A Rookie's Guide to SmackDown: May 28, 2015
Due to staff restructuring, I've been assigned the task of reviewing the Thursday night SmackDown. Wrestling hasn't been my jam since I was in middle school, but I don't remember it being actively crappy, so I figure why not. I have a vague idea that I like Dean Ambrose, and I understand that Seth Rollins is a turd. For our experienced readers, be warned that I have almost no clue what I'm talking about. For our less seasoned audience members, think of this article as a primer with which we, as wrestling rookies, can learn and grow in the sports entertainment industry that is the WWE.
Dean Ambrose Promo
The show opens with Dean Ambrose in the ring calling out the Authority and Seth Rollins for some dumb shit where they "got him arrested". Ambrose talks about how Roman Reigns helped him by stalling Rollins until Ambrose could get out of jail in time to make his championship title challenge official. Apparently Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose are friends? Who knew? I get the feeling that Dean is a weird guy.
Apparently, a Lumberjack Match is just a fight where a whole bunch of people stand outside the ring to make sure the fighters don't leave it. That seems like a concept that might be beneficial to have in every match. This match involves all of the different tag teams that exist on SmackDown. The first group out is The Prime Time Players, are a pair of black men that are completely new to me. They do a synchronized dance where the lyrics sound like "billions of dollars" and then they go to stand outside the ring. Next out is a pair of matadors and a midget in a bull costume. This is one of the most entertaining outfit selections of the night. Los Matadores are followed by The Ascension, who are shirtless dudes with pink triangles on their heads. I have no idea what their gimmick is. Next comes The New Day, three African American caricatures that get in a fight with the other two black guys. This interaction confuses me. After these groups out comes the actual combatants. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd, who apparently have no tag team name, walk out in purple tights. They're followed by the Lucha Dragons. These dudes are flipping all over the place, jumping from the ground outside, over the top ropes, and in to the ring. They're already impressive.
The match finally starts. I worry it will be fraught with interference from the outsiders watching. Kidd started beating on one of the Luchas. Cesaro tags in with an uppercut. The crowd starts chanting "New Day sucks", because apparently, New Day sucks. One of the Luchas does some crazy leg spin move and throws Cesaro out of the ring. Cesaro and a Lucha try to fight, but apparently the Lucha is to weak, and can't muscle Cesaro in to any moves. The other Lucha starts doing flips and kicks against Kidd. The first Lucha, who the announcers finally name as Kalisto, tries to pin Kidd and fails, because a pin doesn't work unless you do a finisher before hand, and even that is only true in non-pay-per-view matches. Kalisto starts kicking the downed Tyson Kidd off in one corner. The show goes to commercial and comes back with Cesaro holding one Lucha or the other in a headlock. I have no idea what happened.
Kalisto flips over Cesaro, back elbows Kidd in the face, then stands on Cesaro's shoulders, and jumps off the shoulders, propelling Cesaro into Kidd, who is still in the turnbuckle holding his face. I find myself liking these Lucha guys. Seriously, the Luchas do lots of cool jumps, but their little "Lucha" chant and motion is dumb. Cesaro starts running the Lucha that isn't Kalisto back and forth across the ring into the turn buckles, then slams him on the ground. He then drop kicks Kalisto out of mid air, giving the not-Kalisto Lucha time to recover. Kalisto and Cesaro duke it out again for a bit before Kalisto gets slammed in to the ground and Kidd enters again. It's at this time that I notice this tag team match has far more tags then other ones I've watched. It's more entertaining, but also harder to explain.
Kalisto sets up for a pin on Kidd, but Cesaro interferes illegally and the match continues. Kidd puts Kalisto in a hold called the Sharpshooter, which looks dumb. The other Lucha, that I learn is named Sin Cara jumps from the top rope and interrupts the submission hold before Kalisto taps out. Sin Cara gets super kicked to the face by Cesaro, who then gets thrown over the ropes and out of the ring on to all the other tag team wrestlers that have been standing outside the entire time. This is followed by both the Luchas exiting the ring in a similar fashion, with the other tag teams throwing Kalisto back in with Kidd, generating a renewed "New Day Sucks" chant. Kidd goes for some kind of move, but Kalisto flips up on to Kidd's shoulders, slams him down on to the mat, and then pulls up Kidd's legs for the pin.
After the match, the replays reveals that one of the New Day members messed with Kidd while Kalisto was thrown back in to the ring, but by the time Kidd recovered Kalisto was still lying on the ground motionless, so who cares. Shut up announcers.
Kane & Seth Rollins Promo
Rollins begins this promo be getting pissy at Dean for the stuff he said earlier, because it's totally live and unscripted and Rollins isn't just doing what he's told. One of the midgets that makes up Rollins' body guard team repeats what Rollins said, like some sort of mousy cartoon character from the 70s. The security guard goes on to talk about his aunt's cooking. It's unfortunate that his career, since I assume he was once a wrestler, has boiled down to being a parody of an idiot in service to the man who's entire character is that of a cowardly weasel. I feel for J&J Security.
Seth talks to Kane like he's afraid of Dean Ambrose, and mentions that the match happening tonight where he and Kane fight against Roman Reigns and Dean is actually a repeat of the exact same match up from earlier in the week. I'm not sure why that's happening. Apparently the writers can't think of a better way for The Authority, the organization Rollins is in, to hurt Dean Ambrose. Kane reassures Rollins in a way that could also be construed as being a threat, but that I'm sure isn't.
The promo ends with Rollins and his relatively dwarf-sized body guards walking away as Kane stares after them menacingly. I miss the days when Kane wore a mask and whined about being a freak all the time. This thought reminds me of how much I miss oddball characters like The Hurricane, who was totally a thing when I watched wrestling as a kid. Also apparently Rey Mysterio killed a guy and stopped wrestling. I liked him.
When the commercials finally end, I'm rewarded with a commercial for the "Elimination Chamber" match, whatever that is, followed by a second commercial telling me to buy a bad punk song on iTunes, because it's the official song of the "Elimination Chamber". As I take notes and check my cell phone for new messages, I wonder if the music for WWE was always this bad, or if that's a new development.
King Barrett vs R-Truth
A guy I don't know comes out from back stage rapping his own intro music, allowing a poor red-headed kid to sing along with him on the mic. I find out the man's name is R-Truth. We get a little Picture-in-Picture clip of R-truth saying he puts the D in Danger, which makes no sense because that isn't how you use that joke. Unless of course, he's talking about dick, and suggesting that he has sex with danger, which I guess is kind of cool. R-Truth stops rapping and starts talking instead, which is somehow worse. He's followed down the ramp by "King" Barrett, who literally wears a crown and a cape while carrying a scepter. I think fondly of when he was Bad News Barrett and wasn't as gimmicky. Barrett's picture-in-picture clip has him talking about a royal decree that says he's going to win in the "Elimination Chamber"
Barrett starts off the actual match with a kick to R-Truth's face as the announcers continue to over-sell the badassery of Bad News Barrett dressed as a slutty king. Apparently one of the announcers was stung by a grasshopper as a child? I don't understand what they're talking about. As R-Truth continues to get his ass handed to him, the announcers talk about how awesome R-Truth is. Barrett proceeds to pause the match to talk to the crowd and spin his arm around in a circle. He misses what I assume is supposed to be his finisher, and momentum shifts over to R-Truth. - R-Truth hits Barrett once, then does some move the announcers call a "Lie Detector", and pins Barrett, because whoever gets their ass handed to them early in a match always wins in the end.
Sheamus, who I recognize because he was just cast as Rocksteady in the second TMNT movie produced by Michael Bay, comes into the ring and kicks R-Truth in the face. He then does the same move to Barrett, and then stands in the ring with his arms out like he just did something cool. In the replay of the "Lie Detector", I notice that the move seems to involve R-Truth gently hopping in to his opponent's arms, at which point the opponent feels compelled to slam his own face in to the ground and roll over for the pin. Top notch scripted fights.
After commercials for the WWE network and Weird shows produced by the WWE, we get an interview with Lana, a Russian chick that got dumped by her bad ass boyfriend, who said he owned her. Then Lana apparently tried to prove her value wasn't derived by any man by kissing another wrestler named Dolph Ziggler. Apparently WWE is a soap opera. This made her boyfriend, Rusev, angry. After this little recap of what happened last week, Rusev interrupts Lana's interview by telling Lana that Ziggler is a baby, and that he doesn't care that she is kissing him. He then says he's going to hurt Ziggler because Lana kissed him, which I try to rationalize with the thoughts of a man jealousy about his lover's "betrayal". I am unable to. This writing makes no sense.
Ryback vs Rusev
A roided up, ill-proportioned caricature of a man steps out on to the ramp and talks about eating something? Again, I don't know whats happening. The match is interrupted with a promoted commercial for a WWE iPhone app, after which the official commercial break starts. Afterward I sit through another WWE-approved commercial for the "Elimination Chamber" on Sunday.
We finally get back to the match, and listen to the announcers talk about how cool the Elimination Chamber is gonna be. Rusev finally enters to some actually cool music. I vaguely contemplate the reasons why eastern Europe has such cooler instrumental music than the western countries. The announcers give a recap of the Lana promo from earlier and talk about the Elimination Chamber again. At this point they're starting to bug me.
The bell rings to start the match then Rusev and Ryback just stare at each other for a good thirty seconds, after which they grapple pointlessly in the middle for another full minute. Rusev runs into Ryback and both of the lumbering giants step back and stare at each other, as if they're surprised the hits don't actually hurt them. This happens three times before either of them actually show any of the fake pain that people watch wrestling specifically for. Ryback picks Rusev up in to the air and balances him there. A feat that would be impressive if I wasn't acutely aware that both the Bulgarian and the steroid monster are in on the act. Ryback drops Rusev down to the mat and proceeds to punch, kick, knee, and elbow Rusev until Rusev can pull the standard reverse clothesline. Rusev then starts returning the blows he received earlier from Ryback. As Rusev stands over the exhausted Ryback, the crowd starts chanting "Feed me more." which I assume is in support of Ryback, who was previously talking about food. Ryback tries to come back, tossing Rusev over his shoulder and out of the ring. Ryback climbs out, and the duo start to fight outside of the ring. A commercial break happens, and when I get back to the actual show, Ryback is back inside the ring and crawling away from Rusev for some unexplained reason. These commercial breaks are poorly planned.
Rusev drops an elbow on to Ryback's head before putting him in a submission hold. Once Ryback gets out of it, the pair start playing face-punch rochambeau and trading clotheslines, with Rusev limping. Ryback and Rusev continue to blandly hit each other in the face and chest until Rusev and Ryback end up outside the ring. Rusev throws Ryback's head in to the corner posts twice, and get disqualified. I pause and wonder when that became illegal, or if the referees just only give a shit when it's written in to the story of the match.
After being declared the loser, Rusev throws Ryback in to the metal stairs. I then have to listen to the announcers explain how the ankle injury will effect his chances in the Elimination Chamber and recap a series of promos the female wrestlers, apparently called Divas, performed over the last month. Now the announcers have earned my hatred.
Also, apparently Stone Cold does a podcast about wrestling. He never seemed like a podcast kinda guy back in the day. I suddenly realize I'm only halfway through the show.
Paige vs Naomi
The first woman out is Paige, a pale, but attractive, goth-looking chick from England. Paige's obligatory picture-in-picture features her complaining about how often another diva complains about all the other divas. Next out is a pair of African American women. One of them is named Naomi, and she's the one fighting. Her friend, who's name I fail to catch, never speaks. Naomi's picture-in-picture is her talking about how this match doesn't matter, and how it's all about the Sunday night pay-per-view. Great, I'm glad I'm about to watch something so pointless even the script writers don't care to build up the conflict.
The match opens with Paige standing still and rolling her eyes as Naomi bounces around and shoves Paige in the chest like a high school bully. This is a poor start. The pair finally start to pull each others hair and stomp on each other's tits. I pay more attention to the announcers as they talk about Paige's nieces and nephews crying at the sight of their aunt being attacked the month before, while WWE was in London. I picture crying children in the sweaty crowd of wrestling fans as they fail to understand that the beat down being dished out to their aunt is just pretend. The thought is more entertaining then the match. Paige lays a flurry of blows on Naomi, before Naomi rolls out of the ring. Paige screams "this is my house." so loudly that it echoes through the arena even without a mic. This is the first truly impressive thing I've seen this match.
Paige leans out of the ring to pull Naomi back in, and Naomi responds by smashing Paige's head in to the steel bar. I question why the judges don't disqualify her for doing the same thing Rusev did in the last match. Naomi climbs back in to the ring and takes back momentum. By momentum I'm simply explaining which woman is pulling the other one's hair. Naomi puts Paige in a submission hold, and Paige finally does some actual wrestling moves, tosses Naomi over her shoulder before pulling her in to a pair of clotheslines and a pair of drop kicks. As Paige continues to wail on Naomi, she takes the time to kick Naomi's friend in the face. She then uses a move the announcers label as a "Rampage" on Naomi and pins her. Paige skips away up the ramp, but gets blocked as two other women come out from backstage holding a pink champion belt in the air and saying nothing. Instead of this interruption leading to anything, the announcers just explain the upcoming match, and talk about another match that happened previously on an episode I didn't watch.
Kevin Owens Promo
After commercials the announcers plug the WWE iPhone app again, before introducing Kevin Owens. Kevin Owens is apparently the champion from NXT, another day's regularly scheduled wrestling program. They introduce Owens as the man who thinks public perception is a lost cause. It's almost an entertaining concept, except that the act of not caring about public perception is, after all, an act to get people to like him as a wrestler. Apparently it's working though, since he's the champion of NXT, which, from the announcers, I take to be the minor leagues of wrestling. The match build up is interrupted by a replay of two previous promos from other nights, in which Kevin Owens performs the same two moves on John Cena each time. I remember John Cena primarily from the terrible film The Marine, as well as from my recent viewing of Wrestlemania for this site.
We get back to the present day, and Kevin Owens tells us that he's been destroying his opponents for fifteen years, and that he's going to crush John Cena on Sunday during the pay-per-view. I question the truth of that statement, since any real domination at that level would have gotten him to the professional stage far earlier than now. The man interviewing Owens starts to mention how awesome Cena is. Owens interrupts by saying that John Cena is a shitty wrestler. I find myself actually enjoying how much of a rude dick Owens is to the interviewer. As Kevin Owens walks off stage, Dean Ambrose shows up. Dean walks past Owens, as if he isn't even there, and apparently we're starting the walk-ons for the main event match. It's interesting to note that Owens seems to think Ambrose is there for him, and looks downtrodden when he's passed by. Perhaps, as Owens becomes a thing in SmackDown, we'll see him get mad at Ambrose. Those two might be entertaining.
Ambrose and Reigns vs Kane and Seth Rollins
Dean Ambrose got on stage before we went to commercial, so when we get back Roman Reigns comes out of from among the crowd. Get it? He's a man of the people. Seth Rollins and J&J Security walk down the ramp. They're immediately followed by Kane, so that Rollins doesn't have to get in to the ring without back up. The match starts with Kane vs Reigns, but the first strike is performed by Rollins against Ambrose. It's always a great sign when a match starts off with cheating. Kane beats up Reigns, tags Rollins, and lets Rollins kick the brow beaten Reigns while he's down. Then Rollins tags Kane and Reigns manages, with serious help from his opponent, to lift and drop Kane to the mat. Reigns tags Ambrose, and Ambrose begins to beat the living shit out of Kane. Rollins tries to interrupt the beating, but gets a kick in the face, so J&J pull him out of the ring by his feet. J&J Security call for a time out, and SmackDown goes to commercials. There are no time outs in wrestling. I hate this show.
We come back from commercials and the Keebler elves that are J&J Security have somehow managed to pin Dean Ambrose against the announcer's table and beat the shit out of him. What is wrong with the scheduling for this show? J&J throw Ambrose in to the ring, and Kane and Rollins pick up where the dwarves left off. Rollins spends a full minute shoving Dean in the head and taunting him. Kane and Rollins proceed to double team Ambrose, who kicks out from every attempted pin. Ambrose snaps out of it to deliver a few blows to Rollins, but is quickly beaten down again. He gets thrown out of the ring a second time, and for the second time, J&J security beat the crap out of him.
When J&J throw Dean back in to the ring, he spins around on the bottom rope and comes back out to double clothesline the body guards. Unfortunately this distraction allows Rollins to drop kick Ambrose yet again. Seth goes to the top rope with Rollins, but gets head-butted till he falls. Kane takes his place on the ropes, but Ambrose punches him in the head till he falls down as well. Kane recovers, but immediately runs in to Ambrose's boot, and takes a dive to the mat. Ambrose finally gets a tag to Reigns, who ,of course enters the ring and kicks the ever loving crap out of Rollins. Reigns goes for his finisher, the Superman punch, but gets caught by Kane, attempting his own Chokeslam finisher. This Chokeslam is interrupted, but by Dean Ambrose off the top rope. Ambrose throws Kane out of the ring and does a diving tackle against him, distracting Seth Rollins. Reigns uses this distraction to prep for the Superman punch again, misses again, and then gets back in to a back and forth with his enemy.
Roman manages to get the pin, but J&J fly in to the ring and kick Reigns over and over again. Ambrose runs back in to the ring and beats down Kane, J&J, and Rollins, but, as Kane stumbles away, he beckons toward the ramp and The New Day comes running back out to dog pile on Ambrose. Roman Reigns leaps over the top rope on to the backs of two of the three members of New Day, and the third eats Ambrose's finishing move. The scene devolves in to a few moments worth of air time in which the members of New Day take it in turns to take power moves and finishers from Ambrose and Reigns. Eventually Kane and Rollins come back in the ring and drop finishing moves of their own on the good guy team.
Rollins and Kane win, because interference from J&J is convenient for the writers and doesn't get Rollins disqualified. Show over, plug the Pay-per-view, roll credits.
All in all this Thursday's SmackDown was acceptable as an easily digested bit of mass media entertainment. Unfortunately there isn't a whole lot else to say about it. The story lines were bland at best and nonsensical at worst. Some of the moves were clearly only capable due to help from the person being targeted with them. J&J Security was not only annoying with their interference, but also depressing with the few lines of dialogue they were given for humor. The Divas match was almost depressing. Apparently the organization thinks women can only fight by pulling hair and running submission holds. I did really enjoy the Lucha Dragons, though I have no idea how to tell them apart. The pair are certainly high fliers.
I also hope the announcer's table short circuits and electrocutes the announcers just badly enough to render them mute. Seriously, they're terrible.
Final Say: 2 Rampages out of 5