Pruett’s Pause: WWE SmackDown Live – Randy Orton becomes Randy Arson, AJ Styles wins his WrestleMania title shot leaving us mired in mystery, and John Cena and Nikki Bella acknowledge each other!

By Will Pruett

Eight years ago, as we sped towards the “25th Anniversary of WrestleMania” that was actually just the 25th WrestleMania, Randy Orton went through a traumatizing experience. As he stood in the ring, he saw his home broken into, his “wife” frightened, and his processions smashed by “The Game” Triple H. This obviously left an effect on Orton.

Like many trauma survivors, Orton didn’t go to therapy to work through his issues. He didn’t find someone to talk to who would be receptive. He let anger and rage fester inside of soul and, eventually, would bring a similar trauma onto someone else. This isn’t healthy. This is a cycle of abuse.

The scene felt almost familiar as Orton explored Bray Wyatt’s wooden shed temple burial ground. The place where Sister Abigail rested in a shallow grave beneath the floorboards was desecrated by Orton like he was an oil company in North Dakota.

Orton lived long enough to see himself become the villain in this story, which somehow, much like Triple H, makes him the actual hero in this narrative. WWE often seems to blur the lines between the two, perhaps because there is no actual moral compass anywhere in the company, but Orton is being presented as the hero for this villainous act.

It’s a confusing twist on this Road to the fake 33rd Anniversary of WrestleMania (actually called WrestleMania Sun). Orton had previously forfeited his championship shot against Bray Wyatt, but he seems to have been setting everyone up for confusion. Orton promised, as he stood in front of a burning shed he had previously doused in gasoline after gaining the trust of the owner of the shed over the course of half a year, that he would come for the WWE Championship.

Where does AJ Styles go from here? Not only did he kick Shane McMahon, but he also beat Luke Harper and should, contractually (if contracts exist) be the number one contender. Did Randy Orton actually sign the paperwork, or was it sent to his former address, a home he hasn’t entered since Triple H demolished it one fateful night?

Smackdown continued its course for WrestleMania on this show and it seems like a sub-optimal use of their allotted resources. We have the biggest star in all of wrestling in the mid-card, two mid-carders in the main event, and the best wrestler in the world being set up to take on the boss’ son. When stated this way, WrestleMania’s Smackdown presence doesn’t delight me.

I could get behind one or two of these matches, but altogether, this is not a WrestleMania worthy card. Then again, while it is WrestleMania, an argument could be made for holding back. Why give up major main events when monthly Smackdown pay-per-views need hooks? Why present the biggest matches possible only to have them overshadowed by a short contest between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar? Why not settle into WrestleMania’s B-slot only to rise from the ashes like a shed somewhere in Florida like Wyatt is sure to do?

And now for some random thoughts:

– While I’m critical of it as part of the grand picture, I like John Cena and Nikki Bella against Miz and Maryse as a WrestleMania match. It gives Cena, who seemed to be the odd man out when Raw called dibs on every part time guy, some necessary direction that doesn’t involve the title. It gives two women a major spot on the card. It rewards Miz for an amazing comeback year. I like the idea of this match even if, taken with everything else, it contributes to a subpar Mania presentation.

– John Cena and Miz were allowed to talk for a little too long. It’s not a major criticism, but they could have held something back. We’ve got a full month until WrestleMania.

– Nikki Bella’s promo, including this week’s use of the word “bitch” was great.

– It was hard to get into the rhythm of the two out of three falls match between Mickie James and Becky Lynch. The constant commercial interruptions disrupted it. It’s also possible these two just don’t click as well as they should on paper.

– Natalya’s promo with Alexa Bliss seems to be leading to a pre-WrestleMania title shot. I wonder if Smackdown will still go with the obvious four-way and slot Nattie in instead of Naomi. I’d call this a downgrade in fan investment and maybe one in overall wrestling ability.

– AJ Styles vs. Luke Harper was better than their battle royal closing sequence last week, but that’s a low bar to reach. Harper was able to show off his athleticism, which was pleasant. I only wish he hadn’t been pinned twice in a rapid fire way. Harper can mean a lot and after his great match with Orton at Elimination Chamber, he looked to be on his way. Sadly, it looks like Luke Harper isn’t meant to be truly elevated at this moment.

– Shane McMahon getting kicked seemed to assure that Styles vs. Shane is happening. I’m both fearful and giddy. Is that normal? Is there a German word to describe this specific feeling?

– I thought I couldn’t be less invested in Apollo Crews and Dolph Ziggler, then the words “Chairs Match” were uttered.

– Smackdown is going a little heavy on the stipulations these days.

– My Randy Arson pun in the title of this piece is my greatest work.

Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email me at itswilltime@gmail.com.


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