Hey, Blue Team!
Nothing much happened on Smackdown this week, until Randy Orton desecrated someone’s grave and then burnt someone’s house down. Spoiler alert. Mainly this week’s show takes away whatever hope is left of adding some excitement to the WrestleMania card and confirms that the trash fire matches no one wants to see, like Shane McMahon and AJ Styles or Wyatt and Orton solo, are definitely the direction we’re going in. And even though there’s some good wrestling, the show has gotten me longing for this Road to WrestleMania to come to an end.
The Road to WrestleMania is a long one. To help us down the highway, why not take a moment to give The Best and Worst of Smackdown Live a share on your favorite social media platform. While you’re at it, follow With Spandex on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
And now without further ado, here is The Best and Worst of Smackdown Live for February 28th, 2017.
Worst: Control Ego Maniac Freak
This week’s Smackdown Live opens up with another Miz … wait … TOM PHILLIPS! What on god’s green earth is he doing here? Tom Phillips is still on the announce team? They’re that committed to the four man announce booth that they can’t give Tom Phillips a few weeks off to think about what he’s allegedly done and let this whole thing quietly go away?
So yeah, anyway, the gang’s all here at the announce booth. Meanwhile in the ring, Miz and Maryse welcome this week’s Miz TV guest, John Cena. When Cena hits the ring, The Miz has his mic cut off. The Miz says this is a special edition of Miz TV, because he has ten years of John Cena frustration to get off his chest. Don’t we all, Miz?
So Miz launches into Cena and right away, something doesn’t feel right. Consistently over the last year, Miz’s promos have been the most intelligent on the show. Cutting through to the core, hyperbolic and self-aggrandizing, yes, but most of the time they feel like they’re rooted in the truth. They’ve been different than your run of the mill WWE heel promos. But right off the bat tonight, The Miz seemed a little off. Not that his performance seemed off; it was the writing in his promo that seemed a little more run-of-the-mill. As the segment goes on, The Miz’s point of view seems to be less from a unique Miz place and more from the place of a generic John Cena opponent. Instead of having his own unique view of Cena, The Miz was just spouting the same sort of thing we’ve heard from every John Cena opponent for years, from AJ Styles to Kevin Owens to CM Punk.
On top of that, The Miz starts getting into Cena being away all the time, going off to Hollywood for TV appearances and to shoot movies. But Miz does that stuff all the time. Wasn’t The Miz even out filming a movie during one of his Intercontinental Title runs? The promo just kept feeling off and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why The Miz would be given such a cookie-cutter promo to deliver.
And then Big Mouth Johnny got his mic turned back on, Jack.
Once The Miz allows Cena to speak, John starts cutting a promo back on Miz about how run-of-the-mill Miz’s promo was. I think John broke the fifth wall. They had Miz cut a generic promo on Cena just so Cena can call it out? My head is spinning. This is followed by Cena getting all aggro and throwing another childlike tantrum where he complains about not wrestling The Undertaker as this year’s WrestleMania. So apparently Cena cares as much about this mixed tag match as the rest of us.
Other than his disappointment in Mania opponents, the rest of his promo doesn’t seem to be very truthful either. It all boils down to two guys out there, not saying much of anything for twenty minutes. It’s such a shame. There are so many different ways they could mine a compelling storyline for this feud. Instead, to paraphrase John Cena, they’re going with an unoriginal shell of a WWE storyline.
Cena wraps things up with one really good line, “You’re not The Undertaker, but if you press me again, you a dead man.” He always knows how to go out on a high note. This prompts Maryse to call Cena a “control ego maniac freak” and slaps him in the face, which causes Cena to get a weird unsettling smile on his face.
He tells Maryse that she just made the biggest mistake of her life. Then cue the music as out comes Nikki Bella. Nikki calls Maryse a bitch and the crowd seems to love it, but the whole thing left me cold. When I first heard about this feud and WrestleMania match, I was optimistic. But that optimism has faded.
Not much to say about the two-out-of-three falls match between Becky Lynch and Mickie James. It was a good match. They really weren’t able to use the two out of three falls to their advantage, but it’s a stipulation that’s better suited for pay-per-views where you can take more time to build the drama, instead of breaking for commercials throughout.
Two major plusses for me were one, the welcome relief of good solid wrestling after the cut and paste Cena/Miz promo, and two, that Becky did not once again lose by a distraction. Getting tricked into losing matches was starting to become as identifiable with her as her hair color.
Worst: La La Land
The streak is over. After weeks of great Alexa Bliss promos, one better after the next, we finally hit a real stinker when this week she’s given an extremely forced Oscar reference with an even more awkward set-up to get into it. Luckily Natalya shows up (whoa, there’s a phrase I never thought I’d type) and steers the conversation away from award shows and back to the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship.
I guess this is the set-up for whatever “every woman on the roster” match we’re getting at Mania. Because I don’t think there’s any way Alexa Bliss and Natalya are going one-on-one at the biggest show of the year, even if it’s fourteen hours like last year.
Best: More Wrestling
Much like Becky Lynch and Mickie James from earlier, AJ Styles and Luke Harper is another good match that I really don’t have a lot to say about. Just a very solid wrestling match. At least up until the false finish and restart. But I guess all those shenanigans were necessary in order to set up yet another WrestleMania match nobody wants to see. Plus in the end, none of it matters anyways because we still don’t have an announced main event for the Smackdown side of WrestleMania. The more I think about it, the more I want to forget everything after the false finish and just remember the match itself.
Best: A Heads Up
In case you were thinking of tuning into next week’s Smackdown Live, the WWE gives you a heads up that there’s no reason for you to do that.
Worst: Curt Hawkins Walks Into A Bar
The scheduled match between Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose and Curt Hawkins never takes place. Dean had a set later that night at a comedy club inside the Mall of America, so instead of having the match, Dean takes out Hawkins with Dirty Deeds and then proceeds to spend the rest of his allotted Smackdown time trying out all of his new material. He has this new bit about life lessons that’s a real knee slapper.
About two minutes after I’m ready for Baron Corbin to show up and shut him up, Baron Corbin shows up on the big screen coming to us live from the part of the arena where they keep the extra chairs. Corbin tells Ambrose that he’s going to need humor because Dean cost him the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber. Why is Corbin just now getting all offended about the Elimination Chamber? That feels like months ago. Shouldn’t Corbin be upset at Ambrose for taking away his chance to main event WrestleMania, when he threw him out of that little battle royale just last week?
I guess Baron’s just going to let that one slide. After the yuk-yuks are over, both men get serious, and the segment gets pretty good. But it’s too little too late by that point to save it. Hopefully their seriousness is a sign of things to come and we won’t see anymore electrical anomalies before Mania.
Worst: Chairmen Of The Bored
Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews is happening again, but this time empty chairs are surrounding the ring and you can legally use them to hit your opponent. Ziggler’s always great in these gimmick matches. He’s been thrown into every type there is. It wasn’t a bad match. but they failed to capture the magic that Baron Corbin and Kalisto managed to with the same gimmick just a few months back. There were a few leaps in logic with the chairs that would make even Sabu blush, especially a series of moves where Apollo throws Ziggler the chair for him to catch and hold on to ala the set-up for Rob Van Damm’s Van Daminator.
But instead of immediately following up with a move involving the chair like RVD always would, Apollo kicked Ziggler upside the head with an enziguri, sending Dolph to the mat where Crews follows up with a standing moonsault. The whole time that is going on, Dolph had to hold onto the chair. It’s just a bit outside the realm of believability, in a very old school ECW kind of way. Speaking of old school ECW, there were also a lot of spots with the chair that looked like they would have hurt both men equally, which is always a pet peeve of mine.
The highlight of the match is probably Dolph Ziggler’s heel work toward the end. In spite of WWE Creative not giving much for heel Ziggler to do outside the ring, he’s definitely been cranking up the heel work when he’s inside it. The finish of the match showcased Ziggler’s new found vicious side and was nice in trying to remind the fans that they’re supposed to be booing him.
Worst: Turn To Ashes
So this was the week. As good a week as any, I guess. This was the week that Randy Orton finally turned on Bray Wyatt, and it turned out to be pretty much everything I had feared. The main event for this week’s Smackdown Live was once again Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton having a little chitchat. Yes, I know that was also the main event of an episode of Smackdown Live a few weeks back, but this week’s is a little more spicy because they’re not just talking. It also involved Randy Orton burning down the Wyatt Family compound.
My immediate reaction to this was “Oh no! That’s where Erick Rowan keeps his vintner supplies!” But as the segment moved forward, my reaction turned much more grim. There were numerous reasons why I hated this segment, but most of all, just how mean-spirited and disturbing the whole thing was.
I may be wrong, but Orton’s supposed to be the good guy right? He’s supposed to be the one we’re cheering for here? If that is the case, it is horrifying to think that anyone at WWE would think that these are the actions of a hero or a good guy. Hell, these are hardly the actions of anyone outside of a monster. That’s what Randy Orton looked like — a monster. Digging up the grave of a loved one and burning their house down was the sixth commandment of Hulkamania, right? I can’t remember.
Once again, I can’t have blood in a cagematch because WWE is “family friendly,” but our hero Randy Orton can dig up someone’s grave and burn a house down? And that’s family friendly? I think if I were a kid, I’d be way more disturbed by seeing this than a little blood during a Hell in a Cell.
This is truly evil shit. And the reaction from Bray Wyatt to it all, as compelling and well-acted as it was, it only makes me feel bad for Bray. It just makes me want to see him beat Orton at WrestleMania. This sort of feels like the ultimate culmination of years of WWE not knowing how to write good decent human beings who you want to root for. This is exactly why the WWE Universe have made their own fan favorites out of people like Daniel Bryan. We end up having to search for heroes in the wrestlers personal lives since we’re not being given heroes we can root for on television.
I love John Cena. F***ING LOVE JOHN CENA. But you wouldn’t know that by what I wrote about him earlier. (Or by what I usually write about him.) Because the character of John Cena is a total dick who’s hard to root for even though I like the person behind the character, and I think John is a wonderful performer. It is quite possibly the number one problem the WWE has had this decade from a storytelling standpoint. But my problems with it don’t stop there.
Of course, just as I had feared, the entire turn feels completely random and unjustified. Why is Orton doing this now? Why didn’t he do it immediately after the Royal Rumble or after the Elimination Chamber? Or … why not wait and do it at WrestleMania and spend the next month building the mystery of whether or not he’s going to turn on Wyatt? Even though it was a big crazy stunt, it still felt safe and by the books.
Lastly, there’s the whole storyline and the plan itself. I’ve watched every minute of this storyline unfold, and my big takeaway from the whole thing is that Randy Orton has to be an idiot. A man of below normal intelligence. And hey! That’s ok. We can’t all be the class valedictorian. I guess it’s my fault for ever assuming a character like Randy Orton would ever be intelligent enough to pull off a cunning scheme against the Wyatt Family. I should have known Randy Orton was this stupid all along. It’s not as if the signs weren’t there.
So, as far as I can tell, here is the plan that Randy Orton concocted:
Join the Wyatt Family in the least convincing way possible. Pretend to be a loyal member for a few months. Win the tag team titles. Lose the tag team titles. Somehow win the Royal Rumble, then do nothing to help Bray Wyatt win the World Title, so by absolute happenstance, you’re booked to wrestle Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania. Then refuse that match, causing chaos with the WrestleMania card. Then dig up Sister Abigail’s grave and burn Bray Wyatt’s house. That’s the best Randy Orton can do, folks.
Well, I hope Bray Wyatt literally murders him at WrestleMania. If that’s the reaction they were trying to get out of me, I guess this whole thing was a success.
Until next week, I’m Justin Donaldson and I hope Tom Phillips stops texting me.