It’s SmackDown Redux time, but only partially so. After all, we have no match to recap this week. Instead, we have a short (and, in my view, not-so-sweet) promo from Paige and another chance for Lana to grant Rusev her forgiveness.
When Renee asks her how she’s feeling, Paige says she feels like “it is never going to change”. The Bellas have been pulling “twin magic” for years, and she’s sick of it. She says Brie and Nikki are acting like they’re giving Divas a chance when they’re actually the ones holding the division back. She name drops Summer Rae, Emma and Naomi
(whom she was feuding with a week ago), claiming that the Bellas are holding them all back.
Paige says the Bellas’ lives are consumed with living the celebrity lifestyle. Hers, on the other hand, is consumed with what happens inside the ring. She says she prides herself on always being different and being herself.
Paige closes out her promo by reminding us that if you don’t like the world you live in, you have the power to change it. She says she’ll be doing just that.
Later on, we head back to the tumultuous break up of Lana and Rusev, which had been on pause since the former United States Champion injured his foot and was forced to sit out at Elimination Chamber. Lana’s a guest on MizTV, joining The Miz to discuss all her recent drama:
After recapping the break up, Miz says he thought Rusev’s apology to Lana was sincere and asks her why she “abandoned” him in his time of need. Lana responds by saying that Rusev did not respect her, so he did not deserve her.
Miz mockingly applauds her, accusing her of fooling the WWE Universe and “blinding them” with her beauty. He says she used Rusev and dropped him once he no longer served a purpose. Lana counters by saying that her decision was a personal one, driven by his blatant lies and erratic behavior. She then confronts Miz’s disrespectful questions, threatening to either leave or slap him across the face.
Miz defends himself, saying he’s only trying to get the full story. He then invites out his “surprise guest”: Rusev. He makes his way to the ring on crutches and takes the microphone, apologizing for his actions and blaming them on his being raised “differently”.
He says his situation is like Lana’s favorite American song, which appears to be either Cinderalla’s “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” or Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”. He didn’t know what he had until it was gone. He asks her for a second chance and to “be his crutch”.
Lana walks up to Rusev and says she’ll tell him “where he can put his crutch”, shoving them at him and tossing the microphone. This brings out the real Rusev, who screams at Lana and calls her stupid and pathetic.
She just smiles at this, and soon Dolph Ziggler is out there smiling too. He heads to the ring and escorts Lana to the back, the two rubbing salt in Rusev’s wounds.
It’s fun to see Lana get the upper hand and drive Rusev crazy, but I’m still wondering where this is going. She and Ziggler go together like peanut butter and ketchup, so they can’t be the endgame, right? But there’s no way Lana’s going back to Rusev at this point, unless this is some epic swerve on their part.
I really can’t tell what they’re building towards. Lana is provoking Rusev to the point that when he can walk freely, he’ll probably try to twist Ziggler’s head off his body. Maybe she’s into that. Hey, now that would be an innovative storyline: Lana taking down the WWE one man at a time, using Rusev’s blind anger like a wrecking ball. The Ravishing Russian’s Rapture!
Lastly, if you’re into that sort of thing, we have another “WWE.com exclusive” interview with Rosa Mendes and Adam Rose:
JoJo asks them about Lana and Dolph, but they only want to get weird. Rose squirts body oil on Rosa, prompting JoJo to ask what the fuck is going on. The duo say that nobody “gets it” – only they get each other. They depart, leaving poor JoJo to hope that this moment doesn’t revisit her in her dreams tonight.
Thoughts: Very little of Paige’s promo rang true to me, being more or less a bunch of “impactful” phrases strung together without real meaning. It doesn’t quite make sense to be sick of “twin magic” when we haven’t seen it done in years, and the sudden demonizing of Brie and Nikki is odd when they were smiley babyfaces less than a week ago. Were they holding the division back when they were underdogs and feuding with Stephanie McMahon? I’m not sure we’re supposed to be “sick” of them unless we’re getting meta and bitching about the monotony of Nikki’s Divas Title run. I am sick of one thing, though: this tired booking. How many times are we going to hear “a real wrestler” talk shit about the Bella’s interest in being celebrities?
And by the way, what’s the point in someone bitching in kayfabe about Divas hogging the division’s spotlight? If you want them off the top of the mountain, beat them and knock them off! It’s such a flimsy argument when made in character and makes it look like Paige would rather complain than take action.
Peering through that fog of nonsense, the promo felt like the WWE’s desperate attempt to get a bit meta, as if to show that they know what their critics are saying. But here’s the thing: all the self awareness in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t eventually use that awareness to make changes that address the most common criticisms against you. You can feel clever about dropping the “Give Divas a Chance” line every now and then, but when you take a phrase that was coined to point out the WWE’s poor treatment of its female wrestlers and use it to tell a tired, sexist “us vs. them” story, that’s some Category 5 bullshit.
It displays a level of willfull ignorance so stunning that it makes me wonder if the bookers are capable of rational thought when it comes to the Divas. They can’t possibly think Diva fans will hear the magic phrase and, like Pavlov’s dog, go “YAAASSS!” and think, “The WWE really gets us!”
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, I know, but this just brings me back to the larger problem, of which this moment is but a symptom: the WWE isn’t interested in booking main roster Diva feuds with any sort of complexity. It’s just an endless cycle of the same shit: the same cookie cutter format, the same impossibly low stakes, the same lack of continuity and the same overwhelming sense that the WWE thinks the Divas (and their fans) are children. Rinse, repeat.