Tally ho, chaps. David Spain here, the British correspondent of Inside Pulse. After a fun show on Sunday, the landscape of SmackDown Live has changed quite a bit: the Wyatts are champions, Alexa Bliss is champion and James Ellsworth is apparently capable of ripping out my damn heart and stomping on it.
Anyway, on with the show.
We see a quick look back at Ellsworth’s maniacal heel turn, complete with Daniel Bryan and Renee Young freaking out about it. It turns out that Ellsworth thinks he can genuinely beat AJ Styles, and that Dean Ambrose doesn’t care about being robbed of the World Championship. That boy ain’t right. But, right or not, he’s got a match for the WWE World Championship against Styles tonight.
The show kicks off with AJ Styles making his way down to the ring, one leg in a brace. He and Dean put on a hell of a show on Sunday, easily the match of the night. AJ grabs a mic, and then pauses to let the crowd boo him. He says that he wants to address the elephant in the room, and shows us a picture of the hole in his tights. I’ve heard the expression ‘arse hanging out of your trousers’ before, but that was a very impressive visual demonstration.
Styles says that he did everything that he said that he was going to do, and most of all he stopped him from getting back the WWE World Championship. He says that his injured foot means that he’s not medically cleared to wrestle James Ellsworth tonight. This brings Ellsworth out to the ring, and I can’t even look at him. Ellsworth mocks Styles’ injury, asking if it’s even genuine or if he’s scared that he’ll take the World Championship away from him.
Ellsworth even says that, if it wasn’t for him, Styles wouldn’t even be the Champion. Styles laughs that off, and even calls Ellsworth out for screwing Ambrose over, and says that he doesn’t envy anyone that Dean Ambrose is mad at. Speaking of which, Dean Ambrose’s music starts playing, and Dean makes his way to the ring. Upon entering, he immediately plants Ellsworth with Dirty Deeds, and then leaves. Styles seems to think that this is hysterical. I just wonder for how long Dean’s going to keep this up.
Joining a cult is typically nothing like this
The Wyatts are now on my television screen, and apparently ‘they’re here’. This leads us right into the SmackDown Tag Team Championships match. I have to say, I quite like the little bit of Orton nostalgia at the start of the entrance. Also, are they genuinely making Harper carry the belts? Because that seems like advanced laziness.
Heath Slater and Rhyno arrive, and I’ve got a great feeling about this one, boys. If I was Rhyno, I’d just be goring the fuck out of everyone, constantly; WWE 2k17 has taught me that this is a winning strategy. But instead, Slater starts off against Randy Orton. Orton applies a waistlock, which Slater turns into a headlock. Orton counters with a headlock of his own, is shot off to run the ropes and runs into a few stiff shots from Slater.
Orton avoids being backdropped by the former champ, instead slamming him back-first to the mat. He makes the tag to Bray Wyatt, who runs right into boot to the face and eats a crossbody which allows Slater to tag in Rhyno! Rhyno comes in hard and fast, clotheslining Wyatt before taking the big man over with a belly-to-belly suplex; he’s still got plenty of power. Rhyno goes for the Gore, but Bray rolls out of the ring. Thanks for nothing, 2K17.
After a break, Wyatt has Rhyno in a chinlock. Rhyno tries to punch his way out, but takes a hard ride into a corner for his troubles. Huge clothesline and a back senton splash gets two for Wyatt, and he tags in Orton. Randy hits a couple of hard stomps to Rhyno’s gut, but Rhyno’s still fighting back…until Orton dropkicks him back down to the mat.
Orton throws Rhyno into the corner, but the Manbeast comes right back out with a hard shoulder block, and he tags in Heath! Slater goes right after Orton, hitting fists and a knee and a leg lariat before hitting a neckbreaker for a near-fall on Orton! Heath knocks Wyatt off the apron, but the distraction allows Randy to hit a powerslam, almost getting two.
Wyatt drags Rhyno through the ropes before tagging in, and walks right into a huge right hand from Slater! Wyatt staggers, then clotheslines the fuck out of Heath. Sister Abigail is set up, but Wyatt tags Orton in and uses it as a set-up to throw Slater into an RKO. That’s a pretty nice double team.
It had to be done, and it was probably for the best that they did it quickly. Only real stand-out was the new double team manoeuvre. 2 Stars.
Kalisto is backstage, getting interviewed. Apparently the guy asked for a rematch against Baron Corbin. That son of a bitch is responsible for making me watch a Baron Corbin match, and I hope he dies out there.
This was a real short case for Detective Nikki
Here’s Carmella, who apparently will narc on someone after being beaten in one match. She grabs a microphone and says that whilst she did lose her match on Sunday, she at least revealed the truth. If she cared so little about keeping the secret, then why keep it until Sunday? Carmella says that Natalya’s jealous. Jesus, WWE: women have emotions and reasons for fighting that are sometimes more complex that jealousy.
Natalya comes out, looking kinda pissed at what’s been said. She then charges the ring and goes right after Natalya and Carmella. Nat ends up chasing Carmella right into the backstage area, and the cameras follow her there. Man, she just started walking? You can’t catch her like that.
Nat ends up walking right into Nikki Bella, and tries to talk her way out of it. Nikki just walks away without saying anything. So…she just came out to stare at Natalya for a few seconds? Solid use of her time.
Somewhere else in the building, Baron Corbin is being interviewed about Kalisto. He compares Kalisto to a mosquito, and I guess it would be cool if Kalisto injected Corbin with malaria tonight.
Where my Usos at?
Oh yay: it’s the Ascension vs. the Hype Bros. Apparently the Ascension have been trying to make the case that they’re now relevant, and I don’t know anyone that believes that. Even Viktor doesn’t believe it. Ryder and Rawley have also been talking about how they’re going to win the Tag Team Championships, so I guess everyone’s just lying to themselves from now on.
Ryder and Viktor start off. Viktor attacks Mojo and suffers for it with an assault from Ryder. Viktor regains control after Ryder goes after Konor, tagging Konor in once Zack’s contained. Konor beats on Ryder on the outside for a bit, then brings him back into the ring. The Ascension retain control with frequent tags and rest holds, until Ryder counters a suplex into a hangman’s neckbreaker and tags in Rawley.
Rawley does his hard-hitting offence, including a full nelson slam that almost gets them the win. Hype Ryder nets the Hype Bros the win.
This was just a match to remind us that there are other tag teams. Unfortunately, this was not accomplished using any teams that anyone cares about. The match itself was fine. 2 Stars.
Here’s Maryse along with the Miz: the man who makes me want to spend my entire food budget on suits. Stylish bastard. Miz trolls the audience by asking why they’re not chanting ‘you deserve it’. He then gets on with the show, crowing about finally no longer having to face Dolph Ziggler. But not everyone had a good night, he says, and introduces Dean Ambrose.
Dean makes his way to the ring for the second time that night. Ambrose actually seems pretty calm for the moment, but I’m sure that the Miz will fix that. Miz asks how angry he is, making sure to remind him how angry he should be. Dean says that he’s not angry, and that if he was then everyone would know about it. He says that he is surprised that someone who owes him so much would turn on him, apparently forgetting about Seth Rollins.
Miz calls Dean out, saying that he was using James Ellsworth to regain the World Championship, and that he can’t deny that. He says that, thanks to Ambrose laying Ellsworth out, we can’t see Ellsworth take on Ambrose in a match. Dean says that it’s always surprising when someone tries to piss him off, and starts getting in Miz’s face. Miz ducks behind Maryse, which apparently is enough to stop Ambrose. Yep: because he’s a psychopath and a gentleman.
Miz presents Dean with the first ever Miz Participation Award. And the crowd starts chanting ‘you deserve it’. Good for them: that is genuinely funny. Also, I think Miz is about to die. Dean starts moving towards him, and then Daniel Bryan shows up. If he makes Ambrose the number one contender for the Intercontinental Champion, then that is the most ironic shit I’ll have ever seen in my life.
Holy shit, he makes the match.
Daniel Bryan is a fucking troll.
Here’s Kalisto, next in a long line of people who make poor decisions. Baron Corbin makes his way out to the ring, and we’ve got a rematch.
Kalisto applies a waistlock to Corbin. Baron powers out of it, tossing Kalisto into the corner. Kalisto handsprings away and tries to go after Corbin, but Corbin slides out of the ring, runs back inside and ploughs the fuck through Kalisto with a shoulder block. Baron hits forearms to the back of the head, then turns Kalisto over to continue hitting him in the face.
Corbin throws Kalisto out of the ring, then waits for him to get counted out. Kalisto just beats the count, then rolls out onto the apron, keeping Corbin at bay with kicks before low-bridging Corbin and then moonsaulting off the top onto him! He hits a kick the face of Corbin, hits a roundhouse, a tornado DDT, a spike-a-rana for a near fall! Kalisto goes up to the top, lands on his feet from a moonsault that Corbin avoided, goes for a headscissors which abruptly turns into the End of Days.
Lot packed into a short match: no rest holds or delays here. Kalisto looked great, and the finish was smart. 2.5 stars.
Nikki Bella is walking around backstage, I guess to find someone else to stare at. Suddenly, someone called Sophia Grace runs up and hugs her. Wow, is Nikki taking advice from a thirteen year old? This is the most hamfisted advertising I have ever seen, and I have seen…other advertising that WWE has done, I guess. All it’s made me do is hate this thirteen year old singer, which isn’t what I planned to do this morning.
If Breezango were real cops, Gable would have been murdered by now
My God, a third look at the Tag Team division? Oh, but it’s a singles match? Unnatural. Tyler Breeze will be taking on Chad Gable, presumably to help answer the question of who’s going to be fed to the Wyatts next in order to add drama and tragedy to Orton’s inevitable betrayal.
Oh, I spoke too soon. Apparently this match has come about because the Fashion Police gave Gable and Jordan tickets. See, a well-adjusted person would just realise that they’d already won the confrontation, because they aren’t dressed as strippergram cops and giving people fake tickets for perceived fashion violations. Or because they’re not Tyler Breeze or Fandango.
Honestly, the fact that Chad Gable accepted this match almost makes him a bully.
Gable throws Breeze, then monkey-flips him. Next, he armbars Tyler over the top rope, then crossbodies him out of the ring. A distraction by Fandango allows Breeze to gain some control, knocking Gable down.
Back in the ring, Tyler rains blows down on Gable, then hits a back suplex before applying a chinlock. Gable escapes, then skins the cat to send Breeze out of the ring. Alphaplex to Tyler back in the ring, then Gable flies at him off the top rope. Breeze is able to send Gable out of the ring. Fandango tries to attack Chad, but instead eats a belly-to-belly from Jordan. Back in the ring, a German suplex gets the pin for Chad Gable.
A nice display of what Gable’s capable of. 2 Stars.
Here’s the new SmackDown Women’s Champion, Alexa Bliss. I keep saying it, but it bears repeating: Bliss went from being seemingly the first contender to be fed to a new Champion to becoming a credible threat to capturing the Championship, putting in great work all the way through. And whilst I love Becky (and had bet on her in the TRA Open, more importantly), I can’t deny feeling really happy at seeing Alexa with the belt.
Bliss says that she’s proved that there are no happy endings. I mean…surely except for her? Is she still not happy? She calls Becky out on calling her a bitch, saying that this bitch now runs the entire division.
Becky makes her way to the ring, looking businesslike. Well, businesslike for a wrestler: not like in a pantsuit or anything. She tells Bliss to shut up, and admits that she didn’t get the job done. But she says she can’t stand that Alexa is leader of the SmackDown Live Women’s Division. And it’s one thing to get to the top; it’s quite another to stay here.
Bliss says that, unlike Becky, she’s not that worried about making sure people like her. And she says that, whatever Lynch calls her, she’s going to have to call her ‘champ’ too. Becky says that she wants her rematch now, and Alexa agrees…before ducking out of the ring with the belt. Three title matches did seem a little too good to be true.
Royal Rumble is going to be a bloodbath
Here’s Dean Ambrose for the third time tonight, ready to take on the Miz for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. The Miz makes his way out too, accompanied by Maryse. We do the announcements with both participants in the ring (#BigMatchFeel), and then we get things underway.
Dean and Miz lock up, trading holds before Miz is sent off the ropes and takes Ambrose down. Ambrose follows that with a hip toss and a headlock takeover, and is sent off the ropes himself, hitting a shoulder block before blocking the Miz’s hip toss attempt and hitting a second hip toss and then a crossbody.
Ambrose clotheslines Miz out of the ring, then makes to dive through the ropes onto him before Maryse gets in the way. Come on, Dean: if she’s going to stand in the way then she accepts the risk of you hitting her. Ambrose just rolls out of the ring and jumps Miz once Maryse has gone, hurling him into the barricade as we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, the Miz hits Bryan-esque running dropkicks to Dean in the corner before hitting the Awesome Clothesline and getting up to the top rope. Dean catches Miz with a boot to the stomach as the champ comes off the top, almost scoring with Dirty Deeds. The Miz is able to counter, but Ambrose kicks things into a higher gear, hitting Miz with shots from every direction before felling him with a clothesline.
A running forearm strikes Miz, followed by a bulldog, with a magistral pin almost finishing the job. Ambrose heads up to the top rope, hops over the Miz, counters the Skull-Crushing Finale, goes for Dirty Deeds but is driven into a corner. Miz is able to hit a stinging kick to Dean’s leg, then a dropkick to the same limb as it is draped over the rope. Miz keeps going after the left leg of Ambrose, then attempts the Figure Four. Ambrose reverses it, but takes a shinbreaker from the Miz in return.
Miz continues to work over the leg, but Ambrose counters another shinbreaker into a jacknife cover. He comes off the top in a front dropkick, but Miz catches Dean’s feet and locks in the Figure Four! Ambrose is able to grab the bottom rope, forcing a break to the hold, but is almost unable to stand. He low-bridges a charging Miz, and then throws himself at the champ in a topé suicida!
Ambrose throws the Miz back into the ring, gets kicked in the face, goes for the Lunatic Lariat, almost gets caught in the Skull-Crushing finale by the Miz but rolls him up for a near-fall! Miz hits a DDT for a near-fall of his own, and beats Ambrose to his feet, hitting Yes! Kicks to Dean’s chest. Dean ducks the last, getting a roll-up and then hitting the Lunatic Lariat! Ambrose heads up to the top, only to be caught by the Miz. Dean counters a superplex, headbutting the Miz off the ropes. Maryse crotches Dean on the ropes, and Dean takes a running knee from the Miz but he still kicks out!
And suddenly Ellsworth is making his way to the ring, trying to tell the referee what Maryse did. Unfortunately, the distraction ensures that the ref doesn’t see Ambrose roll up the Miz…and Ambrose is completely distracted by Ellsworth (in the middle of a Championship match, no less), and takes a Skull-Crushing Finale for a Miz win.
Great match, with some impressive chemistry. The use of Ellsworth is still very effective, although any wrestler who is distracted in the middle of a title match doesn’t deserve a damn title anyway. 4 Stars.
Nice epilogue to TLC tonight, and there’s some breathing space between now and Royal Rumble, which allows for a proper conclusion rather than racing to prepare for the next show. Pretty great show. 8/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, American Alpha, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Chad Gable, Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater, Hype Bros, James Ellsworth, jbl, Kalisto, Luke Harper, Maryse, Mauro Ranallo, Natalya, Nikki Bella, Randy Orton, Rhyno, Shane McMahon, smackdown, smackdown live, The Ascension, The Miz, The Wyatt Family, Tom Phillips, Tyler Breeze