Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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SmackDown Redux (April 9th, 2015): Jockeying for Position

Welcome to another SmackDown Redux! This week, we’re taking a break from the Divas Title scene (sort of) when Alicia Fox takes on Natalya. Cameron has been appointed special guest referee. Confused? Let this backstage segment explain it all:

Renee Young interviews Alicia, Cameron and Natalya about this Monday’s Battle Royal. Alicia and Cameron deny “manipulating” Kane into making the match, but Natalya can’t help but admit that Naomi already earned the number one contendership by pinning Nikki Bella twice.

This starts an argument between Alicia and Natalya, which turns into a shoving match. Renee hightails it while Cameron tries to separate the Divas. She manages to keep them apart with help from some fast-acting referees.

So Cameron, having demonstrated her expert separation skills, has been made referee for this contest. It makes little sense, but the more the merrier, I guess… Let’s watch the match:

After they’re both introduced by NXT’s JoJo (hi JoJo!!!), Natalya demonstrates that she’s still fuming after the exchange backstage by tackling Alicia, who gives the fight right back. Cameron separates them. When on their feet again, the Divas being another tete-a-tete, shoving each other and delivering harsh slaps. Alicia comes charging at Natalya, but she’s caught and slammed to the mat, Natalya pummeling her in the head.

The Divas start scrapping again, rolling into the bottom rope and forcing Cameron to separate them once again. Natalya gets up and runs at Alicia, but is knocked down with a shoulder block. Alicia runs the ropes and goes for a somersault leg drop, but Natalya rolls out of the way.

With Alicia hunched over, Natalya runs the ropes, stepping on her back and returning with a low dropkick to the chest. She goes for the cover, but Alicia kicks out. She reverses an Irish whip into the corner and plants a leg on Natalya’s shoulder, dragging her out of the corner and going for the pin. Natalya kicks out.

Alicia pulls Natalya to her feet and plants her with a northern lights suplex, bridging it into a pin. Natalya kicks out just in time. Alicia’s still cocky, though, miming a belt around her waist before latching a chinlock on Natalya. Cameron the referee is attentive, watching to see if Natalya is giving any indication of submitting. She doesn’t, and is soon on her feet, trying to fight out with some elbows. Alicia stops this with a quick slam to the mat.

Alicia takes her sweet time going for the pin and pays for it, as Natalya kicks out. Immediately, Alicia locks in a headlock. Again, Natalya slowly fights for freedom, this time successfully. She gets free and runs the ropes, reversing a tilt-a-whirl slam attempt by Alicia into a crossbody. She lands atop Alicia and makes another pin attempt. Alicia kicks out, immediately springing to her feet and clotheslining Natalya, halting her momentum.

When she brings Natalya to her feet, though, she’s left with a slap. Natalya sends her into the corner, but Alicia takes control by dodging her shoulder attack and rolling her into a pin. However, Natalya rolls through the pin and traps Alicia in the Sharpshooter. At that point, it’s all over but the tapping. Alicia taps, and Natalya is awarded the victory!

Cameron raises Natayla’s hand good-naturedly , but soon makes her true intentions known, planting Natalya with a DDT. She follows that up with one to Alicia and stands tall, demanding to be handed her mirror so she can gloat properly. There goes any future referee gigs…

Prior to her victory, Natalya also made an appearance alongside Tyson Kidd and Cesaro as they took on Big E and Kofi Kingston of New Day:

Kidd and Cesaro were also victorious, making the night an all-around success for Nattie. One question lingers in my mind, though: is she a heel or a face? I need heel Nattie, and she looked like a true babyface in her match tonight. Maybe she’s just not yet evil enough to be the bad guy in a segment with Alicia and Cameron. Here’s hoping.

Speaking of blurring the heel/face lines, Summer Rae played the good guy against ever-heel The Miz on MizTV, interrupting his self-congratulatory promotion of The Marine 4:

Summer reminds Miz that this is “their” movie. Miz mocks her, telling her she should be grateful he’s even allowing her to be in the movie. He says it’s his way of “giving a Diva a chance.” They argue a bit more, Miz calling her a “featured extra” and comparing her to Mizdow. Summer reminds Miz that Mizdow eliminated him from the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 31.

This brings out Mizdow himself, who eventually fights his former employer and surprises Summer with a kiss. Though shocked, she seems to have enjoyed it. I suppose this is another instance of being the lesser of two evils, because really: who would cheer Miz over Summer?

Annnnnd I’m just now realizing that the Divas division is overrun with heels. Maybe it’s time someone hopped over to the side of the good guys. Summer might just be a prime candidate for that.

Thoughts: I’m all for a match outside of the immediate Divas Title picture. Giving Alicia, Natalya and Cameron a little bit of the spotlight not only allows for some change of scenery, but also demonstrates how deep the Diva bench is. Heading into a (surprisingly hyped up) number one contendership Battle Royal, that’s an asset. It’s good to remind the audience that there are a number of Divas that are more than capable of holding that belt.

The match itself was kind of unmemorable, obviously set up just to show the kind of competition Naomi will have in the Battle Royal. Not that one’s ability to score a pinfall means jack shit in a Battle Royal, though. I liked that Cameron got a bit of attention here, allowing her a chance to show up her fellow Divas in a heelish, opportunistic way. I’m so used to seeing the usual suspects on Raw and SmackDown lately that it’s refreshing to see someone like Cameron command attention. I don’t believe for one second that she has a shot at winning on Monday, but making her a threat adds depth to the division, which I’m all for. In this post-AJ Lee division, that’s more important than ever.

I appreciate that they took the time to acknowledge the fact that Naomi should be the number one contender at this point, as gives the Battle Royal a bit of a story. Will she meet her destiny, or will someone jump in line ahead of her? My money’s on the former, but I’ll still enjoy seeing other Divas get a bit of television time as well. That is, if the match isn’t treated like most Diva Battle Royals. The first Battle Royal of the post-#GiveDivasAChance WWE will be a true test of the WWE’s intentions: if it’s not a rushed clusterfuck, I’ll start believing that the WWE is planning on making improvements to the way they treat the Divas. Make me a believer, WWE.

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