Hey there, everyone. We’re about a week through the New Year, which means that we’re all going to be okay. I assume. Probably. Why the fuck not?
And apparently the WWE’s New Year’s resolution was to listen to what the majority of us actually wanted: make Roman Reigns a fucking badass. And you know, it’s actually massively heartwarming. Because, let’s face it, most of us basically liked Reigns. The complaints, on the whole, were that A) he was brought up to World Championship level far too quickly for him to mature as a singles talent, which I stand by still, and B) that he was made to look like a pretty weak babyface until the last five minutes of TLC, which you can put on Creative and Vince. All I wanted was to be able to get behind Reigns a hundred percent, without any nagging doubts or feelings of shame, and I’ve got that now, and it’s awesome, but also a little bit weird.
Also, thank you WWE for finally realising that it’s not necessary for us to relate to the proteined-up monsters you make dance for our entertainment. And shit, I relate to a couple of them on an incredibly basic level, but I’m pretty damn happy that our WWE World Heavyweight Champion (I took the ‘Fucking’ out of it when Sheamus dropped the belt) looks and acts like the kind of man who could and would murder a stadium full of people to retain the title. I don’t want to empathise with the individual who is supposed to epitomise being the best at beating the shit out of people; I want to regard him as some kind of Olympian God who exists on a level I can’t even comprehend and could rip off my limbs if he wanted to.
Keep Roman Reigns in this mindset, and I don’t think we’ve got to worry about the Championship picture all that much.
But hey, SmackDown!
Looks like a new home warrants a new VOICE OF SMACKDOWN, and it’s some bespectacled dude named MAURO RANALLO. Byron Saxton’s at the announce table as well, though whether that’s a permanent change or a one-time thing is unclear.
John Cena’s music hits, and apparently this is what the WWE regards as a ‘special treat’, the patronising fucks. He welcomes everyone to the first SmackDown of 2016, and then calls out Alberto Del Rio before saying that, actually, he should be nicer to people in the New Year, and then formally introduces Del Rio.
Alberto appears, making his way to the ring. He looks a little surprised that Cena has invited him out, but gets into the ring anyway. Del Rio then tells Cena that he can fuck right off with his patriotic BS, because he’s never getting a United States title opportunity. God, he’s got such a glorious skin tone: I want it. Cena uses the crowd to try and convince the sun-tanned God to put the belt on the line, but Alberto tells him to fuck off again because he’s not five years old. He says that it’s not happening tonight: no way, no how. But he will fight anyone, right here and right now, who is not John Cena. John Cena says thatonight is about the USA, and NO! NO! NOT JACK SWAGGER!
I guess John Cena just stayed to watch
Oh, thank fuck: it’s Kalisto. After exchanging BILINGUAL TRASH TALK, Del Rio gets in Kalisto’s face, and then shoves him. Kalisto comes back with a tilt-a-whirl headscissors as a ref runs into the ring, sending Alberto to the outside.
Del Rio comes back inside, immediately beating Kalisto down in a corner. This match is not for the United States Championship, just to clarify that. Kalisto is sent off the ropes, but comes back with a beautiful handspring-roundhouse kick to the side of Del Rio’s head, then hits a spike-a-rana, causing Alberto to bail out of the ring once again as we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Del Rio has just planted Kalisto on the ground and kicks him around against the ropes before smashing a boot into the side of the luchador’s skull. John Cena is playing cheerleader for some reason, the patronising son of a bitch. Back in the ring, Alberto drops Kalisto with a clothesline and hits a stomp. Kalisto is set up in the Tree of Woe, taking some shots to the midsection before receiving a shoulder-thrust to the gut. When Del Rio goes for a second, however, Kalisto avoids it, leaving Alberto to smash into the post!
With Del Rio reeling, Kalisto rights himself on the top rope, then scores with a sitting senton. Springboard corkscrew crossbody takes Alberto down, then a big superkick leads into a spike-a-rana…which Del Rio counters into a powerbomb! Kalisto kicks out at two, pissing Del Rio off, and the Lucha Dragon takes some clotheslines in the corner. Alberto hits a hell of a DDT, sending the smaller man right out of the ring. Del Rio follows, mocking Cena before hurling Kalisto into the barricade.
Back in the ring go both athletes, and Del Rio wants the Cross Armbreaker, taunting Cena again. Kalisto, however, spins out of hit, rolling Alberto up with a hurricanrana for the pin!
That was a pretty standard match, considering the two athletes involved. I feel like it could have been more spectacular. Not sure where I stand on Cena’s role as the distraction: detracts from Kalisto, but Del Rio’s beaten the luchador soundly in the past. 2.5 Stars.
Becky is backstage, when suddenly a wild JoJo appears! She asks if Becky knows why Charlotte suddenly turned into a gigantic asshole. Becky is apparently sick to death of being stabbed into the death by friends, so is going to beat the absolute shit out of Charlotte by way of a warning to any future friends.
Christ alive, it’s Miz TV. I’d complain, but it’s actually the most professionally-done talk show the WWE’s ever had. What happens when you employ a guy who actually knows how to do it, I guess. Miz gets about six words in before the New Day interrupt, which just fuels my love for them.
Woods and Friends want to rebut Chris Jericho’s childish trash talk, but get about ten words in before Dolph Ziggler comes out, and what in God’s name has that man done to his hair? Has…has he dried it? That bastard. He gets two words in, and here comes Goldust: no fucking comment. Goldust actually gets pretty far into his promo/sexual harassment of Miz before Neville shows up to talk in gibberish. I feel like there’s a My Fair Lady angle which has yet to be exploited here.
Miz finally gets pissed off, and raises his hand (which the New Day obediently imitate), and R-Truth appears. Fuck it: this is funny in a weird sort of way. Truth tells everyone to step aside, because he’s the guy who’s going to take on Alberto Del Rio tonight in the United States Open Challenge, which doesn’t exist. My God, they’ve actually managed to find the perfect use for R-Truth: never wrestling and being insane. Miz corrects Truth, who then asks what everyone was talking about, before asking how one might go about entering the Royal Rumble.
Miz fires off one insult too many, and a brawl breaks out, with the faces clearing the ring of everyone except Xavier Woods, who was too busy eating popcorn to fight. I swear, I am not making any of this up. Goldust steals Woods’ popcorn; Neville kicks him out of his chair, and Woods leaves the ring. I smell a tag team match…
Teddy Long absolutely appeared during the commercial break
And I’m right. When we come back, Truth has put Miz down on the mat and he tags in Goldust. Double hip toss to Goldust, who then eats a jawbreaker from Miz. Kingston comes in, and takes a Rhodes Uppercut before Ziggler tags in. Kofi is whipped into the corner and takes a dropkick, then gets his arm wrenched by Dolph, who tags in R-Truth. Truth continues the punishment of Kingston’s arm.
Neville tags in, hitting elbows to Kingston’s arm before hitting a bodyslam. Standing shooting star press gets two, and Neville goes back to the arm, keeping Kingston grounded. Kofi works his way to his feet, sends Neville off the ropes, and takes a flurry of kicks. Neville is sent into the corner, leaps cat-like up to the top rope and then backflips over Kingston, hitting a high backdrop and starting to score with some right hands in the corner. As Big E distracts the referee, Woods attacks Neville, buying Kingston some breathing room as we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Neville is feeling the wrath of the Unicorn Stampede. Kingston then wrenches Neville’s head as the crowd chant their support for the Geordie. Kofi slams Neville’s head off the mat, and then tags in Woods to apply a Cobra Clutch. Neville rolls out of it, taking a punch, but he manages to elevate Woods over the top rope and tag in Dolph Ziggler as Miz tags in on the other size.
Ziggler hits clotheslines, a stinger splash, a neckbreaker and an elbow. The Fameasser misses; Ziggler gets rolled up, kicks out, and hits the Fameasser for two and a half! Kingston runs in and takes a powerslam from Goldust; Big E charges into the ring and takes a calf kick from R-Truth! Neville dives out of the ring onto all three of New Day! Miz is surrounded by the remaining three faces: Goldust, Truth and Ziggler! Miz tries to run, but is flung into a superkick for the win.
Nice flurry at the end to end a decent match. Matching the New Day up with partners and seeing what happens is always a bit of fun. 2.5 Stars.
Post-match, Ziggler superkicks R-Truth, because you can only steal HBK’s finisher for so long before becoming as big a backstabber as he was. He then chucks Goldust out of the ring, then yells ‘just like the Rumble match!’ in case anyone didn’t fucking get that. Neville apparently bailed at the first moment of trouble, which was pretty smart of the guy.
Charlotte and Ric Flair are backstage, and walk into another ambush interview by the dastardly JoJo. Ric Flair immediately starts defending his strong, confident, Divas Champion daughter, who then starts talking about her Dad and comparing herself to him. Good God, it would have been more dignified if Flair had been killed by the last Sweet Chin Music he took.
Match of the night
Charlotte and Ric Flair make their way down to the ring, and I feel like Ric Flair calling accusing Becky of leeching off his daughter to be the Olympus of hypocrisy. Becky Lynch follows her out, and I am seriously pleased that she wasn’t lost in the shuffle which, for a while, seemed likely.
Ref holds up the belt, bell rings, and here we go. Both women lock up, with Charlotte backing Becky into the corner. King, unless I’m very much mistaken, is acting the part of heel commentator for this match, and that’s like being confronted by a relic of my childhood (if any of my childhood relics had had sex with an underage girl). At least he’s not going to be helping me hate the faces anymore.
Also, King describes Becky as being in ‘the early stages of her career’. I am fucking sick of WWE refusing to acknowledge that there is wrestling outside of promotions owned by them. Ranallo, to his credit, immediately corrects King, and welcome to the fucking family, Mauro: you’re my kind of guy.
Charlotte takes Becky over with a waistlock, who tries to hit a hip toss, but Charlotte counters into an armlock, taking Becky down to the mat once again. King then more or less states that nothing matters except the WWE, and doesn’t he run his own promotion…? Becky kicks Charlotte away, this time catching her with an armdrag, and then a second before locking the arm. She goes for the Disarmer, nearly gets rolled up, and there’s a face-off.
They lock up again, with Becky getting a waistlock and then rolling Charlotte up. Charlotte kicks out, then goes after the legs, wrapping one around her body. Becky rolls Charlotte up again; she returns the favour and the Champion and the challenger exchange pins before Becky locks the arm, lifting herself up into a crab position as she does so. Charlotte puts Becky down, back of the head-first, but the Irish lass bridges out from under Charlotte, takes her down with a dropkick, an armdrag and then locks the arm again.
Charlotte’s down and in trouble, but she works her way back to a feet, hitting a right hand. She tries to leapfrog over Becky in the corner, but the redhead catches and her and puts her out onto the apron. The Champ hangs on, but Becky hits her with a kick to knock her down to the outside. Becky waits on Charlotte as Flair stares her down and the referee begins to count. When Flair tries to help Charlotte, Becky dashes out to back him off, throwing Charlotte into the ring herself.
Charlotte dodges right back out of the ring, choosing to take her time on the way back in. Becky moves back out as well, looking to intercept the Divas Champion, but Ric blocks her, buying Charlotte time to gather herself. When Ric finally does move, Charlotte boots Becky in the face. I mean…I know that Charlotte’s going through a heel stage right now, but…this is kind of embarrassing.
Back in the ring, Charlotte goes immediately on the assault, smacking Becky and bashing her head off the mat until she’s groggy, then throwing her across the ring. More shots to the face, putting Charlotte firmly in control. Suplex to Lynch gets two, and the Champ follows that up with a knee to the gut and an exploder suplex. Charlotte struts her stuff as we go to a break.
When we come back, Becky’s head is locked between Charlotte’s legs, and is getting smashed off the mat before Charlotte takes her over with rolls: that move just looks fucking terrifying every time I see it. Charlotte tries again, but Becky lifts her up into an electric chair position, and drops her onto the turnbuckle – did…did Mauro just call ‘snake eyes’? Holy shit, this guy knows the names of moves! Why does this seem like a big deal to me?!
Charlotte throws a right, but Becky blocks shot after shot, finally levelling Charlotte with a clothesline, then another, and then a leg lariat. Forearm to the face, then an exploder suplex out of the corner for two. Charlotte reverses an Irish whip, sending Becky into the corner and hitting a rope-assisted neckbreaker; she tries for several pins, getting two every time, and then busts out the patented Flair Chops.
Becky tries a backslide; Charlotte flips her over her head and goes for a boot; Becky dodges the boot and hits a pumphandle exploder suplex! Mauro knows what a pumphandle exploder suplex is called! Becky wants the Disarmer, but Charlotte knocks her away, catching the challenger with the Spear! Charlotte wants the Figure Eight; Becky rolls her up for two and immediately locks in an armbar!
Charlotte’s locked in the armbar in the centre of the ring, and she picks Becky up in the powerbomb position! Becky rolls through and nearly catches her with another roll-up, and then locks in the full Disarmer! Flair grabs Charlotte’s foot, placing it on the bottom rope; Charlotte taps, but the ref spots the foot on the rope and breaks the hold. Becky knows that Ric had something to do with it, but Charlotte rolls her up, putting her feet on the ropes to get the win!
That was twelve or so minutes of excellent wrestling. The only thing, and this is literally the only thing, that brought it down was Ric Flair. Yep, Ric Flair: the guy they brought in to elevate the Divas Division, because God forbid any of us actually just enjoyed the high standard of wrestling that we’d all been waiting for. And the thing is, Ric Flair was and is a fantastic heel manager: remember how pissed off we used to get when he saved Triple H’s ass again and again and again? It was damn near masterful. The problem is that Charlotte isn’t Triple H, who had a great legacy backing him up during that time. This is Charlotte’s first championship run, and it’s going to be marred by the fact that it looks like she couldn’t win a match without her own father helping. Do Charlotte the biggest favour in the world, and ditch Ric. Let her cheat to win her own matches, like he did, and like almost every other heel right now does, because then all of the heat and all of the victories will be hers and hers alone. 4 Stars, and it would have been higher if the WWE had thought we might be able watch Divas matches without any WWE Hall of Famers present.
Sorry, bit of a rant there. And, actually, lost in that rant was the praise that Mauro Ranallo so rightly deserves: SmackDown now has a commentator that calls moves like ‘snake eyes’, ‘lariat kick’ and ‘pumphandle exploder suplex’. He is the commentator that we deserve, and the one we absolutely need right now.
Kevin Owens is WALKING SERIOUSLY backstage, and then Renee Young takes a page out of JoJo’s book and springs an interview on him. Are they just stalking wrestlers now instead of scheduling anything? I agree, it seems like the more fun way to do it. Owens says she can have exactly one minute of her time, and keeps checking her watch, because he’s a man of his word.
Owens says he’s feeling no effects of being put through a table, and you’d think he’d at least be feeling a little bit of rage. But he says that Ambrose is a cockroach, and due to the incredibly shitty amount of money that most professional wrestlers make, he’s stayed in a lot of terrible hotel rooms and has had to kill more than a few cockroaches. He says that, tonight, he takes back what’s his: the Intercontinental Championship. He then checks the watch, says that that was a minute, and walks off.
Okay, Renee, I don’t see what you’re looking so annoyed about: that was about the same length as the average interview, and it gave you a lot more information than most of the other ones do. The man’s economical with his time and efficient with his words.
In other news: our World Champion is an old-man-and-woman-beating awesome badass, and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will be defended in the Royal Rumble. You know what? I’m actually pretty psyched for it, because hopefully making the Rumble the absolute centre of everyone’s attention means that there’s going to be a hell of a lot more effort put into it than the last two. And it’s not like this is completely without historical precedent: Ric Flair won the WWF World Heavyweight Championship by being the last man standing in the 1992 Royal Rumble match. Admittedly, the title was vacant at the time, so this is still technically a first, but I feel like it’s an interesting hypothetical concept, even if it will shortly become actual. I’m not going to shoot it down yet, anyway.
We see a clip of a Renee interviewing Roman after RAW on Monday. Roman, who either looks really good after a title match or who got showered and then put on his ring gear again, seems not-so-worried about the possibility of losing his title. I mean…I personally don’t believe that he’s going to win it, but fortune favours the bold.
Wow, an advert on another channel got interrupted by this show in the most awesome way possible. A man and his girlfriend have taken a roadtrip in a car; the man goes down on one knee in front of his girlfriend…and suddenly there are chants of ‘SUPLEX CITY’ and Brock Lesnar’s walking around. I feel like every failed proposal should end in the man being beaten up by Brock Lesnar: saves them the embarrassment of any awkward conversations after she’s said no.
Renee is backstage with Dean Ambrose (who she apparently didn’t ambush). She asks him what we can expect tonight. Ambrose says that Owens has done everything to him, and he’s still fine. Owens says that he’s a prizefighter; Ambrose hoists up the Championship and says that this is the prize, so let’s fight. That was a way shorter interview than Owens gave.
Ambrose looks like he smells like James Dean
Kevin Owens makes his way out to the ring for the second of our two Championship matches. Dean Ambrose follows him out, looking ready for a fight. For the second time tonight, the bell rings, the ref hoists the belt, and we get this thing underway.
Both men circle each other before locking up. Owens backs Ambrose into the corner, and they force each other from corner to corner before shoving each other. Owens takes the arm, but Ambrose gets a headlock, taking Owens over. Kevin backs Owens into the corner, takes a kick the stomach, almost gets caught by Dirty Deeds and then backs off, heading out of the ring to regroup. We go to a break.
Back with the action, Owens is chopping Ambrose in the corner, and Dean calls for more. He takes another chop before stomping Owens in the corner. Owens sends Ambrose off the ropes and takes a clothesline, before Deans takes him over in another headlock. Ambrose wrenches the arm, taking Owens to his knees before smashing a leg into him.
Owens is backed into a corner, and the two men exchange furious blows before Ambrose takes Owens over with a snapmare, hitting a clothesline and an elbow. Ambrose goes for the Lunatic Lariat, but Owens grabs his legs, dumping him out of the ring. Kevin follows him out, but gets whipped into the barricade by Dean, who tosses him into it again before hitting a White Russian Leg Sweep into the barricade, and then runs off the apron to hit Owens with a clothesline! Ambrose sends Owens back into the ring, but Owens catches him with a DDT when Dean tries to get into the ring; we go to another break with Ambrose down.
When we come back, Owens has Dean in a chinlock, after hitting a Cannonball into Ambrose against the barricade during the break. Owens smashes Dean back down onto the mat, and goes for a senton, but Ambrose rolls out of the way. Dean starts hitting strikes, gets sent off the ropes and hits some forearms, bringing Owens out of the corner for a bulldog and getting two.
Dean heads to the top rope, jumps over Owens, tries to lock in Dirty Deeds and gets driven into the corner. Owens runs into a boot, counters a Tornado DDT and hits a German suplex to Ambrose. Owens goes for another Cannonball, but runs into a boot, this time taking the Tornado DDT for two!
Ambrose heads up high once again, but Owens hits the rope, crotching Ambrose and dropping him to the ground, then hits the Cannonball for two! Owens sets up for the Pop-Up Powerbomb; Ambrose counters with a hurricanrana; Owens superkicks Ambrose and Ambrose comes back with the Lunatic Lariat!
Ambrose makes his way to his feet, but Owens literally beats him to the punch with a jab. Both men exchange shots, with Ambrose getting the better of the exchange, before Owens levels him with a clothesline. Owens wants the Pop-Up Powerbomb; Ambrose stops himself on ropes and sends Owens through the ropes before diving out onto him!
Dean is thrown into the steps, and they brawl before Ambrose sends Owens into the crowd. They keep fighting through the crowd as the referee calls for a double count-out.
A different sort of title match to the previous one, but still very good. Owens and Ambrose are a great combination, and I look forward to seeing how this is going to be settled. 3 Stars.
Both men move back towards the entrance, smacking each other all the time, ending up back on the stage. Owens tries to toss Ambrose onto the big WWE logo, but gets his face smashed off it instead, then gets by with a flying Ambrose.
Dean tries to attack Owens with a steel railing, but instead gets blindsided with a laptop and then struck with a steel case. They’re on top of the production cases, and Owens tries to hit a powerbomb. Dean counters with a backdrop, and then dives at Owens, sending both men off the cases and through a table. Both men are out as we end the show.
All in all, this was a good show. Charlotte, Becky, Dean and Kevin did the bulk of the work, with props to a great new commentator and some decent comedy. Who can say what SmackDown has in store for it in 2016? It looks like it could be pretty good, though. 8/10.
Tags: Alberto Del Rio, Becky Lynch, big e langston, Booker T, byron saxton, charlotte, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Goldust, Jerry Lawler, John Cena, JoJo, Kalisto, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Mauro Ranallo, Neville, R-Truth, Renee Young, Ric Flair, Roman Reigns, smackdown, The Miz, The New Day, xavier woods