By Will Pruett
Was I enjoying Smackdown or an awkward stroll into the racist part of Twitter (which is probably most of Twitter)? What exactly was WWE trying to do with the writing of this particular episode of Smackdown? In promo segments featuring Jinder Mahal and Kevin Owens, WWE managed to set the wrestling industry back to the 1970’s by using xenophobia and absurd nationalism to get wrestlers over.
Jinder Mahal surprisingly became the number one contender to the WWE Championship on this show. I don’t mind this move at all. Jinder is a fine opponent for Randy Orton after Orton finishes with Bray Wyatt and while Kevin Owens and AJ Styles feud over the United States Championship.
What I do mind is the language WWE put in Mahal’s mouth after this victory. Mahal didn’t win because he is better or athletically superior, he won because Americans fail to embrace diversity. I want to remind you this is a heel saying this. This is a negative character fans are supposed to strongly dislike telling people about the wonders of diversity. This is WWE attempting to make an arena filled with 10,000 people boo the concept of diversity.
The most depressing part of this: it works. People seem happy to boo a man telling them about how great diversity is. Combine this with The Bollywood Boys showing up to help Mahal and you have WWE grouping together wrestlers of the same race with only their race in common. This is classic WWE and classic pro wrestling (it’s also classic pro ‘rasslin’).
Let’s move on to Kevin Owens showing us all how evil he is by speaking French. Much like Mahal before him, knowing two languages is supposed to be evil. WWE strongly embraces a culture of anti-intellectualism and this was another example of it. Both Mahal and Owens were using their skill of speaking multiple languages to get people to hate them. This is common in WWE and far more common than praising those who have this skill.
This episode of Smackdown was fine. I don’t mind Owens and Mahal being in the positions they’re in. I don’t mind them being antagonists. I mind the idea of diversity as a negative aspect of the world. I mind Mahal and Owens (as characters) encouraging an attitude that says multiculturalism is wrong. I mind WWE telling children at home watching not to accept foreigners and making them out to be a menace.
There’s a reason wrestling stories (for the most part) have moved past xenophobia. It’s a stupid idea to garner cheap reactions and make a bunch of drunk dumb-dumbs chant “USA!” Did the Smackdown writing team miss this memo? Did they decide to embrace the real-life worldview of the McMahon family?
And now for some random thoughts:
– This really was a good episode of Smackdown. It got everything out of the talent it used, provided nothing but entertaining matches, and even hit us with a few surprise moments. We saw new stars highlighted in important video packages. This episode of Smackdown, if it hadn’t had the Breitbart-esque influence in a couple segments, I would be talking about this as an almost perfect wrestling television show.
– Naomi had the best match of her career (that I’ve seen) with Charlotte. Charlotte had a highlight performance as well. It wasn’t just their match on this show that I enjoyed though, it was their promo work at the top of the show. Both of these women were presented as main event talents and they proved it in their match. I’m looking forward to seeing them wrestle again next week and the eventual feud they’ll likely have.
– Jinder Mahal becoming number one contender did shock me, but it doesn’t bother me. Mahal has worked hard to get in great shape. Mahal has shown promise on the mic. Mahal has been a solid talent. Him defeating Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, Mojo Rawley, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan was fine, especially since he had help.
– I hope The Bollywood Boys are aligned with Mahal for more reasons than their shared cultural heritage, but I doubt it.
– AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin did a lot to prove that Styles is the current number one protagonist on Smackdown. I thought as much after Styles and Shane McMahon shook hands a couple weeks ago, but I know it now. This is a great direction for Styles, who fans couldn’t help but respect during the past year.
– Baron Corbin continues to seem capable when against the right wrestlers.
– Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger only getting video packages on this show was fine by me. I like the idea of making fans want more and giving them a bit of backstory. Nakamura’s was especially great for this.
– Carmella (and James Ellsworth), Natalya, and Tamina as the jealous and angry girls threatening Charlotte could lead to some fun. I could see those three women against Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Naomi as a logical pay-per-view match.
– Kevin Owens teasing an open challenge then easily beating a local wrestler was great. Owens was also great on commentary for the main event.
– Remember when American Alpha had fun characters fans could embrace on NXT? What happened to that?
– Primo and Epico seem revived on Smackdown and I’m happy about it. If Primo and Epico reach the upper echelon on this tag division, Smackdown could make a lot of waves with great tag team wrestling in 2017.
– Sami Zayn coming up just short needs to continue.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.