News SmackDown recap & reactions: Nikki steals the show

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There wasn’t much that really made a mark during this episode, but Nikki Cross sure did.

Synopsis:

  • Alexa Bliss defeated Asuka with a snap DDT, but the story was much more about Cross on commentary.
  • Cross hugged Michael Cole to start the segment and that was just the beginning. She sat atop the commentary desk, eagerly cheered for her partner Alexa Bliss and encouraged Cole to do so as well, defended the match from Cole downplaying its importance, and punched the hell out of the guy near the end of the match in her exuberance.
  • As for the match, the energy from Cross helped the entire thing. Asuka and Bliss had a lot of charisma in certain spots. You could gripe over Asuka losing to a DDT, but this was always the direction for this feud.

Man, the wrestlers on commentary are reeeeally saving these shows at the moment. Nikki Cross, you were literally the star of this show.

Maybe some of it is just the fact that people pestering Cole will never get old, but Cross went even further than that. She was so into the outcome of this singles match, and at one point said that the Tag Team Championships were at stake. I really disliked Cole taking her literally, and was delighted when she doubled down. Winning this singles match was essential for getting those titles in the future, and her passion and full-fledged “I’m into this match” attitude helped immensely.

Now...the fact that I’m making some regular singles match the start of this review isn’t exactly an endorsement of the show. It was taped, and it showed; nothing really stood out.

But Cross’s passion and commitment to being entertaining sure did.


Bray Wyatt challenges John Cena to a Firefly Fun House Match

Synopsis:

  • Bray Wyatt had a Firefly Fun House segment where he was mixing up a pseudo-protein shake to prepare the Fiend for his upcoming match with Cena. Inside that mixture, Wyatt added sugar, spice, and everything nice disappointment, self-loathing, rage and resentment, hot sauce...and Rambling Rabbit.
  • The lantern of Wyatt’s head was whispering to Wyatt during this segment and Bray angrily told it to shut up. That it had had its chance at Cena and lost. Intriguing stuff, there.
  • He capped this all off by saying that a big star like Cena deserves more than an ordinary match at WrestleMania - boy, the resentment really drips off of that statement - and so he’s challenging Cena to a Firefly Fun House match.

If you can ignore what happened with the Goldberg feud, this Cena/Wyatt stuff is fun. The thing I love most about this feud, aside from Cena’s complete inability to understand Wyatt at all and how that manifests in a mixture of disgust and dismissal, is how Wyatt’s still implying small things in these Fun House segments.

There’s always been this element of self-torture/purgatory to the Fun House, and the fact that the lantern is whispering to him is really interesting. It’s like all the pain and frustration has caused him to rip his soul or humanity from his psyche. Maybe that’s what the Fiend is: Wyatt without any humanity left.

I also felt that blending up Rambling Rabbit had a bit of a double meaning. The “rambling” can be internal or external, right? At first glance when Wyatt started the Fun House, it felt like Rabbit was a manifestation of how his old persona would talk and never accomplish what he wanted to. Well, it could also be us in this case, griping and complaining about Goldberg.

Either way, I just dig what Wyatt does, man. The only thing I’ve ever been concerned with him is just how the results will play out. This could end up being the gem of this crowdless WrestleMania. I really hope it does.


Bayley and Sasha Banks tease tension - The dynamic duo opened the show with a promo, and it felt like WWE’s usual play for feuds like this...and without a crowd, I really think they needed to address this differently.

Bayley was trying to get assurance from Banks that they were on the same side, and while Banks was happy to attack Paige for putting them in this position, she wasn’t willing to placate Bayley. The unfortunate part is that this dynamic didn’t get any room to breathe; the other contestants in the match all marched down to say a word before someone else interrupted.

Also, ending this with Banks and Bayley trying to sweet talk Tamina as they retreated is just weird.

Drew Gulak def. Shinsuke Nakamura - Perfectly fine match that told a clear, coherent story. Having Sami Zayn on commentary really helped to frame that story, too. Essentially, Zayn kept griping about the rules in this one. His team would “cheat,” but Zayn would be quick to point out that they weren’t doing anything illegal - anything that would disqualify them in essence. He would also yell at the referee for not enforcing the rope breaks better. Zayn was showing off that big brain as smugly as possible.

...And then his team lost when Daniel Bryan got wise to it, helped Gulak in a similar fashion, and thereby earned himself an Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania.

I hated everything about Elias vs. Baron Corbin - This was by far the stupidest thing on the show. I hated every single second of it.

Firstly, I don’t tune into wrestling to hear some big muscle-y guy call another guy a turd. That is the dumbest insult, and it’s not clever. Secondly...Elias, what are you doing on a balcony? Why would you ever step onto an elevated platform that has only one entrance/exit, AND TURN YOUR BACK IN AN ARENA WITH NO CROWD when you’re feuding with someone?

And finally, the camera cut when Elias fell to the concrete was just laughably dumb. There was no thud of impact, just silence as it cut to show Elias spread-eagled on the ground. Also, there was no blood, and yet he got taken to a “local medical facility.” That seemed really tone deaf, considering current events.

Triple H gives his take on Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns - The Game says a short match favors Goldberg and a longer match favors Reigns. Fairly sound logic, there.

...Oh wait.

Mandy Rose isn’t a trophy - I really liked Rose showing the agency here to approach Dolph Ziggler and question why he’s being so petty over this Otis thing. Ziggler explained that it’s about Otis standing Rose up - it isn’t - and Rose rolled her eyes and said she’s fine with them fighting, but not over her.

This is good! I hope this actually turns out to be the case once the match happens.

New Day vs. The Usos ends in No Contest after Miz and Morrison interfere - Solid match here with the “winner gets a title match” stipulation, but the heels interfering and getting both teams for their hubris doesn’t play nearly as well in an empty arena. In fact, this ended the show, and it never felt like a main event. I was actually shocked when the show went off. That was it?


I think this episode could be viewed entirely in YouTube video clips and you wouldn’t miss a thing. There were some good moments, one colossally stupid one, and a lot of just...eh.

Grade: C-

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