Hey there, guys. Yes, it is I, your SmackDown reviewer. And as I have my sweet-ass herbal tea and endless patience for anything that isn’t that fucking Sherlock finale (the only real mystery at this point being how something so pretentious is even able to exist). You want to see something that’s decently written, handles challenging material well and doesn’t make you hope for the deaths of all main characters? Try Passengers.
Or, say, SmackDown?
Looks like we’re kicking things off with Shane McMahon, and it is nice to see that silver-ish fox back on the air. The crowd’s very into him as well. Shane starts by hyping up the Royal Rumble and listing the big names competing in it, right up until he gets to Dolph Ziggler. Way to sell that PPV, Shane. He also announces that SmackDown will be having its WWE Championship decided inside an Elimination Chamber four weeks from now. I guess SmackDown got that show in the divorce.
AJ Styles practically teleports to the stage at that news to protest this latest attempt to assassinate him. To be honest, if my boss or supervisor or Dean or whatever told me to go and fight five dudes in a big metal cage, I’d be a little mad about it too. Styles bitches some more, but seeing as how the only way this guy gets what he wants is by cancelling the year’s only Elimination Chamber match, I reckon he shouldn’t bother.
Shane reminds Styles that he and Bryan are in charge, and says that he wants the best people inside that Chamber, and Styles is absolutely one of the best. And AJ apparently really doesn’t want to fight in this match for some reason (possibly because its every promo tells us how it will end careers and shorten lives), even threatening to take himself back to Japan.
John Cena arrives, creating a storm of competing chants. Styles cuts John off before Cena can even get through his first sentence, accusing him of getting the title match through a favour from his brother-in-law. He then turns his attention and fury back onto Shane, saying that all he’s doing is proving that Shane doesn’t respect AJ Styles. He asks who’s going to be out there next to steal his spotlight, and that essentially summons the Miz and Maryse.
Miz praises Shane for his suggestion of an Elimination Chamber match, saying that no matter whether he wins the Rumble or the Chamber, he will be both Intercontinental Champion and WWE Champion. Styles says that Miz is delusional, and advises him to stay away from AJ Styles. Miz mocks Styles’ accent and his hair in the same sentence, and says that he was beating John Cena before beating John Cena was cool. He claims that he made the Intercontinental Title as prestigious as it is now, and was in fact the hot topic of SmackDown Live.
Cena stirs the pot a little, that drama-loving bitch, and Styles seems to take the bait, turning on the Miz even more. Admittedly, Miz’s personality doesn’t help him out. Styles implies that Miz is impotent, and John Cena’s ‘oh snap, bro’ reaction is amazingly overplayed. Shane stops the fight before it gets good, and makes the match: AJ Styles vs. The Miz.
Aw, shitting fuck: Jerry Lawler’s back. There’s probably a metaphor or a simile about tumours or cancer or being molested by forest bears which could apply here, but I can’t even summon the energy.
When we come back, Shane McMahon is backstage and Ambrose runs into him, demanding a new title belt. That’s right: fuck you, Cody Rhodes. He’d also like a match against Randy Orton tonight, and I can’t imagine the Viper being too happy about Ambrose distracting him from his Monte Cristo-esque path to vengeance.
Heels Gon’ Heel
Meanwhile, Miz and Styles are in the ring and there goes the bell. John Cena is at ringside and on commentary. Miz and Styles exchange holds, countering and reverse-countering to begin the match. Miz finally breaks a hammerlock by grabbing the ropes. Miz manages to force Styles back into a bridge, who forces the momentum back against the Miz, putting him down on the mat. Miz is pushed into the corner and takes immediate advantage, going after Styles with blows. Styles catches Miz with a dropkick, however, and takes a moment to pose at John Cena.
Styles hammers on Miz in the corner, bringing him out with a vicious backbreaker. Miz reverses an Irish whip and catches the Champ with a knee to the gut. Now it’s the Miz hitting blows to Styles, but hip toss attempt almost winds up with Miz in a Calf-Crusher. He escapes and tries to roll Styles up, but takes a forearm to the face. Miz almost ends up taking a Phenomenal Forearm, but a distraction by Maryse allows the Miz to boot AJ out onto the floor and into a commercial.
When we come back, Styles is thrown into a corner and takes some Bryan-style dropkicks and an Awesome Clothesline. Miz comes off the top rope, right into a boot to the gut from Styles. AJ wants the Styles Clash, but Miz counters it; Styles counters Miz’s reversal into another Styles Clash attempt, and this time Miz has to slam his heel into AJ’s skull to force the Champ to drop him. Miz catches Styles with a thumb to the eye and a dropkick, almost pinning the World Heavyweight Champion.
Miz goes for the Skull-Crushing Finale, almost getting rolled up. A Figure-Four Attempt sees Miz get kicked out onto the apron, and a Pele Kick takes him right to the outside. Styles follows that up with a knee right to the face in order to finish the job, then throws Miz at Cena. Cena catches the Miz, realises that he’s touching the Miz, and throws the Miz into a barricade. Styles tries to jump a distracted Cena, and the ref decides he’s too old for this shit, and calls the match.
Always nice to see some heel-on-heel action. Miz, once again, has proved that he is compatible with everyone. Wish we’d seen more. 3 Stars.
Cena chases Styles, but gets cut off by the Miz. Miz takes an AA whilst Styles gets into position for the Phenomenal Forearm. Cena ducks the Forearm, gets Styles up onto his shoulders and delivers another Attitude Adjustment.
Natalya is not well
Here’s Nikki Bella, who is here to address the actions which took place last week. She calls Natalya out immediately, wanting to finish what they started. Nat doesn’t show, and Nikki says she’s not surprised. She calls Natalya a backstabber, and suddenly Natalya is in the crowd, speaking to her on a mic. She tells Nikki to watch the titantron.
Natalya shows up on the tron backstage, hassling the hardworking folks trying to sell merchandise to people who wanted none of this segment. She points out that the Nikki Bella merchandise is next to the John Cena merchandise, like that’s some kind of organisational faux-pas even though their surnames are pretty close together alphabetically. She complains that she has no merchandise, despite the fact that neither Ambrose nor Bliss, two actual champions, have shirts or hats there either.
Apparently Natalya thinks that Nikki and Bret are both in on some scheme and says that they’re going to die alone. This isn’t so much ridiculous heel rationalisation as it is reminiscent of visiting a relative who’s slowly slipping into dementia, and that’s going to make it weird when Nikki beats her up for about five minutes. Natalya follows it up by stealing a bunch of merchandise, more or less completing the ‘mentally unstable’ aspect of this storyline.
Then Nikki shows up and attacks her, despite the fact that Natalya is obviously in need of counselling, therapy or institutionalisation. Meanwhile, the people who skipped out of this segment are forced to watch it anyway and the security in this place are really terrible at keeping two small women apart from each other.
In another bit of backstage, Alexa Bliss is being interviewed by Not-Renee. Bliss is asked whether she is afraid of Becky, and she replies that all she wants to do is put an end to this endless title chase.
“For all evils there are two remedies – time and an RKO”
Here’s Dean Ambrose, ready for his revenge match against Randy Orton. The Wyatt Family arrive, neither Harper nor Bray yet aware that Randy stays up all night, watching them while they sleep. Occasionally he runs his hand through Harper’s hair or Bray’s beard, but only to let himself know that he could kill them if he wanted to. Sometimes Bray thinks he feels something and almost wakes up, but he’s never caught Randy yet.
Randy also uses the non-communal foods in the Wyatt compound fridge and says nothing, because he’s a bastard.
Bray is glaring at Harper due to the superkick last week, and then whispers something in Randy’s ear. It’s probably not anything important; he just wants Harper to think that he’s talking shit about him. He probably just said, ‘if you win we should totally get McDonald’s after this’. But Harper’s hurting now, and that’s the sort of thing that Orton gets off on.
Orton immediately tries to roll up Ambrose, who kicks out at two. Dean has no idea of any of the internal turmoil in the Wyatt Family, by the way; he’s just pissed at Randy and wants to fight him. Whether or not Randy slips up and accidentally calls Dean ‘Bray’ whilst he’s choking him is anyone’s guess. But then it’s equally likely that Ambrose ends up calling Randy ‘Renee’ in that same situation, so I guess it’s possible that either man could be embarrassed by the end of this match.
Ambrose catches Orton with chops, then with a crossbody. Randy ducks out of the ring, creating some separation and to hang out with Bray some more in front of Harper. He eventually gets back into the ring, locking up with Ambrose. They exchange some holds and counters, with Ambrose working the arm of Orton. Headlock takeover to Randy, who vines his legs around Dean’s head, and then hits a takeover of his own.
Dean gets to his feet, shoots Orton off the ropes and is knocked to the ground. He catches Randy off the ropes with a drop toe-hold before fishhooking the nose and hitting a crossface. Orton comes back off the ropes with clothesline, then hangs Dean onto the top rope from a suplex. Randy delivers the stomps to Dean, following it up with a sleeper hold.
Ambrose fights out of the hold, but is sent into the corner. He catches Orton with a shoulder, then a boot, then flies off the top rope with an elbow drop for two. Dirty Deeds is countered, and Orton slithers out of the ring again. Ambrose follows him, reverses Randy’s attempt to throw him back in, and hits the Lunatic Lariat. A distraction from the Wyatts allows Orton to regain control, finally dropping Dean Ambrose onto the announce table.
When we come back from a commercial break, Dean is trying to fight his way away from Orton, scoring with a clothesline to fell Randy. He regains his feet slowly, hits some forearms and then another clothesline. Swinging neckbreaker brings Orton down for a two-count, and then there’s a slugfest. Orton staggers Ambrose with an uppercut, and counters the Lunatic Lariat into a powerslam.
Bray calls for the RKO, which Orton apparently thinks means ‘superplex’. Either that or his revenge will be passive-aggressive as well as violent. Ambrose fights out of the superplex; Orton dodges Ambrose’s dive at him, then counters Dirty Deeds. Dean shoves Orton’s RKO attempt away, takes a kick to the chest and brings Randy down with a Lunatic Lariat!
Orton takes a forearm but counters the bulldog. Ambrose manages to reverse the Vintage DDT, throws Orton out of the ring and dives through the ropes onto Harper! Orton catches Ambrose on his way back into the ring, using the Vintage DDT to smash Ambrose face-first into the mat.
Suddenly, Luke Harper rushes into the ring, wanting to go after Ambrose himself. Randy and Bray both yell at him, making him leave before he causes another disqualification. Poor Harper: he just wanted to be cool and do the right thing and make Bray love him again, but he just made them more mad. Ambrose rolls Orton up, and that’s the win.
Not exactly sure if that’s the sweet revenge that Dean was looking for, but he seems happy enough. This was pretty good, and it seems like they might be burning this candle until WrestleMania time. 2.5 Stars.
Harper pretty much storms into the ring right afterwards, and Bray has to get between him and Randy again. Is Randy’s whole MO just to hope that Harper keeps kicking Bray in the head? Orton and Harper actually start going at it, with Bray desperately trying to keep the peace, and Bray punches Harper! I’ve got a feeling he’s been holding that in for a solid week.
Harper sticks to his guns, telling Bray that ‘he (Orton) did this’. Well, I mean…yeah. Bray actually appears to consider this, challenging Randy to hit him. Orton pretends to pussy out, all the while imagining revenge-fucking Bray’s corpse as a coping mechanism. In a parallel universe, the RKO has already been unleashed, and Harper’s dead just from being in its blast radius.
Luke Harper storms off in a big old huff, like I used to when I couldn’t convince Mum that my baby sister was pure evil and we were living in some kind of The Omen situation. Bray and Orton stand awkwardly in the ring, neither of them entirely sure whether McDonald’s is off the table, but very sure that Harper’s not coming if it isn’t.
Not-Renee is backstage with Becky Lynch, stirring the SmackDown Women’s Championship pot. Be sure to keep that interviewer away from the Wyatts right now: she could start a killing spree.
One Dolph Ziggler elbow drop = years of tobacco and fast food
Oh, for fuck’s sake, it’s Jerry Lawler without a shirt, telling jokes. I hate everything about that sentence, apart from maybe the word ‘fuck’. This is one of the million themed talk shows that are somehow still on the WWE’s books, and it’s called the King’s Court. It’s certainly no Carlito’s Cabana.
Dolph Ziggler is introduced and comes out. If he beats up Lawler then I retract almost everything I’ve ever said about the guy (certain nouns and adjectives will remain unchanged). King asks why Dolph’s being such a dick right now, managing to make another stupid joke and receiving no response. King says that a new attitude won’t win Ziggler any matches, despite decades of WWE tradition dictating otherwise. Dolph still refuses to answer.
King decides that showing some footage of Dolph losing a match will absolutely defuse the tension of this situation and cause Ziggler to open right up to him. We see Ziggler take out Apollo Crews and Kalisto, looking badass enough that King’s morality lecture seems pretty false. Dolph again pleads the Fifth, looking to leave the ring, and King decides to make one more joke at his expense.
This actually brings Ziggler back into the ring and talking, so King is apparently a brilliant psychologist. Dolph, talking like he’s trying to be Hannibal Lecter but coming across more as a sedated moron, says that he knew that Lawler would try to make fun of him tonight, so he brought along some footage of his own. If this is Lawler giving it to an underage girl then this is the most elaborate episode of To Catch a Predator ever and we need to put every belt on Ziggler, including Alexa’s and Charlotte’s.
We see a flashback to 2012, with Ziggler beating up King. I guess, after the idea that Dolph was working for the feds and the statute of limitations on statutory is super-long in Memphis and Chris Hansen’s music was about to hit, I wasn’t going to be satisfied by anything on that screen. But that was especially disappointing.
Ziggler claims that the elbows he dropped on King led to Lawler’s heart attack, because apparently Dolph Ziggler’s elbows have the ability to block a man’s coronary artery, the very impacts dislodging plaques of fat deposits and preventing the flow of blood and oxygen to man’s heart. If that were true, Dolph Ziggler would be a fucking X-Man, although with that power it’s more likely he would belong to the Brotherhood of Mutants.
Dolph threatens to give Ziggler another heart attack, which seems to me to be definite confirmation that he can control this power. But Lawler apparently longs for death (and I long for his death too), and calls Ziggler a loser. Well, my last words are probably going to be calling Ziggler a loser too. It’ll definitely be on my gravestone or suicide note.
Ziggler superkicks Lawler right in the chest. It’s okay, though, because he didn’t employ THE ELBOW. JBL rushes into the ring, helping King to his feet, and suddenly Lawler is upright and screaming ‘ZIGGLER!!’ like he’s a sweatier, less-attractive William Shatner. Dolph stops, but then decides that a murder trial stands a high chance of delaying whatever push he might be receiving and leaves.
The announcers are all selling this moment like we just watched Lawler die, and I know that we didn’t because my pants are still on right now.
Baron Corbin and the Wyatts will be on Talking Smack later. That’s a whole lot of desperate edginess on a single panel. Luckily, Jerry Lawler will be there to lighten the mood and hopefully feel the effects of Dolph Ziggler’s Five Point Superkick Exploding Heart Technique. A man can dream.
Speaking of desperate edginess, here’s Bray Wyatt. He says that the Wyatts are going to be in the Royal Rumble, but that there’s a personal matter he must attend to first. Looks like we’re going to be watching a Wyatt Family HR meeting. Bray’s solution is that Orton and Bray will fight each other. What?! That is your solution, Bray? Letting them hit each other? Jesus, this guy is very clearly not a parent, a teacher or a Human Resources manager. Also, what, is he hoping that Harper and Orton will eventually realise that violence doesn’t solve problems? They’re professional wrestlers, for God’s sake: they’ve been taught for years that violence solves literally everything. Also, we know from experience that Orton is going to beat Harper, so surely all this does is fuel Harper’s feelings of resentment, inadequacy and jealousy.
No wonder Rowan and Strowman fucked off.
Trish Stratus’ legs just snapped closed
Here’s Becky Lynch, approaching the cage and the very first SmackDown Women’s Cage match ever. Alexa Bliss follows her, gets into the cage, and we’re underway.
Bliss tries to run for the door, but is caught by Becky. Both women try to throw each other into the cage, but both counter. Becky rocks Alexa’s head off the turnbuckles, then runs into a boot. Alexa fights back, hitting an STO to put the challenger down. She catapults Becky into the corner, but Becky lands on the turnbuckle, almost climbing out immediately. Bliss catches her, pulls her back down to the canvas, and runs into a pair of arm drags.
Becky dropkicks Bliss, then misses a boot to the face. Bliss smashes Lynch’s face into the turnbuckle, makes a short-lived attempt to escape and gets rolled up. Becky tries to powerbomb Alexa, who grasps the cage and tries to climb. Becky follows her, and both women are fighting on the ring ropes. Becky suddenly brings them both down hard, slamming Alexa’s face off the turnbuckle. We go to a break.
When we come back, Alexa has regained control and she throws Becky into the cage wall. Bliss then misses a charge, almost allowing Becky to escape, but she pulls her back in. Becky ascends to the top turnbuckle and hits the front missile dropkick to Bliss, making it close with a two-count. Becky immediately looks to scale the cage wall, actually making it over, but Alexa grasps onto her hair and refuses to let go. Becky springboards her feed off the cage, slamming them into Bliss on the return journey, and then she hits a Bexploder Suplex from the second rope!
Bliss kicks out at the last second, and manages to drive herself back into the competition, hammering on Becky as the challenger tries to reach the door. Becky fights back, but Alexa is relentless, ending up almost getting locked in the Disarmer. Suddenly, La Luchadora has arrived, and stands blocking the doorway. Becky freezes up, allowing Bliss to try and take advantage, and Lynch locks in the Disarmer! La Luchadora hits a spinning kick to Becky’s skull; Bliss hits the Snap DDT, and Alexa Bliss retains the SmackDown Women’s Championship!
What felt like a great match got cut off about two thirds of the way through. I don’t mind how they ended it too much: it seemed obvious that it would be this way. I just wish that they’d had more time, because this was really good. 3 Stars.
Bliss yells at the referee to get out, and apparently he’s too old for this shit too, because he does. Then both Alexa and La Luchadora go after Becky, who tries to fight back and pulls off La Luchadora’s mask, revealing it to be Mickie James! Mickie James is back in the WWE, and on SmackDown! Bliss and James put Becky down, and Mickie raises Alexa’s hand to end the show.
This was a solid show. Dolph heeled up the place. Lawler was attacked. The Wyatts are edging closer to implosion; Styles and Miz put on a good match and we had a great fight and a big surprise to end the show. All in all, this was a fun watch. 9/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, American Alpha, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Daniel Bryan, Dave Otunga, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, James Ellsworth, jbl, Jerry Lawler, John Cena, Kurt Angle, Luke Harper, Maryse, Mauro Ranallo, Mickie James, Natalya, Nikki Bella, Randy Orton, Renee Young, Shane McMahon, smackdown, smackdown live, The Miz, Tom Phillips, Wyatt Family