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SmackDown Redux (January 3rd, 2017): A war of words, and slaps

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What an exciting night for SmackDown! A slap that really left its mark, a beatdown on our favourite underdog and some war of words between two friends… It’s definitely one you don’t want to miss out on, but in case you did, we’ve got you covered.

Towards the start of the show James Ellsworth confronts his girlfriend Carmella. The man thanks her for being with him and gives him his t-shirt as a gift – something that the Princess of Staten Island is less than grateful for. Though she pretends she is anything but. She then asks if he would like to escort her to the ring for her match later on. He of course obliges and the two walk off.

Our women’s match of the night soon follows and it is Becky Lynch taking on her newfound rival, La Luchadora. The match gets off to a quick start as Lynch leads it. La Luchadora does manage to get some offense in but Becky takes ahold of most of the dynamic. La Luchadora is then thrown into the corner, but whilst Becky and the referee are semi distracted, she climbs under the ring, and before we know it, pops back up from the other side – Brie Bella, is that you? Unfortunately for La Luchadora, when they knock Becky down and attempt to go for the Twisted Bliss, Lynch moves out the way. Taking ahold the opportunity, Becky locks in the Dis-Arm-Her and scores the victory.

Following the match, Lynch rips La Luchadora’s mask off, revealing to be none other than Alexa Bliss! Noticing the distraction, the original La Luchadora attempts to attack Becky but gets the same treatment back. However, Bliss hits Lynch from behind and the two implant a beat down on the Lass Kicker. We then leave the segment as Alexa knocks Becky out with a DDT.

During the night, Maryse is seen angrily walking backstage, clearly on the hunt, until she spots her prey, Renee Young. The Sexiest of Sexy immediately implants a slap across Young’s face, leaving her with “don’t you EVER touch my husband again!”

Our second women’s match is between Carmella and NXT rookie Aliyah. Both women get some great offense in and the NXT Superstar does come across as quite strong. However, just as she is going to jump on her opponent, Ellsworth from the outside grabs her foot, tripping her up. Carmella then knocks her down and taps her out with the Code of Silence.

Romeo & Juliet then walk away, celebrating their very deserved win.

Later on, Nikki Bella confronts former friend Natalya to discuss their issues. Bella starts off by saying that she doesn’t despise Natalya, and actually feels bad for her. She says that her and Brie have worked hard to make the Bella name mean something, whereas Natalya is “living off of [her] family’s legacy.” And despite Natalya claiming to have gotten “nothing from her family”, Nikki brings up things like her theme song and even her finisher, two things the Hart Foundation made relevant, making her “the nothing of the Hart family.”

Natalya, feeling offended, brings up Bret Hart’s tweet in which he compliments Nikki Bella. Neidhart claims that her ex friend has been planning this whole scenario for weeks, and implies that Bella had to do something extraordinary to get the tweet sent out. Natalya then eggs on how nobody works harder than her, and the only reason Bella is where she is is because of her beauty. But, as she makes clear, “beauty fades”. And when Nikki’s does, John Cena will leave her… Ouch!

Nikki, feeling agitated, knocks Natalya with a forearm, sending her to the ground. As her former friend is now out cold, the Fearless One then struts away, like the boss she is.

At the beginning of the show, The Miz and Maryse are discussing the Intercontinental title, and the challenger, Dean Ambrose. Once the Lunatic Fringe comes out to confront the Miz, the French-Canadian Beauty not only stands in his way, but slaps him across the face.

During the main event match – in which the Intercontinental Title is on the line – Maryse attempts to get the win for her husband. On top of getting her LIFE from The Miz’s Yes kicks, the Sexiest of Sexy slaps Ambrose across the face. The referee, noticing the interference, goes on to ring the bell but the Lunatic Fringe stops him, begging him to kick her out instead. And of course, the referee, in their iconic and loveable over-the-top manner, throws Maryse out of the match. And without his wife by his side, The Miz finds himself in the Dirty Deeds and being pinned for the 3-count, therefore losing his Intercontinental championship.

On Talking Smack, a war of words between The Miz and Young takes place as the former champ insists that Young and Ambrose are using their connection to SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan to get what they want. The segment is very intense – almost mimicking the initial Miz one from mid 2016. We also find out that Maryse has been fined $5k for slapping a non wrestler. Nice.

As well as this, James Ellsworth and Carmella are interviewed. Young implies that Carmella doesn’t actually like James, which is made very apparent. But the Princess of Staten Island swears that he’s great to hold her bags, and, hold her bags, and go shopping with so that he can – hold her bags. Amongst being a “great” guy, she also comes up with a new nickname for him, which is “Jimmy”. The segment is awkward and hilarious, and if you haven’t seen it, please do so!

Thoughts: Let me just start off by saying: NINE WOMEN! Carmella, Aliyah, Nikki, Natalya, Maryse, Renee, Alexa, Becky and La Luchadora all played intriguing roles in tonight’s show. From Aliyah actually getting some offense in and La Luchadora looking strong, to Nikki’s impressive mic work and the interaction between Maryse and Renee, this week is certainly one of the best since the brand split.

The women’s title picture is at an interesting point. It’s clear that SmackDown doesn’t want Alexa’s next opponent to feel like a transitional one, so they’re keeping Lynch in it whilst the other ladies are built up some more. I’m not a huge fan of Becky remaining in the title picture, but the fact that the other women are being simultaneously used in a significant manner (as are both Lynch and Bliss) makes it worthwhile.

And that’s not to say that the feud is stale – it’s far from that. By combining Alexa’s antagonistic ways with Becky’s crowd momentum and great underdog aesthetic, the feud naturally progresses. The Lass Kicker refuses to give up. And instead of her clinging onto a rematch clause as a way to remain in the title picture, we’re seeing her there because of a genuine rivalry. Bliss constantly attacks and belittles Lynch, whilst the latter aims to overcome the odds. This feud isn’t based solely on being the women’s champion, it’s based on personal aggravation, and I can’t help but adore that.

The inclusion of the Luchadora is also pretty intriguing. And to see them take down Becky on a consecutive week makes you wonder who it could actually be. Clearly there is some bad blood between the two. And with Lynch not even being champion, could this be someone from her past creeping up to take her down? Maybe someone from NXT that is using her as a way to elevate themselves up?

Carmella’s situation right now is brilliant. She’s a conniving character that is clearly using James as a pedal-stool to get to the top. But for how long? Signs of cracks are clearly showing as the Princess of Staten Island indicated that she doesn’t actually appreciate James and has to put on a fake reaction to keep him around. It won’t be long before he costs her a match or someone calls her out on it.

…Maybe Nikki?

Nikki was ridiculed for allegedly using a man to get to the top. And now, the same woman that made these accusations is doing exactly that. The two are semi involved in a three-way feud right now, and this is the perfect way to reunite the pair on their way to championship gold.

Also, speaking of Nikki, her segment with Natalya was great. I wouldn’t call it a 10/10 promo as the things that were said weren’t the most original, but it was good for what it was worth.

What I appreciate the most about this is the high levels of continuity. Bella and Neidhart are trying to go personal, but there’s clearly still some love for each other around. Natalya wants to hurt her ex-friend, but through compliments of her beauty and stuttering before going for a verbal attack, it’s clear that there’s no genuine hatred there. And vice versa. But of course, there are some issues, and Nikki clearly organised the segment to iron those out as she evidently doesn’t want to end the friendship either. The continuity here is wonderful, and it’s allowing both of the women to tell a story of two long-term friends reaching a crossroad of jealousy, bitterness and betrayal. Both women attempt to go deep, but it’s made clear that they somewhat regret it through their contemplation and compliments.

Now onto Maryse and Renee…

These two women are being shown to be important, and that’s what makes it so exciting. The fact that they’re the only women in the segment and are somewhat involved in the Intercontinental championship exemplifies this. The women may be fighting because of men, but they’re taking things into their own hands as well. And that is what will make the audience care for them.

This is an incredibly impressive week for the women of SmackDown. This is what we need to see these ladies as important. They need to be in significant segments and made to look strong, and that is what SmackDown has done this week.

What do you think of this week’s episode? Who do you think is under the Luchadora mask? Do you think Nattie and Nikki will make up? Let us know your views in the comments below!

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