Let’s not even beat around the bush: this was a very paint-by-the-numbers edition of SmackDown, especially where the build towards the Dean Ambrose vs Dolph Ziggler match is concerned. Admittedly, no damage was done to the feud; in normal circumstances, the old adage “No harm, no foul” would apply — but this is anything but normal.
With the assist from Bray Wyatt, what WWE wants us to believe is a world title feud for one of the biggest shows of the year is being carried by three of the most damaged characters in WWE. Any week that significant developments aren’t made is a week where this feud has failed to effectively build towards this match-up. None of these men have the luxury of resting on the standard “Can these future opponents coexist long enough as partners to defeat this immediate threat?” booking.
Even attempting to look past the pedestrian structure of the story, nothing that was said or done by any individual involved in this feud on SmackDown tonight stood out or was even interesting in the slightest. To make matters even worse for the WWE Super Intercontinental Champion, he was subjected to what could be seen as a pretty humiliating moment when he was challenged by Stone Cold Steve Austin to step it up because Austin believed he was resting on his laurels.
In this experience, I found out that I was more of a Lunatic Fringe than Dean Ambrose is. I couldn’t fathom being a WWE Superstar, being called out on a national platform, then falling in line like a good boy the very next night. I’m going rogue, baby — and I’m gonna do what the hell I need to do to get to where I need to go. That’s much easier to be said than done, but I can’t help but wonder how else would a person like Dean Ambrose break away?
I suggested my ‘going rogue’ idea to a friend and he said “The dude can’t go rogue, he’s friggin’ Dean Ambrose!” I, in my infinite wisdom, suggested that him being trusted with the WWE Championship should buy him the benefit of the doubt. Said friend responded with “They don’t give a ****. It’d be different if we were talking about John Cena going rogue, but just because you’re the champion it doesn’t mean you’re not still Dean Ambrose — which begs the question why are you the champion?”
That conversation perfectly encapsulates the dilemma that WWE faces with the Ziggler/Ambrose feud and why SmackDown can’t afford to slide by with dull booking. Simply having more spots to fill for main eventers doesn’t guarantee that the people filling those slots will be seen as legit top-tier stars; if strong booking doesn’t support their newly-found positions, they’ll fall flat — which is exactly what is happening to Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose right now.
In the video below, I talk more about Ziggler and Ambrose, in addition to my thoughts on the peculiar position of American Alpha in SmackDown’s tag division, my love for Talking Smack, and rookies Alexa Bliss and Carmella defeating the most established women in their brand’s division: