Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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SmackDown Redux (February 7th, 2017): Remember my name

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In tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live we saw a lot of fire from all corners. With a dual contract signing and a Maury-esque background segment, the ladies of Team Blue are angry. And it looks like they’re not getting any happier.

Our first sighting is when the camera gives us an awkward close up of Tom Phillips. Things get even more awkward when Nikki Bella and Natalya pop up in separate interview rooms. The reasoning is because they can’t be trusted in one room, apparently. Anyway, Phillips asks the two about their current situation, and Natalya, who seems to be playing the role of Bitter Ex Girlfriend in this episode of The Maury Show, harps on about Bella’s relationship with John Cena, her “ex-uncle” Bret Hart and their non-existent former friendship.

Nikki tells the Queen of Black Harts that she has become a “bitter” woman and will turn into a “crazy cat lady” (you tell her!) if she keeps this act up. Neidhart, brushing off the comments (because in what world is “crazy cat lady” an insult to her?) says that since Cena is now champion, he will no longer be able to cater to Bella, and will move on to a prettier woman. And in fact, had Natalya not been married to Tyson Kidd, John would be marrying her. Nikki then immediately becomes frustrated and decides to walk away. Nattie however, is sat staring into the camera, awaiting another question. But the segment then ends and we’re left to wonder how long she remained in that position.

The conversation soon continues on Talking Smack as Nikki is interviewed by Renee Young and Daniel Bryan. Bella tells the pair how ridiculous Natalya’s comments were and says that she is “so sick” of John being brought up again and again. But before she can go any further, a bitter Queen of Black Harts pops up, asking if Cena got her the slot on Talking Smack. Natalya then goes in for the punch but gets hit with a slap instead. The two then get into a bit of a brawl that ends up with Neidhart smashing Nikki’s head/arm into the table’s bar. Bella is then left defenseless as a proud Nattie walks away. Yikes.

During the night we end up seeing the very first dual contract signing as Naomi, Becky Lynch, Mickie James and SmackDown Women’s champion Alexa Bliss head out to the ring. Side note, is it just me or has Bliss finally got ahold of the real title? Anyway, moving on.

James quickly tells Renee Young, the host of the signing, to leave, and she awkwardly follows. The former Women’s champion then addresses Lynch in her following speech as she claims that the Lass Kicker is trying to take credit for the Women’s Revolution. She continues to say that she has spent the past seven years full of “rage”, just waiting to get the credit she deserves. James then says that without her, there would be no Becky Lynch. The 6x Women’s champ then ends her speech by saying that “the reinvention of Mickie James starts with the destruction of Becky Lynch.”

Lynch responds to James’ comments by saying that Mickie “walked away” and expected everyone to make room for her and “that giant chip” on her shoulder. She states that the difference between the pair is that when times get tough, James walks away, whereas the Lass Kicker walks straight through it with passion. Lynch tells her opponent that she can bring her “seven years of rage” as she will bring “a lifetime of straight fire,” and she will slap Mickie “back into the past.” Get her!

Alexa then carries on the segment by saying that regardless of what Lynch wants to rant on about, as long as the title is on her shoulder, the women’s division is her. As Bliss then starts to sign her contract, she notices Naomi, and admits that she “completely forgot” about her. Cue Naomi’s incredible reaction pic worthy stance. After Bliss has a quick giggle with James and then says that “it’s fine” as she’ll beat Naomi on Sunday anyway.

Naomi however, as other plans. The number one contender tells Bliss that she hasn’t forgotten her, just like she hasn’t forgotten that she pinned the champ twice last week! Yikes! She then goes on to remind Bliss that we’re less than two months away from Wrestlemania, the place where she will slide down the ramp as the SmackDown Women’s champion in her hometown of Orlando, Florida. Naomi then tells “Lexi, BOO, BOO!” that she better “get ready to FEEL. THE. GLOW.” and then follows it with a kick straight to the champ’s head!

A brawl between the four then initiates as either side has the upper hand. At one point Mickie and Alexa are outside, and then the number one contender dives on top of both of them, knocking the pair to the ground. The Lass Kicker and Glowtastic One then remain victorious in the ring as the champ and veteran flee for cover backstage.

In a SmackDown Live Fallout video, James Ellsworth confronts his “boo” Carmella. The Princess of Staten Island seems a little busy to properly respond to him, but he does catch her attention when brings up the amount of boos she receives when she enters the ring. Carmella responds by dropping her jacket off slightly and asking the same question – as clearly she’s too fabulous for that kind of treatment. She then walks away and demands James to follow her, as he ends up doing.

Thoughts: I finished this episode of SmackDown Live feeling more than pleased. Though some segments could do with some work, the night felt (mostly) fresh and exciting. And that’s the kind of TV we need to see.

Before I get onto the good side of things, let’s quickly discuss that Natalya and Nikki angle.

I expect so much from these two. They are my two favourite women currently in WWE and their feud has been nothing but exciting since it began. No it hasn’t been the most original, but it’s felt the most authentic and entertaining. However this week they truly let their flaws show. The problem here doesn’t lie with the fact that the set-up of their interview was awkward. It may have been odd, but the writing easily made up for that as there were some great one-liners thrown. The issue here is the delivery. Both Bella and Neidhart came across ever so weird here that it was hard to take the segment seriously. Nikki looked as though she was desperately trying to dig into Natalya, and although her writing allowed her to do so, the performance didn’t follow through. Both Neidhart and Bella’s performance felt very middle school-like, in the sense that they were given a script and put way too much effort into making it believable. Anger needs to feel natural, and for a story that is being told by two best friends, it’s surprising that it doesn’t fall through here. Both have such great talents, with Neidhart showing great improvement in the mic. department as of late, but this week they both failed. And as a big fan of them, it frustrates me.

Still, the storytelling – on the writing side of things – was great. Nikki anchoring how Natalya’s only thing going for is her wrestling was something that took me by surprise. Nikki has her leading roles in reality shows (that Natalya is only a co-star in) as well as two roles as an Executive Producer, great merchandise sales and a popular YouTube channel, to name a few. And on the other side of things, Natalya really only has the wrestling. She doesn’t have any producing roles, popular online accounts or a spin-off. Instead she has to rely on her weekly SmackDown appearances to get her name across. And that is the kind of material we need to see. The personal digs, the ones that feel like they go beyond kayfabe. If only the performance followed through, we could have had a brilliant segment here.

Now onto the good…

With Wrestlemania coming up, the cracks in the Carmellsworth love story are really coming out. This can only mean Carmella’s push is on the horizon. As she’s proven in previous weeks, her only use of Ellsworth is to allow her to cheat her way to victory. So if we manage to get some kind of six/seven woman match at ‘Mania, I fully expect James to do his part. And it’s going to result in her dumping him, regardless of the result, right?

And then we have the contract signing… What a segment!

Each woman was given equally as good lines as each other, with all four ladies being just as good as their counterparts. No woman outshone another, nor did any competitor underwhelm. They all delivered their lines perfectly and sold their roles as they should. It’s segments like these that makes me so proud to be a fan of Team Blue.

We have Becky, the ultimate underdog with a bit of sass. She constantly proves that she knows how to get the crowd behind her with her talks about her passion as well as her digs to her opponents. Then we have Mickie, the bitter veteran. In this segment she emphasized her history and made us fully aware that she doesn’t want us to forget it. I absolutely love this. As much as I adore her, this constant need for emphasis makes me want to stand behind her opponent even more – and with Lynch’s work this week, it’s not so hard to do so.

On the other side of the table we had the title match. Alexa is probably my favourite heel in the business right now. Her cockiness and clear lack of respect for her co-workers makes me thirst for her to get knocked down. And as if by magic, Naomi does exactly that.

The number one contender proved why she belongs in her current spot as she nailed her lines perfectly. She got the crowd behind her and made sure that she stood tall amongst her enemies. And that is exactly what a good face needs. Will she win this Sunday? Well, with the high level of momentum from the past two weeks, I highly doubt it. But this could be even more fuel to allow her to take that title in her hometown at ‘Mania. And I wouldn’t be against it!

Overall, the women of SmackDown did wonderfully this week. I’m excited to see each match as most of the woman truly brought their A-game. And even though Bella and Neidhart didn’t come through in their segment, their in-ring chemistry is always to die for, so I don’t doubt that they’ll make up for it at Elimination Chamber.

What did you think of this week’s show? Which match are you most excited for? Will we see a new champ this Sunday? Let us know your views in the comments below!

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