Hey, Blue Team!
Very good Smackdown Live this week. So the trend of every other show being a good one continues. Smackdown has a lot of momentum right now. Nothing on the show seemed especially redundant. Every story is moving forward toward The Royal Rumble, toward Elimination Chamber, toward ‘Mania. It just may need to slow down a little bit.
It’s a new year and a new you, so why not make your New Year’s Resolution to 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. It helps us a lot.
And now without further ado, here is The Best and Worst of Smackdown Live for January 17th, 2017.
Worst: Spinning Plates
I throw a lot of shade in the direction of WWE Creative, and rightfully so. The majority of these shows are horribly written. But for a change, I’m going to cut them a little slack. It has to be extremely difficult to write something like the segment that opened this week’s Smackdown Live. Sure, it’s a pretty standard opening segment. It’s Shane McMahon, AJ Styles, John Cena, and The Miz/Maryse in one of those “fourteen minutes of guys talking that results in a match being made, and it starts right now.” What’s impressive about the way it’s written is the way they juggle the immense amount of information that has to be relayed to the audience while still somehow maintaining a thin slice of entertainment.
The current state of the WWE Universe is one that is overflowing with content. I want to take some time to break down the insane amount of things the writers are forced to squeeze into one of these segments.
First off, they need to promote three pay-per-views. We’re still two weeks away from the Royal Rumble, but we already have to start promoting the Elimination Chamber that’s only three weeks after that. And of course, that all leads to WrestleMania. The WWE needs to constantly remind you of all events happening this quarter, so you don’t accidentally make plans and have a life outside of the WWE Universe.
Now that your travel packages have been bought, let’s promote some matches. They managed to build toward six upcoming matches in one segment. Cena Vs. Styles at the Rumble, the Rumble match itself, the Elimination Chamber match, the WWE Title match at WrestleMania, Miz & AJ’s match this week, and Miz’ rematch with Dean Ambrose at an undetermined time in the future. They may even be laying the groundwork for the rumored AJ Styles/Shane McMahon WrestleMania match. That would bring it up to seven matches promoted in one segment.
All those things need to be promoted, all the while staying on brand and hitting the dates and locations of the events. Who has time to worry about things like storylines, character motivations, continuity, or even decent dialogue? It’s no wonder the best they can do after getting all that information out are cheap jokes about AJ’s haircut and The Miz’ penis.
I really have to hand it to the WWE writers for being able to make a segment that is this much of an information dump not suck. I am all for WWE producing as much content as possible. Keep giving me a pay-per-view every other week sandwiched between international tournaments with Takeover sprinkled in. I want to get to the point where the $9.99 a month breaks down to a penny a match.
I will say, can we go back to promoting these events one at a time? Also, maybe the Road to WrestleMania shouldn’t start start earlier and earlier each year. Why should I care about AJ Styles vs. John Cena at the Royal Rumble when what I really need to care about is the Elimination Chamber match? But who cares about that when WrestleMania’s right around the corner?
And while we’re at it, fuck this year’s WrestleMania. There’s already been a press conference about how next year’s WrestleMania is going to be the greatest WrestleMania of all time! I sure hope my plane tickets to Orlando can be exchanged for tickets to New Orleans instead.
Best: It’s Not Either Of You, It’s Me
It’s not shocking that AJ Styles vs. The Miz was a great match. But it was a bit surprising that the winner of the match was John Cena. John Cena has grown so powerful. He can even overcome the tropes of WWE booking. After the opening segment, John stuck around to show off a bit of his Today Show skills and shoot the shit with the commentary team while the match was happening. He couldn’t say much about how he’s prepping for his match against AJ at the Rumble, but boy does he have a lot to say about Michael Cole voicing a cartoon seagull. Unfortunately before John can tell us more about what cartoon animals him and his friends are voicing, he’s interrupted by the match that’s happening.
We’ve seen this a million times on Smackdown. You know the drill. Match spills out of the ring in front of the guest commentator, Wrestler A throws Wrestler B into commentator, taking them out, then a brawl ensues. But John Cena’s has become so powerful, he has broken through standard WWE writing. When AJ Styles throws The Miz at John Cena, Cena just puts his hands out and stops The Miz from hitting him, then tosses The Miz into the barricade. I bet Cena’s now impervious to distraction finishes as well.
Cena puts the exclamation point on the match by delivering AAs to both The Miz and AJ Styles. Sure Cena may be able to easily take out AJ and The Miz by himself, but will he be able to defeat them plus three other men in the Elimination Chamber after he beats AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble on the Road to WrestleMania? I’m going to assume yes. Again, why am I watching anything before WrestleMania?
As WWE Champion, AJ Styles is starting to feel like the girlfriend you’re breaking up with after the holidays. The WWE is just biding their time until the belt’s off that guy. After the extremely underwhelming Ellsworth and Ambrose stuff, it would be nice to see Styles successfully defend the belt against Cena at The Royal Rumble. C’mon WWE, you can hang in there a few more weeks until the Elimination Chamber to get the belt off of him. I just don’t know if John Cena can wait that long.
Best: With The Sound Off
I enjoyed every bit of this week’s Natalya and Nikki Bella segment that didn’t involve words coming out of their mouths. Nikki Bella’s in the ring to call out Nattie, but instead of coming down the ramp, Neidhart pulls a Roman Reigns and shows up out in the crowd. She makes her way out to the concession area at one of the merchandise stands, where she trashes Nikki Bella and John Cena merchandise while complaining about not having any merch of her own. Nikki shows up and a real fun brawl ensues, destroying the merch table.
I like the way it was shot; I always enjoy when WWE shoots in parts of the arena that we don’t see them use every week. And I LOVED the brawl. I’m assuming this is headed toward a falls count anywhere match between the two of them at one of the many pay-per-views prior to WrestleMania. And that has a lot of potential.
But please WWE, I’m begging you. Leave Bret Hart alone.
I touched upon this last week, but I can’t stand WWE pulling Bret back into storylines. I cringe every time I hear his name brought up in a negative light on WWE television. Yes, I am aware that this is just a fictional WWE storyline and Nattie doesn’t really hope that Bret will die alone. But it still doesn’t sit right with me. Hasn’t this guy been through enough? My biggest fear is that they’re going to drag him out for one of these matches. I don’t even want to think about that. It would not surprise me if this entire feud was created just as a way to humiliate Bret Hart. I can picture Vince McMahon walking into the writer’s room and telling them he wants twenty storyline ideas that all end in Bret Hart getting slapped in the face by Natalya.
Best: A Match From Out Of Nowhere
I’m going to throw out a crazy theory here. I’m starting to think that Randy Orton may be trying to cause a rift in the Wyatt Family. Nah, I’m probably reading too much into that.
The epitome of the word “relieved” is hearing that Dean Ambrose is about the wrestle a member of The Wyatt Family, and then you find out it’s not Bray. The WWE is usually tone deaf to literally everything. But even they have picked up on us not wanting another Ambrose/Wyatt match.
Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton was a nice surprise. Not a match I had expected to see on Smackdown anytime soon, and one we hadn’t seen in a while. So it felt really fresh. Despite Luke Harper’s oddly timed wandering into the ring, I even enjoyed the finish of the match, due to being so relieved to see the Intercontinental Champion not lose clean in a non-title match.
I’ve also come to terms with the fact that this Randy Orton/Wyatt Family storyline isn’t going to have any shocking twists or turns. It’s just going to play out paint-by-numbers the way you would expect it to over the next few weeks. Luckily these guys are all good performers, so let’s see what they do with it.
Best: I’m Sorry, But I Loved This
There may be something seriously mentally wrong with me, because my favorite segment on this week’s Smackdown Live was the King’s Court with special guest Dolph Ziggler. From Eddie Geurrero to Paul Bearer, over the years the WWE has run a lot of posthumous angles involving deceased Superstars at varying levels of questionable taste. On this week’s Smackdown they put a new twist on it by having the dead guy be there alive.
Memphis wrestling legend, WWE Hall of Famer, failed mayoral candidate, deep fried bbq rib restaurant auteur, real-life zombie, and functioning Batmoble owner Jerry “The King” Lawler is back with the first ever (and by the looks of Jerry, last ever) King’s Court on Smackdown Live. A lot of this was not great. But it only helped add to the pay off. It hasn’t been that long since we last saw The King, but he’s n0t looking as well as he did only a few months ago. He looks like he might be closer to his next death than his last one. At first he appears a little out of it too, stumbling over his lines, meandering a bit… he doesn’t look or act well. And that’s probably because he isn’t.
So Lawler’s trying to convince Ziggler that turning heel isn’t the right thing to do, and Ziggler’s having none of it. As Lawler keeps fumbling over his words, the tension builds. Like the buildup to a Jackass stunt involving fire and someone’s nut sack, you know they are going to do this. But there’s a part of you that wonders, “are they really going to do this?”
And then they do it.
Ziggler brings up that he shoot killed Jerry Lawler. They then replay footage of The King minutes before he literally died, and BAM! Ziggler superkicks him right in the chest. Oh and did I mention that tonight’s episode was in Memphis, Tennessee?
Hahahaha, yeah, so that happened.
First off, good job cementing Ziggler’s heel turn. I complain about not having defined good guys and bad guys, that there are too many shades of grey. But there’s not an ounce of grey here. Trying to kill a man you have already killed is heel AF!
Second, kudos to whoever produced this segment for going through with it after Jerry Lawler showed up at the arena and you saw what kind of shape he’s in. I’m sure Vince McMahon appreciates the testicular fortitude.
But most of all, a big BEST goes out to Jerry “The King” Lawler, who seems determined to die in the ring. You can say a lot of things about Jerry, but you can’t say he didn’t give his all for the wrestling business. And no matter how rough the segment started, Lawler’s performance once he got up from the superkick was fantastic, yelling at Ziggler to come back and face him. What I wouldn’t give to get a performance like that out of anyone on the current roster. It also gives me hope that maybe The King isn’t in as bad of shape as it may seem. He’s probably wrestling Bill Dundee in a high school in Kentucky this weekend.
Fun fact: If Lawler hadn’t made it through the segment, it would have been the first time The King died on Smackdown Live.
Worst: Hot Fire, Cold Steel
This week’s Smackdown Live took a major step forward in the Women’s Revolution… by not airing the Carmella/James Ellsworth shopping trip we were warned about last week. Also, Alexa Bliss defended the Smackdown Women’s Championship against Becky Lynch inside a steel cage. And Mickie James made her main roster return as the unmasked La Luchadora. I applaud WWE’s restraint in going with this match as the main event instead of Orton and Ambrose.
But unfortunately, they didn’t give the match the time that it needed to be the epic encounter it should have been. It felt like the match was just beginning to tell a story at the point that it ended, leaving the storytelling for after the match. That’s a shame. The after-the-bell stuff is good. But it would have had even more of an impact if the match itself had been better.
They did some nice spots. All the top rope stuff was beautiful, and Becky’s use of the cage was great. But it just didn’t succeed for me overall. And something about the end felt a little off too. I think La Luchadora may have shown up a few seconds too late. Shouldn’t the end have been Becky Lynch having the match pretty much won, but La Luchadora steals it from her at the last second?
Instead, she shows up while things are still pretty even between Bliss and Lynch, and then waits until Becky has Alexa in the Dis-Arm-Her and has had time to tap out before she interferes. It was weird.
The Becky Lynch/Alexa Bliss feud has been good, but I think they have hit their ceiling for the time being. Becky should move on to feud with Mickie James, and Alexa on to her next challenger. Bring them back together in a few years once Bliss is a little more seasoned and they could have something really special.
Until next week, I’m Justin Donaldson and I hear Tom Phillips does a pretty mean cartoon flamingo.