MPW7 Another Week in Wrestling: Smackdown September 6, 2016

This week’s Smackdown Live again brought a program that missed a couple steps but was, overall, a good time thanks to a steady dedication to building solid builds and having a bit of fun. It could only get better as the roster quality improves on the whole. This week’s edition also boasts what I would consider the best…the BEST….segment of the Raw/Smackdown Live continuum for this week. As far as WWE programming, it will surely have some stiff competition in the Cruiser Weight Classic the following day.

Let’s break it down.

 

(New Category) THE BEST

 American Alpha VS The Usos

 For all the star power and big time drama abound on RAW, this simple, old school injury-based angle with a couple of twists accomplished so much and set up so much. It was a joy to watch. We were taken a bit by surprise with the Usos storming in to attack American Alpha before the bell rang, expecting heel-ish tactics to perhaps come after a loss tonight. And the loss came but also, BAM, right away. It effectively set up a scene where the Usos could have been embarrassed, and it also got the desired job done without wasting time. Then we had a situation where the Usos could have again led us on and showed their change in persona at the special, but we got it immediately instead and it paid off. The manner of taking out Gable’s leg looked and felt severe. A sufficiently big deal was made of this by several ensuing replays and references on commentary. Now we have a whole match between two accomplished tag teams, which really didn’t happen yet, and has a LOT of heat around it, to look forward to at some point down the line.

The Usos also had a very real, unscripted feeling promo afterwards. It wasn’t the most smooth or coherent delivery, but it didn’t need to be, and played nicely off of genuine negative reactions the Usos have gotten from audiences in recent months. Hmm, I wonder what other wrestlers would benefit from a change up in persona due similar circumstances? Renee was also fantastic here, displaying quiet disgust with what she just saw these guys who she had been chummy with just a few weeks ago had done. The Usos would also let loose a tweet referring to the change in character, nicely paralleling the story on the show.

 

The GOOD

Miz VS Crews

This did not appear to be the most exciting booking – a rematch from Summerslam. But it was an OK match that ended cleverly, managing to accomplish a lot. Miz looked competent in his winning way via devious tactics as he took advantage of Dolph Ziggler’s presence, misdirecting Crews and Ziggler toward each other and then Crews into the ring post shoulder post, allowing for him to hit his finisher and pin in the ring. Ziggler was perhaps a bit perturbed by Crews colliding into him for his troubles. And it could tease dissension between Ziggler and Crews, but this was not at all played up – a bit of a ball drop in my opinion. Then again Ziggler was very vocal about Crews’ potential later on Talking Smack – it could be some foreshadowing if Ziggler were to turn heel?

Crews also continues to look great in the ring. He hit the same moonsault spot in the narrow space between the ring and fans out on the floor. He worked the impressiveness of it afterwards, high fiving fans sitting nearby. What is missing for Crews is a win. I fear his character does not look good with loss after loss, and should definitely get some matches against jobbers to bolster him up.

 

Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella, and Naomi VS Natalya, Alexa Bliss, and Carmella

This had a slight air of rehash to it at first, being another Summerslam rematch, but the match really picked up toward the in the end, was solid. There was a lot of fast paced action. Carmella looked like a stronger contender than ever as she tapped Nikki out with her neck lock finisher, The Code of Silence. Alexa Bliss also looked impressive with the punishment she doled out on Nikki. Naomi’s new raver entrance and upbeat style of fighting also suits her well.

I think in the future, mixing things up a bit would be go a long way in keeping the show from getting stale. Instead of all of the women in one big match, how about pairing 2 and 2 for a tag match, and pairing the other 2 women in the division into a singles match. I also understand Becky’s character has a bit more charm than her straight shooting serious persona in NXT, but I would really like the exaggerated expressions outside of matches to be toned down. It is sometimes distracting, and she should be taken seriously for all of her talent.

 

Rhyno and Heath Slater VS The Hype Bros

This was a good match. The balance of comedy to serious action was in the right proportion with all of the wrestlers putting on a match with some suspenseful spots. Rhyno and Heath definitely have momentum going into Backlash where many are pulling for Heath to get a contract.

 

AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose talk some smack

Both guys looked and sounded alright here. Delivery was not wooden, not overly goofy. Styles is the real revelation here, though, continuing to command the mic, slow down the pace or turn up the volume when needed. He exuded confidence. I also like that the brand is not giving away the show by having these guys lock up in some kind of match right before they face each other on a special. This builds far more anticipation.

 

The BAD

 That Wild and Crazy Dean

 There was just a bit of Dean being silly and mock crazy at the beginning of the show; just enough to remind that this is not a good direction for him. The trophy he presented to AJ was a bit silly but had a purpose, and the fire of his verbal attack on AJ Styles was stirring. Please just do away with all unnecessary goofy scenes with Ambrose.

 

The cast of the Smackdown Women’s Division in DRAMA

These promos where one wrestler talks. Then is interrupted by another wrestler, who talks. Then is interrupted by another wrestler, who talks and so on and so forth are terrible. They feel totally disingenuous and are often peppered with the most corny lines of any given show. These segments seem to be reserved for the women on the show more often than not. Let’s do away with this stale form of storytelling.

  

Bray a rockin’ and a ‘ramblin’

I have liked Bray Wyatt’s presence and style of delivery lately, which makes this return to murkier and less compelling presentations a shame. As a rule of thumb too, if a segment is being shown live, with audience reaction included it should be live, with the performer working the crowd. If it is on a screen, then it might as well be prerecorded, and might as well be given some cool edits and effects. Bray sitting back in his rocking chair, talking archaically with (gasp) FOG entering the picture is not rousing any excitement. Bray should be getting more aggressive and energetic in his manner of presentation.

 

The WEIRD

 Randy Orton

 Randy Orton seems to be a hot character, still evoking his uphill battle at Summerslam, where was savaged but came right back to work following the bloody match. Instead of hitting RKO’s out of nowhere he has been trying to keep up with Bray’s odd storytelling mode. And this time he spun a real yarn. It was more confusing than Heyman and Stephanie’s segment on RAW the week before. It would be bad, just plain bad, but it was so….strange, it ended up keeping my attention. Orton’s lashing out on twitter to a critical fan afterwards was priceless.

 

 ——

After the dust settled, Talking Smack turned out to be a solid addition to the show. Daniel Bryan is the real star, really feeling like he is talking genuinely about the things he liked about the talent on the show – I love how he put over Ambrose and AJ Styles as performers, dissing the competition, and making slip ups that show his human side and turn into humorous banter with Renee (‘isn’t it the Hype Brothers??). They advanced the angle of Gable’s injury with Shane updating us on his condition and they discussed how it would play out on the special, giving Talking Smack some exclusives for Network viewers. Shane’s aura felt very awkward, making me cringe as though I was in the room with the three of them, but a little uptightness doesn’t hurt in fact it also lent an air of realness to the way their interactions came off.

 

MPW4 Another week in wrestling: NXT/CWC August 31, 2016

This was a pretty subdued episode of NXT, notable for its lack of familiar faces. It was a reminder of how many bodies were called up to the main roster in recent days. And while there are some colorful NXT mainstays still in rotation, here was a real emphasis on up and comers, a reminder perhaps that the division is about developing new talent. Perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a mode where appearances of the same wrestlers do not occur week in and week out. This could be a good long run strategy for keeping fans from burning out on certain talent, perhaps even increasing interest in seeing them when they tour live. It can make for a bumpy road between specials, as this episode clearly illustrates.

NXT

The GOOD

Samoa Joe

This very brief segment with William Regal and a doctor at the beginning of the show had a tinge of reality to it, as Joe was reported injured from his match with Shinsuke Nakamura at Takeover Brooklyn, yet mention was also made by the doctor of unreported injuries on Joe’s part before the match. It sets up intrigue for a rematch down the line, and sets up a plausible angle where the results of match number 1 are called into question. For now it seems like Joe will go away leaving audiences hanging on his return.

 

The Perfect 10 spot

Ty Dillinger seems to be on his way to the upper echelon of the NXT roster, getting another win and flaunting his gimmick throughout the match with audience participating rambunctiously. I could see a good next step being Ty taking on some of the more prominent heels like Aries and Rude, perhaps falling short but coming very close to victory.

Aliyah, heel you livin’

Aliyah came out to the ring for her match with Liv Tyler in some commanding ring attire, working a heel-ish look and attitude. It suited her. She used a painful-looking leg submission and smashed her leg down on Liv’s head a few times midway through, reminiscent of NJPW submission spots. The match was pretty rough, though, but potential is definitely there for Aliyah to play a brash, cocky antagonist on the roster.

 

The Revivial beat down Ciampa

The fighting between The Revival and the team of Ciapma and Gargano has arguably been the hottest thing going in NXT, and one of the best feuds in wrestling this summer. All players involved know how to work drama and storytelling into their matches and promos. Here a good old fashioned two on one beat down by The Revival made for us to want Johnny Gargano’s return from injury to come sooner than later so that we can see a rematch of their stunning battle at Takeover Brooklyn.

 

The BAD

 

Itami, you talkin’ to me?

During Itami’s promo, which had nothing but great words, there was a forced feel to it. Toward the end it seemed as though Itami could have even been reading a card off to the side. I’m not saying that’s definitely the case. But regardless it definitely should not look like it. I know all too well the challenges of Japanese learning English and delivering long phrases smoothly. They should give him a lot of practice (My services are available!) and allow, even encourage lapses into Japanese. The ore natural delivery would make up for any missed meaning in the words themselves.

 

Andrade ‘I get no respect…from Austin Aries’ Almas

Here is another English as a new language issue, and I want to emphasize it is GREAT, fantastic even that wrestlers of multiple nationalities are given a chance tio shine in NXT. Use of those prerecorded promo segments should be taken advantage of to make things come off great, though, and plenty of practice should be given. Aries was great as an obnoxious heel but Andrate seemed too timid and when he was given a chance to talk, it didn’t feel that fiery.

 

The WEIRD

Nothing weird, just an ok show with appearances by some of the main players in outside the ring roles, some new talent highlighted whose matches varied from ok to rather clunky. Some spicing up was definitely in order.

 

CWC

This was the popular tournament in prime functioning on all cylinders mode, with 2 long matches, making up half of the quarter finals, filled with great wrestling and fantastic story telling.

 

The GOOD

Gran Metalik VS Akira Tozawa

This was a great match with a lot of speed and agility on display. The two combatants’ styles varied making for interesting exchanges of moves, but both have had experience with Japanese ‘strong style’ rhythms and this match took on a lot of that, with exchanges of chops and shoulder blocks. Tozawa has such an effective manner of riling up the crowd, like in the way he runs for a suicide dive; his movements are fascinating to watch. A highlight on Tozawa’s part was breaking up a forearm exchange to land an unexpected stiff looking punch to the face. Gran Metalik’s move set looked very polished, and his unique rope walking techniques were executed smoothly. The final exchange between the two with finishing moves being reversed and kicked out of was unpredictable and plenty exciting. I hope we see more of Tozawa in a WWE ring, because his style and charisma have been entertaining throughout his matches in the tournament.

 

Kota Ibushi VS Brian Kendrick

This will surely stand among the best of the CWC tournament matches when all is said and done. With a finish that many had called from the beginning this managed to be extremely suspenseful. I was fully ready for a reversal from the expected outcome, as news was reported earlier that Ibushi, the often dubbed favorite to win, did not sign with WWE full time. In fact, looking at how this played out, one could even make a case that reporting that was a well placed plot device to make an Ibushi loss seem more possible to those following the behind the scenes of the industry.

This was a prime example of match as storytelling, based around the brilliant work of the wrestlers in the ring and commentators – Bryan and Mauro Ranallo – calling the action and giving background details to enhance the drama. Ibushi’s past previous neck injury was figured into the story, particularly when Kendrick got the advantage worked a backbreaker from on the apron outside the ring, bouncing the back of Ibushi’s head against the ring post. It looked incredible, complete with Ibushi selling it perfectly, falling straight down, face first, into the incoming ring apron and rolling to the floor like a sack of dead weight. The story of the injured neck continued, with Kendrick leading a very innovative offense. Must not forget the other story being weaved of Kendrick being a wily veteran, but one who has been away from action long enough to be an underdog throughout the tournament, but who would regain a lot by winning. This was sold perfectly by Kendrick pulling sneaky and original maneuvers like wedging Ibushi’s foot between slats in the guard rail to try to get him counted out. Throughout the match Ibushi hit his high flying moves with amazing preciseness. The timing of Kendrick’s moves, which included his patented Sliced Bread from the top (perfect considering the emphasis it has on impacting the opponent’s neck) and rarely performed moves named for us by Ranallo and Bryan, led for very believable false finishes. This match had instant re-watch value.

 

The BAD 

That this will come to an end. But hopefully an overwhelmingly positive reaction will lead WWE to continue delivering this style of programming in the future.

 

The WEIRD

The WWE’s main shows on television, RAW and Smackdown Live can rarely deliver matches with this much excitement. If they cut the volume of events and let performers build matches with stories and drama, those tv shows would regain a lot of appeal.

MPW 3 Another Week in Wrestling: Smackdown, August 31, 2016

Another week…in wrestling: SMACKDOWN, August 31, 2016

THE GOOD

Smackdown was very good overall. It is becoming increasing clear that there are certain elements making SDLive the more interesting production than RAW, week in and week out. Although RAW’s eventful conclusion may have been more exciting than anyone moment on Tuesday’s show. Smackdown’s production was more consistently interesting throughout.

Daniel Bryan and Renee Young

Bryan has Renee have been a huge source of joy brought on when watching Smackdown and of course, the related Talking Smack. They are both very credible in the enthusiasm they bring to whatever they are talking about and into interactions with anyone they work with. It is easy to believe in their characters and can often forget there is a distinction between their pro wrestling roles and actual personas.

 

Bryan and Shane talking Talking Smack

This quick opening segment was evidence of the above with Bryan calmly and believably bringing us back to the amazing verbal throw down between him and The Miz on last week’s much buzzed about Talking Smack. It also showed a much needed distinction between SD and RAW, often promised but little seen, when Shane reprimanded Bryan for getting in The Miz’s face. It’s a marked direction from what you associate with Stephanie who is all about management being overbearing and hostile to its talent. There was also a hint of dissent between Shane and Bryan, nothing overblown, subtle enough to be realistic and lead to some interesting shading to the show down the line.

 

Heath Slater and Rhyno, Home on the range

 I liked this weird pre taped segment in the home of Slater and his trailer trash wife’s home for the most part. It was a bit overly stereotypical at times and I didn’t care for the level of crudeness they had to resort to. But then you had Rhyno adding this hilarious and simple element to it all by just sitting there eating and decorating chips, near oblivious to the others. Subtle humor on the part of elected official that I would not have imagined possible when he reprised his role as the master of the GORE on NXT. And then there was Renee, excellent at playing straight man, err woman, and bearing the silliness of it all without breaking out of serious journalist mode once.

 

Slater and Rhyno VS The Headbangers

With the unlikely assistance of some former wrestlers from back in the Attitude Era who were never all that interesting, in my opinion, Slater and Rhyno managed to capture this lightning in a bottle momentum of two guys forming an unlikely team to win a tournament, become the first NXT tag team champions and get Slater a WWE contract. Here the big impact move of a Gore had a perfect place to end the match. There was also the awkward appearance of blood, stranger still for its occurrence the same way Lesnar drew it from Randy Orton in their infamous Summer Slam match; with a sharp elbow to the temple. It was almost too reminiscent to be coincidence. But whatever led to it, it helped take the unlikely team that much more seriously in their quest. Which is always more compelling than WWE’s desired goal to position talent to be ridiculed.

 

The Booking: AJ Styles VS Apollo Crews; Dean Ambrose VS Baron Corbinn

These matches were fine for the most part, but what was most pleasing was this simple, easy to watch formula of booking that I’ve long wanted to see on RAW and Smackdown. Take your top program wrestlers, have them face wrestlers lower on the card, and put together matches that a) assert the dominance of those at the top and b) give a shine to the lower card combatants for their valiant effort or devious tactics or what have you. Interest in the upcoming collision between top guys (or gals) increases as their momentum builds, yet they’ve been kept apart so it will be something new (unlike, say, Rusev and Reigns having a 15 + minute match days before being booked for a match at Summer Slam). Of course veering off the course is needed at times to keep things lively, with say tag team encounters, interview face offs, etc but this is a good solid way to build a show. As far as the mid card guys getting over, Crews hit an incredible Moonsault off the apron to Styles on the floor, high and in a narrow space. His character really needs some pizzazz to get people’s attention, even if it’s just a flashier look. I can see giving him a hot streak of wins against jobbers, not unlike with Strowman and Nia Jax over on RAW, helping considerably. Corbinn did not seem quite as interesting. He continues to be unlikable but his physique is a bit too noticeably loose in my opinion. He should bulk up that physique to credibly come off as the monster he is being pushed as.

 

The BAD (or just OK)

Shane, (please) not vs Lesnar

 A leftover note from the week before, it was not great that Shane claimed his business with Brock Lesnar is ‘far from over’ only a bit after Orton cut his promo on Lesnar and expressed hopes for a rematch. It was not illogical and they did not do much with it this week so it is safe to say for now that Shane’s angle with Lesnar is not getting blown out of proportion. But Shane’s claim overshadowed Orton’s and put his contention with Lesnar on the same level as the Viper’s, which should not be the case. Something should have been done to make it clear the true intrigue in ring is between Orton and Lesnar. Shane should at this point be in NON-WRESTLER status and it should be made a bit clearer that he would not dare enter into physical combat with Lesnar, and that his course of action should be based in the legal or business sphere.

 

The Miz and Dolph Ziggler, and then…they talked

The interaction between these two on the mic was OK, nothing terrible. But it was a bit of a disappointing follow up to the volatile confrontation between The Miz and Bryan on Talking Smack the week before. On the one hand, it is credible and a marked difference from RAW to have Bryan and The Miz kept apart for professional reasons. But things could have been a lot more heated and compelling if Bryan and The Miz did meet in the ring again, if the apology they spoke of (was that it right there in the opening segment??) was delivered in person with The Miz not buying it. Ziggler’s challenge to the Miz made sense and will hopefully be a step along the road to a character change, the needed catalayst perhaps. This would make it worthwhile instead of Ziggler continue to languish in a losing role. Ziggler’s rationale for the Miz to fight also did not make that much sense and would have been easy for him to counter, but he remained silent. Perhaps it pays off with The Miz attacking Ziggler next week; something to keep Miz a dislikeable character with that edge he presented the week before.

 

AJ Styles, gosh golly

Let’s be clear right away, AJ is good. AJ is GREAT. But I am mentioning him here because he is getting a tad to hokey in his demeanor. A bit of cartoonish bragging and aloofness is OK, but what rocketed AJ to this spot is his amazing wrestling. He also summoned a serious fire in his promos when challenging Cena, and should keep that element in play to go along with the in ring excellence.

 

The ending of Ambrose VS Corbin with AJ interfering…awww nuts!

As stated above, I loathe the idea of Styles becoming a silly character. So seeing him reacting to being crotched with the exaggerated moaning and groaning did not make for that potential intense build toward their match at Payback. Ambrose’s reaction, giving him a little condescending handshake, while different than the norm and maybe even some improvising on Dean’s part, took me right out of the scene as well. Here is a threat to your title reign, interfering in your match and trying to do you harm; a harder strike back was called for, even if was just dismissively pushing Styles to the floor.

 

The WEIRD

Talking Smack

How to follow up the previous episode’s viral momentum? It would be unrealistic to think they should try to do something more intense so I didn’t mind the more mellow scene at all. But instead of staying mostly in character, as it seemed was the case the week before with the Miz and also Carmella, who just flat out rushed the set and attacked Nikki Bella, the talent this time came off much more like their actual selves commenting on their wrestling personas. Not always but sometimes. But it was far from terrible, more like a good weird. There was still building on the stories on the show taking place, like Rhyno and Slater discussing their aspirations to win the tag team championship tournament. But their unscripted conversation led to real life tidbits leaking in, making for an interesting mix of in character and real life on display. The same goes for Styles coming out, overselling the crotch situation, but getting into less heel-ish details of his goals, such as taking on celebrity status and doing charity appearances. This might have seemed like it would not meshed well with his kayfabe villain but in this setting it was fine. Bryan’s being there and being genuinely interested and experienced in many facets of wrestling also led to talk of wrestling outside (gasp) the WWE. The respect Renee and Bryan have for their roles, again, makes for such easy enjoyable viewing, and so when Bryan talks up the matches on the upcoming Payback special, the enthusiasm feels genuine. And it does carry over to us, the viewers.

 

 The WHAT IF…

The hostility between Bryan and The Miz was allowed to continue. Bryan apologizes, but maintains his criticisms. He declares that although he cannot step back in the ring and bring prestige to the Intercontinental Championship title, he can find the best talent in the world to do just that. A battery of challengers is unrolled, not unlike Cena’s US Championship challenge, but an unwilling one with a heel persona doing he defending. It leads to a special where the surprised challenger is Samoa Joe. The very legit shoot style capable wrestler takes to the ring, decimates the Miz and rides the momentum of fan appreciation for new call ups. Perhaps this could shift after a little while with Joe reprising his role as a monster, and goes on to a hot undefeated streak.

 

What do you think? Questions, comments, criticisms…bring it.