Another good, straightforward SmackDown helped build the Money in the Bank pay-per-view set to premiere this Sunday on the WWE Network at 8:00 PM EST (with a 7:30 pre-show).
The night began with Triple H, Seth Rollins, and Randy Orton cutting promos. The impartial viewer in me can appreciate how Triple H went on about how this latest period in WWE History shall go down as "The Authority Era", and how Randy Orton and Seth Rollins got into it for a moment, but I've had my fill of Triple H promos.
He's always adequate, sometimes even excellent, but his ever-presence continues to wear on me, and I find it difficult not to nitpick his relationship with Seth Rollins. Perhaps I've simply chosen to believe they dropped the ball with Rollins, and I see everything he does through that negative filter. Even if I don't particularly like Seth on the mic, and even though I don't really feel his heel personality on a gut-level, his feud with Dean Ambrose has definitely developed into my favorite part of every show. And I'm hopeful that if Seth wins at Money in the Bank, all the things I've criticized about him, from his ring-attire to the Authority-phraseology in his promos, will fade from the forefront of my consciousness. I noticed, watching SmackDown this week, that my concern for such things was waning, and that I was simply more interested in watching Seth and Dean beat the snot out of each other.
I'm really encouraged by the number of budding feuds being featured on all of the WWE's shows right now.
We've got Dean vs. Seth, Usos vs. Wyatts, Big E vs. Rusev, Roman vs. Randy/The Authority and then whatever title-feud comes out of the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. Only a few weeks back it seemed like the only solid feud that existed was Bray vs. Cena, and now we've even got midcard and undercard wrestlers with good opponents.
I'm particularly encouraged by Big E's latest promos. He came down the ramp after Rusev's match and went on an over the top, but simultaneously empowering speech about America and its hard-working citizens, mentioning the steel mills and the factories of Pittsburgh (it made me feel like it was the 1940s), and then he bravely stood up to the Russian Bull. Rusev likely will never be over with me (not even with Lana getting him over with everyone else), but watching him and Big E trade blows is a thrill. They're big guys who can move, athletes that aren't weighted down by their size and that's always impressive to watch. The WWE has flirted with a Big E/Rusev feud for a while now, but it seems like they're officially moving forward with it, which is great for both guys. Big E is the standout, though, and, as I've suspected, has a unique personality and some mic skills tucked away under his hulking mass.
His promo wasn't necessarily him, I believe - meaning he's working a gimmick and not necessarily being Big E with the "volume turned up" the way a lot of wrestlers behave. He's playing a proud American character, and he played it a little more straight this week, but he does it incredibly well. And, most importantly, he comes off strong and powerful, which is more than he got during his IC Title run.
Paige had a quick match against Cameron that's not really worth writing about. Paige continues to remain unsupported creatively, having random, quick matches on almost every show. Such is a shame as she's much more than a pretty face (though apparently Vince McMahon's disinterest in her pale-skinned-dark-haired aesthetic is the reason she can't get her hands on a mic). The good thing about the Divas Division is that they're being permitted to do more than rip each other's clothes off and dump things on each other. There seem to be divisions with the Divas Division.
There are those who might occasionally find themselves in a pile or slop and those who get to shake their opponent's hand and have decent, but far-too-brief matches.
It'll be interesting to see what happens to the Division when more of the NXT ladies arrive on shows like Raw and SmackDown.
With all the hours of WWE programming available throughout the week, and with the flagship show clocking in at a staggering three-hours, there's no reason Paige and a solid opponent can't get thirty minutes. As is, there are brief moments of goodness and respectability between Naomi and Paige, which is certainly better than it could be.
I only hope McMahon's terrible taste in women doesn't destroy Paige's career. Sure, there are tons of guys who still like the balloon-boobed-bleached-blonde-bimbo gimmick, but the wrestling audience has changed. Pam Anderson is no longer the adolescent-twenty-something go-to sexual fantasy.
Approachable nerd-girls who play video games, like wrestling, and dig Nightmare Before Christmas are pretty much everything today's young, straight male desires.
Wait a second! you might say. Aren't you just proposing The Divas division be built around a different, but equally superficial and sexist view of women? Aren't you just saying that the Divas Champion should be determined by what straight, male wrestling fans like?
And my response would be...hmm...you got me...I was being a bad feminist in those last couple paragraphs. Damn.
I think I just hate McMahon, and his seedy backstage exchanges with Trish Stratus are forever burnt into my brain, and the idea that he prefers that kind of female stereotype to someone like Paige or AJ Lee is beyond my comprehension - we're just drawn to different personalities and looks, and I was writing from a place of wanting to stick it to McMahon, not actually thinking about what should determine the quality of The Divas Division; ability.
(Also, my fiancée is basically a combination of Paige and AJ, so...yeah...)
And that's why Paige should be the champ and be supported by a good creative angle and have the chance to cut promos - she's good in the ring and works a cool gimmick.
She, like AJ, also represents a more body-positive female for the young girls that watch wrestling - and that is an important thing. I know we male smarks forget what it was like to be an adolescent, and we might staunchly refrain from ever imagining what it's like to be a woman because, you know, we're men damnit with really big orgasm-giving penises!
But if you think about it from an eleven year old girl's perspective, a gawky girl who maybe doesn't fit in with the pretty girls, and knows she's never going to look like a Stacey Keebler or a Trish Stratus, and sees such photo-shopped idealizations thrust in her face daily via mass-media, seeing someone like AJ Lee or Paige or Naomi as The Divas Champion is really inspiring. It's good to have relatable heroes when you're young, to remind you that it's okay to be a little weird or a little twisted or a little anti-establishment.
So you just witnessed me call myself out on shortsightedness, blinded by my own heterosexual manishness. That's never really happened here before.
Feminism is hard.
I enjoyed every match on the card (though I didn't watch Rusev's), and recommend tuning in for the matches alone.
Bad News Barrett (who I've now decided I just can't stand - from the way he tosses his cape off to the way he smiles and says "Boom", I just can't get on board), had a decent match with Dean Ambrose. I'm just in love with anything Ambrose does right now, so any segment involving him immediately makes me smile and sit forward in my chair.
It was nice to see Seth Rollins get the drop on Dean this week so that their feud is more of a back and forth and less Seth looking like a weakling.
The Ziggler/RVD and Del Rio/Cesaro tag match was incredibly entertaining. Lots of good spots, made all the better by the presence of Paul Heyman on commentary. The Internet keeps suggesting Brock Lesnar vs. Cesaro at SummerSlam for the title. I personally don't see that happening, because it doesn't seem like the WWE really believes Cesaro is that guy yet.
I know there are some spoilery rumors and even a SummerSlam poster circulating The Internet, but I haven't read or seen anything, nor will I. Reading rumors and the like only serves to actually spoil everything - if the rumors are positive then the joy you experience when they're proven true is lessened, and if they're negative and play out that way then you're just sad all the time. It's also difficult in this day and age to figure out what's real and what isn't, and the cat and mouse fantasy booking game usually spirals into an incoherent oblivion.
So instead of even trying to figure out what the WWE is going to do at Money in the Bank, I'll simply write about my hopes for the pay-per-view. And I only have one. I hope whoever wins the Money in the Bank briefcase contract match cashes in soon. I'd prefer it happen at the end of the show or on Monday Night Raw of course, but I really just hope whoever holds it doesn't do so for months. Such has proven to be a career killer.
The Money in the Bank contract has always bothered me, because it just doesn't make sense that the winner wouldn't immediately proclaim that they're challenging whoever the WWE World Heavyweight Champion is at the main event of WrestleMania.
To date, I've only ever heard one wrestler even suggest that and it was Mr. Kennedy. Remember him? Boy, those days were rough.
Sure, the contract means you can cash in on a vulnerable champion at any time, but even for a heel, even within the wrestling fiction itself, the main event at WrestleMania is the ultimate career accomplishment and the Money in the Bank contract is actually the easiest way to guarantee that spot.
Is there a stipulation in place that I'm just not aware of which states you can't do that? Because if not, that's exactly what a wrestler should do, and naturally would do. But, obviously, that just won't happen. Or who knows, maybe it will this time.
Bray and Sheamus put on a good, rough show, their stiffness complimenting one another. I actually really like Bray in the ring, even if he's not technically gifted. He just knows how to work what he's got and the few moves he has are spectacular, my two favorites being a slam that looks like a standing Rock Bottom and his suplex toss. The finish of the match wasn't particularly good; interference from the Wyatts and then the Usos flying all over the place as usual.
I really hope Luke and Erik win the tag titles at Money in the Bank. They're growing in strength and can continue to add some strength to the tag division.
The main event saw Kane and Roman trade slow punches and slow slams for a while. It wasn't a bad match, it just wasn't particularly exciting until the end when Roman got to go all Roman-mode. Even if he has the most boring match imaginable, I have to admit that a Roman Reigns comeback always wins me over and gets me hyped.
And Roman's had a ton of comebacks lately. Even after Orton interfered, grabbed the belts, and Kane gave Reigns a chokeslam, Reigns popped back up and speared both of them.
Seeing Reigns with the belt was a nice omen of the future, as championship gold is certainly his destiny, even if the ending of SmackDown virtually guarantees he won't win.
|One of the only unacceptable outcomes.|
I think in Roman and Cena there exists the actual battle between the present and the future, and it's quite possibly the most narratively appropriate WWE World Heavyweight Championship feud.
I don't think we're going to get that, though, and apart from its symbolic appropriateness or significance, it's probably not the best main feud right now. I really can't predict what's going to happen at Money in the Bank, and I don't really care to. Which is a good thing.
A few weeks back I wrote that I couldn't see how The Money in the Bank could turn out well at all. I've softened on that perspective. Now, I'm just interested in the outcome, no matter what it is (though Orton winning is something I cannot abide, but I doubt I have to worry about that).
One thing is for sure; we will have a new Champion, or Champions, this Sunday, and that's always an exciting thing. So get ready, mark your calendars, and cheer for your favorites.
May we get the Champion we deserve.
In Punk's name we pray.
Give me your predictions, hopes, and dreams in the comments section. Or Tweet and follow the WWE 2K14 Champ @MaximusWrestler.
Thanks for reading, and have a nice day!