Howdy folks. It is Wednesday morning, which means that I’ve managed to claw my way out of bed, stick a pot of coffee on and am ready to review some wrestling. Tonight, we’ve got the Wyatt Family facing American Alpha to decide who will face Rhyno and Heath Slater for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. I have to say, I’m surprised that Randy Orton hasn’t let the mask slip yet; I assume he’s holding his inevitable betrayal back until the Royal Rumble match for maximum dick points. Then Orton vs. Wyatt at WrestleMania and boom: the feud will have been dragged out past the point of sanity.
Alright, let’s get down to it.
Lot of ladders set up on the stage, plus some tables and chairs. Good God, we’ve got a hell of a lot of PPVs now.
Renee Young (Biker Jacket edition) is in the ring, and she’s here to officiate a contract signing. Man, just when you think Renee couldn’t get more awesome, she dons a leather jacket and witnesses the signing of legal documents. She introduces Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch to the ring, but then Bliss makes her leave. Renee Young don’t care; Renee Young don’t give a shit. She just makes her exit and leaves the kids to fight.
Bliss starts by calling Becky a coward, but then says that she’s too stupid to even be a coward. She does make the fair point that their last match ended controversially, but doesn’t endear herself to the audience by insulting them too. Becky compares Alexa to a four year old girl, and says that at TLC, the ropes won’t come into it. Bliss laughs off the idea of having morals or ethics, but Becky said a moral compass actually means pretty much dick when it comes to wrestling, and then calls herself a honey badger. Thus making my joke in the previous paragraph pretty appropriate.
Becky mocks Alexa’s victim complex, and Bliss says that she’s better than Becky before spouting out a lot of offensive Irish stereotypes. Or they would offensive if Irish people were offended by anything but the English, abortions and denominations of Christianity that they don’t belong to. Becky, apparently having learned that every one of her interactions with Alexa is going to end in a brawl anyway, pops Bliss in the mouth and proceeds to beat the absolute fuck out of her. Becky puts Alexa on the top rope, trying to superplex her through the table, but Alex shoves her off the turnbuckle and sends the champ through the table instead! First ever women’s Tables Match at TLC confirmed!
What, no Stairs Match?
Here’s Dolph Ziggler, who will be teaming up with Kalisto to take on the Miz and…sigh. Baron Corbin. And let me say right now: I do not care about Kalisto and Baron Corbin. Their feud in no way matters to me, beyond the hilarity at seeing Baron Corbin get his ass kicked by a tiny dude again and again. I’ve seen the Miz and Ziggler fight each other in a seemingly-unending feud, and I’m still more excited for their match on Sunday.
And you know the sad thing? I sort of feel like I could get into Baron Corbin (please wait before forming the lynch mob) if the WWE actually made me feel like this guy was in any way dangerous. Have him absolutely fuck up Kalisto on Sunday; let him cripple the guy without Kalisto getting in a moment’s offence. Make him a total psychopath who gets off on hurting people and who’s a genuine threat. SmackDown needs someone like that anyway, and Baron is sadly the most appropriate agent for that character. But no: Baron Corbin is just a lukewarm everyheel with nothing special about him, so there’s no reason to be into him.
Dolph and Baron start off, and Corbin goes after Kalisto instead, allowing Dolph to take advantage, squashing him in the corner. He hammers the Miz off the apron, but Corbin takes him down with a huge clothesline, slamming fists into the guy’s face. After a commercial, Corbin is still in control, beating Ziggler down before knocking Kalisto to the floor and hurling Dolph out of the ring.
The Miz gets the tag, and immediately pulls out a ladder. He sets it up and tries to whip Ziggler into it, but Dolph reverses the clothesline, instead taking the Miz down with a DDT on the floor! Corbin tries to clothesline Ziggler again, but instead receives a superkick to take him out too! Everyone but Kalisto is down on the outside, and Ziggler and the Miz just manage to make it back into the ring before the count of ten. This got intense pretty fast.
Kalisto tags in, going right after the Miz: kicks, springboard corkscrew, spike-a-rana. Miz manages to gain a reprieve with a big boot, then hits a wrecking ball kick to Ziggler before continuing to attack him on the outside. Kalisto recovers and hurls himself through the ropes onto Corbin! Miz throws Kalisto back into the ring, but eats a superkick from Dolph as he rolls inside after the luchador! Maryse dumps the ladder onto Ziggler, but the ref doesn’t give a fuck! Kalisto hits the Salida del Sol, and Corbin whacks him with a chair for the DQ!
Nicely done. This wasn’t your typical pre-PPV tag match; this actually let the rivals really go after each other, even ignoring the legal man to do so. Great advert for Sunday. 3 Stars.
American Alpha is backstage, and has their pre-match workout interrupted by an interview. Is nothing sacred? They say they don’t exactly give a fuck about the Wyatts, taking the opinion that being all spooky and stuff doesn’t really matter when the name of the game is ‘beat the shit out of each other’.
And Bray Wyatt then shows up for one of his foggy promos. He looks a little antsy, and Randy interrupts him to say that he was once like American Alpha: naive, close-minded and blind. You know, you could add some other stuff to that as well: legend-killer, multiple-time World Champion, part of the most dominant stable ever. But no, Randy: this is clearly the highlight of your career.
You know, that’s what pisses me off so much about this. Bray has done – actually done – jack shit. No titles, no really huge moments: he’s just the fat and spooky dude who only even won at Survivor Series because of Randy Orton. Whereas Orton is the second-most decorated active talent in the company, with a ridiculous list of accomplishments behind him. Aside from eventually betraying Bray (thus making Wyatt even more of a loser than he already is), he has literally no reason for getting into this friendship. Joining a cult to get better at sports is not a rational decision, but apparently everyone backstage is sitting back and saying to themselves, ‘Yeah, I can see why he’d do it.’
Sometimes wrestling logic is seriously fucking stupid.
Oh, and Randy is still needling Harper, but clearly both Bray and Harper think that this is all about Orton wanting to be Wyatt’s bestest friend in the world ever.
Becky and Alexa have set a terrible example for everyone else tonight
Here’s Carmella, who will be facing Nikki Bella in a No DQ Match at TLC. It is the most fucked-up kind of heartwarming that we are finally seeing all these opportunities for women to hurt each other in more extreme ways.
God, what has wrestling done to me?
Carmella grabs the microphone and says that she has a message for John Cena. Holy shit, if she starts a feud with Cena then this is the greatest show on earth. I don’t even know how that would work, but it’d be awesome. Carmella then says that she’s going to crush Nikki’s tits with a chair at TLC. If someone said that about my girlfriend I’d probably end up fighting them, so I’m holding out for Cena vs. Carmella at WrestleMania.
Nikki suddenly charges into the ring and starts beating the sweet fuck out of Carmella. David Otunga says that this is what happens when you talk about a woman’s boyfriend. I sort of feel like this was prompted more by Carmella claiming that she was going to use a chair to disfigure Nikki rather than her slightly mocking John Cena, but sure: that’s totally the message here, Dave.
Brawl drags out for a nice long while before Carmella finally escapes. Well, you can’t say that SmackDown‘s not making the women’s matches seem like they matter: two beatdowns and someone going through a table in the first half-hour. We haven’t even managed to have a complete match yet.
We take a look back at Ellsworth winning his contract and title shot. I’d say that the production crew made this look like the most epic and inspiring moment in the world, but honestly the actual footage itself was pretty fucking awesome.
Wow, I just saw an American advert for the USO that stopped just short of demanding that everyone drop to their knees and orally pleasure the nearest soldier. If you guys love your military so much, why don’t you just marry it?
Well, here’s Dean Ambrose, and the triumphant return of the Ambrose Asylum. To be honest, this has been one of the best interview segments in a long time. He introduces James Ellsworth, who comes out to the ring. Dean congratulates James, and then says that he needs some new ring gear. You shut your whore mouth, Ambrose.
Dean then asks if Ellsworth ever thought that this would ever be possible. Ellworth says that he never thought it would happen, but he kept showing up and showing up, just like a stalker. He says that he owes Dean a hell of a lot, but Ambrose says he doesn’t owe him anything (then gives him a list of chores to do). He then asks Ellsworth who he’s rooting for at TLC, and Ellsworth answers pretty diplomatically: he’d love for Dean to win, but he figures that having beaten Styles three times, he stands a pretty decent chance at wresting the championship away from him.
Styles makes his way to the ring, having reached the point where he has seen enough. He asks Dean if this is what he calls quality entertainment. He hops up on the announce table so that Ranallo can get a good look at his sweet butt, and then mocks Ellsworth (because at this stage it’s become almost like a reflex). Ambrose points out that Styles was beaten three times by Ellsworth, which fires Styles up.
AJ says that he demands respect, and that he’s going to beat that respect out of Ambrose on Sunday. He delivers a short monologue about how much he’s going to hurt Dean: it’s not quite Shakespeare, but it gets the message across. He says that after he’s done kicking Ambrose’s ass he’s going to straight-up murder James Ellsworth, making everyone who watches TLC guilty of purchasing a snuff film. Well, I watched WrestleMania 30 based on the promise I was going to watch the Undertaker actually die live on television, so it’s about time WWE actually delivered a genuine murder.
Dean says that it’s way too easy to get into Styles’ head, and that he’s never seen AJ more rattled. Styles needs to get his mind right, because this is going to get really serious really fast.
Styles decides that there’s no reason that this segment shouldn’t devolve into a brawl like every other one so far (blame Becky and Alexa for starting this trend), and shoves Ellsworth into Dean, the distraction allowing him to dispatch Ambrose, hurling him into the steel steps. He gets back into the ring, where Ellsworth is waiting for him. He then proceeds to smack James around before hitting him with a ladder, then whacking him across the back with a steel chair. Dean has apparently vanished, and Styles hits a Styles Clash from the stairs to the floor! Jesus, that looked sick. I now feel kind of bad about that whole snuff-film joke.
After the break, Dean is following Ellsworth as he’s taken via stretcher to an ambulance. Dean actually rides with Ellsworth to the hospital, and keeps saying ‘this is my fault’. Wow, AJ managed to teach Ambrose that actions have consequences.
Am I watching this on slow-motion or something?
Here’s Kane, who might possibly manage to have a match with an actual finish: it would be the very first one tonight. He’s followed to the ring by Harper, and this should be a fun little brawl.
Bell rings, and the big men lock up. Kane shoves Harper to the floor, and lets Luke back up. Harper latches on a headlock, gets shot off the ropes and then shoulder-tackles Kane, who remains on his feet. Harper tries another tackle, with no result, and then gets knocked to the canvas as Kane hits a tackle. Luke catches the Big Red Machine with a volley of strikes, but Kane just powers through. There’s a face-off, and then they start brawling again, before Harper rolls out of the ring and hangs Kane up. Kane big boots Harper, then clotheslines him out of the ring, into a commercial.
When we come back, Harper has another headlock on Kane in the centre of the ring. Kane wrenches back on the man’s hair, then hits a jawbreaker. Harper counters a clothesline, hits a kick to the knee and then another to the skull, getting a two count. Big DDT off the ropes from Kane, and both men take a moment to reach their feet. Now Kane builds momentum, hitting clotheslines and then a sidewalk slam for a two count of his own.
Kane hits consecutive clotheslines in two corners, but then runs off the ropes into a dropkick. Harper squashes Kane in the corner twice, then hits some strikes to the body and then head. Kane manages to powerbomb Harper out of the corner for a near-fall. He tries a clothesline; Harper counters and goes for his Discus Clothesline; Kane ducks and runs right into a spinning side slam for another near-fall.
Harper locks a headlock in, but Kane back-suplexes his way out of it. Kane heads up to the top rope, misses a clothesline and eats a superkick, barely managing to kick out of it. Now Harper heads up to the top, but Kane catches him with an uppercut before following him up there. Kane superplexes Harper off the top, then sits up to meet Harper for a slugfest. Harper gets the better of Kane, but suddenly eats a clothesline for the first clean win of the night.
Nice to see Kane and Harper rising above this Becky/Alexa brawling bullshit. Match was slow but hard-hitting: didn’t seem to be all that much point to it. 2 Stars.
Renee is backstage with Becky Lynch, barely holding back a huge ‘I told you so’ regarding her dismissal. Apparently Becky has no major injuries, and we’re told that Alexa has made the challenge for Sunday’s match to be a Tables Match! Becky calls Bliss a bitch, and accepts the match! Fuck yes!
To be fair, a guy who looks like Harper kind of demands your immediate attention
Here come the Wyatt Family. Well, here comes Bray and the guy who’s only behind him because he wants to check which part of Wyatt’s back would be the best place for the knife he’s going to plant in it. And here comes American Alpha, who are going to be fed to yet another team and who can only hope to look good doing it.
Orton and Jordan start things off. Jordan applies a waistlock, which is reversed by Randy, starting us off with some nice amateur wrestling before Orton hits an elbow. Jordan reverses an Irish whip, runs into another elbow but then hits two nice deep arm drags, keeping the arm locked. Orton kicks his way out again, then tags in Bray. Wyatt is rolled up, then takes a waistlock takedown. Jordan forces Wyatt into the corner and lets Gable come in to hit shoulder thrusts. Jordan tags back in, and both members of American Alpha hit stereo dropkicks to Bray, sending him out of the ring to have a temper tantrum.
Okay, I loved that whole bit. You had Jordan and Gable use amateur wrestling and incredible teamwork to totally outclass Bray: a notable singles wrestler with less experience as part of a team, and especially when teaming with Randy. Having teams beat singles wrestlers, even when they’re lower down on the ladder than those singles athletes, is something that the WWE really needs to do more of, and that exchange was an example of how well-done it can be.
Bray comes back into the ring, and manages to gain the advantage when he ducks the crossbody, letting Jordan fly right into the ring ropes. Orton comes in, and tosses Jordan violently off the ropes again before locking in a sleeper hold. Jordan reaches out for a tag, almost making his way there, but Randy is able to force him back. Jason slugs his way out, and manages to get a blind tag to Gable. Orton didn’t see it, and only realises it when Gable leaps off the top onto him, taking him down to the mat. Gable smashes Bray off the apron and tackles Orton, hitting strikes.
Orton sets Gable up on the top rope, only for Gable to pull Orton over the ropes in an armbar! The ref breaks up the hold, checking on Randy, and the distraction allows Bray to shove Gable off the top rope, letting him crash and burn on the floor below. We go to another break, and when we come back Bray hits the body avalanche to Gable in the corner. He tosses Gable through the ropes onto the apron, but Gable hammers him with strikes before Wyatt DDTs him against the apron, getting a two count back in the ring.
Randy comes back in, applying another sleeper hold. Heath and Rhyno are watching backstage, and beardless-Rhyno is way creepier than Bray Wyatt ever could be. Bray runs off the ropes, coming back right into a huge dropkick from Gable. Bray beats there, knocking Jordan off the ropes before squishing Gable in his own corner. Ura-nage plants Gable, but he manages to kick out at two. Orton tags in as Jordan gets himself back on the apron.
Randy puts Gable up on the top rope, like he didn’t learn anything from the last time this happened. Orton looks for his superplex, and is fought off a little before managing to hit it from the top rope. Both men had a lot taken out of them from this, and Orton managed to hurt himself so much that Gable is able to get the tag to Jordan! Jordan rushes into the ring at the same time as Wyatt, but the American Alpha member takes Bray down again and again, knocking Randy off the apron before Alphaplexing Wyatt!
Jordan runs into a boot, but catches Wyatt with a Saito suplex for two! Orton rushes the ring and gets tossed out again, with Gable hitting the cannonball off the apron to put him out of action! Wyatt takes Jordan down with his vicious crossbody, getting a two count. Jason counters the ura-nage, hitting a German suplex, and then…yep, we get the Wyatt Interference, and here’s Luke Harper. After a while, this gets kind of old. I mean, either totally ignore the guy or let the ref see him hit you, Jordan: there’s not that much else he can do to you. Seriously: imagine a SmackDown where people actually used Harper to win via DQ so much that Bray had to stop him from coming out.
But no, Jordan’s decided that being distracted is exactly what he wants to do right now, and stares at Harper’s glorious beard for a few more seconds before turning around to get put in position for a Sister Abigail by Bray. And Gable dropkicks Bray away from Jordan! They set Wyatt up for Grand Amplitude, but Randy drops Gable with an RKO! Jordan spears Orton, but misses the spear to Wyatt as Harper pulls him out of the way! Wyatt hits Sister Abigail for the win!
First of all, great match. Second, if the Wyatts are going to be such a terrifying force, then they shouldn’t need interference to win. If they’re going to take that route, we should have seen more of American Alpha being on the verge of victory through their brilliant teamwork at the end, making the point that superior tag team tactics can’t be beaten by anything but cheating in such a match. Still, this was really good. 3.5 Stars.
Rhyno and Slater are interviewed post-match, asking how they’re going to prepare for the title defence this Sunday, but AJ Styles interrupts to be a bit of a dick. Wow, it takes a special kind of dumbass to intentionally piss off two guys who are used to fighting together. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see Rhyno and Heath beat the unrelenting fuck out of Styles, because suddenly Ambrose is back, and he is nettled.
Ambrose beats Styles all over the entire room as Rhyno and Heath alternate between calling for help and telling them to keep fighting. Man, the Tag Team Champs are some complicated people.
This was a really good show, despite the fact that there were only two full matches. We’re getting a Tables Match for the Women’s Championship, which is awesome, and we have new number one contenders for the Tag Team Championships. Dean is finally taking AJ super-seriously, and even Nikki and Carmella can’t be in the same place without trying to murder each other. Really, SmackDown’s done a great job of getting us in gear for TLC so quickly after Survivor Series. I, for one, am definitely excited for the show. 10/10. See you next week.
Tags: AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, American Alpha, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater and Rhyno, James Ellsworth, jbl, Kalisto, Kane, Luke Harper, Maryse, Mauro Ranallo, Nikki Bella, Randy Orton, Shane McMahon, smackdown live, The Miz, The Wyatt Family, TLC, Tom Phillips