Joseph Hegarty: Smackdown Views 30/08/13
Friday Night Smackdown began this week in slightly chaotic fashion; throwing the viewer headfirst into our opening segment, Miz TV, where the former “most must see” WWE Champion interviewed Dolph Ziggler and the Big Show. Firstly we were recapped on the events of this past Monday Night Raw where the three men in the ring tonight had to look on and do nothing as WWE champion Randy Orton and The Shield beat down a helpless Daniel Bryan. The Miz then tells us it’s time the WWE universe heard what the superstars really think about the way the company is currently being run, although as host he’s not the one to tell us what this feeling is, instead handing that duty first to Big Show, show offers some decent acting chops, but passes the buck to Ziggler who isn’t keen to offer a definitive line either in fear of his career prospects. This inspires Michael Cole on commentary to claim that the WWE is no longer a democracy, rather a dictatorship under the rule of Triple H. The old adage, speak of the devil and he shall appear, is given credence as the sound of Motörhead fills the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas and proceedings are then interrupted by the WWE’s Chief Operating Officer himself. The Game gets on the mic and tells Miz that he notices that he’s dressed in his ring gear rather than his usual Miz TV attire of a sharp suit, the host replies telling the Cerebral Assassin that “You never know when a fight is going to break out,” before asking the COO that since he’s on Miz TV if he may ask him a question, to which Triple H refuses. He then tells the 3 superstars in the ring that while he can understand that the WWE fans might not know how the business works but he he doesn’t understand the problem the three men in the ring have with him doing what is “Best for business,” while the crowd chant that he has sold out. Triple H then comes to the subject of tonight’s show, in great obnoxious heel mode, telling the Mix how he understands how frustrated the Miz must be having held the WWE title once and then never getting anywhere near it since and thus offers Miz a non-title match versus the champion Randy Orton tonight. Moving onto his next victim, the COO next books Ziggler in another handicap match versus The Shield later tonight. Finally, the WWE’s resident dictator kindly gives Big Show the night off to watch the show from ringside, implying with a threatening tone that if he involves himself in any manner then that would be the end of Show’s long career with the WWE. This opening segment worked well to put Triple H over has a horrible boss who abuses his power and wouldn’t have felt out of place on the A show, Raw.
Without trying to retread old ground from last week’s blog (https://lockupwrestling.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/joseph-hegarty-smackdown-views/) too much, Smackdown is beginning to feel like a more consistent strand of WWE’s narrative output; offering plot progression as well as the character progression more typical of the Friday night show’s output since the end of the brand extension. In fact, the show felt like an episode of Raw in other ways too, although perhaps more like an old two hour episode of the flagship show. This has it’s positives and negatives, but the 30th August Smackdown episode was an enjoyable watch with content that did not drag. Many wrestling fans complain at the current length of Raw, which stands at 3 hours including commercials, with the main argument being that the filler added to stretch the extra hour drags and becomes boring to watch. My counterpoint has always been that while there is potential for pointless filler there is also the greater possibility for at least one very good match on Raw every week. This was perhaps the biggest weakness of this week’s Smacdown, the balance of the promo to wrestling ratio was noticeably to the verbal side of the scale. Although of course branding that as a weakness is perhaps up to personal preference. Being a mark for the WWE product over any other wrestling form (as I am) is a somewhat complicated thing; I have a passion for an exciting in ring product yet the WWE has always remained my favourite professional wrestling based entertainment form, even though it has frequently been called boring in comparison to other promotions such as ROH, NJPW and even TNA, why is this? I propose that it’s character: I feel a relevant analogy here is my enjoyment of the more traditional soap opera (of course, Raw is my favourite soap). While growing up, it was a regular occurrence to eat my tea (the evening meal) in front of the telly with the rest of my family watching the cheery Australian soap opera Neighbours, don’t worry I’m going somewhere with this… And while it perhaps wasn’t the most high quality programming, or for that matter even the most high quality soap opera. Friends would often recommend Coronation Street, but I could never get into it, however I kept watching Neighbours for many years because I knew the characters, the families and their histories, so could enjoy following the narrative of the program despite any lack of quality it might have, whether with its acting or writing, etc. whereas I had no connection to the characters from Corrie so couldn’t get into it. However, after not watching the Australian soap during my three years at university I’ve fallen out of interest with the soap due the exodus of most of the recognisable characters. I would argue my relationship with the WWE performs a similar process, while I enjoy the odd match from other promotions, it’s the familiar characters that always bring me back to the WWE. The recent increase in top quality wrestling bouts in the WWE due to the extension of Raw, and perhaps changes behind the scenes, is a bonus.
With this comparative lack of high quality wrestling on this week’s Smackdown (especially when we’ve had great matches with the combinations of Orton, Alberto Del Rio, Rob Van Dam and Christian in recent weeks) due to a focus on narrative progression, the otherwise rather average offering from the Miz and Orton in tonight’s opening contest can stake a claim for match of the night, perhaps largely due to it being the only match to go longer than ten minutes. The match had a reasonably enjoyable flow, starting with the Miz going for figure four leglock early on with Orton fighting out and both men grappling up, Orton got the upper hand flooring Miz and striking his signature pose to generate some heat from the crowd. The action then spilled outside with the Apex Predator hitting a backdrop to the barricade, a spot that’s seems to slowly becoming a vintage Orton move, in a similar fashion to the rope hung DDT. However, when the action came back into the ring, Miz battled back with his own signature, the corner clothesline (which he recently admitted on the Art of Wrestling podcast that he adapted from the then indy wrestler Evan Bourne). However, this topsy turvy match up was back in Orton’s hands when he reversed Miz’s attempt at a diving double axe handle from the top rope. The contest then takes on another layer as we hear the familiar sound of “Sierra, Hotel, Echo, Indigo, Delta.” from the arena P.A. system, and the WWE Tag Team Champions and US Champion make their way to the ring in their unique style through the Las Vegas crowd. On the return from the commercial break, we see The Shield have positioned themselves as bouncers between the ring and the entrance ramp, presumably to prevent any interruptions to the work of the new face of the WWE, Randy Orton. That man stares down the frustrated Big Show forced to sit ringside next to the commentary table, while JBL in full on heel mode claims he wants to see Big Show fired, encouraging him to interfere in the action. Cole attempts to reference an old angle where JBL manipulated a down on his luck Shawn Michaels who was unable to support his family, but is unable to fully articulate due to JBL’s excited shouting. Orton taunts the crowd almost in parody of his former babyface role, before stalking Miz for an RKO which he manages to reverse into a backslide pinning combination for a two count. The Awesome One follows the pin attempt up by locking in his figure four leg lock, while Big Show cheers him on stood up at ringside. However, the Viper slithers out of the submission and this time manages to successfully hit the RKO for the victory. As the bell rings the Hounds of Justice hit the ring and continue the beat down on Miz that Orton had already started, cue Ride of the Valkyries and an appearance from the no.1 contender to the WWE Championship, Daniel Bryan with steel chair in hand, to make the save to a backdrop of huge “YES!” chants from the crowd who absolutely lap it up as we go to commercial break.
As Smackdown returns we see Daniel Bryan now backstage in the General Manager’s office, who is being called a Bully by Vickie Guerrero, so of course the camera pans to WWE’s resident bully Ryback, who hypocritically claims if there’s anything the Big Guy doesn’t like it’s a bully and then tells Bryan that he’ll “See you out there, shrimp.”; our main event is booked. But for now our next match up is Rob Van Dam vs Damien Sandow, who cuts a short promo on his way to the ring on the subject of being the uncrowned World Heavyweight Champion. This was a brief match, serving its purpose to give RVD momentum ahead of his world title shot in September and to bring out Alberto Del Rio to further their feud. Van Dam wins via the Five Star Frog Splash. The champion enters and runs down the No.1 contender’s new manager Ricardo Rodriguez, accusing him of betrayal, before telling RVD that he might have the Rolling Thunder but that he is going to rain all over his parade at Night of Champions.
Our next match had the potential to be match of the night due to the talent in the match but the match didn’t really go long enough to have enough content to stake that claim, although what The Shield and Dolph Ziggler did with that short time was entertaining enough. Ziggler dictated the pace early on hitting lots of rapid high impact offense before the numbers’ game took full effect. Ziggler showed a glimpse of hope rolling up a Shield member for a near fall before being the victim of a wicked powerbomb onto the turnbuckle and a brutal looking Spear from Roman Reigns that earned The Shield the victory. JBL kept up his distasteful heel role claiming he was having a ball out there as The Shield taunted the crowd and Big show by dragging Ziggler’s limp body around the ring before hitting their signature triple powerbomb to end the segment. Next up we have a promo segment from Paul Heyman and his client the Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel. Nothing new was really offered here, purely a segment to continue to garner heat against the pair for their antagonization of one of the WWE Universe’s favourite sons, CM Punk. Although, I did enjoy Heyman trying to sell the Night of Champions, claiming that if you buy the pay-per-view you’re pretty much guaranteed to see him beaten up by CM Punk. This is followed up by another slightly throwaway segment giving the Wyatt family a continued presence on WWE television, for which the most noteworthy item was the ridiculous booes that the post-production team had piped in; I can’t remember them ever being booed on a live show, they always get an audible pop when that bassline hits. The match sees Luke Harper and Erick Rowan defeat Tons of Funk in an extremely short match, with Bray Wyatt joining them after the match to hit Tensai with his Sister Abigail reverse STO.
The main event now pits Daniel Bryan versus Ryback, they start with a brawling opening which is ended when Ryback hits an impressive modified powerslam on the King of Beards. Ryback continued to dominate until Bryan countered a corner shoulder block to get back into the match, hitting multiple running dropkicks to the Human Wrecking Ball in the corner, followed up with a suicide dive after throwing his opponent to the outside. Presumably due to Bryan getting the upperhand we are joined by Randy Orton at ringside, he distracts the No.1 contender who is clobbered by Ryback with a massive lariat. After some more offence by the Big Guy, Bryan fights back with some stiff looking kicks which inspire an amusing “YES!” chant and gesture from the World’s Largest Athlete at ringside, until Ryback takes down the smaller wrestler with a heavy spinebuster followed up by a Meathook lariat for the nearfall. Daniel Bryan is then hoisted to the top rope for an attempted avalanche belly-to-belly suplex from Ryback but Bryan counters with hard headbutts knocking his opponent down to the mat before following them up with his trademark front missile dropkick. The No.1 contender is now in control of the contest and gets a nearfall after a huge kick to the head from Bryan, which he follows up by locking Ryback in the YES! Lock after the bigger man had kicked out of the pin. However, Daniel Bryan is denied the win via submission by Orton who enters the ring and clobbers his new archrival; the WWE Champion is joined by his lackeys The Shield in his beatdown of Bryan. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back for Big Show who finally gets in the ring, causing Triple H to return from the back, storming out and shouting at the World’s Largest Athlete to get out of the ring. The crowd chants “NO!” but Big Show begrudgingly yields to Triple H’s power. With Show now dealt with, the Game gives The Shield the nod and they pick up Daniel Bryan who is floored by a punch from Orton, then again with a kick. Bryan is then dragged around the ring by the Hounds of Justice, parading him around for the fans at the behest of Orton who is doing some great heelwork here, which is recognised by the crowd who audibly chant “Randy Sucks!”. The shield then finally hit the helpless Bryan with their powerbomb. Orton then puts the finishing touch to this demolition of the Submission Specialist, giving Bryan some of his own medicine (after his paint job on Orton’s new car on Monday) by simply spraying the word “NO” on Bryan’s battered body. Smackdown goes off the air with Bryan standing in the ring with his championship belt held aloft while The Shield stand on the outside posing with their three fists held together in unity. For me, this just pipped Orton’s earlier match to claim match of the night for Daniel Bryan and Ryback.
Recently I’ve read complaints regarding the WWE babyfaces being beaten down and made to look weak. I disagree, seeing it as both refreshing and productive. It makes me wonder if the criticism is down to the WWE finally getting an underdog babyface character that everyone can get behind in Daniel Bryan. Injured topdog John Cena got his beatings every now and then but seeing as half the audience treat him as a heel anyway it didn’t really bother them that he got beat down. Perhaps with Cena, fans have become disconnected to how wrestling booking generally works, they build up the heel making it look like the babyface could never possibly triumph with the deck stacked against them before finally getting the upperhand and therefore putting them over. Since we grew to feel Cena could never have the deck truly stacked against him because he always won, have we forgotten how to feel about this kind of wrestling booking? I think it’s working very well so far, I’m starting to get some serious loathing for HHH & Orton and I love Daniel Bryan even more than ever. For this reason, Triple H is my Smackdown superstar of the week as he was the most successful of the performers this week to generate sympathy for the babyfaces, he comes across as so loathsome in his new evil boss role and I like how his heat generation targets both the casual fans in the audience and the internet smarks who will get in a hissy fit because he basically called Ziggler too short to be a success.
Until next week Smackdown fans, business is picking up on Friday nights with real storyline progression; tell your friends to tune in and make sure you come back to this blog and tell me what you think by commenting below or tweeting me @HelloHegarty.