BRM Reviews the 1/15/2021 Smackdown

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Big Red Machine
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BRM Reviews the 1/15/2021 Smackdown

Post by Big Red Machine » Jan 18th, '21, 12:15

OPENING BIT WITH PAUL HEYMAN & ROMAN REIGNS- dumb
Heyman tells Roman that this match “needs a stipulation” that will allow Roman to “teach Adam Pearce about fear and respect.” DUDE! Last week Roman intimidated Pearce into doing what he wanted, and that was in a situation where Roman wasn’t allowed to beat Pearce up. Why would Heyman think a stipulation is necessary?
Roman wordlessly hands the contract to Heyman to come up with a dump stipulation for. (Oh… and Pearce has to f*cking AGREE to the stipulation, too! They don’t even consider that.)

JEY USO PROMO- Bad… but also good?
The beginning of this was not a good promo, but in a weird way, that actually enhanced things. The best way I can describe it is to say that Jey Uso came off as the Stevie Richards to Roman Reigns’ Raven. He was a henchman being all braggadocious on behalf of his quiet, brooding, boss, and that contrast made him come off like a hyper goofball who is only talking smack because he’s the underling to the guy who is actually the dangerous one… but just like that contrast makes Jey look worse, it also made Roman look better.
Once he started talking about wanting to win the Royal Rumble and the other world title and then cutting his promo on Nakamura, this got much better.
Nakamura then came out and said that if Roman is the big dog, it means Jey is a little puppy. That logic doesn’t follow. Then Nakamura kicked Jey in the head, and we went to commercial so they could have their scheduled match next. It would have been much better for Nakamura to just say something along the lines of Uso talks to much and can’t back it up, and then start the match. Don’t give us the babyface getting revenge on the heel right before a match! The babyface getting revenge on the heel is what the match is for!

JEY USO vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA- 6.75/10
Cesaro came out mid-way through the match (right before a commercial, naturally). He did commentary, and Cole immediately attacked him for not being there for Nakamura when Nakamura was getting attacked last week. That’s a heavy-handed way to tell us that Cesaro is going to be the heel when those two break-up now that Nakamura has turned babyface via announcer commentary last week, but it’s fine. That being said, if you’re going to break these two up and use that as a starting point, you really should have had Cole and Graves wonder where Cesaro was when the attack was happening last week.
Cesaro’s excuse was that he was way on the other side of the arena and by the time he got to Nakamura, the attack was over. Cesaro also said that he was entering the Royal Rumble and that he would eliminate Daniel Bryan.
As often happens in WWE, these two had a good match with a bad finish. In this case, Uso used illegal leverage to get a three-count but the ref caught it at the last second. His hand still hit the mat the third time but he immediately waved it off and the bell never rang. Uso argued with the ref about it, allowing Nakamura to roll him through with a school boy, then hit the Kinshasa for the win. You don’t need to protect the heel’s lackey on finishes! If you want to push Nakamura, let him win CLEAN! You let him beat Daniel Bryan- a former multiple-time world champion- cleanly last week. Surely he can beat f*cking Jey Uso cleanly?!

PAUL HEYMAN, ADAM PEARCE, & SONYA DEVILLE BACKSTAGE- bad
Sonya sucks up to Pearce by saying she thinks he can beat Reigns. Heyman shows up and gives Pearce a pep talk to try to get him to sign the contract with the added no DQs stipulation. Why is that a beneficial stipulation for Roman? So Jey Uso can interfere? So what? It also lets everyone else interfere, including Daniel Bryan (who the Bloodline has been feuding with), Shinsuke Nakamura (who they just screwed out of a title shot), Nakamura’s buddy Cesaro, and anyone who might think that helping the boss win the Universal Title is a good way to curry favor with him… and, of course, a potentially returning Kevin Owens (assuming Owens isn’t back before then).
Pearce says that he realizes that Heyman is only doing this to make it easier for Roman to injure him, but signs it anyway.

JEY USO YELLS AT CHARLES ROBINSON BACKSTAGE- He hints that he can get Lil’ Naitch fired… and for extra pathos, he notes that Lil’ Naitch’s daughter’s wedding is coming up.
Threatening to fire people who don’t let him cheat? I guess we’re back to the bullsh*t that tanked the ratings during the Baron Corbin era. Because that definitely sounds like a good strategy.

KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS THE STREET PROFITS- bad
She basically says “hey dummies? Why’d you put your titles on the line just a week after you got viciously assaulted? Wouldn’t it have been smarter to wait?”
Montez says that to not put their titles on the line when challenged would be disrespecting the legacy they tried to build with the titles. How? A babyface champion should be honorable and moral and shouldn’t dodge challengers… but it’s hardly “dodging” someone if you’re not able to be at 100%, and even more so if the reason you’re not able to be at 100% is because they dishonorable and immorally assaulted you in an effort to get a leg up on you.
The sort of booking and character-work on display here is an example of what happens when you book from a set of pro wrestling clichés rather than an understanding of what pro wrestling actually is. Creative’s logic here (which poor Montez has been forced to recite) is clearly that “babyfaces don’t back down from challenges, and babyfaces are willing to wrestle hurt, therefore they should put their belts on the line against the guys who injured them last week.” That’s taking some clichés and turning them into a situation in a match.
But that doesn’t work because pro wrestling is a storytelling art about a combat sports league. In a combat sport, there is no shame in not fighting when you’re not healthy, and in a professional league- where the promotion would be trying to ensure equity to make sure that the most worthy person or team winds up victorious, someone certainly wouldn’t be expected to try to fight someone who just sneak-attacked them to try to gain an advantage in the up-coming fight. Therefore, if you want to have a situation where the Street Profits lose the tag titles to Roode & Ziggler because Roode & Ziggler attacked them last week and Montez hasn’t recovered from the attack, you have to create a logical way to get from the attack to the match. That progression of events from the starting point to the ending point is called a story.
For example, you could have had the Street Profits come out on last week’s show and demand a match against Roode & Ziggler even though Montez still hasn’t fully recovered, and Roode and Ziggler could respond that they will only agree to face the Street Profits if the Street Profits put their titles on the line. Now you’ve created a logical reason for 1) why the Street Profits would put their titles on the line, and 2) the concept of equity to be abandoned (because the Street Profits want to get their hands on Roode & Ziggler so badly that they’re willing to waive it).

That issue aside, this promo wasn’t bad… but it wasn’t particularly good, either. It came across as a generic Street Profits promo, and that’s not really a good thing for what should be them vowing to get their titles back.

ROMAN REIGNS IS TALKING TO APOLLO CREWS BACKSTAGE- good
So I guess Crews is turning heel soon. I’m fine with telegraphing things like this, and I actually like the idea that an impressionable babyface looking to take the next step in a frustrating career would see Roman as someone to look up to. I’m really hoping that Titus O’Neil shows up to be the angel on Crews’ shoulder to counter Roman’s devil.

ROMAN REIGNS DOESN’T LIKE THE STIPULATION PAUL HEYMAN HAS GOTTEN ADDED TO HIS MATCH- dumb
Roman doesn’t want a no DQs match. He wants a Last Man Standing match instead. Well why didn’t you mention that before, asshole?

NATALYA (w/Tamina) vs. LIV MORGAN (w/Ruby Riott & Billie Kay)- 4.25/10
Ruby and Liv appear to be tolerating Billie Kay’s presence. She came out with them and then went to do commentary. She says she is “unofficially officially” in the group. After hearing her for five minutes on commentary, it is inexplicable to me why anyone would want to be friends with her.
Nattie and Liv were having a good little match until Billie Kay got up from commentary. She wandered over to the side Tamina was on, so Tamina yelled at her. Billie wound up wandering THROUGH the ring like an idiot, getting in the way of a move Liv was about to hit, allowing Nattie to roll Liv up for the win. If the goal here was to make me want to see the Riott Squad kick Billie Kay’s ass, then this segment was effective. If the goal was anything else, it was not.

Wow… they are REALLY pushing this angle from last week where Corbin attack the Mysterios. They’ve showed a replay at least three times in the fifty minutes of the show before the match.

BARON CORBIN vs. REY MYSTERIO JR.- 6.5/10
Dominik Mysterio was on commentary for this match. Corbin’s henchmen were mysteriously absent. Rey and Corbin had their usual match. Corbin kept taunting Dominik, and eventually- with Graves’ egging- Dominik tried to get involved, but Corbin punched him. Rey then got bumped into Dominik and Corbin hit the End of Days for the win. That’s three matches and three screwy finishes.

MORE PAUL HEYMAN & ADAM PEARCE- pointless
(By the way, I’m operating under the assumption that this contract signing was already set before this show went on the air, but if that’s not the case, then that’s also ridiculous.)

REY MYSTERIO JR. & DOMINIK BACKSTAGE- bad
Is Rey suggesting that they need a third person to help them beat f*cking Baron Corbin?

BAYLEY’S DING DONG HELLO WITH SPECIAL GUEST BIANCA BELAIR- bad
Bayley is dressed like a goof. I laughed at Bayley calling Bianca her “G-U-EST.”
Bianca came off better than she has in recent months here, but this was still a bad WWE talk show, and I thought Bianca looked bad cooperating with Bayley in any way after Bayley said she was going to show a clip of Bianca’s new WWE Chronicle, but then showed a clip of herself beating Bianca instead. They set up an obstacle course for next week. Who could possibly want to see that?

KAYLA BRAXTON SHOWS UP TO INTERVIEW DANIEL BRYAN WHILE HE IS TRAINING WITH CHAD GABLE & OTIS- meh
Bryan was nice enough to put over their training, giving it some much-needed credibility. Cesaro just happened to be there to interrupt the interview. That was both pointless, and pushed this over the line from coincidence to something that feels set up. I know that this sort of thing happens a lot in wrestling, but there is only so much of it you can take at once.

DANIEL BRYAN vs. CESARO- 8.25/10
I’m not sure what the plan was with that Monkey Flip so close to the ropes, but Cesaro landed right on Bryan’s head and it was very scary. Everyone seemed okay, though ( Cesaro grabbing his neck came off to me as him selling).
This match was twelve minutes of awesome, with limb-work and back-and-forth counters.. It felt like a condensed version of a match they would have had in ROH in 2008.
Cesaro winning seems like kind of a strange booking decision on it’s face, considering that Bryan is surely in line for a title shot at Mania (you don’t do a story where the babyface talks about how he has never won a battle royale before and then have him not win the Rumble… although this is WWE in 2021, so maybe I shouldn’t be so sure), but this will give him more of an obstacle to overcome in Cesaro, who earlier tonight vowed to eliminate Bryan from the Rumble (and they could use this win to set up a PPV match in February with Bryan putting his title shot on the line against Cesaro).

KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS CARMELLA- decent segment
Carmella starts talking smack about Sasha so Sasha shows up and shoves her. Reginald stepped in the way, so Sasha told Carmella she would give her a title match if Sasha got a match with Reginald first. This all made sense based on the story, but rather than seeing babyface Sasha beat up a non-wrestler, I’d much rather see Pearce come in and order the title match booked (dirty or not, Carmella did pin Sasha two weeks ago) but with Reginald locked in a cage at ringside or something similar to prevent him from interfering. I’m saying that Reginald doesn’t deserve to get smacked, but I don’t think he’s done anywhere near enough to earn a full-match beating from an angry babyface. After all, if we’re worried about Roman Reigns injuring former wrestler Adam Pearce, then surely Sasha Banks could easily maim non-wrestler Reginald, right?

SAMI ZAYN vs. APOLLO CREWS- 4/10
They replayed the clip of Heyman giving Crews a pep talk on Talking Smack a few weeks ago.
Big E. was on a couch at ringside, doing guest commentary. Sami was wearing wresting boots and street clothes. That was weird.
This was a short match, but it did what it needed to, which was showing Crews willing to stoop to pulling tights to win after Sami had just been caught trying to do the same thing. Crews then walked over to Big E. and picked up the IC Title, which led to some talk from Big E. that was “friendly banter” on its surface, but you know that deep down, Big E. was a little annoyed at this gesture.

ADAM PEARCE VS. ROMAN REIGNS CONTRACT SIGNING- no rating, okay segment
Roman signs the contract, at which point Pearce leaves the ring, then begins feigning a knee injury and says that he won’t be able to go at the PPV, but he does have a replacement ready: Cue Kevin Owens.
Those of you who remember my reviews of Kayfabe Commentaries’ Guest Booker series will remember that the rubric I used had separate lines for the actual mechanics of the booking and whether or not I thought the proposed booking would have worked in the proposed time and place, and a situation like this is a great example of why I thought it was necessary to separate the two.
Here we have a heel who has bullied a babyface non-wrestler into this position, and the babyface has found a way to screw the heel, saving himself from an undeserved beating,, forcing the heel into a fight with someone on his level, and giving a worthy babyface a title shot. In theory, that sounds great.
In practice, though, we’re going back to a feud that feels like it has been going on forever with no real forward movement. Owens always gets beaten up but keeps coming back, and Jey Uso always interferes and screws him out of the title in the end. When Owens came out, my reaction wasn’t “YES!” My reaction was “oh. This again,” and disappointment that Pearce didn’t choose the equally worthy and much fresher Shinsuke Nakamura for this spot.
And, of course, there is the fact that this being a Last Man Standing match means that once again, Pearce is putting Kevin Owens in a match where Jey Uso can interfere at will and screw him out of the title!


This was a pretty good episode of Smackdown, although obviously Bryan vs. Cesaro deserves a lot of the credit for that. That being said, the problems are still glaring. Of the five matches tonight, we got a grand total of ONE clean finish, when at least the opener certainly didn’t need it and Rey vs. Corbin probably didn’t, either (wherever they’re going with that, I’m sure they could have gotten there a different way, as opposed to Crews vs. Zayn or the women’s match, which needed their dirty finishes), the announcing is weak, and the tops of all three division feel stale. Hipefully they shape up once the usually-dull Royal Rumble build ends and we start more overtly building to WrestleMania XXXVII.
Hold #712: ARM BAR!

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