Welcome to another SmackDown Redux! For the second show this week, we’re without our uncrowned #1 contender to the Divas Title, as Paige is too busy calling out sexist assholes on Tough Enough. In her place, Alicia Fox and Naomi are claiming some of the spotlight in a one-on-one match. The overall story may be up in the air, but maybe we can get a good match out of this. Let’s see:
The bell rings, and they tie up to start the match, Alicia taking Naomi down to the mat and locking in a side headlock. Naomi quickly gets to her feet and shoves Alicia off into the ropes, but is taken down with a shoulder block.
Naomi isn’t fazed, though, and kips up. Alicia sees this and dropkicks her, sending her out to the ring apron. Alicia follows, but gets a kick to the head over the top rope. She stumbles away, Naomi following her and sending her down with an impressive headscissors takedown. Naomi pulls Alicia to her feet and drives her face-first into the second turnbuckle with a bulldog, seating herself smoothly on the second rope.
Naomi bodyslams Alicia and hits a leg drop before going for the pin. Alicia kicks out. Naomi locks in a sleeper, dragging a frantic Alicia away from the ropes. Alicia manages to fight out, though, and takes Naomi out with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. When they get to their feet, Alicia comes charging, sending both of them through the ropes and out of the ring.
Alicia is first to her feet, but when she pulls Naomi up, she is driven back-first into the ring apron. Naomi plants a kick to Alicia’s back for good measure before tossing her back into the ring. She then turns her attention to the Bellas, talking trash and distracting them while Tamina sneaks up from the side. Tamina nails Brie with a superkick, drawing Nikki’s ire. The Divas Champion attacks Tamina, driving her into the barricade. Naomi follows, pulling Nikki up by her hair and setting her up for a superkick of her own.
After some celebration, Naomi reenters the ring, but Alicia’s ready for her. She punches Naomi in the back and immediately hits her super cool finisher that I don’t know the name of, driving Naomi face-first into the mat. It’s enough to pin her, Alicia claiming victory.
Elsewhere, another Diva feud is brewing as Summer Rae continues to plant the seeds for an alliance with Rusev:
When Rusev is rebuffed by Lana at ringside during Dolph Ziggler‘s match with Sheamus, Summer comforts him backstage. I can’t find video of that last exchange, but trust me on this one.
Summer’s presence could salvage this Rusev/Lana feud. Hell, it could even bring Lana into the ring for the first time. I really don’t see where it’s going, but for the first time in weeks, I’m excited about Lana again. Hooray for Summer!
And, lastly, we have more weirdness from Rosa Mendes and Adam Rose:
They are elevens! Yeah, it’s silly, but it gives Rosa something to do, right? This is the first time in a long time outside of Total Divas that she’s really entertained me.
Thoughts: I’m thoroughly confused. Why aren’t the Bellas and Alicia working as heels? The piped-in cheers before and after the match make no sense. Does the WWE not think a heel vs. heel match would work? Don’t give me that “there are no heels or faces in the Divas division” bullshit, either. This isn’t them booking tweeners: this is straight up laziness. The Bellas have been on a clear heel path since the return of twin magic, Paige going so far as to proclaim that they’re “holding back” the division. We were supposed to agree with Paige, since she has been routinely outnumbered and beaten by dirty tactics. Alicia is in the same boat, having helped heel Brie beat babyface Paige last week.
Honestly, this makes it feel like the bookers are flying by the seat of their pants, having these Divas switch alignments based on what suits them that night. Hey, who cares who’s heel and who’s face? It’s not like the fans are paying attention to what the Divas do anyways! Pathetic.
If we want to play with the nuances of face and heel, give Naomi more of the spotlight. She’s the wild card in this scenario, holding no allegiance to Paige or the Bellas. Have her treat them exactly the same and explain why: she is the one being held back by both parties. That’s the one kayfabe/reality blending story I’d be interested in seeing. If we’re supposed to be torn between the Bellas and Paige, use Naomi to illustrate why: everyone has valid arguments, but no one is 100% right. No one’s hands are clean.
That being said, I enjoyed the action here. If you remove the inconsistencies of the story, you have a quick, action-packed match in which everyone got involved. It wasn’t the smoothest match, sure, but seeing those two styles go head-to-head was exciting, and I’d like to see more of it. The systematic disposal of the Bellas was a nice touch, showing how calculating Naomi and Tamina can be. The win for Alicia keeps the Bellas on top, but that’s gotta change soon, right? Maybe when Paige reappears, we’ll see some movement on this.
Speaking of Paige: it looks like her Tough Enough duties will keep her off of SmackDown for the next several weeks. What does that mean for this storyline? I hope it means more Divas will be pulled in and fulfill the “civil war” idea I and others have suggested. If they’re set on keeping Paige in the forefront when she’s partially unavailable, I hope they can find creative ways to keep her relevant and not just stall the feud with filler matches. Surely they knew Tough Enough was on the horizon and their Divas Title challenger would be very busy. Or, maybe not. This is the WWE we’re talking about.
As far as I’m concerned, though, Paige should be treated as the instigator – have her spark the division’s turmoil and be unable to contain it. Have it grow until it has a life of its own and doesn’t need Paige’s constant presence to drive it forward. Even if she’s not physically present, she’ll be on everyone’s lips as the Diva who instigated the war and walked off for a plush Tough Enough gig. She promised to bring change, but couldn’t handle the shit storm she brought about. Or, at least, that’s what her Diva detractors would say. That way, when she’s back full time, she’ll be returning to a division whose passion has been relit, along with that of the fans. That’s the idea, anyhow…