WOW fumbles the finish in flaccid filler episode

It’s not fun to criticize commentary week after week, so all I’ll say is that David McLane and Stephen Dickey spent about a quarter of Chantilly Chella vs The Temptress, talking about anything but the match. They discussed the elaborate conspiracy surrounding the world title scene and the recent theft of Jessie Jones and Amber O’Neal’s boots by the Dixie Darlings and just ignored the fight happening right in front of their eyes. It’s lame to do that in the first place: even if a match isn’t particularly exciting, part of a decent commentator’s job is to elevate the story in the ring with expert insight and context. But to not rerecord it later is a real slap in the face to those performers. They deserve more.

We had four matches this week and fewer video packages than usual. Or maybe as many as ever and they’re just leaking out of my brain faster. The world title story is still the world title story. Tessa is still trying to avoid a match with Jungle Grrrl or the Beast. Evil telenovela lawyer Sophia Lopez is still part of it somehow, getting Tessa out of matches with legal loopholes even though McLane is supposed to be WOW‘s matchmaker. The episode opened with a recap of all this nonsense, then cut to the Beast threatening Lana Star in the car park. Back in the ring, McLane began to ask Jungle Grrrl if she thought it was fair she got a title shot off a DQ, but she grabbed the mic. Rather than point out that it’s the exact same way the Beast became number one contender just four episodes ago, she simply replied that a win is a win. Tessa arrived to announce she’d be facing a fresh, new, up-and-coming wrestler in the main event, but that Jungle Grrrl could maybe get a title shot later.

The first two matches saw tag team partners Sassy Massy and Chantilly Chella split up for singles action against some WOW heels backed by cheating companions at ring side. Massy was up first against Khloe Hurtz with her ring rats, then Chella fought Temptress, who was accompanied by the Dagger. These were zero-stakes exhibition matches, but so were some of the best fights on WOW this season, especially last week’s instant classic between Serpentine and Reyna Reyes. Even a throwaway match with no consequences can be elevated into a showstopper, like Shanna’s all-timer with Emi Sakura at AWW Breaking Point 2013. But this was a filler episode and these were filler matches: serviceable, but well below the standard any of these wrestlers usually set.

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After the opener, we saw security footage of the Dixie Darlings, a team I genuinely forgot existed until just now, stealing the boots of Jessie Jones and Amber O’Neal. Occasionally referred to as Southern Pride throughout this episode, Jones and O’Neal have grown on me over the past few weeks, but all hints of pathos, tension and ambiguity were choked out of their arc with tonight’s stolen boots angle. They panicked over their lack of boots and asked McLane to postpone their tag title semi-final against Fire and Adrenaline. He refused, obviously, so O’Neal wrestled in pumps and Jones in Trump-themed knee socks. It was another perfectly serviceable match, better than the openers, but only because the wrestlers in this match had a higher average to perform below. The commentary team’s focus on mocking Jones and O’Neal over their boots certainly didn’t help (I swear, that’s it for this review), but it was still a fairly uninspiring match. Fire won the match for her team by tapping out O’Neal with an ankle lock, but no one came out of this match looking like a winner. Jones and O’Neal were reduced to the level of cartoon hicks, essentially, including an ankle injury angle toward the end of the match when Jones’ Trump socks slipped on the apron. Fire and Adrenaline may have triumphed and advanced to the tag title series final, but a victory over this caricature of Jones and O’Neal isn’t as impressive as one over the real deal would be. WOW should have held off on this comedic turn until after this match if it had to happen at all. It was faintly embarrassing for all involved.

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Fire and Adrenaline cut the exact same promo one after another following their victory, first saying they didn’t think they needed to repeat themselves, and then repeating the exact same phrase: “we’re going all the way”. Jones and O’Neal beat up the Dixie Darlings backstage for stealing their boots.

The main event had a chance of at least sticking the landing for an otherwise lackluster episode. Tessa’s previous title defenses this season, against Serpentine and Reyna Reyes, were among the best matches the show has seen yet. Her match with the Lioness could have risen to that level, one suspects, but it never did. It was preceded by a long video package about how the Lioness was raised from childhood to be an elite athlete, like Serena Williams, Tiger Woods and Mia Hamm. Except the Lioness is also a pop star? It feels a bit overstuffed of a characterization. Commentary hyped up the possibility of the Lioness stealing the title way more than Serpentine or Reyna Reyes, but she never felt a tenth as close to victory as either previous challenger. It wasn’t a bad match at all, but it was just a bit uninspired and boilerplate. Maybe the Lioness just isn’t ready to hang with someone at Tessa’s level.

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Tessa finished the Lioness off with the Diamond DDT, then Jungle Grrrl ran in to spear Tessa. The dream of a conclusion to this storyline remains as distant as ever and it’s hard to hope the ending, whenever it comes, will be worth the wait. I’m not expecting much more than a rubber match between Jungle Grrrl and the Beast so one of them can be the number one contender again.

This episode made me even more grateful for WOW‘s camera and editing departments, who keep the action moving along at an energetic pace even when forced to work these limp, repetitive angles over and over. Hopefully, the remainder of the season won’t have many more filler episodes like this. WOW shines when it’s tight, fast-paced and keeps its story simple. This episode was not a shining moment.

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