Wrasslin’ Recap: Smackdown Live Preps Us for Backlash While RAW is Already Pushing The Extreme Button
Take Me Home
The “go-home” show. Always a tricky balance of pushing stories forward, while not giving away the ending to the upcoming PPV. We’ve all given Smackdown Live the edge in the brand “rivalry” in the past year. Admitting that they’ve done more with less by every given metric, but the past two weeks have seen the already lackluster European shows followed by a somewhat neutered outing. RAW actually did a hell of a job setting up for Extreme Rules in June, but Smackdown is limping into Backlash this Sunday. Mostly because the outcomes are so obvious that it’s almost impossible to care, even if they were to find a way to surprise us in the end.
So You’re Saying There’s A Chance
Jinder Mahal is facing Randy Orton for the WWE Championship on a PPV. You somehow invent time travel and send that sentence back to say, 2014 and they’d have you committed. Not for thinking Mahal would be #1 Contender to the title, but because you invented time travel and didn’t attempt any Grey’s Almanac level shenanigans. I mean, you could write John Wick or something. Dream bigger, darling. Anyway. Mahal got a win over AJ Styles leading to a post match beat down on Orton after The Viper got the clean win over Baron Corbin. It was all in an effort to make Mahal look credible going into this Sunday. Problem is, his credibility should have been built long ago, and not the past month of piss-poor story lines while WWE builds toward something grander. Yes, elevating a mid-carder to some semblance of top-tier heel is par for the wrasslin’ course, but Mahal was barely mid-card. He was a glorified jobber. We knew his name because enhancement talent hasn’t been around for more than a decade so he was one of the guys we knew would end each of his shifts looking up at the lights. He may have put the time in at the gym, but hasn’t gotten nearly enough time on our TV for me to believe he’d go over Randy Orton on a WWE pay-per-view. Which is exactly why I think he just might pull this off. Swerve for swerves sake. It’s not unpossible.
Five The Hard Way
Braun Strowman is out. For six months they’re saying. You never want to see a guy go down while they’re in the middle of a rocket push, but Strowman leaving forced RAW to actually do something. The holding pattern they were in did very little to move the excitement needle. With Brock off TV for the foreseeable future, there was no title to fight over, no matter how much they tried to make fetch happen with the Intercontinental Title. The strap may be elevated, but you can’t hide the fact that the title made specifically for your show is around the waist of a part-time performer who we likely won’t see in action again until the ludicrously named, Great Balls of Fire.
What RAW has going for it, without the presence of their Country Strong Monster is serious depth at the top. Any pair of the players in the closing segments could easily carry the Red Brand along until SummerSlam in August. So the play to not really acknowledge the Brock Lesnar’s absence makes some sense. I’ve always been a fan of the attraction champion. One that leers from the mountaintop while the other gladiators vie for their chance at the title. Much like Afro Samurai, in that attaining the #2 spot means more, because only YOU can take a shot a the king.
So the Fatal Five Way will have Bray, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and Roman Reigns. I’d say Seth and Finn have more of a legitimate claim to the title, but the other three all have beefs with each other. There’s so many threads that have crissed and crossed, it’d make a great arc on Game of Thrones. Watching those play out could be entertaining for the next few weeks, if only WWE could get out of its own way in terms of stakes and stipulations. Knowing that Extreme Rules is coming up means we’ll see random elements thrown into feuds that may or may not need them. See Tables, Ladders Chairs & Stairs for example. The tail tends to wag the dog going into the themed events and it’d be a shame to let that happen with such good wrasslin’ potential on the table.
The Stick of Truth
The shoehorning is already taking place with the Women’s Title feud. Yes, there will be a match between Bayle and Alexa Bliss for the WWE Women’s Championship, and now we know it’ll somehow involve kendo sticks. Why? Because Bliss went and picked one up from under the ring after Bayley attacked her. Bayley works well against the “mean girl” archetype, but Bliss is so keyed into her character, that it’s clearly putting Bayley in a corner promo-wise. They’ve resorted to her running out of words and just pouncing, which does more to make the face character just look outmatched as opposed to triumphant. Not that Bliss is Dusty Rhodes on the mic or anything, she just has a more defined antagonistic playbook than Bayley has as the all around good girl.
Yet, Here We Are
Now, while the top of the card may be progressing nicely on RAW, the mid-card is in a strange hold. Cesaro and Sheamus may be heels now, but that transformation has done nothing for their feud with The Hardys. The matches are pretty much the same and The Hardys haven’t done anything extra on their end to up the brutality. No matter how many personalities Matt Hardy teases, everything here just feels meh.
Even the Apollo Crews heel turn didn’t come across as some huge step, and it only lost steam once Goldust turned on R-Truth later in the show. One was the breaking of a longterm partnership, while the other was just a dude getting mad at an annoying, yet popular dude, then officially taking sides with an equally annoying dude.
Stuff and Thangs
Breezango continue to delivery with the Fashion Police segments, which in turn is making The Usos turn up the heat on their end. Instead of being dismissive, which is often the case when comedy acts are elevated, The Usos just remind our fashion focused friends that the fight may be a little more than they bargained for. Solid work all around on a show that continues to make credible stars out of the former dregs of the undercard.
Dolph still can’t quite carry his verbal issues with Nakamura, which is somewhat lessening the build up to the match. There isn’t any doubt that these two can and will deliver in the ring, but Dolph doesn’t so much carry feuds as he instigates them. Nakamura needs more TV time for this to truly be effective. His charisma carries him, not the feuds he’s in.
Alright then, I think that’s enough for one day. If I left out your favorite moments or happenings, feel free to report directly to the complaint department on the Twittah Machine. After which, we’ll go over our favorite Saturday afternoon infomercials. Till then…