Hey there, gang. Let me tell you, this is a relief to get to: I’ve been so saturated in political fiction over the last few days, it’s going to be nice to review a bunch of sweaty dudes slamming into each other. So let’s get straight the hell into that.
We have a quick recap over the past week, and the gist of this is that ten guys are going to be in a Battle Royal to find out who’s going to be facing Bray for the Championship at WrestleMania. Is Orton delaying his backstabbing so that he gets to hurt both Wyatt and whoever wins the Battle Royal? That slippery motherfucker.
Daniel Bryan kicks off the show, and welcomes folks to SmackDown and before getting right down to business. He asks for people to welcome Naomi, who makes her appearance. She’s got a brace on her leg now, and seems to be moving quite carefully, so Alexa Bliss managed to lose to a one-legged gal in an ass-kicking contest. The crowd chants “you deserve it”, and I hope they’re talking about the Championship and not Naomi’s terrible injury.
Bryan tells Naomi that she absolutely deserves the belt, and that this is going to be the hardest thing that he’s had to do as General Manager. He says he knows exactly what she’s going through, because he’s been through it himself. Don’t quite remember Kane beating fifty shades of fuck out of Naomi for an uncomfortable period of time, but maybe that happened on Talking Smack. Bryan tells her that he and Shane know that she will not medically be able to defend the Championship within the required thirty day period (because that’s super important unless Brock Lesnar or Triple H have the belt).
Naomi takes the obligatory “lost their smile” moment, and then tells us she has a few things she wants to say. She thanks Bryan for his supportive words, and says that it’s crazy how life can change. Last week she was on top of the world; a week later and it’s all different. She says that she feels like she’s letting her fans down, who’ve been supporting her all the way. And she knows that it’s not just the Championship she’s losing, but also the chance to be in the WrestleMania pre-show under-the-bottom-rope battle royal.
Naomi gives Bryan the Championship and then a hug. That must be weird for Bryan, who’s only ever relinquished a World Championship to people he’s physically assaulted. Also, I feel like we should all applaud Alexa Bliss’s restraint here, seeing as how she hasn’t yet come out to be an asshole about all this. Naomi puts the locker room on notice, specifically whoever’s going to be holding the title while she’s gone: she’s going to be back and God help you if you’re the current Champ in that scenario.
Oh, here’s Alexa Bliss. I kind of feel that if you pull this sort of shit, you should automatically go to the back of the queue. You know: run SmackDown on some clearly defined moral rails. Miz would be fucked, sure, but maybe he’d learn something. Bliss gets in the ring and mocks Naomi for relinquishing the title, clearly unaware that she’s triggering the fuck out of Daniel Bryan right now. She offers to take the Championship back for the good of SmackDown. Who does she think she is, John Cena?
Daniel teases giving Alexa back the Championship, but then decides not to as a passable form of asshole tax. Instead, he gives her a match against Becky Lynch for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Well, that’s a new one
When we come back from a break, Becky and Alexa are in the ring and ready to go. The lock up and break clean before shoving each other. Becky rolls up Bliss, gets pinned herself but bridges out and Oklahoma rolls Alexa for another one count. Lynch hits an enzuigiri to Alexa, getting a two count this time before Bliss kicks out. Alexa slides out of a bodyslam and hammers away at Becky. She runs into a shoulder block, then gets tripped by Becky when she tries a leapfrog. Alexa tries to roll Becky up again, but is almost pinned in return. Fast flurry of action to start this one off.
Becky leapfrogs over Alexa in the corner and hits a couple of deep armdrags, putting the former Champ in an armbar. Alexa escapes, and then grabs the ropes to stop Lynch rolling her up again. Alexa manages to slam Becky to the mat, back-of-the-head first, then chokes her against the middle rope for a two count. She forces Becky into a bridge position whilst standing on her hair, but Becky escapes before catching her with a Bexploder! Alexa escapes out of the ring and hides behind a commercial break.
When we come back, Becky is in complete control, hitting a forearm and some kicks to Alexa in the corner before Bexploding her out of it for a near-fall. Becky is elevated onto the apron, but she fights her way back up to the top rope and hits a missile dropkick, collecting another near-fall. Alexa tries to escape the ring again, and manages to distract the referee for long enough to slam both hands into Becky’s throat, rolling her up and grabbing the tights for the pin.
Great exchanges in this match, but it ended a lot sooner than I would have thought. 2.5 Stars.
Mickie James comes out to celebrate on the ramp with Alexa, then charges into the ring to confront Becky. Becky, understandably chagrined by this state of affairs, puts the goddamn boots to Mickie before chasing her right back out of the ring.
Meanwhile, Dean Ambrose is backstage, making insane threats towards Baron Corbin and thus making it very clear that both he and Corbin are going to be too preoccupied to main event WrestleMania. We also see a promo from Kalisto, in case Kalisto vs. Bray Wyatt is something that anybody wants to see ever.
In a third backstage area, Miz is also keen to share his thoughts, which are more or less “just give me the title match automatically”. Dear God, the man is actually proud of appearing in The Marine 5. No cheating, no backstabbing, no action at all could make anyone hate the Miz as much as the Miz clearly hates himself.
At a fourth backstage location, Renee asks how Natalya feels about the fact that people actually like Nikki Bella whilst barely being able to write sentences about Nattie Neidhart without somehow using the phrase “wasted career”, like I just did there. Natalya rants about Nikki for a while, because this is far beyond hate and is kind of straddling “obsession” and “crush”.
Because they were obviously going to let Breezango win
Breezango is in the ring, so clearly we’re in for a regular classic. Here comes American Alpha, who get jumped before they’re even in the ring. Smart: can’t end a match early if you beat them up before the thing even starts. Breeze and Fandango stomp Jordan in the ring whilst Gable is still on the outside. The bell finally rings, because the referee doesn’t give a damn about little things like “fairness” or “physical health”, and Fandango unloads on Jordan before hanging him on the rope, tagging in Breeze for their double-kick. Breeze keeps up the pressure with a leg drop and a cover, then he keeps Jordan grounded with a front facelock.
Fandango is tagged in, but Jordan is able to slide free of the duo’s attempted double suplex and tag in Gable! Gable clotheslines Breeze right out of the ring and possibly out of his shoes, then hits a Sky-High Bulldog to pin Fandango!
Man, the Champs look goddamn unstoppable. This was fun, and I like that this is hopefully building up to an epic confrontation with the Usos, the team who used to be the absolute badasses of this division. 2 Stars.
The Usos show up to mock American Alpha, because apparently they missed the fact that these two just ended a match with practically one offensive move. American Alpha are more than happy to have an actual fight rather than beating up the kind of losers who refer to themselves unironically as “the Fashion Police”, but the Usos don’t look that keen. They keep making threats towards AA, but there are two problems with that: the first is that American Alpha have made the Usos look like regular bitches multiple times, and the second is that Jimmy and Jey are incapable of appearing even slightly menacing.
The Usos promo goes on about a thousand times longer than a promo of that quality should. I mean…they genuinely cannot deliver a promo. I mean, I think the Rock just disowned the pair of them.
We get a brief film about Jackie Robinson, who it’s interesting to hear about: not someone who gets mentioned that much in the UK. Because baseball is a savage sport for people too feral for the pure, elegant boredom that cricket can offer.
At some other backstage location, AJ Styles is telling some random guy in a suit that he’s going to WrestleMania. Randy Orton sure is going to crush a lot of hopes when he finally turns on Bray. Hey, speaking of crushed hopes, Dolph Ziggler is making a promo. He’s actually making it in front of a green screen…which he then superkicks down. Okay, I’m going to have to start a new paragraph if I’m going to describe something that stupid.
Holy fuck, that is possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.
And apparently Mojo Rawley’s in the Battle Royal too, because this show is crazy low on star power. At least Luke Harper has a reason to be in there, which is good because he is. Lack of resources might actually lead to Harper getting the push that he deserves.
We cut to Nikki Bella, also backstage, which makes it seem like she’s in the Battle Royal too. To be honest, she’s got way more of a right to be in there than Mojo. Renee asks for her thoughts about the Falls Count Anywhere match. Nikki promises to savagely murder Natalya and shit all over her dreams, or probably something a little more PG than that.
Je Suis Maryse
Nikki makes her entrance and approaches the ring. This is a Fall’s Count Anywhere match, and all I can hope is that the ref and the camera crew lose sight of these gals and the match just continues through the whole show, actually ending during and therefore interrupting the Number One Contender Battle Royal.
Natalya shows up too, and immediately gets speared. If she was Brock Lesnar, this would be over by now. Natalya runs from Nikki, but ends up on the receiving end of a facebuster. Nikki immediately goes under the ring and grabs a table. Natalya manages to cut her off and shoves the table back under the ring, because if she gets injured then who would support Tyson Kidd? Nikki almost catches Natalya with a roll-up and then smacks her around with a Kendo stick, getting a two count on the outside.
Nikki throws Natalya into the barricade, then right over it. Natalya manages to stagger Nikki with a punch, then tells the Bella that she can’t see her before throwing her over into and over another barricade. She tries to superplex Nikki off the barricade onto the concrete floor, but Nikki kicks her away and then hits a flying roundhouse kick from off the top of the barricade!
Nikki tosses Natalya back into the ringside area, but gives Neidhart too much chance to recover and pays for it. Natalya throws Nikki into the steel steps, then grabs the Kendo stick before abandoning it and clearing off the announce table. Nikki stops her and throws her into the ring, but Natalya regains the advantage and almost powerbombs Nikki through the table! Nikki fights her way out, and then Alabama Slams Natalya onto the table for two! Tyson Kidd’s going to have to go into care! We go to a commercial following the pin.
When we come back, Natalya has Nikki in the Sharpshooter, hinting at a superb recovery during that commercial. Nikki has reached the ropes, which forces Nat to end the move, even though there are no rope-breaks in a Falls Count Anywhere match. That’s the concussion doing her thinking for her. She hauls Nikki down the ramp, then suplexes her right onto it for a two count. They end up coming off the ramp, brawling against the metal barricades. Natalya throws Nikki into some crates and the two of them head into the backstage area. Ironically enough, this match’s sole purpose was to limit the amount of brawling backstage.
Natalya throws Nikki into Maryse, who is rapidly becoming the civilian casualty of this feud. Nikki then throws Natala face-first into a fucking mirror, and I think Maryse is dead, because she has not moved. The action moves back onto the staging, where Natalya takes another spear. She is now a tougher competitor than Brock Lesnar. They brawl down the ramp, and Nikki is able to counter a Sharpshooter into an STF! Suddenly Maryse bursts onto the scene with a steel pipe, laying into Nikki! This is how terrorism starts! Miz suddenly appears and tries to drag Maryse away, with her fighting him with every step! Natalya gets the pin!
I’m absolutely on Maryse’s side here, and will be supporting her throughout this whole feud. The first time, she was good enough to actually let it go, and it’s totally fair that she decided to react the second time. Fun little brawl, if tame. The Miz being the rational one was a superb touch 2.5 Stars.
Backstage, Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews tell us about how they’re totally winning the Battle Royal. Somewhere, Randy Orton is laughing maniacally and, for all I know, masturbating furiously.
Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt are standing in a steam room, and I can’t see Orton’s hands or below his waist, so at least half of my prediction holds up. Bray is talking about how Orton deserves to be rewarded for not going after the World Championship. Thing is, there is no higher honour in WWE than the World Championship, so this is already a completely shitty deal. Is Orton going to get given an Intercontinental Championship match? Is Alexa Bliss going to have to face Randy Orton for the SmackDown Women’s Championship next week? Is Randy Orton masturbating or isn’t he?!
…Sure, why not?
It’s already time for some battle royaling, so this thing is going to be a long one. Plus I guess there’s ten entrances to get through. Cena gets his full entrance, whilst Ziggler, Mojo, Apollo and Kalisto are relegated to jobber status. Say what you will about what that could mean for this match, because I say it means the four of them are going out first if not immediately. Baron Corbin and Luke Harper at least get actual entrances, as do Miz, AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose.
Ambrose immediately jumps on Corbin and this kicks off the fight. This is going to be a little difficult to review at the moment, so I’ll just mention any big moments, like Dolph Ziggler elbow-dropping someone right into a heart attack. Other than that, assume that everyone’s just brawling. Ziggler manages to superkick Cena early on, so at least he can say he got his shot in. Ziggler and Styles try to eliminate Cena, until AJ turns on Dolph and almost tosses him. Miz is in trouble due to the combined efforts of Apollo and Rawley, then Styles almost gets pushed out too, but doesn’t because WWE’s not that stupid.
Dolph has to fight his way past Ambrose to get back off the apron and into the ring. Nobody seems to be holding any major grudges in this match: people are just being opportunistic, or everyone hates everyone else the exact same amount and we’ve hit a kind of emotional stalemate. Dolph almost falls out of the ring again, and he has officially spent more time out than in. Corbin sandbags his way out of an AA, and we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Corbin is standing tall after apparently running over goddamn everyone. Wouldn’t have minded, you know, actually seeing that. And now Mojo Rawley starts kicking the fuck out of him! Corbin takes some punishment, but then ducks a charge from Mojo and eliminates him! Kalisto hits Salida del Sol to Dolph and then goes on an absolute tear around the ring, moonsaulting onto Ambrose and almost eliminating Ziggler (although at this point take it as read that everyone has almost eliminated Ziggler). Dolph suplexes Kalisto out onto the apron, then superkicks him from there out onto the floor!
Back in the ring, Apollo puts Corbin’s ass on the mat, then roundhouse kicks Ziggler right off the apron! Without a single Heart Attack Elbow being unleashed! Ziggler’s shocked, unlike me, everyone in the match and anyone else watching this. He grabs a chair and then beats on Kalisto: the heel version of crying, eating ice-cream and writing tear-spattered entries in your diary. Ziggler’s violent emotional process distracts Crews enough that he gets eliminated by Corbin, so he grabs the chair from Dolph and chases him out of the arena with it!
We’re now down to Harper, Ambrose, Corbin, Miz, Styles and Cena, ie. the people who actually had a hope in hell. Cena and Styles throw hands for a moment, then Styles flips out of an AA. Harper superkicks Cena; Styles pele kicks Harper, then gets clotheslined by Baron Corbin, who takes a Lunatic Lariat from Ambrose! Miz is the last man on his feet, trying to find a target incapable of murderfucking him to death, and apparently he can’t choose because he hits dropkicks to Harper, Ambrose, Corbin and Styles in all four corners! He hits the buzzsaw kicks to Cena, who ducks the last one and eliminates the Miz! Miz is out, and we go to a break!
When we come back, Styles counters Ambrose’s suplex, trying to German suplex the Lunatic Fringe in return. Cena grabs Styles and German suplexes both men! Cena goes after Styles again, hitting him with shoulder tackles and the spin-out powerbomb, but Corbin catches Cena mid-knuckle shuffle with the End of Days! Baron counters Dirty Deeds, but is low-bridged by Ambrose and Baron Corbin is eliminated! Corbin drags Ambrose out of the ring and hits him with End of Days! Dean is still in the match, but he is on fucking dream street. Suddenly, Miz dashes back in the ring, eliminates John Cena and runs for his life! Cena looks furious, because he knows that this year’s WrestleMania moment is now going to be an mixed gender tag team match.
Only AJ Styles and Luke Harper are left in the ring. Both men stand, facing each other, and Harper immediately tries to throw Styles out! AJ fights back, but almost gets hustled over the ropes again! Dean’s back in and tries to eliminate both men, but everyone ends up on the apron! Styles and Ambrose tee off, barely hanging on. Ambrose gets Styles on his shoulders, but a superkick from Harper eliminates Ambrose properly!
Harper tries to suplex Styles out of the ring, but he lands on the apron, both men ascending the turnbuckle. Styles manages to kick Harper back into the ring, crawling back in himself. Both men face off again, circling each other, and Styles hops onto Harper’s back, trying to choke him out. Harper escapes, and hits AJ through the middle ropes before fetching him back into the ring. Styles is suplexed out onto the apron again, and they have the turnbuckle between them. Harper suplexes Styles out of the ring, but both men’s feet hit the floor! Yay, we’re doing this again! This always works out well!
Styles and Harper both get in the ring to yell at each other, just like always…ah, here’s Daniel Bryan with a microphone. He says that the official decision is a draw, but we’ll find out who will go to WrestleMania next week. Luke Harper clotheslines Styles on general principle, and then Bray and Orton show up on the big screen. Bray laughs at Harper for a second, and then the feed cuts out. What a weird ending.
This was…well, it started out pretty great. Best case scenario for this is they put Styles and Harper in a match, and Harper gets the added accolade of beating AJ Styles. At least we managed to clearly define some WrestleMania feuds with this, so it served several purposes. Call it 3 Stars.
Odd sort of week: nothing really stood out except the battle royal, and that was due to the general strangeness. Still, I’m interested in almost every storyline right now, which hasn’t been the case for years. Looking forward to seeing what happens next week. 6/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, American Alpha, apollo crews, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, jbl, John Cena, Kalisto, Luke Harper, Maryse, Mauro Ranallo, Mickie James, Mojo Rawley, naomi, natalya neidhart, Nikki Bella, Randy Orton, Shane McMahon, smackdown, The Miz, the usos, Tom Philips