The Best And Worst Of Smackdown 3/21/14: We Were Down There!

I dearly hope Heath Slater wins the battle royal, tries to pick up the Andre trophy and somehow gets pinned by it.

Pre-show Notes:

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Okay, on with the Smackdown…

Worst: Peaking At The Right Time

The “roll” Dolph Ziggler is currently on is, somehow, actually sadder than the months of crushing losses he preceded it with. I mean, there’s something noble about aiming high and falling short, but celebrating like you’d just won the World Cup of Supermodel Sexing when you just pinned Damien Sandow and gesticulating wildly at the Wrestlemania sign when you’re in the pre-show battle royal is a farce.

Also, no JBL, Ziggler is not peaking. Peaking implies you’re at the top, the zenith, of your career, and Dolph Ziggler won a World Title. Two of them I think! I mean, hell, he didn’t beat Sandow via a drum to the face, so this isn’t even the peak of Dolph’s last six months.

Worst: A Master Class In Wasting My Time

This was pretty much the platonic ideal of a time wasting segment. Kane comes out, shows a lengthy clip, each and every one of you’d the audience for a while, then read a letter from Triple H that stated literally nothing. Whenever I start feeling a little sorry for the WWE writers and production team having to put together 30 hours of television a week, I think of segments like these and don’t feel so bad. Thankfully our man Kane would redeem himself in a big way later in the show.

Best: Booking By Alliteration

Fandango and Fernando were just booked against each other because their names sound sort of the same, right? There’s no other possible reason for these two to be fighting. And hey, I’m fine with that — I encourage more booking based on people having similar letters in their name. I’m legitimately not sure who would win between Camacho and Cameron and I’m sure Curtis Axel and Curt Hawkins would be a uh, hmmm…okay, I guess this can only be taken so far.

Fandango/Fernando wasn’t just delightfully random, the match itself was pretty fun too. Has Torito always had tiny Giant Gonzalez muscles painted on his outfit? Maybe the white outfit just makes them more noticeable. Thankfully Torito hasn’t hit little bull person puberty yet and thus far lacks the uh, crotch fur. Torito being attracted to Summer’s red dress was also pretty clever (and a more adult treatment of human sexuality than the Santino/Emma segment that came later).

Worst: Nope, Don’t Care

Ever since Cena/Wyatt became about [slow exhale]…John Cena’s Legacy I’ve had just about zero interest in this feud. It doesn’t help that I’m pretty much done with Bray Wyatt promos in general. Yeah, sometimes Wyatt pulls off a creepy turn of phrase, but his promos aren’t about anything. When Wyatt first showed up on the main roster I criticized his promos for just being collections of scary words, and months later they haven’t progressed an inch. Producing random litanies of vague creepiness isn’t hard. Here, I’ll write a Bray Wyatt promo…

“Your parents always told you the Boogie Man wasn’t real, but you need to open your eyes man — there are worse demons lurking in the dark! Demons like me who will eat your soul and drink your tears and throw open the doors of a new reality! Ohhhh my stars and garters! Chikara reference, crab walk, 60s pop standard lyrics, follow the buzzards!”

You’re free to use that one Bray.

To all the Bray fans typing up their furious comments as we speak, listen, I can understand how you’d be invested in this character if you followed him from day one in NXT. This guy used to be Husky freakin’ Harris. He pulled off an impressive transformation, but now he has to go further unless “dumpy Kane” is all he aspires to.

Bray is supposed to be a cult leader, right? Tell me what this cult believes in. Tell me what his goals are. That’s the difference between, say, The Straight Edge Society, and The Wyatts — Punk had a set of beliefs and his feuds grew in a natural, satisfying manner out of conflicts with people who offended those beliefs. When Bray has something meaningful to chew on, like say his battle for three-man unit supremacy with The Shield, things work, but when he doesn’t, he’s lost at sea. He needs a guiding philosophy to anchor him. Honestly, I hope Bray steps things up to the next level, because there is a man with his legacy on the line in this feud, and it ain’t John Cena.

Best: The Shield, High-Flyin’ Babyfaces

So, until somebody finally turns on somebody I guess The Shield are just unapologetic babyfaces now. It was rather bizarre to see these guys who have been all about relatively unflashy teamwork for over a year hitting stereo dives and elaborate sunset flip spots left and right, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. At this point I’d be totally okay with pushing the break-up back to SummerSlam and letting The Shield be smilin’ flyin’ dudes with tudes for the next few months.

Best: One Hell Of A Job Evaluation

Unfortunately a pretty solid four-way for the tag team #1 contendership ended in DQ when Kane interfered, but then things got surprisingly great. By now Kane is pretty well established as the most ineffectual member of The Authority (yes, I’m including Brad Maddox and the ghost of Teddy Long in that statement). His job is just to come out, say the boring stuff Triple H and Stephanie can’t be arsed to do and absorb knees to the face from Daniel Bryan. Over the past few weeks though, a somewhat more interesting character has been emerging — Kane, vengeful middle manager. The guy who makes life hell for the guys immediately under him, while desperately trying to fly under the radar of the bosses above him.

Kane rounding up a bunch of nobodies, sycophants and opportunists who would usually be below The Authority’s notice to be his middle management Authority posse was perfect. Seeing The Shield brought low was striking because we’ve so rarely seen them vulnerable, and the humiliation stings even worse when dad jeans Billy Gun and Road Dogg are the ones hanging out the beatings. Roman Reigns crawling to the ring to try to save his teammates was a fantastic visual — inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. Arrrgh! Why are you so good at this The Shield? You made a beatdown featuring the New Age Outlaws and Slacks Kane one of my favorite segments so far this year.

Worst: I’ll Take Three, I’ll Take Three

Poor Big E — dude has at least one boot firmly planted in the Intercontinental Championship mire of misery at this point. Now he’s eating pins off Alberto Del Rio superkicks, which is about as low as the momentum needle goes. Even Wade Barrett got to successfully defend his title on PPV after losing pitifully for a month. What’s this leading to? Both these guys are in the payday battle royal at Wrestlemania.

The only way I’d accept a superkick leading to the finish of a Big E/Del Rio match would be if Big E caught Del Rio’s foot between his pecs and tore his skinny leg off with a flex. Biggy, buddy, at this point I don’t think anybody’s going to blame you if the airline “loses” the IC title somewhere between Peoria and Birmingham.

Worst: I Am Not Enjoying This Man Baby On Crazy Lady Romance

So, Santino is backstage wearing what looks to be a bib. A motherly lady carefully daubs at his face while he recounts a date with Emma I feel blessed to have missed. As Santino nauseatingly details how much he loves Emma’s smell, nose and navel (worry not gentle reader, he doesn’t mention any of her yucky girl parts) she sneaks up behind him and starts dancing, startling Santino who screams, falls on his ass, then headbutts her. Instead of apologizing her runs away whimpering. Who writes this horses–t? A feral child who was raised by a tape of Billy Madison?

Remember how good Santino used to be with female partners? His romantic angles with Beth Phoenix and Maria were great. What happened? I guess back during Santino’s prime WWE was still willing to depict male/female relationships of at least a middle-school level of complexity. Now we’ve regressed to pre-school level s–t, and I tell you, I’m not looking forward to this thing progressing to the playing doctor phase.

Worst: The Women’s Division Confuses Me

Okay, so the Bellas were wrestling Natalya and Summer Rae, but then Nattie and Summer weren’t getting along and, uhh, what the hell is going on with the Divas division?

Naomi, Nikki Bella and Natalya have all pinned AJ, but Tamina also has a beef with her, but now she doesn’t and the Total Divas are fighting the non-Total Divas, but the Total Divas are also fighting amongst each other and, and…is all this confusion intentional? Is this building to Vickie Guerrero coming out and being all “I have no idea what’s going on soooo 15-woman Santa’s little helper pole match at Wrestlemania!”? Can Naomi just be awarded the title based on her amazing sequined eye patch leading to a blood feud blow-off with Aksocketbuster at Wrestlemania instead? No? Can Sara Del Rey just spike piledriver the whole division? No again? Come on, work with me here WWE.

Best: Heath Slater Gets A Wrestlemania Moment

I loved this little backstage segment. It’s so rare these days for things to happen according to regular, time tested wrestling logic — it’s all face of the company this, and John Cena’s legacy that. This on the other hand, was a bunch of crummy guys beating somebody up for the authority in exchange for title shots. Simple. Straightforward. This should be business as usual and not the exception.

Also Heath Slater was adorably pleased to be in the Andre The Giant Battle Royale. It’s a bit embarrassing when multiple time world champions are cutting fiery promos about how winning the chocolate Andre will cement their legacies, but you can totally believe the Jinder Mahals and Drew McIntyres of the world would be legitimately jazzed to be a part of it, so you can be happy for them. I mean, how much copper is in that Andre? I’m sure JTG could find a use for that money. And if it really is chocolate, well, I’m sure Brodus Clay could find a use for that chocolate.

Best: Inappropriate Hurricanrana Theater

Yeah, I’m not so hot on the Cena/Wyatt thing, but what the hell, I try not to let crappy storylines get in the way of good matches, so I’m still giving this a Best. Not that this match was good in a, shall we say, traditional sense. I think Cena knew there was no way he was replicating the kind of hard hitting, fast paced match Harper has with Daniel Bryan, but still wanted to do something memorable so he settled on a hurricanrana-fest between two guys with a combined weight of 550 pounds. I’ll give it to Cena, he did, at the very least, achieve memorable.

Of course the match ended the only way it could have — with Cena shrugging everything off, effortlessly AAing Harper like he was made of cotton candy, then smirking his way up the ramp as Bray and company bumble and fume in the ring. It’s tough to beat a guy and destroy his legacy when that guy’s legacy is founded on beating guys who want to destroy his legacy. Best of luck Bray.