Hey there, guys. Apologies for the absence last week: I was doing deep and intimate research into the precise meaning of “snowed under”. But hey: we’re here now and there’s some SmackDown to look into. So let’s get right to it.
Holy cow, I’m finally in a position to actually appreciate these recaps. Apparently Randy Orton stunned the world by reverting to type and RKO-ing a motherfucker. And tonight there will be a number one contender match to determine whether we’ll see Mahal/Nakamura II or Mahal/Orton V at Hell in a Cell.
And JBL is gone. I’ll admit, when they showed just Tom and Byron sitting there I was terrified both that Layfield was dead and this show was now going to be called entirely by T and B. But we have a tattooed, skeletal douche named Corey Graves to fill the aching void in our hearts, so feel good about that.
We’re shown a video of Orton backstage, shrouded in shadow and spouting gibberish. Just in case you forgot that the guy spent six months living and possibly sleeping with Bray Wyatt. And then we get shown Nakamura doing more or less the same thing, and seeing as how he didn’t spend half a year at BRAY WYATT’S HOUSE OF HORRORS he has no excuse.
We need to have one show where Kevin Owens referees every match
Meanwhile, Ellsworth and Carmella are in the ring, getting ready for a match with Natalya. But either Natalya’s switched up her music and is cosplaying Kevin Owens, or Kevin Owens is on his way out here to interfere. He announces that there will now be a Special Guest Referee for this match, and surprise surprise: it’s him. KO demands that the referee take off his shirt and stick a thumb in his mouth like a baby when Shane McMahon shows up, interrupting one of the most interesting sequences in recent SmackDown memory. Prick.
Shane says that Kevin Owens can’t just call himself a referee, and he just doesn’t understand why KO has to be such a jerk all the time. He tells Owens to stop blaming everything on him, and decides that a great way to calm the guy down is to remind him of all his bad fortune over the last few weeks and tell him that it’s all his fault.
Owens says that he knows Shane never wanted him on SmackDown Live; he wants to be on RAW where Triple H will beat the fuck out of someone in order to hand Kevin Owens the Universal Championship. Shane, diplomat supreme, reminds Owens that everything bad that happens to Kevin Owens is Kevin Owens’ fault. KO responds by telling Shane that Vince never loved him and that his children can’t dance, which is fighting talk in all fifty states.
Owens then mocks Shane for surviving really high falls and a helicopter crash, which should be a difficult thing to insult someone about, but boy does Owens try. He also says that every McMahon would be better off if Shane had died, particularly his children. This is what most people would term “the last straw”, and apparently Shane O’Mac agrees with them, because he dives on Owens and spends the next solid minute doing his best to reduce his face into a bloody red paste. He’s finally dragged away from his cringing victim as Daniel Bryan kneels over Kevin Owens’ body, his eyes filled with horror and tears.
After the break, we recap the prison-style beating of a professional athlete by a man in his late forties. Kevin Owens is being helped backstage by several referees, who are almost certainly going to continue this beating after two weeks of the man trying to steal their jobs. Daniel Bryan arrives to apologise that someone dared attack a professional wrestler, as though this sort of thing doesn’t happen at least four times a week in WWE alone.
Owens promises that he’s going to sue WWE and have this whole place shut down. See, if most of my co-workers were giant, muscular men with very poor impulse control and a tendency to quickly resort to violence, I feel like I wouldn’t dare try to fuck with their livelihoods. I say Bryan should let this whole thing play out: you think the SmackDown Live crew are going to let Kevin Owens walk into a courtroom? Every week, this guy is going to fall down a flight of stairs, get into a car crash and occasionally just have the shit kicked out of him.
Bryan suggests that this whole thing would be a dumb idea and no-one’s going to buy a legal challenge against WWE as a storyline. So Kevin Owens says that he’ll bring criminal charges against Shane. This is completely hilarious to me, because you just know that this will somehow turn into a wrestling match by the next PPV.
Alright, take two
So, Carmella had to make her entrance again, the poor gal. Natalya arrives, having waited in Gorilla position for that whole thing and having to watch Kevin Owens get carried past her on his way backstage. We recap Carmella’s vague attempts to cash in her Money in the Bank contract, knowing that whatever she tries will inevitably be better than Baron Corbin’s.
Natalya starts off with a headlock takeover, gets shot off the ropes and takes a headscissors from Carmella. Carmella hits a wheelbarrow takeover and then a big dropkick. Apparently stunned that Carmella is capable of offence, Natty opts to just slap her across the face. The Princess of Staten Island returns the favour, and Natalya clotheslines her damn head off. Carmella scrambles out of the ring into a commercial break for safety.
When we come back, Carmella has her legs wrapped around the waist of Natalya, who is slamming punch after punch into her face: my favourite position. Natalya finally powerslams her way out of trouble, tries for the Sharpshooter and then slingshots Carmella into the corner. Miss Money in the Bank is able to put the Champ on her ass with a superkick, and James Ellsworth somehow manages to accidentally drop the briefcase into the ring.
Apparently the referee thinks that this implies some kind of cash-in attempt, so Carmella has to throw the briefcase out of the ring, take a few minutes to scream at Ellsworth and get rolled up by Natalya to finish the match.
Interesting ending, and I like that at least one Money in the Bank contract is being used for suspense and intrigue rather than a really dumb cash-in that did nobody any favours. 2 Stars.
After the match, Carmella grabs a microphone and rips into Ellsworth for an uncomfortable amount of time and then dumps him. Or just isn’t best friends with him anymore; I’ve never been thoroughly clear on the ins and outs of that relationship. Either way, Ellsworth is once again in need of a human host to latch onto, and I bet that within two weeks he’s going to be in a Fashion Files episode.
Dolph finally out-dumbed the Spirit Squad
Apparently this is now the re-debut of Dolph Ziggler. The Zigman comes out and lambasts all of us for being super-disinterested in his career. He says that we’d rather have some dumb gimmick than him, then leaves.
Wow, they gave him Eva Marie’s old gimmick.
And then John Cena’s music plays, and Dolph comes out pretending to be him. Oh, I see: Charlie Haas’s old gimmick. Then he goes back and comes out again, this time channelling Randy Savage (and not the British Bulldog, as I had previously written). And then Naomi, though thankfully he manages to prevent himself from actually blacking up.
You know, I’d be perfectly happy with Dolph wrestling to a high standard and actually being allowed to win championships and make an impact. It’s literally all that any of us have ever wanted from the guy, so this passive-aggressive shit is a lot more irritating than it should be.
Dolph tells us off a little more, and then leaves. Oh, so he’s blaming us for not liking wrestling and then isn’t even going to wrestle. Jesus, is getting Dolph Ziggler right really so difficult? Because it feels like it would be one of the easiest things to do in this business.
Here’s Aiden English, singing his strange, sad heart out. Tonight he’s facing Sami Zayn: someone else who WWE has a major blind spot about.
Sami starts out strong, keeping English on the ropes with a headscissors. He’s elevated onto the apron but fights his way back inside to clothesline English. A missed crossbody allows English to roll him up and…win.
Seriously, how difficult is it to get Sami Zayn and Dolph Ziggler right, guys? I can’t be the only person who thinks that it must be simple.
Urgh. 1 Star.
English tries to sing after the match and gets chased off by Zayn. This went a long way downhill from Shane McMahon assaulting one of his employees.
Speaking of that, we get another replay of what is probably already being called “The Incident” backstage. By the end of tonight, we’ll remember this segment better than the faces of our own loved ones.
Daniel Bryan is watching this backstage with a sad look on his beard face. Then the New Day arrive to cheer him up, followed by the Usos arriving to bring the mood down again. They get to pick the match stipulation for their title match next week, and the Usos pick a street fight. Against a team which has three people. When they only have two people.
Bryan then gets a call from someone he refers to only as “sir”. Well, that’s either Vince or fuel for a lot of fanfictions. And even if it is Vince, that’s still fuel for a lot of fanfictions. Bryan has a tantalising conversation with his supposed Dom, during which he agrees to go and do something unspecified in the ring. WWE, consider my immature attention piqued.
Now Shane can go be with his family he loves so much
Daniel Bryan makes his way down to the ring, almost certainly about to do something dark, decadent and obscene. And with a Connor’s Cure pin on his shirt as well: that sick fuck. He asks that Shane McMahon come down to the ring, and Shane doesn’t come out immediately, leaving just enough time to wonder whether he’s found Kevin Owens and has strung him up from the ceiling.
When Shane finally does arrive, Bryan asks him what he was thinking. He reminds Shane that he’s never once risen to any rival’s taunts, and not just because he’s not been medically cleared to do so. He also comes dangerously close to using the phrase “Best For Business”, which would be a creepy piece of character development.
Shane says that mildly insulting his family means that he enters some kind of blind rage from which he will only exit after literally tasting blood, which really makes it sound a little like Kevin Owens has a point in terms of Shane’s suitability as an authority figure. Bryan asks if Shane realises what sort of legal trouble the WWE’s in now, and I don’t but I’m willing to bet my apartment that it’s the kind which can be eventually settled by a wrestling match.
Bryan reminds us that Kevin Owens is threatening to take away the jobs of everyone backstage, which once again seems like a situation which will swiftly and violently correct itself. He then says that Vince McMahon has decided to indefinitely suspend Shane, which is some hypocritical bullshit considering how many wrestlers Vince has assaulted over the years. Stephanie spent months slapping guys in the face and walked away without a whisper of legal ramifications; are you telling me that every guy she ever struck could have potentially brought the WWE to its knees with lawsuits?
Where’s the fucking line on this? And does it even matter, seeing as how somehow this will all end in a wrestling match?
Jinder’s fine, because he barely ever hits anyone
Meanwhile, Renee Young is backstage with Jinder and the Singh Brothers, all of whom are trying to work out who they’re allowed to hit without getting fired, suspended or fined. I’m pretty sure that Jinder can’t hit Renee, considering the precedent set by Maryse. Renee can probably hit Jinder and just have to apologise, seeing as how she did the same thing to the Miz. The Singh Brothers can probably hit either one of them but I somehow doubt they’d come off well in either fight.
Renee asks Jinder who he’d rather face: Shinsuke Nakamura or Randy Orton. Jinder double-checks that he’s still allowed to punch both of them, and then says that it doesn’t matter because he’s beaten both of them once they started punching the Singh Brothers. Jinder goes on to remind us all that he’s from India and says that he’ll be watching the main event tonight carefully. He forgets to advertise the WWE Network, but two out of three ain’t bad.
Seems like this isn’t really about Tye Dillinger
AJ Styles is sitting on commentary, wondering whether he could have pursued legal action against Shane McMahon instead of just getting a WrestleMania match out of that altercation. This match will be Baron Corbin, who is doing a damn good job of not sliding into depression at the way his life’s going, against Tye Dillinger, who is absolutely out of his league right now.
Both men consult with the referee that they are legally allowed to wrestle each other, because Kevin Owens and Vince McMahon have officially shattered their damn worlds, and then Corbin heads out of the ring to stare menacingly at AJ Styles. Tye throws himself through the ropes out onto Baron and kicks his ass all over ringside. Corbin finally kicks him away and escapes back into the ring, but Tye follows him and clotheslines him back out again, because Baron Corbin is an outside wrestler now.
When we come back from a commercial break, Corbin has regained control and is making Tye Dillinger his biatch. Baron misses a clothesline, but reverses direction on the outside and decapitates him with his second attempt. Dillinger still has enough life in him for some token defiance, and jawbreakers Corbin before knocking him down with a flurry of blows. Baron’s reeling, and Dillinger stomps his ass in the corner.
Tye gets the big man up for the Tye-Breaker, but Corbin slides off the man’s shoulders and shoves Dillinger out of the ring to fuck him up. Back inside, Baron decides to get distracted by Styles, allowing Tye to almost roll him up and lay a shit-tonne of punches into his face. Corbin manages to hit a punch right to Dillinger’s throat, and then takes him out with the End of Days.
I feel like Corbin’s been so damaged recently that it’s hard even to take a win like this seriously. We really just need this guy to be a total monster, but I doubt WWE will ever pull the trigger on that. 2 Stars.
Backstage, AJ Styles is commiserating with Tye, and tells him that he’s got a US Title shot next week. All we need is a WWE Title match and next week is basically Night of Champions.
And in another part of backstage, James Ellsworth has apparently only just got around to begging Carmella for forgiveness. Carmella takes him back, kisses him and slaps him. I’m not sure what just happened, and I don’t even know if Ellsworth is allowed to sue her.
Shit’s been bananas this week.
Who really wants another Orton/Jinder rematch?
And in a final bid for some form of sanity, it’s time for our main event. Shinsuke Nakamura arrives, followed by Randy Orton. I’d give so much money for Kevin Owens to once again come out and declare himself the Special Guest Referee.
Nakamura clamps on a waistlock, then proceeds to outwrestle Orton for a few moments before Randy almost nails him with an RKO…a commercial break? Right then? Really? For fuck’s sake. When we come back, Nakamura is thrown over the top rope by Orton, and Randy almost goes for the nuclear option by trying to hit his draping DDT onto the outside. Shinsuke manages to fight him off, but this just allows Orton to hit him with a back suplex onto the announce table.
Orton applies a sleeper hold, determined to be a part of Shinsuke Nakamura’s most boring match ever. Nakamura rejects this ambition, hitting a hard spinning kick to Orton’s jaw. Another kick puts Randy in la-la land and he takes a bunch of blows to the chest, catching one only for Nakamura to nail him in the head. A huge knee to the ribs leaves Orton reeling, but he manages to get a shoulder up at two.
Nakamura wants the reverse exploder suplex, but Randy Orton isn’t having any part of that death trap, and gives Nakamura a hard backbreaker to show him what Randy thinks of that sort of assassination attempt. An attempt at a Vintage DDT earns Orton another kick to head; Nakamura climbs up to the top but is caught by Randy for a huge superplex, with Shinsuke just able to kick out at the last second.
Shinsuke manages to get to his knees and tell Orton to come on. He’s able to take Randy out at the knee and manage to hit a goddamn barrage of hard knees to the Viper’s head and ribs. Orton should be straight-up dead right now, but is able to counter the Kinshasa into a powerslam for two. Vintage DDT connects, and now Orton wants the RKO and another terrible match with Jinder Mahal…and Nakamura counters into an armbar, then a triangle choke! Orton lifts Shinsuke up and hits him with a powerbomb!
Another RKO is countered by a knee to the back; Shinsuke wants the Kinshasa, and it connects! Shinsuke Nakamura is the number one contender!
The last few minutes were a really entertaining match, which unfortunately had about eight minutes of an average Randy Orton match as an introduction. At least we’re not doing another Randy Orton/Jinder Mahal match. 2.5 Stars
We see Kevin Owens walking around backstage, and Daniel Bryan goes to check that they’re all cool now that Shane’s suspended. Owens promises to make SmackDown Daniel Bryan’s personal nightmare because he has all of this legal leverage. A reminder that this year, Randy Orton burned down Bray Wyatt and desecrated a grave before being rewarded with a World Championship match. Bryan lets him talk, then drops the bomb that Vince McMahon is coming to SmackDown Live next week.
So, the bad: most of the matches tonight were a little lacklustre. Just felt like the air had gone out of the show’s sails following the McMahon/Owens incident. Carmella broke up and got back with Ellsworth in record time even for a wrestling show.
The good: mostly the opening segment and the rest of the story. Once again: it’s all going to end in a wrestling match. But it’s still a pretty fun story and the best thing about this show. Some parts of Orton vs. Nakamura were also very impressive. Overall, 7/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, byron saxton, Carmella, Chad Gable, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, jbl, Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, Lana, naomi, natalya neidhart, Randy Orton, Shane McMahon, shelton benjamin, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, Tamina Snuka, The New Day, The Singh Brothers, the usos, Tom Phillips, WWE