Fake Fighting Frenzy: WWE SmackDown 2/14/17

-We open the show with Bray Wyatt (sans Randy Orton) finally giving a promo that actually means something for the first time in, what, three years? Seriously, it's amazing how much more weight Bray's words have now that he has the WWE title in his hand. I liked that he went back to the prophecies of Sister Abigail, saying she told him it wouldn't be easy but that she knew this day would come and I LOVED the line about how he FINALLY has the whole damn world in his hands as the crowd chants "YOU DESERVE IT." God damn right he does.
-OF COURSE Bray gets interrupt by John Cena who OF COURSE gets his rematch IMMEDIATELY because John Cena. He comes down and "presents" WWE Champion Bray Wyatt because it's not official until Big Match John signs off on it. Then he accuses Bray of "brainwashing" his fans because they're chanting "you deserve it." Because no one "deserves" anything in WWE, they "earn" it and then gets all jumpy about his rematch. All I have to say is: SHUT THE FUCK UP, JOHN.
-AJ interrupts, shreds Cena and demands his one-on-one rematch for the WWE title so of course out comes Daniel Bryan who says Cena and Styles are both owed a rematch for the WWE title and makes the obvious Teddy Long Memorial triple threat match. JBL literally even says that Teddy Long would approve. Or that he would say "HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA" which is basically equivalent.

-Dean Ambrose is backstage looking for Baron Corbin which is to be expected. Assuming the plan is for Baron Corbin to win the Intercontinental title at WrestleMania, I think that's definitely the right call and just another example of why SmackDown is clearly the better show because they're consistently giving opportunities to people who haven't gotten any yet or at least haven't in a while.

-Our first match of the night is American Alpha v. The Ascension because I'm sure SOMEONE in this world still thinks The Ascension has a snowball's chance in hell of ever winning a match so we definitely need to put a stop to that. After the match, the Usos do a live promo from the Wyatts' creepy back room threatening to take out American Alpha.

-Ambrose runs into James Ellsworth and Carmella. He tells Ellsworth that Carmella is using him. Daniel Bryan shows up and asks if Ambrose has a problem and he says he's angry at Corbin but can't find him so he asks if he can just beat up Ellsworth instead and Bryan agrees because he's the babyface GM so obviously he's always down for letting another babyface beat the shit out of a guy half his size who didn't do anything to him because he's angry at someone else.
-Ambrose v. Ellsworth doesn't end up happening because (SURPRISE) Baron Corbin attacks Ambrose. They brawl for a while and then Corbin throws Ambrose into some kind of "electrical equipment" that shoots sparks out of it before Ambrose even makes contact. It's all pretty standard fare for setting up a mid-card feud but there's not necessarily anything wrong with that. I do think that if Corbin and Ambrose put some real work into it, they could make this feud special and this seems like just the beginning with seven weeks to go til WrestleMania so I'm looking forward to where it goes from here.

-Natty and Nikki continue their highly personal rivalry backstage with a lot of shouting and violence. Daniel Bryan shows up and says they need to stop it already. He makes a falls count anywhere match for next week.
-Also this literally happened verbatim:
Nikki: ...and YOU'RE the reason why Team SmackDown lost at Survivor Series!
Natty: Lost?
Nikki: Yes.
Natty: I didn't lose that.
Nikki: Um...
Natty: No?
Nikki: Uh, what? No. Yes.

-Dolph Ziggler gives a VERY effective promo that really fleshes out the motivations for his recent change of attitude by simply stating that no one from the New Era is going to take his spot. So not only is Ziggler tired of losing over and over (a frustration the fans seem to share, which could have something to do with why they've been cheering his heel turn) but now it seems he's beginning to feel the fear of losing his spot to one of the many young, talented, rising stars coming out of NXT. If you remember back to when the heel turn first occurred, Ziggler had just lost yet another match to Baron Corbin and was about to be the victim of a post-match beatdown before being saved by Kalisto. So not only did he suffer yet another loss to an NXT talent but he needed ANOTHER NXT talent to save him. Apparently that was the last straw that made Ziggler snap and lash out. He was confronted about it backstage by yet ANOTHER NXT talent (Apollo Crews) which just added to his rage, causing him to lash out again and attack Crews. This is the simplest storytelling and character development in the world and yet it feels so fresh and compelling on WWE TV because of how consistently they fail to tell even the simplest of stories in a straightforward, compelling way.

-Becky Lynch v. Mickie James is another very good match between these two. Mickie can definitely still go. And WOW that was some great selling on that fake injury. I definitely thought she was actually hurt. I love that at Elimination Chamber, Mickie tried to psyche Becky out by attacking her arm, which is Becky's signature and this time she psyches her out by faking an arm injury.

-New Women's Champion Naomi is so important she doesn't even get an entrance. This is why I don't really understand why she's champion. There has been almost no context created whatsoever wherein I would consider her a legitimate contender for the title. That's not to say she isn't talented or deserving. She is definitely both. She just has not been positioned as a main event talent at any point in WWE programming and I think that hurt her big moment.
-Apparently Naomi suffered an injury in Sunday's match and didn't even realize it. But she's still wrestling at WrestleMania? Maybe? So I guess this is a work? Or maybe a worked shoot?
-OH BTW, in case you forgot--LOL JK there's no way you could forget--Alexa Bliss is the TRUTH, y'all. "Did the glow-worm get a boo-boo?" SO FIERCE. She might be IS CLEARLY the best woman on the mic in the entire company.

-And now for our MAIN EVENT...

-Before the match, as Bray is walking down to the ring in the dark, the lights come up and Luke Harper appears (OUTTA NOWHERE, one might say) and gets revenge on Bray for siding with Orton. This is interesting because it's clearly setting something up--they wouldn't just have Harper attack Bray and then never mention it again.
-The main event is...breathtaking. It is literally a Match of the Year candidate. Better than every match at Elimination Chamber combined. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone wrestle with as much grace, beauty, and fluidity in his movements as AJ Styles and I love that he's smart enough to know that when he splashes Bray on the table and it doesn't break, not only should he try another move (if only for variety's sake) but he tries a move that brings significantly more force down on the table, making it more likely to break. Also Bray Wyatt looks SO reinvigorated in his ring presence and workrate, this is probably his best in-ring performance in a while. There are a couple of three-way trading moves spots that are just GORGEOUS. Wow. The finish is a brilliant tapestry of finisher kickouts that ends with Bray Wyatt hitting Cena with Sister Abigail and pinning him (AGAIN) to retain. Bravo to all three men involved. Amazing work.
-After the match, Randy Orton comes down to face off with Bray and gaze at the WrestleMania sign a bit. But then he announces that because Bray is the master and he is the servant, he refuses to fight his master at WrestleMania and pledges his undying allegiance to Bray Wyatt. What's especially interesting is that as he kneels before Bray, he pauses for just a beat in what appears to be an RKO-ready stance before going to his knees. Great subconscious imagery.
-Daniel Bryan later announced that there would be a battle royale next week to determine a new #1 contender but it seems highly unlikely that Orton is being altogether shuffled out of the match. It seems much more likely that Luke Harper will win that battle royale and set up a Wyatt Family triple threat at WrestleMania, which would be SUPER LIT. Imagine if Harper came out on top in that one. As much as I want Bray to retain, Luke Harper winning the WWE title at WrestleMania would be fantastic. You could even just have him drop it in a rematch the following night or at the next SmackDown PPV and give Bray the extended title reign he deserves with the added distinction of being a two-time WWE champion. So many possibilities!

(ALL images courtesy of WWE.com and WWE)


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