What’s up, wrestling fans? Today is a good day, because I finally finished my PhD research proposal, after running it through a spell-checker and removing some of the more visceral curse words. So, I’m facing tonight’s SmackDown in pretty optimistic frame of mind; I guess you could say that I’m pretty and optimistic.
So, everyone ready to come with me on this journey of getting smacked back down into cynicism and hatred, courtesy of Vince McMahon and some creatively bankrupt yes-men? Shit, let’s do it.
We get a strong start with a nice, revamped replay of Lesnar talking about how hurting people gives him wowsers in his trousers. To be fair, it seems logical on a really creepy level that a guy who practically gets off on destroying his fellow man is our world champion; if nothing else, you assume that he’d be willing to go that extra mile.
Hope you enjoyed that fleeting glimpse of the man who possesses the biggest belt in the company, because this is SmackDown, motherfuckers, and we don’t hold with exhibiting your fancy-schmancy main-eventers. Aaaand I’m proved wrong right off the bat as Roman and his ridiculous t-shirt make their entrance. Man, I’m buying that shirt to wear to at least one of my vivas if I get on this PhD course. I’m going to insist on entrance music as well.
Decent reception for Mr Reigns in Kansas City, but I guess they feel like they have to love Superman and all. Roman is about to say something, presumably one of his typical self-affirmations, and then Mark Henry interrupts, because fuck your self-confidence, Reigns. Unless Mark’s secretly a masochist and wants some more of that sweet, spear sugar. He says that he came out last week because he wanted to see what Roman could do in the ring, because Henry does not own a television, and doesn’t watch any WWE programming on his computer. We re-watch Roman Goldberg-ing Mark from last week, and Mark says that, officially, he knows that Reigns can beat Lesnar. Wow, that must mean just so much to Reigns, coming from a guy who’s never beaten Brock ever.
Seth shows up, because I truly believe him to be incapable of not interrupting the faces at this stage. Kane and Cruiserweight Security are there as well, and Kane rightfully calls Henry on his endorsement bullshit. Rollins then hoists the briefcase, letting us all know that there won’t actually be a cash-in at WrestleMania, because bluffing and reverse-psychology are about as sophisticated as the WWE gets in terms of narrative.
Rollins brags about us actually being semi-excited for his WrestleMania match, and tells us that Orton totally won’t be there tonight. And that’s totally not reverse-psychology either. But, in ten days, he’s going to kill the hell out of Randy and, as a tune-up, is going to team up with Kane in order to get beaten by Henry and Reigns. I mean, he doesn’t say it like that, but he knows. And we know. And he knows we know.
I’d Pay So Much Money If AJ/Paige Showed Up To WrestleMania Wearing The Women’s Title
Paige is in the ring, apparently without AJ. Hella nasty-looking head-to-ringpost smash from RAW this Monday, and apparently AJ’s on commentary. She says that caring about someone else’s well-being led to her losing the match, which is probably a decent moral to take from this story. Because the other one is ‘twins are bitches’. The Bellas show up, and it’s Brie fighting Paige whilst Nikki joins AJ and the guys on commentary.
Paige immediately drives Brie through the ropes to the outside, and dumps her the hell on the announce table. King makes a joke about getting in and separating them, and I’m thankful that the ladies then take it back into the ring. Brie comes off the second rope with a missile dropkick, and then applies a sleeper hold. Paige’s head is rocked off the turnbuckle, and then she takes a bulldog out of the corner from Brie, before the Bella applies the sleeper again.
AJ is talking about how she and Paige represent a different kind of Diva, and then uses the term ‘New Day’; you wash your fucking mouth out, AJ Lee. Paige manages to hit Brie with a kick to the face, and both women knock each other down with clotheslines. Another kick attempt from Paige is blocked by Brie, and she takes a running knee to the face, right before managing to roll Brie up for the quick win.
Over really quickly, which I’d expect from a match with a sleeper hold at about the 30th second. Still, a nice promise of the more hard-hitting style Paige and the others could bring to their match. Commentary re. the agendas of AJ and Nikki was actually pretty interesting. 2 Stars.
We replay the fact that the Authority is scared of Sting, who is fifty-six years old tomorrow. I just have to keep bringing that up; I’m sorry. I’m just not afraid of many fifty-plus year old men, and it baffles me that these giant, muscular dudes are.
Jamie and Joey check on the security people, who apparently have not been informed that Orton will murder them and their families in order to get three paces past them.
‘The Gauntlet’ Sounds Like An Ancient Test Of Manhood. Or A Sex Position.
It’s Gauntlet time, and it looks as though Dean Ambrose is out first, ready to wrestle…it’s Stardust. And, just to ask, what the hell happened with his feud with his brother? I mean, it seems like that whole thing just got derailed and they threw a seventh man in here.
Ambrose gains control of the arm to start, and then takes Stardust down with an elbow off the ropes. Chops to the chest before Stardust ducks out of the ring; Ambrose chases him back inside. He tries for a Pendulum Clothesline, but Stardust ducks it and hits his Disaster Kick instead. Stardust gets driven into a frenzy by the crowd chanting, you know, his real name, and drops Ambrose with a face-first suplex. Ambrose reverses a sunset flip pin attempt, Davey Boy style, getting the win, but Stardust snaps and beats the fuck out of him.
R-Truth arrives, and takes Stardust out, on the basis that he’s a crazy motherfucker. The match starts, but Stardust distracts R-Truth, allowing Dean to hit Dirty Deeds for another win.
Luke Harper’s the next competitor, and he makes his ominous way to the ring. When we come back from a quick ad-break, Ambrose runs the ropes and hits a crossbody, but Harper takes him right down with a jerk of the shoulder, taking advantage of the injured joint with an armbar take-down. A sleeper hold, focusing on the shoulder as well, is locked in, before Harper hurls Ambrose right into the middle turnbuckle, face-first. The big man with the big beard applies a crossface, and Dean reaches the ropes after about thirty seconds.
A low-bridge sends Harper to the outside, gaining Ambrose a reprieve, and he uses said-reprieve to hurl himself off the apron onto Harper. Back in the ring, Dean wants a tornado DDT from the second rope, but Harper throws him away, only for Ambrose to land on his feet. He ducks a clothesline and almost gets the pin with a roll-up before Ambrose walks right into a side-slam.
Harper locks the crossface in again, and it looks like Ambrose is in trouble before he starts biting Harper’s hand. He manages to gain the upper hand, dropkicking Harper against the ropes and almost getting another roll-up pin. He heads up to the top rope, leaps over a charging Harper, gets superkicked in the face but comes back to knock Harper the fuck down with the Pendulum Clothesline! Dirty Deeds is countered into a clothesline, with Harper getting the pin after a sit-out powerbomb.
Luke Harper has no chance to celebrate, as Bryan’s music hits and the guy who is officially settling the most in this match shows up. When the commercials are done, Bryan is wrapping Harper’s legs around the post, and then punishes the limbs with some kicks before applying a surfboard. Holy crap, he can lift Harper in that move? He even does the gnarly pulling-back-on-the-neck bit, which still makes me wince to this day.
Harper eats some more kicks, but then suddenly bulls up, bodily flinging Bryan over the top rope to the outside, getting a chance to recover. When Bryan comes back, Harper is right on the offensive, hitting a bodyslam and then a Gator Roll. He has Bryan in a headlock, and Bryan tries to fight out of it, only to eat a big uppercut and another vicious bodyslam.
Suddenly, Bryan gets a backslide for two, only to eat a big kick to the face. Harper is selling the hell out of what Bryan did to his legs; he’s literally acting like staying on his feet is a struggle. Knees to Bryan, who slides out of a third bodyslam and throws some kicks. Harper throws him out of the ring, but Bryan skins the cat, throws Harper out and dives out onto him!
Some more kicks on the menu for Harper when they get back into the ring, but he ducks the last one and throws Bryan, who lands right on his head. Harper takes Bryan down with his big clothesline, but that only gets a two. The big man wants a sit-out powerbomb, but Bryan goes over in a sunset flip, turning it into almost an ankle lock for the tap-out!
Ziggler’s the next man out, and let’s see what they’re not letting us have at WrestleMania. Both men tie up, with Bryan taking Ziggler over with a headlock. Another tie-up, and Ziggler gets the headlock takeover this time, with Bryan locking the legs around his head to break it. They go for the third time, and Ziggler backs Bryan into the corner before eating some kicks. Uppercut sends Dolph reeling, but then he fires up, laying some hands. Quick roll-up from Ziggler, and then he’s back on the attack with a neckbreaker.
Bryan ducks a stinger splash, hitting his running dropkick into the corner instead; he goes for his hurricanrana from the turnbuckle, but Dolph turns it into a sunset flip for a near-fall! Both guys are up and throwing hands, and then uppercuts, and feet, with Dolph sending Bryan into the corner for a headbutt. Bryan is sent into the corner, backflips out of it, and both men collide with dual crossbodies as we go to the break.
Back to the action, and Bryan is working the arm before Ziggler rolls out of a back suplex, hitting a dropkick to drop Bryan. Fameasser is countered into a powerbomb for a long two-count, and then Ziggler catches Bryan on the top rope, crotching him. He looks for a suplex, but Bryan ducks out and crotches Dolph. Back suplex from the top rope, but Dolph turns it into a crossbody half-way down! Bryan pops back up and kicks Ziggler upside the head for another long two!
Bryan wants a running knee, but he runs into a superkick for the nearest of near falls! Both men are down as the crowd starts their second ‘this is awesome’ chant of the night (credit to Bryan and Harper for the first). Dolph tries to lift Bryan, who was playing possum, and he locks in the Yes Lock, but Ziggler fights out, pinning Bryan, who bridges out of it; Bryan tries for a backslide and, after a hard struggle, gets it for a two-count. Bryan tries to kick Ziggler in the face, but Ziggler ducks, hits the Zig-Zag and pins Bryan clean!
Okay, major goodwill for how great that Gauntlet was in general (because it was pretty fucking great), for us getting to see Dolph vs. Bryan for longer than I thought and for Ziggler getting a clean win over Bryan. That speaks volumes to me, and hopefully was intended to: Ziggler could be the Shawn Michaels to Bryan’s Bret Hart, just without the bitchiness, prima donna antics and Montreal. These two should have gotten their WrestleMania match, and I hope they do one day. 4 Stars.
Oh, as a sidenote: fuck you, Vince, for saying that nobody’s willing to grab the brass ring, you out-of-touch pensioner.
Ziggler and Bryan shake hands, and then Barrett comes out, all brash and British. He’s got some bad news and looks like he’s about to deliver a Hannibal Lecture, but then suddenly Bull Hammers the fuck out of Ziggler. Bryan jumps to Ziggler’s defence, but he takes a microphone to the face, before Barrett Bull Hammers both guys again. Jesus, can he just be like this all the time, please?
Are they seriously making WrestleMania plus the pre-show six hours long? I don’t care if it’s a Sunday: who the fuck has that kind of time?
We get the Divas giving their thoughts on the Divas match, spliced with some footage of AJ, Paige and the Bellas. It’s pretty good, because it’s more build than most of the rest of WrestleMania has, and also makes it look like the match has some importance rather than being designated a ‘bathroom break’ match. And yeah, I’m still a little disappointed that it’s not a Fatal Four Way for the championship, even if you had Brie in there rather than somehow slotting Natalya in her place, but it should be pretty decent none the less. Plus, the WrestleMania theme is seriously catchy.
And apparently Alicia Fox got cured of her crazy. You know what, good for her.
Replay of Cena and Rusev, although they cut that goddamn incredible accent that Rusev’s lawyer brought in: I was laughing so hard at that whole segment.
This Is The Least Entertaining Of Every ‘Interspecies’ Performance I’ve Seen
Okay, Cesaro, Kidd and Nat are on their way to the ring, and the announcer just called it an ‘interspecies match’. Is it because ‘dickhead’ has its own classification in terms of species now? Yes, that was a joke about Tyson Kidd. Just to clarify: I’m sure he’s a lovely guy and a great husband in real life, but onscreen he’s a bastard’s bastard and shall be treated as such.
Jamie and Joey are still haranguing the security guys. Say what you like about those two clowns, but they take their jobs really seriously. Although, let’s face it, Orton’s already in the building. Orton is probably posing as one of the security guards that they’re talking to, wearing the guy’s face-skin over his own (yeah, I watched Silence of the Lambs again…)
We see another RAW replay, with Cesaro having to take a headscissors from a little person in a costume. I mean, he’s one half of the tag team champions, but yeah, why the fuck not? I’d also take Los Matadores more seriously if they weren’t Los Matadores. I accept that that is not the most useful advice, WWE, but that’s just how I feel.
Cesaro applies a headlock to Matador 1, getting shot off the ropes and hitting a shoulder tackle. He runs the ropes again, getting a hurricanrana this time. And can he lose the blue shorts? I don’t mean in a nudity way; I just meant go back to black. Cesaro holds his hand out for a tag, and Nattie tags in, which Cesaro wasn’t expecting. Aw, he’s so used to tagging in Kidd.
Natalya gets in the ring, and she’s facing El Torito. Um…what the fuck? They’re making the woman fight the little person? I’m not sure who that’s more offensive to, so double fucking prize to the WWE for managing to create that sort of ambiguous dickishness. Jesus, Vince.
Tyson Kidd tags himself in, and good, Tyson: nobody wanted to see that. That means that one of the regular-sized Matadors comes in, ducks a clothesline, and then drop toe-holds Kidd on the ropes, diving through them and tagging in Matador 2. Kidd drops Matador 2 on the ropes and chokes him, before Cesaro smacks a kick to the guy’s head and then comes in to throw him out of the ring. Kidd gets the tag, but gets caught on the apron and dropped onto it face-first.
Okay, King’s weirdest remark of the night bears some repeating, unfortunately: ‘all men are pigs, but thank goodness women love bacon’. No comment.
Matadors are still in control as I’m struggling to understand King’s stupid, stupid mind. The bull hurricanranas Cesaro into Kidd, and then Los Matadores dropkick them out of the ring before diving on them, but Nat got the tag before this happened. I’ll admit, I sort of phased out a little here, because there’s only so much dumb shit that I can process.
Natalya comes in, applying the torture rack to that fucking bull, but Torito turns it into an armdrag. He goes for a hurricanrana off the top rope, but Natalya turns it into a sit-out powerbomb for the win!
This was really dumb. I mean, like, so dumb. And I hate Los Matadores and El Torito, not because they can’t wrestle (which they can) but because they have a gimmick which actively makes me angry. And hell, I’m glad Natalya got the win, although this probably means that Tyson thinks that his mascot is better than Los Matadores’ mascot. 1.5 Stars.
Not Like I’m Going To Gloat About Calling This Or Anything
We finally snap back to some seriousness as Roman makes his way to the ring, and then Henry’s music hits, but there’s no Henry. Oh man, was Henry playing the long con (for, what, like two weeks)? Ah, no, wait, he’s been laid out backstage. The Prime Time Players are right there, which seems really suspicious, but nobody even questions them. Seth and Kane show up then, accompanied by Cruiserweight Security and Actual Security. I’m looking for the one with the notable facial scars, but their backs are turned.
Bell ring-a-ding-dings and we’re off with this now-handicap match. Kane and Reigns circle each other, until Rollins keeps trying to get in the match; with the refereee distracted, Cruiserweight Security distract Reigns himself so that Kane can smack him with a boot. Rollins comes in, starting to work Reigns over, hitting a neckbreaker and choking the guy on the ropes. Tag to Kane, who throws Rollins at Reigns to hit a stinger splash, then hits a sidewalk slam to Roman.
Kane charges at Reigns, running into a boot, but he cuts off Reigns’ flurry with a tornado DDT. Rollins tags in, attacking Reigns on the apron before bringing it back into the ring, throwing Reigns face-first into the turnbuckle. Kane’s legal now, laying some elbows to a downed Roman. Rollins tags in, and tries for a splash, but gets elevated over the top; that gives Reigns enough time to deal with Kane before clotheslining Rollins in the corner, again and again. Rollins ducks a final clothesline; Roman ducks a kick; Rollins ducks again buts caught with a tilt-a-whirl slam.
Mercury gets up on the apron and eats a Superman Punch; Rollins ducks one coming for him; the two men counter each other furiously before Roman fells Seth with a blow to the back of his neck. Noble’s knocked off the apron as well, but the opportunity is open for Seth to hang Reigns up on the apron. Rollins heads up to the top, but leaps right into a Superman Punch, in mid-air! Kane has made the tag, however, and moves to chokeslam Reigns, but Roman leaps away and hits a spear for the win!
This would have been a good moment to really display some other-worldly viciousness from Reigns, after the kind of touting that Brock’s been getting. This is still looking a lot like the plucky everyman going out to slay the monster, which I don’t think is the best way to play this. But whatever: it’s too late now. 2 Stars.
Reigns shoves through the security guys on his way out, like a badass, and leaves without issue.
And then Orton’s music hits, and Randy jumps Seth from behind. Not like I told you so or anything. The security people try to ineffectually stop Orton one at a time, but he goes the hell through them like a knife through…security people. He stalks Rollins for an RKO, but Noble interferes, and takes it instead. Seth still almost eats an RKO. but shoves himself away; Mercury dives off the top rope and Orton catches him for another RKO! Rollins backs the hell off as Orton celebrates his psychotic dominance over all and sundry.
Man, if only Roman had done something exactly like that.
Pretty good show tonight. Los Matadores are still the thorn in my side for, God, a lot of reasons, but the rest of it kept things interesting. The Gauntlet Match, naturally, takes the match of the night, and due to it taking up most of the show, that made for a better overall view of the night. I guess, at this stage, I’m resigned to just not getting in that psyched state of mind for the Show of Shows, which sucks, because that’s traditionally a big part of it. Some matches, however, should be of a good level. Tonight gets an eight.
David’s Movie Recommendation: On a horror movie kick once again, and tonight’s recommendation goes to Rosemary’s Baby. I don’t exactly know what it is about this film which freaks me out so much, but goddamn, the ending just gives me the chills. Maybe it’s also because it was directed by, you know, Roman Polanski, but that’s more or less context.
Tags: AJ Lee, Bray Wyatt, Brie Bella, Brock Lesnar, byron saxton, Cesaro, Cruiserweight Security, Daniel Bryan, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, El Torito, Jamie Noble, Jerry Lawler, joey mercury, Kane, Los Matadores, Luke Harper, Mark Henry, Michael Cole, Natalya, Nikki Bella, Paige, R-Truth, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, seth rollins, smackdown, Tyson Kidd