AJ STYLE’S IC CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTATION- on the balance, decent (explanation is after the first match)
A bunch of the wrestlers are surrounding the ring for this, not just undercard geeks like Tucker Knight and Lucha House Party, and other heels like Baron Corbin. Even New Day is out there, and they’re the #3 babyface act on the show (and the top in the tag division). I always wonder about the logistics of this. Is the GM ordering everyone to come out for this? Are they showing up of their own volition? We actually got an answer here, as AJ noted that he had “invited” everyone to be at ringside. New Day and Daniel Bryan (and the other babyfaces, like Jey Uso,, LHP, Tucker Knight, and others I’m sure I didn’t notice) are then essentially out here to be polite, which is not only a babyface thing to do, but also makes anything they do responding to dickish behavior on AJ’s part more justified, as they were trying to be nice until he started being a dick, and they’re not going to just stand around and be insulted.
On the flip side, though, the lack of presence of some of the other babyfaces (Braun Strowman in particular), comes off as a little dickish, but I guess you can just say that they’re sure AJ is going to be a dick and aren’t giving him the benefit of the doubt the way New Day, Bryan, and co. are.
AJ now wants Bryan to present the championship to him. He was an AMAZING dick about it, and Bryan did a great of hesitating and showing that this bothered him but that he was actively deciding to be the bigger man, rather than coming across like dork who had been mentally beaten into submission. When AJ chided him for not saying “congratulations” loud enough, Bryan turned it around on AJ, giving a grand speech praising AJ’s ability and telling him he has the capability to be the greatest IC Champion of all time if he steps up and defends the title against all of these talented wrestlers surrounding the ring.
AJ finally gets sick of Bryan’s speech and says that he’s not Bryan and doesn’t share Bryan’s philosophy. AJ thinks that only a select few wrestlers who prove themselves to be worthy should get title shots… and I must admit that I’m much more in line with AJ’s way of thinking than Bryan’s. These open challenges that WWE has used as a crutch so much over the past five years and that Cody is now doing over on AEW are essentially handouts to unworthy challengers.
Bryan accepts that he and AJ have different philosophies, but points out that Drew Gulak pinned AJ two weeks ago, so surely he deserves a title shot. AJ says Gulak isn’t worthy, which is important because while we all know wrestling so we knew that heel AJ was going to hide behind this idea of “worthiness” for a title shot to duck challengers, AJ hadn’t actually done so yet. This is the point where AJ’s actions make him a heel. It is a necessary moment in the story, and one that is, sadly, skipped far too often in modern wrestling, where the announcers seemingly know from the moment someone makes a statement whether they will hold true to it or not, and deliver condemnations of the heel on day one when they should be saved for after the heel has actually done something heelish.
Anyway, AJ says that the next person to run their mouth like Bryan has had better be ready to deal with the consequences.
Cue Matt Riddle, bro.
Graves said “leave it to this guy to be late for his own debut,” which, to me, doesn’t make Riddle come off likable. Either that, or there was a title presentation ceremony for the new champion who won the title fair and square that even many of the top babyfaces (Bryan, New Day) decided to come out for, but Riddle couldn’t be bothered, with makes him see a little rude. Neither are good.
Cole quickly tells us that Riddle is “the most enthusiastic Superstar™ in WWE,” while Graves tells us “don’t be fooled by the laid-back demeanor. Matt Riddle is an absolute stud- a stallion, if you will- inside the ring.” Those are going to be you official Matt Riddle bullet points from the announcers that I’m sure you’ll be sick of hearing within a week.
Upon hearing these two statements, I was struck by how contradictory they seem. I’m sure there is an adjective to describe the overlap of these two ideas, but I’m having trouble coming up with it because they feel so contradictory. It’s the sort of thing that whoever came up with these hype phrases should have noticed if he/she was competent with the English language, but apparently didn’t. Either that, or he/she was overruled by an incompetent boss. Either way, there is clearly com incompetence on display here.
Riddle tells AJ that he’s not looking for a handout, and tells AJ that he is “the bro that runs the show.” AJ sucker-punches Riddle, leading to a brawl that AJ wins. The wrestlers all standing around and watching instead of trying to break it up was a little weird.
We went to a commercial break and got…
MATT RIDDLE vs. AJ STYLES- 7.75/10
The ring announcers started to introduce this as an IC Title match, but AJ interrupted him and told him it wasn’t. What happened here? Did the announcer just make an assumption? He shouldn’t be doing that. It’s either that or management did want it to be a title match and AJ was allowed do just overrule them, which shouldn’t be happening, either.
Cole seems to be putting the blame on AJ for this, saying that AJ should do what Bryan says and be a fighting champion. I agree that we should have a fighting champion, but there is no reason why being a “fighting champion” and having only worthy challengers should be mutually exclusive. Riddle hasn’t done sh*t on the main roster and lost his final match in NXT. Why should he be getting a title shot?
The match itself was a great showing of what Riddle can do in the ring, but I didn’t like AJ having his run-in with Bryan right before the pin, and Riddle’s with Corbin earlier on makes me rather nervous. The other thing that concerns me is that the fact that they seem to be trying to make dancing to Riddle’s music part of the act. Not necessarily by riddle himself, but every time the music was playing, I saw New Day and Otis in particular dancing away. This is NOT a good sign for how Vince views the act.
This all took up the first half hour of the show (maybe a bit more), and while the components were mostly great, I thought introducing Riddle this way was a mistake. Matt Riddle is not your standard wrestling personality, and the way they tried to debut him here- coming out and interrupting the new champion’s ceremony and declaring himself to be the new top guy- is one of the most cliché and generic ways you can debut someone. It was the general outline of “new guy comes and challenges champion. He gets his character over by acting *INSERT ADJECTIVE HERE*,” where in Riddle’s case, that adjective is “laid back.” If this were Charlotte it would have been “arrogant,” for Drew it would have been “intense,” “smarmy” for Rollins, “angry” for Kane, “spooky” for Wyatt, “crazy” for R-Truth, etc. It feels like they’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
Matt Riddle’s personality, in my opinion, requires vignettes (or at least backstage appearances) to get to know him, first. Let us see him backstage, just being a chill bro and getting along with all of the babyfaces, from Otis and Mandy to Daniel Bryan to New Day to Jeff Hardy to Braun Strowman to Lucha House Party. That is a WIDE cross-section of different personalities. Show him being just as happy to grapple with Drew Gulak as he is to participate in antics with New Day or listen to hip-hop with the Usos (sorry, but that’s basically the only thing we’ve learned about them in ten years that doesn’t have to do with them being brothers) or admiring Jeff Hardy’s nice paintings. This will serve to not only establish his character as being easy to get along with, but also hopefully allow him to be endearing, so that you avoid the situation like we had here where he kind of looks like a douchebag sauntering out in the middle of a confrontation between two other people during a championship presentation ceremony.
Then, when he tries to get along with some undercard heel or another (Mojo, Bobby Roode) and the heel responds by being a douche, we get a first feud that shows us that just because he’s laid back doesn’t mean Riddle is a push-over.
Aside from the way Riddle was handled, the other thing I didn’t like was the booking. Gulak feels like he will be lost in the shuffle, as AJ now has issues with both Bryan and Riddle, and Riddle is going to be in a spot where he either needs to win the belt or be screwed out of it by a top guy to keep him on top… and the obvious route there is Baron Corbin, who is absolutely not the kind of guy who will complement Riddle’s in-ring style, and because anything Corbin is involved with is pretty much immediate death.
JEFF HARDY’S SIT-DOWN INTERVIEW WITH RENEE YOUNG- GREAT!
KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS CHAD GABLE- meh
She asks him if he is worried about the size disadvantage he faces in his match with Mojo Rawley tonight. Gable explained why he wasn’t. Meanwhile, Mojo came up behind him to silently mock his eight. Gable then made an extremely awkward comment that heavyweights “don’t know what it’s like to have eyes in the back of their head,” at which point he turned around and punched Mojo. If they had just let Gable answer Kayla’s question then this would have been fine, but instead they had to add this pointless element with Mojo that forced Gable to say this completely weird line so that he could turn around and punch Mojo and thus not look like a putz.
CHAD GABLE vs. MOJO RAWLEY- 2.25/10
Neither guy got his entrance shown. They did at least play Gable’s music right after his interview so we know he got one, but to come back from the commercial with the ref keeping these two away from each other while the Smackdown theme played instead of Mojo’s entrance music or no music (because they usually cut the music off long before the bell) made both guys feel unimportant. Like they were just generic guys, and the real star was the show itself.
Gable won a short match with a small package.
MIZ TV WITH SPECIAL GUEST MANDY ROSE (ALSO FEATURING JOHN MORRISON)- I’ve got A LOT to say about this one.
Miz and Morrison rightfully complained about the rules of their match being changed on them right before their title match. The rest of their shtick was good heel stuff.
They bring Mandy out here and start telling her she was a bad friend to Sonya Deville. Mandy eventually gets annoyed and says “I didn’t come out here for you to insult me,” then gets up and leaves. While Mandy wasn’t wrong to walk out of this situation, I do wonder why she accepted this invitation in the first place. These guys are heels, and they were apparently making fun of her boyfriend on this very show a few weeks ago. What did she think was going to happen? Maybe she thought JoMo would try to hit on her but she’d rebuff his advances and put Otis over? I don’t know.
Sonya Deville came out to get in Mandy’s face. Mandy says she’s done with this feud. Sonya starts yelling about how she’s upset that she’s not getting booked. She says that Mandy hasn’t deserved the opportunities she has gotten. She says that even the advertising for this episode of Miz TV only mentioned Mandy in the advertising and not her.
She says out that Mandy hasn’t even done anything with these opportunities, pointing out that Mandy has lost most of her matches lately. All Mandy has done, she says, is make out with Otis.
Mandy responds to this by saying that Otis is loyal and unlike Sonya, Mandy has people who loyally stand by her.
Sonya eventually started to break down and cut a really great promo saying that she is superior to Mandy in every way, and yet Mandy keeps getting booked because of her body, so she is going to rip Mandy apart so she no longer has her nice, pretty body.
Sonya started a fight, which Mandy wound up getting the better of. When it was clear Mandy was getting the better of it, Miz and Morrison stepped in her way to allow Sonya to escape. After Sonya left, Mandy slapped Miz and stormed to the back.
Okay… so let’s start with the easy stuff and then move on to the hard stuff.
I really liked Sonya’s promo and thought her delivery was tremendous, but I think that it (and this whole storyline) would have been A LOT more effective if this had been the first time we’d heard her express these sentiments. This could have- should have- been the big dramatic moment when we finally find out why Sonya turned her back on her friend and tried to sabotage a budding relationship just to stop Mandy from behind happy. Instead, WWE has been having her say this for weeks, both in reference to Mandy and to Lacey Evans, who she has spent the past month feuding with over these sentiments.
Then there is the issue of the legit MMA fighter having the best gotten of her by Mandy Rose. I’ve always been a fan of Sonya’s, and while I sympathize with this argument, I liked the way they did this for several reasons. Firstly, the interaction with Miz and Morrison provides a natural reason for the fight to stop without the cliché flock of referees running out to break it up, or the even worse “I’m the fired up, angry babyface, but I just don’t feel like chasing you anymore” that we got with Cody and Archer on Dynamite the week after the angle with Brandi (and that was actually worse than this would have been, as Cody was the wronged party there and trying to get at Jake for touching his wife inappropriately, while here Mandy already gave the heel some comeuppance via wining the brawl).
Mandy slapping Miz at the end was natural after everything that had happened so far, and, along with some of Miz and Morrison’s earlier comments, sets up a transition to an undercard tag feud between them and Heavy Machinery very well, and to have that happened necessitated Miz getting involved in this in some way, and this was a fine way to do it, as it allows Miz to get involved to Mandy’s detriment while not even come close to doing anything that would require Otis to come out and get involved. I can’t give WWE total credit for this because I don’t know if the Miz & Morrison vs. Heavy Machinery feud is actually going to happen, but I always love segments that accomplish multiple goals in ways that fit together naturally. This sort of thing is an excellent example of one of the reasons I love examining booking so much. I LOVE seeing how the puzzle pieces fit together, and when possible to see the line of reasoning that was taken determine where each piece had to fit.
The crux of this segment was Sonya cutting her promo on Mandy and them brawling. Yes, they could have just had Sonya call Mandy out on the false pretense of wanting to bury the hatchet or had Sonya interrupt some promo of Mandy’s, but they had their points they wanted Sonya to make, and a good way to make those points feel a little more credible would be to show some actual evidence of the company promoting Mandy but not Sonya via having them do just that for a talk show that both were apparently booked on.
If you’re doing this with a talk show format then you need a sh*t-stirring talk show rather than a babyface talk show or an interview with one of the normal interviewers, and MizTV has been WWE’s go-to for this. You need Mandy to win the fight but also give her a reason to stop that doesn’t completely bury Sonya, and a heel stepping in her way to break it up when he didn’t do so when the heel was winning the fight is a great way to do that.
You want Mandy to slap him to show that while she isn’t going to go chasing Sonya down when Sonya has already run away, her emotions are still running high, and as a bit of revenge for the heel interceding in the fight, but at the same time you can’t have the heel actually put his hands on Mandy because you don’t want Otis to have to come out, but just stepping in the way of a fight isn’t really that terrible of a thing to do so you don’t want Mandy’s slap to come off as unjustified, so you need to have the heels do something to her personally, first, and the heel talk show format creates a natural situation where the heels can get her riled up by being biased towards Sonya.
Miz and Morrison are also a great fit here because. as I noted above, it can naturally lead to an undercard tag feud between them and Heavy Machinery while New Day and Cesaro/Nakamura feud over the tag titles. You blow this feud off with a clean win at the July PPV, and now you’ve got some credible top contenders for SummerSlam. Throw in the fact that they have previously said mean things about Otis, were involved with him in last week’s tag match, could subtly pivot to him in their promo absolving themselves of responsibility for their loss at Backlash, and- perhaps most importantly- they already have a regular talk show segment (as opposed to randomly giving one to someone else just to set this segment up) and it all fits together PERFECTLY.
If you’ve ever wondered why my fantasy booking projects always turn into such expansive and intricate things and wind up involving so many more people and stories than the one angle I initially set out to book, it’s situations like this. In the quest to tell a logical story, the answer to a question will often create its own set of questions that need to be answered, and the creative process feeds on itself.
The single match from any of my fantasy booking that I’m most proud of is the “captain of the winning team gets a title shot of his choice” Survivor Series match I booked for the 2013 Survivor Series in my “BRM Books Raw 1,000 and Beyond” fantasy booking project. That match came about because I wanted to set up an angle where Big Show would turn heel by throwing Swagger off the stage and putting him out for a few months to set up a match at Mania. From that starting point I asked myself “what would get Big Show angry enough to throw Jack Swagger off the stage?” which led to the answer “he’s upset about missing out on a title shot and something Swagger said inadvertently rubs it in,” which led to “is that really enough to throw someone off the stage?” which led to “Big Show feels that Swagger cost him a title shot,” which led to “if they’re both babyfaces, how can Swagger cost Big Show a title shot in a way where Swagger won’t know that there is any tension between them?” which led to “Swagger can lose a match where the stipulation is that if he wins, Big Show will get a title shot,” which led to “how the hell do you make that stip make any sense?” which led me to the idea of the shot going to the captain of a winning Survivor Series team, which then meant I had to figure out a reason for such a match to be set up in the first place and to figure out who would be on the teams and what the fallout for the others might be (i.e. “how can I make the results of this match meaningful for more than just the captains?”) and then how to make that work with everything else I had planned (or how to change said plans to fit this new idea), etc. and from the question of how to set up that one angle (Big Show throwing Swagger off the stage), I wound up with no less than seventeen different storylines, angles, or matches, which would play out of the next fourteen months (and that’s just what I can remember now, over five years after I wrote it. There could well be more that I’m forgetting about).
Booking a promotion can be looked at as each big show being a collage, with each storyline having it’s own little section, and that’s mostly fine, but I think that at its best, booking is more like a tapestry, which each character or storyline being its own thread and weaving in and out of each other to form a beautiful whole. I find that so much deeper, richer, more intricate, and more nuanced than a bunch of stories happening mostly in a vacuum relative to each other.
Okay. I promise I’ll stop with the verbal masturbation now… although that point about things not existing in a vacuum will be relevant soon.
The final and most important reason that Mandy had to win this brawl is because if she doesn’t, then isn’t Sonya right? Pro wrestling is supposed to be about who is the superior fighter via their combination of to toughness, technical skill, speed, and smarts. Sonya has just said that she is superior to Mandy in all of these categories and even pointed out that Mandy has not won many matches lately, and while Sonya’s own record isn’t great, she does have two recent wins over Mandy… and yet Mandy is on TV every week and Sonya is not (and has only been on TV opposite another supermodel-hot large-breasted blonde, Lacey Evans). Mandy has to win this fight because otherwise, Sonya is pretty much proven correct.
This issue actually extends past just this feud, too. One of my biggest criticisms of AEW’s booking so far (and especially since Dynamite began) is that when they make a decision for a specific storyline don’t think through its implications for their wider universe, and this segment right here is a fine example of WWE making the same mistake.
BY FAR, the weakest part of this segment was Mandy’s defense of herself from Sonya’s accusations, which were pathetically weak. Hell, they were pretty much non-existent. Her only comment was that unlike Sonya, she has a support system of loyal people like Otis. The closest I can come to making sense of this is the idea that Mandy is on TV more than Sonya because even though Mandy herself isn’t booked, she has a boyfriend who is nice enough to bring her out to ringside to cheer him on for his matches… which is honestly WORSE than if Mandy had said “damn right it’s because of my rockin’ bod. I look like a f*cking porn star! Every week I barge into the meeting where they’re deciding who to book on the show and say ‘yo! If you f*ckers want to draw some ratings and some web-traffic to my profile on the website, why don’t you book Otis in a match tonight, because I want to stand at ringside and cause as many erections as possible!’” because at least that would have some shred of sex-positive feminism in it with Mandy having agency.
But what Mandy actually did say isn’t as much the issue here as what she didn’t. Mandy needed to have a defense in here. Not really even for herself so much as for the company. After all, if Sonya is right- and several things, such as the Otis and Mandy poolside video Sonya referenced making the air, and the fact that they were apparently both booked for this segment but WWE only advertised Mandy and never once mentioned Sonya- gives some strong evidence that she is, what does that say about the kayfabe management of WWE? What does it say that we are now just a few weeks shy of FIVE YEARS since Stephanie McMahon declared a “Divas Revolution” and over four since they stopped branding the women as “Divas™” and started calling them “Superstars™” just like the men… and we’ve still got a woman getting put on TV when she hasn’t earned it at the expense of women who actually have been winning their matches, all because of her looks?
Could I come up with some kayfabe-viable reason for why Mandy is getting so much TV time? Barely (for example, perhaps WWE wants to showcase Otis to promote his positivity about his body and Mandy’s presence is incidental, or Otis and Mandy popular as a couple so WWE keeps putting them on TV to draw kayabe ratings). But they wouldn’t be particularly good, and would all suffer from the flaw turning WWE’s ultimate kayfabe goal into something other than what it’s supposed to be, which is to be a professional combat sports league with the purpose of determining which of their wrestlers is the best in each division.
LUCHA HOUSE PARTY (Lincé Dorado & Gran Metalik) vs. THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Big E.)- 5/10
Sasha Banks & Bayley were on commentary so Cole could briefly bring up their title defense against the IIconics on Raw. Sasha and Bayley were extremely annoying throughout the entire segment, and that’s not even factoring in things out of their control, like the fact that the camera kept cutting away from the action to show them sitting there at ringside. In that first few minutes before the commercial break, it’s entirely possible that we saw more of Sasha and Bayley than we did of the wrestling. This was even worse than Jericho on Dynamite the other week. Can someone please do me a favor and hack Kevin Dunn’s DVR so that his favorite shows keep cutting to the Weather Chanel every five seconds so we can see how he likes it?
New Day won, then were immediately attacked by Nakamura and Cesaro. Cesaro then cut a promo to the announcers about how they were tired of being overlooked.
I know this horse has been dead for years and its corpse is pretty much completely decomposed by now so it’s not even worth beating, but I must: Just listen to Michael Cole when the heels are beating New Day up. He’s telling us how they beat the tag champs last week and are now saying “hey! We want a tag team championship opportunity.” It’s SOOOOO unnatural. No one would ever say that! Everyone in the world would say “title shot” or “title match” or “a shot at the belts” or something like that, but no. In WWE, everyone is required to say something so unnatural that even the person who has been repeating Vince’s verbiage the longest still had to briefly pause to make sure he didn’t say one of the forbidden words because the forbidden words are so natural to the industry.
A BUNCH OF WOMEN STAND AROUND AND TALK- TERRIBLE
This segment got off to a bad start when they left the music from the Firefly Funhouse plug playing after they had cut away from the graphic and it drowned out the beginning of Alexa’s sentence, but this thing was doomed from the start.
A bunch of the women- Alexa Bliss!, Tamina, Naomi, Lacey Evans and Dana Brooke- were standing with their backs to the apron (or, in Alexa’s case, sitting on the apron) of a ring at the Performance Center, all facing the camera. We got NO introduction to this. No reason for when it was filmed or why it was filmed, and of course no reason for these five to be hanging out together, no explanation of why Alexa’s friend and tag team partner Nikki Cross was not there, or no explanation for anything else. This is the sort of thing that if you had just set it backstage would have been fine, but the fact that they were in this odd place, all together at a time that clearly wasn’t show-time, and all standing together in this completely unnatural manner makes it feel phony because you imposed a phony setting upon it.
They begin to bicker about who should be the next challenger for Bayley’s Smackdown Women’s Championship. Dana gives a big speech to the group saying that they have all been disrespected by Sasha and Bayley so they should all get a title shot. My jaw dropped at this.
I really feel bad for Dana Brooke. I know she tries really hard and I don’t even think she’s that bad in the ring anymore, but it’s segments like these where her character always seems to come across as… well…
She’s like a wrestler version of what Byron Saxton sometimes (although, admittedly, much less often now) comes off as in his role as an announcer. Someone whose wrestling career was born and raised purely within the WWE system and who knows nothing outside of WWE, and has thus been so indoctrinated with the buzzword-laden company Kool-Aid that if this were real, she wouldn’t understand the way a combat league is supposed to work is that your wins and losses determine whether you keep getting brought back and which opportunities you get booked into. Someone who if she beat everyone woman in the division other than the champion on successive weeks and then the next week they were all booked in a #1 contendership battle royale, she would just smile and be happy that she’s getting a #1 contendership match because she doesn’t understand that that’s total bullsh*t and she’s getting screwed.
Alexa notes that Nikki has disappeared, but Tamina was uncertain if Nikki had been there in the first place.
KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS SHEAMUS- good heel stuff
Kayla’s head doesn’t even come up to Sheamus’ shoulder. Sheamus proudly admits that he is a bully. He’s going to “toast” Jeff Hardy next week.
NIKKI CROSS ATTACKS THE TAG CHAMPS- HORRENDOUS!
When we go back to the announcers, Sasha and Bayley are inexplicably still sitting at ringside, even after a commercial and two segments. Nikki ran up and attack them from behind… except that because of the plexiglass and the location of their chairs, that’s pretty hard to do, so she actually came at them from the side… and even that wasn’t easy because she had to climb over the little timekeeper’s booth to get to them, and apparently was able to do this completely silently. Even more ridiculously, after accomplishing this amazing feat of getting to them undetected, she didn’t just attack the person closest to her. She went around behind and past Sasha to grab Bayley’s chair from behind and pull it over backwards, and then turned back to Sasha to attack her. If I was running a company and someone put this together, if it was an agent, he/she would have been fired on the spot, and if it was a wrestler, I would assign a competent agent filter the stupid from each and every one of his/her matches.
Alexa Bliss! came out to pull her crazy friend off these two women who had beaten them fair and square TWICE. Nikki then challenged Sasha to a match, and Bayley accepted on Sasha’s behalf. They’ve done this several times as part of this Bayley/Sasha break-up that they’ve been teasing every single moment those two have been on screen together for the past two and a half years, with the idea being that Bayley is putting Sasha in matches that Sasha doesn’t want to be in. The problem with is that it suffers from a GAPING plot-hole, which is that unless Bayley has the power to book Sasha in matches (which she logically wouldn’t and they’ve never told us otherwise), all Sasha has to do to get out of these matches if she doesn’t want to wrestle them is say “no.” At that point either the match can’t happen because Sasha isn’t consenting to it, or the nameless, faceless matchmaking authority who does have the power to force people into matches they don’t want to be in is the one making Sasha wrestle the match, not Bayley.
NIKKI CROSS (w/Alexa Bliss!) vs. SASHA BANKS (w/Bayley)- 3.5/10
Despite jumping her opponent from behind and beating her up before the match, Nikki Cross still lost cleanly, and to a non-finisher no less (a Meteora into an Alligator Clutch, and one where Sasha lost one of Nikki’s legs, to boot), making her look like a total chump.
TITUS O’NEIL IS UP FOR SOME SORT OF HUMANITARIAN AWARD- Keep up the good work, Titus!
AJ vs. Gulak for the IC Title advertised for next week, even though AJ clearly didn’t want to give Gulak the match earlier. It sure would be nice if we had some kind of authority figure to come out and tell us that Gulak is worthy of getting this title shot (AJ does have something of a case, as AJ wasn’t the champion when Gulak beat him). Or at least have an announcer outright tell us that the powers that be disagree with AJ and think Gulak is worthy and thus are giving him a title shot.
They also have a graphic for Sheamus’ “toast of Jeff Hardy,” including a very sad and pathetic-looking Jeff Hardy. I guess Sheamus made the graphic himself?
Yeah. The stupid gobbledygook puppet show is the main event of the show. Before the final commercial, we were shown Braun staring angrily at the Firefly Funhouse logo on a monitor backstage. But he’s probably not as angry as I’m going to be if I have to watch the Firefly Funhouse every week.
Thank G-d I’m watching this at 1:00 AM and no one else in my house is awake to walk in and see me watching this.
Bray gave a bunch of goofy, stupid explanations to explain where he has been for the past month, accompanied by graphics and stupid sound effects. Then Ramblin’ Rabbit popped up and told us that Bray had really been crying because he lost to Braun Strowman, at which point we got clips of Bray losing with goofy sound effects, including Ramblin’ Rabbit counting the pin. I’m going to come back to this in a moment for a big rant about Bray Wyatt and the Firefly Funhouse, because I think is a fair time to talk about both this incarnation of Bray and the old one, seeing as how… well… just read on.
Bray says he has gotten over his loss. Braun Strowman’s music played and we cut back to the ring because Braun’s music is playing, and he started to cut a promo on what I had previously assumed must be a pre-taped video from Bray because of the clearly post-produced horse crap, but apparently it’s live, because Bray reacted and responded to Braun interrupting him.
Braun declared their story to be over and told Bray not to even bother starting back up. Bray laughs and tells Braun that while their chapter might be over, the story is just getting started. Bray says he wasn’t joking about resurrecting the dead, and then turned into Wyatt Family Bray Wyatt and he’s going to feud with Braun in this gimmick now. And I’m sure WWE is thinking “hey! It worked for Mick Foley, so why shouldn’t it work for Bray Wyatt?” And the answer to that question is simple: Because unlike Bray Wyatt, MICK FOLEY HAD ACTUAL F*CKING SUBSTANCE TO HIS CHARACTERS!
So yeah. Seeing as how The Fiend and the Firefly F*ckbucket seem to be done for now, I think this is a good time to examine the character… or rather, his lack thereof.
At this time last year people were going gaga over the Firefly Funhouse. Everyone was speculating on what, exactly, we were watching. Was this us somehow seeing into Bray’s mind? Was it Bray acting out the things in his mind and showing them to us for some unknown reason? And what could that reason be? Or was this Bray trying to trick us into thinking he had changed when in reality he hadn’t? If someone did as he asked and let him in, would he dig his tendrils into their minds and slowly start to bend them to his will without them realizing it until it was too late? Would they ever realize it?
Were these puppets maybe supposed to represent other people? Was the fact that they were puppets intentionally symbolic, or just a coincidence? Could their names or species be references to something? Someone? Is Abby the Witch Sister Abigail? What are all of these things in the background? Are they clues? Look! It’s so meta!
And then The Fiend came along. Oh my G-d he’s so cool… but what is he? Are he and Bray one and the same? If so, does Bray realize that they are the same and not separate entities? Or is The Fiend just another persona Bray has concocted in a scheme to get us to lower our guard around his Mr. Rogers self?
We didn’t know, and we sat in front of our TV each week waiting for answers, dissecting each episode in an attempt to find them.
Well… it’s one year later and the character is now gone, AND WE STILL DON’T KNOW SH*T! Remember when Ramblin’ Rabbit was trying to warn us about The Fiend and we were all asking whether the puppets have wills of their own? And if they do, why Bray would let something that we weren’t supposed to see/hear/know be broadcast in one of these videos? Well here we are tonight and Ramblin’ Rabbit is exposing Bray’s lie about not being sad about losing to Braun, and he’s even edited together his own part of the video to insert. Or maybe he hasn’t and Bray wanted that shown. WE STILL DON’T KNOW. AND WE NEVER WILL, because I’m willing to bet that Creative don’t even know themselves. I’m not even sure the f*cking question has ever occurred to them!
And I warned you all that this would happen. After five years of Bray Wyatt cutting promos that sounded deep and cool and ominous but never ever wound up actually meaning anything, WWE finally realized that fans had seen through it and that the character was thus damaged beyond repair, so they took him off TV for a long time to design a new gimmick for him. And when he came back and started cutting these mysterious promos again, I told you not to get your hopes up, and I was right. Because this is WWE and they are incapable of learning from their failures. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have had so many f*cking years of “what’s our latest scheme to get the people to cheer Roman?”
So instead of fixing the problems with Bray Wyatt- the fact that the things he said had no actual substance behind them, and that his actions always felt like they were dictated by a combination of the desire to do something people would think was cool and whatever the needs of the plot happened to be at that particular moment, rather than having any sort of real plan or logic behind them- they just took the formula that clearly wasn’t working and gave it a different coat of paint and added an antennae or two and hoped that no one would notice. Bray Wyatt is the RealDoll of professional wrestling. It doesn’t matter how nicely you dress him up; a cursory glance will reveal that he has no actual substance!
And now they’re trying it again, but by giving us back the old model that wasn’t working before, hoping that absence will have made the heart grown fonder. And that might be true at first, but after a few days of exposure to an old ex, you start to remember why you dumped him/her, and you go right back to wishing he/she would go away.
Despite having one or two things I thought were very good, I’d definitely have to call this a bad episode of Smackdown. But at least it gave me something to talk about.
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Hold #712: ARM BAR!
FIP in 2005
PWG All-Star Weekend V: Night 2
DGUSA Open the Northern Gate
CHIKARA Hot Off the Griddle
FIP in 2005
PWG All-Star Weekend V: Night 2
DGUSA Open the Northern Gate
CHIKARA Hot Off the Griddle
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