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Punishment Gone Awry
September 22, 2013

by PyroFalkon
Master of the PyroFalkon Multimedia Empire, Incorporated
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By the time you get to read this, my special Zelda challenge is underway live on twitch.tv/pyrofalkon. Navigate there if you want to cheer me on!

It may be decent timing, since pretty much the Zelda challenge is the only thing pulling me away from Grand Theft Auto V, which has redeemed the series in my eyes. I'd expound on why, but you likely don't care (as we've established, my audience here is likely not made up of too many gamers), and every second I spend writing about it is one less second I get to play it. Hell, I'll likely be dicking about on its golf or tennis modes while I deal with the more boring parts of tonight's SmackDown.

Also: by the time you read this, I'm 31. [Ed. Note: Happy Birthday! I can only assume you spelled your age in bacon this morning?] I know, I know... I'm ancient, you don't have to tell me. I've got five gray hairs in my beard, my knees are sore all the time, and I can never pull myself out of bed in the mornings. Sure, that last one may just be due to working at a job I dislike, but I'm going to go ahead and blame age. Next thing you know, I'll be applying to AARP and extolling the virtues of prunes.

So let's recapture my youth by watching guys who are getting progressively younger than me roll around on a canvas mat for two hours. Let's roll...

Opening: Apparently Michael Cole and Triple H had another sit-down meeting... is this a WWE.com Exclusive thing? [Ed. Note: Yes. Every Thursday, it seems.] Clips of Trips talking about it, mashed up with other Daniel Bryan-related shenanigans from Monday, is our opening montage. Thankfully without the moronic narrator.

Segment 1: To open the show proper, we've got Vickie Guerrero in the ring. She gives an incredibly disingenuous introduction to DB, reminding us that he held the WWE Championship for five minutes at SummerSlam, then for less than 22 hours after Night of Champions. Mean... but funny.

He hits the ring and opens by saying he'd rather be the champion for less than a day than being a “shrill, corporate sellout” for a whole life. Heh.

They argue about whether DB and referee Scott Armstrong had a conspiracy going. When Vickie demands “the truth,” DB says that sure, the count was fast, but Armstrong could have counted to 20 since Orton was completely KOed from the Sagat Flying Tiger Knee. DB asserts that he doesn't know why Armstrong did what he did, but it doesn't matter: he should still be WWE Champion!

More bickering, and DB says Vickie doesn't have any real power around here. Vickie's all “nuh uh,” and proves that she's got the power by booking a match... Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, R-Truth, Justin Gabriel, Zack Ryder, Darren Young, Titus O'Neil, Kofi Kingston, and Rob Van Dam will be in a very special 11-on-3 Gauntlet Elimination Match. It'll be one-sided tornado: all three members of The Shield are always “legal,” and each of the aforementioned 11 will have to get in and get their asses handed to them.

Interesting. But Vickie makes a misstep by saying that she's going to save him for last. She cackles and leaves to no music, but let's think about this: shouldn't DB be first, since Shield would be fresh? Even 3-on-1, Shield is going to take a few licks, so they won't be 100% by the time DB comes out. Seems backwards to me, but whatever. That makes for the most drama, I suppose.

Pre-Segment 2: Good lord, Naomi... if you keep wearing that and dancing like that, you're going to achieve “My” status within a couple weeks. Your in-ring skills are awesome too.

Segment 2 [Singles Match]: AJ defeats Naomi (w/ Cameron) by submission. The second move of the match was Naomi doing a springboard jumping something-or-other, and AJ gave her a reverse spinning back kick in midair to put her done. The crowd seriously under-reacted to the move.

Still, that's not representative of the entire match, which was subpar. It was quick-paced, which hid any technical flaws, but we've seen both women do much better... not just in general, but with each other. I'm not sure what was going on tonight... bad night for one or both of them?

Regardless, it seemed like Naomi would win with her “Rear View” move (jumping hip check, or what I like to call the “Ass-to-Mouth” since I tend to be pretty gross), but AJ kicked out of the finisher. A couple moves later, AJ slapped on the Black Widow, and Naomi tapped.

Natalya was on commentary and, frankly, did a shitty job at trying to be a face, if that's indeed what was going on. She continued her “AJ is a 'title holder' and I was born a 'champion'” nonsense, saying that AJ only tattooed the date of her title win on her neck because she's crazy, since as we all know you don't get a tattoo of something meaningful unless you're batshit insane. I can't wait to tell some Marines that, because absolutely nothing could possibly go wrong.

It actually felt like Cole and JBL were intentionally asking Natalya questions that would elicit dumb responses, with no one bothering to play devil's advocate to Natalya's side of things. Natalya sort of represented the whole discussion by insisting that all of AJ's actions and words are stemming from her being jealous of Total Divas, which was literally the first time it had been mentioned all night.

So at this point, I don't know where the line is between what Creative is thinking/doing and how the wrestlers are executing it, but something is going wrong somewhere with this entire story. It's like, rather than trying to do a double turn or something, WWE is trying to look as if they're trying to look as if they're doing a double turn, and no, that partially redundant sentence isn't a typo.

I've stated before that character-driven stories are better than narrative-driven stories, but I left out a caveat: all major players in a character-driven story need to be, you know, interesting. And Natalya is not being interesting, she's being vapid and ignorant as she dismisses everything AJ says while still trying to pretend she's a face. It doesn't make any sense, unless the end-game here is a double turn, or if they're just trying to turn Natalya heel since the crowd pretty much turned AJ face (or tweener) by this point. If Creative really wants to try to pull this back, they've got to let Naomi, Cameron, the Bellas, Jojo, or Hot Redhead Whose Name I Don't Remember to actually cut a promo instead and try to salvage their side of the story. Because what it comes down to is that the so-called “faces'” side of things just isn't holding any water anymore, so they're not really proper foils for AJ's justified irritation and pride. Something different needs to be done, otherwise AJ isn't just a clear winner, but that this will actively hurt the credibility of everyone on the Total Divas side.

Pre-Segment 3: Zeb Colter blathers before the match. It's not interesting.

Segment 3 [Singles Match]: Santino Marella defeats Jack Swagger (w/ Real Americans) by pin. Subpar match, technically executed well, but too short to be interesting. Still, I can't fault a crowd-pleaser. The match ended with a backslide pin out of nowhere.

Pre-Segment 4: Ryback is about to face Some Guy, and he comes out with Paul Heyman in a wheelchair pushed by Curtis Axel. Heyman cuts a promo declaring himself the new “Best in the World.” Ryback then takes the mic and says Punk won't bully Heyman anymore. And that's good, because Ryback hates bullies, like this dude in the ring. Some Guy doesn't buy it, but I'm pretty sure the bravado won't really last.

Segment 4 [Singles Match]: Ryback (w/ Paul Heyman & Curtis Axel) squashes Some Guy by pin. Moving on.

Segment 5: Oh good, Orton is here to cut a promo. It's actually fairly decent and gets its points across, as he tells us that he locked away his morally bankrupt part of his personality away because he thought that's what we all wanted. So after Monday, Trips and Stephanie McMahon convinced him to unleash it, which is why he beat the piss out of The Miz in front of his concerned mother and apathetic father. He concludes that he may not be champion right now, but he'll destroy DB in their rematch at WWE Battleground (first time I've heard that PPV name) and be champion once again.

...Which is fine and all, but this isn't OO without pointing out Randy's “Ortonisms.” When talking about unleashing his rage, which he had “locked behind a door,” to get it out, he “ripped off the door and threw away the key.” Personally, I'm not sure that was stupid; I think that was practical advice, since people who horde shit probably would keep a key to a shattered door jam. Orton also said that “at Battleground, I will win the war, once and for good.” The poor guy's brain filter must have shorted out and, rather than picking out “once and for all” or “for good,” it all just tumbled out like a Before & After puzzle on Wheel of Fortune.

Orton concluded his promo by saying that he would defeat Daniel Bryan and “become your WWE... no, not 'your.' I will defeat Daniel Bryan and become my WWE Champion!” Jokes aside, although that one was awkwardly worded, I actually kind of like it, as long as that doesn't become his catchphrase. “I am my WWE Champion” just doesn't have the ring of “I am the Tag Team Champions,” though I confess, it might grow on me.

Anyway, then The Shield hits the ring, and we go to ads. Hooray, time-wasting.

Segment 6 [3-on-11 Special Gauntlet Match]: Gotta use a nonstandard header here.

First up is Darren Young, who throws about two punches before getting beaten down. A Spear by Roman Reigns ends that.

Second is Titus O'Neil, who eats a shoulder tackle from Reigns, then gets the crap kicked out of him. Triple powerbomb, pin, done.

Third is Dolph Ziggler, who puts up a bit of fight thanks to some sneaky agility. But numbers catch up, and though Dolph gets an extended hope sequence, he gets obliterated outside the ring. Countout.

Fourth is Kofi Kingston, who gets an early fight, then gets destroyed by numbers. See a pattern? Spike DDT by Dean Ambrose, and that was that.

Fifth up is Rob Van Dam, who manages to actually eliminate everyone and hit the Rolling Thunder on Seth Rollins. He then readies the Five-Star Frog Splash, but then Triple H's music starts. This distracts RVD, who gets shoved off the top rope by Reigns.

Trips screams at the ref to end the match, so the bell rings. Then he storms over to Vickie (who was watching at ringside) to demand what the hell she's doing, and to follow her into his office. They run off, with The Shield in tow. Then ads.

So... I guess your winner is absolutely nobody. Alright.

Segment 7: After ads, they're in the back office, and Trips says that if they had allowed that match to go on, all that would have done is piss off ten more guys in the locker room to come out and help, followed by ten more, and soon we'd have a full-scale revolt on our hands. And no one wants that, especially since it's not what's best for business.

Trips says that the talent needs to feel safe and fair in their competition, so he orders an even match: Shield vs. DB and the Usos in a six-man tag match. Alrighty.

Segment 8: RAW recap, and we don't recap recaps 'round these parts.

Segment 9: Back from the recap, and Trips has summoned Zack Ryder and Justin Gabriel to the office to apologize for Vickie's shenanigans. Zack, who has gone back to spiking his hair, says that they wanted some competition... which he punctuates by slapping Trips on the shoulder. Trips's tone changes as he says they should go out to the ring and he'll totally find some “fair” competition. Because the faces here are idiots, they suspect nothing amiss, so they run off.

And then more ads. Good time management.

Segment 10 [Tag Match]: Luke Harper & Eric Rowan (w/ Bray Wyatt) squash Zack Ryder & Justin Gabriel by pin. Spinning lariat ended it, and no one had a chance to tag.

Post-Segment 10: After the match, Bray did the Sister Abigail (pretty much one of the worst names for a finisher I've ever heard) to Ryder. Bray grabs a mic to tell us that as long as “they keep lining them up, we'll keep knocking them down.” Follow the buzzards.

Segment 11: Trips finds RVD in the trainer's room to apologize to him for Vickie's bullshit... then gives him a rematch against Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Title at WWE Battleground. RVD and the trainer are pretty shocked that Trips was so cool, but go back to doing trainer things.

And then ADR appears out of nowhere and kicks his ass. So, uh... where was ADR hiding that whole time, exactly? I'm thinking too hard as usual, aren't I?

Segment 12 [Singles Match]: Alberto Del Rio defeats R-Truth by submission. Decent match, nothing special, ended with a Cross Arm Breaker. No spots worth talking about.

Pre-Segment 13: Siva Tau! Now I want to do a backflip off my roof!

Segment 13 [Six-Man Tag Match]: Daniel Bryan & The Usos defeat The Shield by pin. Solid match, but no spots to really talk about. Not really YouTube-worthy unless you're a big fan of DB, but you also wouldn't regret watching it either. Good stuff.

Final Thoughts: And that's where we close out the show, for the second time this week, with DB celebrating with his partners with a big win (story-wise) over The Shield. The Usos were so happy they started doing the Yes Fingers too, but they probably couldn't help it given that 98% of the audience were too.

This week has been fairly feel-good, which means the other shoe is certain to drop soon. It's good pacing, and as long as they leave the Big Show drama crap out of it (as they did tonight), then everything is working pretty well. I'm sure Trips will be back to his evil side next week, and it'll be fun to see where they go.

Still, this episode wasn't exactly thick with content. The stories nominally advanced at best, and none of the matches aside from the main event were worthy of any attention. Basically 105 minutes of “meh,” followed by some decent stuff. Even Orton did all right despite his Ortonisms, but at the end of the day, this episode wasn't really value-add except for Trips's tease at being a fair dude rather than a completely evil boss. If anything, that's a step in the right direction to make this story unique, rather than a straight copy from Austin/Vince years ago.

All right, that's it from me. I'm going back to San Andreas to kill some virtual people, then sleep so I can get ready for the big day tomorrow. Thanks for reading, everyone, and I'll see you next week again.

Episode Grade: C


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