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France gets a little too full of itself, Dandruff Storm, Aldis’s tie, Confusing names, Choir Flash Mob, more

Damian Priest

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)…


Welcome everyone to the especially not so special, special edition of Over and Unders. This week is a proverbial buy one get one free, as I bring you the most overrated and under-appreciated moments of this week’s SmackDown AND a totally French-fried P.L.E. in Backlash. La loi commence. That’s French for I’m trying too hard, and also none of that is true. Except the part about me trying too hard. It actually means “let’s begin” to save you a Google search. So let’s do that (begin, not start a Google search). First up, SmackDown!

OVERRATED – BAYLEY LAG

I feel like my brain is lagging, but is it just me or was the cut between the crowd chanting a pro-Bayley chant and her actual entrance oddly jarring? Was that edited or is the WiFi between my eyes and brain bogged down?

UNDER-APPRECIATED – A GLOWING CROWD

This crowd in France is hot. I’d like to congratulate Naomi on getting the crowd to chant “glow” for the first time ever. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This means that Naomi and her non “glow” chant were on the cusp of insanity before France saved her from herself.

OVERRATED – DANDRUFF STORM

I love Jade Cargill’s entrance, but the precipitation looks oddly like dandruff, and I can’t help but envision someone in the rafters scratching their head like a dog with fleas to get the effect.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – CHOIR FLASH MOB

This crowd in France is absolutely insanely vocal. During this opening four-on-four match (Bayley & Naomi & Bianca Belair & Jade Cargill versus Damage CTR & Tiffany Stratton), I feel like I’m watching a bunch of A.D.H.D.-addled toddlers hyped up on sugar. The bizarrely in sync singing is kind of creepy in all honesty, but it also makes me feel like I’m watching the choir version of a flash mob that decided to buy every single seat in the arena just to perform together.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – ONION LAYERS OF BAYLEY AND BIANCA BELAIR

I like seeing some tension between two faces in Bianca Belair and Bayley. They have a history, and it just makes the characters more layered and human. That’s about as refreshing as a glass of lemonade on the golf course, if I liked lemonade…or golf. I don’t, but good job giving your characters some real onion-level layers.

OVERRATED – AUSTIN THEORY’S SENSE OF SMELL

I liked this playful promo cut by A-Town Down Under. I thought the acting was decent enough for their jokes about what Austin Theory smells (Red wine? Cheese?) to land solidly enough. That said, I thought Theory ruined the segment by throwing out a canned and campy “Smell that” at the end. That was more cringe-worthy than coming up with a cringe-worthy reference for the benefit of using cringe-worthy in a joke. Smell that.

OVERRATED – NICK ALDIS’S GIFT WRAPPED TIE

I’m sorry, but as much as I want to focus on this backstage convo between Carmelo Hays and Nick Aldis, I can’t stop staring at Nick’s tie. It looks like he made it out of birthday wrapping paper. Mr. Aldis, you are the General Manager of an episodic brand on Fox. You can afford a better tie.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – ACCURATE GRAPHICS

When they showed the A.J. Styles versus Cody Rhodes graphic, the WWE title superimposed beneath them had WWE side plates on it. I hope whoever did that gets a demerit in their performance review at the end of the year, because those should be Cody’s side plates as the defending champ. Details matter! Also if you look at Styles’ face in the graphic, he looks like he’s at the top of a roller coaster drop and he hates heights. It’s a look of pure fear and acceptance that there’s nothing he can do.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – THE JOY OF WATCHING NEW CATCH REPUBLIC

I still have no idea what New Catch Republic means, but it needs to be said that watching them work elicits pure joy. They are just pure fun to watch. From the athleticism, to the inventive moves, and even their physical taunts, these guys remind me why I’m a fan of this world. Also, how impressive was Pete Dunne’s drop kick city? He delivered more dropkicks than Murphy on St. Patty’s day. Let that sink in. I’ll wait. There you go, and now that song is stuck in your head again for another 10 years. Apologies and you’re welcome. I also don’t think there is a single wrestler in the world that looks happier in the ring than Tyler Bate. I feel like he just sees Christmas colors when he’s in the squared circle, and Jingle Bell Rock is blasting on repeat in his head, firing his endorphins on all cylinders.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – PAUL HEYMAN DEEPENS THE MYSTERY AND INTRIGUE

Only Paul Heyman could take something as simple as a conversation with Nick Aldis and turn it into a plot-thickening, major revelation. Hearing him say that he hasn’t spoken to Roman Reigns since WrestleMania was shocking. Seeing the look on his face as he said it, was even more so. I couldn’t tell if he didn’t realize it until he said it, or if he let something slip that he didn’t mean to. Either way, Roman Reigns’ presence is immensely felt, even in his absence, thanks to the brilliance of Paul Heyman. I feel like he should get another Hall of Fame induction and an Emmy.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – RANDY ORTON AND KEVIN OWENS CHEMISTRY

The chemistry between Kevin Owens and Randy Orton is on comedic par with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. This is truly like “Dumb and Dumber,” with tattoos, and I mean that in the best way possible. They just flow and vibe so naturally together. I’m convinced these guys could read the ingredients for Ovaltine and make it interesting. These two have more chemistry than the entire cast of “Big Bang Theory”, and that’s a super clever double entendre for your eyeballs to feast on. Eat up. And you’re welcome.

OVERRATED – L.A. KNIGHT VERSUS ANGEL

L.A. Knight versus Angel feels like more filler than a plastic surgeon has on hand. Knight deserves better than this and Angel hasn’t done anything to deserve this caliber of match, or the amount of offense he’s been getting in it. Am I saying this is nothing more than a match for match sake, the night before a P.L.E.? In a word…yeah.

OVERRATED – FRANCE GETS A LITTLE TOO FULL OF ITSELF

It’s going over my head a bit, but the crowd keeps hijacking the exchange between A.J. Styles and Cody Rhodes every time someone says “Phenomenal.” It was cute at first, but at this point it’s detracting from the narrative of the show. Even Cody seems like he’s trying to ignore it as there is no clever way to embrace it and continue pushing the segment forward. That said, I liked what A.J. and Cody did here. It was simple but effective. I like knowing how this is a dream match because they JUST missed each other in passing between the WWE and the independent scene. Also, I wish people would stop burying the Stardust character. I found that wildly entertaining back in the day and Cody took lemons and turned it into Liz Lemon…that’s a “30 Rock” reference if you’re not tracking. And her character on that show was immeasurably entertaining. I don’t think Stardust is the stain on Cody’s resume that everyone makes it out to be. I thought it was funny, eccentric and the product of someone going all in (no pun intended) on what they’d been given.

OVERRATED – PAINT-BY-NUMBERS FINE ART

Overall, the juxtaposition between what has been a very ordinary, ho hum, kill some time type show, and the red hot crowd reactions is staggering. I feel like I’m watching a paint-by-numbers program, but France, the current residence of The Mona Lisa, thinks this is a Picasso, based on their reaction.

Given there wasn’t much to this episode of SmackDown, why don’t we take a look at the most overrated and under-appreciated moments from Backlash? Care to come along? Here. Take my arm. Let’s take a romantic stroll through France together.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – GEOGRAPHY

I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at geography, and I for one appreciate the quick geography lesson, supported by the map graphic that felt right out of “The Bourne Identity.” That was different, fresh, and honestly just cool enough to get me to pay attention long enough to learn. This is like if Keanu Reeves walked in and taught an algebra class. My C- would have been an A under that learning tree. I also absolutely LOVED the split screen editing in the intro. That was slicker than a banana peel in Mario Kart.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – KEVIN OWENS INTIMIDATES A FAN

If you go back and watch Kevin Owens’ entrance, if you can come down from the adrenaline rush of the crowd response long enough to focus, watch when he stands on the ring barrier. A fan wearing glasses hilariously takes a selfie with him, then awkwardly gives a “Wooh!” and then turns to pat K.O. on the arm, but is super intimidated by his presence and can’t fully commit to the supportive human contact. It’s like something out of a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode. On a side note, this crowd is absolutely insane and I’m here for it. I’ve never heard a crowd sing Randy Orton’s theme song and it’s quite the spectacle. I don’t think I can even tell you all of the lyrics to his entrance. You’d think Harry Styles just walked into a middle school assembly by this response. Man, I wanna go to France now. This is the type of crowd you need to experience a live event with, in person. This makes Chicago look like a relaxing mental health retreat.

OVERRATED – SOLO SIKOA’S THUMB

Maybe it’s just me, but every time I see Solo Sikoa staring at his thumb like it’s a sawed off shotgun, all I can think is that he once dreamed of being a gastroenterologist and giving a full thumbs up to that medical field.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – RANDY ORTON’S FIRE SALE

Randy Orton always has little elements of his performance that you could blink and miss, but if you catch them, they are monumentally match-enhancing. When he headbutts Solo Sikoa, he stops, and shakes off some dizziness, which is pretty hilarious to see. Why wouldn’t you be knocked silly from head butting someone? The reaction and jelly-legged aftermath are straight fire. You’re taking the same brunt of the move that they are. That’s a master salesman right there folks. Randy, I’ll buy the whole set. I also found his near splash from the barrier onto Tama Tonga, only to sit and scoot down off of it like a toddler scared of a slide, wildly entertaining. That was the human embodiment of an “I’m too old for this shit” moment.

OVERRATED – SOLO “BEAVIS” SIKOA

Solo Sikoa’s pompadour-like hair, once it gets all dried out and frizzy under the lights, makes him look like a Samoan version of Beavis from “Beavis and Butthead.” And now you can’t unsee it. If I can’t look past it, I’m taking you down with me.

OVERRATED – CONFUSING NAMES

I was excited to see Tonga Loa finally debut in the Kevin Owens and Randy Orton versus Bloodlike match. But, I find it very confusing to have one member of a stable named Tama Tonga and another named Tanga Loa. This is starting to feel like the 90s “Super Mario Bros.” Live action movie where Bob Hoskins tells Mushroom Kingdom P.D. that both his first and last name is Mario, and his brother Luigi is, in fact, Luigi Mario. On a side note, and a much more positive one, Tama Tonga’s offense is so visceral, violent and explosive that he looks like a rabid animal. He looks straight up feral. I can’t help but think of the scene in “Elf” when Will Ferrell tries to hug a woodland creature that goes John Wick on his face. This guy is another level of scary. I’m starting to think he joined The Bloodline because he was promised actual lines of blood.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – THEY FELT THE GLOW

This Red Bull-fueled crowd may have finally gotten Naomi’s “Glow” chant over. I especially enjoyed seeing the fireflies-esq use of cell phones during her entrance. It makes something that felt very flat up to now seem like a bonafide spectacle.This crowd felt the glow. That said, I think they could put a tea kettle in the middle of the ring and the audience would sing “I’m a little TeaPot” loudly and proudly, but I digress.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – DING DONG HELLO?

This is an absolutely inconsequential thing to point out, but it cracked me up. At the top of the Bayley, Naomi, and Tiffany Stratton match, listen to when the ring bell is dinged. Instead of the same note hit three- times, we hear three dramatically different sounds. On one hand, it sounds like maybe the little Fisher Price-esq hammer they use to ring it, broke. On the other, it sounds like the ring bell ringer person was playing a xylophone and completely forgot to do their job.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – BAYLEY VERSUS NAOMI VERSUS STRATTON

I thought Bayley versus Naomi versus Tiffany Stratton was absolutely excellent. It leveled up every single woman in the match. That was a star-making performance by Tiffany Stratton, a reenergizing showcase from Naomi, and an exclamation point behind the name of Bayley and her undeniably deserved current reign. Wow. That match was non-stop, action packed, and more fluid than the beverage aisle at Costco. I’m blown away. During that match my jaw dropped more than my voice during adolescence. I’m a little concerned the crowd is going to collapse from exhaustion before the main event, but maybe they pump Prime Energy into the water in France and they’ll be up chanting for the next 3 days, proving me epically wrong. Also, I feel bad for the promos team that has to select the best highlights from that match for a recap montage. That’s going to be harder than explaining the plot of a Christopher Nolan movie to a group of 7-year olds.

OVERRATED – WRESTLEMANIA 41 ANYWHERE BUT FRANCE

I know they’re going to announce the location of WrestleMania as Las Vegas, but man oh man, I wish it was France.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – SO MUCH YEET

Good Lord, Jey Uso’s entrance with this crowd is absolutely IMAX-worthy. I was at WrestleMania 40 and thought Jey’s entrance was one of the most rabid sights I’d ever seen. This makes that look like a bingo hall. If they’re not planning on giving him the title tonight, they have to be thinking about doing so in the near future. His entrance makes prime (no pun intended) Daniel Bryan’s entrance look like The Blue Meanie’s. So much energy. So much Yeet. If there’s any doubt whether or not Jey Uso is now in their city, check the Richter scale.

OVERRATED – DAMIAN PRIEST’S MAIN EVENT STATUS

The longer Damian Priest holds onto this title, while failing to rise to the aura of a main eventer, the more damage he does to the work Seth Rollins put into building it up. I really hope they give it to Jey Uso tonight. The Damian Priest experiment isn’t working, and all it’s doing is sinking the World Heavyweight Championship into more and more of a mid-card title status. While I get that you don’t want two face champs right now, Jey is more over than overalls in “Super Mario Bros.” He would almost instantly increase the prestige of the title. Also, if you go back and watch his entrance, he poses with the belt and we hear fireworks, but we never actually see them. This seems symbolic of his reign thus far. All tell and no show. All work and no fire. All archer and no infamy. And I’m ALL done trying to make this joke work.

OVERRATED – DAMIAN IS BORED

Why does Damian Priest look so bored during his match with Jey Uso? It’s like someone just told him Hot Topic is going out of business, or that eyeliner has been outlawed in France. There’s a fine line between pulling off a stoic demeanor, and acting bored out of your mind. Damien looks too bored to even rise for himself, let alone The Judgment Day.

OVERRATED – WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH

I thought Jey Uso versus Damian Priest was massively disappointing. Jey was wildly over and the crowd seemed to enjoy every ounce of that match, but I found Damian’s slow pace an absolute anchor to Jey’s charismatic flow. He’s just so stop-and-go that I feel like his matches never get enough momentum to take flight. Without the crowd behind it, that match would have felt like nothing more than a glorified Raw main event. Meh, but not Jey’s fault. Damian Priest is a giant slow-paced boulder that everyone struggles to push uphill into a good match.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – ASUKA’S FACE PAINT

I found this tag title match between Kabuki Warriors and Bianca Belair and Jade Cargill to be decent enough. Jade seems to be improving, but she certainly looked exhausted by the end of the match, even with Bianca doing most of the work. That said, she’s still a bonafide presence in the ring, and as long as they continue to protect her from her shortcomings, she’ll be fine. The absolute most impressive thing in this match was Asuka’s face paint. My God. What Academy Award-winning makeup artist did that? It looks like her makeup took longer to do than it did to sign, retrain and get Jade Cargill ready for a title match on a P.L.E. Congrats to the new tag champs!

UNDER-APPRECIATED – AWKWARD FAN GETS INTIMIDATED AGAIN

The awkward fan that got intimidated by Kevin Owens earlier has struck again with his timidness. Cody Rhodes, during his entrance, stopped and posed with the fan. He was so starstruck that he literally dropped his sign. Now we’ll never know what it said. Sigh.

OVERRATED – THE CROWD DURING THE MAIN EVENT

I’ve enjoyed the over-the-top atmosphere tonight, but now, in the main event, it seems less about being excited for the contest, and more about trying to get themselves over. It’s getting on my nerves at this point. It’s like a dad that tells you a good joke, realizes his success, and then continues to explain why it’s a good joke at length. It just kills it after a while.

UNDER-APPRECIATED – EFFECTIVE IF NOT A BIT LACKLUSTER OF A MAIN EVENT

I thought Cody Rhodes versus A.J. Styles was perfectly solid. It didn’t blow me away, but there also wasn’t a lot of meat on the bone to sink our teeth into. I think it was beyond acceptable for this pay per view, and didn’t hurt (or really elevate) either of the men involved. Big congrats to Cody on maintaining his red hot status in his first title defense.

That was a whole lotta wrestling, and I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. Now I know how Jade Cargill feels after wrestling a mere 26% of a tag match. I like to think the French crowd is still chanting on their way home from the arena, by the way. See you Monday!