It’s Tuesday night, so it’s time for another episode of SmackDown Live. I’m your reviewer, David Spain, and let’s dive right into the madness and chaos which is WWE’s creative process.
Of course, we get a video package showing Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens making threats, and GOD, Kevin Owens’ shirt is wrinkled to all hell during that interview. Once that’s out of the way and WWE is satisfied that everyone remembers what happened a week ago, we get to the show itself.
This is some Anakin/Obi-Wan shit
And the show itself starts off with Kevin Owens. Beating up Vince McMahon is apparently now considered a war crime by the WWE, despite them gleefully airing Stone Cold Steve Austin assaulting the old bastard whilst the man was bedridden in hospital, like it’s okay when an alcoholic does it.
Owens makes his way to the ring and says that all he’s heard for weeks has been how Shane McMahon is going to deal with stuff, but he never does. He says that people called him a coward for not showing up to SmackDown Live last week, so fuck you: he’s here now. He asks Shane why he’s not already out here, trying to beat up a professional athlete, and says that rather than being a coward, Shane is in fact very smart.
KO explains that he both likes and respects Vince McMahon, but that didn’t stop him from attempting to murder him on live television. Imagine, Owens says, what he’ll do to someone he actually dislikes. And then, like the Gods of Wrestling are just handing Owens things, Sami Zayn shows up to be that someone Owens dislikes.
Apparently unaware that he is an unnecessary part in two other men’s feud, Sami Zayn attempts to talk Owens down off the ledge. He describes beating up Vince like Owens burned down a church with an unbaptised baby inside it, which is quite a creepy level of cultishness from this company. Sami attempts to make Owens believe that Shane McMahon poses any physical threat to any active wrestler, describing how apparently-terrible life will be after a little bit of roughhousing in big old steel box.
I’m aware that I’m not quite selling the shock and awe of the Hell in a Cell match like you might think I should, and maybe that’s because we’re literally weeks away from a PPV called Hell in a Cell.
Kevin Owens puts on a happy face and tells Sami that every little thing is going to be alright. He then accuses Zayn of being jealous that Owens is receiving all this attention from beating up one old man, and then gives Sami an itemised list of reasons why he’s better than him. He promises to do some even more depraved and violent shit at Hell in a Cell, though thankfully doesn’t try to shill the WWE Network.
Zayn admits that Owens is right, but tells him that he has shitty morals and takes every cheap shot he can. Well, Emperor Palpatine was an underhanded dick and sacrificed millions of lives, but the guy did sort of beat all the Jedi, so I feel like sometimes it might be beneficial to be an asshole in certain situations. Sami tells Owens that self-respect is worth far more than any championship and millions of dollars, and the two square up to fight.
And then Daniel Bryan shows up, because hold on justaminute, playa. He says that Shane might not be here tonight, which may be good for Kevin Owens. God, they’re selling Shane as some kind of demigod right now, instead of a guy who’s not won a singles match against another wrestler since Saturday Night’s Main Event 2009, which was mostly won by the Spirit Squad. Tonight, Owens will face Sami Zayn, which in every conceivable reality is a more competitive match than he should receive from Shane McMahon.
Remember when Baron Corbin wasn’t a joke?
Here’s Baron Corbin, with his awesome, chanty music and videos of FIRE. We take a quick look back to last week at the Lone Wolf once again looking like a dumb asshole and twisting his ankle: that’s an injury that children get in children’s adventure books, and they still finish the fucking adventure.
His opponent is Tye Dillinger, who has decided that the best in life is to crush Baron Corbin, to see him driven before him and to hear the cracking of his ankle. And AJ Styles is here too, probably because he’s enjoying being involved with anyone not named Kevin Owens.
Corbin gets distracted by this appearance by the champ, and this allows Dillinger to dump his stupid ass over the top rope. Baron throws a bit of a hissyfit during the break, but finally gets into the ring and takes some shots from the Perfect 10. He does manage to regain the advantage through the unorthodox manoeuvre of throwing his opponent head-first into the ring post.
Dillinger continues to get whupped throughout the break, getting a chokeslam-backbreaker as we come back to the programme. Corbin ends up running into a boot, and has another chokeslam-backbreaker countered with a superkick and a knee to the noggin. On the outside, Baron botches a charge and runs right into the steel steps. Dillinger wants the Tyebreaker, but can’t get the big bastard up on his shoulders. Corbin escapes out of the ring, then slaps a soda into AJ Styles’ face in the hopes of being granted another Open Challenge opportunity. To sweeten the deal, he throws in Tye Dillinger, as in he literally throws Tye Dillinger at AJ Styles.
Dillinger can’t answer the ten count, which is ironic on at least one level, and Baron skips out of the ring when AJ decides to beat the fuck out of him.
So much of this happened during the break. I really feel like Tye’s not found his groove properly yet, and it shows in matches like these. 2 Stars.
Baron gets on the microphone afterwards, gasping and wheezing out a promo about how AJ totes sucks and how he’s going to take Styles’ US Championship at Hell in a Cell. Stirring stuff.
Hope you like racism, because here comes Jinder Mahal. I used to think I wanted Jinder to lose his title because he was a terrible wrestler and a really boring character, but now I want him lose because I am so damn tired of embarrassing and offensive promos like these ones.
Jinder gets on the microphones and says sorry-not-sorry for last week. He says that he respects the man he was making racist jibes about last week, and then doubles down on showing headshots of Nakamura and selling it like it’s Live at the Apollo. Jesus Christ, WWE: there’s such a thing as “pride in your work”. This entire feud has all been copy/paste and bigotry.
But the last photo is apparently actually Nakamura (SOMEHOW). He tells Jinder that he’s here, which is really the least we should expect from a WWE employee during a WWE show, and then the lights go down and his music starts. Nakamura comes out, and we might actually be about to see something that might pass for “interesting” if you squint.
Jinder sends his sluts out after Shinsuke and then jumps on him whilst he’s distracted. Mahal tosses Nakamura into the ring, gets his head kicked off, almost hits the Khallas after another distraction from the Singhs but then eats the Kinshasa. Nakamura stands tall, and I’d be fine with the match at the PPV if it was literally just that: I am so very completely done with Jinder Mahal.
Now that’s strategy
Here come the New Day, apparently here for a better view of the tag team match between the Usos and the Hype Bros. The Hype Bros said last week that it was time for them to do “something drastic”, and that something I guess is getting jobbed out to another team that’s better than them.
Mojo drives Jimmy into a corner and then knocks him down with a pair of forearms. Jey distracts him so Jimmy can take out the leg and they can stomp the sweet buggery out of it. The Usos latches on a sleeper as the New Day (sitting in the crowd with popcorn) cheer Rawley on.
Mojo breaks out and tags in Ryder. Long Island Iced Z runs amok amongst the Usos for a brief time, getting a two count off a neckbreaker. Mojo gets a blind tag, and the Hype Bros get into an argument! How daring! How drastic! One of the Usos shoves Rawley into Ryder, then superkicks and splashes him for the win.
Crowd was dead, and I can’t blame them for that. Dull times. 2 Stars.
After the match, the Usos ask the New Day whether they think this is a joke. They promise to take their belts back at Hell in a Cell. Big E fishes a microphone out of his bucket of popcorn, giving me just another reason to love the New Day, and Kofi reminds the Usos that they just lost the Tag Team Championships.
Woods says that they don’t just want to do this at Hell in a Cell, but inside Hell in a Cell. First, if there was any way to finish this rivalry off, then this is a decent and justified way to do it. Second, the way the Usos can be fun-loving and jokey one second and yet deadly serious the next is such a cool thing about this team.
On this glorious day, we are all Bulgarian
When we come back, it’s time for Rusev to have some kind of big celebration about Bulgaria, because apparently there’s something to celebrate about Bulgaria. Who knew: I didn’t. He’s also hired Aiden English to sing his country’s national anthem, which is the kind of creativity regarding joke characters that we need so much more of.
English plays the role as straight as possible, singing the anthem as Rusev arrives. I have no idea whether those are the real words, but at this stage I would not be surprised. Besides, Rusev looks honestly impressed by him. The Bulgarian Brute ascends to the top of a podium as the traditional “guy who’s supposed to represent whatever country this is” makes a speech. Aiden English is holding a fucking scroll: oh my God.
Rusev gets the key to the city that he’s from, and apparently September 26th is now “Rusev Day”. Man, we are running out of days for stuff like this.
Rusev wants to watch his lightning-fast victory over Randy Orton, like he’s not watched that every night of the past week, even whilst inside Lana. Rusev calls what happened there “the Law of the Jungle”, and says that it’s as old and true as the sky. The wrestler who keeps it may prosper and the wrestler who breaks it must die.
Aiden English has prepared a song for this moment, and of course he has: this man just has songs for every occasion. You think if he was asked to provide backing vocals for the Owens/McMahon Hell in a Cell match he wouldn’t have a five stanza Prokofiev-inspired masterpiece ready to fucking drop? Aiden English is the Renaissance man we don’t deserve.
Suddenly, Randy Orton RKOs English. And that sounds pretty tame, considering the fact he fucking teleported out of thin air to do it. Seriously: the camera work makes it look like he willed himself into existence out of sheer irritation. Rusev hustles the mayor of his town out of there, taking his duties as a national hero damn seriously, and eats an RKO for this act of altruism. We leave this scene as Randy Orton celebrates his opportunity to crap on Bulgarian pride.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan is informing Sami Zayn that Shane has called to let him know that he is in a state of nigh-unstoppable rage and unquenchable bloodlust and feels it’s only safe to warn Sami that he is going to fuck up all of Kevin Owens’ shit when he arrives. Sami asks if said-shit-fucking-up could possibly wait until next Sunday and not interrupt his one chance at relevance. Dan promises that he’ll try his best.
Meanwhile, Randy Orton is wandering around another part of backstage, and actually manages to surprise Renee Young, who for some reason wasn’t waiting for him with a microphone. He asks her to convey a challenge to Rusev for Hell in a Cell. Renee just goes with it rather than telling him that that is in no way her job and asking him what his last slave died of.
Fifty Shades of J. Ellsworth
Here’s Charlotte Flair, ready for a match against Carmella. Charlotte won the number one contender spot last week, with a big boot of all things: Test is not forgotten. Carmella brings Ellsworth out on a leash, which means that either that man has no self-respect or has some goddamn weird kinks and sort of lucked into a situation where the unsuspecting Carmella is willing to let him live them all out.
Ellsworth is tied to the ringpost as the match starts, and the commentators have the audacity to discuss this as though this is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in wrestling. I’m willing to bet that some of you could mention at least three other times this exact situation has played out previously: let me know in the comments. Carmella shoves Charlotte, who shoves her back until she can’t be bothered with that wussy shit anymore and tackles Carmella to the ground.
The Princess of Staten Island manages to counter the Figure Four and tosses her necklace across the ring to distract the ref, allowing Ellsworth to grab Charlotte’s leg, distracting her enough that Carmella can bring Charlotte down from the turnbuckle the hard way. During the break, she continues to beat down the number one contender until Charlotte powers out of the corner and starts trying to cave her chest in with chops.
Now it’s Carmella’s turn to take some punishment, until she bails to the outside, keeping the fuck out of the number one contender’s way. Charlotte follows her, swatting Ellsworth away before turning her attention to Carmella, who superkicks her ass to the floor. Carmella continues to work Charlotte over, choking her on the ropes during the longest commercial break ever.
When we finally join broadcast reality, Carmella hits a headscissors takeover and locks Charlotte in a sleeper hold. Charlotte breaks out of it, but Carmella keeps control of her by latching onto her hair and dragging her down to the mat. Carmella flies in a crossbody and keeps going right after Charlotte. Reverse DDT almost gets the job done for Miss Money in the Bank, but Charlotte rallies from another superkick, suddenly felling Carmella with a big boot. And that nets her the win!
It’s odd when you’re not expecting a move to finish the match: you feel weirdly wrong-footed. Still, I love the big boot, so Charlotte using it as an alternative finisher is great. 2.5 Stars.
Natalya shows up on the entrance ramp to be a massive bitch: she may as well have a sign signalling her intent. She’s happy that Ric’s recovering, but only so he can watch his daughter get her ass kicked. Natalya always sounds like she’s reading words off a card, even when there is literally no card.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Undertaker
Suddenly, the lights go down and we hear a gong. I am prepared to bet literally everything I own that it’s Dolph Ziggler, because I’m not a moron and most of my possessions are pretty inexpensive. The crowd doesn’t fall for it either, and I’m glad that I don’t have to lose all faith in humanity tonight.
Man, even the commentators are sick of Ziggler’s shit. When did heels become all about being irritating and boring? Remember when Triple H was so attached to the World Heavyweight Championship that he put bounties out on people to keep hold of it? Remember Edge’s Live Sex Celebration? Remember the Undertaker putting Stephanie on a crucifix and planning to give her his rape baby? It might not have been high art or in good taste, but we fucking tuned in.
Ziggler laughs at us for being disappointed to see him, and this thing has gone on seven years too long…and suddenly the lights go down again, and this time it’s Bobby Roode and his theme music accurately depicts my feelings at him arriving here.
Roode gets in the ring, and at this point I’m pulling for him to rip Ziggler’s heart out and eat it. Bobby tells Ziggler he’s a hippogriff for being such a whiny bitch. He tells Ziggler to prove how good he is at Hell in a Cell against him. Dolph critiques Roode’s attire and his entrance, like a depressed fashion consultant, and accepts the opportunity to be fed to a new talent. Bobby promises that Hell in a Cell will be GLORIOUS.
Poor, poor Sami
Christ, they jobber-entranced Sami for the main event. It’s like WWE’s daring the guy to quit. Even the commentators are treating him like some plucky young kid who’s in way over his head. Kevin Owens arrives, and let’s get this on.
Both men start punching the shit out of each other. Owens gains the advantage off a back elbow, hitting kicks and a big clothesline to send Zayn reeling. Huge clothesline in the corner, followed by a cannonball, and Zayn rolls to the outside where Owens continues to beat him to hell and back.
Sami finally gets some offence with a clothesline, then gets thrown through the ropes again. Another clothesline puts Owens down on the outside, and as we go to a commercial break we get footage of Shane McMahon arriving. Wow, he got her just in time for the main event. I know it’s for dramatic tension, but he is a terrible employee.
Back from the break, Zayn is somehow in control. He leaps over Kevin Owens, and then eats a massive superkick to the mush: that’s more like it. Owens tries for a package powerbomb, but takes a chop to the throat and then a tornado DDT! Sami tries for the Helluva Kick, but runs right into another superkick. Zayn hops over the Pop-Up Powerbomb, then hits the Blue Thunder Bomb for a near fall. Owens dodges to the outside to avoid the Helluva Kick, but takes a huge dive from Zayn!
Zayn shoves Owens into the ring, and Owens rolls back out again. Sami tries to dive through the ropes to get to him, but flies right into another superkick. Wow, this is getting a little egregious. And then Owens hits Zayn with a powerbomb to the ring apron, because fuck you if you like Sami Zayn: fuck you, you stupid fucking moron.
Match ends there, because Charles Robinson doesn’t have the stomach for it.
A good and intense match, but Christ it can’t be fun to be Sami Zayn. Did he attack a McMahon, like in real life? Because that could be an actual explanation for this treatment. 3 Stars.
And then KO ambushes Sami again, knocking him down. He grabs a chair, wraps it around Zayn’s neck and is about to slam it into the ring post when Shane’s music plays. And a good thing too, because none of the referees, security guards or medical personnel were doing dick to stop any of that: sick fucks.
Shane sprints at Owens, who throws Zayn at him and runs off into the crowd. The legs of the chair hit Shane in the mouth, and it looks like it’s already swelling up pretty badly.
The bad: lot of lacklustre matches and not much to get excited about. Dolph Ziggler and Jinder Mahal are both segments of this show I absolutely dread by now.
The good: Charlotte/Carmella was decent enough, and Zayn/Owens was the match of the night. Quite thrilling close of the show, which brought its rating up a little, though not as much as Aiden English. 7/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, byron saxton, Corey Graves, Daniel Bryan, Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, sami zayn, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The New Day, The Singh Brothers, Tom Phillips, Tye Dillinger, VInce McMahon