It’s SmackDown time, and we are on the Road to WrestleMania, coming up towards Fastlane. Title matches to organise and blood-feuds to get started. Let’s see what’s happening.
AJ Styles as the parental voice of reason: this is 2018
We’re reminded about the Zayn/Owens number one contendership match and then we’re taken to the ring, which contains Shane McMahon. Shane says that he’s a bit of a Grumpy Gus about the main event tonight, considering the huge implications that the match has. I mean, as huge as any implications can be considering that AJ Styles/Shinsuke Nakamura is the most obvious slam-dunk in the history of PPV title matches.
Shane says that Owens and Zayn don’t deserve another title match, the logic of which falls apart a little when you remember that Jinder Mahal was World Fucking Champion on this show for a literal eternity. But he says that Daniel Bryan, whom he respects greatly and whom Shane McMahon is not feverishly crafting a hairy voodoo doll of, thinks otherwise, and he invites Bryan out for a good old passive-aggression session.
Bryan arrives, and Shane says that SmackDown is the land of opportunity, and that’s because they listen to the people. I think we’ve all realised over the past couple of years that listening to the people can have some super-negative consequences. The crowd, with a sharpness and opportunism which I can only applaud, starts chanting “Rusev Day” at these words. And then Shane says “Duly noted”, which is a pretty fantastic response.
Shane says that Bryan keeps pushing for Owens and Zayn, and that he thinks the audience might want someone different. Going by the half-hearted response, the crowd knows that this is filler until WrestleMania. If it’s going to be so obvious, they may as well give Rusev a World Title match and ride this insane popularity wave until we move onto the next fad.
Anyone remember Fandangoing?
Danny makes the fair point that the ref made a mistake at Royal Rumble (lot of that going round just now), and says that his decision gave us both a solid match at Fastlane and a great main event tonight, with the added benefit that Shane will probably get sexual gratification from seeing Owens and Zayn murderkill each other. He also asks for a raise, which the audience chants “YES” in favour of, leading Bryan to inquire whether that reaction was “duly noted” too. These two are really decent at this off-the-cuff stuff.
Shane says that he’s already got his masturbation equipment set up for Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn Sixty Gazillion: This Time We’re Milking It (“milking it” was probably not the best choice of words for this particular joke), but he’s worried that Bryan is rewarding shitty behaviour. He tells Daniel that he and the Yes Movement changed the landscape of the WWE, but Zayn and Owens, despite the similarities, are not Daniel Bryan. Shane’s worried that Bryan is vulnerable to manipulation, considering his past and his current position.
Bryan asks what Shane thinks that he’s doing, and Shane drops a “vicarious” bomb on him. This brings out AJ Styles, who can be summoned by any four syllable words. Seriously: watch any episode of SmackDown Live. No, don’t do that: I just made every bit of that up.
Anyway, Styles shows up and nicks a microphone. The crowd chants for him, and he misses out on his opportunity to continue the “duly noted” running gag. He says that he’s travelled around the world to defend his Championship; he’s wrestled a lot of countries and he can do it all because he is phenomenal. He says that he can’t deal with the current obsession over Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, and he’s referring to both Shane and Bryan.
Any time a decision has been made featuring those two, it has affected AJ, and Bryan and Shane don’t think how their actions can impact on others. A brief reminder that AJ Styles once tried to hospitalise Shane just to get a WrestleMania spot. He requests that the two of them stay out of the match tonight and just let what’s about to happen happen. He leaves the ring and his music plays, meaning that whoever’s in charge of the music just elected to let AJ Styles have the last word.
Meanwhile, the New Day is backstage with an increasingly-huge amount of pancakes. I feel like this has to be heading somewhere ridiculous, like the SmackDown locker room is going to have to join forces to combat a giant, mutant, sentient pancake hellbent on consuming Carmella’s Money in the Bank briefcase.
And AJ Styles is walking around backstage, running through candidates whose heads he should put through car windows to ensure a WrestleMania match if he loses his Championship at Fastlane. He meets Shinsuke Nakamura, who tells him once again that he’s going to beat him at WrestleMania. I can totally buy Nakamura doing this every week and Styles one day just beating the shit out of him after it’s gone well beyond a joke.
If you come at the Queen, then don’t come back the next week for a singles match
It’s the Riott Squad, and tonight Liv Morgan will be having her entrails pulled out and stitched onto Charlotte Flair’s robe. We get shown footage of the Squad assaulting Charlotte last week, and Ruby Riott is the only one of these gals with a decent-looking finisher. Sarah Logan’s finisher, on the other hand, is the stupidest thing that has ever been in a wrestling ring with the possible exception of Scott Steiner.
Charlotte Flair arrives, ready to commit legally sanctioned murder. Whenever the Riott Squad hangs out at ringside (Sami Zayn’s 2017 definition), they always revert to their “Three Witches from Macbeth” impression.
Bell rings, and Charlotte does her best to drive her shoulder into and through Liv Morgan’s abdomen. After a bunch of kicks, Liv rolls blindly out of the ring and Charlotte follows her, because where the fuck does she think she’s going. The beating continues for a while into the commercial. Liv finally manages to gain the advantage after some hubble, bubble, toil and trouble from the Riott Squad.
When we come back, Morgan is still in control and barely able to believe it. And then Charlotte hits her with a knee to the face, which is what you get for self-doubt. Charlotte chops Liv across the chest until she’s sure he’s crippled most of her alveoli, then suplexes her, because asphyxiation is apparently too good for her. The Riott Squad interferes again, allowing Liv to hit her stupid-but-not-as-stupid-as-Sarah-Logan’s finisher, which Charlotte kicks out of.
Charlotte is able to lift Liv up, kick out of the answering roll-up and spear her. Logan provides a distraction and Ruby drags Morgan out of the ring, leading the ref to banish them to the back. Morgan gets a boot to the face and then taps out to the Figure Eight.
Entertaining match, which gave Liv a bit of a chance to show off whilst keeping Charlotte supreme. 2.5 Stars
Backstage, Renee Young is knock-knock-knockin’ on Kevin’s door and asking about his relationship with Sami Zayn. Owens says only if Sami Zayn’s a sore loser, which is the kind of diplomatic talk that makes sure you keep all your friends.
Why carry the hammers if you’re not going to use them?
Here’s the Bludgeon Brothers, trying to make their case for getting a title shot by killing two jobbers. Murder happens; the Bludgeon Brothers win.
Only a few months until WrestleMania. Get these two opposite an established tag team. 2.5 Stars.
The Usos show up, making this the pro wrestling equivalent of flirting. The Bludgeon Brothers do nothing, because the Usos have fucked them up a number of times and could likely do it again.
Anyway, the Usos are here to talk to us about their creed or code or whatever dumb shit their personal philosophy is made of. There’s a lot of prison metaphors, and it’s almost as stupid as Sarah Logan’s finishing move. Tom Phillips says that they’ve sent the whole locker room a message, and it’s probably that a lot of blows to the head will fuck up your ability to speak coherently on any one topic.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan has the results of the first ever Top 10 List. I still have no idea what this is in aid of, but number ten is Tye Dillinger, because sure, yep. Next up is Randy Orton. Eight is Becky Lynch, and good for her. The Usos are joint seventh, making them both a fourteen. Six is the New Day, meaning they’re singularly an eighteen. Five is Bobby Roode, making the US Championship better than the Tag Team Championship, I guess. Four is Naomi, and…really? Three is Shinsuke Nakamura; two is Charlotte Flair. Number one is obviously AJ Styles. I’m not sure what this was supposed to prove or solve: I’m half-convinced that this is just a list of talent as they are currently favoured by Vince McMahon.
We get one of those mobile phone promos from Aiden English, and from him and Rusev it’s totally okay, but it really does seem like WWE lost a truckload of cameras and are being forced to improvise and are also really bad at improvising.
Rusev Day is the most GLORIOUS of all days
And here’s Aiden English in the ring, and they’re doing the fucking stupid onscreen graphics thing to show the words to what he’s saying so you can sing along if you have a mental age of six. Except they’ve clearly not practiced this, because it’s all massively out of sync and almost a perfect metaphor for this whole graphical bullshit, if I’m honest.
I hope whoever had this idea has a dog, and that it doesn’t like them.
Anyway, here’s Rusev and the crowd are goshdarn here for him. And here’s Bobby Roode’s theme music, and they’re here for that as well, the faithless little sluts. Post-match announcements (gotta get my big motherfuckin’ match feel), and we’re off to the races.
Both men lock up, with Rusev overpowering Roode in the early going. Next time, Bobby shoves Rusev around. Rusev goes back on the attack, trying to ground Roode, but the Champ counters, working the arm. There’s some good back and forth rasslin’, with Rusev’s power netting him an advantage as he knocks Roode down with a shoulder tackle.
After a break, Roode is flung into a corner by the challenge, but gets the boots up and hits a perfect blockbuster from the top rope. Rusev catches the charging Champion, and halts his momentum in its tracks with a fallaway slam. The Bulgarian Brute stays on Rusev, hitting him with a big kick and locking him in a sleeper hold. Roode punches his way out, swinging for the fences, and takes Rusev down with a forearm smash off the ropes. Neckbreaker follows it, and Bobby heads up to the top rope once again, this time for a flying clothesline.
Aiden English pops up for a distraction, and huge kick to the side of the head almost puts Bobby down as we go to another break. Rusev tries to retain control during the commercial, looking for a superplex and finding it. Roode tries to club Rusev away for him, then looks for the Glorious DDT before taking a big knee from Rusev. Spinebuster from Roode is a near fall. Roode has to knock English off the apron, almost paying for it with a roll-up.
Rusev scores with a huge kick to the jaw, and he looks to finish it with the Accolade. Roode rolls him up for two, gets rolled up in return, fights out of the Accolade and hits the Glorious DDT to retain!
Entertaining match. I didn’t think they’d actually take the belt off Roode so fast, but it was good nonetheless. 2.5 Stars.
Randy Orton takes Roode down with an RKO, I presume because he’s now dedicated to RKOing everyone above him on the Top 10 list. I’m not even being sarcastic about that. I want to see him hit Charlotte, Becky and Naomi with RKOs, and then I want them to hunt him down and take revenge, Death Proof style.
Orton then RKOs English and Rusev, and the commentators have the damn gall to act surprised that Randy is doing mean shit to people who’ve done nothing to him. Again.
Gable and Benjamin are doing some backstage stuff, with the added stupidity of those fucking graphics. If there’s a hell, then I hope whoever came up with this idea has a whole new circle of it made just for them, and I hope that at least a small part of it involves involves clowns.
Ascension overhaul now?
The Ascension have been jobber entranced, and I am unsurprised by this. They’re facing Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, who apparently said recently that the Ascension are what’s wrong with the tag team division, pretty much giving them the moral high ground in this dispute.
Shelton starts off against Konor, who roughs him up a little. Benjamin dodges an elbow drop, hits an enzuigiri but gets shoulder tackled halfway across the ring. Shelton keeps fighting, dodging a running boot and the distracting the ref to allow Gable to attack the knee.
Benjamin whacks a knee into Konor’s face, then tags in Gable to continue going after the leg. Chad works over the limb pretty effectively, then mouths off to Viktor for long enough the Konor can flapjack him and tag in his partner.
Viktor comes in with the usual momentum, knocking both opponents all over the shop. Benjamin breaks up a pin, then spinebusters Konor when he takes issue. Viktor tosses Benjamin, but Shelton manages to tag in a moment later. Viktor gets a German suplex and a powerbomb/clothesline combo.
Nice display of what these two are capable of. Set them up against the Bludgeon Brothers at Fastlane for a shot at the belts, and that story writes itself. 2.5 Stars.
Renee is now interviewing Sami Zayn about Owens, and uses the word “best friend” with the exact same expression as I assume she’d say “child groper”. Sami gives us the old lie about his and Kevin’s friendship withstanding this fight, but you can see the lie in his eyes and the sadness in his beard.
We’re really killing time until WrestleMania
Sami makes his way to the ring, aware that once again the fates have conspired to destroy the most embattled wrestling friendship in time immemorial. Also, Dolph Ziggler’s officially back full-time after dropping the US Championship and ghosting us for seven weeks. I’ve had sexual fantasies that have lasted longer than that absence, and that I’ve been more committed to emotionally than I am to Dolph Ziggler.
Jesus, I just looked up why Dolph was off TV for that time, and I realised that that’s the first time I’ve actually asked the internet that. I mean…one way to prove a point.
Anyway, here’s Kevin Owens, so let’s get things started. Owens and Zayn lock up, and KO pushes Sami against the ropes before breaking. Sami pushes Owens against the ropes, breaking clean himself. They continue to wrestle, with rope breaks being forced. Kevin finally hits Zayn with shoulder tackle, and Zayn arm drags him, then shoves him in the face as Owens forces another rope break.
Both men trade waistlocks before Owens elbows Zayn hard in the mouth. This leads Sami to decided that Mr Rogers and Julie Andrews were wrong, and friendship can go fuck itself. He wails on Owens, forcing his friend to leave the ring again and again, yelling at Zayn to calm down.
When we come back from a commercial, Owens and Sami are still smacking each other around. Sami springboards over Owens, and the two of them boot each other in the face, followed by KO clotheslining Sami to the mat. He chops away at Zayn, then smacks him upside the head with an enzuigiri. A neckbreaker gets two, and Owens is starting to look frustrated.
Owens goes for the cannonball, but almost gets hit with an exploder suplex. Zayn hits him with a tornado DDT instead. The match goes on, with Sami setting KO up on the top turnbuckle. He tries to superplex him back down, but Owens batters Zayn until the Ginger lad just falls to the mat. Owens wants a senton, but Sami lifts the knees and lets KO crash and burn.
Owens rolls out of the ring, and somewhere backstage Shane McMahon is creeping out the entire locker room with the unspeakable things he’s doing to himself. Sami hits his through-the-turnbuckles DDT, planting Owens skull on the floor like he’s slamming a shovel into the earth under which their friendship shall be buried. Zayn throws him back in the ring, and runs right into a superkick.
KO dashes to the top rope, and hits the frogsplash to Zayn. Sami kicks out, desperately clinging onto his chance at the Championship. Owens, more frustrated than ever, yells at Sami to stay down, and Zayn starts unloading on him. He counters Owens’ Pop-Up Powerbomb, hitting an exploder suplex and then a Blue Thunder Bomb, getting two!
Again, Owens rolls out of the ring with Sami Zayn in hot pursuit. Zayn pauses in his attempts to lift Owens to get in Styles’ face: always a winning strategy whatever your goals. Styles shoves him away, and takes out both men! DQ!
Nice storytelling from both men and an interesting ending. 3 Stars.
In the ring, Styles hammers Sami, and then turns back to take it to Owens. Both men are sent out of the ring, and so AJ does the logical thing and throws himself onto the pair of them.
Bryan shows up, clearing his throat loudly. It really is a race to see who gets onto the entrance ramp first, isn’t it? He says that due to the result, the Championship match at Fastlane will be a Triple Threat. Yeah, makes sense.
Everyone looks pissed, which is probably the closest thing you can get to a fair decision around here anymore. Orton may as well just show up and RKO everyone out here too.
Tags: aiden english, AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, byron saxton, Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, charlotte, Corey Graves, Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, Liv Morgan, rusev, sami zayn, Shane McMahon, smackdown live, The Ascension, The Bludgeon Brothers, The Riott Squad, the usos, Tom Phillips, WWE