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    Sunday, April 5, 2020

    Breaking Down SmackDown (4/3/20): Uncertainty May Be Good

    The last show before this year's WrestleMania presented a huge challenge for WWE. Considering the current pandemic the world is facing, the company has been forced to compromise and cut corners in order to produce a reasonable ‘Mania card worth people’s money. Because of this, matches were announced seemingly out of nowhere to fill a surprise two-night format.

    Furthering the need to tie any loose ends, the SmackDown creative team and superstars needed to pull out all the stops to generate some last-minute hype for their matches this weekend. With this context in mind, let’s run down this week’s SmackDown card and see how the blue brand looked to impress at the eve of the Showcase of Immortals.

    Miz TV ends with the champs on top

    Miz TV opened the show and surprisingly didn’t start off with Miz and Morrison, but with the Usos. The Usos came out and cut a promo staking their claim for the gold, only to be interrupted by the New Day who cut their own promo with the same intention.

    A few heated words back and forth between the two teams before the champs came out with Miz cutting a classic Miz promo. The segment progresses how all Miz TVs do—with an altercation between all superstars involved. The image of Miz and Morrison standing victorious on top after a vicious ladder shot to Kofi and Jey ends the segment.

    In my opinion, Miz TV segments are usually decent to entertaining. This is because of how good the Miz is at summarizing and heightening whatever drama the feud entails. He, along with the promo work from all three teams, highlighted how the two sets of challengers’ history with one another may affect their chances at the gold. And the result of the segment’s altercation shows how smart the champs are in capitalizing on this fact.

    Albeit simple, the storytelling in this segment has me invested enough to look forward to their ladder match this weekend. Factor in the high-flying capabilities of the Usos, Kofi Kingston and John Morrison, you are guaranteed to see something absolutely insane happen at this year’s show of shows.

    I am actually excited to see Tamina

    The triple threat match between Tamina, Lacey Evans and Naomi was pretty decent, with each woman showcasing their signature offense and athleticism. The story of the match was Lacey and Naomi working in tandem and then separately in an effort to eliminate the powerhouse Tamina. With Sasha Banks and the champ Bayley at commentary, they were bound to interfere in the matchup at some point. Bayley’s interference in particular allowed for Tamina to pick up the win.

    Last week, Tamina’s relationship with the two heels remained ambiguous. That was cleared up this week as she fortified her allegiance to herself.

    In the aftermath of the match, Tamina superkicked the champ and then did the same to Banks after both of their individual attempts at a truce with the Samoan. If their match this weekend is done right we could have a real star in Tamina. Her charisma along with her natural athleticism can go a long way especially on SmackDown where there is a lack of a monster-type character in the women’s division.

    However, considering the situation WWE is in, it still remains unclear if they have any real plans for the veteran superstar. I for one am hoping for the best for the character moving forward.

    Goldberg vs Strowman is finally announced

    After a nostalgic screening of Flair vs. Michaels during ‘Mania 24, it was confirmed on the last show before WrestleMania that Goldberg will be going one on one against Braun Strowman.

    Well then… WWE, it is about damn time.

    In my humble opinion, long before Roman himself confirmed it publicly, WWE should have already come out with a statement. They should have already taken out Roman's name and face on every marquee and promo right after he told Vince. There is absolutely no excuse.

    Even it was pre-taped, they were perfectly capable of fixing the last few shows before they screened on air and could have added old 'Mania matches to replace all the material featuring Roman. If they had done that, coupled with a statement from the get-go that Roman pulled out, we wouldn’t have a problem.

    Now the problem exists as to how WWE has clearly shown unethical business practices in two ways. First, they allowed Roman to do a taping when the pandemic already hit the States, with full knowledge that he was immunocompromised because of his battle with leukemia.

    Second, the blatant false advertising for a precious two weeks before the event only to drop the ball the night before ‘Mania is inexcusable. All the people that wanted to see the event mainly for Roman might no longer be able to get refunds—a reality WWE should truly be ashamed about.

    Although I respect WWE’s effort to provide entertainment at a time people desperately need an escape, this mind-boggling decision by the biggest wrestling company in the world is a tough pill to swallow going into ‘Mania this weekend. Formalities aside:

    How dare they treat their fan base like a bunch of dumbasses?

    The juicy love triangle gets even juicer

    Arguably the most over feud coming out of the blue brand, the road to OtisMania has one more pit stop in the form of this match between Dolph Ziggler and Otis’s Heavy Machinery brother Tucker.

    The match wasn’t anything too special. It was decent enough with Tucker displaying his raw power and Dolph showcasing his speed and quick thinking, but it wasn’t really conveying the story of how Tucker is finally getting his hands on the man who’s been tormenting his best friend for months. The ruthlessness I wished to see wasn’t there. The match ended with a DQ when Dolph hit Tucker with the Zig-Zag onto the steel steps.

    As Ziggler was about to smash another set of steel steps onto Tucker, Mandy along with Sonya came to stop Ziggler. Otis followed to the rescue as Ziggler evaded his pursuit.

    As the screen started to glitch (similar to the glitches that have been teased for months), the twist to this love triangle came in the form of a shadowy figure on the monitor. The shadowy figure pronounced that the truth will be revealed. What followed were a series of videos across the past two months, which reveal that Sonya Deville has been pulling the strings of this love story since day one.

    The segment ended with Mandy storming out in tears and Ziggler running away from Otis’s pursuit. I don’t know about you, but I am hella invested in Otis’s journey and this twist to me makes perfect sense in a storyline straight from a soap opera. As to who this shadowy figure is and how they will lay in the future of this storyline, guess we’ll have to continue watching to find out.

    Zayn stands tall going into the title match

    Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Daniel Bryan. To any hardcore wrestling fan, the prospect of this match is one that you can salivate at as two of the best in the world went at it. Although booked as a piece of the puzzle for a bigger storyline, it was a fun match to watch.

    The basic oneupsmanship expertly portrayed by both men was fun and engaging to watch. From the striking test earlier in the match to a battle of holds near the end, it was clear that both men decided to make the most out of the main event spot of the show. Zayn on commentary also did an excellent job playing the nervous-yet-trying-to-be-confident heel.

    The match ended with Cesaro intervening while Bryan had Nakamura in the Yes Lock. Cesaro ended up also decimating Gulak (who tried to put up a fight) through sheer power alone. After being thrown into the steel steps, the segment ended with Bryan eating all three men’s finishers.

    Zayn and Bryan is my pick to steal the show tomorrow because of the sheer talent in the ring and in both men’s corners. Even if they are to be given less time to give way to other matches, I am sure with the talent involved they are going to put out something worthy of the Showcase of Immortals.

    Cliffhanger ending for the Road to WrestleMania

    The build towards the match between Wyatt and Cena has been short but executed beautifully. The simple call-out by the Fiend after he lost his title. The undertone of how the old Wyatt failed at beating the Franchise six years ago. This segment to close our road to the show to shows is a fantastic ending to the feud’s build.

    The segment starts with Cena coming out, cutting a classic Cena promo. It starts with him addressing the WWE Universe about what’s been happening in the world and how the uncertainty is what makes this year’s ‘Mania the most intriguing. After that, he eloquently compares this to how the Fiend preys and breeds off uncertainty, and how it leads to fear. Finally, he wraps his promo with a nice little bow and explains how even with the match being on the Fiend's turf he still is gonna whoop his ass, exposing him as an embarrassment.

    The segment then gets creepy as Bray’s puppet friends surround the ring and claim that once he beats Cena that Cena will play with them forever. The segment ends with a monster-movie-like staredown between Cena and the Fiend, who appears on a platform cutting back and forth to a cut of Firefly Funhouse Bray saying let me in behind Cena. One blackout later and Cena’s alone in the ring as the camera pans out ending the show.

    This segment exceeds what you would want out of a Wyatt and Cena segment. The Fiend’s creepiness in contrast to Cena’s inspiring charisma contrasts and plays with each other beautifully and I can’t wait to see what the two come up with this weekend. Despite the stipulation’s uncertainty, I am still very much anticipating this match to be the one that gets the Fiend back on track.

    SmackDown Wrap-Up

    This go-home Smackdown for 'Mania pleasantly surprised me and added some depth to a couple matches which desperately need it. Although I do admit that a few matches are going to be flung to the wayside, a good number of feuds intrigue me enough to make me anticipate the blue brand's offerings this weekend. This show definitely proved that a little bit of uncertainty used right can be a good thing. And with that, I rate this show with a solid B+.

    Photo from WWE

    Jacob Tambunting is a freshman at Ateneo de Manila University currently studying BS Psychology. In his high school years, he authored plays for competitions, essays for projects, and fan fiction for fun. In college, he’s active in theater and debate organizations. He currently lives with his two parents, his two siblings, and his two dogs, and is probably writing something angsty on his 10-year-old laptop.
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    Item Reviewed: Breaking Down SmackDown (4/3/20): Uncertainty May Be Good Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jacob Tambunting
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