Previously on the Best and Worst of Friday Night Smackdown: John Morrison returned to help out a friend backstage, The Usos returned to help out a family member in the ring, and Sheamus returned to kick the Shorty G gimmick until it doesn’t exist anymore.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Friday Night Smackdown for January 10, 2020.
Best: Friday Night Slamtown
John Morrison returns to in-universe WWE television this week as a guest on Miz TV, and the segment takes an unexpected turn: Miz is trying to somewhat sincerely apologize for attacking Kofi Kingston last week and flipping out on fans, and Morrison is like, nah bro, you were right, these people are the worst.
It’s fun to go back and chart The Miz’s character growth from The Real World onward. On that show, he was portrayed as a well-meaning guy who got in trouble because of his mouth and ignorant opinions, and didn’t know how to connect with or communicate with anyone who wasn’t exactly like him. He tried to solve this by adopting “larger than life” secondary personalities like boisterous pretend wrestler “The Miz.” You like him now, because he’s having fun! Forget about the dumb and mean stuff he said before! If you take his media persona as an overarching “character,” Mike went from a guy desperately seeking validation and applause on a lowbrow pop culture medium (reality television), to a guy desperately seeking validation and applause on a different lowbrow pop culture medium (pro wrestling). He struggled to find his place as either a Tough Enough contestant, the “host” of Smackdown, or as the guy Paul Heyman’s version of the Nitro Girls danced around.
It wasn’t until his partnership with John Morrison that Miz really figured out who he should’ve been all along: a brash, confident, and occasionally delusional social climber. Morrison liked to hang out with people like Kevin Federline and say he was a Hollywood A-lister. Miz borrowed from that, and developed into the character we know today: quite literally, a desperate validation seeker hoping he can fake it ’til he makes it. These days, Miz is dealing with imposter syndrome. He knows he should feel like he earned a spot and belongs, but he can’t shake the feeling that he’s still overlooked and disrespected. He’s kinda right, too. So now, at the lowest point he’s been in years, Miz is lashing out to try to convince himself he’s great by putting down everyone around him and attempting John Cena-level tasks like fighting a monster to protect his family. But he’s failing. Daniel Bryan isn’t shadowed by Miz anymore, and can easily defeat and move past him whenever he wants. He loses to Bray Wyatt, because he can’t overcome the odds like a WWE superhero.
And whosoever should come along to support him? The same guy who saved his career before.
Through Morrison, Miz goes from apologizing to Kofi Kingston to getting into a verbal, then physical confrontation with him. Miz could probably beat Kingston in a match — he has, several times, as they’ve probably wrestled a thousand matches together — but he can’t seem to do it on his own right now. He’s emotionally and professionally confused, and driven to a sort of self-destructive envy over the fact that Kofi tied him for most championships won in the 2010s. He lost to Kofi last week, and lost his mind over it. This week, he chooses to sever his tenuous relationship with the WWE fans, something he’s never really felt comfortable with anyway because of his inferiority complex, in favor of a quick and easy solution: his other old friend, cheating.
Miz baits Big E into a confrontation, leaving him open to a parkour attack from Morrison. Kofi gets distracted by all of this, which gives Miz the opportunity to hit an underhanded Special on him and win the match. Miz has rebounded and is “back,” in his own mind, because doing what’s wrong to succeed in WWE is so much easier than what’s right.
Now we’re presumably moving into a Miz and Morrison versus New Day feud for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship, only weeks before the Royal Rumble. I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s perfect to give Miz and Morrison those titles so they have something to do over the next few months (and so they can get on the WrestleMania card), and free up Kofi Kingston to finally win the Royal Rumble and cash in a Mania championship match he doesn’t have to break his back for.
Worst: Lacey Evans Needs To Learn A Lesson From Liberty Belle
Lacey Evans cutting babyface promos:
In past columns I’ve written extensively about how Lacey Evans’ pro-America, pro-American family babyface run opposite childless minorities from the coasts Sasha Banks and Bayley has felt at best like a bad retread of pro wrestling Americana that stopped being relevant in the ’80s (minus that like, six months after 9/11), and at worst like a Fox-approved dog whistle.
This week’s show took that dynamic a step farther by having Bayley show up on the TitanTron to tell Evans that Sasha Banks won’t be wrestling her tonight, because she’s too busy flying out to Los Angeles to work on a rap album. This manages to check off some really terrible class, age, and race warfare stuff like pitting middle America against the liberal Sodom of California, dropping in a mention of rap music to an Evansville, Indiana crowd, and having Bayley make fun of the troops by saying Lacey’s a “jarhead” and that Sasha’s gone “AWOL.” Lacey’s response drives all this home, as she namedrops the “heartland of America” for a pop, uses the iffy phrasing of “people like Sasha Banks, and people like Lacey Evans,” and even baits a USA chant. A USA chant, against a woman from San Jose and a woman from Boston. But what makes them different from Lacey, I wonder?
To try to talk about this constructively, let me use Liberty Belle as an example again. In season two of Glow, the Liberty Belle vs. Welfare Queen feud becomes the top program for the show, and Liberty Belle — or more importantly, Debbie — learns that the “rah rah America we’re #1 we work hard and love our families and our enemies don’t” stuff gets SUPER sketchy when you replace nationalism under the guise of patriotism with racism and classism. You can do the exact same material for a white villain from Russia and a black villain from the United States and have it mean dramatically different things, whether that’s your intent or not.
I really hope the women’s division on Fox’s WWE show stops doing this stuff pretty soon.
Plus, as a fan, Bayley cowering from Lacey Evans and baiting her into a backstage brawl only to get beaten up and run away is so disheartening to watch. And while we’re on the topic of what Lacey Evans promos look and sound like, here’s her every time someone mentions her daughter:
Best/Worst: We’re Now Entering Our Third Week Of Cake-Based Romance
Back around Christmastime, Mandy Rose got the guy who’d been stalking and harassing her for several months, Otis from Heavy Machinery, a Christmas ham. To thank her, his mom made her a freestanding slice of fruitcake. Mandy took the cake, but Dolph Ziggler came upon it and threw it on the ground, stomping it. Otis (and his mom) were depressed about it, and Otis made Mandy feel bad in that same way Steve Urkel used to try to make Laura Winslow feel bad when she rebuffed his advances too aggressively. This week, Mandy tries to apologize by giving her a cake from a grocery store that she made from scratch, or whatever, with a little bulldozer on it. It was cute, and I feel compelled to remind you that while this isn’t necessarily a “good” wrestling story, it’s a wrestling story, and features segments that advance the narrative every week. Something new is happening on each episode.
This ends up playing less effectively than it should because WWE doesn’t just let it breathe.
Mandy Rose has a match with Alexa Bliss that ends with a distraction roll-up after only about four minutes, because Bliss can’t stop staring at Otis wandering down to ringside eating an entire cake with his bare hands. It’s … unnerving, I think is the word?
Honestly? I think I’d be into this story if Otis and Mandy were allowed to have some believable human emotions about what’s going, instead of speaking in platitudes to set up Divas Division Memorial Distraction Roll-ups. I guess the holiday cake-themed pro wrestling romance subplot isn’t being written for aging die-hards, huh? I also think these would be better without Tucker, who might be WWE’s worst actor. Every time he’s in a segment he looks and sounds like whenever Kyle Mooney plays an intentionally bad actor on SNL.
Mostly Best: Uso Helpful
After years of everyone wondering why The Usos and Roman Reigns don’t put any effort into maintaining an allegiance and supporting each other against all the heel factions that seek to destroy them, The Usos and Roman Reigns are finally putting effort into maintaining an allegiance and supporting each other against the heel factions seeking to destroy them. It’s about time. The union helps everyone; The Usos get a boost by working with their Top Guy cousin, and Roman gets to do his One Versus All stories with someone reliable to run out and make the save when he’s getting chained to ring posts and covered in dog food. WWE top babyfaces always have to feel like they’re lone wolves. Hulk Hogan never had any friends and was terrible to everybody, Stone Cold Steve Austin made friends easily but couldn’t keep them because he couldn’t resist kicking them in the stomach and sitting down with their heads on his shoulder, The Rock built his entire brand out of being a disrespectful jerk to everyone he met, and John Cena was just 2000s Hulk Hogan. Roman has literal family members who work with him, so why shouldn’t they be on the same side, you know?
This leads directly into the tag team main event, which goes about how you’d expect. The Revival shows up to pick on the Usos and help the heels cheat, so Roman shows up (cementing the promise they made in the pre-match promo) and takes them out. He takes them out more easily than he should’ve, but he’s Roman Reigns, and they’re a borderline comedy team at this point. King Corbin shows his appreciation for Roman’s appearance by throwing one of the Usos into him, which pisses off Reigns enough for him to spear Corbin and cost his cousins the match. It’s not good for anyone from a professional standpoint, but Corbin was kind of asking for it, because Corbin’s always kind of asking for it.
This sets up a post-match attack with Reigns trying to put Corbin through the announce table, but a returning Robert Roode shows up and attacks him. The real reason Roode was out was a wellness policy violation, but the kayfabe reason is Reigns brutalizing him and dumping an announce table onto him several weeks ago, so the attack makes sense. Not only is Roode helping his jerky friends, he’s getting a personal measure of revenge. He succeeds wildly, as well, getting 100% of the offense in the exchange and putting Reigns through … well, onto the table with a spinebuster. Ziggler has to climb up and drop an elbow to actually do the deal.
A lot of this is par for the course for Smackdown programming, but it felt constructive. It felt like it was happening for a reason. Reigns aligned himself with the Usos, the heat between Corbin and Reigns was the deciding factor in the main event, and Roode got some heat by returning and kicking Roman’s ass. It feels like it’s finally going somewhere, which is nice, even if the “somewhere” it’s going is another Roman Reigns vs. Baron Corbin pay-per-view match.
Also On The Episode
Sheamus targeted Shorty G last week because he hates small things, and thinks they should be exterminated. This would work better if Sheamus hadn’t gotten notably smaller since the last time we saw him. Is it a self-loathing thing? Does he feel compelled to get small because of what Vince McMahon said to him, but also realize how toxic the entire situation is, so he’s misdirecting his anger and taking it out on someone who “got small” naturally? Am I thinking about it too much? I’m thinking about it too much. Bad man kick funny smol boi.
Braun Strowman pinned the Intercontinental Champion. Will Braun Strowman be able to pin the Intercontinental Champion? Stay tuned!
Note: “Brock Lesnar’s never here” has become a thing everyone who wants an “ooooh” pop drops into promos these days — Elias, I’m looking in your direction — but is ANYBODY defending their championships? Nakamura hasn’t defended the Intercontinental Championship since the middle of October. Becky Lynch hasn’t defended her title in about that long, and Bayley’s only defended hers once since winning. These things aren’t just props for the action figures, guys, they can inform and motivate the stories you tell. Why not use them? Why are we still having champions lose non-title matches for seemingly no reason and not even paying it off anywhere?
One of two things happens here:
- Bray Wyatt is orchestrating elaborate puppet shows and crafting mutilated puppet corpses to make Daniel Bryan think The Fiend has some big secret weakness, when he doesn’t; he’s just trying to instill a false sense of confidence in his opponents so his inevitable no-selling and squash victory will be all the more sweet, or
- one of Bray Wyatt’s Firefly Funhouse puppets is truly sentient and is tired of the way he’s being treated, so he’s trying to alert The Fiend’s opponents to his secret weaknesses. This would not only mean that immortal puppets with souls exist in WWE (I guess Sheamus and Beaker already confirmed that, you know what I’m trying to say), but that Bray Wyatt created Firefly Funhouse as a way to creatively self-sabotage himself. Which would explain why the puppets represent his past failed gimmicks, like Sister Abigail and Husky Harris. He’s ashamed of all of this, and part of him’s reaching out and begging someone to save him from the Red Lights Shadow Clown.
Choose your own adventure.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Dave M J
That would’ve been awesome if Daniel Bryan turned to Kayla, and she was in a Fiend mask and just lit him up.
I like Mandy Rose telling all the blonde ladies that look exactly like her that they will never look like her
Lacey Evans is what happens when you watch GLOW and think Liberty Belle is a shoot.
We’re going to get a storyline where Mandy is sexually obsessed with Otis while Sonya watches Liv Morgan replays from Mondays and screams into a pillow.
Let me out.
Son of Tony Zane
Wasn’t Ramblin Rabbit the world’s biggest Seth Rollins fan a few months ago? Lousy betrayer.
more like Tekashi 6amblin 9abbit
“Mother of one Daughter” is fighting with “Has been drinking” for funniest graphic of 2020
Michael Cole: “… Lacey Evans has heard enough.”
Me too. [mutes TV]
Roode/Dolph/the Rev showed Reigns, dear.
And so concludes this week’s Best and Worst of Smackdown. I’m trying to be more positive, or at least more constructive, in an effort to improve the content and not just miserably complain until everyone stops reading. If you liked this week’s column, give it a share and let me know whether or not it worked in the comments section below.
Join us next week for more, and more excuses to GIF old seasons of GLOW. See you then.