Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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SmackDown Redux (January 15th, 2015): Alicia and Natalya Get Some Help

Welcome, Friday night refugees, to the first edition of the Thursday Night SmackDown Redux! The last time SmackDown graced Thursday nights (2005), Diva Dirt was but an idea floating in the ether. We’ve known nothing else.

For the debut show, the WWE has graced us with two Divas matches, a rarity on the blue brand. I guess my huffing and puffing about last week’s one minute match paid off? Let’s just pretend that’s true.

Our first match of the night is a rematch, Alicia Fox again teaming with The Miz and Damien Mizdow to take on Naomi, Jimmy and Jey Uso:

Before the match, they announce that the Usos will be defending the Tag Team Titles against Miz and Mizdow at the Royal Rumble. Will that be Alicia and Naomi’s PPV payoff?

The men start things off, taking us a few minutes into the match. When Miz – to the delight of the fans – finally tags in Mizdow, Alicia decides to take some heat for herself, tagging in on his back. She shoos Mizdow out of the ring, but by the time she turns around, she’s being met with Naomi’s boots, being planted with a dropkick.

Naomi pounds on Alicia’s head a bit, probably relishing the fact that she has full use of both arms in this match. She hits Alicia with a hurricanrana, sending her cowering to the corner. When she charges, though Alicia sends her out to the ring apron. Naomi lands cleanly on her feet, though, and kicks Alicia in the head over the top rope.

Naomi springs up to the top rope and flies, taking Alicia out with a crossbody. She goes for the pin, but Alicia kicks out at two. Before Naomi can inflict any more damage, Alicia crawls over to her corner and tags in Miz. According to the stupid, outdated rules, Naomi now must tag out.

The next time we see the Divas is a few minutes later, Alicia pulling Jimmy off of The Miz and breaking up his pin attempt. This only results in more pain for her though, as the husband and wife pair then perform a pretty genius tag team moves: Jimmy sends Naomi over his head for an elevated Lou Thesz press! Naomi continues to get some licks in on Alicia as they roll out of the ring.

The finish comes with the Divas on the outside, Miz using Mizdow as a human shield and setting himself up to get the pin after hitting the Skull Crushing Finale. Yet again, Alicia has gotten the better of Naomi… sort of.

Next up, we have a non-title match between Divas Champion Nikki Bella and Natalya. As you can see on the timestamp of the video below, the match is longer than one minute. What have we done to deserve such a bounty? Bless you, Thursday Night SmackDown:

Naturally, Brie has Nikki’s back at ringside. Paige, perhaps over the loss she suffered thanks to Nattie’s husband Tyson Kidd on Raw, is at ringside as well. Maybe she gave Natalya an ultimatum: her or her husband. If so, Natalya made the right choice. Hos before bros.

Nikki and Natalya start with a tie-up, Nikki taking control. She works on Natalya’s arm, but the hold is soon reversed, Natalya wrenching Nikki’s arm behind her back. Nikki frees herself with an elbow to Nattie’s face and an armdrag. Cocky, the Divas Champ poses, flexing her arms. I’m not sure you want to go comparing your bicep size to Natalya’s, Nikki..

There’s another tie-up, Natalya taking control this time. She rolls Nikki into a leg submission, taking hold of her leg leg. Nikki kicks Natalya in the chest with her free leg to abruptly break the hold. Nikki heads to the corner, fending off an attack from Natalya with an elbow. She takes Natalya’s left arm and climbs to the second rope, diving off of it to painfully slam her exposed shoulder to the mat.

Nikki, clearly taking on the strategy she had against Paige on Main Event, continues to work on Natalya’s left arm. She props her up and wrenches the arm back, putting pressure on the shoulder. Soon, she has Nattie on her feet, twisting the arm and tossing her over her head by it. She then locks in an armbar, Nattie immediately fighting to get free. Natalya makes it to her knees, then her feet. She then impressively lifts Nikki up off of the mat (!!!) and slams her down. Now that is how you break out of a submission hold. Damn.

Paige cheers Natalya on from ringside, Natalya audibly complaining to Paige about her arm. Interesting bit there. Usually, Divas aren’t so chatty when in pain. I kind of like it – it adds to the testy dynamic between the two.

Nikki comes charging at Natalya, who had set herself up in the corner. Natalya hits her with a snapmare, running the ropes, stepping over her back and hitting her with a low dropkick to the face. Nattie levels Nikki with her discus clothesline, which Wikipedia tells me is called the Nattie by Nature. Has an announcer ever called it by name? Natalya goes for the pin, but Nikki kicks out at two.

Natayla immediately tries to lock in the Sharpshooter, but Brie springs to the ring apron for a desperate distraction attempt, yelling Nattie’s name. It works. Unfortunately for her, it also distracts the referee. On the other side of the ring, Nikki meets up with Paige, who slaps her across the face. She’s not much for words, I guess.

This is enough to set Nikki up for the Sharpshooter. Natalya locks it in, and Nikki taps out. Paige blows Nikki a kiss for good measure.

Thoughts: I enjoyed the Six-Man Tag. It didn’t feature a lot of Divas action, but it continued the Naomi/Alicia storyline, so I was happy with it. I really liked the double team move by Jimmy and Naomi. Those two need to team up more. Maybe they should cut things down to Miz and Alicia vs. Jimmy and Naomi on Monday.

I wish we could see Alicia vs. Naomi on a PPV, but is that just wishful thinking? There are only a few matches booked for the Rumble so far, but we still have a Divas Title match to make and the Rumble match itself takes up a good chunk of the show. Maybe this would work as a pre-show match, somehow leading in to the Tag Title match on the main show. I could settle for that, as long as the Divas are given enough time. I still want a lengthy match on either Main Event or Superstars, though. Preferably Superstars, since Main Event has been banished (for the time being) the Hulu and overseas broadcasts. Womp womp.

Meanwhile, the Nikki/Natalya match ended up being around two minutes. That’s painfully short, but not as short as last week’s joke. The match was basic, but I liked that the story it told was a bit different, Paige proving her “loyalty” to Natalya in helping her get the win. While the focus seems to be on Paige/Nikki, Natalya certainly can’t be counted out. She got a win over the Divas Champion too, after all. There’s also the Tyson Kidd factor to consider, too.

So, where does that put us for the Royal Rumble? Monday is the “go home” show, so something will likely be set up then. My vote goes to a Triple Threat match. I had previously hoped for a Fatal Four-Way, but at this point, there’s no way the WWE is cashing in on any residual Bella tension now. There’s just no foundation for it, this close to the PPV.

Natalya absolutely deserves a shot at the title, as does Paige, and I’d love to see those two try to maintain their tenuous friendship when they’re both gunning for the Divas Title. It would definitely help define Paige’s tweener status. And, if/when Nikki (as I suspect) retains the title, that helps build her up as a heel, defeating two fan favorites at once and exacerbating the tension between them.

All in all, we didn’t get a *ton* of actual match time for the Divas, but we did further two storylines on a SmackDown, so that has to count for something. I can only hope that this signifies that the WWE will now be utilizing the Divas more on this show and not treat their segments as throw-away moments. This will be especially important, given that significantly fewer people will be watching Main Event on a weekly basis until it returns to the Network. That, according to reports, may not happen until later summer/early fall. So step it up, SmackDown! You’re headed in the right direction.

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