Hey there, guys. We’re now on the other side of Payback, to which SmackDown contributed the House of Horrors match. And it was awful: something which I say as a fan of both horror movies and professional wrestling. It had the chance to portray the best of both worlds and instead we got a mess to which the most inept writer in the world should be ashamed to put their name on.
But we’re past that now, and we’re doing some kind of weird, quasi-racist thing with the World Championship as Jinder Mahal is going to wear a turban, call himself the Maharajah and yell at everyone for misjudging him as he literally steals things.
So…yeah, that should be fun.
We see some footage of backstage from earlier today, where Jinder Mahal is having his photos taken before Shane McMahon shows up to demand that he give the Championship back. Jinder does, because apparently fictional Maharajahs have less authority than Commissioners of wrestling shows, and gets put in a match with Sami Zayn later tonight.
On the show proper, Shane makes his way out to the ring. The commentators talk about how goddamn brave McMahon is for, you know, doing his damn job and making someone whom he could fire do what he says. He asks the audience to welcome the newest member of SmackDown Live and the United States Champion, Chris Jericho.
Y2J makes his entrance, List of Jericho in hand. Would have loved to have Kevin Owens rather than the guy who’s going to leave in a month or so, but SmackDown was always going to get fucked over in this shake-up. Chris grabs a microphone and says that this is a special night, because this is the new show of Jericho. Shane says that there’s a lot of guys in the back who want a shot against Jericho, but tonight he’s going to have to defend the title against…Kevin Owens?
And now AJ Styles joins the party, and he tells Jericho that a lot’s changed since the last time Chris and he met. Not sure if he wants to include some of the more Ellsworth-themed moments, but maybe he believes in openness and honesty. He tells Chris that he’s in the House that AJ Styles Built. He remembers the good times and bad times that they’ve had together, and says that he’d goddamn love to take a Championship away from Jericho, but maybe he won’t even have the chance after tonight.
Jericho says that he made Owens tap out two nights back, and for even so much as daring to doubt his ability to do it again AJ Styles might just make the list. Before he can follow through on this threat, Kevin Owens shows up to be all angry and Canadian. He says that all that matters is him beating the hell out of Y2J and regaining his US Championship, and tells AJ Styles that it isn’t even about him so he can get the hell out of his ring.
AJ obliges Owens before heading up the ramp and kicking the fuck out of him. A fight kicks off and security rushes to separate them before they entertain anyone.
Does someone in Creative genuinely hate Sami Zayn?
Here is Sami Zayn, booked to face the number one contender to the World Championship, Jinder Mahal. Christ, I have to write that sentence. Meanwhile, he’s having problems with Baron Corbin: the perpetually angry and prematurely balding lone wolf. Corbin has been suspended for a week for the crime of beating up a referee, who are so fragile that a deliberate attack could probably kill them.
Jinder Mahal makes his way to the ring, his veins spelling out a desperate message for him to stop doing steroids, and we get this match started. Jinder begins things with a wristlock, with Zayn reversing into one of his own, transitioning into a hammerlock before Mahal elbows his way out of it. Zayn leapfrogs over Jinder and takes him over with a headscissors. Again, Jinder overpowers him with strikes, but eats a running dropkick that rolls him right out of the ring and into a commercial break.
When we come back, Mahal has regained the offensive and has Zayn in sleeper, periodically nailing him with elbows to the head. Sami tries to fight back, but is bounced off the ropes into a powerful bodyslam. Jinder continues the assault, dropping knees on Sami before sending him into another hard back elbow. Another sleeper hold is applied, and I imagine rest holds are a pretty decent preview of any match involving Randy Orton.
Jinder takes Zayn up to the top, looking for a middle rope superplex, but Sami headbutts his way free, jumps over Mahal and runs right the fuck into a knee to the face, only just managing to get the shoulder up for the following pin. Zan manages to rally with a hard clothesline, following that up with another one and then a crossbody from the top for a two count.
Zayn waits for Jinder to get to his feet, but is distracted by one of the Singh Brothers. I don’t know their names and I’m never going to make the effort to learn them, but it was the one in the stupid pink shirt. Jinder rolls him up, which is reversed into a roll-up from Sami. Mahal blocks the Blue Thunder Bomb but does take a tornado DDT from the top rope. Zayn calls for the Helluva Kick, but Pinkshirt McStereotype pulls Jinder out of the ring, and Redshirt O’Caricature trips Zayn up. Jinder races back into the ring and hits the arm trap neckbreaker for the win.
Not a bad match, though it felt like it didn’t really get going: really lacked energy. 2 Stars.
Becky Lynch is walking around backstage and runs into the Super Elite Team of Women’s Division Geniuses. Natalya says that this is not a joke, and that they want to protect Becky from the machinations of Charlotte Flair. They ask her if she wants to be a member, and Becky says that she’ll
drink think about it.
Dolph Ziggler is backstage with a bunch of…I actually don’t know who they are. But he’s bitching about how Shinsuke Nakamura is overrated and never around and hasn’t even had a match yet. To be honest, I’m with him on that last one. And Shane McMahon shows up, continuing his streak of appearing out of nowhere and shutting bitches up. Ziggler has a match against Sin Cara tonight, and heads off to…
No-one will ever deny that Aiden English can sing
…apparently not do that just yet, because Aiden English is still A) employed and 2) in the ring, singing his bearded ass off. And Tye Dillinger interrupts him, because he’s a great guy like that.
English jumps Dillinger from behind, starting to beat on him. Dillinger fights back with some hard strikes, then stomps a mudhole in Aiden before hitting the Perfect Ten. Bing bang boom.
Time for some longer matches and a first feud for Mr Dillinger. Looking forward to seeing what else he can do. 2 Stars.
Chris Jericho is backstage, being stalked by Renee Young for his very first Ambush Interview. The interview is paused as Aiden English walks past him, apparently crying, to which Jericho tells him that there’s no crying on SmackDown. Did anyone tell the Big Show that? Y2J actually gives English a load of reasons to be happy, which cheers the dramatist up a little, and then puts him on the list. Man, what an asshole. He puts Renee on the list too, because fuck your Ambush Interviews.
We take a look back at the Super Elite Team of Women’s Division Geniuses ruining the finish of an awesome Women’s Championship match. Dasha is backstage with Charlotte, and asks what the fuck. Charlotte says that those basic bitches can’t change the inevitable: she’s going to be the Champion and fuck everyone and everything else.
Suddenly, the Super Elite Team of Women’s Division Geniuses appear and beat the hell out of Charlotte. Man, those few punches and kicks have clearly just ruined Charlotte’s chances of winning this match.
Is their team name actually “The Welcoming Committee”?
And this match is right now, as Naomi dances her way to the ring. I hope Charlotte’s interview was super-close to the ring, because otherwise she wasn’t going to make it to the match anyway. Natalya’s music hits next, and the Super Elite Team of Women’s Division Geniuses make their way out. Tamina is not in this match, and I’m pretty sure this is the first of many, many, many matches she will not have any part in.
Carmella starts off against Naomi, hitting her with an atomic drop and then damn near kicking her legs out from under her. She catches Carmella’s kick and hits a volley of her own before smashing her foot right into Carmella’s skull. Carmella wisely tags Natalya in, and Naomi scissors her head before Natalya kips up out of it. Naomi almost rolls Neidhart up, then throws her across the ring before hitting her with a hurricanrana which sends her to the outside. Natalya manages to avoid the following baseball slide, instead slamming Naomi’s head off the steel steps.
Back in the ring, Nat tags in Carmella, and the two smash the back of Naomi’s head off the mat. Sleeper’s applied to Naomi, who tries to fight back to no avail. Carmella chokes her on the ropes before tagging Natalya back in. Neidhart stomps away at a cornered Naomi, before both women end up colliding with crossbodies. Both competitors are down, and then Charlotte finally makes her way to the ring. Like…seriously: a couple of punches and kicks and she’s acting like she’s Roman Reigns.
Naomi manages to hit the tag, and suddenly Charlotte is in way better shape. She chops the shit out of Natalya, then boots her right in the face. She attempts a Figure Eight, but breaks it off to chop Carmella. On the apron, she slams Nat’s head off the turnbuckle, but a distraction from Carmella allows the Hart to Discus Clothesline her into a commercial break.
When we come back, Carmella is in full control of Charlotte, stomping away at her. Charlotte avoids a charge from the Princess of Staten Island and tags in Naomi, who lays an immediate beatdown on Carmella, culminating in the Rear View. Natalya distracts the referee from the pin, causing Naomi to enzuigiri her off the apron. Ellsworth pops up on another side of the ring for a distraction, and that allows Carmella to pin the Women’s Champ!
Great match, and it was nice they gave it some more time after Charlotte reappeared. Very invested in this division. 3 Stars.
The Super Elite Team of Women’s Division Geniuses immediately attack, just so everyone’s extra clear that they’re the villains. Becky’s music hits, and she heads to the ring, teasing turning on Charlotte and Naomi before going after the heels. Honestly, until she looked like she was going to hug Ellsworth I almost bought it.
Becky gets caught with a superkick from Tamina, and the Super Elite Team of Women’s Division Geniuses beat on her before standing tall in the ring. Looks like we’ve got a six-women tag match at Backlash.
Superkicks: effectiveness will vary
Sin Cara gets jobber-entranced before Dolph Ziggler shows up, but I’m sure he’ll do just fine. Both wrestlers feel each other out a little, chain-wrestling cautiously before Ziggler pops Sin Cara with an elbow and then a punch. Sin Cara runs the ropes and springboards himself at Dolph, knocking him to the mat. Another springboard elbow knocks Ziggler down again, and a springboard moonsault completes the trifecta.
Dolph fights back, but is elevated onto the apron and knocked to the floor, followed by Sin Cara throwing himself through the ropes at Ziggler. Dolph catches Sin Cara on the way back into the ring, hitting a rope-assisted neckbreaker before dropping an elbow on Sin Cara: no! Those elbows gave Jerry Lawler a damn heart attack!
Ziggler manages to counter a suplex attempt, fireman’s carrying him over to the mat and then blasting him with a dropkick. Sin Cara counters a Fame-Asser, rolling through to powerbomb Ziggler with one arm. He goes for the Lionsault, but Dolph manages to bring his knees up so Sin Cara crashes and burns. Dolph catches the masked man with a sudden superkick, and that ends it.
Gutsy performance from Sin Cara, leading me to hope he could be utilised well in the future. 2.5 Stars.
We get a fake show called the Fashion Files, based on Breezango’s apparently mammoth efforts in fighting fashion violations. I’m not much given to overreaction, but even on the basis of this sketch and this sketch alone I will be cheering Breezango on at Backlash.
Can we not keep Jericho too?
And it’s time to check in with another Championship: it’s Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens for the United States Championship. Chris makes his entrance first, followed by KO. We get post-entrance announcements (#BigMatchFeel) and then we get this show on the road.
The match starts off with a slugfest immediately, and Jericho is able to knock Owens out of the ring with a dropkick before continuing the assault on the man’s hand, stomping on it and smashing it off the steel steps. KO avoids his hand getting crushed again, and takes the fight back to Jericho in the ring. Back senton gets two, and then Owens chops away at Chris in the corner. He runs into a boot from Y2J, followed by a missile dropkick.
Jericho stays on Owens, but a missed charge sends him chest-first into the turnbuckle hard enough to knock him over the top rope and out of the ring. Owens takes advantage immediately, hitting a cannonball against the barricade, getting two back inside the ring. After a commercial break, we return just as Y2J is thrown onto the apron, then ascends the turnbuckle to attempt a flying axe-handle. Owens counters it, tries a Pop-Up Powerbomb only for Jericho to counter that and hit a back elbow. Chris lionsaults, but like Sin Cara he lands across a pair of knees, but has just enough wherewithal to dodge a cannonball, and he follows that up with a successful Lionsault for two!
Jericho goes for the Walls, but Owens powers his way out. Chris tries again, and this time he gets the big man turned over! Owens reaches desperately for the ropes, and just manages to reach it. Jericho tries his springboard dropkick, but Owens hangs him up on the ropes and smashes a superkick into his face for a near fall. He tries the Pop-Up Powerbomb, but Jericho hurricanranas Owens into the Walls of Jericho for a third time! Owens is in the centre of the ring, but he manages to reach the ropes again!
Owens wisely scoots to the outside as the crowd declares this to be awesome. Owens dodges a baseball slide, strikes with another superkick and DDTs Jericho on the outside! He tosses Chris back into the ring, and nails him with another superkick, but Jericho still kicks out! Owens hauls Jericho to his feet and almost gets rolled up! Owens stomps on Jericho’s head, then hits the Pop-Up Powerbomb to decisively end the match.
What a match. Absolutely perfect, and what a way for Owens to win. 5 Stars, unmistakably.
And then Owens figures that if you’re going to be a dick, be a megadick, and decides to try and cripple Jericho with another Pop-Up Powerbomb, and then attempts a third which Chris can’t even run the ropes for. Owens smirks and then leaves the ring, secure in the knowledge that he is the best heel on this show.
And then runs back down to beat up Jericho some more, because Kevin Fucking Owens. He wraps a chair around Y2J’s head and then slams it off the ring post, whilst AJ Styles treats this whole “banned from ringside” deal extremely seriously.
So, the bad: the World Championship continues to be the least interesting thing going on, with Orton not even showing up to build the match. Sami Zayn continues to be criminally underutilised. Also no Baron Corbin, but that’s a storyline suspension so doesn’t even count: I just miss him when he’s gone.
The good? Well…pretty much everything else. Women’s match and storytelling was great; Tye Dillinger is entertaining; Breezango’s sketch was fucking hilarious and the main event was exemplary. Like I say: the World Championship picture is the least interesting thing going on, and that criticism totally stands, but it’s up against some super-interesting stuff. Really loved this week’s SmackDown: 9/10.
Tags: aiden english, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Breezango, byron saxton, Carmella, charlotte, Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, jbl, Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, naomi, Natalya, Randy Orton, sami zayn, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, Sin Cara, Singh Brothers, smackdown live, the usos, Tom Phillips