Hey there, folks. With both Royal Rumbles now behind us, we are now officially on the Road to WrestleMania with one perfect match already announced. Let’s dive right into SmackDown and see how everyone’s dealing with the aftermath of an incredible PPV which I watched with some of my closest friends: Mr Shiraz, Mr Malbec, Mr Macallan and Mr Wild Turkey. Preparations are already underway for a very over-the-top WrestleMania evening.
Get your filthy hands off my dream WrestleMania match
As it really should, the show starts off with Shinsuke Nakamura making his way to the ring. I don’t mind admitting that my heart was hammering from the second the final four of the men’s Rumble were left in the ring, but hats off to the WWE: it was a PPV which made great decisions and was insanely entertaining whilst it did so.
The crowd give Shinsuke some love as he grabs a microphone, and then he tells us how he kneed faces all the way through the Rumble. He really did tell everyone his strategy and stuck to it. He promises to subject Styles to exactly the same treatment and become the new WWE Champion before POINTING AT THE SIGN.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn interrupt, and Owens seems to be congratulating Nakamura, but it’s about two seconds before he turns that into complaining about how they were screwed at Royal Rumble. They show the pictures of the not-tag between Zayn and Owens, and still photos might not have been the best way to show how that all went down. Apparently the decision stands, which is great news considering I’m paranoid as fuck about anything threatening this WrestleMania main event.
Zayn and Owens attack the referee’s terrible refereeing, claiming that it was that and Owens’ passion for competition which led to their downfall. They demand another shot at the belt, and tell Shinsuke that it’s them he’ll be facing at WrestleMania. Shinsuke calls them losers, because deescalation is for people who can’t kill you with their knee.
Styles shows up before things get narsty, and tells Owens and Zayn that the Styles/Nakamura match is happening. Honestly, the amount of people calling this a dream match already is getting me quite nervous. Get used to the paranoia, everyone: it’s not going away until we’re past Mania.
AJ then invokes the “Hold On Just A Minute, Playa” rule, making a tag team match: him and Nakamura against Styles. Owens and Zayn fake-walk off, then come back, and AJ and Shinsuke just punch them off the apron. I don’t know who Owens and Zayn think they are that makes them believe they can just reject the Teddy Long curse.
We need a Rusev Day Championship
Fatal Four-Way time, with US Championship implications. Kofi Kingston is making his entrance, but Jinder Mahal, Zack Ryder and Rusev have been jobber-entranced. And then we cut away from Kofi‘s entrance to Bryan backstage, because fuck the United States Championship all over again.
Owens and Zayn arrive backstage, and Bryan makes the tag team match. Zayn tries to smartly turn the subject to the Royal Rumble, and Bryan officially says that the decision is final and that the referee’s call, whilst incorrect, stands. Owens rants, telling him that they deserve far better. Danny says that he agrees with them, and that they’re getting another opportunity, but Owens and Zayn are going to have to fight it out to be number one contender for Fastlane.
Back at the ring, everyone’s been waiting extremely patiently for this exposition to be over so they can actually be allowed to wrestle. Crowd loves Rusev, and their Bulgarian hero goes after Ryder on the outside as Jinder and Kofi tussle in the ring. Kingston seems to have Mahal reeling, but a big old knee the dome sends the New Day member out of the ring.
Ryder comes in, clearing out Jinder. Rusev follows him in, beating the bejesus out of him, and apparently Bobby Roode is commentary and I’ve only just now noticed. Jinder and Kofi fight their way back inside, and it’s the two big men who are in control of the situation. Mahal tosses Kofi towards Rusev, who tries to throw Ryder on a collision course, but Long Island Iced Z reverses the Irish whip, sending Rusev into a dropkick, courtesy of Kingston.
Ryder clotheslines Mahal; Kofi kicks Zack in the gut, but then eats a neckbreaker from the Broski. Jinder bulls back into the ring, taking Ryder out and hammering him. Ryder catches him with a faceplant, sending him out of the ring and smashing a pair of boots into him. Kofi dives out onto the pair as the New Day hurls pancakes at the announce team, apparently on general principle.
Rusev tries to dive out, and then the non-crippled Singh Brother trips him! English rushes to his friend’s aid, pushing the Singh Brother into the New Day, making them drop their pancakes! He’s a dead man! Zack Ryder’s the only one out there without any friends! The referee ejects all four men, which is yet another bullshit call.
During the break, Rusev heads to the outside to impose his will on others. The ring gradually fills with all four competitors as I’m shown a commercial for something called “Lobsterfest”. I have to admit, that looks really good. Rusev and Mahal form an alliance that seems to work pretty well for them. When we come back, everyone’s on the outside, and Mahal and Rusev are still in control…oops, Jinder just decked the Bulgarian and threw him into the fucking ring post. He then tosses Ryder back into the ring, because the jobbers shall be sacrificed unto the pushed.
Rusev arrives, starting to fuck Jinder up left, right and centre, then turns his attention to Kofi and Ryder. Zack manages to get the better of Mahal, hitting most of his big moves, culminating in a Broski Boot before Jinder does his level best to kick the man’s head off. Ryder kicks out, and Mahal turns around into a flying axe-handle from Kofi. Now it’s Kingston’s turn to wreak havoc, hitting the SOS to Ryder before Mahal breaks up the pin.
Mahal clotheslines the New Day out of Kofi before Rusev hurls him out of the ring and goes for the double Accolade on Ryder and Kingston. Jinder charges back in, slamming his knee into Rusev’s face to knock the big man silly. Rusev counters the Khallas, throws Ryder at Mahal, knocks Ryder into tomorrow and forces a tap-out from Kofi with the Accolade!
Fun match, with Jinder once again able to present a threat without outside help. The result was a pleasant surprise; I assumed Mahal was going to get another shot. 2.5 Stars.
We get another little Breezango segment, which is interrupted by proud double-losers Shelton and Chad. Long story short, apparently Benjamin and Gable are allowed to make tag team matches whilst the WWE Champion isn’t. Explain that to me if you can.
I’m very okay with this match
Meanwhile, here are the Usos, who are eventually going to have to resurrect the corpse of Randy Savage, make Hulk Hogan thirty years younger and face the Mega Powers just to have some competition. They rub in their walk-in-the-park victory over Gable and Benjamin, and then run through the list of teams they’ve beaten. Every time they say “locked down”, a cartoon graphic of a jail door shutting appears onscreen. Okay, this has been happening several times tonight: words appearing on the screen in conjunction with what’s happening on camera. I’d like to go on record as saying this is the worst thing ever, and whoever thought this was a good idea deserves to have one hand shoved into a running blender.
They end by telling us that every struggle you go through makes you stronger. People in war-torn countries must be thrilled. Then they tell us that they’re the best tag team in the world, which brings out the Bludgeon Brothers. Fuck yes: this is what I’ve been waiting for.
Except the Bludgeon Brothers are apparently there for a different match against a couple of jobbers. Yeah, Harper and Rowan win.
As long as they’re unnecessarily brutal, I love squash matches. 2 Stars.
Daniel Bryan is backstage, explaining the fucking stupid cartoon words and graphics that have been the bane of my Wednesday morning. Oh no: apparently they’re letting the wrestlers vote for each other in various different categories, because they’re a little worried that people aren’t getting into enough fights backstage. This was an awkward fucking car wreck.
Elsewhere, Tye Dillinger is demanding justice for Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens stealing the most sacred of all numbers from him at the Royal Rumble. And then Baron Corbin arrives, calling the list total bullshit and demanding an opportunity at the WWE Championship. I’m not sure on what basis he thinks he should have that, but Dillinger gets in his face and the two are going to be in a match tonight.
Jesus Christ, Carmella
Charlotte Flair is here, rocking the leather jacket and Championship belt look. Not the most versatile combo, but she makes it work. Renee gets into the ring and asks her what it was like to sit and watch the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble, and she says that she actually wished that she wasn’t Champion so that she could be in the match. She says that what happened afterwards “broke the internet”, which seems like a bit of an exaggeration: Ronda Rousey pointed at a sign until it got a little weird.
The Riott Squad arrive, because they can feel their relevance draining away. Ruby calls Charlotte out on her “break the internet” bollocks and says that Charlotte’s ego is as big as Ric’s. Well, at least Charlotte doesn’t feel the need to blade at house shows, during promos and at funerals. Ruby calls Charlotte unoriginal, which probably wouldn’t have been hypocritical a few decades ago when you didn’t have Ruby Riott doppelgangers at every university and high school.
Charlotte WOOOs at Ruby, which is obnoxious enough that I’m actually on Riott’s side when she throws a punch. Charlotte actually fights off the Riott Squad, who can either accept the fact that they had a good run and at least lasted a little longer than Absolution, or can get back in that ring and cripple the Women’s Champ.
They actually opt for option B, and good for them. Ruby hits Charlotte with a terrible superkick, Logan hits her FUCKING STUPID finisher, and Liv Morgan manages to hit the only move that looks like it was performed by a professional wrestler. Are our expectations being subtly lowered in advance of Ronda Rousey’s in-ring debut? At least the Riott Kick looks pretty damn good. Charlotte is left unconscious, and maybe this time Carmella will remember that there’s an expiration date on that Money in the Bank Contract…
Holy shit, she remembered! She’s cashing in! Carmella is cashing in! Charlotte ducks Carmella’s kick, and it sends the referee out of the ring! He’s unconscious! And apparently Carmella isn’t confident of facing Charlotte Flair after three consecutive finishers and a sloppy superkick, because she gets the fuck out of there! Carmella has managed to fuck up her cash in! We should have just let Ellsworth keep the damn thing, feminism be damned.
Backstage, AJ Styles is trying to talk strategy with Shinsuke, who’s more concerned with playing mind games with the WWE Champion. At least Styles doesn’t have to worry about a moron with a briefcase in the men’s locker room.
Tye needs to worry less about 10s and try to get some 3s
Tye Dillinger makes his way to the ring, and then we forget about him for a while so WWE can promote the Mixed-Match Challenge and Renee Young (apparently cosplaying as a referee tonight) can interview the second-worst Money in the Bank Contract Holder of all time (you know what you did, Baron).
Renee asks Carmella if she’s at all close to hanging herself after that ludicrous display, and Carmella claims that it was part of the plan. Jesus Christ, Carmella.
Anyway, the worst Money in the Bank Contract Holder of all time is finally allowed to make his entrance, and eats a big kick from Dillinger to start off. He takes Corbin to the outside, hurls him into the barricade and then hits a flying punch to Baron’s face! Where the fuck did this come from?! In the ring, Dillinger hammers at Corbin until Baron takes him to the mat, smacking every integer out of him.
Baron goes on the attack now, matching Tye’s earlier intensity and then some. He hurls him out of the ring and into a commercial break. When we come back, Corbin seems to have been in control the whole time, now holding Dillinger by the head and keeping him grounded. Tye finally manages to fight back into the match, dodging several charges by Corbin to send him shoulder-first into the ring post.
Tye builds momentum, shutting down Corbin’s attempts to seize control back. He headbutts and chops Baron, but the bigger man counters the Tye Breaker, slamming a forearm into the back of his neck before hitting the chokeslam backbreaker. End of Days finishes Dillinger off.
Great intensity from both men. Corbin needs to tap into this as much as he can: it’s what works best for him. 2.5 Stars.
Meanwhile, Kevin and Sami are sitting backstage in an awkward silence. The second Sami starts talking, the passive-aggressiveness hits record levels. Daniel Bryan might be an evil genius.
Actual American cops beat up people more frequently than the Fashion Police
Oh yeah: Gable and Benjamin made a match earlier. They’re facing Breezango, and everyone got jobber-entranced so we can fit in more stupid segments with stupid fucking graphics and cartoon words. No-one asked for that.
Fandango starts off against Benjamin, who knocks Breeze off the apron instead. Fandango gets some offence in against Shelton, but then eats a spinebuster before Benjamin locks his arm. Gable tags in, hitting a big knee to Fandango’s midsection and continuing to rough him up. Fandango manages to fire back, felling Gable with a wheelbarrow bulldog.
Gable dashes out of the ring off an Irish whip, dragging Breeze off the apron again. Fandango hits a beautiful backbreaker to Chad, who comes back right away with a rolling kick, locking the Fashion Constable’s arm again. Fandango nearly wins off a roll-up, then tags in Breeze!
Tyler knocks both Shelton and Chad around, with Fandango re-entering the match and getting blasted out of the ring by Gable. Breeze catches Benjamin with a superkick to the gut, but his hurricanrana is turned into Benjamin and Gable’s LOD-esque finisher.
Good match, with some rare offence by Breezango. Nice to see Gable and Benjamin aren’t being forgotten. 2.5 Stars.
Daniel Bryan has singlehandedly destroyed the Yep Movement
They just jobber-entranced the WWE Champion. This has been surreal. Owens and Styles start out, with KO applying a waistlock. Styles outwrestles him, and Owens tags Zayn in. Styles tags in Shinsuke, who works over Sami with some stomps and Good Vibrations. AJ comes into the match again, and Zayn quickly latches on a headlock. AJ throws him off, hitting a huge dropkick and stopping him from getting to Owens.
Shinsuke tags in, but Zayn drives him right into his own corner, tagging Owens in. KO takes control of the Artist, hitting him with a heavy assault before exchanging some quick tags with Zayn. Nakamura finally kicks and punches his way back, starting to gain the advantage over Owens before Zayn dashes into the match. Shinsuke tosses him immediately, but the slight distraction allows Owens to regain control. He looks to tag in Zayn, apparently having missed what just happens, and yells at him to be a better tag team partner.
A clothesline to the face levels Owens as Zayn stares at him from the outside. Nakamura punches him right out of the ring, and KO and Sami get into a yelling match on the outside. That’s right, boys: the eternal feud was never going to let you be friends for long. Sami finally decides that Owens can fuck himself with a rusty anchor and departs, because he’s got a Mixed Match Challenge with Becky later, and it’s bullshit that he should have to fight Nakamura and Styles before getting in the ring with Braun Strowman.
When we come back from a break, Sami Zayn is standing on the ramp, watching Owens work on Styles AJ hits his flurry before clotheslining Owens to the floor and hitting his running forearm. An ushigoroshi is countered, but the facebuster is not, and Sami somehow gets back to the ring in time to break up the cover.
Zayn calls for a tag and heads into the ring, smacking Styles around on the mat. He sends the WWE Champion for a ride with the backdrop, and then Owens calls for the tag. Sami refuses, holding on his sleeper, but then emphatically tags KO in. Owens hits a back senton, and now it’s Zayn calling for a tag. Owens tags him in alright: right across the chest, yelling at him about how he fucked up in the Royal Rumble.
Sami tags right back out, because he’s a strong, confident ginger who don’t need no tag team partner. Styles slams Owens into Zayn, rolling the former up and knocking the latter off the ring apron. Owens kicks out, clothesline Styles right back to Georgia, and now Sami is walking out, and this time he means it. Owens is stunned, but counters a Phenomenal Forearm with a gutbuster, hitting a springboard elbow to Styles.
KO decks Shinsuke off the apron, then tries to rebound Styles into the Pop-Up Powerbomb. AJ leaps over the attempt, hitting the Pele Kick to Owens’ skull. Nakamura pulls himself back up onto the apron, and Styles tags him in. Shinsuke hits Owens like a hurricane, punishing him with a flurry of moves. Owens tries to bail, but Styles throws him back inside to face an enzuigiri and a Kinshasa to finish.
Not a huge amount of Nakamura in there, but considering the alternative is AJ Styles it’s hard to feel ripped off there. The implosion has started off really well, and I’m seriously looking forward to the end result. 3 Stars.
Renee ambush-interviews Sami Zayn, who’s watching from backstage, asking if this is the end of yet another one of Owens’ bromances. Sami hotly denies it, but promises that he will beat Owens next week, and AJ Styles at Fastlane.
Tags: AJ Styles, Becky Lynch, Bobby Roode, byron saxton, charlotte, Corey Graves, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Gable and Benjamin, Kevin Owens, Ruby Riott, sami zayn, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Riott Squad, the usos, Tom Phillips, WWE