WWE SmackDown
October 1, 2015
Times Union Center – Albany, New York

“Any passion for my job was shattered when you stomped my ankle inside a steel chair!”

The Authority’s capacity to wind someone up and let them go — to plant the seeds of insecurity and then just let their champ completely disintegrate under pressure — is one of the weirdest self-sabotaging, sadistic things they do. They start out defending their guy, wrapping him in cotton wool and giving him every nepotistic opportunity; then move on to making him prove himself in various, repetitive, irrational ways, which even if he can fulfill they find a reason to discount. Then some sort of catalyst forces all that pressure to bubble up until their guy is a paranoid, mess of a human; jumping at his own shadow, a shell of the strong confident athlete who won the strap. They did it to Randy Orton: where the catalyst was New Family Baby Seth Rollins. Now Kane’s dual re-appearance is pushing Rollins firmly off the rails, and Steph and Trips are nowhere to be found for pats of reassurance. They’re suddenly subscribers to laissez-faire parenting.

Rollins emerges gesticulating frantically without even taking a moment to smugly bask in his introduction, rasping “Kane may have fooled those idiots at HR, but he hasn’t fooled me!” as if merely continuing a thought from a conversation he was recently engrossed in. He rants wildly until Corporate Kane limps into view, and they throw back and forth some insults about needing psychiatric care.

I don’t want to be a negative Nancy, but, at this point, I think it’s important to clarify that Personality Disorders are vastly misunderstood mental health conditions, and sufferers face massive stigma and struggle to get appropriate resources and care in both the USA and the UK. None of the recognised Cluster A-C Personality Disorders have symptoms that manifest as working an office job in the daytime and moonlighting as a fire-controlling hell demon. What the characters in this show are probably referring to is the even more wildly misunderstood Disassociative Identity Disorder. The language that WWE chooses to use has wide-spread cultural ripples and affects perceptions of people watching it, and is rarely ever innocuous: so I feel like it’s necessary for me to condemn WWE characters and commentators throwing around mental health terms in a manner intended to stigmatise and humilate, in the strongest possible terms.

In a world where suspension of disbelief is integral to enjoying the more outlandish plotlines; where themes of good and evil stand side by side with anthropomorphic wrestling animals and one of the more famous characters is a mortician with zombie powers; I’m inclined to believe that there never needs to be a plotline about mental illness in the WWE. If Kane is a deluded fantasist in need of therapy, then let’s face it- they all are. Regardless, the need for appropriate and timely psychiatric treatment is a reality for about 9% of the population, and therefore makes a wholly tasteless playground jibe.

All of this aside, the interplay between smarmy company guy Kane and bratty, suspicious Rollins is a lot of fun, and Rollins getting flustered into an impotent exasperation is particularly entertaining. Kane ends the segment by trying to  “spread a little sunshine” to cheer Rollins up, by teaming him up with the most positive tag team in WWE: the New Day. Rollins agrees on one quite incredible condition; while the Demon Kane wrestles in the main event, Corporate Kane has to sit at ringside to watch the match.

Team BAD vs Team Bella

As soon as the entrances to this match begin, the commentary table starts dropping sexual double entendres, and lots of “ooh baby”s and “this is my favourite part!” and general leching which serves to undermine Rich Brennan’s half-hearted “it’s a Divas’ revolution!” exclamation. The Bellas sashay to the ring as Booker T gasps “this is hot, baby! Smokin’ hot!”

Some fucking revolution, reader.

Sasha claims that it doesn’t matter who started the Divas’ Revolution: it’ll be Team BAD to end it. If we accept the Stephanie McMahon endorsed description of what the Divas’ Revolution entails: ie, skilled women getting more opportunities to showcase their talents, getting fairer treatment and rising to the challenge of equalling the male competitors; well this strikes me as a very unusual thing to say.

This match is a tad more enjoyable than the usual SmackDown women’s match fare, with Sasha immediately busting out deliciously vicious kicks. While this gets a generous amount of time, it starts off like it’s going to be 30 seconds long and continues in the same vein, with little in the way of peaks and troughs to make it really compelling.

Nikki looks impressive here, flooring Tamina with a single elbow after enduring a few bouts of Tamina’s Ryback-esque “barging her way through a crowd”-style offence. I do find it really frustrating when the Bellas behave in illogical ways though, like Nikki bellowing “Brieeeeee!” at the top of her lungs from the midst of what is evidently supposed to be a restrictive headlock. You’d preserve your energy, right? Especially when she’s just standing right there. You don’t need to shout, Nikki.

The best parts of this match are near the finish, where Nikki and Sasha just start throwing themselves violently at each other. Sasha gets Nikki with the Bank Statement.

“Is clapping going to make the demon go away?”

The New Day hijack a despondent Rollins backstage to spread the positivity and engage him in a rousing chorus of “I’m the man!”. Rollins starts off suspicious but ends up getting quite carried away with the gesture, especially when Xavier brings in a trombone accompaniment. Utterly charming. What a ridiculous life the character of Seth Rollins is leading lately. If you only watch one segment from SmackDown this week (or in your life, ever), then this is the one to catch.

WWE Intercontential Championship
Ryback vs Kevin Owens

Owens patiently muttering “I know, I know” in the manner of a tolerant father witnessing a child having a tantrum while Ryback does his initial Feed Me More taunt is a joy to behold.

Owens attempts to saunter off as soon as the bell rings, so Ryback has to manhandle him back into the ring for a clumsy vertical suplex. What follows is an unexpectedly lengthy but slightly less interesting recreation of their Night of Champions encounter, with a few occasional intense power displays. Eventually, Kevin Owens decides to get count-out disqualification to retain.

Why are we supposed to possibly be interested in a match where the champion losing interest halfway through and wandering off is a possible outcome? We’re relying on KO being in an uncharacteristically sporting mood– or on some sort of nefarious external threat — until the rules are overhauled for an inevitable no DQ rematch.

Lucha Dragons and Neville vs Cosmic Wasteland

Every time I see Stardust he seems to become more and more immersed in his character, adding increasingly extravagant touches to his promos; like the addition of a single, argentate playing card with his portrait illustrated upon it.

This is a rapid-fire-move match with little in the way of cohesive plan or storytelling. There are also a lot of arm-drags. On the off-chance you were having an arm-drag themed drinking game while watching SmackDown, this match might be the last one you manage tonight. There’s a moment where Sin Cara tries to pull Viktor away to break up a pin, but accidentally trips over Viktor’s leg that he was dragging. Other than that, this is harmless. Just fine.

Kalisto gets the win with the Salida Del Sol.

“Roman Reigns is nothing more than a mortal man,”

Wyatt’s here to spout some romantic nonsense about him and Roman being part of an eternal circle together or whatever, until Reigns’ backstage blushing becomes overwhelming and he feels the need to storm in. Roman does some handsome brooding in the half-light for a while, and the two men communicate telepathically while the crowd sit on their hands awkwardly. Eventually Roman musters the energy to bark four words: “Hell. In a Cell”.

Dudley Boyz vs The New Day and Seth Rollins

This is just a complete riot. Rollins, Kane and The New Day are at optimum whimsicality, and Rollins’ disapproving judgemental stare directed to ringside Corporate Kane when Demon Kane no-shows is a hilarious sight. The Dudleyz are almost entirely incidental, and the wrestling’s nothing to write home about, but the angle is so enchantingly ridiculous that it almost doesn’t matter. New Day’s antics result in Corporate Kane taking a tumble and being escorted off backstage, much to Rollins’ flummoxed chagrin. Inevitably, moments later, Demon Kane’s pyro erupts, and he stomps out to hassle wide-eyed puppy Rollins, chasing him behind the barrier and forcing him to abandon his title belt. The Dudleyz get the win in the melee, but then Kane proceeds to chokeslam everyone in the ring, one by one. He stands tall, holding the belt, amongst the limp bodies of the other men, to end the show.

Final Thoughts: The gimmicky cuteness of the dual Kanes business remains very endearing, and Rollins plays the gullible, paranoid champ very well. I feel like this plotline would better suit a midcard feud, or at the very least a later, non-champ Seth Rollins — because as it is, maybe a champion ought to be busy being a champion.

It sometimes feels like WWE is a battle between the great powerful moments which can come out of treating wrestling like a sport, and making the championships a real honorable achievement– and the fun and playful moments emerge from treating WWE as entertainment. I believe that in a promotion with so many hours of programming, that different segments can appeal to different demographics, to comprise a super enjoyable family show. Nerds like me can analyse statistics and geek out over win/loss ratios, while silly frivolous babies (also me) can love the song-and-dance and camp absurdity of other segments. What fails is when WWE tries to bottleneck both of these things into one end of the card, leaving the midcard a barren wasteland, and reducing the championships to only a very shallow value; and the champs to glorified clowns.

“There’s a time to entertain; and a time to be serious. If you don’t take me serious, I’ll beat all your asses” -John Cena, RAW, 28th September 2015

  • Best Dressed: Jojo, in a loose-fitting lightweight checked sleeveless romper, mediating a staredown between Paige and Natasha.
  • Runner up: Bray Wyatt sporting a natty black and white floral short-sleeved shirt with chinos.

Guest Best Dressed Nominations:

  • @IamMedellin : Kevin Owens for his new shorts.
  • @AwesomeoJoe: Kane for doing Dad-dancing in a suit to The New Day.