Spain’s SmackDown Report and Review for January 23rd 2018: LET’S GET READY TO RIOTT

Columns, Top Story

Oh man, it’s close: we are so close to the night I pour myself a large glass of Malbec, a large scotch and sit down to watch thirty men and thirty women beat the living fuck out of each other for a WrestleMania main event. Second-greatest night on the wrestling calendar and I am so very excited.

But before that, we’ve got a final episode of SmackDown to get through, with all of the Royal Riott and Ruby Rumble jokes that I can stuff into this bitch.

Owens and Zayn are about as self-obsessed as any John Green character

First out tonight are Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who were noticeably absent last week considering they’re, you know, the co-number one contenders. Byron Saxton immediately roars his virulent disapproval, calling on the Gods themselves to smite the two Canadians.

Unsmote, Kevin Owens proclaims that he and Sami Zayn are the future of the WWE, unlike the relics from Monday Night. He and Sami indulge in their typical closest-you-can-get-to-a-circle-jerk-without-getting-your-dicks-out shtick, claiming that their loss during the handicap match proves that AJ Styles has no chance of prevailing in his World Championship match at Royal Riott. I guess that’s one way of turning a negative into a positive, in case you’re the kind of strange individual who looks to professional wrestling for life advice.

Zayn says that they’re going to win at Royal Riott, and after that they’re going to hurt AJ Styles. This brings out Styles himself to stare dramatically at Zayn and Owens before asking if they really think that they’re going to beat him. He refutes all their points with “nope” and calls them “Kami”, so I guess Vince McMahon broke out of his tank of liquid viagra and slapped his veiny cock over the script of this promo. Styles calls the Yep Movement annoying, which is just some damn stirring stuff, and Kevin Owens implies that even AJ Styles family wants him to lose on Sunday.

Styles says that they’re not just facing anyone at Royal Riott: they’re facing someone phenomenal, and they’re in the house that he built. He takes credit for a lot of architectural work, particularly for a professional wrestler. Owens and Zayn mock his tough-guy attitude, which can’t be a rarity in WWE, and his ignorance, which is absolutely not a rarity in WWE. They point out that he was the one who suggested the match himself, not aware that Daniel Bryan was roleplaying as a dick genie.

Like, a genie who acts like a dick.

Not a literal dick-genie.

Zayn and Owens acknowledge that Styles never wanted the match, but he’s actually being forced to be a man for once. They ask whether Styles will live up to other words he’s said, and pull up the footage of Styles saying he’s happy to fight them both on the same night. Owens asks whether he’s willing to walk the walk after talking the talk and fight both men, because they’ve got a lot of storyline to make up after the United States Championship Show last week, and they’ll be damned if they let Roode or Mahal have so much as a second of airtime.

Daniel Bryan arrives, summoned by the recording of unwise words spoken by a wrestler in his employ: by the standards of most demonic summons that’s actually pretty simple. He says that Owens and Zayn are absolutely awesome people, and starts to make the match when AJ tells him to shut the fuck up, because if the match is going to happen anyway then he at least will have the pleasure of accepting the challenge himself. Well, at least he didn’t do it out of pride.

Backstage, Bryan walks into Shane so they can engage in their tense, passive-aggressive whatever-the-fuck-this-is. Honestly, this feels like this is building up to some Lemongrab-esque thing where Shane is just going to eat Daniel. Bryan claims he wasn’t actually going to make the match, and Shane hints that he questions Bryan’s ability. Jesus, they are going to insane lengths to give Shane another undeserved WrestleMania spot.

Chad Gable is going to be 

Here are the Usos, and either Jimmy or Jey is going to face Chad Gable in advance of their upcoming two-out-of-three falls match at Royal Riott. All four men make their way to the ring, and the match starts with Gable dominating Jey through his pure mat wrestling skill. God, he looks simultaneously ten and forty years old.

Jey tries to reverse a clothesline, but Chad Gable could outwrestle God (unlike that pussy Jacob/Israel) and retains control with a waistlock. Jey finally manages to throw Gable out of the ring and into a commercial break which is probably the only way he was going to get out of that.

During the break, Gable latches on a second waistlock and manages to ram Jey’s shoulder into the turnbuckle like a fucking missile. Oh Christ, another Maze Runner trailer. I don’t know if it’s possible to develop PTSD on account of a terrible franchise, but by Christ it feels like it’s happening. As I reel in horror from this bullshit, Gable remains in control and continues to attack the Uso’s shoulder.

When we come back, Chad has just hit Jey with a Northern Lights suplex and heads up to the top turnbuckle. His moonsault misses; he lands on his feet but gets tossed onto the apron by Jey Uso and sent out onto the floor. Gable counters Uso’s dive with a forearm right in the face, dashes back into the ring…and gets hip-tossed right back out again. Jey dives out on him, because fuck your Tag Team Title aspirations.

Back inside, Jey tries to hit the Samoan Splash. Gable dodges, but Jey lands on his feet and adjusts magnificently, taking Gable down to the mat with a Samoan Drop. Clutching his arm, Jey goes for the Samoan Wrecking Ball, but Gable grabs his waist and goes for the Rolling German! Jey counters; Chad smacks him in the head with a kick and this time he hits the Rolling German! Gable just beat Jey Uso!

Watching Chad Gable wrestle is always a treat, something that is equally true for either Uso. It’s times like this I really miss American Alpha. Good match to get us in the mood for what should be an incredible showing at Royal Riott. 2.5 Stars.

Renee Young is in the backstage area with Shinsuke Nakamura, because this is interviewing on Hard Mode. She asks him what his approach is going to be for the Royal Riott, and it literally boils down to “knee every son of a bitch in the face”. I’ve seen way worse strategies, to be honest.

Suddenly, Baron Corbin rocks up, clearly keen to dispute Shinsuke’s Royal Riott tactics with references to Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and Carl Von Clausewitz. He tells Nakamura that he’s all hype, which is a hell of a thing to say to someone who’s knocked his balding ass out on several occasions. We all know where this is going: yeah, they’re having a match tonight. Nakamura’s looking increasingly likely to win this thing.

Did Liv Morgan murder one of Creative’s children?

Women’s Division match now, and our first competitor is Naomi. She’ll be facing the Rumble Squad’s Liv Morgan in an attempt to, you know, actually win a match in recent memory. The Rumble Squad gets jobber-entranced so that we can see a Royal Riott promo from Tye Dillinger. WWE couldn’t be doing a better job of encouraging Liv Morgan to commit suicide if they were trying. If she loses to Naomi, then there’s got to be some malice behind this.

Naomi and Morgan lock up, and Corey calls Liv “unpredictable”, which is announcer-speak for “fucking mental”. Naomi takes control early on, going for a roll-up that Morgan reverses. The two of them have a really good sequence of reverse, counter and dodge before Naomi nails Morgan with a kick right to the skull: nice.

Morgan plays possum for a little bit (by which I mean she pretends to be hurt, rather than keeping her young in her marsupium or killing a chicken), then drags Naomi into the turnbuckle. She stomps her opponent right into the mat, and Naomi kicks out just before the three. Liv applies a sleeper hold variant before the Welcoming Committee show up at ringside. I’m not quite sure why, but I’m banking on their motive being “remaining relevant”.

Morgan levels Naomi with a clothesline, and now Becky Lynch has joined the Welcoming Committee as Naomi pins Morgan with a roundhouse kick and a springboard roll-up. Wow, Becky got there just in time.

Poor Liv Morgan. Loved the sequence at the start: more of that, please. 2 Stars.

The remaining members of the Rumble Squad jump Naomi, even though there are four women at ringside who hate them. Becky immediately comes to her friend’s aid, smacking Ruby and Logan around. We get the traditional pre-Riott brawl and toss-’em-out, until Becky and Naomi just re-enter the ring, because this isn’t actually the Royal Riott.

And then Becky tosses Naomi, who just saves herself on the apron. Ah, those drunken crafty Irish.

Charlotte Flair then arrives on the stage, and applauds the mild aggression before reminding everyone that there’s no such thing as friends in the Royal Riott, Santa isn’t real and love dies.

Now that’s outta nowhere

It’s time for Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance to give people seizures. This match was made minutes ago, but it’s one of three matches on this show that were only decided on once the broadcast started. It is damn lucky that all these wrestlers decided to get in each others’ faces like they did.

Baron arrives, and he and Nakamura lock up. Corbin backs Nakamura into the corner, then lets him out. He wrenches Shinsuke’s arm, has the hold reveresed on him and then Nakamura rests his head gently on his belly. Corbin charges and Nakamura proceeds to fuck him the fuck up before subjecting him to Good Vibrations. Corbin bails, and Shinsuke catches up with him on the outside before Baron throws him back into the ring.

Corbin’s decides that he’s better than this and starts to walk out. Nakamura follows him and takes a massive punch to the throat before Corbin launches him into the ring post so hard that it takes us to a commercial. When we come back, Shinsuke has been grounded by Corbin, but is doing his best to fight his way out. A flurry of strikes has Baron reeling, and a running boot puts his big ass down.

Corbin takes some YES Kicks, catching the last one only to have Nakamura smack his other foot into his head. Shinsuke drapes the big man over the turnbuckles before hitting his knee strike, but the reverse exploder is countered by Baron being a heavy lad. Nakmura sandbags Corbin’s own suplex attempt, and hits a front suplex. The follow-up Kinshasa attempt is countered by a Deep Six, and Shinsuke just gets the shoulder up.

Baron runs into a boot, and when Nakamura avoids his second charge, Corbin dashes out of the ring, back in and then levels him with a huge clothesline. Baron wants the End of Days, but Nakamura suddenly turns it into an armbar! Corbin manages to slam Shinsuke to the mat, with the Artist kicking out at two and a half, before Nakamura catches the Lone Wolf with an enzuigiri. Shinsuke makes a second attempt at the Kinshasa…and Randy Orton catches him with an RKO out of nowhere! Corbin tries to take Orton out, and he gets and RKO as well!

It’s nice to see you believe in yourself, Orton; nobody else does. I actually liked the unexpected ending, and the rest of the match had the typical Nakamura charm. Good work from both men. 3 Stars.

This team is clearly called “The Glorious Pancakes”

Here come the New Day, ready for a Six-Man Tag Match against Mahal, Rusev and English with a GLORIOUS partner. The New Day announce their entry into the Royal Riott, and then introduce Bobby “New United States Champion” Roode.

I swear, only Bobby Roode’s entrance could make Becky Lynch the second-most beautiful feature of SmackDown Live. I’m glad my housemate’s not here, because my frenzied masturbation during this sequence is really starting to get to him. Especially after last week’s double-match situation.

Bobby gets on the mic, which isn’t the best decision he’ll make tonight, but manages to get through several sentences without flubbing his lines and delivers a fairly hefty GLORIOUS. Mahal makes his entrance next, followed by Rusev and English, who unfortunately neither speak nor sing.

Rusev starts things off against Kofi, hitting a huge kick to the face right away and going to work stomping the New Day member. Throughout the break, Kingston gets worked over some more, and when we come back Rusev has him in a bearhug, then charges at and squashes Kingston right in the corner. Rusev smacks Woods off the apron, which gives Kofi a chance to dodge Rusev’s next charge and bulldog the big Bulgarian.

Kofi tags in Roode; Rusev tags in English. Bobby bulls through the Shakespeare of Song, clotheslining him before hitting a neckbreaker. He knocks Mahal off the apron, Blockbusters English and pronounces it to be GLORIOUS. A distraction by Mahal allows Rusev to level Roode with a big old kick to the head, almost letting English steal the win.

Kofi bursts into the match, revitalised, and takes Rusev out with a springboard clothesline, before throwing himself out onto both Rusev and Mahal. Woods gets a blind tag from Roode, who spinebusters English and allows Woods to hit the elbow for the win!

Fun match, and I’m always happy to see Roode. Nice to see Woods starting to take more of a hand in New Day’s wins: could be leading to some big things for him. 2.5 Stars.

That’s not healing by Sunday

Main event time with twenty minutes to go. Zayn and Owens don’t even make it to the ring before Shane shows up and tells Sami to get the fuck away from the ring: if he gets anywhere near the ring during this match, he loses his title match at Royal Riott and gets fired, as will Kevin Owens. There’s got to be some kind of happy medium that Shane and Bryan can strike, but that’s just not the pro-wrestling world we pro-wrestling live in.

When we come back, the match has just started and AJ Styles is smacking Owens around, knocking him down with a dropkick. Owens dodges a flying clothesline and takes Styles down, only to miss with a cannonball, damaging his leg. Styles goes right after the leg, meaning it’s probably not really hurt, and then applies the Calf-Crusher. Owens taps out immediately, and Styles hangs on until the last possible moment, trying his best to cripple Kevin Owens. Whether WWE will reference that on Sunday or not is anyone’s guess.

Sami Zayn dashes into the ring, and lays a beating on Styles. The referee has to work hard to separate the two of them, unable to start the match until Owens is away from the ring. Zayn keeps jumping Styles sporadically, dragging him out of the ring and hurling him into the steel steps.

After the break, the match finally starts and Zayn goes after Styles like a pitbull. Holy shit, Owens is still at ringside, unable to walk and therefore unable to leave. Is Shane so vindictive that he’s stopping medical staff from attending to him? Because I’d genuinely believe that.

Zayn’s assault on Styles goes on for a large portion of the match, which is definitely wise considering how dominant AJ looked in the previous contest. I’m really glad it’s Sami we get to see looking good here, considering how many accolades Owens has to his name in comparison. Styles finally manages a flurry that decks Zayn, hitting a running forearm to put Sami down.

A running clothesline connects, but Zayn counters the Ushigoroshi, only to get tossed out of the ring. Owens is getting loaded on a stretcher and Styles, the tit, hurls himself out at Zayn to hit a Phenomenal Forearm. He sends Sami back in the ring and goes back to beat the fuck out of Owens. Actually, pretty smart: I’d be in “injure these dicks as much as possible” mode (separate from but related to “injure their dicks as much as possible” mode). Sami manages to capitalise with a clothesline, taking back control of the match as we go to the final break.

Post-commercial, Sami has Styles in a sleeper, but the WWE Champion fights his way out. Zayn’s still in the match, however, and battling Styles every step of the way. Styles Frankensteiners Zayn off the top rope, putting both men down for a moment. When they regain their feet, it’s a slugfest in the centre of the ring, with Zayn gaining the advantage…before he runs into the ushigoroshi for a two-count!

AJ’s done, and wants to end it with the Styles Clash. Zayn sandbags, then counters the move to hit his tornado DDT! Sami doesn’t go for the pin, but heads to the corner for the Helluva Kick…and Styles gets the boot up to counter! Styles misses a moonsault, ducks a clothesline and hits the Pele Kick!

Zayn barely gets the shoulder up, but Styles looks just as exhausted as him. And Kevin Owens…haha…is still at ringside. Are the regular medical people off sick tonight? Is he being tended to by the B team right now? Because these guys usually have someone up on a stretcher and out of there within seconds. Zayn manages to catch AJ with the Michonoku Driver, and Styles just gets the shoulder up.

Sami props AJ on the top turnbuckle, heading up to the top too. Styles suddenly slips out, dropping Zayn face-first and going for the Styles Clash! Zayn dashes out of the ring, but Styles nails him with a knee to the face! He sends Sami back in the ring, and turns back to look at Owens: oh my God, I love Pragmatic AJ. He tips the stretcher over! It’s going to take them hours to get him out of the arena now! He’ll be there for all of 205 Live and Mixed Match Challenge!

Styles heads back into the ring, bang on time for a Helluva Kick and a Blue Thunder Bomb. Oh no: I hope that doesn’t mean the Helluva Kick’s not going to finish matches anymore. One of my favourite moves on this show.

So yeah: Zayn wins because AJ was pretty much in murder-boner mode. But if Kevin Owens’ injury enables Styles to win on Sunday, he’s a goddamn genius.

This was really good, from the unexpected Owens result, to the dominant and victorious Zayn, to Styles coldly trying to cripple KO. Can’t wait until Sunday. 3 Stars.

Owens and Zayn don’t attack Styles post-match, because they’re idiots.

Welp, last time I get to make this joke (with the obvious exception of the Rasslin’ Roundtable prediction thread), so here goes: hope everyone enjoys Royal Riott, with both of the Royal Riott matches, one of which will feature Ruby Rumble and the Rumble Squad!

Ruby Rumble, thank you so much for your tenuous grasp on the English language, allowing me to make this joke which I proceeded to hammer into the ground without the least respect for restraint, subtlety or comedy itself.

And good luck in the Women’s Royal Riott match.

David has a jaded and cynical view of wrestling, which complements his jaded and cynical view of practically everything else. He spends his time writing novels and screenplays, lifting heavy things while listening to classical music, and waiting with bated breath for his next opportunity to say "it's Dr. Spain, actually".