Previously on the Best and Worst of Friday Night Smackdown: I got the week off (thanks Emily!) while Miz and Morrison continued to one-up The New Day, Daniel Bryan ended up in a strap match against The Fiend, and Mandy Rose literally fell for Otis.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Friday Night Smackdown for January 24, 2020.
Totally Fine: Roman Reigns Vs. Baron Corbin Continues Into Infinity
Before I say anything, I want to applaud Smackdown for announcing a tag team match for the show and then just doing it; opening the show with what they’ve announced instead of having one guy show up to cut a promo, get interrupted by his opponent, get attacked by the opponent’s tag team partner, and then get saved by his own partners to set up the already scheduled match. WWE TV is 100% better almost instantaneously when they don’t lean so hard on the crutches they’ve whittled for themselves creatively since the early 2000s, when everyone stopped having new ideas.
This week’s six-man tag team match of The Bloodline versus King Corbin and His Amazing Friends not only starts the show with a match, it fills the entire first half hour with a match. That’s two quarter hours, back to back, where Friday Night Smackdown on Fox prioritizes action over talking. Huge fucking plus-one. It also includes one of the most bulletproof plays in the pro wrestling playbook: having a member of the tecnico team get injured and taken to the back during the match and leave his team at a disadvantage, only to dramatically return at the end and get the win. I believe in non-wrestling circles they refer to this as “Paul Piercing it.”
The only downside, really, are the lingering problems of heel characterization on Smackdown. At the very top you’ve got The Fiend, who is so impervious to damage he can take 11 stomps of Seth Rollins’ finisher in a single match and fall into exploding production equipment and still just kinda stand up, shrug it off, and win easily. The very next level of heel on the show, featured at both the tops and bottoms of cards, is a helpless coward who runs away from fights, can’t even beat jobbers cleanly most of the time, and relies on 2-5 of his friends to run in and help him. Sometimes a heel turn will turn a guy from a top Superstar who routinely overcomes the odds into a piece of shit jellyfish who couldn’t tie his own shoes without falling over and crying. On this episode of the show you’ve got the Cesaro/Sami Zayn/Shinsuke Nakamura trio as the most blatant example, but you’ve also got King Corbin — a guy who is supposed to be able to go one-on-one with OP-ass Roman Reigns in one of the marquee singles matches at the Royal Rumble, and who has gotten numerous top-of-the-card opportunities and title shots — getting dunked on despite wrestling most of the match with a 3-on-2 advantage. Corbin, Roode, and Ziggler aren’t as egregious as Zayn’s group, but I think everything Smackdown’s going for creatively would work better if they’d vary the types of characters that get considered “bad guys.”
As a side note, I really hope Royal Rumble is the end of the Corbin and Reigns feud. I’m more pro-Baron Corbin than a lot people, especially since he stopped pretending to be general manager or whatever, but we need to wrap things up and move along. Presumably Reigns and The Fiend are slotted in for WrestleMania, so maybe Corbin and Daniel Bryan can get into an argument about the nature and value of feudalism, or fight over the global footprint of TGI Friday’s Endless Apps.
Worst: They’re The Bad Guys (Duh)
While we’re on the topic, we might as well cover Sami Zayn’s group. How good could a Sami Zayn plus Shinsuke Nakamura plus CESARO group be, if they wanted them to matter? It’s got history. It’s got layers. Sami Zayn spent the early part of his NXT career battling and desperately seeking the respect of Cesaro. He spent the end of his NXT career trying to prove himself against Nakamura. Cesaro and Nakamura are two deeply charismatic in-ring performers who aren’t great talkers, at least in the United States, and Zayn could be their mouthpiece. While … you know, still wrestling in wrestling matches himself, because he’s just as good as them at it. If you tossed another comparable Superstar in the group — I’ll say Kevin Owens, but even someone like Kassius Ohno would work — they could, with the write care and booking, be the 2020s equivalent to the Four Horsemen.
Instead of those things, Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, who hasn’t defended the championship since the middle of October, keeps getting powerslammed and pinned en route to getting powerslammed and pinned and losing his championship at the Royal Rumble. It’s … not the choice I would’ve made. At least this week the easy pinfall loss to the babyface’s finishers goes to Cesaro, who … you know, goddamn, there’s really no way to justify this. I will go to my grave wondering what WWE doesn’t see in these three. Or, to be more exact, wondering why WWE clearly sees something in these three (which is why they’re on TV regularly), but doesn’t see what a lot of us see in them. Dense, intense rivalries between some of the best wrestlers on the planet seems like a better use of your wrestling show than Braun Strowman and Elias completely forgetting their history and characters and interpersonal relationship to tease a duet that gets interrupted, but what do I know? Hotly contested pro wrestling doesn’t provide as many opportunities for heat as “making the crowd wish they’d gotten to see something they didn’t know they were gonna see until 30 seconds ago,” I guess.
Best: Just The Fax, Ma’am
Bray Wyatt can’t make it to the contract signing with Daniel Bryan because he has to stay in the Firefly Funhouse, I guess, and his fax machine isn’t working. [children: “AAAaaw”] He eventually sends out The Fiend to sign the contract instead, which The Fiend does by beating up Bryan (as he does), stabbing himself in the hand with a pen, and then smushing his bloody hand into the contract.
Anybody else think it’s weird that he jammed a pen into himself so he could sign a contract in blood, but threw away the bloody pen and just wiped his hand on the paper? Just me? Vague blood splatter is as admissible in court as a written signature? Okay.
I hope the match at the Rumble is good. Bryan’s doing his best, and can get great matches out of Wyatt. Wyatt’s doing his best with the character based on the sometimes iffy things they have him do with it. I just know they’re gonna run that red light over everything, and that it seems odd to do a strap match that’s hard to see. It’s like turning off the lights and asking people to climb ladders.
Lacey Evans Goes Over The Entire Women’s Division
Just to say it again, I think Lacey Evans as a female John Cena who dresses like a pin-up model and loves her FAMILY and GOD and THE TROOPS and JESUS is a ready-made, top WWE Superstar. I even wrote about it when they were first making her a heel. It’s such a dunk for middle America, right? And you can see some of that in this promo, as the woman who recently battled a corn dog monster opens up about her father’s battles with addiction and depression, talks honestly about how you should believe in yourself and keep moving forward even when times are stuff, and sounds, arguably for the first time ever, like a human being.
And to say this again, this would work brilliantly if they’d put effort into transitioning the character from a walking dog whistle who shows up to runway walk and wave instead of wrestle into a middle-American super hero. The transition’s never even been addressed. Lacey’s never been like, “when I first got to WWE I tried to be something I wasn’t,” or, “I let bullies convince me that I also had to be a bully to succeed, but I refuse to do that anymore,” or whatever. She just went from one to the other without work or warning. If you’re the ideal WWE viewer and accept whatever’s happening right now and dissociate continuity and cause-and-effect human thought, it’s fine. Lacey’s doing great. If you can’t, because you’re a functional human being with a prefrontal cortex, you apply all the bad Lacey character stuff with the good Lacey, and it gets gross. I think that’s what I’ve been trying to say.
So, Bayley Pearl Harbors Lacey (sorry) and they brawl. That’s the end of the segment. Except, whoops, an unrelated interview with Carmella and Dana Brooke gets interrupted by Bayley and Lacey Evans brawling. And that’s the end of the segment. Except, WHOOPS …
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross versus Fire and Desire ends as soon as it begins when Bayley and Lacey Evans brawl back out to the ring, causing the only scheduled women’s match on the two-hour show to end in 18 seconds. It becomes a brawl between all six women to presumably help promote the chaos of the women’s Royal Rumble match, started by two women who aren’t in the Royal Rumble match. I’m not sure why the Lacey Evans story had to bleed into three segments and go like this, but I guess nobody wrestling and Lacey overshadowing literally the entire women’s division is what we’re going for?
Best: Grease Is The Word
“If ya boy is greasy, eliminating me can’t be easy!”
This is what Michael Nakazawa sees when he looks in the mirror.
The more I think about it, the more I think John Morrison is the perfect opponent for Kofi Kingston. It’s like Kofi’s going one-on-one with an evil version of himself. Kofi has spent his entire WWE career keeping his head down, keeping his mouth shut, working hard, waiting for opportunities. Morrison has spent his WWE career pretending he was an A-list celebrity when he wasn’t, constantly running his mouth, and (kayfabe, at least) leaving when he didn’t get the opportunities he wanted. Kofi fosters meaningful friendships with people like Big E and Xavier Woods, who love and understand him and will put their own careers and well-being on the line to make sure their friend succeeds. Morrison surrounds himself with social climbers like Joey Mercury, Melina, and The Miz. Even in Lucha Underground, Morrison’s character started off as a fun loving hero but quickly revealed himself to be a delusional scumbag who attracts bottom-feeders and gets them to do his dirty work. He literally had a follower who dressed like him and changed his last name to match Johnny’s. And while Kingston and Morrison’s characters are direct opposites, they share a lot of similarities in the ring. They’re fast, creative, good with their feet. They avoid Royal Rumble eliminations in dramatic ways. Perfect opponents.
Here, Miz (who is dressed like Colonel Mustard) pulls some ringside shenanigans to give Morrison the advantage and subsequently the win, meaning Miz and Morrison are up 3-0 on New Day. This is what happens when your third man and his trombone are too injured to help you fight off wormy heel attacks. Unless WWE’s truly lost their marbles, this should set up a Tag Team Championship match soon, which (hopefully) clears up Kofi to win the Royal Rumble and get his championship back at WrestleMania. Miz and Morrison would be amazing Tag Team Champions, too, and you might even get a Big E singles run out of it. Send him to Raw for however long it takes Woods to get better and let him win the U.S. Championship or something. Everybody in this equation rules right now and I want the best for them.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Using the women’s shoe
ok Lacey, I see you trying to score points with Brandon
[Editor’s Note: It IS the deadliest weapon in World Championship Wrestling history]
The Real Birdman
I hope The Fiend puts on reading glasses & starts thumbing through the contract
Strowman’s two Funkadactyls away from being unsalvageable
Sonya kneeing Lacey to death is the future liberals want
Vote Lacey for Student Council this Sunday at Royal Rumble!
I’m going to give Clangy Poles 5/1 odds in the Women’s Royal Rumble.
Baron Von Raschke
For as much as The Fiend is into continuity, I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t choke Daniel with a tie.
Cole: Corey, can you imagine….
Graves: No, Cole.
Cole: [Silence for the next thirty minutes]
The Miz turtleneck and sport jacket combo is as inspired as the Jericho scarf. What a douche look
“Anyways here’s wonderwall.” – Elias
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of Friday Night Smackdown. Things you should do:
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- then stick around for our Royal Rumble open thread and coverage
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- and then again for Monday night, for Raw, and then-
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See you then (read: every day forever)!