Saturday, September 18, 2021

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SmackDown Redux (January 22nd, 2015): Brie Gives the Bellas Some Royal Rumble Momentum

Last night’s SmackDown was our last stop before the Royal Rumble (if you don’t count WWE Superstars.. *cough*). Unfortunately, the Divas title won’t be on the line this Sunday, but we’re still miles ahead of the no-match-at-all we got last year. Glass half full, people.

The match we are getting pits Paige and Natalya against Brie and Nikki Bella, building off of the few weeks of tension between the pairs. As we prepare for that, this week’s SmackDown puts Brie Bella up against Naomi. Nikki will be at ringside, while Paige and Natalya claim seats at the announcers’ table. So there will be verbal shenanigans, at the very least..

As the Bellas head to the ring, we see them, popup video-style, in the corner of the screen. They get their Mean Girls on, dissing Natalya for appearing to love her cats for than her husband Tyson Kidd (Machiavelli!!!!!). Paige gets hate for her pale skin, but Nikki is slow on the uptake, not getting Brie’s vampire joke. Nice touch. I appreciate it when heels are less than perfect.

Paige makes a correction for the record, clarifying that she’s a Glampire, not a vampire. Is that the subset of vampires whose skin sparkles? Yuck, I stepped into a Twilight reference. Get it off me!

The match officially starts, but Brie’s head is elsewhere, and she turns her back on Naomi. Naomi takes advantage of this, rolling her up for an early pin attempt. Brie kicks out, but is met with a dropkick as soon as she gets to her feet.

Naomi is on a roll, ducking an attack from Brie and running the ropes, hitting her somersault clothesline on the return. Her Irish whip into the corner is reversed, though, and Brie comes charging. When Naomi tries to block her, Brie catches her boots, tossing them over the top rope. Naomi keeps her balance, though, and gets the last laugh, kicking Brie in the side of the head.

The Divas trade blows as Natalya and Paige try to explain their dynamic on commentary. They’re not exactly friends – they just have a common enemy. Are they trying to compensate for a woefully underwritten storyline, or is their “strange bedfellows” thing intentional? I’ll go with option A because, well, WWE.

In the ring, Brie whips Naomi towards the ropes, but Naomi hits a baseball slide to get under them, heading out onto the ring apron. Brie blocks Naomi’s kick over the top rope and hits a reversed hot shot, jacking Naomi’s throat against the rope. Naomi falls to the outside of the ring.

Natalya’s getting testy about Paige calling Tyson an idiot (I’m guessing him wearing useless headphones to ringside was clue #1) while Brie follows Naomi to the outside. She tosses Naomi back into the ring and follows, hitting her with a low dropkick. She goes for the pin, but Naomi kicks out at two.

Brie slams Naomi’s face into the corner thrice before hitting her with a running bulldog. Another pin attempt, another kick out by Naomi. Brie tosses Naomi into the ropes and meets her with a knee to the midsection and props her up against the bottom rope. She goes to hit her running knee strike, but Naomi slips out of the way.

She hits Brie with back-to-back clotheslines and a kick to the stomach, but her kick to the head is blocked. Brie slams the leg down to hyperextend it and hits the Bella Buster, pinning Naomi for the three-count.

As Brie and Nikki celebrate, they have a staredown with the self-appointed Blackharts. Michael Cole laughs when he asks Jerry Lawler if he’s ready for their match this Sunday, which says it all about how high a priority the Divas are heading into the Rumble.

Thoughts: This was a simple match between Brie and Naomi. Nothing too memorable, but not too shabby, either. It was a pretty half-assed way to build to the tag match at the Rumble, but that match is half-assed in itself, so I suppose it fits. But really, does it get much lazier than repeating what happened on Raw and just reversing the Divas’ roles?

It would have been nice to get Alicia Fox out there to build to the Royal Rumble’s Tag Team Title match, since I’m hoping both she and Naomi will factor into that in some fashion. Maybe she could have cost Naomi the match. Paige, who has proven she’s not above using dirty tactics, could have tried to cancel out Alicia’s cheating with some of her own, but unsuccessfully, leading to a win for Brie and a one-up by the Bella Twins over Paige and Natalya. Ta da! Two birds, one stone.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m not too hyped about the tag match. I’m not saying that every Pay-Per-View match should have the title on the line, but if there’s no belt in contention, the storyline needs to compensate for that. Diva storylines often rely so heavily on the belt as a driving force in the story, so when it’s eliminated, there’s little substance left. The crutch is gone, and we’re left with Divas who just don’t like each other for… reasons!

I have a feeling I’d like this storyline more if they played up the Paige/Natalya tension more, making Paige more of a wild card. Imagine if it was possible that Paige would turn on her own partner mid-match, just out of frustration. That would raise the stakes and make this match feel less like a glorified Raw match. They teased that a bit after last week’s Raw, but they’ve since patched things up. Their partnership now is more Odd Couple than ticking time bomb, which is unfortunate.

Lastly, in what I think should probably become a running feature, I’m going to log the run time of this match, bell to bell. Here, Brie and Naomi wrestled for 2 minutes, 20 seconds. Another short SmackDown match, but not as woefully short as the one minute match from two weeks ago. Obviously, the match’s length isn’t always indicative of its quality, but it is a symptom of the WWE’s lack of investment in the Divas. No matter how you slice it, consistently short matches are a bad sign.

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