Well, hello there. It’s the day they moved SmackDown to Thursday and, reliably enough, your humble scribe is reviewing it on Friday. Change is bad, mkay? Actually, this change is good, because I always have Fridays off work, so the reviewing process is now going to be far more relaxed and I can use my Friday nights for mainlining heroin. I actually just found out the correct definition of the word ‘mainlining’ yesterday, due to a Stephen King novel I’m engrossed in. He also taught me the word ‘whoremaster’, which I swear to God I am going to use in this article at least one time.
Anyway, let’s get to smacking stuff down.
First thoughts: I like the new theme music for the show. I’ll probably hate it in a month or two, but it does sound more epic and grandiose than the previous one (no, I don’t know the fucking name of the song). Not-Renee is in the ring and, honestly, if he’s going to be a part of the commentary team, let’s just call him what he is: Byron Saxton. He introduces Daniel Bryan, who makes his way down to the ring. Byron notes that Bryan’s in a good mood, and Bryan says it’s because he’s here to fight. Saxton replays the injuring of Daniel Bryan, and I still can’t believe that we were supposed to accept that Kane was capable of putting anyone on the shelf. If Lesnar had come out and destroyed Bryan, this corner of the internet would have fucking exploded.
Bryan says that nobody knows how dangerous Kane is but him, and I think we all know that he’s a massive pussy, Daniel. Kane apparently traded his mask for a suit, which honestly sounds like some savvy bargaining. No matter what the doctors said, Bryan is here to compete, even if he is nervous, and he’s going to fight Kane and win. He’s winning the Rumble and is going on to WrestleMania. Big ‘Yes’ chant for that, even without anyone prompting it, and then the Authority show up. Oh, so now it’s the first show on Thursday night, I guess we’re worthy of some main characters showing up. And even then, Steph couldn’t be bothered to make it. Kane makes his way down to the ring, accompanied by the Authority, and the Nasally Announcer gets in a bit of snark by referring to each Authority member separately, and then gets in a massive burn by not naming Joey and Jamie. Intentional or not, that was just magnificent.
Drink Every Time You Think Bryan Just Got Paralysed
We come back from the break right into the match as Kane eats a dropkick. Furious strikes to the Big Red Machine, before Kane manages to shut Bryan down for a bit of breathing room, but then Bryan drop-toeholds him into the turnbuckle. Big kick to the face of Kane, and then the former World Champion zeroes in on the leg, hitting it with a running dropkick. The ref gets Bryan to back off, in case Kane starts crying, but that leaves Bryan open to a big uppercut, leaving him laying. He gets thrown into the corner and stomped down. Neckbreaker, which seems like a dick move, Kane, and then a second one. Man, imagine if Bryan got badly injured again? Like, in this match? Also, stop showing Rollins ringside at a Bryan match: don’t tease me like that.
Bryan tries to rally, but runs right into a big boot. Reminder: this guy beat Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista in a single night, and is now having trouble against the guy who’s just above Mercury and Noble level in the Authority. Bryan works his way out of a hold that looks like Kane is slowly trying to snap his neck, and then low-bridges Kane. Dropkick through the ropes to Kane, and Bryan launches himself off the apron, only to get struck in the throat with a big right hand from Kane.
Kane has Bryan in a sleeper when we come back, and then hits his running DDT which, swear to God, is the spazziest-looking thing I’ve ever seen. Big clothesline in the corner, then a side slam and Kane sets up for a superplex. Bryan blocks this, which I assume he’ll do with all moves which might snap his neck, sends Kane to the floor and hits a crossbody. He backflips over Kane from the corner and hits a clothesline. Yes-Kicks to the chest, finishing Kane off with a running kick. He charges at Kane in the corner, gets caught by Kane for a chokeslam, manages to counter it and tries to lock in the Yes-Lock! He manages to get it locked in, and the Mercury and Noble break it up. Are you fucking serious?
Not what I was hoping for, although the blame is on the structure of the match rather than the wrestlers. Way too much Kane offence, considering we were so excited to see Bryan back, and a DQ ending? After nine months of no Bryan matches? The Authority’s like the heel version of Cena: it’s rubbing itself over everything that’s relevant. 2 Stars.
Bryan dropkicks both Mercury and Noble, then knocks Big Show off the apron, then ducks a briefcase shot from Rollins and skedaddles. No! You get back in there and you start an angle with Rollins immediately! The Authority pursue, but slowly in case Bryan kicks one of their fucking faces off, and then Ambrose and Reigns show up beside him, and that was actually pretty badass.
Triple H gets on the microphone, because it’s not an opening segment if that guy doesn’t get to talk for twenty minutes. He makes a six-man tag match, which means Rollins and Bryan will fight each other. Is Triple H a face now, daddy?
Also, I’ve just realised that Jerry Lawler’s commentary hasn’t made me start cutting myself yet. Unexpected. And Randy Savage is going into the Hall of Fame, with Michael even using the word ‘finally’. I still don’t think that the Hall of Fame is going to beat the honour of that Skyrim mod which turns all of the dragons into Randy Savage. I’m not even kidding.
Wow, Savage really does not look in the slightest way sane. Seriously, guys, what were you all doing in the eighties?
Bray Wyatt pops up onscreen and…does he have smoke actually coming off him? Holy shit, is he channelling Blackbeard? Didn’t even hear the words: staring at the smoke. Upon rewatch, it’s him talking about how he’s going to win the Rumble. Ah, this PPV is going to kick so much ass.
Jerry Lawler Cuts Loose
The Usos are here, along with Naomi, for a mixed tag match. You know, I have a problem with this match: the girl can have her opposite number beat down, but doesn’t dare make a tag for any form of actual tag team wrestling because then her opponent gets an automatic out. Plus, if the guys are tag team specialists, like the Usos are, it actually makes sense for them not to tag in the Diva, because goodbye double-team moves.
Michael Cole claims that Byron is a Miz fanboy, which is the kind of shit-slinging we don’t look for in professional wrestling, Michael. Miz gets shot off the ropes, and it’s JERRY LAWLER’S FIRST SHITTY JOKE OF THE EVENING!! FETCH THE RAZOR BLADES AND VODKA!! Yeah, sorry, had to get that off my chest. Chops to Miz in the corner, then Jey comes in off the tag. They’re about to drop a double elbow on Miz, when Mizdow runs in to provide stunt double action. I love how the Usos sort of regard Mizdow as this alright, if slightly odd, guy who just happens to hang around with Miz. Miz gets clotheslined out of the ring, and Jey dives through the ropes onto him. Second shitty Lawler joke, followed by a third: fucking shoot me.
Miz tags in Mizdow, but then Alicia Fox tags herself in, and gets the shit kicked out of her by Naomi. Hurricanrana to Fox; she sends Naomi out onto the apron, but Naomi kicks her in the head and hits a crossbody for a two-count. Naomi tags out, meaning that Miz and Jey come in; Miz takes the Uso down with a big boot. Miz stomps Jey down in the corner, and then fakes tagging in Mizdow before both Jey and Miz knock each other down with clotheslines. Jimmy comes in off the tag, hitting Miz all over the place. Samoan Drop, then a corkscrew moonsault to the Miz. Alicia manages to break up the pin, so Jimmy Uso throws his girlfriend at her. That is literally what he did.
Miz and Jimmy exchange roll-ups, and Miz’s kick-out sends Jimmy into a clothesline from Sandow, which he ducks. Miz throws Sandow into Jimmy’s superkick and hits the Skull-Crushing Finale for the win!
Was that actually correct use of a stunt-double? They’re putting way too much thought into the existence of Sandow and, at the same time, nowhere near enough. Apparently Miz2 is getting a title match at the Rumble; I’ll enjoy it for Mizdow, but I’m looking forward to getting to some other teams now. 2.5 Stars.
Okay, Renee’s new haircut is going to take some getting used to. Because her old hair was perfect and beautiful and why did she do this?! Anyway, she introduces Roman Reigns, and those two still have their sexual tension/loving relationship going on. Oh, and it’s that time of year when every interviewer asks the question ‘you’re in the Royal Rumble, and so’s this guy, so tonight what’s stopping you from ripping off his face and wearing it as a mask AS YOU BURN THE REST OF HIM ON A FIRE MADE OUT OF HIS CHILDHOOD HOME?!’ Reigns makes the traditional response that the Royal Rumble is not tonight, and so he’s going to contain his deepest, darkest, innermost designs like he’s a rational human being. He also states that his motivation is ‘screw over the Authority’, and I love the fact that, compared to everyone else, he’s doing this without much provocation. He winks at Renee before he leaves, so I guess she can make that hairstyle work. Oh, and Vince? That’s what a normal person talking sounds like. Maybe you should stay the fuck away from dialogue.
Paul Heyman shows up, doing an ANGRY STRIDE as we replay Seth Rollins standing tall over both Cena and Lesnar, which was just kind of awesome and glorious. I wish they’d been able to make more of the three factions going on: it’s nice to get two heels with genuinely different motivations in this sort of match.
Paul Heyman does his Game of Thrones-esque list of titles, and admits to being a little afraid. Lesnar is a beast, and does what he does purely for giggles. Literally: Brock Lesnar’s motivation is apparently ‘I had nothing else planned’. I am weirdly okay with that. But now, Lesnar is goddamn furious, and he’s going to destroy Rollins, who then shows up. Seriously: I wish they could stop making this guy run away from stuff, because he does ‘badass’ better than any other heel working right now. Seth is pissed off as well, and he’s tired of everyone feeling like they should be afraid of Lesnar. He’s not afraid of Lesnar, and Paul’s staring at him like Rollins might actually be insane after that statement. Rollins says that he’s cashing in tonight: he wants Lesnar for the title tonight. didyoujust.jpg. Genuine pop for Rollins, but Paul pisses all over what could have been the greatest SmackDown evah, because Lesnar isn’t here. Rollins decides that, in the absence of the Next Big Thing, Heyman is the Next Best Thing, so he’s going to kick his ass instead.
Paul, to his credit, calls Rollins out on being stereotypical, which is both smart and ballsy of the guy. And then laughs at Rollins for thinking that beating up Heyman makes him a tough guy. Rollins corrects him: not ‘tough’, but ‘smart’. Because if he feels like doing something, he’s going to do it. He also calls Heyman Lesnar’s greatest asset, and I feel like Lesnar’s greatest asset is his freakish strength, followed by his unbelievable speed, followed by the fact he can shrug off an Attitude Adjustment like it was nothing, then Paul Heyman. And then Sable, because when has she ever been in his corner for a match? Rollins says that, without Heyman, Brock is all brawn and no brains. Yeah, because Heyman communicates with Lesnar via psychic link during those matches: ‘Hey Brock?’ ‘What’s up, Paul?’ ‘Terrific job so far, truly, and I think it might be an idea to go for another German suplex.’ ‘Really, Paul? I mean…we’ve done fifteen of them so far. I feel like you’re confusing me with Taz again. I wanna do an F-5.’
Okay, I just finished laughing at that image, and Rollins is climbing Paul. Are we giving Rollins a ‘no sense of personal space’ gimmick, because he could definitely make that work. Also, he is genuinely threatening, asking Paul why he shouldn’t Curbstomp him. Heyman points out that the Authority probably won’t be around for very long, whereas Heyman has been getting more and more powerful: this isn’t even his final form! With Lesnar holding the championship, Paul has the greatest bargaining chip ever. Seth looks a little stunned, and Paul just walks the fuck out of there. And I never thought I’d say this about Heyman but, honestly? Like a boss. That whole segment was fan-frigging-tastic.
Paige Is A Better Husband Than Tyson Kidd
Wow, I’d really been prepared for some suck as I heard the Bellas’ music, but Nikki’s facing Natalya with Paige in her corner, who are like the Cesaro and Kidd of the Divas division. Can Paige start dating Cesaro? Can we please have them doing wrestling double dates? Eight-man mixed tag matches, which actually make way more sense than the other variants? I missed part of RAW, but Tyson Kidd cost Paige a victory due to the fact he’s in love with Cena’s girlfriend, which I really hope they make an angle of someday. Paige also slaps Tyson Kidd, which I like to think was less about the match and more about what a terrible, awful, godawful husband he is. The fact that Tyson no-sold the shit out of that slap means that he’s been slapped a lot, and I am happy about that. Byron Saxton tries to defend Tyson Kidd, and no, Byron. No.
They lock up, with Natalya wrenching the arm before Nikki throws her off. Roll-up into a leg-hold by Natalya, but Nikki kicks her off, and hits a tornado armbar from the second rope. Nikki wrenches the arm behind Natalya’s back, and then takes her over with it. She grapevine’s Neidhart’s arm, but Natalya lifts Nikki right the hell off the ground with her arm, and slams her back down.
Natalya’s arm seems to be hurting her pretty badly, but she dodges a charge by Nikki and snapmares her over, running over her back and hitting a running dropkick to the face. She follows that up with a big clothesline, and then goes about setting up the Sharpshooter! Brie gets on the apron, trying to distract Natalya by just holding the belt and screaming: that worked a lot better when AJ and Paige both thought that they were in a relationship with it. The ref and Natalya are distracted, and Paige takes advantage to actually slap Nikki across the chops, and then the Sharpshooter finishes her! Why didn’t Brie try to distract her again?
Well, an interesting storyline for the Divas. And, so far, none of the participants appear to be insane. Apart from Natalya, who’s married to Tyson Kidd. Seems like Paige is going to be like the WWE’s version of Jordan from Scrubs: mean and petty, but entertaining. 2.5 Stars.
Backstage, Renee introduces Big Show, who immediately interrupts her, calls her ‘young lady’ and tells her that she’s not going to ‘take control of this interview’. Misogynist shitlord. Big Show says he knocked out Reigns and Cena on RAW; he’ll knock out everyone tonight and then he’s going to win the Rumble. He asks who can throw him over the top rope, and does he even remember any of the Rumbles he’s been in? Kane shows up and says that he’s in the Rumble as well; Big Show really should have just asked how that changes anything.
Bad News Barrett Was The Intercontinental Title The Whole Time
We come back from commercials at the same moment that Sin Cara throws himself into the ring, which is a great visual. And yep, Firre Workcz let me know that I missed the Barrett/Cara match from last week: I don’t know why, but it wasn’t on the recording that I saw. Still, I apologise for that slipping through the cracks: I’m sure that there were a couple of jokes in that match, other than the two guys competing.
Actually, I like Barrett. Or do I? God, I can’t even remember.
And it was actually a clean win, without even a near-kick-out. Wow. And it seems like they’ve missed off the minor key rendition of ‘God Save Our Queen’ from Barrett’s entrance music in favour of some ominous bass guitar: a good call, now I hear it. Plus, Wade doesn’t make all that much of his nationality, so it’s not like it’s a big loss.
BIG MATCH FEEL announcements, and we’re encouraged to hashtag-tweet ‘IC Title’, which makes it sound like the WWE is remaking The Sixth Sense. Holy shit, I would watch that: Brock Lesnar as Haley Joel Osment, Adam Rose as Bruce Willis, Big Show as that crying naked dude in the bathroom. That would be the greatest movie ever.
Sin Cara immediately busts out some pinning combinations, which is a smart opening. Barrett tries to take control with a punch to the midsection, but Cara kicks him in the head and ascends the top rope, only for Barrett to boot him right in the head. Beatdown begins now, with Barrett then locking in a sleeper. Sin Cara punches his way out, then rolls out of a back suplex and hits a springboard headbutt. Another springboard crossbody for a near-fall, then Wade hits some punches, and manages to send Sin Cara out onto the apron.
Sin Cara tries to go high again, and this time hops over Barrett’s attempted assault, but gets caught with the Winds of Change to get planted hard. Barrett winds up the Bull Hammer, but Sin Cara turns it into a roll-up, and then…a powerbomb?! (Michael Cole’s Remark for Smarks: ‘That’s power you wouldn’t expect out of Sin Cara!’) He plants Wade Barrett in front of the turnbuckle, and then climbs up, but the Senton misses, and so does Barrett’s planned Bull Hammer! Sin Cara springboards off the ropes again…right into a Bull Hammer! Count to a hundred, and that’s the match.
Great match, out of two guys I wasn’t expecting one from. Hell, I’d be happy to see more of Sin Cara against opponents like Kidd, Cesaro, even Rollins. Barrett wasn’t dominant the whole way through, but still looked good. 3 Stars.
WWE announces the WWE Network, and acts like we should be grateful after the months and months of stalling. No dice, you tardy motherfuckers.
Hey, Dean Ambrose is the Shield’s/the Wyatts’/CM Punk’s/Daniel Bryan’s ‘unknown location’ hangout. Man, that place must be lonely now. He says that he was basically an awful child to try and raise, and that apparently translates into being a good wrestler. Man, explains why wrestling training and I didn’t go all that well. That and the fact that ‘come in the ring the hard way, reverse the Irish whip and hit a hip toss’ doesn’t sound very clear in the Geordie dialect. Basically, Ambrose is going to win the Royal Rumble: I’d say ‘spoiler alert’, but…it’s probably not.
And Nobody Got Thrown Over The Top Rope Forebodingly
Main event time, and the heels come out first. Michael calls them a ‘pretty formidable team’, despite the fact that the team includes Big Show and Kane. Man, Rollins’, Ambrose’s and Reigns’ theme musics sound so similar. It’s like Les Miserables, which is like the same four tunes over and over, making it the John Cena of musicals.
It’s go time, and Rollins starts things off by pounding Ambrose in the corner, but Ambrose turns things around, returning the favour and slamming his head off the turnbuckle before hitting a chop. Snapmare and an elbow drop to Rollins, then a neckbreaker. Ambrose hits a big kick to the stomach, and then tags in Reigns as they wrench Seth’s legs apart. Big clothesline to Rollins in the corner, then another snapmare. Roman stares down the Big Show before hitting a delayed vertical suplex, and then starts working over Seth’s arm. He locks Rollins in a facelock, then sends him off the ropes, only for Rollins to hit a kick to the face in desperation, tagging in Kane.
Kane puts a headlock on Roman, then is shot off the ropes and hits a big shoulder block to knock Reigns down. Another headlock applied to Reigns, and he back-suplexes Kane. Kane is still going strong, but a leaping clothesline from Reigns and an uppercut takes the wind out of the Big Red Machine’s sails. Bryan gets the tag, and kicks Kane for ages in the corner, and then hits European uppercuts in another, but Kane takes him down with a huge uppercut and sends him through the ropes. Cruiserweight Security hovers, but Ambrose and Reigns rock up to back them off. Rollins and Big Show join them, and we’ve got a brawl! Reigns, Bryan and Ambrose end up in the ring as we go to break.
Back from the commercials, and Bryan and Rollins are going at it…and then Ambrose immediately tags in: goddamn it. Dean locks Seth up in the ropes and hits a running dropkick before beating him down in the corner. Rollins reverses an Irish whip, only to run right into a boot. Ambrose looks like he’s going for a moonsault, but Rollins interrupts him, and Dean ends up in the Tree of Woe. Seth hits a stomp, and then tags in Big Show. Big punch to Ambrose, and then Show picks Dean up by the leg, hanging him up, before tagging Rollins in. As Seth has the ref distracted, Big Show hits some chops. Rollins applies a chinlock, keeping Dean Ambrose grounded, but Dean struggles up to his feet. Seth cuts him off, putting him back in the Authority corner, tagging in the Big Show to crush Ambrose in the corner.
Bodyslam and a big elbow to Ambrose from the Big Show. Ambrose ducks a chop, hitting strikes to Big Show in the corner, but Show slams a headbutt into Dean’s face, and then goes right back after the knee. He’s literally bearhugging the guy’s knee; I have never seen anyone do that before. Kane comes in from the tag, also taking it to the knee. Man, everyone’s so focused tonight. Suplex by Kane, and he drags Ambrose back to the corner, tagging in Rollins. Seth talks some trash, gets slapped, and then superkicks Ambrose. Kane back in; he takes a kick to the face, uppercuts Ambrose and Dean rebounds to clothesline him! Hope spot, but Rollins shuts Ambrose down, only for Dean to throw him right over the top rope! Cruiserweight Security distracts the referee, allowing Big Show to take Ambrose down at the knee, but Reigns hits a Superman Punch to Big Show on the outside! Rollins hits a dropkick to Reigns, catches up with Ambrose, but Dean makes the tag to Bryan!
Bryan immediately takes Kane off the apron with a dropkick, backflips over Rollins and flies out of the ring at Kane again! He hangs Rollins up on the ropes, then hits a missile dropkick to him, and then a hurricanrana! Rollins manages to hit kick to the head, and Kane comes in for the chokeslam! Reigns basically flies from one side of the ring to the other, interrupting the pin halfway along, and then leaps through the ropes to the outside, getting superkicked by the Big Show when he lands: watch the match for that moment only; that was freaking awesome. Big Show tries to undress the announce table (we should all start using that expression from now on), but Reigns spears him over it!
In the ring, Bryan tries to lock the Yes Lock onto Kane, and does so! Rollins breaks it up, and gets dropkicked by Ambrose, who takes out Cruiserweight Security, and Rollins, and dives out onto all of them! Kane wants a tombstone, but Bryan slips out, hits the CenaSlayer and gets the pin!
Okay, the first match makes sense if they were saving Bryan’s best stuff for this one. Everything about this ruled, with even Big Show bringing out offence I’ve never seen before. Consider me well and truly psyched for the Rumble. 4 Stars.
As Bryan celebrates, Triple H’s music hits. Well, we’ve got about one minute left, so he’d better make this snappy. Hunter says he got lucky tonight, but his luck’s going to run out. Next week, Kane has a match with Bryan, with Bryan’s spot in the Rumble on the line. Hah, yeah, because they want a repeat of last year’s Royal Rumble. Who would they even put in as the number 30 entrant?
This show was really well done. The first match had a great excuse, and everything else just worked well for me. I like how, even though Rollins and Cena are titling at this time, there are a bunch of guys who could potentially beat them who aren’t in a position to, like Ambrose, Reigns, Bryan, etc. There’s actually a good roster right now, and this show reflected that. Nine.
David’s Movie Recommendation: I finally ended up watching Saving Mr Banks a couple of nights ago. Now, I love Mary Poppins like nothing else, and I really didn’t want to see a movie which brought up a load of bad stuff about it, because that film is my childhood. But even with the background of it, and the fact that you have to wonder whether Disney was going out of their way to settle a score with the deceased Travers, it was a great movie. Colin Farrell plays an alcoholic in it, which is meant to be sad, but is sort of weirdly excellent.
Oh, and a final note, if you’re still with me. I am going to be away on a personal errand over a lot of next week, and would be really grateful if someone would be able to cover next week’s show; I’ve also put a note on the Facebook page. If you agree, I will be in your debt until I hurriedly pay it off (because I’m always afraid people are going to ask for a kidney if I leave it outstanding), and would be able to send you an email with all of the links and information I use. This would really be helping me out, and would be tres appreciated.
Tags: alicia fox, big show, byron saxton, Daniel Bryan, dean ambrose, Jamie Noble, Jerry Lawler, joey mercury, kane, Michael Cole, miz, Mizdow, naomi, natalya neidhart, Paige, Renee Young, Roman Reigns, sin cara, Smackdown, the bellas, the usos, triple h, Wade Barrett, WWE