It’s that time of the week again, folks: time to drag ourselves in front of the television to watch the boys and girls of SmackDown Live find new reasons to be pissed at each other.
Renee can’t get through one damn interview around here
Renee Young is in the ring to start off the show, and she introduces AJ Styles. The WWE Champ makes his way down to the ring, confident that he’ll be holding the title at least until WrestleMania. Renee gives us a brief rundown of what’s been going on re. title matches and Fatal Five-Ways, and asks Styles to comment on whatever the fuck’s going on.
Styles takes a brief moment to look at the WrestleMania sign, resisting the urge to point. He says that he can beat anyone who steps into the ring with him, but he knows the risks of the Fatal Five-Way match. He takes Renee around the ring, explaining how he’s going to have to be aware of all things all the time, and how he’ll have to curb the urge to murder both Zayn and Owens, because then he might lose the WWE Championship. Nice to know that something’s keep him in check, even if it might not be the best reason.
Styles goes through his opponents, selling them as real threats but saying that he can beat all of them. Then Baron Corbin arrives, because he’s got the spotlight again and he’s going to relish every second of that. He tells Styles not to bother telling people that he can beat him; Corbin’s beaten Styles twice already. He makes the usual campaign promises, eg. being the new WWE Champion.
And this brings out Kevin Owens, so the next few minutes of this segment are pretty obvious. He mocks Corbin for getting his ass kicked last week, which leads to Baron pointing out that he was able to pin Owens after an extended beating. Kevin brings all of this back to Shane McMahon not being able to let bygones be bygones and the horrifying beating of his father remain in the past.
AJ asks where Sami Zayn is, wondering whether Owens had him lanced. Owens says that he doesn’t need Zayn; Sami let him down last week, losing to Ziggler after having so much time to prepare. Owens gets ready to rail against Shane McMahon again, and Shane shows up to allow KO to do it to his face.
Shane says that there needs to be a little less conversation and a little more action. He places Corbin in a main event match against Styles, and puts Owens in a match against Dolph. I guess Sami Zayn gets to take a night off; if only it was a Fatal SIX-way!
So I guess the Zig-Zag isn’t much of a finisher any more
Match begins with Ziggler hammering away at Owens, apparently still a little miffed about being assaulted over an extended period of time last week: fucking crybaby. KO ducks to the outside, taking it to Dolph when the Show-Off follows him, but eats a huge dropkick back inside the ring.
Ziggler stays on the offensive, smacking Owens around on the outside. Back in the ring, Owens tries to regain control of the match with a big chop, but Dolph’s rage apparently translates into great reversals and ring awareness. Owens again tries to take advantage of Mr Ziggles on the outside, finally being able to throw him hard into the ring apron.
KO goes for a back senton, but Ziggler dodges aside. Dolph counters a suplex, hitting one of his own to the big man before raking the Canadian’s face across the ropes. Owens goes low, gets smacked in the gob by Ziggler, but a stinger splash goes wide, allowing KO to finally hit a decisive blow with a cannonball.
During the break, Owens continues to beat down on Ziggler. The gutsy blond does his best to win his way back into the match, but KO is relentless. At one stage, Dolph’s able to latch on a sleeper, doing all he can to keep it locked in. Owens has the wherewithal to bail out of the ring, breaking the hold and leaving Ziggler lying on the floor.
Inside the ring, Ziggler regains his feet and plants Owens with a big DDT. This is the most dangerous I’ve seen Dolph in years. He sends Kevin into the ring post, then drops him with a neckbreaker for two. A superkick is countered by Owens into a gutbuster, and he follows it up immediately with an elbow drop for a near fall.
Owens ascends to the top rope, but Dolph catches up with him and seems to want a superplex. Owens beats him away once, twice, goes for a senton bomb and lands across Ziggler’s knees! Dolph hits a fameasser, pinning Owens for two. Ziggler wants the Zig-Zag; Owens counters with a superkick that is caught by Dolph; Owens blocks Ziggler’s answering superkick and tries to set Dolph up for the Pop-Up Powerbomb. Dolph hops over Owens, hits the Zig-Zag and KO kicks out!
Both men take their time getting to their feet, and then Dolph strikes with a stinger splash. Suddenly, Sami Zayn’s music starts playing; Ziggler stops, distracted, as Zayn races out. Owens takes advantage, superkicking Dolph in the back of the head and getting the win.
Great match between these two, with some fantastic sequences. Zayn added an interesting wrinkle, even if it robbed us of a satisfying finish. 3 Stars.
Just give us Open Challenge Matches
Here’s that US Open Challenge Match-ruining prick, Jinder Mahal. He says that he’s made a startling discovery, and I hope it was that not one single person enjoyed anything about his WWE Championship run. Apparently Bobby Roode has a secret, and unless he’s involved in human trafficking then I truly doubt there’s much that is going to bother me.
So the secret is that Bobby Roode voted for himself in the Top Ten List, so let’s hang him from the nearest church steeple. And also that Roode didn’t vote for Randy Orton. Jesus, is this what SmackDown Live has come to? Are we getting into fights because he was mean to me? The Big Boss Man once stole Big Show’s father’s corpse; the Undertaker once tried to marry and rape Stephanie McMahon. Not that I’m trying to say that these were great storylines, but at least you could believe that grown men might engage in fisticuffs over the issues involved.
Roode comes out and says that this is total bullshit and that Jinder’s lying. Oh, so I guess we’re just taking his word for it, then. Bobby doesn’t actually show us his list submission, undermining his case just a little bit, says I. He says that he has a secret about Mahal, and Christ: I am all ears. And it turns out that secret is that Mahal can’t make it to the Top Ten list. How…how was that a secret? They put the list on TV; that’s why these mentally-handicapped perverts are arguing about it right now.
Bobby then accuses Mahal of trying to use manipulation and lies to somehow win the United States Championship; apparently Bobby Roode and Randy Orton being in a feud is step one, and with that sort of logic I can only imagine that step two involves Mahal switching brands to RAW, because that would be just as useful to his aims. Jinder keeps putting words into Roode’s mouth, and I don’t know why Bobby’s engaging with him: he’s got a heavy piece of metal on his shoulder that could end this argument in a single, bloody second.
Roode finally gets riled up at Mahal trying to make Randy Orton a thing, and so of course Orton shows up. I already hate this storyline and everything about it. We could be having a fucking Open Challenge Match right now. You know, the WWE could have had the self-awareness to realise that the fake 9 rating that Orton got is actually a believable thing based on how the WWE Universe is so tired of him, and had him do something interesting and not this. But no: let’s just throw this whole thing together, scream “RKO outta nowhere” and then blow our collective brains out.
Orton and Roode yell at each other like the fucking adults they are, then they both attack Jinder; Randy tries to RKO Roode and Bobby hits him with the Glorious DDT. And then Mahal hits Roode with the Khallas. I think Mahal manages to suck the goodness out of absolutely everything, and all the steroids and veins in the world will not make me enjoy whatever he’s a part of, with the possible exception of his career-ending car crash.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan says that he had no idea that the Top Ten List would create so much controversy, the fucking bullshit artist. Shane, who’s also there, asks what he thinks should happen. Hah: that’s how all my parents’ fights started when I was a kid, so I can’t fault WWE for the fucking realism of this. Bryan thinks Mahal should get a title shot, which makes sense on paper, but is horrible when you even consider Jinder Mahal doing anything which involves talking. Shane thinks Orton should get a match, and at a certain point in your career as US Title shot comes across as an insult (unless you’re Dolph Ziggler). There’s some tension between the two, and Jesus: just fuck already.
This develops into the usual argument about Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, because you’ve got to play the hits every now and then, and then Shane makes a match at Fastlane for Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode with the title on the line. Just give us the Open Fucking Challenge Matches. Sweet Christ almighty.
The Riott Squad have two good moves between the three of them
Here’s Charlotte Flair, and she’s joined by Becky Lynch and Naomi. They’re taking on the Riott Squad in a six-woman tag team match, and this should just about get the taste of that Mahal/Roode/Orton bullshit out of my mouth.
Charlotte starts off against Sarah Logan, and if we see that worthless fucking finisher of Logan’s, I might just drink a shot glass of bleach. Charlotte shoves her away, and Ruby fakes tagging in but decides to let Logan handle it. Naomi tags in when Charlotte is shoved into her corner, and Logan knocks her down with a shoulder block. Naomi kips up, dodging blows before slamming a kick into Logan’s leg.
Becky tags in, hitting a double hip toss with Naomi before hitting a leg drop to Logan. Sarah drags Lynch down to the mat by her hair, tagging Riott in to take care of things. Logan and Riott go for a double suplex, but Becky counters, she and Naomi dropkick Logan and Riott out of the ring before Charlotte takes out Liv Morgan.
After a break, Becky and Riott are still the legal women, and Becky is rocking Riott with arm drags. Naomi tags in, and Ruby manages to drag her into her own corner, tagging in Morgan. Liv tries to roll up Naomi, and they have a brief shoulder block battle, both dodge clotheslines from each other and then Naomi runs Morgan into the corner and hits her with a split-legged moonsault.
Logan and Riott drag Morgan out of the ring, meaning they might as well hold up a sign saying “We Can’t Possibly Beat You”, and Naomi dives out onto them. Morgan hurls Naomi into the steel steps, then sends her back into the ring to cover her. Naomi kicks out, and Morgan tags in Logan.
Logan applies an anaconda vise to Naomi (which would be a much better finisher than her current one, incidentally, but then so would the Worm). Naomi eventually fights out of the finisher, but Logan keeps her at bay with some brutal offence. Finally, Naomi hits a hurricanrana and tags in Charlotte.
Charlotte wails on every member of the Riott Squad, subjecting Logan to the tit chops before just booting her damn face off. A distraction from Liv Morgan allows Logan to hit a chop block, wrecking the Champ’s leg. Charlotte fights her way to her corner, tagging in Lynch. A missile dropkick takes out Logan, and Riott tags in before Lynch beats the fuck out of her.
Riott counters the Disarmer into a pin, and then Becky counters the pin right back into a Disarmer, because fuck you for interrupting when I’m trying to break your shoulder. Morgan breaks it up, and is taken out by Flair. Charlotte takes out Morgan with an exploder suplex; Logan attacks Naomi and is dealt with by Becky. Ruby catches Becky with a Riott Kick, and wins the match.
With the exception of Logan, the Riott Squad looked like bitches in here. Ruby, at least, needs to be a little more impressive if she’s going to challenge for the Championship. That being said, great match: 3 Stars.
Kevin Owens is backstage, and Sami Zayn shows up. Owens tries to play nice and thank Zayn, but Sami says not to worry: he still owes Owens for all the opportunities he’s given him. I don’t buy this for a single second, and I’d like to think that KO’s smart enough not to either.
News just breaking: Kevin Owens is not smart enough. Even when Zayn says that he’ll lay down for Owens to take the WWE Championship, Owens doesn’t exactly probe the situation; he just hugs Sami. He doesn’t deserve the damn belt.
These extended intros are going to kill Big E
Here’s the New Day, and Christ they have those stupid graphics onscreen. I hope who was behind this decision has a terrible relationship with their children. Thankfully, we’re moving away from pancake-themed feuds and this is for an opportunity at the Usos at Fastlane. Sounds like it’s Bludgeon Brothers o’clock at WrestleMania.
Woods and Gable start off the match, dodging and avoiding each other’s charges and countering each other’s moves before Woods finally fells Gable with a clothesline. Hell of a sequence. Xavier looks for a suplex; Gable counters and blind-tags Benjamin in. Shelton plants Woods with a spinebuster for two, following that up with a bodyslam.
Woods tries to fight his way back into the match, but a knee to the skull from Benjamin knocks him right into a commercial break. During the ads, Chad Gable continues his assault on the New Day member, at one stage hitting his flip-kick. When we come back, Shelton Benjamin is taking it to Xavier. Woods manages to knock him off the top rope and put him down hard with a missile dropkick.
Big E gets the tag, and begins hurling Chad Gable all over the shop. Gable returns the favour with a belly-to-belly, almost getting the win over the New Day there and then. Big E avoids a moonsault before slamming Chad to the mat. Gable avoids the Big Ending, and he and Shelton manage to perform their finisher on Big E! Kofi has the referee distracted enough that Woods is able to scramble into the ring in time to break up the pin, and Gable and Benjamin round on the ref.
Woods tags in, takes Gable out of the ring and pins Benjamin with the Shining Wizard! We’re getting the New Day vs. the Usos at Fastlane!
Woods was a real asset to this match, and Gable continues to impress. I don’t mind another Usos/New Day runaround if it all leads up to the Bludgeon Brothers. 2.5 Stars.
Speak of the devil and he will appear: here come the Bludgeon Brothers. Whatever happens, don’t make the match a triple threat at Fastlane: save this beautiful match for WrestleMania.
We get a clip of Charlotte calling Ruby Riott out for singles action, offering to put the Championship on the line if that’s the only way she’ll get that match.
In the ring, the Bludgeon Brothers murder a couple of jobbers as the audience stand by and watch, the callous fucks.
Every match, these guys manage to appear more ferocious: I am salivating at the thought of them facing the Usos. 2 Stars.
And apparently that match was as long as it takes for Ruby to watch Charlotte’s message…and challenge Naomi to a match, because it’s so easy to mix those two up. She does say that she’ll accept Charlotte’s challenge at Fastlane, as long as she puts the WWE Women’s Championship on the line.
Baron Corbin is cutting a promo on his phone, with Those Stupid Graphics being added. I hope that whoever came up with the idea for these things feels trapped in an unfulfilling relationship and never works up the courage to leave it.
Baron Corbin just kicked out of a fucking Phenomenal Forearm
Main event time, and here comes AJ Styles followed by Baron Corbin. Styles starts off with some vicious strikes, backing the bigger man into the corner. Corbin tries to strike back, but Styles is quick enough and smart enough to avoid Baron’s fists. Corbin is able to reverse an Irish whip, dragging Styles back into a clothesline.
Corbin goes on the offensive, hitting blows of his own to Styles before hurling him onto the apron. Styles keeps fighting, staggering Corbin with a dropkick before hitting a running forearm. Baron rolls out of the ring, and a Phenomenal Forearm attempt on the outside lands Styles in Corbin’s clutches, and he’s slammed straight into a commercial break.
When we come back, Baron has just dashed out and back into the ring, clotheslining Styles inside out. He waistlocks AJ, which Styles fights out of, and an unwise charge from the Lone Wolf leads to his shoulder slamming into the steel post. He rolls out of the ring, and the Champ hits him first with a pair of boots and then with a sliding knee.
Corbin manages a desperation move, hurling Styles over the announce table. AJ, somehow, remains in control, barreling back into the ring and laying Corbin out with a Phenomenal Forearm! And Baron kicks out! What in the fuck? Holy shit, that’s some prestige gained by Corbin. Styles doesn’t let up, hitting Corbin with a flurry that Baron bulls through, slamming AJ to the mat.
Baron goes to work on Styles, burying a fist into his stomach before setting him up on the top and punching him right in the face. Styles leaps over Corbin, but manages to run right into a Deep Six! Styles gets the shoulder up just in time, and Baron wants the End of Days. Styles manages to counter, applying the Calf Crusher! Corbin is trapped in the centre of the ring, but is able to grasp Styles’ head and pound it against the mat, winning himself some relief.
Corbin tosses Styles onto the apron, this time countering the Forearm and choking Styles on the apron. A blow to the face sends Baron staggering away, and the Phenomenal Forearm takes him down and out.
Good match, with some really strong moments. Styles and Corbin work really well together, so this was a smart choice. 2.5 Stars.
Owens and Zayn immediately attack Styles post-match, but Corbin lays both men out with the End of Days! Christ, Corbin is a fucking badass when booked right.