The Miz: Alternate Universe John Cena?
Smackdown’s first in-ring segment (I wasn’t going to cover the cold open as a proper first segment), saw The Miz and Maryse “interview” John Cena on Miz TV. I put interview in quotes as it was more or less a platform for The Miz to shoot on Cena for a good 10 minutes. Cutting Cena’s mic right away, Miz began running down the face that runs the place by bringing up 10 years of complaints in rapid fire. While The Miz echoed complaints of AJ Styles by saying Cena is a hyprocrite for going to Hollywood after criticizing The Rock for the same thing back during their program and that Cena manipulated his way to the top, he also brought up his own points by asserting that he himself has always been seen as “the other guy”.
This is an interesting idea as The Miz seemingly has all the assets now to be in a John Cena role and yet cannot be due to Cena. I can completely imagine that in an alternate universe, The Miz is the huge star that Cena is and it’s almost sad that The Miz will seemingly never escape that shadow and forever remain “the guy from The Real World” as his talent in the past year has been astounding.
The Miz’s rant ends with him saying this was all the justification he needed to toss Cena out of last week’s battle royal as he wanted Cena to feel the loss of opportunity that he has felt for 10 years.
Cena’s turn on the mic came and got ready to “turn his theory into crap”. As great as The Miz’s mic work was, Cena turned things up to eleven. He began by arguing that if he had his way, he’d be facing Undertaker at Mania (shedding light on the match that was rumored for this year possibly being taken away from him) and continued his retort by attacking The Miz’s character. As Cena convincingly put it:
“The Miz is just a guy named Mike who changed his name for The Real World, stole The Rock’s personality, Chris Jericho’s attitude, Daniel Bryan’s offense, and AJ Style’s insults. (The greats) are just themselves turned up to eleven, you’re just an unclear amalgamation”
This jaw droppingly real comeback was followed with “Next time we meet, don’t bring a knife to a gun fight” and “You may not be the Undertaker, but if you do this again: you’ll be a deadman”. As Cena began to leave, Maryse stopped him and promptly slapped him for talking to her husband like that. This led to Nikki Bella coming down and cursing the opposing couple out of the ring with an emphatic “You mess with my man, Im’ma break ya’ bitch”
This segment is quite possibly the best mic work of Miz’s career and the best mic work recently from Cena and left the audience reeling. Both men came off as genuinely expressing how they felt and that made the segment all the more investing. The rumored match between the two men and their women at Mania seemed like a misuse of talent before but is now somehow one of the most anticipated matches on the card. This is made even more captivating by the fact that neither men are seemingly wrong and the blurring of reality and fiction should make this match even more captivating in the weeks to come if this buildup can be maintained.
Overall Score: 10/10
A Swerve and a Superkick
The match between Luke Harper and AJ Styles to decide who would face Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania happened in the middle of the show for some reason rather than in the main event and very little of this match was hyped up before despite it’s storyline importance. Regardless, this match served as a another display of Luke Harper’s amazing wrestling ability and of his newfound strength being booked in matches. Harper dominated for a large portion of this match and received chants from the crowd during a large portion of the match as well. If Harper is truly a face now in the eyes of Creative (as he is in the crowd), as unlikely as he is as a face, it is great to see him finally get the spotlight he deserves given how underrated he has been for so long.
Despite all of this, Styles ended up getting the “win” with a surprise Phenomenal Forearm in a rather anticlimactic fashion while Harper had his foot on the bottom rope, before Shane McMahon came out to restart the match in light of the referee not seeing this rope break. This caused Styles to confront the commissioner of Smackdown and this of course led to Harper accidentally kicking Shane in an attempt to superkick Styles while he was distracted. Even with this second chance, Harper soon lost again after suffering a 450 splash at the hands of Styles once they found their way back to the ring and Styles was announced as the new number 1 contender.
The tension between Shane and Styles culminating in a missed superkick seems to seal the deal on a Shane vs. Styles match at Mania but Styles winning seemed to suggest a change in plans as Harper seemed the obvious choice here to face Bray. I would assumed that next week Shane will take away Styles’ opportunity given the kick and what transpired later, although I am not a huge fan of this idea given how Styles won clean on this night.
The match itself here was a great match but the Dusty finish, restarting, and illogical swerve all soured me on it. The same tension between Styles and Shane could have been created in much better ways in my opinion and those ways would still leave Harper looking strong in victory.
Overall Score: 7/10
Randy Orton Should Probably Go to Jail…
Bray Wyatt’s unannounced championship “Invocation” closed the show and began as a typical Wyatt segment does. Suspiciously however, Randy Orton was not accompanying Wyatt and this quickly became a point of focus as after declaring himself a deity in the face of the mortal AJ Styles, Wyatt mentioned how Bray comes from a place where Orton is now. What seemed like a figurative comment became reality as Orton appeared on the titantron in the shed where Wyatt is typically seen in his rocking chair. Orton begins talking to Bray and it quickly becomes clear that something is not right here. Orton’s tone gradually becomes more sinister and it becomes clear that Orton is there to cause some havoc after he states “This is your world Bray, but it is not mine”. A look of anger fills Bray’s face as he realizes he has been betrayed. This is furthered by Orton’s increasing arrogance and statement of “If you can’t beat em, screw em!”
Orton continues by explaining that the site of where he is is where the long fabled Sister Abigail that Bray Wyatt covets is buried and he slowly raises a pickaxe. Cinematic cuts to a worm filled hole follow and Orton explains that Abigail is nothing but bones now as maggots and worms have eaten her away. The entirety of the time Orton has been talking, a slow, plodding, rhythmic drum has been playing in the background and this stops when Orton grabs Wyatt’s signature rocking chair which has been rocking the entire time. Orton asserts that he will now make Bray the servant and himself the master and grabs a can of gasoline as the drums return. Orton drenches the shed and grave in gas while exclaiming “You’re about to hear Sister Abigail SCREAM, Bray!”
As this is happening, Bray Wyatt is in an emotional state we have never seen before and is breaking down and screaming. As Orton light the fire and makes his signature pose, the camera cuts between the two men with Orton staring directly into the camera and Wyatt being filled with rage and sadness.
This segment was an emotional powerhouse and seemingly Smackdown’s response to Raw’s Festival of Friendship from a few weeks back in terms of cinematography and impact. As much as I want to criticize this segment for seeming rushed ahead as though we never got the second act of a three act story, and how it relied on the Sister Abigail story which has always been unclear and often forgotten, it’s so hard to be when Randy Orton delivered perhaps the best promo of his career and Bray Wyatt sold his distress like a master. As much as Bray Wyatt’s whole gimmick may seem cartoonish out of context, the seriousness which this segment was played with made it totally captivating. I cannot remember the last time a segment like this pulled me in so much and completely absorbed me in the story.
Regardless, I can’t ignore the flaws of this segment in terms of the storyline it exists in and cannot give it a 10 out of 10.
Overall Score: 8/10
Average Total Score: 8/10
Smackdown’s three big segments were nearly perfect if it wasn’t for a few glaring plot issues which made the events feel much more contrived than they should, this show could have been a powerhouse on the road to WrestleMania.
Winner this Week: Monday Night Raw
Despite all Smackdown did this week to impress me, I can’t get past the plot issues which drag them down. Raw’s three big segments may have been more lackluster overall but they were at least consistent with the plots going on and made sense within the story whereas Smackdown felt as though a few weeks of narrative were skipped (which I feel may have been the case given how Bray’s invocation was unannounced) Either way, both shows were strong and the road to Mania rolls on!
Till next time,