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SmackDown Redux (23rd August, 2016): Let the games begin!

[media-credit id=762116 align=”alignnone” width=”620″]Carmella-Bella-Busters-Nikki-Bella-SmackDown[/media-credit]

The competition in the SmackDown women’s division is intense. With a new title and an extra addition on the block, the race to the top has officially begun – and it’s already a pretty sweet one!

The first segment of SmackDown has the brand’s general manager Daniel Bryan and commissioner Shane McMahon revealing the SmackDown Tag Team titles and, more importantly for us, the SmackDown Women’s Championship. After the beautiful design and name is shown, we’re then told that on September 11th on Backlash, Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch, Carmella, Naomi, Natalya and Alexa Bliss will compete for the title in the first ever female six-pack challenge!

Immediately after the title presentation ends and the break concludes, Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss begin a match – with Natalya and Naomi on commentary. The action showcases both women’s specialties, with Bliss highlighting her aggression and Lynch’s technicality.

Whilst the match goes on Natalya and Naomi discuss their competition and their opinions on the title. Naomi is asked how she will make the belt work with her new gimmick and outfit and she insists that she will “add [her] own spin” on it. Natalya adds in her two cents by boasting about how it was practically made for her.

As the match reaches its climax, we see Lynch forcing Bliss to tap out to the Dis-arm-her.

In a backstage interview, Becky was asked about her journey in WWE. Here she said that every loss and betrayal simply adds fuel to the fire, and she is, as we all know, “straight fire”. She also claimed that she won’t be left defeated, and is very appreciative of the fans chanting her name during the title announcement.

Later on in the night our second women’s match takes place between the returning Nikki Bella and the Fabulous Carmella. As Renee Young interviews Bella in the ring about making her return, Carmella immediately attacks her from behind. Carmella continues her attack but is then removed from the ring so that the referees can check on Nikki. However, the Princess of Staten Island returns and continues beating on Bella. Carmella then ends her attack by saying “welcome back, Nikki” and inserting the Bella Buster – or, the Mella Buster – to the longest reigning Divas champion.

On the post show, Talking Smack, Nikki Bella is interviewed by Daniel Bryan. Bryan emphasizes how tragic yet inspiring her injury is and even insists that a WWE 24 special should be made for it. Nikki continues to discuss her comeback and also her disappointment in having her returning match cancelled. However, before she can really get into the conversation, Carmella attacks her again, bashing her head on the table and throwing her to the ground. It isn’t until a few backstage workers and The Usos intervene when the fight ends.

Thoughts: For a division to succeed it needs to have fresh and engaging storytelling that doesn’t purely rely on the work of one or two performers. It needs to showcase multiple talents and detail multiple feuds simultaneously. And SmackDown is currently achieving exactly that with its women’s division.

What makes SmackDown’s women’s division so good this week is that the stories are being furthered and there are multiple tales to tell. With Carmella and Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch and Alexa, and even Natalya and Naomi, there is a variety of storylines being shared. As the nature of WWE has made very clear, anything can happen in this business. Whether someone is injured or suspended, no wrestler is truly guaranteed to appear on the next show and continue the narrative. So the fact that SmackDown is currently using as much of its women as possible almost certifies that the future won’t consist of last minute work.

The most striking part about this episode is the work of Carmella. The Princess of Staten Island, one of the most overlooked members of the division, manages to place herself on the radar by attacking one of the biggest female members of the company, Nikki Bella. Prior to this week, the crowd had yet to really react to the recent NXT graduate and now, because of her latest actions, she is receiving exactly what she needs. Now things are changing and this is good for everyone in the division. Because of Carmella’s shocking actions it makes both her and Nikki Bella something to watch, therefore increasing the amount of eyes on the women as a whole.

What stands out in this moment is the work of the women themselves and the narrative structure. Nikki Bella comes out as a proud woman that smiles to the crowd, throws her t-shirt to the audience and gets us all pumped up. She then goes in, ready to deliver her triumphant story, and Carmella rapidly robs this from us. The WWE rookie quickly steals what could have been an emotional moment and makes it about herself, something that immediately grabs the attention of viewers. I especially appreciate how Carmella takes a nod at Nikki’s finish from SummerSlam by saying “welcome back, Nikki” before inserting the finisher. Carmella takes hold of the moment and uses it to elevate themselves. And now both women, particularly the rookie, are on our radar, making this is a perfect way to set up the upcoming title match next month.

The other women are also given time in the spotlight without overshadowing Carmella’s much needed moment. Becky and Alexa are given a match to showcase their in-ring abilities whilst Naomi and Natalya are allowed to speak their mind. Each woman is featured in a way where they get to highlight at least one aspect of their capabilities, whether it be wrestling, personality or both. And for that, I can’t help but be appreciative. We get to see the women tell their stories in different ways and no one is hidden from the spotlight.

This also offers the Backlash match a good few potential results. As multiple women are being given screen time, they each get to build their own momentum and hint at different things. We may see a trusted performer like Nikki Bella start the title off with a guaranteed credible (and heel-filled) start. Or we could see a newbie give the title a fresh look with their win. And there’s even the opportunity to see the overlooked talent finally get their moment and highlight the idea of change that the brand is so proud of. Either way, it could go to any woman, and as they’re all being showcased equally, each result can lead to a great reign.

Overall, this episode is brilliant. The women are now in a position where anyone can take the spotlight and make it their own. What SmackDown has cleverly done is not place one or two ladies on top of everyone else, telling us that they are the best. Instead, we’re being shown a variety of women receiving the same treatment, and we’re being allowed the opportunity to root for whomever we want to stand behind. And instead of changing storylines based on crowd reaction, SmackDown is creating the crowd reaction and offering us multiple choices within the women’s division, rather than just a select few.

The alleged “B-show” understands how to build itself a great set of women. And by utilizing fresh and veteran talent we get to see newcomers being put over whilst the longer lasting members are able to continue their legacy without becoming stale. This is definitely a brand to watch, and now it seems that the road to Backlash is going to be a brilliant one!

What are your feelings towards this episode? Were you surprised by Carmella’s heel turn? Who do you think should become the inaugural champion? Let us know your views in the comments below!

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