What’s up, sports fans. We’re approaching SummerSlam at a rapid rate, where we’ll see so much muscle in the ring for the Universal Championship match that even Triple H will be calling for it to undergo steroid tests. But first we have to get through a SmackDown which will ask certain questions, like “can Jinder Mahal accuse Shinsuke Nakamura of racism with a straight face?” and “is Natalya going to be able to cut a promo against Naomi in this political climate without it being racist or being perceived as racist”.
Also we might find out what cocktail of drugs led Daniel Bryan to look at Shane McMahon and think “perfect referee for a Kevin Owens match”.
We take a look back at last week, where Nakamura did his best to murder John Cena in front of thousands of witnesses. If I was Jinder Mahal, I’d be trying to transfer my consciousness into the Great Khali’s body and paying for the Singh Brothers’ funerals in advance.
And Baron Corbin has finally displayed his ability to alter the very fabric of our reality, as this footage shows him attacking Shinsuke after the match when, last week, we were shown that no such thing has happened. We are witnessing the advent of Baron Corbin’s true power in the WWE: he shatters our comfortable preconceptions and inserts himself into our memories. He is everywhere, and his dark majesty is beyond comprehension.
Baron Corbin attacked Shinsuke, asserting his will over his victim. John Cena apparently made the save, putting the Old One through a table, but that was a week ago: who knows what the truth is now?
Baron Corbin is a strong confident lone wolf who doesn’t need no respect
The show starts properly with John Cena making his arrival, greeted by the joined cheers and boos of the crowd. Maybe Baron Corbin’s influence is greater than anyone thought; maybe they don’t respect any man who wears a bright orange shirt. Both possibilities are equally likely.
John says that people may be excited and upset, but they’re fired up and so is he. He begins talking us through what happened last week, despite the fact that the video footage means we don’t really need an oral retelling. Cena says that he found out why people call Nakamura “The King of Strong Style”, because he hadn’t watched any of the guy’s matches or talked to anyone about him.
Cena states that he lost clean, in the tone of voice and with a look in his eyes of a man who has finally faced the truth of his own mortality. But he respects Shinsuke enough to shake his hand, and that’s as far as we go along this deep philosophical examination, because suddenly Baron Corbin is making his way to the ring. Is it really Baron Corbin, or is it just a puppet? Baron Corbin could, after all, be anywhere at any time, potentially everywhere at once. We can’t trust our eyes anymore.
Corbin says that John needs to shut up about the handshake. What matters is that Cena stuck his nose in Corbin’s business last week, according to the new past, and Baron needs to respect him. Cena says that Baron Corbin is a loudmouth, skinnyfat dumpster fire, and everyone seems totally on board with their neon-orange hero talking shit about someone’s physique. Only the muscular will survive, they roar, and the weak will be subjugated for their failure to manipulate calories.
Admittedly, if I ever saw anyone wearing a wolf vest then “dumpster fire” would probably be the term I would use to describe them, because some things are just facts.
Cena tells Corbin that if he wants to stop his bodyshaming then he needs to get in the ring and beat him senseless. John Cena’s apparently super-committed to commenting on other people’s bodies. Baron says that Cena has nothing he wants or needs; all he needs is the WWE Championship BUT IT’S TOTALLY NOT LIKE HE’S DEFINITELY GOING TO CASH IN ON NAKAMURA AT SUMMERSLAM, GUYS.
Daniel Bryan arrives, because bitches don’t get what they fucking want on this show. Kevin Owens gets a biased special guest referee; Rusev gets a Flag match and Baron Corbin gets a SummerSlam match against John Cena. Bryan retreats back into the shadows, satisfied that he has managed to fuck up the whole world of yet another professional wrestler. Baron Corbin pouts and John Cena wonders whether Vince would let him beat Braun Strowman clean before quickly hiding his arousal.
You can pinpoint the exact moment Maria and Mike Kanellis reach orgasm
It’s the Usos, who are here to either kick ass or rap and you’d better pray to God that they’re only here to kick ass. Apparently some hero’s hidden all of the microphones, so they just stand there, making you feel guilty for thinking that you’d probably cross the road if you saw them coming down the street.
Here’s Tye Dillinger and Sami Zayn, filling in for Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley as Team Bitches. Why would they even accept this match; they’re not even part of this storyline.
Tye Dillinger locks up with someone who could well be Jimmy or Jey or conceivably Baron Corbin: WE JUST DON’T KNOW. Whoever it is, they run the ropes and knock him down before Tye Dillinger hits an elbow and starts punching the shit out of the Uso’s face in the corner. He tags in Sami Zayn, who goes for the Helluva Kick before their irrelevance to the Tag Team Championships picture drags them into a loss, but one of the Usos drags Jimmy/Jey/Baron out of harm’s way.
We go to a commercial break, and when we come back the Usos are in control. Jimmy (one assumes) sends Sami into a corner but then misses a big splash, the numpty. Sami tries to tag out, gets caught by Jey but manages to reach Dillinger. Tye leaps into the ring and unleashes the power of the decimal system on both Usos. He hits TEN stomps to Jey, who rolls out of the ring and manages to smash a punch into Tye’s face, because fuck him with his sensible system of weights and measurements.
Sami dives out onto both Usos before throwing Jey back into the ring. Dillinger hits a sit-out spinebuster, apparently taught to him by Lana, and Jey kicks out. On the outside, Jimmy superkicks the beard right off Sami’s face, whilst Jey catches Tye on the top rope. Jimmy tags himself in as Tye fights off both Usos. Tye almost hits the Tye-Breaker, but Jimmy superkicks him, snaps his leg and then spends a few seconds trying to work how in the fuck to apply the Tequila Sunrise before making Dillinger tap out.
I feel like if part of applying a submission is you staring at your victim going, “ah, hang on a minute”, then you probably shouldn’t use a submission. 2 Stars.
In order to rub salt in the wound, the Usos acquire some microphones and start saying things. Honestly, I’m not listening: they could be reciting the Necronomicon and I’d not notice until they fell to the ground, eyes staring at nothing.
Whatever they were saying, it apparently summons A) the New Day and 2) an ass-kicking. The New Day beat the sweet fuck out of both Usos for even fucking thinking of getting microphones. They grab chairs, deciding that the Usos’ title aspirations and lives not spent in wheelchairs both end now. The Usos manage to escape, rapping furiously and bitterly under their breaths.
Backstage, Renee Young has managed to distract Randy Orton from his dull, perpetual rage and is asking him about Rusev. Orton says that Rusev was in the wrong place at the wrong time, sidestepping any and all responsibility like the world’s perfect sociopath. He then promises, in an emotionless, dead voice, that Jinder Mahal won’t get away tonight. It would be quite creepy if Randy Orton hadn’t spent most of his WWE career being emotionless and speaking in that exact same way. It’s also coming across like Jinder is just trying to move on with his life, but Randy Orton is that super-abusive ex who wants 1) to stay together forever and B) to keep hurting him.
We revisit Fashion Peaks, reminding me once again that I need to watch some David Lynch movies now that I can pretty much laugh my way through The Exorcist and Antichrist. Tyler is talking to both Ascension members, who are apparently super-okay with hanging out with Breeze and listening to his monologue as long as they can steal his food. This is the most I’ve been into them since they joined WWE.
Fandango is suddenly back, a tie wrapped around his head. He said that he was attacked by aliens, but stuck around because they shoved things up his butt. I’m not even joking: this is literally happening. He says that whoever walks through the door next is the one who killed their pet not-real horse.
Arn Anderson shows up, making this the best thing he’s done since hitting the Undertaker with a spinebuster. Christ, I just watched the whole Undertaker/Ric Flair match. Fandango says that the case isn’t over, despite the fact that Double A just admitted to everything. I don’t care: I just want more Fashion Files.
Full moon in Toronto tonight
Here’s Charlotte Flair, wearing a robe made of ostriches she personally murdered. She’s facing Lana, who is still in her weird, quasi-sexual friendship with Tamina Snuka whilst being married to Rusev, something which I desperately need to be explored at length which will hopefully end in a Hell in a Cell match.
Lana finally got asked about what the fuck regarding Tamina, and we see footage when she says that the Snuka gal is her inspiration. Somehow she says this without cracking a smile or her nose elongating cartoonishly. Even Tamina looks like she knows that there’s something not right about this. Oh, and then Lana implies that Taminas an uncharismatic uggo and decides to challenge Charlotte. Wow: two suicide attempts in two sentences.
Lana makes her entrance, and Charlotte’s face does not change once from its expression of “I am going to make you relive every second of being bullied at school”. The bell rings, because apparently the ref and the timekeeper are absolutely down with watching the wrestling version of a lion fucking a gazelle to death.
Lana grabs a waistlock, which in itself is a swerve of Montreal Screwjob proportions. Charlotte throws her off and catches her next kick. Charlotte begins chopping Lana, a smile on her face which is more usually associated with a relaxing bubblebath than trying to cripple someone. Lana almost rolls her up, but nope: Charlotte lifts her back up and throws her into the corner.
Now Lana looks pissed, rather than the more sensible options of “afraid” or “grovellingly apologetic”. She blocks Charlotte’s hip toss, tries to backslide her and gets a backslide in return. Charlotte decides to engage in some verbal abuse in order to spice things up, but Lana didn’t grow up in a country where they poison political opponents to get talked down to from some hick from Carolina and she slaps Charlotte across the face.
Charlotte’s smile vanishes, and she reverts back to physical abuse. This takes the form of a boot right to Lana’s jaw, followed by the Figure Eight. Lana taps, hoping that Charlotte will be satisfied with the emotional pain of submission, rather than the physical pain of being in the Figure Eight.
I am kind of into this whole “Lana grows as a wrestler whilst being a heel” thing, and I always love a Charlotte match. 2.5 Stars.
Shane vs. AJ II: Electric Boogaloo
Shane McMahon makes his entrance to general adulation. He says that obviously the ending of the US Championship match last week was controversial, and that Daniel Bryan solved that by throwing controversy all over it before dancing naked around the flaming pile of controversy, cackling something about “the prophecy”.
Shane McMahon introduces Kevin Owens, who has probably permanently blinded the referee from last week by now, and AJ Styles, who is switching between getting used to having a championship and then not having a championship and then having a championship again. Shit’s bananas.
Both Styles and Owens talk shit at each other as Shane tries to calm them down, waiting for exactly the right moment to snap Owens’ neck, Daniel. He addresses KO’s denigration of his mad refereeing skillz, and Owens apologises. Then Owens says that, actually, he’s not worried about a McMahon being dumb enough to screw over another Canadian, causing everyone in the Toronto crowd to simultaneously reach shuddering climax.
Then Owens says that Bret deserved it. Squad cars skid to a halt in front of the arena; Owens’ Canadian citizenship is terminated, making him a nationless person. Bret Hart loads up a rifle and begins shuffling slowly towards the arena, ready to really earn the nickname “Hitman”. Owens says that who he’s really worried about is AJ Styles, because Styles once mugged Shane McMahon in a parking lot and put his head through a car window. The crowd chants “say you’re sorry”, which is quite possibly the most Canadian thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
Styles admits that he wasn’t exactly giddy with McMahon becoming the special guest ref. He then calls out Owens’ attempts to be a Game of Thrones character in a WWE world, before letting Shane know that if he fucks him over then he’ll probably just assault him again. Man, Shane is getting it from both sides tonight.
Owens shows a clip of Shane McMahon screwing over Stone Cold at Survivor Series ’98 in order to prove what a dick he used to be almost twenty years ago, before somehow making it a plug for the WWE Network. Because Kevin Owens may not like his boss, but goddamn does he believe in this company and its video on demand service.
Shane is clearly getting a little sick of the extremely accurate character assassination, and promises that this time he’ll be totally impartial. Absolutely. Definitely-probably. Styles suggests that they give the match away on free TV, because he doesn’t have Kevin Owens’ dedication to WWE’s profits. Owens declines, saying that he’ll win the United States Championship on American soil. Bret Hart has managed to breach arena security and is slowly piecing together his rifle, somewhere in the rafters.
Owens and Styles start shoving each other, and Owens hits AJ in the mouth. Styles responds with a Pele Kick that hits Shane McMahon instead, demonstrating the value of wrestling moves which allow you to actually aim at the person you’re trying to perform them on. Owens walks off, laughing as Shane and Styles exchange a “we’re cool, brah” glance. Bret disassembles the rifle, muttering to himself about “next time”. He looks up, spotting a movement high up at the ceiling of the arena. It’s Baron Corbin, who has sprouted six more limbs and is hanging from the rafters, staring down at Tom Phillips. He turns to look at Bret, and Bret is appalled to see that Baron Corbin has no facial features. He only recognises him because of the wolf vest.
Backstage, Lana is sitting in her locker room, and then Tamina walks in. Lana accuses her of being here to gloat, which I think is a very optimistic assumption considering the overall dynamic here. Tamina actually does gloat, and good for her: this is more words than she’s spoken in her entire WWE career so far.
Lana tells Tamina that she’s made her point, but Tamina tells her that she needs to rely on her ambition rather than her in-ring ability. Hell of a thing to tell someone whose job title is “professional wrestler”.
I challenge you to remember how long James Ellsworth was suspended for
And in the ring, here’s Carmella. She’s facing Naomi tonight, who last week proved her ability to turn apply submission finisher from the position of being locked in Carmella’s own submission finisher. So I’m sure Carmella feels great about her chances, and will probably cash in her briefcase before the match starts.
Naomi makes her entrance, doing everything she can to kill every epilepsy-sufferer in the arena and watching at home. Carmella starts things off with a knee to Naomi’s stomach, considers cashing in, and then takes an enzuigiri that restarts her internal clock and a slap which sets its timezone to GMT.
After a commercial break, Carmella drags Naomi down to the mat by her hair. She applies a chinlock, keeping Naomi on the mat. Naomi manages to work her way to her feet, hitting a backbreaker to Carmella. Carmella gets herself up, then runs right into a kick from Naomi: can’t take too many of those and still go to college. Naomi hits clotheslines and elbows, then a bunch of kicks and a jawbreaker.
Carmella’s on the verge of cashing in, but Naomi refuses to give her a chance and kicks her in the face. Carmella manages to catch Naomi on the top turnbuckle, but can’t bring her back down without being shoved away. She pulls Naomi’s hair, which is super-fucking-illegal somehow in a match which has seen Naomi trying to kick Carmella’s IQ out of her right ear.
When the ref’s distracted, James Ellsworth shoves Naomi off the top! Carmella nails her with a superkick and wins!
Holy crap, what a twist: someone won by using a superkick. 2 Stars.
Carmella is actually holding the briefcase, standing over an unconscious Naomi, and she doesn’t cash in. Perhaps she knows something that we don’t. Maybe she fears that to do so before Baron Corbin could rain down calamity on our entire way of life. Maybe she’s super-not-bright and will actually go the whole year without cashing in.
Backstage, Carmella is thrilled to have her best friend that she’ll never ever sleep with but lead on just enough to make him help her become Women’s Champion back. That’s a long name, but it pretty much does justice to the relationship.
Suddenly Natalya rocks up, apparently having sprinted away from the TV she was shown watching the match on so that she could casually emerge from the shadows at the right time: this is all about performance, people. She warns the pair of them to keep their noses out of her business at SummerSlam.
Carmella tells her not to worry; like she’s going to cash in on the same night as Baron Corbin.
We are shown an interview between Renee Young and Shinsuke Nakamura as she asks him about what it was like for him debut, what it as like for him to fight and beat John Cena and whether he’s being investigated for attempted assassination after that exploder suplex debacle. She also asks him about Jinder Mahal, and it is amazing how present Baron Corbin is able to be in this whole conversation without anyone speaking his name.
Sleeping with the Enemy, starring Jinder Mahal
Here’s Jinder Mahal, who in the face of all of this is sticking to what he knows: fighting Randy Orton. Apparently this is a grudge match, and I’ve no idea what that makes their previous contests. Did Randy Orton not have a grudge after his father was assaulted, but rather only after he lost in the Punjabi Prison match? Does he not have a grudge against the Great Khali? Where is the Great Khali? What hideous, eldritch message do the veins on Jinder Mahal’s gross body spell?
Orton arrives, and it’ll be amazing to see what distracts him this time considering that the Singh Brothers aren’t here and we’re all treating the Great Khali like a bad dream that we’re burying rather than confronting.
Bell rings, and Orton and Mahal start throwing strikes at each other. Lots of punching going on, with the power of an alleged grudge behind every single one. Jinder escapes the ring, but Randy follows him to the outside to punch him some more. He throws him into some barricades and then back into the ring, but Jinder clearly wants to do it again because he immediately rolls back out of the ring. Orton, who also likes to stick with what he knows, clotheslines Jinder on the outside.
Orton back suplexes Jinder on the announce table because GRUUUUDGE MAAAATCH. He then disassembles the table, giving Jinder time to get back in the ring and catch Orton with some stomps when Randy rolls back in. The role of the Singh Brothers was tonight played by the announce table. Orton clotheslines Jinder out of the ring, and throws him over the table. Jesus, Nakamura’s going to be able to beat Mahal in his sleep.
Randy tries for an RKO, but Jinder shoves him off the table into a commercial break. When we come back, Mahal is punishing Randy with Foreign Offence. Orton tries to fight back, leading to Jinder blasting the steel post with his shoulder. Shinsuke Nakamura’s watching the match on TV, wondering which one is Jinder Mahal. The Champ hangs Orton up on the ropes, but Randy goes right back on the attack and superplexes him right back into the ring for a near fall.
Orton and Jinder exchange blows, then Mahal gets clotheslined. Watching this match, it seems like Randy must have been at death’s door during all three of his matches against Jinder, because it looks like you could actually send a Make-A-Wish Kid in there and they’d have done just as good a job. Probably better, in fact, because when you’re staring into death’s cold void, you’re probably not going be distracted or enraged by the Singh Brothers.
Randy Orton continues his punched-based offence, allows Jinder a token struggle and then powerslams him. Seriously: Nakamura is going to kill Jinder completely unintentionally. Mahal finally manages to hit Orton in the face with a knee, causing Randy to lie there in amazement that Jinder achieved any offence that Orton didn’t allow him.
Jinder stalks Randy, trying to remember if he has any finishing moves which don’t involve the phrase “distracted by the Singh Brothers”. He attempts the Khallas, but takes a Vintage DDT and lies still, presumably weeping. Randy goes for the RKO but Jinder rolls him up and then superkicks him! Jinder’s not afraid of Randy Orton anymore! Jinder doesn’t have to stay in this feud if he doesn’t want to! Jinder deserves someone better than Randy Orton!
Mahal drags Jinder up for the Khallas, and Orton hits the RKO and wins. If sentence seems like it lacks drama, then thank you for noticing.
At least Jinder’s hopefully free now to live his own life and be his own person now that Randy Orton’s moved on to some other foreign slut. Maybe Shinsuke Nakamura will offer him the respect that he deserves, and won’t constantly be constantly chasing the Singh Brothers or dumping him for Rusev. Jinder Mahal’s going to be okay. 2.5 Stars.
Randy Orton walks up the ramp and gets superkicked by Rusev. Jesus, poor Jinder: they’re doing it directly in front of him.
The bad: not many quality matches tonight; everything seemed fairly middling.
The good: same issue, really. Nothing exactly good or bad, but still felt like a drop in quality from last week. 6/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Arn Anderson, Baron Corbin, Breezango, byron saxton, Carmella, charlotte, Daniel Bryan, Fashion Files, James Ellsworth, jbl, Jinder Mahal, John Cena, Kevin Owens, Lana, naomi, Natalya, Randy Orton, sami zayn, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, Tamina Snuka, The Ascension, The Singh Brothers, the usos, Tom Phillips, Tye Dillinger