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SmackDown Redux (May 5th, 2016): The Challenger Rises as the Champion Crumbles

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As we inch closer to Extreme Rules, the tensions are rising and our ladies are as heated as ever! The storylines are given their ever so deserved time, and with that comes brilliant performances and a much needed boost for both of our female-oriented plots. So if you chose to skip this week’s showing, you may want to re-think your decision!

Smackdown kicks off this week with Chris Jericho’s returning show The Highlight Reel, in which Jericho takes it upon himself to throw a dig at Dean Ambrose by boasting that it was he who had placed the Lunatic Fringe in the hospital (because getting smashed into steel chairs by Brock Lesnar isn’t enough to hospitalise him but a potted plant? Of course!). Jericho then introduces his guest as Sami Zayn, and the self entitled host makes sure everybody knows just how disgusted he is in Zayn for stealing the Intercontinental Title from The Miz on RAW.

And then, speaking of the devil, out comes the Hollywood A-lister D-lister himself, accompanied by the stunning Maryse. The Miz claims that Zayn has come to ride his co-tails just like he did the Kevin and the men find themselves in a heated discussion about Miz’s title. After Zayn mockingly touches the Intercontinental title Jericho gets involved to say how disrespected he’d feel if that happened to his $15,000 jacket. Zayn then questions why someone would pay that much money to look like a walking Christmas Tree and with Jericho being Jericho, he pulls out his trusted tantrum and leaves the set of his own show.

The Miz and Sami then move back to their conversation and before things can get too heated, Maryse interrupts and states that her husband will teach the newbie a lesson (which is evidently  news to The Miz). We then see a quick scuffle between the men and a match between them brews up as soon as we return from a break.

After a great fight between Miz and Sami, Kevin Owens attacks his former best friend to end the bout via disqualification. The three then get into it and are then demolished by the Swiss Superman himself, Cesaro – who, by the way, is owning this James Bond gimmick! During Cesaro’s dominance, he gets The Miz ready for a Swing, that is, until Maryse grabs her husband and finds herself pulled into the ring! After Owens puts a stop to the signature before it can begin, Cesaro quickly turns the tables and finds himself on top. Maryse and Miz quickly cower out of the ring, accidentally leaving the Intercontinental title behind and in the hands of the Swiss Superman.

Later on in the night we move on to a tag team match with Becky Lynch and Natalya facing off against their current individual rivals Emma and Charlotte.

After a recap of the antics from Payback and RAW, an ad break, and the entrances of Emma and Charlotte, we get right into the action. To start us off we have our Women’s Champion facing off against our #1 contender. The two begin with an elbow tie-up which is quickly transformed into a side headlock and a slam by Charlotte. Natalya quickly reverses this into a head scissors until the champ bounces herself up onto her feet, followed by an arrogant “Woo!“.

Natalya quickly gets Charlotte into a side headlock and a slam, followed by being locked into a head scissors by Charlotte. This is then overcome by Neidhart jumping to her feet. Natalya quickly runs behind Charlotte and trips her to the ground, following this with a front face lock. She then asks the crowd if they want Becky and after a healthy applause Becky is tagged in.

Before Natalya leaves the pair flip Charlotte onto her back and then quickly pull her legs apart to make some damage to her strong spot. Becky quickly puts in two leg drops and an elbow drop before she manages to get a 1 count with her pin. Charlotte is then held in a headlock as Becky tags in her partner, who then gains a quick 1 count roll-up.

As Natalya grabs Charlotte from the waist we see our champion rush to the corner so that she can be legally freed from the hold. As soon as Charlotte sees the opening with the referee distracting her opponent, she throws in a heavy boot to the face before taunting to the crowd and gaining a 2 count pin. Charlotte the gets Natalya in a headlock whilst dragging her to the corner so that Emma can make the tag. The Aussie then holds up her boot to the corner so that Charlotte can hit Natalya’s face against it.

Emma soon delivers multiple kicks to Natalya’s mid-section before quickly tagging in her partner and repeating the head-to-boot maneuver. As Emma leaves the ring she mockingly thanks the crowd for their response to her.

Charlotte then makes her mark by whipping Natalya’s chest and adding in another “Wooo!” after. She then repeats this before tagging in her partner. Emma then flips Natalya so that she is seated, allowing room for Charlotte to kick her in the back. Whilst pinning Natalya, Emma shouts how she has “got it” but only manages a 2-count.

So that Natalya cannot reach her partner, Emma slams her face first into the canvas, with her frustration showing in the punches to the face that follow. To add insult to injury, Emma then looks over to Natalya’s partner Becky and says “do you see that?” whilst pointing to her right eye (the same side of the face where Becky was injured a few weeks back).

Charlotte is then tagged in and manages to kick Natalya in the mid-section whilst she is held in the corner of the ring. As the referee tells her to let go she yells “don’t touch me” at him.

Natalya is then made to have her head placed on the middle rope as Charlotte leaves the ring. The Women’s champion then slaps Natalya in the face and tells Ric Flair that she did it for him. Charlotte then gets back in the ring and holds Natalya in a head lock whilst the Hart reaches for a tag. To end the momentum that Natalya is getting from the crowd, Charlotte quickly slams her head first into the ring, followed by mockingly reaching for Becky.

Charlotte then tries to throw Natalya into Emma’s boot like before but this move is quickly reversed so that it is Charlotte that takes the bump. Emma then quickly tags in to stop Natalya from making the tag but is then kicked away so that Becky can enter the ring legally.

Fresh off the hot tag we see Becky deliver two clotheslines and a crossed-leg lariat to Emma, followed by a splash in the corner. Emma then tries to reverse Becky’s throw to the other corner but is then sent back and receives a kick to the mid-section. However, before Becky can do any more damage, Charlotte grabs her partner and pulls her out of the ring. Becky, obviously frustrated, quickly goes after Charlotte who lures her into speaking to her for a short while before Emma can hit a forearm to the back of the Lass Kicker’s head.

Emma quickly follows this by slamming Becky’s head onto the side of the ring and then throwing her back into the squared circle. After tagging in her partner, Emma slams Becky’s face straight into the canvas, allowing Charlotte to make a 1-count pinfall.

After locking Becky’s head with her legs and banging her opponent’s head into the ground multiple times, Charlotte locks a head scissors right before we take a short break.

As we return we see that Charlotte is still in control and is currently kneeing Becky’s legs with force. The champ quickly tries to lock in the figure eight but is then put into a roll-up by Becky, though manages to kick out at 2.

Becky soon takes a few blows to Charlotte’s stomach and head, but loses her momentum after running to the ropes and being booted straight to the head. Charlotte then takes advantage and puts Becky into a pinfall which reaches the 2 count. Still in charge we see Charlotte lock Becky into a head lock as she drags her over to her corner. Emma is then tagged in and flips Becky onto her bottom so that her back can be kicked.

As Becky lays down we see Emma pull her arms up whilst standing on her hair. The Aussie then takes the Lass Kicker to the ropes and places her torso between the top two. Here she digs her foot into Becky’s back before being pulled away from the referee and thus allowing Charlotte to kick Becky’s head without being disqualified. As Charlotte is booed she yells at the crowd, “oh, you don’t like me?!” and soaks in each bit of her heat.

Charlotte is then tagged in and flips Becky on her back so that she can get in a few knees to the head and a forearm to an idle Natalya. As the referee is busy trying to stop Natalya from retaliating, Emma senses her chance and kicks Becky’s head. Charlotte is aware of their dominance so tags in Emma to take more control.

Emma soon drops Becky on her knees and throws in a few cheap slaps to the face. Becky attempts to fire back with a few punches to Emma’s mid-section but is then stopped as Emma hits a forearm to Becky’s back. The Lass Kicker is then thrown to the ropes and manages to momentarily turn the tables by giving a kick to her opponent’s head. Emma soon throws Becky into the corner but both her and her partner are hit with a forearm by the red head.

Emma quickly tries to stop Becky from tagging in Natalya but is kicked to the face almost immediately. Soon we see both Charlotte and Natalya being tagged in, resulting in two clotheslines by Natalya. Charlotte manages to throw Natalya to the corner but when she tries to jump on her, the #1 contender quickly moves out of the way and allows the champ to hit the turnbuckles. Sensing her opportunity, Natalya lifts her opponent up and puts her in a springboard slam, followed by a step on the back, a run to the ropes, a dropkick to the face and the Nattie by Nature.

As Charlotte is on the ground we see her placed into the sharpshooter, but she is then saved as she drags herself to the ropes and her partner tags in. Emma breaks up the submission with a forceful hit the back of Natalya’s head, dropping her to the ground. Emma then puts Natalya in the Butterfly Suplex to leave her on the ground. As Natalya crawls to the bottom turnbuckle Emma yells that “it’s about me!” before performing a running cross body onto her opponent. Natalya is then pinned but it is broken up after a 1-count by Becky Lynch.

Charlotte runs into the ring and tries to throw Becky out of it, but the opposite happens and the champ is on the ground near her father. As she sees that Ric could easily get involved in the match, Becky stands on the side of the ring and keeps Ric away from Natalya.

Meanwhile, Natalya manages to punch Emma in the face and put her in the sharpshooter, in which we see Emma soon tap out to, allowing Natalya and Emma to go home with the win.

Charlotte then walks away in shame but then gloats that she is still the champion.

Our final female Superstar encounter of the night is in the form of the Ravishing Russian Lana as she accompanies Rusev to the ring for his match against Zack Ryder.

Ryder puts on an impressive bout but unfortunately for the crowd favourite, he submits to The Accolade as Lana cheers on. As Rusev’s music is playing we see Lana blame Zack for leaving a bump on Rusev’s head. Rusev then signifies that he will be wearing a belt around his waist as Lana mocks Kalisto’s Lucha” chant with a smile across her face. To the couple’s surprise, however, Kalisto runs in and kicks Rusev in the mid-section. He then quickly jumps on the ropes to hit Rusev in the face before quickly dashing out of the ring. The segment ends with Lana and Rusev yelling at Kalisto as the United States Champion holds his title up high.

Thoughts: Maryse tends to be very on or off with her work since her return. Some days we see her shy away in the background and other times we see her shine brighter than her husband’s teeth. This week, however, it was somewhere in the middle. Whilst she does do a fantastic job at building up The Miz’s ego whilst giving him that frustrating heel heat that his character thrives off of, the material lets her down. There’s really only one point in this segment where she gets actual screen time and even then, it doesn’t last too long. As Maryse is playing the role of a manager that was brought in to guide The Miz towards all of his victories, she really needs more chances to obtain at least a little more heat onto herself, rather than her husband taking the majority of it. I get that he’s the main challenger and it is his story, but with Maryse hardly having chances to be hated, it kind of makes her role in the feud seem redundant. She may not be the very best worker when it comes to mic. work, but she can handle it, so I’d love to see more of that.

Now, onto the Women’s match.

What a phenomenal battle these women delivered! Not only was the match given decent timing but each woman managed to shine and took hold of the spotlight. This is the kind of matches we need to see on the regular, because clearly when given the chance these women make the most of it.

The greatest part about this match isn’t the fact that we saw splendid wrestling and a length performance, it’s the fact that we’re finally seeing both stories being developed and taken seriously. In this match we got to see a combination of both feuds coming together, with Charlotte bragging about being the champion as well as Emma taking a few digs wherever she could. It was wonderful seeing both feuds come together as one and not be treated as a squash match. Instead, each woman took charge of their own story and threaded it into a brilliant performance.

This match managed to also really push the championship feud just a few steps further. Firstly, we have the fact that Creative made a point of Ric being a cheater. With Becky blocking any entrance he had to the match, it’s reminding us that this is the thing that Natalya wants to avoid, and this is what could happen at the end of Extreme Rules due to his ban from ringside. It’s brilliant that the writers are truly building up to Natalya’s potential crowning moment as it is really getting the crowd behind her. Each week the booking for Natalya showcases her strengths as a performer (particularly a face) and it’s proving to work each time the crowd stands by her side.

The second way that the championship feud is being pushed forward is the fact that despite ending up in a humiliating loss, Charlotte still pushes that she’s the champion. We see the champ hold up her title with pride, as though this loss means nothing to her (despite it clearly being the opposite of that). She tries to brush off her defeat and clings to the one thing she has over Natalya, the championship. And the fact that she resorts to this to make herself seem stronger, it forces us to root for Natalya’s win at Extreme Rules even more, just so that we can see that smirk lose its place.

And although it is probably going to be placed on the Kickoff, Becky and Emma are truly giving it their A game with this feud. Despite the build-up being almost non-existent and based on a friendship we’ve literally never seen in WWE programming, both women are showing the perfect aggression and chemistry needed to fool us into believing so. We haven’t really been shown the backstory that WWE swears existed, yet even without all of that the performance tonight makes us really believe in this storyline. Both Emma and Becky want to outdo the other, and it is their passion and in-ring rapport that is  showcasing that wonderfully.

This week’s Smackdown is brilliant for the women. Maryse does well in her role and both of the women focused stories are pushed forward magnificently. Each wrestler brings their A game and it’s making me ever so excited for the final bouts coming in two weeks time.

Are you impressed by the match tonight? Which feud are you most excited for? Should Maryse be given more chances for heel heat? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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