Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live: Rey Mysterio and Andrade (Cien Almas) tore down the house, Mandy Rose tried to use a hidden paparazzo to ruin Jim Usos’s marriage, and Shane McMahon did a coast-to-coast dropkick to kick the cardboard that holds a cake into Sheamus’ tummy.
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Here’s this week’s Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for January 22, 2019.
Best/Worst: The Opening
This week’s opening segment couldn’t have been more by the numbers, and your enjoyment of it lives or dies based on how much you want to see these performers. For most of us the amount we want to see them is very high, so it’s probably fine, but it could’ve been better.
If you missed it, the show opens with Becky Lynch cutting a promo on Asuka. Asuka interrupts, because that’s how promos work 100% of the time now, and eventually Charlotte Flair interrupts them both. Charlotte talk shit until Asuka randomly hits Becky, and that turns into an Asuka/Becky pull-apart brawl. It’s one of those segments that isn’t bad, but would be a lot more impactful if this wasn’t the exact thing they do so often. Promo parade, pull-apart brawl. The only thing missing is a fourth person interrupting to set up a tag match for later in the show. I’m gonna guess Asuka jumped in too early and was supposed to wait for Charlotte to like, at least kind of attempt Becky and Asuka into fighting each other, and that’s why it felt so disjointed.
Anyway, Lynch vs. Asuka at the Royal Rumble is going to slap — and, though you don’t need to be reminded if you’re paying attention, right now even the worst shit on Smackdown tends to be better than the majority of Raw — so I’m fine with them stutter-stepping a little to get there. The “announce it on Main Event, then take it back, then spend two weeks building up to the same announcement” preface already made it feel more awkward than it needed to.
Best/Worst (Cont’d.): Rumble Roses
First of all, if you ever need a reason to break them up as a tag team, Sonya Deville having to be completely smudged out during Mandy Rose’s Sexy Soft Focus entrance all the time is a good one. That’s like asking someone to be in your Insta selfie and not letting them have the dog ears too.
Second of all, we finally got to the Fireworks Factory of Mandy Rose vs. Naomi, and … it wasn’t great. The action is really slow and purposeful, like one of them is trying to remember all the spots in real-time, and the finish is super weak. They do an awkward trading of forearms on the apron, causing Mandy to watusi into the referee and somehow blind him to Deville interfering. Mandy then shoves Naomi into the post and rolls her in to pin her. And that’s it! Weeks and weeks of build up, just for that.
And sure, the feud isn’t over, but there’s almost too much to it now. You’ve got the iffy motivations of Mandy Rose trying to not-really sleep with Naomi’s husband because she “doesn’t like her,” and Naomi being increasingly furious to the point of outside-of-work attacks on Mandy even though Jimmy Uso’s clearly been Hands Out Nah about Mandy the entire time. Sonya’s helping Mandy, even though she thinks it’s stupid. Mandy’s in the ring doing a bunch of “YOU’LL NEVER LOOK LIKE ME” stuff that would probably be more effective and less connotative if it wasn’t a blonde white woman screaming in a black woman’s face in a company with a history of not paying enough attention when they do shit like this. On a positive note, it’s a mid-card feud without a title belt involved that’s gotten several weeks of build and development. That, in itself, is good. It doesn’t make the content of all feuds like that good, though, and that’s where we’re at.
Best: The Miz Is The Best Tag Team Partner, Or, “Shane McMahon Really Eats It”
This is the part of the column where we briefly mention how ridiculous it is that Cesaro isn’t a major singles champion and hasn’t been for several years, because he’s clearly amazing at his job, physically charismatic in the ring to tell stories and connect in a way no one else can, and jacked out of his goddamn mind. He’s currently in a 50/50 feud with a sweaty old man who punches like a baby but is the “best wrestler in the world” because his family ran a fantasy booked show for a murderer.
ANYWAY, I’ve written about this a lot over the past few weeks, but I love this approach to Miz as a babyface. There’s always going to be a level of insincerity and falseness to Miz, because he’s just Mike from The Real World pretending to be The Rock, and that’s what (I believe) handcuffed him so badly years ago when he tried being “Ric Flair’s protege.” Here, they aren’t asking Miz to be a different person; simply, they’re allowing him to open up a little as a human being who no longer has to worry about keeping his “spot” in the company, and are setting him up to bond with people who grew up with privilege but also understand what it’s like to be passed over for people seemingly “better suited” for a position than you. Miz has Daniel Bryan (and The Rock, per Miz’s dad), Shane has Stephanie (and their weird dad).
Cesaro wins via ref distraction — that’s two matches in a row ending the same way, which should never happen on a 2-hour wrestling show — but hey, at least he wins. Cesaro should only lose wrestling matches via extreme pure passion (see: Sami Zayn) or act of God. See Cesaro. The best part of the match by far is the post-match attack, though, with Shane leaning into a Brogue Kick like a boss …
… and Miz having to cover him to keep him from taking any more damage like the good 1986 NWA babyface he’s become. I’m forever in love with the dynamic of Bryan and Miz as eternal polar opposites, and how when Bryan becomes a straight-up heel who tells the truth and gets booed for it because he’s being too negatively aggressive, Miz becomes a babyface who tells lies and gets cheered for it because he’s being so positively aggressive.
Join us this Sunday for Miz totally setting up Shane for a hot tag and then kicking his ass for not believing him/in him quickly enough.
Best: He’s Running
“Vince, of course you don’t want to listen to this… because YOU and the baby boomer generation are PARASITES of this world!”
Vince, he’s just trying to pander to your demographic’s documented historical vanity. Resist!
Meet Daniel Bryan, a planet-loving master craftsman of his trade who is the bad guy in a pro wrestling story against (1) a 73-year old Republican businessman who just put his kids in charge of everything, and (2) a highly commercialized MAGA chud who believes the world is flat and gets mad at razor commercials because they’re trying to tell him how to raise his family. Bryan’s role right now, depending on your level of optimism, is either to:
- represent everything WWE thinks is “bad” about its audience, from a sense of entitlement and “blaming others” for their problems to arbitrary shit like not dressing nicely enough, because they like to say they “turn a mirror on society,” and this is their interpretation of “society,” or
- be a really wise actor who uses his job of playing a “bad guy wrestler” at a high level on live television to inject some of his actual thoughts and feelings on the world into his art, effectively communicating his truth to those of us who are paying attention
The actual answer is probably somewhere in the middle, and if you haven’t already angrily scrolled down to call me out in comment section of a wrestling blog on the Internet for caring about/noticing things happening in the real world and not just communicating to you exclusively in star ratings and smark jargon, I’d like to say that no matter the intent, a death of the author approach to The New Daniel Bryan has me loving what he’s doing independent of intent.
To say it more quickly, this is Daniel Bryan right now:
If Styles would like a more audience appropriate response than The Eric Andre Show, how about Galatians 4:16? It’s in the New Testament, way after that part in the Old Testament when Goliath beats the hell out of David for eating too many mushrooms.
Best: That Mustafa Ali Video
One of the most disappointing things about this episode is that WWE Fan Nation didn’t upload the great pre-taped Mustafa Ali video promo that aired before his match against Samoa Joe. Ali’s been doing these in this style for a while and they’re almost always an improvement over Backstage Interviewer Wants To Know Your Thoughts Heading Into Tonight’s Match™. He’s a fascinating person who is great at communicating to an audience like a human being, and if there’s anything WWE needs more of right now, it’s those.
Ali and Joe is a great combination, too, not only because of their physical differences, but where they are in their careers. Ali is a scrappy young guy who has to scratch and claw for everything he’s getting, because his look and name are things wrestling fans have been conditioned to be assumptive and stereotypical about for the past [entirety of wrestling history]. Joe was once that. I remember tons of stories about how Joe could never get a WWE contract because he wasn’t in the right family of wrestling Samoans, and seeing him wreck shop in ROH and early TNA to prove his worth. Joe finally made his name, so much so that he could waltz into WWE as himself, fully-formed, indie name and all, but it took him a while. Here’s Ali getting shuffled onto Smackdown in seemingly “no” time, and while there’s only about 7 years age difference between them and Joe only debuted about 4 years before Ali, Joe’s familiarity over a long period of time makes him feel more like a veteran, and with that comes a sense of seniority and, if we’re being honest, entitlement.
They probably aren’t going that deep with it, but “high-flying face out to prove himself against the top stars in the company” versus “guy who should be a top star in the company but can’t seem to ever prove himself against the top stars” is an even more direct story to tell. If you want to get even more direct, it’s two great wrestlers who are great at wrestling being great at wrestling. Sometimes that fixes any of the wacky stuff you tried to get you there.
Best: It’s A UCLA, Yes It Is
The Tony Chimmel cameo and “Kayla no!” were great, but the money reference here is New Day paying homage to Jaylen Hands and Moses Brown. Really hoping Kofi at least makes it to the final four in the Rumble this year. That guy deserves to win one before he’s done.
Best: Speaking Of Great Wrestlers Being Great At Wrestling
Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade Sin Cien Almas in a 2-out-of-3 falls match, following that barn-burner tag team match from two weeks ago and the somehow even better one-on-one rematch from last week. Bless whichever writer or producer watched those matches and said, “yep, you guys get the entire last half hour of Smackdown, do whatever you want.”
This was as good as you’d expect, and there’s so much to talk about. You could GIF almost any 10 seconds of this and find something great, whether it’s a powerbomb off the top rope (complete with Andrade going from the second rope to the top rope with Mysterio already on his shoulders, which Pete Dunne and Joe Coffey recently showed us is nearly impossible to do even if one of you is really good), the buckle bomb into the ring post, a powerbomb to the floor countered with a backflip off the apron, or that crazy innovative slide into a sunset flip into the barricade Rey pulled off. 44-year old Rey Mysterio shouldn’t still be able to pop shit like this off so seamlessly:
The downside here is that the final fall ends when Samoa Joe shows up and interferes, robbing us of an actual finish in favor of promoting the “every man for himself” aspect of the Royal Rumble they’ve been promoting for like 30 years. It becomes a Joe promo, and then Randy Orton shows up and poses, and that’s it.
The upside, however, is that the Smackdown mid-card scene is killing it right now, and maybe holding off on a finish to this 2-out-of-3 falls match can keep the feud going after the Rumble and maybe recreate itself with even more time and better results with a real finish. Preferably at Fastlane or something, or hell, open WrestleMania 35 with it. Let Almas kick Rey’s ass while Rey’s dressed like Miracle Man or whatever.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
So which ringside child in a Rey mask is Zelina Vega?
The Real Birdman
You can’t steal Jaxson Ryker’s finisher if you’re not gonna mess it up first
Petey Williams shows up and Destroyers them both is the only acceptable ending
I would like a scene where Ali tries to convince the Fashion Police that he was a real cop before all this and Dango/Breezy just don’t believe him.
We’re going to look back on Alita as a technically dicey mess that was carried to relevance by Atrishstratus.
Charlotte just entered this scene like Carmella’s evil ex-wife
Baron Von Raschke
Vince: Good promo, Bryan. You really got into character there.
Calling out the boomers just caused 12 more weeks of Vince writing anti-millennial promos for Ronda
BRYAN: You Vince and all the other baby boomers are parasites to this world.
VINCE: CURSES! Who told you?
Sheds skin and scurries away on his eight legs.
Daniel Bryan would be the greatest heel of all time if he turned everyone’s beer into water right now.
One more time for the people in the back.
That’s it for this week’s Smackdown. We’ve got a Royal Rumble (and an NXT TakeOver) this weekend, so that should be fun. Make sure you’re here for that. Drop a comment below to let us know what you thought of the show, and hit us with a share on social if you’re willing.
As Carl Sagan once blogged,