WWE Friday Night SmackDown hit the SyFy airwaves last night (Aug. 15, 2014) from Seattle, Washington with a taped show featuring the go home edition to the upcoming SummerSlam pay-per-view (PPV) that is now just one day away from tearing down the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Click here for full results and the live blog. Let's react to the show.
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
WWE doesn't offer highbrow entertainment, and that's fine if unfortunate. It does, however, lead to situations where its writing team has absolutely no idea how to properly handle complex characters with actual depth.
That's why we appreciate the talented folks portraying the characters so much more than those tasked with coming up with stories for them. Because in WWE, the former will almost always have to make up for the latter.
Take, for instance, Dean Ambrose.
Even at his best, they refer to him as the "lunatic fringe" and consistently remind you that he's "a little off". And although this is mainly AJ Lee's gimmick (itself a problem), he's often dismissed, quite simply, as a crazy person.
And make no mistake, that's what you do when you call someone that. Like the great Dave Chappelle once said on Inside the Actor's Studio:
"The worst thing to call somebody is crazy; it's dismissive. 'I don't understand this person, so they're crazy'. That's bullshit. These people are not crazy, they're strong people. Maybe the environment is a little sick."
That brings us to SmackDown last night and the promo Seth Rollins cut on Ambrose shortly after Dean defeated Cesaro, all while JBL on commentary found new and interesting ways to call Ambrose a nutcase.
"Ambrose, this Sunday at SummerSlam you and I finally go one-on-one in a Lumberjack match. A match of your choosing, by the way. A match where 20 other WWE superstars who probably don't like us very much are going to surround the ring and ensure that if either of us tries to run or hide -- say, in a birthday present or the trunk of a car -- the moment that person steps through those ropes one or all of those Lumberjacks will throw them right back in the ring.
"This Sunday, I will prove to you and to the entire WWE Universe what I have known all along. I am the future of this company, and I am better than you. I am better than some lunatic fringe who doesn't give a damn about his physical well being. I am better than some bi-polar nutjob who should be locked away. I am better than some hellcat with rabies who was never my friend, who was never my brother, and who I never gave a damn about in the first place."
Scathing words that cut deep that totally misrepresent the situation. That's fine, of course. Welcome, even, considering Rollins is a heel who is supposed to be an asshole.
But it's Ambrose who steals the show here without ever saying a word. While Rollins is spewing that ignorant hatred his way, Dean is in the ring responding to each verbal gut punch. He starts by nodding in agreement while Rollins recites the stipulations to their match. He can hardly contain his excitement for it.
Then, Seth gets nasty.
Dean holds it together at first, attempting to laugh it off. It's hurtful, what Rollins is saying, but they're just words, right? Nothing too bad.
"...never my brother..."
It's here that he cracks.
He looks to the ceiling with a small quiver of his lip, his eyes somewhat glassy. This wasn't a gut punch; Ambrose was gut shot. He puts his hands together and starts talking to himself, desperate to keep a composure he's already lost. It just hasn't caught up yet. He finds a corner to sink into to tend to his wounds.
He's not crazy, even if it looks that way. He's decidedly normal, actually. He is human. He is us.
But, again, this is WWE so the commentary team responds to all this with:
Michael Cole: "I don't think those words bother Dean Ambrose too much, perhaps. Or, they lit even more of a fire underneath the lunatic fringe."
JBL: "Oh, they're multiple syllable words, he didn't catch any of them."
Segment grade: B
But not least:
- This was easily the best episode of Miz TV in its existence. I'm not sure Miz has ever been scripted better or ever pulled off his role any better than here. Here's this cocky Intercontinental champion, prestigious, sure, but not on the level of a top player like Roman Reigns, doing his best to get over on the former Shield leader in the only way he can. And here's Reigns, perfectly mixing boredom and annoyance at the fact that he actually had to deal with his dumbass. There are multiple points during the interview that Reigns has this expression that says "is this idiot serious?" and it's maybe the best work of his career. Then we get to the money shot. I don't know if they planned this, but that punch was perfect. I love the idea that Roman was clearly setting up for it but had to decide when to deliver. Once he heard "Marine 4", boom, that's enough of this, done.
- Also, I'm not sure Reigns ever looked more like a big time star than he did here. The match they had in the main event wasn't anything special but it didn't need to be. When you're at this level, you get out, get your stuff in, go over, and go home. If you're the guy and you have "it", the crowds will eat you up and Seattle enjoyed feasting on Reigns.
- I'm not entirely sure what it is about Titus O'Neil and Heath Slater together but it works. Petty bickering is almost always an annoyance but these two are making it an artform.
- Mark Henry & Big Show vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan didn't do much for me, though it wasn't awful by any stretch. The KO punch into the World's Strongest Slam is a spot worth repeating but it feels like there's no real direction here and that immediately impedes progress. And interest.
- Eva Marie is bad at pro wrestling.
- Distraction spots can be done well, and last night was an example. Instead of Paige skipping around the ring so AJ Lee can stare at her and get rolled up by the worst wrestler on the roster, Paige skips out and AJ hits a Thesz Press and beats the hell out of her. In doing so, she barely misses answering the referee's 10-count and loses via count out. That's how you do it.
- Beyond sad that Bo Dallas has been reduced to jobber so quickly. But hey, at least he's got the best excuses for losing in the history of pro wrestling. If the rumors are true and Vince McMahon has given up on the character already, that will be a terrible disappointment.
This was a fine show.
Overall grade: B
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?