Hi everyone. Well, it seems like SmackDown Live is eating a big old helping of humble pie tonight. Shane McMahon’s point, which pushed him to be a huge dick, was proved totally wrong. And the main event at Survivor Series benefited no new talent except Braun Strowman (admittedly that was a hell of a consolation prize); the last third of the match might as well have been called “The Shane McMahon Show”, and the World Championship is apparently not as good as the Universal Championship. SmackDown Live was proved, by WWE’s own parameters, to be the B-show.
So let’s get used to our new position as the betas around here and see what’s in store for us in the Loser Club.
The replay really tries to make it seem like Zayn and Owen’s interference actually mattered, rather than it was something that should have embarrassed everyone involved and didn’t matter anyway. So, nice to see we’re already doing revisionist history in this third world wrestling show of ours.
War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. SmackDown is Best.
The show kicks off with Shane McMahon himself, hereafter referred to as “Dickface”. Byron is really settling into the role of state propagandist, parroting the belief espoused by the video package people that Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are traitors to the cause and should be sent to the “work camps”. Expect a Two Minutes Hate any week now.
Dickface or, to fit in with this Nineteen Eighty-Four-esque reading of this episode which I’m doing, Big Brother, picks up a microphone to address the crowds who both fear and love him. He tells us how close SmackDown was to total victory, how valiantly the troops fought and, even though we lost, that we proved ourselves to be the show. Big Brother lauds the men and women of the SmackDown roster, only some of whom will be consigned to gulags. He tells us of their pride and, dare we call it, patriotism.
But there are two exceptions: the traitors to the cause, the cancer in our host, the thought criminals. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Big Brother orders for the two of them to come out and receive his justice.
Zayn and Owens arrive, smirking visibly. Byron spews bile and vitriol onto the pair of them, ready to tie the nooses himself. Looks like I was bang on about the whole Two Minutes Hate thing. Owens asks whether we’re getting the daredevil Shane tonight or the drunk with power Shane, mocking him for having to come out and explain away his failures. Zayn gets in on this too, with Owens claiming that they should have been on the show, and could have beaten anyone from RAW, even and including Brock Lesnar. They wrap this up by demanding an apology.
Big Brother reminds Owens that he’s speaking to the Commissioner of SmackDown and advises them both not to speak anymore as they’re only adding to their crimes. He states that they have no respect for anyone, even their own coworkers, the audience or SmackDown Live. Zayn blithely agrees with this assessment, and Big Brother ramps up to pass his sentence: unemployment.
Zayn and Owens claim that that Big Brother doesn’t dare fire them, considering the mass of potential they represent for this company. They claim to be the greatest wrestlers in the WWE, above and beyond anyone else. BB calls this delusional, stating that the two of them are maniacs. He’s about to fire them, when Daniel Bryan’s music plays and Bryan comes out.
Bryan claims that BB has ever right to fire the pair of them, but he needs to listen to reason. Zayn starts mouthing off in support of this, but Daniel tells him to shut up. He offers his own solution, claiming that the entire locker room despises them and Randy Orton got sent home for making threats which HR described as “concerning”. So Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will tonight face the New Day.
Sami claims that this is “totally bogus” (give the man a fucking title match), but gets told to shut up again. Bryan then states that the match in question will be a Lumberjack Match, with the lumberjacks being made up of all the SmackDown Live locker room. Ah, so human sacrifice on live TV. Cult as fuck.
Chad Gable used to be such a sweet kid
Here’s Shelton Benjamin, accompanied by Not-Angle Junior. He’ll be taking on Jey Uso in a singles match in the ongoing story of this tag team rivalry.
Jey starts off cautiously before getting backed into the corner by the larger Benjamin. Shelton lets the Uso out of the corner, and receives a pair of uppercuts as a thank-you. Benjamin shoulder-tackles Jey down, runs the ropes and rebounds right into an elbow. Jey charges at Benjamin, is elevated over the ropes and onto the apron, beating Shelton back. He tries to climb onto the turnbuckles, but a kick from Shelton knocks him into a commercial break.
Post-commercial, Benjamin has Jey in a chinlock. Jey, the plucky babyface in this encounter, fights his way out with right hands. Shelton hits a knee, but Jey flips out of a back suplex and hits a Samoan Drop to Benjamin. Crowd’s fully behind Jey, who winds up for Samoan Wrecking Ball which knocks Shelton out of the ring. Jey charges, and Chad Gable stands on the apron to block his flight path.
Jimmy grabs the little shit, but ends up getting tossed into the barricade. Benjamin goes for the roll-up, but Jey just kicks out. A superkick connects, but this time it’s Shelton who gets the shoulder up. Jey heads towards the turnbuckle via the apron; Gable tries to get involved and receives a superkick for his trouble. Jey ascends, but the distraction was enough; the Samoan Splash misses and Jey is felled by Paydirt.
Not a bad contest, and I like that the challengers need to cheat to take a win from people on the level of the Usos. 2.5 Stars.
Backstage, Owens and Zayn are talking to Baron Corbin, trying to get him on their side in advance of their match. Corbin bluntly asks what’s in it for him, because betraying Big Brother had better have a hell of a benefits plan. Owens claims that it’s all about the principle of the thing: making a stand against oligarchical collectivism. Corbin states that he hates both men, and points them towards Bobby Roode instead.
Bobby is more overtly hostile to the pair of them, but does listen to Zayn and Owens as they state that becoming a traitor will make him different. Roode is not amused at the two of them trying to contract him after screwing him over on Sunday night.
Elsewhere backstage, Naomi is having her make-up done and is talking about how disappointed she is about the losing effort at Survivor Series. You know, in case the make-up artist is a spy for Big Brother and Naomi is accused of disloyalty. She fully voices her support for Charlotte tonight, and almost seems to be testing the make-up artist in turn.
Then Ruby Riot shows up, with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan. They beat the fuck out of Naomi, which I guess is how you make new friends if you have hair and make-up like Ruby Riot. Becky tries to help Naomi, because like fuck you’re having a fight and not including the Irish one. Becky gets fucking destroyed, and did she kill one of Vince’s grandchildren to get this treatment? I mean, what the fuck?
I guess the message to take away from this is that the other women of the SmackDown Live locker room should form a lynch mob (pun, like, half-intended) and injure the three of them before this happens to them. Or, you know, pay Randy Orton to do it for them. What, you think he wouldn’t? The man kisses unconscious chicks and pours lotion into their bags. I assume he kills a hooker every month.
Elsewhere backstage, Big Brother is with Daniel Bryan (clearly the Goldstein in this wrestling-themed Nineteen Eighty-Four prequel we’re watching), and applauds the hiring of women from NXT (like, seconds after they just killed Becky) and Bryan’s elegant solution for Owens and Zayn. Now that BB’s cooled off, he recognises the dangerous brilliance of Bryan’s mind (might want to watch that). He still expects Dan to fire them, because being a McMahon is more or less a hereditary mental condition. And then he takes the rest of the night off to watch the SmackDown employees via the telescreens.
Live by the Hype, die by the Hype
Oh shit, son: it’s the Hype Bros. They’ll be facing the Bludgeon Brothers, and I’ll admit that I’m amped up to actually see someone’s skull get fucking shattered with a big old hammer.
I’m aware that I’ve got some issues to work through.
Okay, so the Bludgeon Brothers’ entrance is pretty solid. The rock music takes away from the eeriness a little, but it’s still there. Rowan’s still wearing his sheep mask, which I guess is something that we and whatever family he might have/abuse constantly are just going to have to deal with. Aside from that, and a steampunk sheep mask is a pretty fucking big that, their gear is sweet. This might be a damn decent re-tooling if handled right.
Rowan starts off against Mojo, bringing the strength factor early. Ryder’s blasted off the apron and is tossed into the steel steps by Harper. Mojo ain’t backing down, which is a terrible, terrible mistake. Harper tags in, and then hits Rowan so at least they actually took some damage even if it’s from each other. A double crucifix slam ends it in damn near record time.
That was a debut done right. Have them massacre their way to the Usos and give us some of that sweet title match goodness. 2 Stars
Dasha is backstage, and introduces her guest as “the best there is, the best there was and best there ever will be”, and so it’s super-disappointing that it turns out to be Natalya. She asks about the psycho-bitches who are going around assaulting people right now, and Nat’s pretty sure that that’s not actually a thing.
Natalya gives Charlotte a backhand compliment for her Survivor Series performance and insults Ric (Bret Hart teaches every family member to insult Ric Flair before they can even walk). Somewhere, Ric just started blading himself.
Can we just keep Jinder Mahal away from the fucking Championship?
We take a look back at AJ Styles doing every damn thing he can to drag an interesting match out of Brock Lesnar (and in fairness to him actually managing it). Styles then makes his entrance as we get a look at the video Heyman made rather than literally licking AJ’s nutsack.
The crowd shows Styles some love, and he basks in it for a moment before going on. He admits that he failed on Sunday, and commends Lesnar for being every bit the Beast he’s supposed to be. He notes the praise that he’s been getting, but states that he shouldn’t receive trophies for second place. Styles does remind Brock that he wasn’t the one limping away, and promises that if there’s a rematch then things will go differently.
Styles moves on, saying that he’s heard that Jinder Mahal is going to take his Championship away from him tonight. He gets set, ready to fight, and tells Mahal to bring it. Jinder appears onscreen, saying that he’s not there: he’s watching the WWE Network (because even villains have to plug it) to see AJ fight Lesnar again. He claims that he’d be able to beat Brock in Styles’ place, which Styles laughs off.
AJ tries to goad Jinder into coming down, but no dice. Apparently gets to choose when he gets his rematch, which is a first, and he’s not going to do it in a place like Texas. Mahal wants his rematch at the PPV, because like fuck he’s doing this without a big payday.
The Singh Brothers jump AJ in the ring, and it goes just about as well as you’d think. If AJ’s smart, he’ll cripple the pair of them here to avoid any shenanigans at the PPV.
AJ is not smart.
Backstage, Zayn and Owens are still looking for help or friends. They end up finding Aiden English serenading Rusev, because that’s what they do, and try to defect to a nation state which celebrates Rusev Day. English and Rusev listen, especially when Owens reminds Rusev of how he got screwed out of his spot by John Cena (who went on to be no help whatsoever in the actual match).
God, Aiden English is lean as fuck.
Jesus Christ, Carmella
Here’s the Women’s Champ, fresh off her victory of Alexa Bliss. Her title is on the line tonight against Natalya, the jacked version of the lonely cat lady. Post-entrance announcements (that match feel is just so big…), and away we go.
Natalya starts off agressively, hitting Charlotte hard and fast before running into a back elbow; lot of that going around tonight. Charlotte fires back with chops before getting hit with the Discus Clothesline. Natalya wants the Sharpshooter; Charlotte fights out of it and gets hurled into the turnbuckle and a commercial break.
During the break, Natalya works Charlotte over on the outside and then in the ring. Charlotte rallies with a roll-up from the apron, hits a neckbreaker and then an exploder suplex. Charlotte runs into a shoulder, and Natalya attempts to wrest control back, hitting a dropkick to the face. We rejoin the action proper as Charlotte manages to regain the advantage, hitting blow after blow into Natalya’s face before Natalya takes her down with a Batista Bomb for two!
Charlotte winds up in the Sharpshooter, fighting her way to the bottom rope. Natalya’s on her in a second, going right back after the Champion. Charlotte is able to hit a desperation backbreaker before hurling Natalya into the corner. And then…oh, stupid girl: she’s going to do a moonsault. Off she goes and…yep, right onto the knees. The Flairs just don’t belong on the top rope.
And yet Charlotte manages to rally with a huge spear, knocking Nat out of the damn ring. Bets on whether Charlotte will stay in the ring like a smart cookie or head out after Natalya like a…well, a Flair.
Actually, looks like it’s not her choice: here come Riot, Morgan and Logan! It’s Nexus version…I guess three? Who the hell knows; just don’t choke anyone with a tie or they make you the Undisputed Champion at WrestleMania. Anyway, they take out Natalya on the outside as Charlotte…just kind of watches it and doesn’t leave. Sure: I love watching Nat getting beaten up too, but I’d settle for seeing it on YouTube.
The three finally notice that Charlotte’s not left, when this would have been a great time for a Batman-like exit. They surround the ring and beat the hell out of the Women’s Champ, clearly not thinking about the day that the other women agree to put their own problems with each other on hold and cripple them. I mean, I say that: we’ve seen time and again that survival instinct gets surgically removed from wrestlers when they sign with WWE.
Match was pretty good, and I’m loving the new injection of talent into the Women’s Division. Storylines about the Championship and storylines not about the Championship? Yes please. 2.5 Stars.
Daniel Bryan is walking around backstage until Dasha leaps out and interviews him: Renee Young has taught her well. Daniel declines to comment regarding his three newest employees going on a kill spree, and then turns to face Zayn and Owens, who are also there now.
Owens says that they’ve asked every midcarder and no-one’s on their side, but does Daniel really want another violent beating on top of the two women’s division ones and the Bludgeon Brothers’ debut match? Surely it’s getting egregious at this point. Zayn tells Bryan that firing them will be the biggest mistake he’s ever made. I’d refute that, but the man was trained to wrestle by Shawn Michaels, won the Undisputed Championship at WrestleMania and is married to Brie Bella: life must have gone pretty well for him.
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
Time for our SmackDown-mandated patriotism. The lumberjacks make their way to the ring, ready to rip two thought criminals limb from limb. The New Day arrive shortly afterwards, the O’Briens to the Winston and Julia team of Owens and Zayn (Sami’s Julia). We see replay of Owens and Zayn bailing on the New Day last week, which should have been a big fucking clue to what was going to go down.
Owens waistlocks Big E, who throws him over his shoulder and then gyrates at him. Owens goes on the attack, headlocking E before he’s shot off the ropes and into a back elbow. Kofi tags in, stomping on Owens’ arm. KO throws him out of the ring and the lumberjacks don’t give a fuck about that, letting him head back inside.
Zayn tags in, knocking Kingston down off the ropes. Kofi returns the favour with a back elbow, gets tossed out of the ring again…and same result. Owens and Zayn are outraged, and Sami is dumb enough to go out too…and gets the shit kicked out of him. He tries to run, but the locker room literally carry him back to the ring, not letting him escape.
Post-break, Kofi and Big E are running the Unicorn Stampede on Owens (with trombone accompaniment). Owens kicks out, apparently not satisfied to take a loss or a DQ and thus escape this hell. Zayn’s able to distract Kofi, allowing Owens to hit a superkick to halt this multi-wrestler gangfuck of the two heels. Zayn comes in, hammering away at Kingston. Jesus, Byron is really calling for their heads, and Corey Graves rightly calls his propagandist ass out.
Owens comes back in, bodyslamming Kingston. He tries for a back senton, but drops right onto a pair of knees. Owens gets the tag, as does Big E! Big E belly-to-bellies the ginger right out of Zayn before hitting the Warrior Splash. He wants the Big Ending, but Sami slips out and slams E into the corner. Kofi tags in, hitting the crossbody to take Zayn out! Owens breaks up the pin, and he and Big E take each other out with clotheslines.
Zayn is tossed to the outside, landing on Corbin. Baron winds up for a punch, but Zayn ducks and he clobbers Bobby Roode! Roode doesn’t sell a Corbin Punch by acting like Zeus struck him with every lightning bolt ever, and the two men promptly have words. Well, fists. And suddenly the entire SmackDown locker room is fighting because professional fucking wrestlers.
The ring gets invaded as everyone decides to settle old arguments or start some fucking new ones. Everyone’s cleared out as Kingston takes out Owens. Zayn rolls Kofi up and Owens and Zayn win! The Revolution lives on! 2+2=4!
This was fun, although we really should have seen more or the lumberjacks, as this basically became a “don’t go outside” match. Bit of a waste. I’m not going to chat shit about the ending: they’re wrestlers, and therefore not strategic thinkers. Of course this was going to fall apart. 2.5 Stars.
Zayn and Owens run into Big E, apparently not processing the fact that there’s two of them and one of E. But then Rusev takes the New Day member out, because Rusev Day is serious fucking business. Owens runs for it as Kingston wipes out Rusev and English from the top rope.
Sami tries to leave, but Woods catches him and tosses him back into the ring. The New Day surround him, having learned some tricks from the Shield, as Sami begs off. The New Day administer a beating, featuring Trouble in Paradise and the Midnight Hour.
Backstage, Owens is staggering away from the hell behind him before running into Daniel Bryan. He begs Bryan not to fire him from what is literally his dream job, and Bryan admits he was never going to fire them. Instead, Owens gets a one-on-one match, next week, against Randy Orton.
The bad: felt like there should have been more of a reckoning. Part of what was so interesting about this show before watching it was knowledge that something was going to happen. And something did, sure, but it wasn’t anywhere as big as it should have been. The Owens/Zayn/Bryan/McMahon storyline needs to pick up momentum hard and fast.
The good: the latest NXT invasion (someday, a faction’s going to come over from NXT with cake and tea and it’ll be fucking charming) was definitely handled well enough for me. Shit was violent as fuck, though I hope Becky’s not been put on the shelf for any length of time. Jinder, once again, did nothing (which is still far better than Jinder doing anything). The Bludgeon Brothers impressed, which is more than I expected. All in all, this was fine. 7/10.
The extra bit
So, I had a little bit of extra time this evening, and because I’m still really vexed about the finish of the men’s five-on-five elimination match from Survivor Series, I thought I’d spend a few minutes talking through how I, given the total power to do so, would have handled it.
- Everyone comes down to the ring with no changes except that Cena is wearing a fucking blue shirt.
- First segment of the match is dream-match interaction, some of which was in the actual match. Cena/Finn, Cena/Joe, Orton/Balor, Trips/Nakamura, Trips/Roode, Angle/Nakamura: pick and choose whatever would make the crowd get hot. Certain pairings would be teased but not followed through on yet: we need that later.
- The first bit of tension would come from Kurt and Hunter getting obsessed with dick measurement. A couple of forceful tags, a few stare-downs that border on the homoerotic: the usual. When Trips/Cena is teased, Kurt tags himself in to continue their old rivalry.
- After some back and forth with his first opponent, Cena is tagged out by Shane, who wants some of Angle. Cena lets it pass, apparently interested in seeing this happen as well.
- A bit of rasslin’ from Kurt and Shane, but some interference during a pin attempt starts the first big brawl. Guys on the outside, with Kurt and Shane inside. During the chaos, Zayn and Owens make their move, dragging Shane out and putting the boots to him when it looks like he’s getting the better of Angle. Some of Team Blue manage to run them off, but Shane’s down and still the legal man.
- Kurt’s ready to eliminate his opposite number, and decides to do so with the Angle Lock. As before, Triple H decides fuck that and Pedigrees him for Shane to hazily eliminate. The RAW team who are able to see this (recovering from the fight on the outside) are stunned as Triple H looks at them, daring them to come in and stop this. Orton and Cena just exchange a weary glance, long having come to expect this shit.
- Triple H goes through with the next step of his master plan, eliminating Shane. At this point, Strowman is back on the apron. Oh shit, wait: he’s in the ring. Oh, he’s choking out Triple H and then decides to go the whole hog and slam him (see the end of this run-down for an alternative). No-one on the RAW team objects, even if Finn emotes dramatically.
- Randy Orton, opportunist extraordinaire, finishes things off with an RKO to eliminate Hunter. Maybe Strowman gets taken out of the ring before the pin, so it’s not like he deliberately gave up a team member.
- Strowman comes back in the ring, tossing Orton around before Cena tags in for a bit of Cena/giant action. Braun eliminates Cena, winning another accolade.
- Orton, who’s taken over the Captain job and who is actually going to do something with it, decides that Strowman has to be dealt with now. He, Roode and Nakamura pile on him, each one hitting a big move. Strowman cannot be beaten however, so it’s table time. The three men take Braun and one announce table out (Samoa Joe has quietly tagged himself in and is waiting for the right time to strike).
- Orton enters the ring, a little damaged himself after RKO-ing Braun through the table. Joe’s ready, and the Coquina Clutch eliminates Orton.
- Joe, Finn, Bobby and Shinsuke all get into the ring as the crowd slowly gather a huge pop. They all start going at each other, Joe and Roode being the legal men. Joe weathers a strong assault from Bobby, and is able to Clutch him out too. Nakamura’s on him right afterwards; the two of them exchange some back and forth before Shinsuke fells Joe with the Kinshasa.
- Balor and Nakamura have a stare-down, and then put on five minutes of five-star insanity. Balor almost wins it for his team, but Nakamura is able to take him out with a roll-up. Balor’s incensed, adamant that he’d kicked out before the count. Nakamura watches him, ready for a sudden attack. But Strowman, recovered, steps up behind Balor, telling him to leave. Balor gives Strowman a long look, and then steps out of the ring.
- Strowman stares at Nakamura, and then roars his name. Shinsuke tells him to come on. The two move in, Shinsuke trying to avoid Braun getting hold of him, dodging when he can and hitting the big bastard as hard as he can when he can’t dodge.
- Braun suddenly gets Shinsuke up and hits the running powerslam. Nakamura gets his foot on the bottom rope. Braun drags him away and pins him again; this time Shinsuke kicks out at the last second.
- Strowman picks Shinsuke up, and receives a huge kick which staggers him. Running on fumes, Nakamura laces Braun with every strike he can, finishing up with a massive Kinshasa to the kneeling Strowman. Strowman kicks out.
- Nakamura waits for Braun to rise, readying another Kinshasa. Strowman grabs him, lifts him onto his shoulder and hits the running powerslam. Not leaving it to chance, he hits another, collapsing into a pin. Braun Strowman, the sole survivor, wins it for RAW.
- (If you want the alternative I mentioned, then Braun simply chokes Triple H during the match rather than powerslamming him; Randy can still RKO HHH right afterwards. If this is the case, then Hunter comes out here to act as though he’s happy for Braun, congratulating and appeasing him. Strowman lets things slide, Trips tries to Pedigree him and takes the two powerslams: either would work).
Hope you enjoyed this extra; let me know what you think or why your ideas are better than mine and what, in fact, those ideas are. Have a pleasant week, and I’ll see you next time!
Tags: AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, Bobby Roode, byron saxton, Carmella, charlotte, Corey Graves, Daniel Bryan, Gable and Benjamin, Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, Lana, Liv Morgan, naomi, Natalya, Randy Orton, Ruby Riot, sami zayn, Sarah Logan, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, tamina, The Bludgeon Brothers, The Hype Bros, The New Day, the usos, Tom Phillips