“Welcome to Thursday Night Jericho!”

Oh no. Nooooo. Come on. On RAW, Jericho’s purpose was to stand around with his blazer gaping to his navel and pretend to mishear foreign accents because Immigrants Aren’t Welcome Here—on SmackDown it’s to pose twinkling like an unwelcome Christmas tree still up in late January, and to declare himself the saviour of WWE.

The New Day burst in to take umbrage at this statement, and to pay a second bout of respects to Francesca. We even get B-funerals here on SmackDown. Jericho talks some weird nonsense in reply. Once, in my early 20s, I had a transient ischaemic attack—you know, a mini-stroke? And nothing that was coming out of my mouth was words, and no words made sense, and I couldn’t make myself understood, and my arms were numb and my tongue was too big for my mouth, and I was terrified it was going to last forever. I had to go to the hospital where they gave me medication and an MRI, and I had to do a series of complicated neurological tests.  Anyway, that’s how Jericho makes me feel.

He repeats “rooty tooty booty” a lot of times. I’ve tried to parse this phrase on my own, I’ve tried to googs it, and all I come up with is results about Jericho defending his right to say it. I gather he’s implying the New Day have undesirable backsides. But your guess is as good as mine.

The New Day vs Ziggler and the Usos

Ziggler pulls a Fantastica Mania here and comes out with a painted face to blend in culturally with his teammates, which is cute. He’s also wisely tamed his mane of over-processed straightened hair into a ponytail.

There has been a variation of New Day vs Someone on SmackDown almost every week since the New Day debuted, and it’s hard to think of new ways to say “fast-paced”, “dynamic”, “fun match”, and so on: because it’s a formula, and it’s always very similar and inoffensive. Kofi will spring on to the middle rope, and then the top, then dive backwards for the Hubristic Nothing, and get caught by a superkick from someone. You know how it goes. This match is an almost perfect example of the formula, apart from late-match, Xavier slipping wildly out of a Samoan Drop and flopping awkwardly instead of being slammed, which was a refreshing taste of variety.

The whole match was very enjoyable, apart from seriously marred by Byron and Lawler, who have infants’ brains, repeating “rooty tooty booty” contextlessly at seemingly random points in the match—and the New Day reaching new levels of what Wikipedia would euphemistically refer to as “theatrics”—spanking Ziggler on his ass while chanting “New Day”. Unnecessary. Ziggler got himself embroiled in ass-based blood-rivalry last spring, we don’t need that again.

Jimmy gets a pin on Xavier after the Usos’ team hits him with triple superkicks.

Becky Lynch vs Alicia Fox

Becky Lynch zooms out here weirdly garbed as sort of totem-pole peacock steampunk pilot: not sure what the new poncho is all about, but I’m unconvinced.

Charlotte and the spectral curse of Ric Flair are on commentary, like she can’t leave the house without taking him with her, lest he get confused and walk into traffic. The RAW recap shows Ric Flair literally pushing himself in front of Charlotte, overshadowing her and making decisions for her: which I know is supposed to represent tension within the Flairs, but also serves as a nifty metaphor for WWE booking in general.

Becky’s brutal here, with devastating leg drops, full of feisty fire, throwing clothesline after clothesline. The match is tight and enjoyable, and when it spills to the outside it doesn’t disintegrate into catfighting; Alicia drops a beautiful Northern Lights and the fight continues.

Sadly, this match is just a backdrop for Ric Flair’s ramblings on commentary, as Ranallo desperately tries to squeeze a word in edgeways to call the action for this very good match. Becky gets the win with the Dis-Arm-Her.

“Your insanity might help you get back up, but my obsession will help me knock you back down again”

I’m not sure why the Miz keeps hosting this segment, being that there hasn’t been one in recent memory where he hasn’t ended up caught in the crossfire between two irate forces. His technique of “my hand goes up, your mouth goes shut” clearly isn’t effective. I used to work in reception (kindergarten) here in the UK with a teacher who used that technique to control the class. It wasn’t very popular. The best teachers always used a tambourine to get their pupils’ attention. Someone tweet the Miz and tell him.

After Ambrose gets fighty for the “hand goes up” comment, the Miz meekly (and wisely) defers to cowering in a seat in the corner, and hands over to “Dean TV” (or “Ambrose Alley”, as the late great Roddy Piper would have referred to it as). Dean rises to the occasion, eager to explain that his Last Man Standing face-off is “…not like a match, more like an amusement park. Ride roller coasters all day til you puke kinda place. It’s not always pretty, but it’s always fun”. He’s channeling some of the old Moxley drawl, and the hairs are up on the back of my neck in spite of myself, as he stalks around the ring doing pre-emptive play by play, explaining what we ought to expect. “Owens looks kinda like a bear, doesn’t he?” says Ambrose, making fans of Twitter account Kevin Owens As Bears pop huge. He elaborates he’s going to innovate the “bear trap” on Sunday by forcing one of big grizzly Owens’ paws to jam between the ring steps: “then I’ll hit ya with Kendo sticks, cheese graters, the new SmackDown announcer!”

Owens politely waits til Dean has finished the whole extensive tour of his fictitious theme park to walk out, and calmly state that he’s not too bothered about amusement rides because he’s more of a zoo enthusiast, anyway.

This segment did more to build the Owens/Ambrose rivalry than anything previous: it had just the right mixture of charming weirdness, self-referential nonsense (that sounded original, and not like it was forced in either man’s mouth), descriptive violence, and motivation. All we needed was a thrust of motivation. It doesn’t need to be complicated nuanced stuff like we get down on NXT, with flawed human nature, but just one word to describe where they’re going with this. Kevin Owens is obsessed. He knows he is. And he’s going to channel it.

Miz sneak attacks Dean for absolutely no reason, apart from just feeling left out of his own show, maybe, and kicks him HARD in the face when he’s down on the canvas. For a brief moment I wonder what it’d be like if the Miz just inexplicably lost it and went postal; turned Miz TV into a shoot fight.

The whole thing plays out like the end of any Miz TV though, with Owens dropping a powerbomb on the Miz to clear him tidily out of the way to start a pre-brawl with Ambrose so they’re all nice and adrenaliney for Sunday.

Bray Wyatt vs Ryback

The first of two Main Event matches here on SmackDown — by which I don’t mean main event matches like we had three of last week — I mean matches that belong on the C-show Main Event. This looks like it’s going to be a big rubbish pile of nothing, like watching two dodgems bounce into each other haphazardly at Dean’s amusement park, but Ryback actually becomes unexpectedly motivated midway through this match. He starts busting out running knees in the corner and everything, and a superkick that nearly knocks him all the way over on to his ass with momentum, but he’s trying cool stuff, and I like that. You know when wrestlers self-consciously climb the top rope and gingerly leap for a move they know isn’t going to hit? Ryback just throws himself, with the dumb confidence of someone unburdened by knowledge of his own limitations. He throws impressive power moves, spinebusters, power slams, after recovering from that setback, but still somehow stumbles into a Sister Abigail

Titus O’Neil vs Stardust

Our second Main Event match seeping over on to Thursday under the guise of Rumble build. If these matches transpire to be full of subtle foreshadowing which heavily plays into the way the Rumble turns out, I’ll take back all these scathing words and rewrite this paragraph into something more complimentary.

Ignoring the saddest thing here, which is that the PTP seem to have low-key split up (again), given that Darren is teaming with Damien Sandow on the pre-show, this match is pretty un-noteworthy. Stardust is a wound up children’s toy, relentlessly throwing himself into the offence of Titus’s body over and over, being tossed away and coming back without any loss in propulsion. O’Neil hits Clash of the Titus for the win.

Roman Reigns vs Rusev, Sheamus, King Barrett, and Alberto Del Rio

What can I say? It’s the most tired trope in WWE. Literally every member of the roster is expendable to facilitate the push of the chosen hero. It’s hard to think of anything refreshing or witty to say about this. It’s interesting to note that this never happened to the Shield (apart from that one match at TLC 2013 where Punk managed to defeat the entire cohort, ostensibly because of the miscommunication which led Ambrose to eat a spear)—they were a heel stable kept strong for months and months. Winning matches because of their teamwork and skill. Still bad guys, because of their ideology and warped sense of “justice”; their grumpy snarls and flak jackets. But never looking like fools.

I watched this match—because I actually do have to watch all of SmackDown—but if I didn’t, and just made up something to write here, I’m sure it wouldn’t’ve been that different. The Nations take turns to methodically stompy down and destroy Roman, who sells like not only does he have a crippling degenerative health condition, but also that he’s emotionally wrought by the recent news of the death of a close family member. This goes on til Roman summons the power of Being Strong, and starts whipping fellows around and doling out Superman Punches. The bad guys can’t handle this, so they all pile in for a beatdown. Ring the bell.

This is a DQ finish, because of course it is. The Usos, Wyatts, Ambrose, etc all zoom down after the bell and there’s a half-hearted version of the big pre-Rumble staredown spot but without any of the really key important players. Reigns ends up getting Sister Abigailed and left in a dribbling heap of sadness.

I don’t like leaving a SmackDown review on this note. Let’s take a look at what happened after this, as a palate cleanser?

“We have an in-joke… we like to call R-Truth immortal,”

The roster, led by a rapidly rejuvenated Roman Reigns, throw a birthday gathering for easily-confused R-Truth. Highlights include: street clothes Ascension! They’re in jeans and beanies! Heels and faces joining together to have a whale of time and a little dance, including a sneakily grooving Kevin Owens. Lana letting her hair down, literally. Mark Henry in a snuggly cable-knit jumper (#bestdressed)! It’s all quite charming, if somewhat patronising and a little saccharine, but hey, we all need a reason to smile sometimes.

One thing though? Tyler Breeze is stood right there. He’s hard to spot because he’s in an Under Armour vest instead of exotic dyed mink fur or whatever, but he’s right there. And it’s his birthday too! As rumours explode about how Breeze’s main roster tenure has been brought to a crashing halt because of being too short and too Canadian, one has to wonder: did Vince manipulate this whole segment, just to further bury Breezey?

tyler breeze

Happy Birthday, Tyler Breeze, from all here at Voices of Wrestling!