Thursday, January 27, 2022

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SmackDown Redux (February 14th, 2017): Feel the Bliss

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Elimination Chamber proved to be an explosive night for the women of SmackDown. With a new champion, and an extension of two heated feuds, SmackDown Live is bound to be good one..

After sitting in the skybox to watch Sundays’ pay-per-view, Carmella is seen with James Ellsworth. Before Ellsworth can really detail his Valentines plans with his booDean Ambrose – whilst on the hunt for Baron Corbin – bumps into them. Ellsworth being Ellsworth annoys Ambrose to the point where he feels the need to beat him up. And as if by magic, SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan shows up and grants the pair a Singles match!

Carmellsworth soon enter the ring and manage to get ahold of the microphone. We know exactly where this is going…

Ellsworth demands the audience to stop booing ‘Mella as her “only boo is me!” …charming. He then boasts about how lucky he is to have her accompany him to the ring, and then hypes her up so much you’d think she was Ambrose’s opponent. You can’t help but smile at his effort.

After Ellsworth’s speech is done, the Lunatic Fringe’s theme plays, but we don’t see him for a short while. Our attention is quickly taken away by Baron Corbin as he is carrying the Intercontinental champion to the stage and implements a beat down.

Following the incident, Carmella and Ellsworth are asked about James having a “lucky one” with the result of the contest. The Princess of Staten Island stands up for her boo and says that “Jimmy pretty much won by default” and that Ambrose “was a little scared” of him. She then goes on to say that Dean would’ve lost, regardless of whether he stepped in the ring or not. Ellsworth, enthralled by ‘Mella’s compliment, wishes her a happy Valentines Day, as well as an unreturned hug. Shucks!

We’re soon taken to Daniel Bryan’s office, where he is reviewing Sunday’s incident regarding the backstage brawl between Nikki Bella and Natalya, with the Fearless One opposite him. Bella complains that there’s nothing she can do as no matter where she is or what she is doing, Natalya is attacking her. The Queen of Black Harts, feeling that her presence is necessary, shows up. The two quickly bicker and start brawling, until two security guards break them apart. A frustrated Bryan then intervenes and announces – very angrily, by the way – that next week, the two will face off in a Falls Count Anywhere match, in hopes of ending their rivalry.

Our women’s match of the night ends up being a rematch from Elimination Chamber as Mickie James hopes to revive her loss against Becky Lynch. As the pair are entering the ring, we’re reminded of what James said about Lynch on Talking Smack this past Sunday. To reiterate, the former Women’s champion states that it’s “unjust” to get a “slap in the face” every time she enters the ring, especially after working “so hard and for so long” to make the division what it is. James claims that it’s not fair that Becky is credited for the revolution when James was a part of it long before her.

Following the clip, the match soon begins and it becomes pretty technical. Mickie and Becky include a lot of holds, some fast paced combinations and a good inclusion of the crowd during their match. We see them insert an impressive double clothesline on the outside of the ring, and this manages to change the tide of the match. The two are clearly hurt at this point, but once they return to the outside later on, James uses this as an advantage to take charge. Mickie plays on an injury to her shoulder, garnering the attention of the referee whom is made to pause the match for a short while. Lynch, clearly frustrated with the situation, attempts to continue the fight, but as the referee is trying to hold her back, James inserts a ruthless Mick Kick, knocking her opponent out. The bitter veteran then goes for the pin and a reluctant official is made to announce a full three-count victory. Guess that evens the playing field a little, huh?

Ending the night for the women we’re taken to ringside where our new SmackDown Women’s champion Naomi is being interviewed by Renee Young. After a quick moment of taking in the “you deserve it” chants, Naomi informs us all of an injury she sustained from her match at Elimination Chamber. The champ reminds us of all of the previous injuries and hardships she’s dealt with in the past and how she’s overcome it. So this injury is nothing special. She then goes on to say how at Wrestlemania, she’ll bring the title home “one way or another,” but the bitter Alexa Bliss interrupts her. Side note: Alexa’s crowd reaction here is BRILLIANT.

Anyway, back to the show.

Bliss reiterates how Naomi “lucked out” on Sunday. The former champ says that the morning following her title win, Naomi looked in the mirror and thought, “I’m no Alexa Bliss” so she could not possibly hold on to the title when the inevitable rematch happened. Bliss goes one step further and claims that Naomi will no longer “feel the glow,” but will instead feel “the feeling of someone who flopped.” She even insists that Naomi’s incoming loss can turn into an ESPN “tragedy” titled: “30 for 30 – Lights Out: The Failure of Naomi”.

At this point, it’s clear that Bliss is bitter, but she’s still the snarky heel we know and love.

Naomi then quickly reminds the “flea” that she can still “snatch” her regardless of her injury. But Bliss has other plans in mind. The former champ gives Naomi a week to get herself together, as she’ll be implementing her rematch clause next week.

On Talking Smack, Bliss tells Bryan and Young that it took Naomi eight years to achieve what she amounted to in five months. Daniel says that many sports stars start off their careers on a high and then fall flat down the line. Alexa then says that her athletic background is too good for that to happen, and on top of that, with the fact that she is the future of the company, she knows that it will never happen to her.

Thoughts: This episode isn’t everything it could have been.

After an explosive pay-per-view on Sunday, I did expect a lot more from the blue brand. With some predictable moments and a filler-feel, this episode is mostly skippable as far as the women are concerned. But there are some good parts that we’ll get into.

At this point, the Carmellsworth story feels as though it’s running its course. Carmella being by James’ side has no positive impact on her as she remains out of the title picture, isn’t even discussed by the other ladies and receives minimal reaction. Carmella is a great talent, and her feud with Nikki was really taking her places. But at this point, we need to hear actual reasoning behind her alliance with Ellsworth other than to defeat local competitors. We do have over a month until ‘Mania though, so I won’t be too annoyed for now.

The Nikki and Natalya story is what disappoints me the most this week. After the best match of the night (bar the obvious main event) it was hard not to be excited for their segment. But it appears that we’re back to seeing the same angry comments on how delusional Nattie is and how Nikki has an alliance with John Cena, and then an inevitable fight follows. This was good for a short while, but after proving their great chemistry on Sunday, it’s a complete letdown of a follow-up. A contract signing where the two detailed their long history would’ve been better. We could have even had a Lumberjill match with local competitors as a way of keeping it in the ring. But instead we’re given the same concept we’ve seen multiple times with the same women. This feud was going great, so I’ll ignore this week’s work to enjoy it.

Still, the ladies did a good job and that Falls Count Anywhere match actually has a great reason behind it. The story itself is wonderful, it’s just the narrative structure that’s a bit disappointing.

On the flip side, the other two feuds are going great.

Mickie finally getting a win since her return is what she needed. I’d have liked to see her take the win prior to this, but better late than never. At this point, with their past matches and the results of said contests, it appears that the two are on an even playing field. Becky may have more wins (if you include the Rumble) but the representation of both is what is keeping them on the same level. Becky is the underdog that gets beat down a lot of the time but fights when it matters, for the most part. Mickie is the bitter veteran that cheats her way to the top and gets the upper hand at times. Both ladies are equally as talented and are seen as equals. And this is what makes the feud exciting. It’s definitely not a classic by any means, but as a passable feud that is to simply build two competitors, it’s going wonderfully.

The highlight of the night comes in the form of Alexa Bliss. After suffering three consecutive losses to Naomi, she needed to look the strongest here. Bliss’ gimmick is all flash, no substance as she talks a big game, but evidently cannot win where it really matters. And she exemplifies it perfectly here as she really came out on top through a mic only segment.

But that’s not to say that Naomi isn’t looking great either. Although a bigger celebration would have been nicer to witness, it’s great to see her shine so much after her win. Her work on the mic has really improved since her Funkadactyl days, and even though Bliss comes out on top, she makes sure that her voice is heard as well.

This is the type of title feud that we need to see. The women are fully focused on the title and aren’t looking to prolong their feud for the sake of it. It’s a simple title feud that gets personal because of the title. And it’s going great!

How do you feel about this week’s show? Are you excited for next week? Let us know your views in the comments below!

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