Happy SmackDown, everyone. I am your charming British reviewer, David Spain; I have just taken in the requisite amount of espresso to allow me to write about Randy Orton without slipping into a coma and quite possibly a plague, and it’s time for some rasslin’.
The show starts with someone watching Shane McMahon get Braun Strowman-ed through a motherfuckin’ table in Saudi “Totally Super-Progressive Now But We Will Boo At A Woman If She Accidentally Appears On The Titantron” Arabia. My money’s on Darkseid, but it’s actually Paige: well, they’re both going to be in movies people will probably leave from feeling quite disappointed.
Anyway, Shane McMahon’s been beheaded for American aggression against Saudi announce tables, but you know what the biggest casualty of the night was? Yep: AJ Styles’ ravaged nutsack. Apparently “both men acted beyond the bounds of good sportsmanship”, and I think considering AJ has been hit six times in the nards by Nakamura, he could murder the man’s mother and beat Nakamura to death with her skinned skull and it’d still be considered proportionate. But I’m just a guy. With testicles.
Don’t quite know why I felt the need to assert that, but at least we’re all on the same page about that.
The takeaway from this is that the title match at Backlash is No DQ. If Shinsuke Nakamura does not hit low blow after low blow from pillar to goddamn post in this match, then I’ve lost all faith in WWE’s ability to know what their audience wants.
It’s cute that they act like anyone wants the US Championship
In the ring, Miz is cosplaying as a character from Naruto again. I’d laugh, but it’s nowhere near the dumbest costume I’ve seen and because, honestly? He looks pretty good in it. He welcomes us all to Miz TV, then bans Daniel Bryan for no-showing last week. That’ll show him. He also promises that he’s going to take his title from Seth Rollins, which would be a far more exciting match if it wasn’t for the fact that we can’t have both mid-card titles on one show.
But his guest tonight is Jeff Hardy: the latest stop on the Charismatic Enigma’s “Find A Feud” tour. He’ll be defending his title at Backlash against Randy Orton in a fun little case of “Same Shit, Different Decade”. Jeff sits next to Miz, the Awesome One’s outfit finally making it difficult to guess whether Hardy’s the one who’s on drugs.
The Miz immediately asks whether Jeff thinks he’s a better Intercontinental Champion than Seth Rollins. Jeff’s amazed that that’s why he was asked out here, which proves that he’s spent most of Miz’s career in a drug-addled haze; no other WWE talent would bat an eyelid. So Jeff tells Miz that if he was the best, then he’d have won at the Malest Royal Rumble like he did; his opponents would have sold moves that never connected, like Jinder Mahal did.
So Miz shows footage of Jeff Hardy stealing Randy Orton’s spot in a match, which nobody but Orton would ever complain about. And the Miz reveals that he has a surprise: Randy Orton’s a guest tonight too. That’s not a surprise: Kanye West calling slavery a choice is a surprise. That’s how you make an interview fucking awkward, Miz.
Anyway, Randy arrives. Miz talks up how the voices in his head must be screaming, which would probably be an easier sell if Orton didn’t have the permanent facial expression of someone trying to tell the difference between one shade of white paint. Orton says he couldn’t give less of a shit, revealing his entire character motivation. He says he’s cool with Jeff Hardy, probably remembering how the drug-fuelled bastard once Swanton Bombed him from thirty feet up and having no desire to go through it again.
But Miz wanted a fucking murder to take place on this show, and he’s not going to stop until he gets one. He tries to push Orton’s buttons, going back to the SmackDown Top Ten List, that catty bitch; Randy says no-one gives a shit about the Top Ten List either: some uncomfortable honesty there. And then Miz tries to foist responsibility for Orton’s loss against Shelton Benjamin onto Hardy, but Randy’s apparently accepted that that was more the fault of his casual hobby of getting distracted by short Indian gents.
Orton says that he does have a Championship match at Backlash, and on Sunday he’ll take his title back. Jeff’s cool with him taking a crack at it, but the Miz clearly made some sort of Satanic deal in which Orton or Hardy has to die in the ring during this segment, because he is really trying to make them fight. And suddenly Shelton is making his entrance; you don’t need no make-up, don’t have to pretend.
Benjamin says that because he beat Randy Orton (now that that pesky Evolution’s finally out of the picture) last week, he should get a title match. And either Orton’s been really bottling up some rage or he’s got some unresolved issues with the black community, because he immediately goes after Benjamin. Miz and Jeff Hardy get involved, because don’t think about it, with Jeff taking Miz out with a Whisper in the Wind. This one actually connects, presumably for the novelty value.
When we come back from the break, there’s a tag team match, so Miz’s Satanic ritual might have been an attempt to bring forth Teddy Long.
Shelton is smacking Randy around, but the Viper doesn’t take kindly to his sass and starts pounding on him. Jeff tags in, dropkicking Benjamin before tagging Orton back in. Shelton misses a charge, dodges an RKO, then clocks Randy with a dragon whip. Shelton tags in Miz, who stomps and chokes Orton before Benjamin slams a knee into Randy’s temple.
Sleeper hold locked in, and let’s see how Randy likes being put to sleep. He don’t, and shows his disapproval with a back suplex. He tags in Jeff, who makes the Miz feel all kinds of sorry before he tries for a Twist of Face. The Miz counters, gets rolled up, almost gets the Skull-Crushing Finale and then gets rolled up again. Benjamin gets a blind tag, but also eats a Twist of Fate. Miz stalls the Swanton; Shelton slams a knee into Jeff’s jaw and Miz shoves him off the ropes and into a commercial break!
When we come back, the Miz has Jeff in a sleeper hold, because Jeff is safest when not able to leap off tall shit. Hardy finally gets fed up with Miz whispering sweet nothings in his ear, trying to fight off A-Lister, who plants him with a DDT. Shelton comes in now, pulling Jeff’s hair like that’s super-effective offence. Jeff hits a jawbreaker, staggering Shelton. He manages to tag in the Miz, who halts Jeff’s crawl to what (depending on Hardy’s blood-drug level) is either Randy Orton or a giant squirrel with the face of Abraham Lincoln.
Miz hits Daniel Bryan’s moves, but runs right into a flying weirdo called Jeff Hardy. Hardy makes the tag, entrusting the match to Squirrel Lincoln. Orton hits everything that’s not a Hardy Boy, back suplexing Miz onto the announce table and returning to the ring to take out Shelton. He hits Vintage DDTs on both men, and now he’s going to “That Place”. RKO strikes, and then Orton tags in Jeff in what might be his most human moment on camera. Swanton Bomb strikes, and the match is won.
Pretty decent contest, really. Jeff vs. Randy isn’t going to be a lot of fun, I’d imagine, but Shelton Benjamin and the Miz at least hint at some decent US Championship feuds later. 2.5 Stars.
And if you’re thinking “and then Randy Orton RKOs Jeff Hardy, right?”, then YES. Christ, if you weren’t thinking that then I’m actually concerned. Yes: Orton hits an RKO to his ally of this match, because human companionship is worthless, and the last scrap of decency in Randy Orton died when Triple H kicked him out of Evolution.
Backstage is Renee Young, with the IIconics. Along with Carmella, they’ll be facing Charlotte, Becky and Asuka tonight in the main event. The IIconics imitate Renee, who points out that they’re doing a Minnesotan accent rather than a Canadian one. The IIconics don’t want to hear it; they tell Renee to go chase a moose, which sounds like something a Canadian production of Mary Poppins would sing at the end of the show.
Billie Kay and Peyton then introduce Carmella: the one person they’ve met so whom they’ve not insulted. They do their Mean Girls skit, then Carmella moonwalks away and moonwalks back. Props to Peyton for her amazing line: ‘oh, here she comes again’ as Carmella passes them a second time.
In other news, the universe thinks that you feel far too calm and need to panic more, so Daniel Bryan’s not competing tonight because he’s not been medically cleared.
Elsewhere backstage, Bar have finally resigned themselves to their SmackDown fate, so they’d best slap on some happy smiles and have an epic feud against the Bludgeon Brothers now please. But the New Day are running interference, the light-hearted bastards, because they want a feud with Sheamus and Cesaro first.
And the New Day have a butler now, because of course they do. He gives the Bar a pancake platter, which sounds like a sex thing but it’s not. The Bar wisely don’t eat the pancakes, and Sheamus challeges Xavier Woods to a match. Woods accepts, because he’s an adorable badass.
And elsewhere-elsewhere backstage, Rusev is anxiously waiting for Aiden English to come up with new lyrics for his song tonight. There is something so damnably lovable about the SmackDown roster, and it’s because of stuff like this. But they’re interrupted by Lana! She’s back! She gets chants!
Lana says that she’s worried because Rusev lost to the Undertaker. She believes that something’s holding him back. If this leads to a feud with Vince McMahon, I am absolutely in. But no, she’s talking about Aiden English! She’s Yoko-ing the group! Oh no! Ono!
WWE thinks little people are funny, and you can’t teach that
Big Cass comes to the ring, and the commentators say that he’s not scheduled to be out here. Yeah, because this is the thing to be concerned about: not the countless ball shots from Nakamura to the Champion, nor Shane McMahon physically attacking his employees. No: let’s quibble about the Big Cass situation.
Cass says that he’s from New York City, which apparently gets you heel heat in Montreal. He talks about the stereotypes of New Yorkers and says that they’re all true, but somehow manages to not throw in a “fuhgeddaboutit”, that faker. This turns into a big rant about Daniel Bryan, because any rant by Big Cass is a big rant. He talks about how Daniel Bryan is ordinary and small, because he never watched WrestleMania 30. He says that Backlash won’t be a five-star match, which is refreshingly honest of him. He tells Bryan to get out here so that he can kick his teeth down his throat, and at that second the mailman pushed a Jeffrey Archer novel through my letterbox. I’m not saying that the two are related, and I ordered the novel yesterday in any event, but it would be nice to think that there was some symbolism.
So, Cass has engaged in the WWE tradition of paying a little person to commit identity theft: there’s a petite man in the ring pretending to be Daniel Bryan. Cass talks to him like he’s actually Bryan, like Clint Eastwood having a conversation with an empty chair only without the excuse of being over eighty years old. Remember last week when he gave a heel promo that was solidly acclaimed?
Anyway, Cass kicks the shit out of the little person, and by her non-appearance Paige tacitly endorses all of this. At least the referees have some common decency, because they rush out to demand that he leaves. This was equal parts ridiculous and tone-deaf, and I really thought we’d moved past that era in WWE.
Where the low blows when Nakamura was feuding with Jinder Mahal?
Renee Young is in the ring to introduce AJ Styles. If Styles comes out, but instead of AJ it’s another little person Renee beats him up whilst imitating Big Cass, I’ll not like myself, but I’ll laugh.
Sorry to disappoint, but it’s Regular-Size Styles: he might be a few centimetres taller or shorter, but from eyeballing he seems like he’s the same size he usually is.
Renee asks AJ his opinion on nut shots being legal in his Championship match. Styles says that that’s the benefit, which casts the assault on his testicles in a slightly different light, the sick fuck. If it turns out that Styles actually gets aroused by testicular punishment, then this is the best Championship feud in history.
Renee Young says “speaking of low blows” like that’s any kind of regular segue, and mentions that Nakamura is demanding a public apology. Styles says that he should have left Shinsuke “sucking sand in the Arabian desert”, which makes Renee wince slightly. AJ says that Nakamura’s a coward with a fixation on Styles’ calloused beanbag. He says that he can break the rules too, and that it’ll be an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
Okay, what is AJ Styles keeping in his scrotum, because it sounds very different to what I’ve got going on down there.
Styles promises to torture Nakamura, and that sounds like the kind of thing you usually have to pay a lot more than $9.99 to watch. Renee double-checks that there’ll be no apology, and AJ says that if Shinsuke wants an apology he can come out and get one.
But that ain’t Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance music. No: that music belongs to a man named Samoa Joe. The crowd go nuts, which seems to pleasantly surprise him a little bit. He tells AJ that he’s lost focus on what’s really dangerous. Oh God, he’s taking about Samoa Joe, isn’t he? He takes a shot at Roman Reigns, which makes him a face as far as this crowd is concerned.
Joe says that whoever is Champion when the dust settles, they’re going to have to deal with Samoa Joe. God, I’ll watch either match.
And suddenly Shinsuke Nakamura’s music hits. Joe immediately turns to face the stage, ripping off his towel and getting ready to fuck someone up. But, like the Randy Orton RKO earlier, you know that Nakamura is actually…yep, right behind Styles with a forearm for his phenomenals. God, I hope Gallows and Anderson still have Big E’s testicles in a jar, because Styles is going to need them.
Man, AJ Styles can really sell a nut shot. I’d watch this man play Hamlet if there was a point where Ophelia sunk a foot into his dick. Which, of course, she would have been way better off doing rather than, you know, drowning.
Backstage, Becky Lynch is really pissed off at having to be woman on the roster with no storyline and no role other than to eat the pin. Turns out Asuka’s there, listening to her soliloquy, and she tells her to forget last week. And Charlotte’s there too, and she says that tonight they’re going to strike a blow for sanity and against bitches. Asuka’s on board with that, and heads off looking excited. Someone tell her that she’s not on until the main event.
The Bludgeon Brothers are just going to sit back and let this feud happen, aren’t they?
Aw man, my boy Sheamus got jobber entranced for his first match on SmackDown. That ain’t right. But don’t you dare be sour: here comes Xavier Woods. The two lock up, and Sheamus shoves Xavier to the ground. He’s able to overpower Woods extremely easily, though the New Day member’s speed and strikes have Sheamus reeling and off-balance, until the explosive assault sends Sheamus right out of the ring! Woods hurls himself over the the top rope, wiping out the Bar member!
As Sheamus clambers back inside the ring, Cesaro approaches with some pancakes concealed in his jacket. Jesus God: I didn’t know I’d laugh at something like that until today. Sheamus takes advantage with a knee, and when we come back from the commercial break he’s still control. Irish Curse backbreaker connects, but Woods fights back, flipping out of a back suplex and scoring with superkicks.
Sheamus muscles Woods into a corner, but misses a charge. Woods hits a corkscrew leg drop, getting two, and then ascends the turnbuckles. He hops over Sheamus, gets rolled up and hits the Shining Wizard! He climbs up onto the top rope, but hops quickly down off a distraction from Cesaro. Big E tries to take out Cesaro, but is flung into the ring post. Woods heads out of the ring to deal with the Swiss Superman, but this allows Sheamus to follow him and hurl him into the barricade. He tosses Xavier back into the ring, stops to exchange some philosophical thoughts with Kingston, and Woods rolls him up! Xavier Woods just beat Sheamus!
Well, there’s your feud started. I love whenever we’re reminded that Woods can really go in the ring, and hopefully this will be another in a tradition of awesome tag match feuds on SmackDown. 2.5 Stars.
In a bid to get into a storyline anywhere with anyone, Becky is now going after Sonya DeVille and Mandy Rose. Beggars, choosers, barrel, scrape. Paige is watching this all unfold on television and dear God almighty, is she about to pull a Shane McMahon due to her prior association with Absolution? Because we should have snipers ready for that sort of shit.
Oh, here comes Absolution with their gothic logo and goth clown make-up. Are they trying to make Paige not feel so bad about that video of her introducing her terrible movie? Because sometimes life is about learning about the consequences of your actions. Absolution have a big hug right before Paige reads them the Riott Squad act.
Seems like Absolution wants a title shot as a reward for doing fuck all. But Mandy Rose wins the prize of being someone Becky Lynch can probably get a meaningless win over. Absolution seem shocked and betrayed at the idea of being the new Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. And then Paige calls Absolution “dead”. Jesus: Yoko Onos all up in this bitch tonight, destroying teams left, right and centre.
Things are super awkward, so we cut to a Cien Almas promo recorded on a phone with graphics: that rat heel fuck.
In which Becky does not simply eat the pin
Main event time, and Charlotte, Becky and Asuka (Team CBA) make their way to the ring, followed by the IIconics and Carmella. The bell rings, and we’re on.
Carmella keeps dodging Charlotte to begin with, tagging in Peyton Royce. Becky tags in too, and starts going to work on Peyton. Royce fights back, knocking Lynch to the ground, but she walks into a dropkick. Kay tries to distract Becky, who tries to slap the head off her, but this allows Peyton take control.
Kay tags in, getting hit with a flurry of offence from Becky. Asuka tags in, cutting off Billie’s escape before catching a kick. Billie slaps her in the face, which is one way to commit suicide, and Asuka hits her with everything, finishing up with her ass. Charlotte’s in now, hitting a double axe-handle to Billie’s arm before chopping her boobs up.
Billie escapes, tagging in Carmella. Charlotte swats away a superkick attempt, causing Carmella to try to escape and for the IIconics to help her out of the ring. Charlotte doesn’t bother hanging on, instead hurling herself over the top rope to wipe out Billie and Peyton, heading into the final commercial break.
When we come back – surprise surprise – Becky’s in trouble. She manages to fight off her opponents, but Carmella knocks Charlotte off the apron. Becky takes Carmella out, almost reaches Asuka but the IIconics drag the Empress of Tomorrow off the apron and hurl her first into the barricade and then the steel steps. It’s like they want to die.
Carmella drags Becky away, gets kicked across the ring and Becky tags in Charlotte! Charlotte opens with the chops and decides that she shouldn’t change a winning formula. Before Carmella can get Daniel Bryan Chest, the IIconics dash in to get their shit fucked up. Big back suplex plants Carmella, but Billie and the Champ manage to shove Charlotte off the second rope to buy themselves some time.
Peyton and Billie hit a double team, and Charlotte is only saved by Becky managing to dive in. The IIconics dispose of her, going back to work on Flair. Carmella hurricanranas Charlotte off the top, getting more and more frustrated with each failed pin attempt. She finally slams her challenger’s face off the mat, tagging Peyton in.
Peyton hits a bunch of strikes before locking in a sleeper, trying to wear Charlotte out. Charlotte backs her into Team CBA’s corner, but no-one’s there…oh wait, Asuka’s alive and out for blood. The Empress tags in, ruining every little thing about Peyton Royce’s life. Billie and Carmella try to save her, but Asuka’s happy to hit everyone and everything, knocking the two of them off the apron. Peyton tries to take advantage with a roll-up and boot to the head, but Asuka fights right back.
Billie’s suddenly back in the ring, hitting Shades of Kay to Asuka. Becky’s on the top rope, and she takes Billie out with a flying kick. Carmella superkicks her, then gets speared by Charlotte, who moonsaults out of the ring onto the Womens Champion! Peyton tries to roll up Asuka, but she ends up in the Asuka Lock! Royce taps out!
Great match, and a good choice to finish. Everyone here looked great, and Carmella is growing into her heel persona really well. Hopefully the Sonya and Mandy feud gives Becky some purpose and can lead her to a Championship match: we need a Becky/Charlotte/Asuka Triple Threat. 3 Stars.
Tags: aiden english, AJ Styles, Asuka, Backlash, Becky Lynch, Big Cass, Carmella, charlotte, Jeff Hardy, Lana, Paige, Randy Orton, Renee Young, rusev, Samoa Joe, Shane McMahon, Sheamus, shelton benjamin, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Bar, The IIconics, The Miz, The New Day, WWE, xavier woods