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SmackDown Redux (November 1st, 2016): All on board, Team Blue!

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The team is set and the battle lines are being drawn. SmackDown Live’s women’s division have rallied the troops for the Traditional 5 on 5 Elimination match at Survivor Series, and RAW may have some competition to beat. However, though the pay-per-view is set, tonight’s episode may not have lived up to the hype it needed.

On the pre-show, the topic of Nikki Bella being the captain of SmackDown Live’s Survivor Series is on everyone’s minds. Booker T states that Bella is the “most improved” woman over the last three years, and is a driving force behind the women’s revolution. Lita then discusses the reasons behind choosing Nikki and Charlotte Flair as the respective captains. The former Women’s champion explains that SmackDown’s decision was based on the two biggest veterans in the division, as opposed to siding with the champion. She emphasises that being “hotter” and being “captain” are two different things, so SmackDown may have made a smart decision with their booking. Jerry “the King” Lawler believes that Nikki, with her experience, will know how to form and manage a good team, but she needs to not make it a personal battle. What he thinks Nikki should do is focus purely on abilities, and thus, putting one of her “fiercest” competitors on the team, Carmella. Lita then continues by suggesting a woman from NXT may pop up on either team as they are ready to take over.

The show soon starts and a little while into it, Nikki Bella and Becky Lynch team up to take on Carmella and Alexa Bliss. And after a quick reminder of Alexa’s attack on Lynch last week, the match begins! Carmella and Nikki start us off but a cowardly Carmella retreats to the outside of the ring before any attack can take place. Once she gets back into the squared circle, Bliss tags herself in, allowing Carmella to express just how sad she is that she isn’t able to fight Nikki.

Alexa then gets into the ring and knocks Bella to the ground. However, after Alexa’s failed attempt at attacking Becky, Nikki takes charge of the distraction and dropkicks Bliss to the floor. Lynch then runs into the ring and does the same to an incoming Carmella. As the blondes retreat to the outside, the fan favourites implement a baseball slide on either woman, leaving them laying defenseless on the mat.

After returning from a break, Becky and Carmella are both tagged in and it is all Becky Lynch at this point. Lynch inserts a few clotheslines, a drop kick and a lot of “straight fiyaaah” with her flying firearm and springboard sidekick in the corner. Becky quickly follows her combo with a Bex-plex, but before she can get a full three-count pin, Alexa knees her in the stomach to break it up. As Nikki attempts to save her partner, Bliss throws Lynch into her, forcing her to roll out of the ring to recover. Alexa then quickly goes into her corner so she can legally tag herself in. So with the match under her control, Bliss tries to punch Lynch in the face. However, Becky quickly reverse the punch into a backwards DDT and attempts a pin. Unfortunately for the champion, Carmella distracts the referee from counting, so Becky quickly gets up to punch the distraction onto the mat outside. Alexa quickly takes hold of the situation by jumping on Becky’s back and raking her eyes. She then performs a DDT and takes home the victory.

Following the match, Dasha Fuentes confronts the winning pair for an interview, but before she can finish her question she’s cut off by the number one contender – who tells her to leave the ring. Bliss then takes the microphone and puts on an overly enthusiastic voice to interview her partner. She says that they “beat Becky and Nikki for the millionth time,” and questions who she’s looking forward to “humiliating the most” at Survivor Series. Carmella then calls out the “side pony-tailed fangirl like Bayley – high fives and hugs for everybody -” and the “overhyped daddy’s girl” Charlotte. She then emphasises that not one of the “losers” on RAW can “hang with the girls on SmackDown Live.” Carmella quickly follows by telling Nikki to “know her role” and let the Princess of Staten Island to take charge as she’ll allow them to “dominate the chicks on RAW.”

Carmella then imitates the interview’s voice as she asks Bliss for her strategy that will used to fight against Becky Lynch. Alexa says that Becky’s “fifteen minutes of fame” will come to a close, as will her “pathetic little fairytale.”

Following the match, Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon tell Naomi that she’ll be the fifth member of the team – and thus, making the full SmackDown Live Women’ team as Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch, Carmella, Alexa Bliss and Naomi. After Naomi leaves, the men discuss the fact that with the amount of egos/hatred in the division, they would need someone to keep each woman focused. So, cue Natalya! Through her Aretha Franklin inspired words, she manages to convince the pair to place her as the coach for the team. Weird.

On the Fallout for SmackDown, Nikki is asked about her feelings regarding Natalya joining the team. Nikki, though happy from her win against her, was sad that it meant that her “first female” trainer couldn’t be on the team. She mentions how Natalya is a great coach and has trained a lot of the women currently in WWE. And through this she’ll be able to use her veteran experience and capabilities to take the win for team blue.

During Talking Smack, Natalya interrupts Daniel Bryan and Renee Young to give Bryan a gift to thank him for putting her on the team – and it’s her cat 2Pawz’s t-shirt!

Young quickly moves the topic to the Survivor Series match and asks Natalya for her opinion on each woman. The Queen of Black Harts tells us that although Becky is “a little unstable,” she’s a “sweetheart”. She then says that Carmella “definitely needs to up her protein intake a little bit,” as she needs to be “built in the front, stacked in the back.” Before she can continue, Bryan asks her to move on to her opinions on the RAW team. Natalya immediately starts off by saying that the RAW ladies are “not a well-oiled machine,” unlike the SmackDown team – when Natalya is done with them, that is, because she “take[s] kittens, and turn[s] them into lionesses.” She notes that RAW’s issue is that they’re all dysfunctional as they all have their own agenda.

Shane then quickly comes in and asks Natalya to leave. An obedient (and grateful) Natalya does as asked, but quickly plugs her cat’s Instagram before doing so.

Thoughts: Whilst the show as a whole isn’t very interesting, there are bits throughout that are pretty sweet.

The pre-show gets things off to a decent start. Though it’s nothing special, I appreciate the fact that Booker T is crediting women outside of the typical four for the revolution. Not only does this simply allow fans to realise that more than four women are to be thanked, but it also puts Nikki over as a good captain. Booker emphasises that she was able to lead a revolution, and this simply exemplifies the fact that Bella is good enough to lead her team to victory.

And then the show starts, and somehow things go pretty south for the women. The match itself is good, but as everyone can admit, we don’t see nearly enough of it to satisfy our women’s wrestling needs. The majority of the match takes place during the ad break as once we return to action, the bell is rung shortly after. This match could’ve showcased major potential for the women of team blue. It could’ve really been held as a warning sign to the women of RAW by displaying the great talent on the SmackDown roster. But alas, the mic segment that follows *sort of* makes up for it.

Though their match is cut short, Carmella and Alexa really nail their heel roles in the following segment. The pair manage to be both comedic and intimidating, whilst furthering the RAW vs SmackDown vibe. On top of this, Alexa really comes across as a genuine threat to Becky as she managed to defeat her and brag about it afterwards.

Once the pair are finished, the show begins to turn sour again as we’re taken backstage. Naomi is given her spot on the team whilst Natalya is made to be the coach. And though I appreciate Natalya’s comedy angle, what made SmackDown choose to put the other women on the team – and how was it even decided?

With Nikki as the captain, surely her role is to choose her teammates – as Lawler implies on the pre-show. Yet on the actual show, Bryan and Shane have finalised the choices, without any sign of Nikki being involved in the selection process. On the pre-show we’re made to believe that we’ll see Bella choose her teammates, yet we see anything but. There could have really been some potential for storyline building as Nikki could be seen making her decisions, but somehow this is all rushed and we manage to go from one woman to a complete set in a matter of moments. I’m not the biggest fan of RAW, but it seems as though they’re taking their time with choosing the team mates and give each member a proper initiation. This method allows fans to actually witness the members for who they are, rather than a bunch of people thrown together.

Though with the stipulation that Natalya couldn’t be on the team, the pre-show mentions that NXT women are eligible. So maybe it would’ve been better to tease the possibility of a new woman to join, rather than throw everyone in at the same time.

The silver lining of the episode ends up taking place on Talking Smack. Whilst it would’ve been great to see Natalya get a home-country pop in Toronto, Canada, her coaching gimmick is hilarious. Natalya really has the comedic and delusional heel gimmick nailed to the T, and I couldn’t be more surprised. Thanks to Total Divas, the Queen of Black Harts has been able to connect with fans better than ever before. However, this has also damaged many chances she has at being taken as a serious heel. So what SmackDown are doing is allowing her to still have the evil gimmick, except they don’t care whether we boo or cheer her. She’s supposed to make us laugh whilst simultaneously rolling our eyes, and her work on Talking Smack did exactly that.

As well as Natalya’s Talking Smack interview, there are some other aspects that can be appreciated. Alexa and Carmella working as a team is great, as both are seen as the rookies that think they belong higher on the hierarchy than they currently are. Their personalities are very similar and their lack of time on the main roster definitely forces fans to want to side with the more experienced girls, like Bella and Lynch.

Also, Alexa vs Becky is being built up pretty well. Becky is really being shown as an underdog whilst Alexa, as described by herself, is really looking like “the wicked witch” of the scenario. With this being the only match advertised for next week, surely it should main event?

What are your thoughts on SmackDown’s team? Do you think they can pull through? Let us know your views in the comments below!

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