SmackDown Live is in Pittsburgh tonight as we race towards the Show of Shows. Last week, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were totally fired for realsies, so it’ll be interesting to see if WWE can keep them off TV for this episode. And I just know we’re going to have to endure some US Title bullshit, so be strong, Inside Pulsers: be strong.
We’re only twelve days away from WrestleMania, and I’ve not even started shopping for really unhealthy food and a metric fucktonne of alcohol. I’m really behind this year.
We of course take a look back at Daniel Bryan taking a dangerous bump right after being cleared to wrestle again. And considering Owens and Zayn were not WWE employees at the time, and therefore not contracted to a role where they can just beat the fuck out of people because they feel like it, shouldn’t they have been arrested by now? I mean, Roman Reigns gets to smack US Marshals around and apparently getting done over by Brock Lesnar counts as “time served”, but there’s got to be some law and order around here.
Rusev’s desperately trying not to get embroiled in this feud
And the show gets off to a GLORIOUS start with the former United States Champion. It’s a match rather than a promo, which is great, but it’s a tag team match: boo. Ah yes: this was the contest booked last week, with Orton and Roode facing Jinder Mahal and the non-injured Indian. Expect a five star classic.
Jinder comes out with Sunil Singh, who’s got a neckbrace on and one arm in a sling. This might actually raise the quality of this match. Jinder berates Bobby and Randy for assaulting his slutty assistant last week, and announces that as Sunil’s unable to compete, he has found a replacement partner. Swear to Christ, if this is the Great Khali I’m going to throw this laptop at the wall.
Oh holy shit, it’s Rusev. I’ll allow it. Nice to get a little nod to Rusev and Jinder’s thoroughly forgettable tag team days. Mahal starts things off, as does Bobby Roode. They jockey for position, with Jinder seizing the early advantage with a vicious back elbow. Bobby fights his way out of the corner, but gets run over by a veiny shoulder tackle. He manages a hip toss and an atomic drop before Mahal blocks a neckbreaker. Roode retains the advantage, taking Jinder to the mat with a blockbuster.
And it’s shenanigans o’clock as Sunil gets up on the apron to distract Bobby and the referee with his plunging neckline. Roode decides that it’s hate crime time, but Orton drags Singh out of his grip and callously hurls his tiny body into the barricade. Roode looks affronted that Randy snatched away his chance to follow in the footsteps of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens by assaulting non-wrestling personnel, and we got to a commercial break.
When we come back, Roode and Randy have Rusev reeling. But winning the match by working as a cohesive unit is about to take a back seat to dick-measuring, because these two have something to prove to each other. Orton hits a dropkick and challenges Roode to see if he can do any better. I don’t know in what world personal worth is measured in dropkicks, but it’s probably somewhere near Suplex City and the Roman Empire.
Orton’s obsession at being better at certain moves than Bobby Roode earns him a Machka Kick from Rusev, and Mahal gets to tag in. Goody. He drops knees onto Orton, then keeps him on the mat as he rains strikes down on him. Rusev tags back in to stomp on Randy, as he and Jinder exchange tags as they work over Orton. Hard to see them as villains when they’re showing the WWE Universe the value of teamwork and mutual appreciation.
Randy finally suplexes Jinder, and guesses he’ll tag in Bobby Roode. Roode smacks Jinder around, which I assume everyone watching this can empathise with. He knocks Rusev off the apron and heads up to the top rope for a flying clothesline. The Glorious DDT is countered, but the spinebuster is not. Rusev breaks up the pin as Randy grins suggestively at him. Roode sends Rusev out of the ring before getting his face kicked right into a commercial break.
When we come back, Jinder Mahal has Roode in a tight spot, and he just levels him with a running knee. Rusev comes in to be the most interesting part of this match, suplexing Roode before choking him on the ropes. Jinder tags in, slapping on a hold which Roode breaks out of; Randy gets a blind tag and Roode is apparently offended by this smart tactic. Orton clotheslines and powerslams the legal Rusev, then hits him with that most Vintage of DDTs.
Randy wants the RKO; Mahal tries to interrupt and is intercepted by Roode, who he manages to knock into Orton. Bobby clotheslines Jinder out of the ring, but this stain upon Randy’s honour must be answered with blood. Bobby Roode shoves Orton, because deescalation and communication is for pussies, and Randy RKOs Bobby because fuck you.
Rusev, who alone seems to realise that there’s a match going on, Machka Kicks Orton and covers him for the win.
This conclusion was obvious enough, but it got the job done. Rusev being added really helped this match. 2.5 Stars.
Backstage, Jinder and Sunil are super happy about life. They run into English and Rusev, whom Mahal genuinely thanks for his help. But Rusev has decided that if he can make one match with these three guys way better than it should be, he can do it at WrestleMania: he wants the United States Championship and so it’s going to be a Fatal Four-Way. English sings “RusevMania”, which really should be all the convincing Daniel Bryan will need.
Elsewhere, AJ Styles is chilling in the locker room, and then Shinsuke shows up both to troll him and to make it very clear to everyone watching that Styles is going to be totally fine for WrestleMania. Nakamura asks that AJ be in his corner tonight for his match against Shelton Benjamin. Styles agrees as reluctantly as he can.
Hard times for Ruby Riott
It’s Becky Lynch, which is great, but she’s also not one half of a tag team, which is frankly staggering. She is facing Ruby Riott, whose sneer might actually be permanent.
The bell rings and the match starts off. Becky is wearing a leotard which looks like it was made from the shirt of your average high school neckbeard. Ruby uses her aggressiveness to counter Becky’s technical prowess, but she ends up eating a boot right to the face which sends her out of the ring.
Becky follows Riott to the outside, because how else is she supposed to be distracted by the Riott Squad? She manages to retain control of Ruby, but a struggle on the apron allows the leader of the Riott Squad to knock Becky to the outside. Ruby follows, throwing her opponent into the stairs and barricades.
Back in the ring, Ruby yanks Becky’s arms behind her back, but Lynch is like “nah” and throws her off. Riott lays her out with a clothesline and then chokes her against the ropes. Logan decks Becky, but due to the replay showing at the same time we don’t see it. Ruby continues to punish Becky, but Lynch finally manages to take Riott down with a desperation charge.
Ruby slowly works her way up to her feet, punching Becky when she’s halfway there on the basis that she may as well. Becky takes exception to this, starting her comeback before Ruby throws her onto the apron. Becky ascends to the top rope; a distraction from Logan forces her to leap over Riott’s head, and Ruby is able to take advantage, using her legs to throw Becky head-first into the turnbuckle. She tries to pin Becky with her feet so obviously on the ropes that the ref’s all “come on, now”.
Becky manages to grab Ruby’s arm for a Disarmer; Riott tries to fight out of it, but this just leads to the Riott Squad getting knocked off the apron. Ruby almost manages to turn another Disarmer attempt into a roll-up, but Becky responds with a cover of her own, and wins!
This all meant very little, because it’s leading up to a Women’s Battle Royal that will also, most likely, mean nothing. Still, a decent match. 2.5 Stars.
The Riott Squad jump Becky after the match, because that’s what they do. Holy crap: Becky throws Liv and Logan out of the ring, and Riott doesn’t jump her afterwards. Man, the Riott Squad ain’t shit anymore.
Bryan will re-employ people if it means he can beat them up legally
Daniel Bryan arrives onstage, looking solemn. He perks up a bit as the crowd overwhelmingly chants for him. He says that last week was amazing: he was finally allowed by doctors to hurt people for money again. Bryan thanks the crowd for supporting him in his violent crusade, but says that he is still somehow the GM of SmackDown Live. And as SmackDown Live is supposed to be the Land of Opportunity, he’s going to give Owens and Zayn one final opportunity.
Bryan calmly makes the tag team match between Shane, himself, Owens and Zayn. He says that whilst Shane is in bad shape currently, he’s confident that he’ll recover from his diverticulitis, you know, in time for WrestleMania. Basically, Owens and Zayn need to beat Bryan and Shane to get their jobs back.
Daniel says that he has given Owens and Zayn opportunities because they’ve been on the road together for fifteen years, came from the same place, and because it was his job to give opportunities. But he says that he’s sick of having to do all the boring busywork that comes with the presumably high-paying job. He wants to wrestle, and Kevin and Sami tried to take that away from him.
He says that he’s tried to avoid saying a lot of things, through being an underdog, or a role model or a general manager, but he’s going to say it: he’s going to kick Sami and Kevin’s asses.
Backstage, Gable and Benjamin have made a cellphone promo with cartoon words. I hope they get burned at the stake.
At a certain point, the Bludgeon Brothers have committed attempted murder
There are graphics and cartoon words over the New Day’s entrance as well. God is dead and it’s shit like this that killed him. The New Day talk about how the Bludgeon Brothers took away their chance to go to WrestleMania. They get really personal about Harper and Rowan’s appearance and body odor, and promise to shove the Bludgeon Brothers off the Road to WrestleMania.
The Bludgeon Brothers arrive…and there’s immediately a commercial break? What the fuck, WWE? Who planned this shit? Okay, I’ll actually check out what happened during the break, because I don’t want to miss any of this match.
Woods dropkicks Harper right off the apron to the outside, hurls himself out of the ring onto him, dodges Rowan and slams a kick to Harper’s leg back inside the ring. A knee to the face sends Harper reeling, and Big E tags in to work the big man over, with Woods pitching in. Big E and Woods have Harper literally on the ropes until Big E tries to whip Xavier at Harper, who takes him out with a dropkick.
Rowan gets rid of Big E, then tags in to splash Woods. The bald man with the glorious beard latches on an atomic drop, then transitions it into a backbreaker. This, by the way, is the point where the commercial break ended. Harper comes back in the match, continuing to work over Woods, but he runs into a boot which is followed up by a huge forearm to the face.
Erick Rowan meanwhile has jumped Kofi on the outside, and throws him into Big E, taking the New Day’s muscle off the apron and depriving Xavier of a chance to tag out. Harper catches Woods, pretty much murdering him with a big boot. Rowan hustles the New Day into the ring, then grabs their fake mallets before the Usos attack. Rowan tries to fight back, but ends up smashing into a turnbuckle as the match ends with a DQ.
The New Day start working on Harper, with a dropkick from Kofi spilling him out of the ring. The Usos get into the ring, and things get tense between the two teams, allowing the Bludgeon Brothers to storm into the ring with their mallets, clearing everyone out. I know there’s sledgehammers under that ring, guys: you don’t have to back off.
This was a different kind of match, which was cool. I’m not that bothered about it ending the way it did either: it’s a good idea to have the Usos being the Bludgeon Brothers first real struggle. 2 Stars.
Apparently Shane McMahon’s been discharged from hospital, which is good news both for WrestleMania and in general.
We get a promo for Charlotte Flair and Asuka’s match, and they’re doing a pretty good job making these two look like the two immortals in the Women’s Division. And it’s pretty fantastic, considering how recent the Women’s Revolution actually was, that we can have a match between two competitors that has this much hype behind it already.
I understand what happened, but not why
Oh Christ, the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal Trophy is back. Fucking burn it: it just ruins careers. Tyler Breeze and Dolph Ziggler are about to face off, and I guess that their careers can’t possibly slow down more so either of them could win without too much trouble.
Fandango tries to distract Dolph and the entire rest of the world by getting on the ring apron and gyrating his pelvis. Jesus Christ, just look at it. Let’s make him the new Battle Royal trophy.
Ziggler immediately begins smacking the fashion sense out of Breeze, and just think: a couple of weeks ago this man had a very small chance of becoming WWE Champion. Breeze manages to catapult Ziggler into the turnbuckle, knocking him out of the ring. Breeze chases Dolph, who Fandango then thinks is chasing him, around the ring, before Ziggler dashes back inside the ring and tries to catch Tyler with a superkick; Breeze catches the kick and wallops Dolph with an enzuigiri instead.
Fandango is still running around the ring. I love this strange silly man.
Breeze almost gets rolled up, rolls up Ziggler in return and then misses a splash in the corner. A Zig Zag gets the win for Dolph, and if he’d lost this match then he should have hanged himself.
This was funny, but otherwise just there to remind us all that Dolph Ziggler is mildly capable of certain things. 1.5 Stars.
Dolph superkicks Fandango, so I hope he hangs himself anyway.
Apparently the Usos are defending their titles in a Triple Threat match at WrestleMania against the New Day and the Bludgeon Brothers. I guess that will be pretty awesome, but I was hoping for another chapter of Usos/Harper and Rowan.
Charlie Haas would have won
Here’s Shinsuke Nakamura, ready to face Shelton Benjamin for apparently the first time ever. AJ Styles doesn’t come out with him, like a manager, which I would have truly loved to see. Benjamin and Gable make their way down to the ring, and this match is underway.
Shinsuke gets wrestled to the mat by Shelton, who has to move quickly to avoid some quick kick attempts. Nakamura manages to take Shelton down, hitting him with a couple of strikes before following it up with Good Vibrations. After a commercial break, we return to see Benjamin holding Nakamura in a sleeper hold in the centre of the ring. Nakamura fights back, sliding out of Benjamin’s attempted bodyslam before slamming a kick right into his jaw.
Nakamura gets back to his feet, telling Shelton to bring it. A flurry ending in an axe-kick fells Benjamin, and he suffers a knee lift to the gut. As Shinsuke winds up for the Kinshasa, Gable hops up on the apron to cause a distraction. Styles yanks him back down, but Benjamin is able to dodge the Kinshasa, hit a running knee to Shinsuke in the corner and get a near fall off a Northern Lights suplex.
Shelton goes for Paydirt, but Shinsuke counters into an armbar, transitioning into a triangle choke. Benjamin tries to stack him for a pin, then looks to counter into a half-crab before Nakamura traps him in the triangle choke again. Shelton lifts Nakamura up for a powerbomb, but the Artist is wily enough to release the hold before Shelton smacks him off-balance with a dragon whip.
Benjamin runs into a kick from Nakamura, then a flying boot. A Kinshasa follows, ending the match decisively for him.
Solid match, and whilst Benjamin got in some great shots, it was good to see Nakamura manage this with little difficulty. 2.5 Stars.
Nakamura gets a microphone and invites AJ into the ring to tell him that he never needed his help; he only wanted Styles out here to see how he’s going to beat him at WrestleMania. Styles, slightly incredulous, promises that he’s not going to be bothering with any of these games at WrestleMania.
Styles tells Shinsuke that this isn’t just a dream match for the WWE Universe, but for him too. It’s his chance to show the world that he is better than Nakamura on the grandest stage of them all.
Shinsuke tells Styles that he’s too emotional, and that’s how he’ll beat him at WrestleMania. Damn.
As Nakamura leaves, Gable and Benjamin jump Styles. Shinsuke dives into the ring, clearing them off him, and then teases going for a Kinshasa before stopping and telling Styles ‘knee to face’. I love this guy so much.
Tags: AJ Styles, Becky Lynch, Bobby Roode, Chad Gable, Daniel Bryan, Jinder Mahal, Randy Orton, Ruby Riott, rusev, shelton benjamin, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Bludgeon Brothers, The New Day, The Riott Squad, the usos, wrestlemania, WWE