Monday, June 27, 2022

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SmackDown Redux (July 23rd, 2015): Bella vs. B.A.D.

Welcome to another SmackDown Redux! This week’s show brought with it an opportunity for Team Bella to remind us why the Revolution was sparked in the first place: their dominance.

Brie and Nikki Bella team up to take on Team B.A.D.’s Naomi and Sasha Banks. Will control swing back in their favor? Let’s watch:

Both trios make their entrances, Alicia Fox and Tamina Snuka setting up camp at ringside.

Nikki and Naomi start things off, Nikki taking control out of the tie-up and flipping Naomi to the mat for an early pin attempt. Naomi kicks out. Nikki slams Naomi to the mat and locks in an armbar. Naomi soon fights free and takes Nikki down, running the ropes and hitting Nikki with a low clothesline.

Naomi celebrates a bit, but her advantage is short-lived, as Nikki then takes her down with a full body slam and covers her for another pin attempt. Naomi again kicks out. Nikki latches on a front face lock and backs Naomi into her corner, allowing Brie to tag herself in. The Bellas whip Naomi to the ropes and hit her with a tandem flapjack. Brie logs another unsuccessful pin attempt.

Brie goes for a neckbreaker, but Naomi fights back, kicking her in the stomach and bringing her to her corner. She tags in Sasha, who is immediately doubled over by a kick from Brie. Brie tags in Nikki, who nails a low dropkick and covers Sasha for the pin. Sasha kicks out. Nikki locks in a headscissors submission, adding insult to injury by busting out a few pushups while maintaining the hold.

After fighting a bit, Sasha manages to free herself from the hold, but Nikki immediately catches her in a side headlock. Nikki tags in Brie, who levels Sasha with a dropkick from the second rope. She goes for the pin, earning only a two count. Brie sets Sasha up for her running knee strike, but Tamina comes to her teammate’s aid at the last moment, pulling her out of the ring.

When Brie tries to grab hold of Sasha through the ropes, Tamina nails a superkick to the side of her head. Brie goes tumbling out of the ring, allowing Sasha to take control. She stomps on Brie as we head to a commercial.

When we return, the action’s back in the ring, Naomi having tagged in. She stomps on Brie and chokes her against the bottom rope for as long as the referee will allow it. She fights off Brie’s attempts to turn the tide and hits a legdrop on her, hooking the leg for a pin attempt. Brie kicks out. Naomi pulls her to her feet and hits a bulldog into the corner, slamming Brie’s face into the second turnbuckle.

Sasha is tagged in and tries to capitalize off the bulldog with a pin attempt, but Brie kicks out. Sasha takes her into the corner and climbs to the second rope, kicking her in the side of the head. She then props Brie up on the second rope, delivering her double knee drop before going for another unsuccessful pin attempt.

Sasha knocks Nikki off the ring apron and tags in Naomi, who hits a suplex on Brie and covers her for the pin. Brie kicks out. Naomi latches on a side headlock, which Brie soon fights free of. When Brie runs the ropes for an attack, though, Naomi knocks her down with a spinning elbow. She tags in Sasha and plants Brie on the mat by her tailbone, allowing Sasha to swoop in with a slap to the face. Another pin attempt, another kick out by Brie.

Sasha locks in a submission, crossing Brie’s arms around her neck and propping her up against a knee. Brie soon manages to get to her feet, tossing Sasha over her head to free herself. When she makes a desperate attempt to get to Nikki, though, Sasha catches her and carries her to the opposite corner. She tags in Naomi and delivers a few shoulder to Brie’s midsection before handing the action off.

Naomi guides Brie back to the center of the ring and drops her with two boots to the face. Brie kicks out of the ensuing pin attempt. Naomi locks in a headlock, beating on Brie to maintain control. Naomi’s eventually forced to break the hold, but she stops Brie from taking control of the situation, sending her into the corner and hitting a splash into it. Brie manages to toss her over the ropes when she charges again, dropkicking her off the apron to buy herself some time.

Seeing Brie on the verge of tagging in Nikki, Tamina tosses Naomi back into the ring. Naomi can’t stop her, though, and is soon on the receiving end of an offensive streak from Nikki, taking clotheslines and a dropkick before being tossed over her head. Nikki gets a bit of revenge on Sasha, knocking her off the ring apron with a forearm. Nikki hits Naomi with an Alabama Slam, but it’s not enough to pin her. Nikki then opts for the Rack Attack, but when she gets Naomi onto her shoulders, Sasha enters the ring, tackling Nikki and freeing Naomi.

Brie charges into the ring to take Sasha out of the equation, hitting a Lou Thesz press and rolling them both out of the ring. Tamina tries to get involved, but is tackled into the barrier by Alicia and Brie. Meanwhile, Nikki and Naomi get to their feet, Naomi rolling up Nikki for a surprise pin attempt. Nikki kicks out.

Naomi’s still on the attack off of the pin, but Nikki ducks a Rear View attempt, nailing Naomi with a forearm and hitting the Rack Attack. She covers Naomi and earns the win for her team.

Can’t get enough Sasha? Check out this excellent video package introducing her to any of the poor souls still unfamiliar with her:

Lastly, Summer Rae made another Lana-fied appearance alongside Rusev, accompanying him for his match against Kevin Owens:

Thoughts: It’s easy to forget that Team Bella’s been on a losing streak as of late, since the Divas Revolution came about because of their overwhelming dominance. This win makes sense, though, and helps keep the landscape unpredictable. Paige and Becky Lynch lost to Naomi and Sasha on Raw, Naomi and Sasha lose to Brie and Nikki on Smackdown, setting it up so no one is truly dominant. Well, except for maybe Charlotte.

I saw in a spoiler report that the Bellas were playing babyfaces here, and I can see that partially, but not to the degree we saw a few weeks ago. In a way, the Divas Revolution storyline covers for it: everyone’s got their own agendas beyond the usual heel/face lines. I mean, there’s no way that we’re supposed to be cheering for the Bellas, since the storyline is meant to unseat them. Team B.A.D. is just more overtly heelish with their move set and attitudes. That’s probably not their thinking, but at least it isn’t as contradictory as it was before. I’m still slightly annoyed that they can’t mix up the usual match structure to the point where they don’t need the Bellas – or anyone, really – to get the hot tag. Baby steps, I guess.

The match itself was great, especially consider this was a tag match on SmackDown. It was a nice touch to see Sasha’s first offense shut down by the Bellas. It showed that, despite her abundant confidence, she’s not able to step right in and dominate on the main roster level. No one should be. She still looked strong, though, and played her role perfectly, standing out without overshadowing Naomi. Naomi, by the way, looks more comfortable than ever in her heel role. I can’t imagine her as a babyface at this point.

I loved the ways they got Tamina involved – it was smart and fresh, hitting that superkick on Brie and saving Sasha. That’s how you keep your “muscle” relevant: show that she has smarts and is effective. If you keep her boxed in to the stoic, slow-acting role (like they did in her AJ Lee alliance), she’s going to fade into the background. Here, she looks every bit a member of the team. I’m not sure I’ve seen her utilized better.

The Bellas needed to show that they’ve still got it, and they did. Well, Nikki did, at least. I’d like to see Brie get some of her mojo back too, preferably with some shady Team Bella tactics. They need to remind us why Team Bella had their stranglehold on the division: they were willing to pull out any trick to get the win. Utilize Alicia more. Try to pull twin magic again. Show us that every faction has their strengths by demonstrating them. Keep everyone neck and neck in the battle for control. That way, the only thing separating them is how far they’re willing to go to achieve their goals.

There are so many possibilities that the Divas Revolution offers – it’s practically an embarrassment of riches. The way I see it, there’s absolutely no reason for them to stick to the same old booking tropes. There’s no excuse.

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