Well, hello there everyone and welcome to the beginning of a new wrestling year according to the WWE Calendar. Sunday night, as we all know, was WrestleMania 33 and it was…fine? Good, I guess. I mean, the SmackDown Championship matches were all pretty disappointing, which is hardly great for the brand. Styles and McMahon overdelivered far more than anyone expected and the CeNikki/Mariz match was the predictably dull affair with a proposal at the end. Apart from AJ and Shane, RAW absolutely swept the WrestleMania board this year, and it’s to be hoped that SmackDown can pull itself together, and fast.
I am your SmackDown reviewer David Spain, and let’s see what the Blue Show has to say for itself.
First of all, we’re getting what are being called two WrestleMania rematches, despite neither of them technically being rematches: Alexa Bliss is facing Naomi, which is apparently a rematch of the battle royal on Sunday except with way less competitors, and Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin are facing each other, but this time in a Street Fight, which as we all know would have made a hell of a lot more sense had that been the title match at WrestleMania BUT NEVER MIND.
We’ve run out of Wyatt Family members to bring back
But the show proper kicks off with Randy Orton, and JBL immediately inserts a cowboy boot into his overactive gob by stating that it only took one RKO to defeat Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania, conveniently forgetting the one Orton delivered on the outside of the ring. I understand, John: I was doing anything I could to avoid looking at the screen during that match due to all of the fucking maggots and beetles and worms that Bray paid some asshole in the back to project onto the ring. I can imagine it being useful as a distraction for about a second, but if Wyatt was going for the shock factor then he should have just got hold of some of Cowboy Bob Orton’s sex tapes, which you absolutely know are out there somewhere.
Orton does his best to keep his bollocks inflated despite the audience vocally delivering their opinion of him: that being that he can fuck right off and his sleeveless top makes him look like a wanker. He talks up how he finally beat a fat man in a match and how he’s the captain now, before Bray shows up on the screen to issue a rematch challenge and promises that it will be in the kind of match that will take Orton to a place he’s never been before and how Randy will scream and cry and lose his soul. The loser of the match will apparently be sentenced to eternal damnation, which is a hell of a stipulation, which in turn is a hell of a rhyme.
Bray says that the match will be a “House of Horrors” match, which by its very title sounds like it’s both heavily marketed to the PG audience and yet also seems evocative of deranged clown pornography. I’m not sure what the Venn diagram intersection of those two things looks like, but I imagine that this match sits square in the middle. Randy admits that he’s not got the Charlie Dickens of an idea what a House of Horrors match is, but accepts the challenge. See, that’s an incautious move: what if the stipulation of a House of Horrors match is that only people called Bray Wyatt are allowed to win? You know how many forms you need to sign to legally change your name?
Orton tells Bray to get his portly arse down to the ring, and Bray teletubbyports right behind him, kicking off a slugfest. Randy catches Wyatt with a powerslam, but is dragged out of the ring by…yep, Erick Rowan. Erick Rowan’s back, AND SO I GUESS WE’RE DOING THIS AGAIN. But suddenly Luke Harper is rushing the ring, taking out Rowan before delivering a big boot to Wyatt, knocking the fat bastard right out of the ring. Bless Harper: trying to stop another Wyatt Family reformation before it even starts.
Renee Young is backstage with the Miz and Maryse, and she asks them what they thought of the proposal on Sunday. Mark my words: this feud will only be settled with a “Who Can Impregnate Their Lady First” match, because this is a programme that is singlehandedly trying to club women’s rights into a fine yet gritty powder that Vince can snort.
The Miz points out that proposing at WrestleMania is seriously tacky, and that if it wasn’t for him and Maryse constantly banging on about the sanctity of marriage then there probably wouldn’t even be a proposal. Apparently tonight they’re calling out John and Nikki, and says will be the last time we see the newly-engageds on SmackDown Live. Promises promises.
And tonight there will be a tag team match, playa, as Randy Orton and Luke Harper will take on the team of Erick Rowan and Bray Wyatt. Holla holla.
Are we just calling any match with some of the same competitors a “rematch”?
And it’s time for the first of the sort-of-but-not-really-rematches of the night, as Naomi will honour the close-enough-to-a-rematch clause of the Women’s Championship. She faces, of course, former Champion Alexa Bliss. We get dat #bigmatchfeel post-entrance announcements, the belt gets lifted and we are underway.
Alexa immediately starts off as the aggressor, going low before choking the Champ on the ropes. She slams Naomi’s head off the mat, but the Champ bulldogs Bliss’ skull right into the turnbuckle before hitting a running knee to the challenger on the outside, knocking Alexa right into a commercial break. When we come back, Bliss has regained control and is working over Naomi’s leg in the centre of the ring. The Champ reaches the ropes, with Alexa utilising the five count.
Bliss continues to go after the leg, going right after Naomi in the corner. Alexa keeps up the submission holds as Otunga really runs down Bliss to the point that JBL and Tom are both defending her, because I don’t know what moron gave that monotonous tosspot a headset. Bliss misses a charge into the corner, but Naomi is pretty much on one leg. She’s still game, though, punching away at Alexa before dropping her with a back suplex.
Naomi hoists Bliss on her shoulders, then dumps her on the floor before catching her unawares with a straight roundhouse kick to the skull. Bliss kicks out, then kicks Naomi’s leg out from under her before planting her with a DDT for a near fall. Naomi misses an ezuigiri attempt, then gets dragged down to the mat by her hair. Rear View suddenly hits out of nowhere, but Bliss kicks out!
Alexa drives Naomi into the corner, but takes another kick to the head. Naomi heads up to the top, but Bliss catches her en route. Naomi kicks her away, gets brought down to the mat, and Alexa tries to pin her whilst holding onto the ropes. The referee admonishes Bliss, and Naomi suddenly has her locked in the Slay-O-Mission! Bliss taps out, and Naomi wins her first Championship defence!
Not a bad match, and smart to cement their Champion choice with another definitive win. 2.5 Stars.
When we come back, Curt Hawkins is in the ring. Why is this happening? Why is Curt Hawkins in the ring? Why is Curt Hawkins on the face of the earth? He issues an open challenge, and is immediately answered by Tye Dillinger!
Tye outwrestles Curt into a snapmare, then Hawkins forces him into a corner and clubs away at him for all the good it’ll do. Back suplex drops Dillinger, then Tye comes back with punches and chops, taking Hawkins down with clotheslines and stomping all over him. Ten punches in the corner, then the Tye Breaker finishes it.
About as neat and simple an introduction anyone could get. Not seen much of Dillinger so far, but what I have seen I like. 2 Stars.
Not-Renee is backstage with Mojo Rawley, for her sins. Mojo talks up Andre the Giant more than his own victory, because that trophy is an albatross around his damn neck. Mojo Rawley freaks me the hell out. Mojo Rawley looks like he’d show up at a baptism with a bottle of Everclear.
And we’re getting the Superstar Shake-Up this Monday, and as long as Balor can fight Lesnar I’m good.
Here’s the Miz dressed as John Cena and Maryse dressed as Nikki Bella, because apparently this wasn’t just an until-WrestleMania thing. I have to admit, I love the speech impediment that Maryse seems to think that Nikki has. Miz goes on with the whole “John Cena is an emotionless robot” shtick, and they announce that they’re leaving WWE to go to Hollywood for a very long time.
And suddenly there’s a violinist on the ramp, which is a really avant-garde thing to happen on what is, let’s face it, a wrestling show.
Holy shit, it’s Shinsuke Nakamura. SmackDown got Nakamura. Okay, part of me is thrilled, whilst the other part of me wants to send him to RAW to challenge Brock Lesnar immediately. Nakamura gets into the ring, which clears the Miz and Maryse out of it. Got to love this guy’s frankly seizure-ish entrance: it’s difficult to know what to make of it. The crowd goddamn love him, though.
And…that’s it? The guy just came out here and did nothing? At least fuck up the Miz whilst you’re there; it’s practically polite.
What an enigmatic debut.
Not so much as rematch as “how it should have gone the first time”
Welp, welcome to the damage control segment. This is going to be a non-title match, pitting Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose in a Street Fight. On Sunday, Dean defended his Championship successfully, which we’re shown in epilepsy-inducing flickering photos.
Bell rings, and Corbin immediately goes after Ambrose in the corner, stomping the shit out of him. Ambrose ducks a couple of clotheslines, slides out of a fallaway slam but gets caught and planted by Baron. The Lone Wolf grabs a chair out from under the win, but the distraction costs him as Ambrose baseball slides the thing into his face and then dives out onto him. Dean stays on Corbin, knocking him over the barricade and dropping an elbow on him in the crowd!
When we come back from the break, Corbin has Dean on his shoulders. Ambrose slides to safety, avoids Corbin for a moment but then just gets driven the fuck through a table. Corbin doesn’t wait up, instead heading out of the ring to fetch a leather strap. Well hello there, Mr Gray. Corbin gives Dean a quick introduction to the basic principles of BDSM, then tries to hurl Ambrose into a chair that’s set up in the corner. Ambrose manages to turn the tables, however, and sends Corbin right into it!
Both men regain their feet and start clobbering each other. Ambrose has the upper hand, catching Corbin with a knee and a clothesline he grabs the strap and Fifty Shades the shit out of him! Corbin is tossed out of the ring and then gets struck by a flying Dean Ambrose, which is one of the more unusual BDSM techniques. Ambrose lays Corbin across a table at ringside, then ascends to the top before dropping an elbow through Baron, putting him right through the table!
Dean heads up to the top rope, but Corbin has the wherewithal to smack him in the face with a damn chair and then puts his ass to sleep with the End of Days for the victory!
I think this probably would have been better at WrestleMania, even with the original result. I enjoyed it. 3 Stars.
Here’s Shane McMahon, who failed in his attempts to cripple all of AJ Styles’ momentum by having him lose to a forty-something year old man who’s not even an active wrestler. He thanks the crowd for their support and then addresses the Superstar Shakeup. Shane says that every RAW superstar should be praying that the end up on SmackDown: the land of opportunity where three men committed felonies just to get WrestleMania matches, one of which was on the damn pre-show.
AJ Styles himself shows up, presumably to refute goddamn everything. He says that he’s got no idea what’s going to happen with the shake-up, but he knows that he doesn’t want to go anywhere: SmackDown Live is the house that AJ Styles built. But he’s out here because he owes Shane something, and then shakes his hand. Styles then fakes going to smack Shane, but just laughs and leaves, causing McMahon to laugh too. Turns out trying to murder your employees in an arena full of witnesses helps you win their respect.
Technically also a “rematch” from WrestleMania
Main event time, which is Rowan and Wyatt vs. Harper and Orton. Randy and Rowan start things off, with Orton moving in cautiously as though Rowan was any kind of threat. He almost hits the RKO, but gets shoved off the ropes right into a spinning kick. We go to a commercial break so that we can all reflect on what a badass our World Champion is.
When we come back, Orton has dodged a charge from Wyatt and is looking for a tag to Harper. Luke tags in and goes right after Bray, leaping over the ropes like a cruiserweight before knocking Wyatt down and flipping over the ropes back onto him. Harper hurls himself through the ropes to take down Rowan on the outside, but Bray levels him with a hell of a clothesline to halt that momentum.
Harper eats a back senton from Wyatt and then a splash from Rowan back inside the ring. Rowan chops away at Harper in the corner until his former partner fights his way out. Erick regains the upper hand however, sending Luke chest-first into the turnbuckles. Harper catches Rowan with a kick, but gets slammed by the bald man for a two count. Wyatt tags in, continuing Harper’s punishment.
Wyatt eats a boot to the face, but is able to bring Harper off his feet with a massive clothesline before tagging out to Rowan. Erick runs Harper’s face into the turnbuckle, then lays the man on top of the turnbuckle to club away at him. Harper tries to fight his way back into it, but Rowan chokes him in the corner before hitting a running dropkick for a two. The crowd are trying to get Harper back into it, but Wyatt latches in a chinlock to sap his strength, only for Harper to catch Wyatt with a spinning slam!
Harper crawls over and gets the tag. Rowan storms in and eats a powerslam. Wyatt interrupts the Vintage Orton, so takes one instead. Randy wants the RKO, but suddenly the feed cuts out…and Bray is on the outside with Rowan looming behind Orton. Randy counters a full-nelson slam, which is part of his moveset anyway, then Rowan eats a superkick and an RKO to end the match.
This was pretty decent until the ending. I think WrestleMania taught all of us that Wyatt’s special effects should probably be really limited, if not completely dispensed with. 2.5 Stars.
Even the commentators don’t know what the fuck that was, and they’re in fantastic company there. All that really proved is that Bray’s psychic powers are actually less useful than Randy Orton’s just being a big muscular bastard, which I guess is good news for all us muggles out there.
This was a good start: we had the seeds of AJ Styles’ face turn, two decent debuts and the cementing of a new Women’s Champion. As long as this House of Horrors match isn’t as stupid as the name implies, we could be onto some decent things? Maybe? Please? 7/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, American Alpha, Baron Corbin, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, dean ambrose, Erick Rowan, jbl, John Cena, Luke Harper, Maryse, Mauro Ranallo, Mojo Rawley, naomi, Nikki Bella, Randy Orton, Renee Young, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Miz, the usos, Tom Phillips, Tye Dillinger