Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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SmackDown Redux (September 3rd, 2015): Twists and Turns

This week’s SmackDown had quite a few twists up its sleeve – shocker, right? Usually SmackDown puts Diva feuds on cruise control. Here, though, we were treated to significant developments in the Lana/Summer Rae feud and the Divas Title picture.

Lana and Summer brought their feud – and Summer’s scandalous accusations – to MizTV, while Charlotte surprised Nikki Bella with a bit of news that probably has the Bella Tron quaking in fear. Let’s dive in!

Our first Divas segment is the Maury MizTV confrontation between Lana and Summer:

We join The Miz in the ring, where he introduces his first guest, Summer. Miz asks Summer to explain exactly what happened on Monday night when Dolph Ziggler was caught with his pants down. Summer says the moment was “unfortunate”, but it was exactly as she said it was: he invited her into his locker room for what she thought would be an attempt to bury the hatchet. Out of nowhere, Summer admits to lying. What about?

She says there’s more to the story than she let on: when she went into Dolph’s locker room, he brought her close in his arms and he kissed her. Miz is appalled. Instantly, it went from passion to guilt, because she was betraying Rusev. She accuses Dolph of seducing her. As she wraps up her story, Dolph and Lana make their entrance, heading to the ring to add their two cents.

Before Dolph or Lana can take the mic, Miz reminds them that MizTV is a classy show and instructs everyone to behave like adults. Dolph accuses Miz of trying to stir the pot, but Summer pleads with Lana to not be naive. She admits that she and Dolph have had an “on and off thing” for a while now. Dolph adamantly denies this, saying that the only thing that will ever be between them is a retraining order.

Summer breaks out what she claims is evidence of their undeniable chemistry, queuing up video from a June 2014 episode of WWE Main Event on which she locked lips with Dolph in an effort to make Fandango jealous. She starts to reference “encounters” between them in suspicious detail when Lana strikes, tackling her out of her chair and pummeling her.

Dolph pries Lana off of Summer, but she shoves him away and leaves in a huff. Dolph gives chase while Summer screams at Lana, calling her a bitch and telling her she can’t handle the truth. She throws a shoe after her. Nice arm! That LFL training hasn’t gone to waste, I see.

Later on, after a cool video package highlighting what went down on Raw, we join Renee Young and Team PCB in interview mode:

Charlotte expresses her excitement for Night of Champions, stressing that she wouldn’t be where she is today without Paige and Becky Lynch.

Paige says she’s happy that the bullseye is finally on Nikki Bella’s Divas Title. It’s about time, she says. She admits she’s disappointed that she nor Becky could be number one contender, but she’s glad that at least one member of Team PCB has earned the title shot.

Becky agrees, vowing that she and Paige will be right by Charlotte’s side at Night of Champions, cheering her on.

Charlotte says she’s not taking this lightly – she’ll take on the challenge with style, grace and a little bit of flair. Wooooo!

Team Bella then appears on the scene with some mocking applause for Charlotte. Nikki congratulates her, but reminds her that it’s not her winning Beat the Clock time that matters: it’s the time on the Bella Tron, which is counting down the days, hours and seconds until she becomes the longest reigning Divas Champion in WWE history. Tick tock, chirp Alicia Fox and Brie.

On that topic, Charlotte has a bit of news: she has petitioned The Authority to have her title match before Nikki breaks the record. It hasn’t been approved yet, but if it is, she vows to win the title and steal the record away from Nikki. Well, that was a twist!

After a commercial break, we join Naomi, Sasha Banks and Tamina Snuka of Team B.A.D. at ringside. Tamina’s in the ring, ready for combat. Charlotte then makes her entrance, Becky and Paige by her side. The referee signals for the bell, and we’re off!

They circle each other slowly before tying up, Tamina shoving Charlotte away easily. Charlotte gets to her feet and consents to a test of strength, but Tamina opts to twist her wrist instead. Charlotte takes hold of Tamina’s other hand and starts the battle for control. The two struggle for a bit before Tamina drops Charlotte with a knee to the midsection, breaking the hold.

Tamina pulls Charlotte to her feet and sends her into the ropes, leveling her withe clothesline on the return. She covers Charlotte for the pin, but she kicks out. Tamina pulls her to her feet and toys with her, delivering a headbutt and choking her in the corner. She snapmares Charlotte into a seated position and kicks her square in the back.

Once on her feet, Charlotte is whipped into the corner, but fends off Tamina’s attack, hitting her with a big boot and flattening her. This buys Charlotte some time, but she’s just as slow to get to her feet as Tamina is. They stand at the same time, but Charlotte’s quicker on the draw, nailing Tamina with a series of chops. She hits a neckbreaker and a spear, nailing Tamina with a definitive Natural Selection that’s enough to keep her down for the pin. Charlotte wins!

Team PCB celebrates in the ring, but are interrupted by Team Bella, who summon the Bella Tron. The clock counts down as we are reminded that Nikki is set to break AJ Lee‘s record in less than two weeks. Strangely, I was surprised to hear AJ’s name mentioned here. I thought “nameless record holder” would suffice for the WWE. Nice to see they’re not completely ignoring their own history, even if this whole record-breaking is an attempt to nullify her.

Thoughts: I haven’t been crazy about the more over-the-top stuff in the Lana/Summer feud. The silly stuff only gives the smarks reason to dismiss it when they should be getting hyped for Lana’s in-ring debut. I liked this segment, though, because it kind of threw doubt into the veracity of Dolph’s story. Sure, Summer’s a manipulator who clearly lied about what happened on Monday, but her detailed accounts of her alleged affair with Dolph made me wonder if he’s not as innocent as he seems. This gray area is an unexpected twist to the story, and I really like it. It’s more than just Summer pissing off Lana by hitting on Dolph – it’s her pushing Lana to a breaking point by isolating her from her one ally.

I’m excited to see what Night of Champions has in store for them. If it’s a Mixed Tag Team match, Lana and Dolph will have to make up between now and then, but if it’s a single match between Lana and Summer, maybe Lana can continue on her angry, stubborn solo path. I’d prefer that, honestly, because it’s fresher, but I can understand if the WWE doesn’t want her very first match to be a singles PPV match. That might be tossing her into the deep end.

Of course, this assumes that they’ll have a match at Night of Champions at all. But, come on, after the SummerSlam bait-and-switch, they have to have a match here, right? Right??

Charlotte and Tamina’s match was extremely short, but I wasn’t bothered by that, since the story surrounding it was fleshed out enough that this didn’t feel like a throwaway segment. I do think Team B.A.D. deserves better – much better – than being an afterthought, though.

It was interesting to see Charlotte on defense for much of the match, since she’s been so dominant since landing on the main roster. It allowed Tamina to look stronger than she has in a long while, which is nice. Hell, it was nice enough to see Tamina wrestle in a singles match – it gave her the opportunity to do things that are a bit more fresh than the usual tag match booking allows. I liked the test of strength in the open – you don’t see that often in Divas matches these days, and it was a cool way to sell her strength advantage. Charlote’s method of victory – a quick burst of offense leading to the Natural Selection – sold her athleticism while not completely squashing Tamina. After all, Charlotte beat her quickly, but only after getting her ass kicked for much of the match.

It’s an interesting twist to have Charlotte petitioning to have the Divas Title match moved up to before Nikki breaks the record. It did seem a little too convenient for this much-hyped match to take place safely after the record was broken. I wonder what could happen if her petition is granted. Obviously, she won’t win, but what happens then? What happens to the Night of Champions match? Do Paige or Becky get a shot at the title? Does Sasha assert herself here? I don’t really care what happens – I’m just glad to see a twist. Things have been so uninspired lately, I can’t help but be interested in anything that might serve as a swerve. Your move, Stephanie McMahon!

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