Hey there, gang. David Spain here: writer, student, reviewer, mystery. I’m taking a break from my non-stop research and constant playlist of erotic movies to throw a quick SmackDown review at you; aren’t you lucky?
This is the very first post-draft SmackDown, and I am hugely excited to see what’s going to happen. The week’s been off to an incredible start so far, with RAW knocking it out of the park in terms of both Balor and Banks. Honestly, with the rest of the world sort of going to shit right now, most of my optimism has been poured into professional wrestling.
So, hey: SmackDown!
We start things off with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan backstage, promising us that this is going to be all about the superstars. They head out to the arena, and the crowd is already pretty warmed up. SmackDown is also keeping the same stage, because nobody wanted the giant fist back. Not even though you could dive off it in the video games.
The new opening package is…fine, I guess. Nothing’ll beat the nostalgia of hearing Drowning Pool back in my early teens, knowing that I should be doing homework instead. And now I’m doing a PhD, so my Mum was absolutely wrong with all of her Cassandraic bullshit.
When we come back, all of the SmackDown locker room is surrounding the ring, and Shane and Daniel are in it. Shane says that this show is all about opportunity and seizing opportunities, and he announces SmackDown-only PPVs! Holy shit, I’d better not be expected to review those: I’m already living on a diet of triple espressos.
Shane calls Dean Ambrose out, and the WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION, WHO IS EXCLUSIVELY ON SMACKDOWN, BD, comes out. Ahem… Tonight’s all about finding Ambrose an opponent for SummerSlam, and Dean is ready for anyone, asking who’s first. If Bryan had hit him with a Flying Knee right then, the arena would fucking explode.
Instead, because he’s not interested in killing himself (the selfish fuck), Bryan announces a Six-Pack Challenge. That is such an underused concept that I literally have no idea what it is. But John Cena’s in it, to a fairly mixed reception. Bryan needs to throw Becky in there; RAW could suck it with their actual Women’s Division. Bray Wyatt is up next, and was he just standing out there with everyone?
Next in the challenge is Dolph Ziggler: this could be his very last chance (we’ve been saying that for years, haven’t we?). Then Shane fucks it all up the wall by bringing in Baron Corbin, only for Bryan to save it by adding Styles. That’s still only five, and Bryan says that the final spot is open to everyone. I know he doesn’t mean it, but it sure sounds like he’s inviting the ladies to take part. It’s going to be a Battle Royal for the final spot, and so far this has been a smart and coherent take on this whole thing.
When we come back, Mauro Ranallo and JBL are sitting next to each other with no Jerry Lawler in sight: truly this is the greatest possible timeline.
This Battle Royal makes it obvious that we have a depleted locker room
The Battle Royal has already gotten underway, and you know how this goes: I can’t keep an eye on everything, so I’ll just cover the essentials. Like, Gotch just got eliminated. So far, the possibilities here seem to be Del Rio, Kane, Kalisto and maybe Zack Ryder (though I feel like this underdog BS needs to stop). Apollo Crews could also be a dark horse, I suppose.
Oops: Kane just tossed out both Ascension members. Maybe when SmackDown invents their own Tag Team Titles, they’ll be somewhat relevant for the first time. Some weird camera angles on this Battle Royal. Ryder hits a flying forearm to Kane, trying to haul him out. This is a slow match so far: lot of ‘nobody getting thrown out’ going on. Del Rio hits his fucking glorious enzuigiri to Kane, but he can’t shift him. Breezango eliminate Jey Uso through teamwork before we head to a break.
When we’re back, Rowan and English were eliminated. Del Rio hits another enzuigiri to get rid of Mojo Rawley. Backstabber to Crews, but he eats a hurricanrana from Kalisto and then is eliminated by Crews and Ryder! I was not expecting Del Rio to get thrown out so soon! Breezango is sent packing by Kane, and we’re down to Crews, Kane, Ryder and Kalisto!
Kane wreaks havoc on the rest of them, tossing Kalisto out onto the apron. Kalisto beans him with a kick to his head, and then Ryder hits a missile dropkick before Crews hits his moonsault. Ah, fuck: Crews has done something to his knee. Frogsplash by Kalisto, and Crews is not getting up. Dropkick to Kalisto by Del Rio, and now Crews is on his feet. Ryder tries to thrown him out, but Crews resists, and he seems to be moving around okay.
Now Crews and Kalisto team up to try and toss Ryder, but Long Island Iced Z fights back, dropping Kalisto with a neckbreaker before tossing him onto the apron. Crews clotheslines Ryder out of the ring, but Ryder hangs on, staying on the apron! Kalisto hits a springboard seated senton onto Crews, then hits the Salida Del Sol up the turnbuckle! Ryder wants an Elbro Drop to Crews, but he slips, lands on his feet, and just starts punching Crews until Kalisto nails him with a superkick: excellent improv from Ryder there, has to be said.
Kalisto hits his Spikerana to Ryder, but Kane sits up and throws Kalisto out! Kane runs wild on both men, crushing them both in the corners! Ryder dropkicks his knee out from under him, hitting the Broski Boot to Kane and Crews! Ryder stalks Kane, but leaps into a choke, and is thrown over the top rope! Kane now waits on Crews, and goozles him: this time he wants the chokeslam. Kane takes him up…and Crews backflips to land on his feet! Crews low-bridges Kane, and Apollo Crews is in the Six Pack Challenge! Dark horse for the victory!
That started off slow, but from the final four it kicked it up a notch. I doubt that Crews has any chance of becoming the new number one contender, but putting him in the Challenge with athletes of that calibre (and Corbin) is nothing but a good thing. 3 Stars.
Renee interviews Crews after the match: I really love that they’ve started doing that now. He says he’s the happiest man alive, but he can’t start celebrating yet. He also does a backflip, proving my worries about his knee to be nothing: that’s a hell of a relief.
We get an interview feature with Dolph Ziggler, talking about how he’s never been able to break through the glass ceiling: tonight he intends to. Along with Bray, I reckon he’s got the best chance of becoming the contender: everyone else is going to be far too busy (or far too Corbin) at SummerSlam.
Eva Marie has managed to make me annoyed by the arrival of a beautiful, barely-clothed woman
Okay, as much as I joke about our lack of a Women’s Division, we do actually have some very talented female wrestlers, as this match proves: it’s a SummerSlam rematch between Becky Lynch and Natalya Neidhart.
Bell rings, and we’re on. Headlock takeover from Nat; Becky headscissors her and then takes Nat over herself, getting scissored in return and there’s a stand-off. Waistlock by Becky; Nat reverses it into a headlock and is sent off the ropes before shoulder tackling Becky. She runs into a dropkick, which sends her rolling out of the ring.
Nat comes back with a kick to the gut, rocking Becky’s head off the mat. Big bodyslam to Lynch, and Nat mocks her before wrenching back on her arms. She slams Becky back down onto the canvas, before literally walking all over her. Rear chinlock now applied to the Irish Lasskicker.
Becky almost catches Natalya with a jackknife cover, then runs her over with clotheslines. Calf kick to Natalya, and Becky’s amped up. She misses a charge to the corner, but slams an elbow into Nat’s face. She heads up to the top, but Natalya pulls her leg, sending her crashing down to the mat as we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Becky is breaking out of an abdominal stretch, firing punches into Nat’s face. Flying forearm into the corner, but Neidhart turns the tables, throwing Becky into the corner. She catches Becky’s foot, but gets an enzuigiri lashed into the side of her head. Flying legdrop from the top rope, but Natalya kicks out at two!
Becky goes for the Disarmer now, only for Natalya to counter into the Sharpshooter. Becky fights out, but eats a German Suplex for a near-fall. Natalya stalks Becky, who blocks the Discus Clothesline, rolling up Natalya for the Disarmer. Natalya fights out again, going for the Sharpshooter; Becky fights out of that, but is felled by the Discus Clothesline for two! Nat wants the Sharpshooter, but Becky grasps the arm; the Disarmer is locked in, and Natalya taps out!
Great start for the Women’s Division. More matches of this length and quality will just fine, thanks. 3.5 Stars.
Renee Young is on the interviews again, but is interrupted by Alexa Bliss! Wow, her heel persona made me irritated in seconds; hope she can bring it in the ring too. Naomi comes out to tell Bliss to fuck off, and here’s Carmella! And now…Eva Marie? Go fuck yourself, WWE.
Eva Marie’s new entrance is roughly as annoying as her total and complete lack of in-ring skill. Also, her gear probably uses less material than any other wrestler’s. Yes: including the dudes.
We get a promo from Baron Corbin, who is trying to be all badass and edgy. What a fucking asshole.
And of all the things we could have kept post-draft, we’ve still got Miz TV. Yeah, I know: the Miz is actually really good at what he does and MIZ TV is more entertaining than other wrestling talk shows. I’m just too used to insulting him by this point.
Miz’s guest on the show tonight is him. See: you have to be sort of a genius to be that much of a dickhole. Of course, rather than just monologuing, he actually changes seats to answer his own questions. He asks Maryse what it’s like to be married to the Miz, and unfortunately she doesn’t reveal any of his disgusting sexual depravities (man’s got an anorexic clown locked up in his bedroom) before Randy Orton crashes the party. If Orton RKOs Maryse, this’ll be the greatest Miz TV ever.
We’ve got a couple of ‘Randy’ chants in the audience. Miz asks what he’s doing out there, and Randy says he assumed that he was talking about him, and then makes a joke about Miz masturbating. It’s all fun and games until Brock Lesnar rage-fucks a hole in your throat.
Miz then brings up Brock Lesnar, and Orton says that Lesnar is a legend, but he used to have a decent career killing legends. He also uses the term ‘Viperville’ again, and I am already so sick of that word. Oh, don’t start fucking chanting it, Buffalo. Miz says that Orton’s not been in the ring for nine months, which leads Orton to propose a match against the Miz.
Miz doesn’t want any of that, and says that he won’t fall for Orton’s tricks. In response, Randy implies that Maryse anally penetrates the Miz. No, seriously. Maryse takes umbrage with the idea that their sex life is anything like as vanilla as that, and accepts on Miz’s behalf.
When we come back, the Miz and Randy Orton are ready to go. Orton, you’ll be relieved to know, is no longer wearing elbow pads. Miz ducks out of the ring to kiss his wife, then heads back inside and the two men circle each other. Miz strikes first, sending Orton flying hard out of the ring. He follows Orton, driving him into the barricade and stomping on him, really going after his shoulder.
Back in the ring, Miz keeps up the attack on Orton’s shoulder, stomping on it in the corner. Randy ducks out of the ring, and manages to catch Miz with an uppercut before getting flung into the steel steps. Miz continues to hurl Orton into barricades, then sends him back into the ring…and eats an RKO! The second offensive move that Orton uses is his finisher! Randy doesn’t go for the cover, and if he punts Miz in the skull then this is the greatest SmackDown ever.
Apparently we can’t concuss the Intercontinental Champion in the New Era, so then what’s the point in anything? Orton does, however, hit a second RKO, and now goes for the cover.
Interesting take on the match. What we’re supposed to take from that is that Orton is going to be able to absorb enough punishment to withstand Lesnar’s assault and possibly put him down. 2 Stars.
Promo for American Alpha: I’m excited to see these guys in the next few weeks.
Okay, there’s some guy in the ring, and then Heath Slater rushes in and clobbers him. I’m confused. Slater gets on the microphone, and apparently he was drafted to RAW or SmackDown. He wants in the Six-Pack Challenge, and then tries to get a chant of ‘Sign Heath Slater’ chant going, which actually works.
Shane comes out, and says that this is the worst fucking way to ask for a job ever. Yeah, because this is a company where people get title shots by beating the fuck out of people. Slater then takes responsibility for Nexus, the Corre and the Social Outcasts, which is basically admitting to being Wrestling Hitler.
And now, wait, Rhyno’s in the ring? Rhyno’s got to be fucking sixty! He gores Slater, which is stupid because Slater has a lot more longevity and physical ability, and no-one really cares about Rhyno. Seriously, the fuck?
AJ Styles cuts a backstage promo about how he’ll be fine without the club and is going to beat up everyone (including John Cena).
And then Bray Wyatt shows up, reciting his emo poetry promo whilst wearing a hoodie. So, he’s gone full neckbeard, which is funny considering he’s just ditched the fedora.
And it’s time for our main event, because Bray makes his way out to the ring. JBL says that you’ve got to see this in person to believe it, and I can only imagine that he’s talking about an overweight, unkept gent carrying a lantern, because that’s what this is. If they ever really got behind Bray and pushed him as a twisted psychopath, it could work: the only reason to be scared of Bray Wyatt right now is due to the fear that he could show up one day with an assault rifle because he’s sick of people making fat, creepy loser jokes.
The more socially aware and capable members of the Six-Pack Challenge (and Corbin) make their way to the ring, ready for the match. Now, see, if they were really scared of Bray, they’d all just beat the fuck out of him as soon as the bell rang, out of collective caution. One day, before I die, I want to see that happen.
Bray actually throws the first punch, sending Cena out of the ring, before everyone starts hammering on each other and we go to a break. When we come back, Corbin, Ziggler and Cena are on the outside of the ring and Wyatt and Styles have apparently entered into an alliance, beating on Apollo Crews. See, it should be Corbin in there instead of Styles, because he’s a creepy loser too. Bray seems to be enjoying trying to wind Styles up, though, because he’s evil and all, but a troll with it.
Wyatt then clotheslines Styles out of nowhere, before Ziggler enters the fray, hitting a stinger splash and then a neckbreaker to Wyatt, covering him for two. Corbin pulls Ziggler out of the ring and punches him the fuck out, before Styles hits a knee right to Corbin’s fucking temple, and then hits a springboard 450 splash onto Wyatt! Cena breaks up the pin, and now it’s Cena and Styles. Ushigoroshi scores, but Apollo Crews is suddenly behind Styles, hitting a German suplex, and then two more!
Corbin suddenly strikes with an STO on Crews for two. JBL says that Baron Corbin is going to be a World Champion, and I’d rather die than live in that world, John. Corbin wrenches back on Crews’ face, locking his arm as he does so. Crews works his way to his feet, but gets squashed in the corner. Back suplex to Apollo gets two as we head to our final break.
We’re back with the action just in time to see two powerbomb/superplexes out of the corners! What the fuck did we miss during the break?! Everyone but Crews and Corbin roll out of the ring, and the two of them meet in the centre of the ring, smacking each other in the face. Crews comes off the ropes, running into a spinning back suplex for two! Corbin has a fucking hissyfit, goes for End of Days, and Crews backflips out of that, hitting his powerbomb! Crews goes for the cover, but Wyatt pulls the referee out of the ring!
Bray gets back into the ring to walk like a fucking spider for some reason, then hits Sister Abigail. Oh, but there’s no referee, is there, you dumb fuck? Ziggler catches Wyatt with a Zig-Zag and goes for the cover, and what the fuck did I just say, Dolph? Dolph cues up Sweet Chin Music, but Cena catches Dolph with an Attitude Adjustment, thereby saving Bray Wyatt. He runs into a Sister Abigail, but instead shoves Bray into Styles’ Pele Kick! Attitude Adjustment to Styles; the referee gets in the ring, and Styles kicks out!
Cena’s alone in the ring, but Crews is climbing the turnbuckle. The rookie launches himself at Cena, who catches him, rolls through, and brings him up for an Attitude Adjustment! It hits, but Apollo rolls under the ropes as Bray rushes Cena! Attitude Adustment to Wyatt! Corbin gets lifted up, fights out, and then takes an Attitude Adjustment anyway! Phenomenal Forearm out of fucking nowhere by Styles, but he turns around into a superkick from Dolph that takes his fucking head off, and Dolph gets the win! Dolph Ziggler is the new number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship!
Fantastic first SmackDown Live main event. Everyone just fucking brought it for the grand finale, and it was a showcase of some of the best talent this show has (and Corbin). Great choice of a winner: everything about this was just right. 4 Stars.
Ambrose comes out to raise the belt and stare Ziggler down. Ziggler doesn’t back up, and we end the show with Daniel Bryan raising both of their hands and Shane McMahon coming down to congratulate both men. Great image to end the show on.
What a brilliant debut episode for this new era. With the exceptions of Rhyno and Eva Marie, this was a show full of smart choices and good decisions. No rushed segments, proper time for matches and not even any useless comedy bits. By far and away the best show I’ve seen in a long time: keep it up. 10/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, American Alpha, apollo crews, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater, jbl, Kalisto, Kane, Maryse, Mauro Ranallo, natalya neidhart, Randy Orton, Renee Young, Rhyno, Shane McMahon, smackdown, The Miz, zack ryder