenever somebody pays attention to her, I don’t recognize this Lana. Don’t get me wrong, Lana being sad is a super effective tool, and this angle is probably going to be huge, but I can’t help but mourn a little bit for the Lana we once knew.

Also, Lana turning means more Rusev solo promos, which I’ve kind of gone cold on. The days of him shouting about biting off testicles or whatever are over. He’s just kind of blandly competent now. Is there another blonde NXT lady who could play a Russian? Alexa Bliss? How do Russians feel about glitter?

Best: POP Reigns Supreme

Next up, The New Day vs. Cesaro, Kidd and a mystery partner. I was really hoping Catsaro would just shrug and tell Nattie to get her butt on the apron. I mean, I’m pretty sure Nattie is toting more muscle than Kofi Kingston these days. But no, it was Ryback. I suppose it would have been a shame for Nattie to have to get all sweaty, since she was looking crazy done up tonight. That hair, man.

The match was basically a non-stop parade of over the top, awesome spots. Cesaro and Ryback’s dueling delayed vertical suplexes (with Tyson adding his own snap suplex as an adorable coda). Big E driving Tyson into the barricade and ring half a dozen times. Cesaro going on a particularly crisp uppercut rampage. The New Day continued to be on their heel game, as well. Kofi dancing like he’d just caught the game winning touchdown after hitting a couple leg kicks was choice.

Things kind of broke down towards the end, and I really didn’t need Bray Wyatt sticking his sticky magical fingers into things, but New Day won! Right now, that’s an automatic Best.

Best: Emma Sighting!

Is Emma a heel now? I know she sort of is in NXT, and she’s wearing dark lipstick, the universal sign of a Jezebel, but she was just a lamb to the slaughter here. Naomi continues to improve as a bad girl. She’s now dumped almost all her wonky high-flying, replacing it kicks and some pretty solid forearms. One question… what happened to the light up shoes? I’ve seen some complaints about them because some people are joyless monsters, but I demand the rainbow shoes back right damn now.

Worst: Facial Renee-Actions

Renee interviewed all the participants in the four-way at Payback, and I’m not Best and Worsting them all separately, because they all said exactly what you’d expect. Ambrose is CRAZY and has no plan, Orton also has no plan because he’s too cool for plans, Reigns is obsessed with putting his fist in mouths and Rollins does have a plan, but he’s not telling us because he’s too S-M-R-T. Er, S-M-A-R-T.

The only entertaining part of these segments were Renee’s facial expression reviews of all the guy’s performances. Reigns got his customary smile, but Randy Orton got an “okay, sure, whatever” eyebrow raise and Ambrose was on the receiving end of a serious “we’ll talk about this when we get home” look. The Canadian interviewer lady crowd was rough tonight.

Worst: A Lucha Tag Team Where Three Of Four Guys Are Terrible At Lucha

I can understand how Lucha Dragons vs. Los Matadores may have seemed like a good idea on paper. Four lucha dudes in the same match! Problem is, Kalisto is the only guy in the match that’s actually good at lucha. Sin Cara is a heavyweight mimicking the moves of a guy nobody really liked, and Los Matadores practice a unique brand of chubby Puerto Rican lucha. So, this match was mostly pretty blah. The one “highlight” of the bout was Sin Cara accidentally headbutting Kalisto in the balls as he went for a dive through his legs, then bonking heads with a Matador as he crashed and burned to the outside. Thankfully, this wasn’t the original Sin Cara, so he’s not going to be out for six months.

Worst: Don’t You Threaten Me

After the match they teased Los Matadores dissension, which is literally the last thing in the world I want to see. Like, if I came home tomorrow to find my house on fire, I know I’d probably be able to deal with it, because at least it wouldn’t be a Diego vs. Fernando in a Torito on a pole match.

Worst: That’s Not A Sentence
Believe it or not, there was actually a smidgen of main event storyline development on this week’s SmackDown! The downside is that meant we got a contract signing in place of a real main event.

At least Rollins was on his game, unleashing some pretty dead on zingers. I particularly enjoyed him calling Ambrose a low-rent Roddy Piper and ragging on Roman Reigns for his inability to string together a basic sentence. The rest of the guys were, well, a little less on their games. Roman responding to Rollins’ sentence crack with, “Here’s a sentence for you: I’mma kick your ass!” was just sad. Randy Orton also dropped a “Newsflash genius!” like he was a dumb bully from a ’90s teen movie. My basic takeaway from this segment is that Rollins is a man of perhaps average intelligence, and the rest of the guys in the main event scene are straight-up dullards. Probably not what they were going for.

Best: Keystone Mall Cops

Thankfully, things picked up once the fists started flying. Midway through the bickering, Ambrose called dibs on the table and started setting it up in the corner, because come on, we all knew how this was going to end. I’ll admit thought, I didn’t expect this to happen when Ambrose went to throw Mercury through a table…

Just how little does Mercury weigh at this point? Most of the tables WWE uses wouldn’t be sturdy enough hold up a mid-sized plate from the buffet. Noble also took an office chair to the face like the cartoon character he is. In the end, Rollins ended up standing tall, which I suspect will also be the scene at Payback. When everybody is too cool to have any plan at all, the man with a bad plan wins.