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SmackDown Redux (September 20th, 2016): Born to be a champion

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A contract signing, an outside brawl and a two minute match. It’s hard to have a solid opinion on the blue brand’s work this week, but it’s safe to say there were definitely a few ups and downs. Though, before we get into what it was that was so good/bad this week, let’s remind ourselves of what actually happened:

SmackDown Live kicks right off with a contract signing. General manager Daniel Bryan insists that the signing will not end in a brawl (cue boos from the crowd), and then goes on to introduce SmackDown Women’s champion Becky Lynch and the Small but Fierce Alexa Bliss. The two start off by insulting each other based on their “differences”. Bliss says that Lynch has the skin of a rhino where Lynch fights back by saying that whilst Bliss is “preparing for a pageant, [Lynch is] preparing for a fight.” Bliss then quickly anchors in the point that Becky does not “fit the role of a champion.” She enforces that Becky’s role in life is to be “the woman that succeeds, then fails miserably.”

To the crowd’s surprise, Becky agrees. She says that she was “born to live in a small house by the side of the road in Dublin. [She] was born to work a job [she] didn’t like and barely make ends meat.” However, after watching too much television, she listened when they told her to be what she wanted, so she became champion. She ends her empowering statement by saying she “wasn’t born to be a champion, [she] fought to be a champion.”

Bliss fights back and says that Lynch was always “destined for second place” as Alexa claims to actually have been born to be champion, unlike her competitor. She then says says that at No Mercy she will expose Becky for being a “one hit wonder.” And then before she signs the contract, Alexa hits Becky across the head with the board and throws the table on top of her. A smug Bliss then walks out of the ring but is quickly beaten to the ground by Becky, before making an escape. Lynch then walks back inside the squared circle to the sound of a highly supportive crowd to sign her contract. She then raises her championship in the air as the crowd cheers her on.

Later on in the night, Naomi and Nikki Bella are interviewed by Charly Caruso. Naomi reminds Caruso of what her slogan “feel the glow” means. She says that she wants her fans to never let anyone steal their shine, no matter what they’re going through. She wants everyone to feel like themselves, regardless of what anyone thinks. She then goes on to say that whilst Nikki has “the glow”, Natalya doesn’t. She believes that whilst Natalya used to be one of the most respected veterans in the locker room, she is now “corrupt.”

Nikki then chimes in by saying that Carmella simply wants to make a name for herself. But what the Princess of Staten Island doesn’t understand is that Bella is not the same person she was a year ago. She reminds us of the “grueling injury” she dealt with and says that she fights in every match as though it were her last. Before walking off, Nikki says that “Nikki Bella is feeling very booted, and Carmella, well she is nothing but a bootleg.”

Afterwards, a tag team match ensues in which Nikki Bella and Naomi face off against Natalya and Carmella. Natalya immediately shoves Naomi out of the ring so that she can face her legal opponent Nikki with an advantage. The Queen of Black Harts manages to get Nikki in the Sharpshooter but Carmella decides to drag her opponent out of the ring. Here she throws her against the barricade and beats on her, even after the bell rings. Carmella then leaves a defenseless Nikki outside of the ring whilst she makes her way backstage.

On Talking Smack, Carmella interrupts Renee Young and Daniel Bryan so that she can start her interview early. When asked about why she despises Bella, Carmella says it’s because she stole the spotlight at her hometown during SummerSlam. SummerSlam was supposed to be the Princess of Staten Island’s time to shine, yet it was the returning Nikki Bella that had all eyes on her.

Bryan tells her that although she is making a name for herself, beating up people and getting disqualified won’t get her into title matches, as she has to win matches to get a shot at the gold. Carmella insists that she knows what she is doing and that she doesn’t care for any other woman but herself.

Renee Young then says that the interview is over but, the Princess of Staten Island says that it’ll be over once she says it is. But as soon as Young is about to ask a question, Carmella says that the interview is over, and walks out.

Daniel then continues the discussion by jumping right off of the thought of Carmella constantly getting disqualified. He then suggests the idea of seeing Carmella and Nikki competing in a No Disqualification match.

Thoughts: This week was a complete hit or miss. And by that I mean one segment was a huge hit whilst the other completely missed.

The opening segment’s the one that I really enjoyed. The SmackDown Women’s Title is way too new to have prestige. So what the blue brand is doing to enable that is by making the stories actually feel like can’t-miss television. Bliss, despite being small and new to the roster, is keeping Becky’s underdog vibes very much alive. She anchors in the doubt that Becky has always had in her mind, and that’s being second best. From being overshadowed by the likes of Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Bayley over the years, Bliss emphasizes that little doubt in Lynch’s mind yet again. And through Alexa’s words, the crowd root for the Lass Kicker even more. We see this as once Alexa stops speaking, “Becky” chants can be heard all around. And then, with Becky being Becky, she makes them cheer for her even more.

Lynch’s speech about how she wasn’t born to be a champion was incredibly well written and performed. Every word emphasized the kind of fighter and babyface she really is. Both women stood tall by solidifying themselves in their roles and as genuine competitors.

Alexa, though her loss is almost inevitable, has made herself come across as a serious threat to Becky’s reign. With her words and her overpowering of the Lass Kicker, fans can no longer brush her off as a filler member of the roster. Bliss is truly someone to watch, and if you didn’t think so before, now you must. Both of these ladies have incredible chemistry, and their feud is off to a fantastic start.

Now, for the downside of things. The Carmella and Nikki Bella feud has always been one that I’ve enjoyed. However, it’s getting a bit boring to see Carmella beating on Nikki EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. Nikki is the longest reigning Divas champion of all time, and her gimmick is to be Wonder Woman. I understand that Carmella needs to be put over, but is the same tactics and story the best way to go? It definitely does make Carmella look like a threat, but at this point it feels lazy and boring, on the creative side. We watch SmackDown to see wrestling, yet this week we see almost none of that with the women.

Becky and Alexa have a contract signing, so of course no actual match takes place. But when we’re told we’ll see a tag match happen with the other women, we don’t even receive that. I’m not against the idea of a match being cut short because these things are usually very pivotal for storytelling. But what did we see in this week’s episode that Nikki and Carmella haven’t already done? It would have been nice to see Nikki receive the beat-down if she could actually fight back. Or maybe if we had a decent match attached beforehand. But instead we receive one or two moves and then the same thing that previous weeks have also shown.

What makes Alexa and Becky’s story work is that both sides are at an equal standpoint and fresh storytelling. And though it’s important for Carmella to always remain on top in this case, having her do the same thing again and again only adds fatigue on the story. Nikki needs to have more of a defense (or even offence) if this story is to be interesting enough to last until No Mercy. But in regards to this week, it’s frustrating to watch.

However, I do appreciate the Talking Smack segment that took place after the show. Carmella finally got to speak on the story and she really came across as someone that knew what she was doing – instead of a mindless newbie that just attacks people. Carmella now looks like a true threat, I just hope that next week the story changes a little.

Also, when Daniel suggested the idea of a No Disqualification match, I couldn’t be happier. The women of SmackDown have proven that they are able to put on stellar matches that steal the show. And with this story, Carmella has nowhere to hide, and Nikki Bella can’t necessarily be “cheated” out of a victory. Both women can give it their all and both women can really put their names on the map, particularly Carmella.

What are your thoughts on this week’s episode? Do you want to see something different with Carmella and Nikki? How are you feeling about Alexa and Becky’s work? Let us know your views in the comments below!

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