Well, it’s St Patrick’s Day, so you’d better believe I’m a couple of drinks under as I write this. I also made the mistake of finishing my Spartacus marathon right before starting this recap, so I’m just a fucking mess right now thanks to that final episode.
Still, though: SmackDown.
We recap Roman Reigns’ return. A common opinion seems to be that WWE Creative has managed to screw things up to the point they can’t be salvaged by WrestleMania: that is certainly mine, although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Roman Reigns’ character being redeemed after the Show of Shows. The Canadian who occasionally invites me onto his podcast has put out a great article on the topic, which can be found here.
Speaking of Wrestling Baby Hitler (thanks BD), here he comes: our WrestleMania Championship contender. Looks like he’s here to talk rather than fight, which is a pretty decent example of how not to book Roman Reigns: nobody’s here to listen to him talk. He says that what happened to Triple H is what happens when you run your mouth. Surely he means that’s what happens when assault a guy and bust his nose. Jesus, if Roman’s going after every guy who ever talked a big game in the wrestling industry, we’re looking at a genocide.
Roman says that he believes in the Big Fight, which sounds way too similar to Big Society, and Reigns says that he beat the shit out of Triple H, and Hunter’s not here tonight. He then says that he, Reigns, is standing in Triple H’s arena, in his ring, eating the catering that Triple H is paying for, and he’s going to do that every single week until WrestleMania. Okay, so apart from the fact that Triple H absolutely does not own any arenas or even the WWE wrestling ring (nor will I ever believe that he personally pays for catering), is Roman Reigns just threatening to show up and do his job? Is threatening to be a model employee really a threat? Also, pretty sure that this is the textbook definition of ‘running your mouth’, so Roman should probably start planning for his own suicide lest he be proved a hypocrite.
Reigns says that, when he and Triple H are in the same area code, he’s going to beat him. This whole thing has been the most tame threat I’ve ever heard in professional wrestling – hell, in my life: ‘I’m going to do carry on with my regular day-to-day routine until it’s geographically convenient for me to kick your ass, which will, on that day, literally be my job.’ Roman Reigns is the most responsible hero we never knew we needed.
We look back on the break-up of the tag team of the century: Y2AJ. I love how they’re showing crowd reaction shots like this is the Breaking of the Streak, instead of just a tag team which existed for roughly one month. I feel like WWE doesn’t know how human emotion works. Byron also thinks that burning a t-shirt is ‘a little extreme’, so nobody should ever show him any ECW tapes.
Renee Young is backstage with AJ Styles, and she throws out the word ‘tumultuous’ to try and confuse him. I mean, Styles always looks about 10% confused anyways. Yada-yada: it’s all personal now. Kevin Owens shows up, like a bear to honey (in no way a comment on Kevin Owens’ bear-like appearance or AJ Styles’ attractiveness). He compares Styles to Sami Zayn, and Styles compares Owens to Chris Jericho: are any of these insulting to any of the parties involved? AJ Styles and Owens have a match later tonight, because we’ll all be too drunk to remember it.
And here we see Shawn Michaels inhabiting a new host in Dolph Ziggler
And here is the Man They Couldn’t Book: Dolph Ziggler. Mauro Ranallo describes the Miz as ‘equally talented’ compared to Dolph Ziggler, because Mauro Ranallo is a lying fuck. Miz is facing Ziggler tonight, and I feel like I’ve watched this match about seventy times, which sounds like the kind of punishment you get in North Korea, or hell.
Ziggler grabs the leg of Miz, wrestling him to the ground. There’s some mat wrestling for a while, until Miz grabs the bottom rope. They lock up again, with Ziggler scoring a single-leg takedown before some more mat wrestling. Clean break on the ropes, and Miz goes downstairs before hitting a headlock takeover; Ziggler almost pins him, and then hits some headlocks of his own. Dolph comes off the ropes for a shoulder tackle, runs the ropes, goes for a dropkick, gets caught and catapulted over the top, skins the cat, misses a superkick and almost rolls up the Miz!
Hip toss from Ziggler, and he drops a bunch of elbows before Miz rolls out onto the apron. He hangs up Dolph, rolls back into the ring and eats a dropkick. Stinger splash to the Miz, who reverses the Irish whip and puts Ziggler on the outside as we head to a break. When we come back, the Miz comes off the top with an axe-handle, then works over the chest and back of Ziggler. Dolph fights to his feet, rolls out of an axe-handle, and hits an elbow.
Ziggler fires up, hitting some clotheslines and then a big neckbreaker. Scoop slam gets two, then Miz almost wins with a roll-up before a boot to the stomach. He counters Ziggler’s big DDT, hitting a big boot to the face for a two count. Miz stalks Ziggler, trying for the Skull-Crushing Finale; Ziggler counters, going for a Fameasser. Miz counters that, almost gets rolled up, and applies the Figure Four! Ziggler reaches the ropes, and then hits the Superkick for the win.
Better than the majority of these guys’ matches, that’s for sure. Interesting to see that Ziggler’s teasing making the Superkick his finisher, but never entirely committing. 2.5 Stars.
Ryback vs. Kalisto has been added to WrestleMania. Seems like all of the predicted/announced matches fall into one of two camps: guaranteed winner (Ambrose/Lesnar, Styles/Jericho, Owens/Zayn) or ‘could be great, might be godawful’ (Shane/Undertaker, Reigns/Triple H, Kalisto/Ryback). Because Ryback vs. Kalisto could actually be a seriously decent match: a big man/little man story done well can be damned good. Of course, Ryback being in there makes that a steep hill to climb, but this could well be Kalisto’s big moment.
On that note, Lawler’s vitriol against either short guys or Mexicans is really getting worrying.
On RAW, Brock Lesnar showed that he’s willing to get into a ring with a man holding a crowbar, and Mick Foley gave Dean Ambrose his baseball wrapped in barbed wire. That is the sweetest thing I’ve seen in WWE for a long time, as well as being incredibly awesome.
Earlier today, Dean Ambrose walked around Cincinnati, talking about getting bricks thrown at his head for being on the wrong block. These Clevelanders are really cheering at those kind of comments, which makes it seem like Cincinnati is not a nice fucking place to live.
Bubba Ray Dudley: transphobic shitlord
It’s the Dudleys, but they’re not facing the Usos. Well, that’s something. It will be Bubba Ray vs. Goldust, and tonight’s WWE SmackDown is brought to you by the matches you don’t remember from the Attitude Era. Bubba seems confused by Goldust, which is weird, considering he’s one of the few active guys who shouldn’t be. D-Von immediately gets a table out, and I swear, this is the dumbest fucking angle I’ve ever seen.
Alright, I take it back, but only because I thought of other angles which were far more stupid: you’re not off the hook, WWE. Goldust is distracted by this, which actually makes sense, considering that he’s probably got some incredibly bad memories which all started with D-Von getting a table. Bubba jumps Goldust, and then tells D-Von to put the table away. He starts beating down Goldust whilst yelling at him for being ‘all painted up’. Wow, it’s like a reverse Boys Don’t Cry.
Bubba gives Goldust a free shot, and Goldust starts wailing on him: wow, it’s like a reverse Boys Don’t Cry starring Sylvester Stallone. Sunset flip by Goldust; Bubba counters and hits an elbow. Then he does the Bionic Elbow: that’s a solid dick move. Goldust kicks him in the gut, and then hits the Rhodes Uppercut. Clothesline to Bubba, and then some more, before Goldust rains down punches on the Dudley. Bulldog out of the corner gets two, and Bubba bails. Goldust follows, laying out D-Von, and then gets caught back in the ring with a big boot, which gets the pin.
Can’t remember the last time anyone won with a big boot. This match was 50% remembering how well these guys used to be able to wrestle and 50% hoping they didn’t hurt themselves. 1.5 Stars.
Beatdown by the Dudleys post-match. You know, I feel like the only reason we were excited to see the Dudleys, after the first five or so minutes, was for the tables. And now the tables are gone, and we don’t even dislike the Dudleys because they’re heels: we dislike them because they’re old and worn out and, without tables, they don’t really have anything to offer. R-Truth runs in to make the save, and this is literally the most competent we’ve ever seen him…oh, wait: he gets beaten down too. Then the Usos make the save, and they apparently actually have a match with the Dudleys at WrestleMania. I was wrong! This is a match which has no chance of being good, and is just going to flat-out suck. And I love the Usos, so that’s basically the Dudleys’ fault.
Here’s Charlotte and Ric Flair. Charlotte says that she wouldn’t be in the WWE today if it wasn’t for Sasha and Becky. Interesting start, but she’ll somehow turn that back around to being a dick. Becky comes out first, and let’s all respect the restraint she’s shown by not getting fucked up by this point (I mean, it was recorded on Tuesday, but there’s such a thing as pre-drinking).
Sasha follows Becky after a moment, and Charlotte starts talking about their pasts. Apparently Charlotte used to think of herself, Becky and Sasha as ‘The Horsewomen’. Okay, I know what it’s referencing, but try saying ‘horsewomen’ and not have it sound like an insult. Charlotte wants to apologise, and you can see the pettiness and evil inside her just straining to unleash itself. She hugs Ric and she says that she’s sorry (here it comes)…for ever thinking that Becky and Sasha were worthy of being called horsewomen. Seriously, if I was a woman, and someone called me a horsewoman, that person would soon be getting called ‘that guy who had his hand held in a jar of acid’.
Sasha rightfully calls Charlotte out for wasting everyone’s time with this. Becky makes the more obvious point that Charlotte is clearly pure asshole. And the word ‘horsewoman’ has been said so much at this point, it doesn’t even sound like a word. And I know that it is a word, because I just looked it up. We get into an argument about who’s going to beat Charlotte, and Sasha mentions that she has apparently never been defeated in the WWE: wow, that sneaked everyone by. This whole thing is sort of devolving now: a whole lot of issues are being aired, and now Becky and Sasha are shoving each other. Then they notice that Charlotte’s laughing at them, so they beat the shit out of her instead to end the segment.
Barrett is legally obligated never to win a match
It’s a New Day, yes it is. Here come our favourite trio, carrying a bunch of bags with them. Woods says that since their massive beatdown on Monday, they’ve been recuperating, and then mock the idea of them getting fired up and pissed off. Kingston says that the League of Nations are four bags of hot garbage: explains the bags. They boot them out of the ring whilst talking some childish trash. They could have just gone out there and said ‘no other tag team is going to be as entertaining as we are; cheer for us on that basis alone’.
The League of Nations come out, and let’s all respect the restraint Sheamus has shown by not getting fucked up by this point. This match will be between Wade Barrett and Kofi Kingston. Kingston starts off with a dropkick, and he starts stomping the shit out of Barrett, pulling a one-man Unicorn Stampede. Barrett rolls out of the ring as we go to a break: Kofi seems pissed.
Back with the action, Barrett runs right into a kick, but is able to boot Kingston right out to the floor off a distraction. Wade starts his beatdown, laying Kofi over the top rope and clubbing him before delivering a hard kick to the gut. Barrett then runs into an elbow, then a boot, and takes a springboard crossbody from Kingston for two. Kofi hits a DDT, almost getting the win again.
Del Rio gets up on the apron, as does Woods, distracting the ref; on the other side of the ring, Rusev beans Kingston in the head with a kick, and all hell breaks loose on the outside, with the New Day getting beat down. Meanwhile, Barrett wanders into a capoeira kickm and calls for the League to interfere; the New Day pulls the League off the apron, and Kingston rolls Barrett up for the win!
This is the weirdest face turn ever, but I’m into it. And it’s fun having people take the piss out of the League of the Nations other than John Cena. 2.5 Stars.
Ambrose is in Cincinnati again, talking about getting drunk to try and cope with living in Cincinnati. I know it’s a fake segment, but that is the most depressing St Patrick’s Day celebration I’ve ever seen. Also, it’s all very well Dean Ambrose talking about actual street fighting, but I want them to show a clip of Brock Lesnar literally punching an MMA fighter into bloody unconsciousness, just to balance things out.
Recap of Shane McMahon and the Undertaker meeting. I mean…does Undertaker even have a motive yet? Because that’s an important aspect of storytelling, as far as I’m concerned.
The Social Outcasts are here, announcing their candidacy for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. They get into an argument about who’s going to win, then Ambrose comes out and lays all of them out with a Singapore cane. I’d have paid so much money for him to do that during the Charlotte/Becky/Sasha segment, just to see the media reaction.
Dean grabs a microphone, literally stealing the segment. He says that Brock Lesnar’s going to be on SmackDown next week: holy shit, two in a year. Ambrose promises that, next week, he’ll be in the ring, waiting to destroy Lesnar. Simple and to the point.
Future WrestleMania main event
Here’s Kevin Owens, ready to put on a clinic with AJ Styles. I know I joke about no stories ever getting progressed on SmackDown, but I’d be down with this just being a wrestling show if we got a main event like this every week. AJ Styles makes his appearance, and we get things underway.
Owens locks onto the head of Styles, is thrown off the ropes and runs into a dropkick. Styles rocks Owens’ head in the corner and gets chopped, but then is able to elevate Styles out onto the apron, then catch a springboard attempt into a rib-breaker, immediately following up with a back senton. Styles is kicked out to the floor as the match continues.
When we come back, Owens is in control, locking in a sleeper to Styles. AJ fights out, but is thrown to the floor. He’s able to block the senton with his knees, and then dodge a charge from Owens, who blasts the steel post. He comes back into the ring, and eats a flurry of blows from Styles, followed up by a lariat. Owens regains some control, backdropping Styles before getting low-bridged out of the ring; Styles hurls himself out at Owens, and hits the forearm, and scores with a fireman’s carry neckbreaker back inside the ring for a near fall.
Owens applies a waistlock; Styles elbows his way clear, but misses a springboard moonsault. Owens immediately takes Styles down with a package powerbomb. Alright, King’s mocking Japanese wrestling move names, and is coming across as a blend of ignorant, racist and prick. Styles is sent off the ropes, but hangs on, hitting Owens with an enzuigiri; KO slams him back down with a clothesline.
Both men finally reach their feet, and start throwing hands. Styles seems to get the upper hand; Owens goes downstairs; Styles ducks a clothesline, eats a superkick, hops over the Pop-Up Powerbomb and slams Owens with a Pele kick! Owens is staggered; Styles gets him up and hits a backbreaker for a near-fall! Styles heads up to the top; Owens catches him, slugging Styles in the face. Styles headbutts Owens as KO reaches the second rope, finally toppling him to the mat. Styles gets ready to hit his springboard forearm, and then Jericho’s music hits!
Jericho walks out, and Styles is distracted for long enough for Owens to hit the Pop-Up Powerbomb, scoring with a pin.
Well, I can understand why they went with that finish for this match: absolutely I can. And the match was good, and I’m also happy they let Owens win with a solid three count off a finisher rather than a roll-up. 3.5 Stars.
Jericho comes in and hits a Codebreaker to Styles, before grabbing a microphone and chanting ‘AJ Styles’ at him until we fade out. Whatever floats his goat.
Decent show, with some movement towards WrestleMania. 7/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Becky Lynch, byron saxton, charlotte, Chris Jericho, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Jerry Lawler, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, League Of Nations, Mauro Ranallo, Renee Young, Ric Flair, Roman Reigns, sami zayn, sasha banks, smackdown, The Dudley Boyz, The Miz, The New Day, the usos, Triple H, Wade Barrett