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FRIENDS AND ENEMIES CLASH! – Thursday Night Smackdown Recap, Sept 17th 2015

The blue brand invades Little Rock, Texas on its way to Night Of Champions this coming Sunday.

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With a main event involving fan favourites Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, and top heels Seth Rollins and Sheamus, as well as an undercard boasting Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler and members of the Divas Revolution, you would expect a stellar episode. Unfortunately, audiences were instead treated to a couple of good matches with unsatisfying conclusions, two formulaic tag matches with screwy finishes, one great promo followed by a non-match, and extended sequences revolving around Nikki Bella’s “Bella-bration” which were borderline excruciating. Let’s look closer at this ultimately disappointing night of sports entertainment and try to glean some gems from it.

FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

The opening segment featured Seth Rollins speaking with nothing but confidence going into his two title defenses on Sunday. He sweetened his eventual accomplished by referring to John Cena and Sting as future Hall of Famers.

He turned his attention to Smackdown’s main event, where he would team with Mr Money in the Bank Sheamus to face Ambrose and Reigns, saying he wasn’t worried and he lived by the addage “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.

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Sheamus played off the “friends and enemies” statement for the remainder of the segment, issuing reassurances disguised as warnings (or rather, warnings disguised as reassurances?) and planted further seeds in regards to him cashing in.

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This was an interesting angle to play up going into NOC. The timing for Sheamus to cash in could be just right in regards to protecting the credit of Rollins. The champ is already due more than his share of credit for competing in two tough matches in one night. Such fortitude is usually reserved only for heroes. If he were to make it through this Sunday’s gauntlet only to have his title stolen away by the Celtic Warrior, sympathy would undeniably go to Rollins.

The likelihood of a face turn for the current double champ is increasing.

A TURN ON PAIGE COMING?

The Divas opened up the night of action with a tag team match, with Paige and Becky Lynch taking on Naomi and Shasha Banks.

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Lynch put in the most work, opening the contest with fiery offense that bested both BADdies. Her momentum was eventually cut off and the heels took turns working her over. There were far too many abdominal stretches in this match, and that tended to drag the action a bit. After a spell, Lynch was able to hit the hot tag to Paige, who ran wild very briefly before getting bested with a small package by Naomi for the win.

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The ending seemed to come out of nowhere, and the amount of time Paige spent in the ring being so brief, this match reeked of mismanagement of restricted time. It’s as though Lynch spent too much time in rest-holds when she should have hit the hot tag a couple minutes earlier.

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The ending left things open for cracks to appear in PCB’s unity. Paige has a history of not playing nice with others, and if she continues to let victories slip, Lynch and Charlotte may begin to question how much they need the Glampire.

Look for Paige’s involvement to be pivotal in this Sunday’s Diva’s Championship match.

SAVE THE TABLES!

Although the match between Kofi Kingston and Devon Dudley lasted all of under a minute and consisted of nothing more than punch-kick-flapjack-schoolboy pin, this segment was the most entertaining of the night thanks to New Day.

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Carrying picket signs and a petition, the tag champs rallied in favour of Mother Nature and campaigned against the wanton destruction of tables. It was brilliant. These three just keep getting better and better every time they appear on television.

This Sunday, it is doubtful that the Dudleys will re-claim the Tag Team Championships, considering the undeniable pull of New Day. That being said, there is a place for them in the division, a division that is sorely in need of invigoration.

CESARO WRESTLES BIG SHOW’S ARM

The Swiss Superman put forward his best efforts to put on an entertaining match with the World’s Largest Athlete, and the result was a very watchable affair.

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One can see a change of focus for Cesaro as of late in regards to his offense. In the past, he would focus almost exclusively on showcasing his strength, and if this were a year and half ago, we may have seen him body slam Big Show. However, perhaps in an effort to keep things fresh or diversify his repertoire, Cesaro has been exhibiting a more agility-based, high-risk and acrobatic moveset.

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Working with Big Show would certainly give him an opportunity to showcase his agility, but the question remains: why are these two in a program together?

Moreover, why was Big Show booked to win so cleanly and decisively? It’s difficult to see any advantage in having Cesaro job out once again to someone who’s career is nearing it’s end.

It is conceivable that Show is being built up as The Authority’s big equalizer, their “problem solver” who may very well come into play this Sunday to protect Seth Rollins.

OWENS COMES TO FIGHT

Kevin Owens faced off in the squared circle against Dolph Ziggler on his way to challenging Ryback for the Intercontinental Championship, and he looked ready.

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An entertaining encounter, both performers put it all out there and didn’t hold back. That’s nothing new for either man. Ziggler bumped like a boss and sold like death for the hard-hitting and aggressive offense from Owens, who continually jaw-jacked the Texas crowd and taunted the face.

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In the end, Owens brutalized Ziggler on the outside, throwing him from ringpost to barricade to timekeeper’s booth, and was ultimately setting him up for a powerbomb against the apron when Ryback made the save. Owens was able to escape a Shellshocked attempt, and celebrated a disqualification victory on the entrance ramp.

Owens looks strong going into Night Of Champions, and the outcome of the IC title match could go either way at this point. It will no doubt be an interesting encounter, with Owens usually being the one able to throw his weight around. Ryback can benefit from the ability of Owens to construct a lengthy, involved match.

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What about Ziggler? He’s courting Summer Rae because Lana’s recovering from wrist surgery, so go figure that.

IT’S A BELLA-BRATION, BITCHES!

Lengthy backstage segments were devoted to hyping up Nikki Bella’s party, celebrating her longest Diva’s title reign ever. Celebrity names were dropped and the Bellas, along with Alicia Fox, were being their best and brattiest, encapsulating all that’s cringe-worthy from reality shows such as “Sweet Sixteen”.

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The big punch-line of the episode was that – uh oh! – nobody came to the party! Wah wah. Nikki threw a fit as well as a cake into the faces of Brie and Alicia. Team PCB appeared in party hats to mock the champ, as Charlotte issued a standard “this Sunday” promo before leaving.

WWE is religious to its format of recording all of its segments live and in studio, which is commendable, but there are certain sequences that would be a lot more effective if they shot on location ahead of time and used editing. Such methods hide the weaknesses of certain performers while high-lighting their strengths, they prevent awkward timing issues, and make the entire experience a lot more watchable.

BRO-DOWN

Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns continue establishing themselves as a well-oiled machine. Considering their placement on the card these days and the state of the tag team division, it would behoove WWE to give them a legitimate run with the Tag Team Championships. As singles performers, all they can look forward to are feuds with upper mid-carders, and the team division is in sore need of more bodies competing.

The Wyatts are in the same boat. With the addition of Brawn Strongman – oops, I mean Braun Strowman – the Family is in prime position again to be serious contenders for the belts again, a place Erick Rowan and Luke Harper sadly never reached.

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That aside, the main event itself repeated the formulaic tag format from earlier in the night, with heels tagging in and out frequently and the faces sharing only one real tag the entire bout. Ambrose played Becky Lynch, starting off aggressive but eventually getting subdued and worked over for an age. Hitting the hot tag to Reigns (aka Paige), the powerhouse went on a brief tear before the match went home.

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Unlike the earlier bout, the ending was a bit more prolonged and told a story. Sheamus initially left Rollins high and dry, playing up the “friends and enemies” angle. Rollins goaded him back to the apron by grabbing the briefcase, suckering the Irishman into accepting a tag. Rollins then walked, leaving Sheamus to eat a Superman Punch followed by Dirty Deeds, and the faces were victorious.

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The Wyatt family cut a promo from the Titantron to close the show, once again stating that it doesn’t matter who Ambrose and Reigns get to be their partner, “they all fall down.”

The match accomplished quite a lot leading into NOC: it preserved Rollins, it built tension in regards to the Money in the Bank contract, and it hyped the mystery surrounding the surprise partner in the Wyatt/Bro-Down match.

CONCLUSIONS

Smackdown enjoyed a period of time earlier this year where it did not feel like it was significantly secondary to Monday Night Raw. This show did not keep in that tradition.

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Although not lacking star-power, certain missing elements made the show feel all-in-all sub-par. The absence of Sting and John Cena, for one. The very briefest of appearances from the Intercontinental Champion, Ryback, for another. Attention given to lesser story-lines, like that between Cesaro and Big Show, Rollins and Sheamus, and Ziggler’s strange flirtations with Summer Rae.

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Overall, it didn’t feel like a go-home episode. The developments which occurred over the course of Thursday night did not adequately build a “must-see” feel for Night Of Champions. Hopes are that the show itself will deliver where the build-up fell short.

Photos copyright WWE.com

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