Hey there, guys. I’m David Spain and I’m taking a break from F5-ing the news websites more than Brock Lesnar on a cocaine to review SmackDown and remind myself, just like every week, that Jinder Mahal is the number one contender for the World Title.
Somebody hold me.
The show kicks off with Randy Orton, who makes his way down to the ring and grabs a microphone. That’ll fire up the crowd in London to no end. Orton says that at Payback he lost a no-disqualification match due to interference. Kinda hard to empathise with someone who has spent his career beating up old men and trying to cripple young ones when he whines about what’s fair and what’s not.
Jinder’s music plays, and he’s accompanied onto the ramp by the Singh Brothers. I’d make a joke about the Singh Brothers’ shirts, but I wear mine unbuttoned about that low so I’ll not be a hypocrite. Mahal says that he didn’t take anything, then changes his mind and says he just took what he’s going to win at Backlash. We get shown a group of photos of Jinder wearing the Championship which keep getting more disturbingly veiny.
Jinder says that he’ll wear the WWE Championship to the Taj Mahal, which sounds super-disrespectful. He promises that the age of the Maharajah will begin, and threatens to speak to everyone in Punjabi.
Thankfully Kevin Owens interrupts and says that no-one cares about the House of Horrors, India or England. All anyone should care about is Kevin Owens, who ended Chris Jericho’s career last week and who is going to end AJ Styles’ career at Backlash, and then win the WWE Championship and become the Face of WWE. He repeats this in French, so you know he’s super serious.
AJ Styles arrives and says that Owens can keep bragging about what he did to Jericho, but Y2J is no AJS. He promises that Owens has no chance of being the face of SmackDown Live, and is then interrupted by Baron Corbin. Corbin gets about six words in and then is jumped by Zayn. A brawl breaks out, leading to the heels backing off and more or less promising us a six-man tag match later. I can dig that.
Wow, Becky is super easy to beat
When we come back from the break, Tamina and Carmellsworth are in the ring. Ellsworth makes some cracks about British teeth, which is a seriously out of date insult. Also, I wouldn’t go making cracks about any aspect of healthcare, America. I really, really wouldn’t.
Carmella introduces Natalya, who will be fighting Becky Lynch. Naomi comes out instead, and introduces Becky. Becky is in the ring when Charlotte emerges and says that she needs no introduction. Which is fine, I guess, because no-one offered to give her one.
Match starts with Becky outwrestling Natalya, forcing Nat to escape the ring before eating a baseball slide. Natalya manages to trip Lynch up and drive her into the ring apron before suplexing her on the outside. Back in the ring, Natalya continues to punish Becky, hitting a series of strikes before locking in an abdominal stretch. Becky counters with a hip toss and follows that up with a volley of forearms, keeping Natalya reeling.
Bexploder suplex strikes, but Natalya refuses to be put down and muscles Becky into a corner. Becky hits a kick to the face of Natalya and Naomi takes down Tamina when she tries to interfere. Charlotte tries to pull Naomi away and Natalya drags a distracted Becky off the ropes, and apparently that’s enough to get the pin.
Short match with a terrible ending, but I like the ambiguity of Charlotte’s relationship with her group. 1.5 Stars.
Backstage, Charlotte and Naomi are yelling and pointing at each other. Becky has to play peacekeeper, and you’d think she’d have learned why women’s trios are a bad idea. She makes a six-woman tag team match at Backlash, and demands that Charlotte and Naomi bond. Seems like there’s a shaky truce there, but we’ll see what happens on Sunday.
We get another episode of Fashion Files, with a special London edition. Not even going to attempt to describe it: just watch the clips and give these men the Championships.
Oh yay: more of this
Luke Harper is in action now, facing Erick Rowan. Probably want to move these two away from their Wyatt Family routes, but I guess this is as good a full stop as ever. Bell rings and Rowan clubs away at Harper before throwing him over the top. Harper races back into the ring, kicks Rowan in the gut and chops away at his chest.
Rowan squashes Harper in the corner, but then runs right into a dropkick which sends Erick out of the ring. The bald man hangs Harper up before beating on him some more, finally dropping him with a spin kick and hitting a splash before driving both fists into Harper’s head. Harper back suplexes Rowan, then knocks him down a couple of times before floating over the top rope and sentoning onto Rowan. A big boot knocks Rowan to the mat, but he gets the shoulder up.
Rowan ducks a clothesline, but runs right into a tilt-a-whirl slam. Harper tries a powerbomb, but Erick escapes and hits a ura-nage for a near fall himself. Rowan goes to hit Harper with his mask, which appears to be made of plastic in any event, but takes advantage of the referee taking the mask from him to hit a thumb to the eye on Luke and then hit a spinning slam to get the win.
I will never manage to care about Erick Rowan, but this was…fine, I guess? 2 Stars.
Roll on Backlash
Here’s Dolph Ziggler: the man who can cause heart attacks via elbow drops. He grabs a microphone and says that we’re all hypocrites for not loving him enough. I mean…seems like WWE Creative is where his anger should be directed; we goddamn cheered for him when he cashed in on then-face Alberto Del Rio.
But no, apparently we treat this guy like a disease and love Shinsuke Nakamura. Dolph says that Nakamura’s never had a match, and the crowd chants “NXT” in quite a decent response, and then sings Nakamura’s theme music for a follow-up. Ziggler says that he’s done everything in this ring himself, and somewhere Big E, AJ Lee, Vikki Guerrero and the Spirit Squad are feeling super-betrayed.
Ziggler says that we never cared, but we will now: the classic school-shooter diatribe. He then calls out Shinsuke Nakamura, who brings his weird self down to the ring. Seriously, he’s like an anime character come to life, except his nosebleeds don’t propel him hundreds of feet into the air.
You know, as far as we’re aware.
Dolph tells Nakamura that he’s had enough with all of the theatrics, and if he wants to be in the ring with Ziggler, then he needs to…and never gets that far because Nakamura grabs the microphone. Shinsuke tells Dolph to shut up, and says that if Ziggler wants to see what he can do, then he’ll show him now.
Holy crap, referee in the ring. Nakamura’s taken off his jacket aaaaand Dolph nopes out. Damn it, Ziggler, you big bitch: I almost got to review a Nakamura match. Dolph then throws his jacket at Shinsuke and jumps him for exactly three seconds before Nakamura kicks the absolute shite out him and sends him out of the ring. Ziggler teases coming back, but if you thought he was actually going to then you’ve not been watching this show for long.
Meanwhile Sami Zayn is backstage, squeeing out about teaming with Randy Orton and AJ Styles. This is freaking adorable: Orton is just standing there being stoic whilst AJ is staring at Zayn in pure confusion until the pair of them both walk off whilst Sami has his eyes shut. Please let us see the same thing happening with the heels. Let me see Jinder geeking out over Corbin and Kevin Owens.
Fashion violations for some; furry selfie sticks for others
The Ascension is currently in the ring, waiting on Breezango. Fandango and Breeze arrive, and I really can’t overstate how much I want these two to be Champions.
Fandango avoids Konor, finally hitting him with a crossbody. Viktor drags Fandango back down to the mat by his hair, allowing the legal Konor to take advantage. Viktor tags in to continue the beatdown and applies a sleeper hold.
Fandango finally escapes and tags in Breeze. Breeze takes out both Ascension members, but is tossed into Fandango, who gets the blind tag. Breeze manages to take Viktor down; Fandango hits the leg drop and that’s the win.
It’s weird to see these two presented as competent, but I love it. 2 Stars.
After the match, the Usos arrive on the entrance ramp and make some really stupid promo that makes me support Breezango even more. It feels cruel even to say it, but they’re worse on the mic than Roman Reigns.
Meanwhile, Mojo Rawley has a bunch of unidentified children backstage and is telling them stories about Andre the Giant. This…this couldn’t be any more dodgy if his house was made out of sweets.
And for the first time, Rusev is actually the less-weird option considering what we’ve just seen. He’s posted another video, constantly threatening to go back to Bulgaria if he doesn’t get a title shot. We’re just going to be giving World Title matches out like candy on this show, aren’t we?
Thank God we got to keep Owens
It’s main event time, and Jinder, Owens and Corbin make their way to the ring followed by Zayn, Styles and Orton. Bell rings and it’s on.
Baron starts off against Styles, with AJ applying a headlock before hitting some kicks. He keeps avoiding Corbin’s charges, sending him reeling with a beautiful dropkick before tagging in Zayn. Baron backs off and allows Mahal to tag himself in. Jinder tees off on Sami, sending him staggering into the corner and hitting shoulder thrusts. Zayn springboards over him and hits a headscissors, and then tags in Randy Orton. Jinder wusses out and lets Owens come in so we can have Champ vs. Champ. Orton almost RKOs Owens right out of the box, forcing KO to roll out of the ring and into the commercial break.
When we come back, Baron Corbin has Styles in a test of strength and drives the smaller man into the corner. AJ almost catches him with the Calf-Crusher, but Corbin counters it and tags in Mahal. Jinder eats a dropkick, and AJ tags in Sami Zayn to be the Ricky Morton. And, as I type that, Zayn gets beaten down by the heels. Kevin Owens tags in, which fires Zayn up a little, but Owens forces him to crotch himself on the top rope and lays into him some more.
Corbin tags in and throws Zayn out of the ring where Mahal works him over. Back inside the ring, Corbin locks him a sleeper, with Zayn trying to punch his way out before being dumped on the apron. He tries to fight back from there, but ends up launching himself directly into a punch from Baron. Mahal tags in now, continuing the assault on Sami before letting Kevin Owens take it from there.
After a break, Sami Zayn is still getting worked over, this time by Corbin. He tries to fire back and get the tag, but Baron is too in control. Sami’s tossed onto the apron again, sunset flips over Corbin and manages to tag in Styles! AJ smacks Corbin all over the ring, but Baron counters the Styles Clash, only to get locked into the Calf Crusher. Owens breaks it up, causing Orton to get involved. A brawl breaks out on the outside, ending with Zayn hurling himself onto all three heels!
Styles is elevated onto the apron, but Owens trips him up when he goes for the Phenomenal Forearm. Both Styles and Corbin reach their feet together, but Styles runs into a massive backdrop and Jinder tags in. He slams knees into AJ’s back as he tries to choke him out, but Styles makes his way to his feet, only to run into a knee. Owens tags in, stomping all over Styles before applying a sleeper of his own.
Styles counters a back senton with a pair of knees, then plants Owens face-first! Orton and Jinder tag in, and Jinder gets powerslammed, as does Corbin. Owens tries to interfere, and tastes some Vintage Orton! Randy wants the RKO, but a distraction by the Singh Brothers allows Jinder to put him down on the mat. Zayn is of the opinion “fuck this”, so hits Mahal with a Blue Thunder Bomb! Chokeslam backbreaker from Corbin to Zayn, and then Baron eats a Pele Kick! Owens takes out Styles and then eats an RKO; Mahal grabs Orton, hits the Cobra Clutch Slam and pins Orton clean!
Holy crap, I thought we were winding up to feed Mahal to Orton, but whatever happens at Backlash, he just pinned the Champ clean. I’m still not convinced of his wrestling ability, but he might surprise us there too. Great six-man tag match, with everyone there giving us something to enjoy. 4 Stars.
So, the bad: the Women’s match was laughably rushed and Breezango still look like super-weak number one contenders. The good: great main event and Mahal doing his damndest to act like someone with a World Championship opportunity. Not a bad SmackDown at all. 7/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Becky Lynch, Breezango, byron saxton, Carmella, charlotte, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, James Ellsworth, jbl, Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, Luke Harper, naomi, Natalya, Randy Orton, sami zayn, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown, Tamina Snuka, the usos, Tom Phillips