The Best And Worst Of Smackdown 9/12/14: Over The Top

The title may be an arm-wrestling reference, but I’m not about to use Mark Henry and Rusev as the header image when Layla wore those pants on the show.

Pre-show Notes:

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Worst: Poor, Poor Uso

Jey Uso trying to do the Usos entrance while injured continues to be the saddest thing. It was even worse this week — him just coming out on crutches was one thing, but this week he was trying to do the dance, but was all hesitant and a half-second behind on everything. He was like Jimmy Uso’s Damien Sandow. Poor Uso.

Best: Luke Harper of The Harpers

This match had some issues. After doing some heartbreaking selling during his entrance, Jey pretty much forgot about selling the knee during the match himself, and then they had Jimmy also do a fake knee injury? What the hell are the Usos doing to their knees? Are the pogo-sticking from town to town?

Thankfully, the Usos’ fragile old man knees didn’t manage to ruin this match for me. The Wyatts are always great, and I’m totally into the Rhodes boys as heels. Really though, I’m just glad for any Smackdown that doesn’t start with “Randy Orton and/or Seth Rollins comes out, recaps recent events then ambles off having accomplished nothing”. If you’re going to fill time, fill time with wrestling.

Also, Stardust’s dramatic sad clown sell of the knockout punch was fantastic. Dude looked like one of the after pictures when you lose in Street Fighter.

Worst: Ariana Freakin’ Grande

I continue to not appreciate Zeb feuding with anyone for non-xenophobic reasons, especially poor, innocent as the driven snow, American Sweetheart Bo Dallas. Also, whose hot idea was it to give the elderly Vietnam vet a joke that hinges on him being well acquainted with who Ariana Grande is? Because he’s not. Nor is the commentary team, who took a wrong turn down senility lane and spent a solid minute rambling about Aryan Grande and Ziggy Azalea. This was the most vivid reminder in a while that WWE commentators should never be allowed to discuss anything contemporary or relevant.

Best: Bo Dallas vs. Justin Gabriel

The pre-match stuff may have been rotten, but I don’t want to give the impression I didn’t like Justin Gabriel/Bo Dallas. Gabriel seemed to be in the same headspace as the NXT guys on Raw this week — he was truckin’ around at a breakneck pace, hitting top rope Lionsaults and just generally working his butt off to prove he deserves to be a more regular fixture on the main roster. Bo was also working a bit faster and harder, and the result was the best Bo Dallas match in quite a few weeks.

Best: Distractions

I’m relatively sure Paige/Summer Rae was good — I mean, it wasn’t very long, but it’s unlikely Paige and Summer Rae could have a bad match. That said, I couldn’t really appreciate it due to numerous distractions.

AJ was at ringside and the commentators wouldn’t stop pestering her in hushed, sweaty tones about the thing on Raw where both her and Paige kissed the title. Trying to deflect, AJ just said something about the title being her baby, at which point JBL and Cole lost control of the car and spun off into some tangent about how Paige holding the title means AJ’s baby has been put up for adoption or sent to a foster home. It was some weird stuff to say to a woman who’s recently been the subject of pregnancy rumors.

But hey, there’s such a thing as good distractions too! Case in point, Layla’s outfit tonight. The director who decided not to focus squarely on Layla the entire segment needs to be fired immediately. So, bad commentary, but a good match (probably) and Layla accidentally buying her outfit in the juniors section more than makes up for it.

Mini Bonus Best for AJ doing the Paige Turner and actually making it look like a real move.

Major Bonus Worst for Layla’s everything somehow not falling out of her everything when taking the move.

Best: Ooooo, This Arm Wrestling Match Just Got Real

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about arm wrestling contests. My kneejerk reaction when WWE says they’re doing one is “well, this is going to be dumb and boring” but if I’m being honest, I can’t really think of a WWE arm wrestling match I’ve disliked. I appreciate good heel stalling, and arm wrestling segments are nothing but stalling. So yeah, I like arm wrestling contests, but I still reserve the right to sigh melodramatically whenever one is announced.

One thing this particular arm wrestling match had going for it was Mark Henry coming into it as a face. Nobody’s been in more WWE arm wrestling matches than Mark Henry, but he’s been a heel for most of them, so despite being the Strongest Man in the Whole Wide World he’s had to pussyfoot around, beg off and allllmost lose to guys who are, by definition, not the strongest on the planet like Sheamus and John Cena. Henry made the best of the segments, but still, any Mark Henry arm wrestling competition that doesn’t end with the other guy’s broken radius sticking out of his arm hasn’t lived up to its full potential.

So, I was gearing up for a fun, but standard arm wrestling match, but then something unexpected happened — Lana got on the mic and brought up the rarely mentioned fact that, yes, Mark Henry went to the Olympics, but that he totally washed out once he got there. It was a surprising mic drop moment from the cartoon Russian lady. Then Henry responded, with total sincerity, about how proud he was of his Olympic experiences, how sad he was he couldn’t compete and how excited he is to be getting another chance to defend his country. Just like that, this thrown-together feud has pathos. It’s a redemption story. Man, Mark Henry is just so casually good at this shit.

Honestly, this was maybe a little too good. Mark Henry can’t lose at Night of Champions now. He loves AMMURICA too much, dammit!

Best: The Adder Madhatter

This isn’t the highest praise, but this was a good 2014 face Jericho promo. He accepted his loss to Bray like an adult, and his snake rhymes were one of the better “here’s a bunch of funny-sounding words said in quick succession” things he’s done in a while. Admit it, “copperheadder shredder” made you smile just a little bit.

Best: R-Ziggler

Wait, where are you going? I can explain! At least I think I can.

So yes, I’m giving R-Ziggler a Best. I mean, at least Ziggler didn’t reveal any new “hacked” pictures on Smackdown, so this was better than the Miz/Ziggler thing from Raw. The main issue with that Raw segment was that it required Dolph Ziggler, the most vain, manicured dude in WWE to be appalled by Miz shaving his chest and having a sad one-man entourage. On Friday they pretty much just admitted Dolph and Miz are the exact same guy. Sure, R-Ziggler was supposed to be a mockery of Miz and Sandow, but I dunno — Dolph seemed pretty legitimately into it.

Perhaps more importantly, R-Truth, tough rapper guy, came out in tiny stripper pants and he was still the face. Nobody made pink jokes, or veiled gay jokes — JBL called it “weird”, but that’s about it. For the most part, it was treated as a fun, acceptable thing for R-Truth to do. So that’s something.

And hey, give ’em credit, I was not expecting R-Truth to come through that curtain. Genuine surprises on Smackdown are a rare and precious thing. Also, Truth was actually pretty good at duplicating Ziggler. There’s a pretty wide talent chasm between Ziggler and Truth, but stylistically, they’re not that different. So that, my dear friends, is why I gave R-Truth frolicking about in Dolph Ziggler’s old underwear a Best. I hope I haven’t disappointed you too deeply.

Best: Don’t Tell Me…Nikki?

Shout out to Nikki Bella’s new 90s Cindy Crawford hair. It’s a good look. Let’s get that WWE Films remake of Fair Game happening. Also, according to Nikki, Brie is entirely to blame for national treasure Jerry Springer being injured on Raw. I dunno, I’d say Nikki’s butt is the smoking gun — I don’t think Brie is packing a weapon capable of crushing an old man.

Aaaanyways, both AJ and Paige then showed up, and thankfully it was much less grating that the Raw segment from a couple weeks ago. For one, the bloody Divas champion wasn’t relegated to the background, in fact she got some pretty solid burns in on Nikki. All the girls feel like they have unique characters and roles — AJ is the sly vet, Paige is the overconfident youngster and Nikki Bella is Nikki Bella. I’m look forward to the dawning of the Nikki Bella dynasty at Night of Champions.

Best: Another Good Tag Match

I’m not sure why they decided to begin and end the show with tag matches featuring a guy not bothering to sell a knee injury, but they did, and hey, they were both good! Interestingly, the star of the match wasn’t Roman Reigns, as you might expect, but Chris Jericho. Most of the hot tags were to Chris, the story of the match was his knee and the match ended with a Y2J roll-up, not HOOO-AHS and Superman punches.

This was probably the most vital Jericho has looked during his most recent tour of duty. I mean, sure, he beat Bray Wyatt that one time, but beating Bray Wyatt is nothing to get terribly excited about these days — reversing the stupid hanging DDT and beating Randy Orton still holds some cachet though. Hopefully Jericho has mastered the Batista art of becoming really good right before leaving, and his match with Orton this Sunday will be off the charts. Or at the very least, maybe he’ll have some more snake rhymes.