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This week’s episode of Smackdown is everything it should be. We see an assertive accomplice make an incredible debut in which she leaves her mark as both a speaker and a wrestler. We also witness Daddy’s Little Girl crumble at the thought of wrestling alone, something she hasn’t done for months (and we’ve been craving for so long). And of course, the valets do fantastic jobs at putting over the storylines and men involved, proving that their inclusion really is great for enhancing the programme.
Lana and Rusev start things off by rushing angrily and determinedly towards the ring in a short backstage clip. When we return from commercials, the Ravishing Russian introduces Rusev and his singles match against Sin Cara goes ahead. The match consists of Rusev dominating until a short moment where the Lucha Dragon has the upper hand. In order to turn the tables around Lana throws a cup of water at the United States Champion Kalisto, thus distracting his partner Sin Cara. Rusev soon gets the win by inserting The Accolade and himself and Lana celebrate by holding the championship in Kalisto’s face.
Quickly after this we’re taken backstage as Renee Young interviews the fiercely intense Emma. We start off by taking a look back at EnD’s attack on Becky Lynch this past Monday Night, in which allows Renee to prop the question, “who is Dana Brooke?”. However, before any answers can take place, the Predator herself shows up to answer. Brooke insists that she is “beautiful,” “defiant” and “a bodybuilding champion.” When asked why she is targeting the Lass Kicker, Dana states that it is because her tag partner Emma was the initial leader of the NXT Women’s Division whilst Becky remains walking around “like a reject out of Wonderland, cracking puns, and the WWE Universe goes gaga over her.” The two then insist that after Dana’s debut match against Becky Lynch, we won’t be asking “who Dana Brooke is,” we’ll be asking “whatever happened to Becky Lynch?”. The segment then ends with Dana enforcing the idea that the WWE is her playground and playtime is over.
After a quick break we then hear Emma’s theme song play as the pair walk out for the singles match against Becky. Dana starts the match off by kicking Becky in the mid section and punching the back of her head. Lynch quickly reverses the tables by punching Brooke’s head multiple times, kicking her mid section and imitating her “head pat” taunt before hitting in the face, running to the ropes and executing a flying forearm. As Dana moves to the turnbuckle, Becky attempts to keep up her momentum but it is stopped when her jump towards her opponent is avoided and her chest hits the corner.
With her newly found advantage Dana throws Becky into the ground with the back of her head hitting the canvas first. She then kicks her stomach and throws a few punches whilst yelling that Becky “can’t do that to [her]”. As some loud “let’s go Becky” chants begin to erupt in the arena, Brooke becomes slightly infuriated so ends up punching her opponent whilst mocking the chants. As Becky’s head is laid on the middle rope, the Predator digs her knee straight into the back of the Lass Kicker’s head before asserting two kicks to the mid section, flipping her to the ground and kneeing the woman in the stomach. Dana quickly attempts a cover but unfortunately only masses a one count.
Brooke manages to stay on top of things as she throws Becky’s head to the ground, kicks her in the back and puts her in a bow-and-arrow type maneuver. A quick roll-up attempt by Becky occurs and reaches the 1 count. Dana momentarily recovers from this by fiercely kicking Lynch in the chest before receiving a punch forearm punches, clotheslines and a leg lariat from Becky. Momentum stays on the Lass Kicker’s side as she inserts a corner forearm come-at-me boot. Before Lynch can insert any more damage however, Dana quickly shoves her head onto the bottom rope and digs her knee into her neck before being stopped by the referee. Emma then seizes her opportunity to get involved and pokes Lynch in her bad eye to cause a distraction. Lynch then gets up to her feet and is pinned in a roll-up, allowing Dana to win her debut match.
EnD rush outside to celebrate their victory by Emma mockingly covering her eye and Dana holding up a “loser” sign (copyright infringement, Bella Twins™).
Later on in the show Renee greets the Women’s Champion Charlotte and her two time Hall of Famer father Ric Flair. Young insists that Ric’s departure from the ring on Monday must’ve been a difficult time for the champion but Charlotte begs to differ. Renee then suggests that Charlotte’s loss against Paige may be a sign of the upcoming Extreme Rules match. Ric quickly calls this “the most ridiculous” question he’s ever heard and that the fact that the “dirtiest player in the game” has taught Charlotte all she knows is enough to get her the win. The 16x World Heavyweight champion gives us an enthusiastic “Woo!” and after nudging his daughter to do the same, she simply says the term and the two walk off, in two completely different states.
Maryse is our final woman of the night and she makes an appearance by managing her husband The Miz in his tag team match where he teams with his rival Kevin Owens to face Sami Zayn and Cesaro. In this match Maryse stays fairly low key but does insert herself by yelling at Zayn in French and cheering on her husband throughout. The match ends as Zayn accidentally asserts the Helluva Kick to his partner, and he is then dragged out of the ring so that Kevin can perform a frog splash on Cesaro and win. The Miz, Sami and Owens have a short brawl and things end after Kevin performs a Pop Up Powerbomb on Zayn and The Miz executes a Skull-Crushing Finale on Owens.
Thoughts: Lana’s work this week proves that she is a great contribution to the feud going on around her. Whilst her prominence in the story could be improved, we definitely do see her have a decent impact in what goes on. Rusev is the dominating man in the feud, but his reign of aggression cannot be carried alone as it is simply too dominating to help his opponents look like a threat whatsoever. So, with the help of the Ravishing Russian throwing water at his enemies and distracting them from winning, she not only gives her partner even more heat than he already has, but she allows the opposing party to not look so weak in their attempts to win. Her cheap tactics add to the unfair nature of the feud, allowing that babyface feel to grow, rather than kill the momentum by a simple Accolade. Many may say that Rusev doesn’t need Lana, but if his feuds are going to have any longevity to them, both sides need to be seen as threats, and without his partner, that may not be the case.
When Dana made her official main roster debut this past Monday, I will admit that I believed that it was a little too soon for the NXT star. However, after watching this match against one of WWE’s very best, she definitely has proven me wrong. Dana absolutely shines this week; from her stunningly enticing heel work in the backstage interview, up to her impressive (though occasionally basic) in-ring performance. She definitely has a hold of both her character and the storyline and definitely is pushing in the direction it needs to go.
Brooke understands that whilst she isn’t supposed to be the star of the feud at the moment, she needs to make her name known – and she does this wonderfully. She compliments her leading lady Emma by praising her in her dialogue and allowing the Aussie to be the more dominating woman walking down the ramp. And then, when it comes to the solo work in the ring, she handles that perfectly. Brooke instantaneously remarks to the crowd reactions and uses it as a way to mock her opponent. She then forcefully dominates whilst remaining vocal so that the action can both tell a story and remain entertaining.
All three of these women do a fantastic job, but as Dana’s first main roster match, it couldn’t have proven her astonishing abilities better. She takes control of both the story and the physical action, and even quickly makes up for the minimal errors that take place. If this match is any indication of the future of the Predator of the women’s division, we can definitely sit back comfortably as we watch her reign of dominance take over.
Seeing Charlotte feel so defeated is exactly where this story needs to go. The fact that the cocky champion is frightened of the near future is a great change. It’s exhilarating seeing her pride be knocked down a few levels because of the fact that her father won’t be by her side for the first time since her heel-ish ways began. It’s refreshing to see that Charlotte’s reign isn’t going to just be full of one personality trait, and that it’s taking a slight turn for the better as we speak. For too long we’ve seen her cowardly yet ignorantly proud persona take over and for once that is being taken down a few pegs. We’re seeing the champion crumble as she realises her biggest weakness is about to catch up with her. And though the typical WWE formula of lack of momentum equating to a win at the pay-per-view, I’m still really, really enjoying this feud! Charlotte has come a long way as a champion, and she’s able to capture the kind of heat that makes me want to boo her on the television, yet praise her when she’s off of it.
Over the weeks she’s been able to really make us forget that she’s just a humble and hardworking woman behind the scenes, and forces us to hate her whenever she shows up. Charlotte is an incredible heel, and whilst a title reign for Natalya may be a refreshing and entertaining addition to the show, Flair’s reign will always be remembered as being nothing short of brilliant.
Maryse’s contribution this week is exactly what it should be. Though it’d be great to see her involved a little more (last week was a pretty big missed opportunity for that), this week she does everything she should. The former Diva’s Champion stays in the back this week and only gets involved to add a bit of comedy and to turn the tables. The writers understand that this is the time for the four men to truly display their desire to win, so by focusing on just these men, we get exactly that. We understand their determination and their disliking of one another, so this lack of Maryse is good in this case. However, it would really be great if Maryse could be a bigger enhancement tool for The Miz’s heat some point next week. Because who wouldn’t love to see the blonde bombshell outsmart the aggressive men?
How do you feel about this episode? Are Lana and Maryse necessary for their feuds? Are Dana and Emma proving the naysayers wrong? How do you think Charlotte will fare at Extreme Rules? Let us know your views in the comments below!