Hey there, guys. This is David Spain here, with another episode of SmackDown Live. We’ve just gotten through a Hell in a Cell PPV which was…fine, I guess? I was definitely interested in the Rollins/Owens affair, which was pretty entertaining, and I couldn’t wait to see the Sasha Banks/Charlotte Flair first women’s Hell in a Cell match ever…which sort of felt like a let down. Other articles by more insightful writers will be able to explain the mechanics of why that happened better than I can, but I felt like that match should have been planned out as the crown jewel of the show, and definitely not one of three Cell matches on the card.
Jesus, remember when getting put inside that thing was damn near a death sentence: the most fitting way ever to end a rivalry which had gotten too hateful and personal? Even the Elimination Chamber has a World Championship for an excuse; it’s strictly business. Banks vs. Charlotte felt like the only rivalry that even belonged inside a cell, and they way the match was planned out just didn’t let it work.
But that’s a problem for RAW reviewers; right now, it’s time for us to SmackDown.
No pre-show backstage segment for us tonight. Shame: those things always gave it a realistic feel, even though they were way too convenient and narrative-appropriate to be in any way chance. So…I guess that just opening the show with pyro is more realistic.
Aw yeah…here comes my man, James Ellsworth, walking to the ring wearing a t-shirt with his own face on it, like a fucking gangster. Last week, Ellsworth screwed the pooch and forced the WWE writers to try and pull a new number one contender out of the ether, so is out here to apologise for his act of farcical bestiality. I mean…I assume he is. Because if this is a heel turn, I’m going to kill myself and everyone living on my street.
Ellsworth thanks Shane and Bryan for letting him come out here to say goodbye. Say it ain’t so, guys. He says that he’s not been able to sleep at night, and he won’t be able to move on with his life until he apologises to Dean Ambrose. He asks for Dean to come out, and Ambrose quickly obliges. Got to love the beard that Ambrose is rocking at the moment; it’s an improvement on the clean-shaven model, I think.
Ambrose really invades Ellsworth’s personal space and tells him that he’s thought an awful lot about killing him. Hey, looks like me and Dean flirt in exactly the same way. He says, finally, that James doesn’t owe him an apology, but Ellsworth goes on and on, demanding the right to make things right. Dean says that things are okay between them, as long as he promises not to make things worse. But Ellsworth seems to be fucking craving a Dirty Deeds, and finally manages to come out with an apology.
Before Ambrose can respond in any way, AJ Styles comes out. At least this is probably going to save Ellsworth from a beating, as Dean has got to be a Styles-seeking missile right now. Styles asks why Ellsworth would apologise to Ambrose, and then has to tell the audience to stop chanting for him, because he’s supposed to be a fucking heel over here.
AJ tells James that Dean doesn’t respect him. He says that, during the World Championship match, Ambrose was taunting Styles and pushing him to keep going after Ellsworth, which is absolutely honest. AJ says that Ellsworth should apologise to him, because he owes him his entire career. Dean steps in, defending Ellsworth and saying that he’s a real tough guy. Ellsworth tries to stop the two of them from going at each other, but that just leads to Styles throwing Ellsworth into Dean, tossing James out of the ring and hitting the Phenomenal Forearm to fuck Ambrose up.
Mauro Ranallo turns our attention to Orton and Wyatt, calling their rivalry ‘lessons in psychological warfare 101’, rather than being honest and terming it ‘some seriously spazzy shit’. We take a look back to see Randy surprise everyone by adding someone else to the list of 1004 people he’s fucked over and RKO’d. At this point, why does anyone help, trust, or leave their purse with Randy Orton? Kane has asked for a No DQ match with Randy, presumably to give the Viper another chance to kill him or whatever.
Ellsworth is yell-apologising to Ambrose backstage, and Bryan runs over to try and restore order. He says that Dean has one more shot at Styles, and if he wins then he’s going to be the number one contender. He also takes the very smart step of barring Ellsworth from ringside, making him possibly the most competent GM since Steph’s original SmackDown run.
Yep. Yep. “Mind games”.
Randy Orton makes his way out to the ring, ready to do whatever the next crazy thing on his list is. I can only hope the ridiculous amount of no-DQ matches we’ve had over the last few weeks is going to lead to the eventual Orton/Wyatt match being something hardcore as fuck, because that’s the only thing that could possibly make me interested right now. Kane shows up too, ready to serve once more as a prop in this absurdly convoluted rivalry.
Orton starts the match by rolling out of the ring and beating the fuck out of Kane on the outside. Kane manages to wrest a chair away from Randy, smacking a bitch about with it. Orton takes control back inside the ring for a second, before Kane clotheslines him in the corner and takes him down with a sidewalk slam. The Big Red Machine wants himself a clothesline…and the Wyatts teleport to ringside. Just…just fucking walk down the ramp, guys.
Kane counters an RKO, but the Wyatts drag him out of the ring. Oh shit, is he getting dragged into another parking lot? How many partial-abductions can a man take? Kane fights all three men off for a second, but there’s too many of them. and he takes an RKO for Orton’s victory.
This was another dumb chapter in the dumb novel that is this dumb thing. 1.5 Stars.
After the match, Orton and Harper stare at each other, and then Harper ballerina-clotheslines Kane. Then Wyatt Sister Abigails Kane too. I’m putting money on Orton stabbing Bray in the back in about four weeks. The guy literally cannot stay friends with anyone.
Carmella and Alexa Bliss are walking around backstage, spilling people’s coffee for fun. I mean…shit, I don’t care if you’re a professional athlete; if you spill my quadruple espresso, then you are buying me another quadruple espresso, or I will hurt you so badly that Dr Andrews himself would recommend having you put to sleep. But these guys in suits…yep, they’re just taking it.
We get a promo for Baron Corbin, emphasising how he’s a lone wolf. With the amount of lone wolves metaphors and symbols we have, are we sure that there are any wolves that actually exist in a pack any more?
Please God, no more jokes
Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella are on their way to the ring, about to face Alexa and Carmella. Last week, Alexa Bliss attacked Becky and spray-painted a yellow stripe down her back as the punchline to a joke so laboured, she may as well have just had a baby.
Nikki goes after Carmella, who ducks out of the ring: shades of Randy Orton! Alexa then tags herself in, and gets waistlocked by Nikki. She fights out and shoves Bella to the ground, then runs into a calf kick from Nikki! Carmella comes in, and takes a calf kick from Becky! Both heels are down on the outside of the ring as we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Becky and Carmella have just tagged in, and Becky knocks Carmella all around the ring. Flying forearm to Carmella, then a bunch of kicks and a Bexploder suplex. Bliss breaks up the pin, then throws Becky into Nikki’s stomach before tagging herself in. Lynch takes Alexa down with an inverted DDT, but Carmella has the ref too distracted to make the count. Becky goes for Carmella, but Alexa grabs her in a sleeper, rakes her eyes and then hits the DDT to finish it!
Plenty of momentum for Alexa, making her seem like a real threat to the Women’s Champion. If she’s going to use two finishers, however, she might want to get one that’s less generic than a simple DDT. 2.5 Stars.
The new interviewer tries to get an interview with Alexa and Carmella, but they’re too busy being assholes and decide to interview themselves. They talk some smack about the RAW women’s locker room, and these are not the two women I’d have gotten to do this. Then Alexa runs down Becky again, this time using Wizard of Oz imagery. Okay, she should not make jokes, because they have been consistently cringe-worthy so far.
Shane McMahon’s in the house, along with Daniel Bryan, who are congratulating Naomi on joining the SmackDown women’s team. Wait, they put Carmella and Alexa on the team? Do they want to fucking lose this match? Natalya then shows up, asking to be on the team, because it makes a little bit of fucking sense. Wait, they’re just making her coach? Jesus Christ, we are going to lose to RAW, and we are going to lose fucking hard.
And suddenly I’m over the Spirit Squad
Looks like the Spirit Squad are still a thing. A green, annoying thing. Oh, but they’re facing American Alpha? I can stand to watch this.
Gable starts off against Kenny, out-wrestling him until a distraction from Mikey lets Kenny scoop-slam Gable. Mikey tags in and is flipped onto Gable before chinlocking him. Gable fights out of it, runs the ropes but gets taken down with a crossbody.
Kenny tags in and goes for his leg drop, but misses. Jordan gets the tag, and knocks Kenny all over the shop, taking down Mikey when he tries to interfere too. Belly-to-belly to Kenny, but Jordan misses a spear and Kenny rolls him up, holding the tights…oh, thank God. Gable drags Kenny out of the ring after Mikey tags in; American Alpha hits Grand Amplitude and that’s all she wrote.
Quick and neat. 2 Stars.
It’s time for some Miz TV up in this bitch, and we have Miz and Maryse colour-coordinating their outfits because they’re evil. Tonight, Miz will be interviewing Daniel Bryan, and the subject of the show will be the upcoming Survivor Series PPV.
Bryan makes his way to the ring and takes a seat. The crowd are crazy into him, and boo when Miz asks them to knock it off. Miz gets a little passive-aggressive with Daniel, who casually threatens to cancel Miz TV. Bryan then goes on to talk about the SmackDown Live tag team…team, which still needs two more teams to join the Hype Bros, American Alpha and Rhyno and Slater.
Miz hurries Bryan along to the Single Men’s Team (which just so happens to be the name of my band). On that team will be Randy Orton, Baron fucking Corbin?!, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles. Okay, I agree with the Miz here: fuck Corbin. Replace him with Miz or Ziggler; what the fuck is wrong with you, WWE Creative? Why do you love that balding, skinny-fat, charisma-lacking talentless fuckbag?
Miz goes off on one with Bryan, and I’m totally behind him. Bryan says that they needed superstars who weren’t afraid to fight, and fight any time and any place. Hence, apparently, AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt. Miz says that Bryan, not he, is afraid to fight. Yeah, Dan: kick Corbin off the team and take his spot. Miz keeps mocking Bryan, which is a weird thing to do to a guy who is absolutely still his boss and who could still probably kick the shit out of him.
Bryan gets mad, chasing Miz out of the ring before berating him. He says that Dolph Ziggler is going to defend his title in an open challenge right now, and Miz can watch him do it. Seems like a dumb idea, but sure.
Okay, while Ziggler’s making his entrance, let’s talk about this whole SmackDown Live team. So, you have Dean Ambrose. Guy says that he’s unhinged, but there’s been very little evidence of that, at all, ever. So fine. Bray Wyatt has a whole deal where he teleports himself away from danger, so look forward to losing a guy without him even getting pinned. Randy Orton is currently pretending to work with Bray Wyatt whilst definitely building up towards punting his beard off, and has just displayed his penchant for stabbing people who are relying on him in the back without any moral trouble. Baron Corbin is Baron Corbin: see every previous article I’ve written featuring him ever for more details. And AJ Styles cares about AJ Styles, only AJ Styles, and the only reason he’d ever care about SmackDown is because he feels like he owns it somehow.
So…I have to question the general wisdom involved in Shane and Bryan’s team-picking process. You know, a lot.
When we come back from a commercial break, Ziggler is in the ring awaiting his opponent for his Intercontinental Championship Open Challenge.
Oh, Jesus Christ. It’s Curt Hawkins. Dear God, I…just…I just can’t. Hawkins talks smack for a while, and I’m actually going to have to review a match with this guy, aren’t I.
Bell rings, Dolph Ziggler superkicks Hawkins, and that’s the match.
Well…that’s pretty much everything I possibly could have dreamed of. 3 Stars.
Renee interviews Dolph, who mocks the Miz and his accusations of Ziggler not being a fighting champion. At Survivor Series, he says, he’s going to put the belt up against anyone from RAW. Thank God Strowman’s on Team RAW already, because that could be a shit show.
Dean Ambrose is backstage, and the new interviewer girl asks him if he’s feeling confident tonight, and manages to call James Ellsworth ‘James Ellis’. Oh good: a professional. Ambrose says that accidents and emotions happen…and Ellsworth is behind him.
Ellsworth wants to be at ringside tonight, and Dean absolutely forbids him from doing so. To be honest, this week I’m with Ambrose on this one.
We take another look back at the Orton/Kane/Wyatts shenanigans from earlier tonight. Apparently everyone is buying Orton’s story about joining the Wyatts, despite the fact that Randy would saw his own leg off to screw someone over.
Oh wow, no Orton’s hanging out with the Wyatts in their crappy little backstage lair. The fact that Orton is able to not only stand there and listen to Wyatt talking like he’s a fourteen year old boy’s band lyrics, but do so himself means that he must want to eventually hurt Bray more than anything else on this planet.
The Headbangers are in the ring, which is a seriously weird sentence to have to write. They’ll be getting steamrolled by the Usos, who jump them before the match even starts. Alright, you know exactly how this goes: the Usos are dicks and they win following forgettable token offence from the Headbangers.
When they’re not even fighting actual WWE talent, its like there’s somehow even less tension. 1.5 Stars.
Good God, the new interviewer girl has learned the subtle art of ambush interviews, because she just spooked the hell out of AJ Styles. He spouts some generic heelness, then heads to the ring.
Time for tonight’s main event, and Styles and Ambrose make their way to the ring. Ambrose immediately kicks things off by knocking Styles out of the ring and diving out onto him. He rocks AJ’s head off the announce table before hurling him over it and smashing his skull off the timekeeper’s area barricade. Back in the ring, he goes after AJ with knife-edge chops and drags his face off the ropes.
Styles sunset-flips Ambrose for two, and Ambrose answers that with a pair of small packages before applying the Texas Cloverleaf! Styles manages to edge his way over to the bottom rope to force a break, but Dean doesn’t slow down; he takes Styles to the top rope and brings him back down to the floor with a butterfly suplex for two!
Ambrose brings Styles up, hitting him with fists and elbows before knocking his head off the turnbuckle. Styles is sent off the ropes, but he manages to counter Ambrose’s planned offence beautifully into the Calf Crusher! Like Styles, Ambrose quickly reaches the bottom rope, and then rolls out of the ring to buy himself a few seconds of peace. Styles follows Ambrose, but Dean makes him pay for it as he dumps the Champ nuts-first onto the barricade and clotheslines him off it!
Back in the ring, Ambrose tries a quick cover, then beats Styles down in the corner. Styles reverses an Irish whip, runs into a boot but dodges out of the way of Ambrose’s flight from the second rope to send the Lunatic Fringe crashing and burning to the mat. Ambrose looks hurt as we go to our final commercial break.
When we come back, Dean manages to counter Styles’ Phenomenal Forearm attempt by hitting him with a front dropkick, sending him out to the floor! Dean heads up to the top rope and he hits his standing elbow to Styles on the outside! Back inside the ring, Dean heads up to the top again; Styles charges at him, so Dean leaps off the top, rolling to his feet, but his left leg is awkward under him, and AJ is immediately on the attack. Dean tries to counter with Dirty Deeds, ducks a clothesline and starts running over AJ with forearms and clotheslines of his own, taking the Champion down with a huge lariat!
Styles almost catches Dean in a Calf Crusher, but when Dean fights his way out of it, Styles suplexes him into the corner, catching the leg again. Dean ducks a Stinger Splash, exchanges standing switches with Styles, then plants him with a sit-out wheelbarrow facebuster for two! Ambrose drags Styles to his feet, but gets thrust in the throat. Styles lands his signature blows, looks for the Styles Clash, gets shoved away and both men clothesline each other! Both men are down and this is anyone’s match!
Ah fuck, Ellsworth is out here. Does Daniel Bryan’s authority mean nothing any more? Dean is distracted by Ellsworth slamming his hands on the ring apron in support, and walks into a Pele Kick for two! Now it’s Styles who’s staring at Ellsworth, and now security is chasing Ellsworth out of the arena! Dean rolls AJ up off the ropes, but Styles kicks out! Styles ducks the Lunatic Lariat, springboard-moonsaulting off the ropes to catch Dean with an inverted DDT; Ambrose tries to counter with one of his own, only for Styles to break out. Dean goes for Dirty Deeds, and Styles counters with the Calf Crusher in the centre of the ring on the injured leg! Dean almost fades, but he grabs the rope!
Styles stalks Ambrose, but is elevated over the top rope, and Ellsworth has run back into the ring! He tries to get in the ring, distracting Styles from his Phenomenal Forearm attempt, and Styles attacks James Ellsworth on the outside! Styles goes for the Phenomenal Forearm again, and Ambrose catches him with Dirty Deeds for the win! Dean Ambrose is the new number one contender for the WWE World Championship!
That was an incredible match, and it was one of those rare occasions when the shenanigans made the bout better. Ellsworth showing up not once but twice had me genuinely scared that WWE had another number one contender lined up, and it’s a mark of how much the show has improved that it managed to make me so uncertain. 5 Stars: fucking beautiful.
This was a pretty great show, mostly for the final match which is a must-see, and seeing Curt Hawkins get fucked over. 8/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, American Alpha, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, curt hawkins, Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, James "Motherfucking" Ellsworth, jbl, Luke Harper, Maryse, Mauro Ranallo, Nikki Bella, Randy Orton, Shane McMahon, smackdown, smackdown live, The Headbangers, The Miz, The Spirit Squad, the usos