Well, I know you’re as desperate as I am to waft the lingering stench of incompetence and tone-deafness that made up Backlash out of the room, so let’s dive right into SmackDown Live to see how they’re picking up the pieces.
Paige’s house of lies
The show kicks off with Paige, who has already set up a couple of qualifying matches for Money in the Bank: Miz vs. Jeff Hardy, Rusev vs. Daniel Bryan and Charlotte vs. Peyton Royce. Paige opens up by talking about Backlash, which is a hell of a way to put everyone on edge. She then calls it a “smashing success”, which is both excessively British and also aspiring to a level of falsehood occupied by holocaust deniers and flat-earthers. The crowd ain’t having any of that shit, and the brief moment of panic on Paige’s face in the wake of that just added five years to my life.
Paige realises that she’s got some ground to recover here, so mentions Daniel Bryan’s victory, then fucks it all up by talking about Carmella’s clean victory and the double count-out in a fucking NO DQ MATCH between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. Jesus, everything this woman says and does is both “trying too hard” and “uncomfortably awkward”. Paige says she didn’t foresee the low-blow extravaganza which played out when she put the match together, despite weeks of Shinsuke continuing what can only be called a blood feud against AJ’s meat and two veg. We’re going to hear from both guys later tonight, and if there was ever an appropriate time to inhale a metric fucktonne of helium before an interview it is now now now.
We move onto Money in the Bank, and Paige announces that this year there will be two ladder matches: one for the men and one for the women. You know: like last year. And it’s a co-branded event like…*sigh* Backlash. And because the aim of this wrestling year is to make sure that Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble lose anything that made them special, the ladder matches will involve RAW vs. SmackDown. And we’re starting things off…
Miz for World Champion
…right now. Here’s Jeff Hardy, who on Sunday was tasked with the monumental quest of dragging an exciting match out of Randy Orton. I’d have more sympathy, but Seth Rollins put on a fun show with Mojo Fucking Rawley so the idea of using your opponents as an excuse is pretty ridiculous.
And here comes the Miz, who was one half of a fantastic match with Rollins himself on Sunday and who deserves all the praise in the world for that. If the Miz gets into the Money in the Bank match, I can’t think of many people I’d want to have the briefcase more.
Jeff and Miz circle each other before tying up. Hardy runs the ropes, knocking the Miz on his ass with a shoulder block and waits for the A-Lister to approach again. They lock up, with Miz going for a waistlock; Hardy reverses it, and Miz forces his way free of the aroma of opiates and Dudley Boy, but Jeff knocks him down again, going for the cover.
Miz grabs Jeff’s ankle, who kicks him out of the ring and hurls himself at him on the outside, smashing him into the barricade. Back in the ring, Jeff wants a Swanton Bomb, but the Miz wakes up in time to see a Hardy Boy staring speculatively at him from a high vantage point, and his survival instincts have him scrambling towards the other side of the ring, where he takes refuge in a commercial break.
When we come back, Jeff is still in control of this match, hitting deep armdrags whilst humming Ricky Steamboat’s theme music. Miz hits an armdrag of his own, but Hardy locks his arm in a moment of honest-to-Gods technical wrestling. Miz fights back, countering a jawbreaker with a knee before booting Jeff in the head so hard that the US Champion briefly thinks that he’s back in the Attitude Era.
Miz continues to lay into Jeff, keeping the psychotic daredevil safely on the ground as he wrenches his arms behind his back. Hardy fights back, trying for a back suplex; Miz backflips onto his feet, tossing Hardy out of the ring. He misses a wrecking ball kick, landing on the outside, but is able to drop Jeff dick-first onto the barricade. Backstage, Shinsuke Nakamura nodded in deep satisfaction, then cracked open a bottle of wine.
Jeff manages to dodge Miz’s strikes at his head, because if he doesn’t have that then he won’t be able to experience anymore dizzying highs. With the A-Lister reeling, Hardy hurls himself off the barricade to take the Miz down. They both make it back into the ring by the ref’s count of eight, with Jeff knocking the Miz down, hitting him with an inverted atomic drop, then a basement dropkick.
Miz staggers to his feet, turning around into a Twist of Fate attempt. Miz counters, trying to drag Hardy down into a backslide attempt. Hardy struggles back, gets flipped over Miz’s shoulders and nails him with the Twist of Fate. Hardy ascends to the top turnbuckle, but Miz’s body once again drags him away from the dangerous combination of Jeff Hardy + potential downward momentum. Hardy scrambles after him, but takes a neckbreaker right onto the ring apron as we go to another break!
When we return, the Miz has just got his jaw rocked by Hardy. The two of them throw hands, with Jeff getting the better of it. A side Russian leg-sweep leads to a pin, with the Miz just kicking out. Miz heads to the ropes, taking advantage of the ref backing Jeff off to take control, locking in a sleeper hold. Hardy manages to run Miz’s head into the turnbuckle, plants him with Whisper in the Wind, but Miz kicks out at two!
Jeff unzips his top, that flirt, and goes for another Twist of Fate. Miz breaks out of it, but gets sent out onto the apron, is hung up on the top rope and gets hit with a flying Hardy! Jeff bundles him back into the ring, takes his shirt off completely, but gets caught on the top rope! Stripping led to his downfall! Modesty is for winners!
On the top, Hardy fights back from a superplex, then manages to hit a sunset flip powerbomb from the top, and Miz kicks out! The crowd are chanting that this is awesome as the Miz blocks a pair of boots with a kick of his own. A Twist of Fate is countered, as is the Skull-Crushing Finale; Hardy rolls up the Miz, who kicks out at the last second! Miz is hit with a mule kick, then a Cardiac Arrest, and Hardy wants to end it. Twist of Fate connects, and this time the Swanton Bomb hits! Hardy’s going to Money in the Bank – NO!! Miz reverses the cover at the last second, winning the match!
Don’t ever ask me to hate the Miz again: it’s not going to be possible. This was a PPV-level match on free TV, with both men doing a superb job. 4 Stars.
Backstage, Sheamus is practicing eating Lucky Charms and staring into space; he’ll work up to walking and whilst eating them in a couple of weeks. The reason he’s eating Lucky Charms is because he couldn’t find any potatoes, but the actual reason is that he’s depressed because he lost to Xavier Woods and Lucky Charms are the only things that make him feel better. Aw: there’s a terrifying redhead child in there somewhere, isn’t there?
Sheamus blames the New Day for his loss, but Cesaro has to twist the “I’m a big bald dick” knife and claims he’d have done better. Motherfucker, don’t you dare break up this perfect team of perfect people.
Also, the New Day put pancakes in their bags, which is an impressive amount of effort to put into pissing off two guys. It also seems like the New Day must be goddamn ninjas to be able to gain access to the room, with a huge amount of pancakes, interfere with the luggage and be able to skedaddle without anyone spotting them. Either that or this was an Ocean’s Eleven type deal with the WWE locker room all pitching in, which I would absolutely watch.
We take a look back at the end of the Styles/Nakamura match from Backlash, and it is truly not beyond the realms of possibility that someone with a fairly specific fetish paid to have this match end the way that it did. Because I’m not into people getting hit in the dick, beyond its place in comedy, but if I was then I can only imagine I’d have needed a cigarette after that match, and a cushion with which I might conceal my highly noticeable erection.
Anyway, Renee Young is camped outside Shinsuke’s locker room door with a mind to discussing testicles and the horrifying things that this man has done unto them. Nakamura shows up, and apparently he’s not been cleared for action tonight. Renee asks if the issue between him and AJ is over, and there’s such a sweet innocence to the notion that there could be any point in history where a kick to the nuts ended an issue.
Nakamura does his usual “No Speak English” trick, and I’m beginning to think that Jinder Mahal was right about that guy! Renee puts all of her journalistic experience into play, and submits to Nakamura that he can speak English; she’s heard him speak English before! God, please let her have random tapes of Shinsuke speaking English.
And Nakamura says that he did learn English, but now he’s forgotten it. How can you not love this Japanese man? All he needs to to do now is accuse Renee of racism and I’ll propose. He finishes by saying, “AJ Styles nuts, but so am I”.
I’m buying a fucking engagement ring.
In other news, Charlotte Flair managed to lose clean to Carmella, in the latest of a series of actions intended to indirectly discredit Asuka through proxies. And because God despises us all, especially you: the person reading this, Carmella is doing a cellphone promo. And what is the logic behind this, anyway? Are cameramen getting really snotty about who gets to use their services? Has WWE had to cut back, so any information the wrestlers want to make known has to be broadcast at their own expense?
Apparently Carmella is going to come to London to throw a Royal Mellabration, and the British public will not give a toss unless we get a day off for it. Harry and Meghan’s wedding? We have to work that day, so we couldn’t give a flying fuck. Prince Phillip dies? Give us a day off if you want any suitable sound bytes for your interviews. Terrorist attack? Sounds like a three day weekend’s in order.
But I do have to hand it to Carmella: an entire cellphone interview with not a single annoying graphic. Maybe my weekly calls for the death of whomever came up with that idea had some sort of result. It’d be nice to think so.
Please just have Corey Graves quote Mean Girls tomorrow
And here comes Charlotte Flair, who probably spent most of Monday being talked off a high rooftop after losing clean to fucking Carmella.
And a bunch of other superstars have cellphone promos regarding Money in the Bank. Okay, seriously: have the cameramen unionised? Are they taking industrial action? On the bright side, no graphics. The guy in charge of that might actually be dead. Again, it’d be nice to think so.
The IIconics are here now, ready to spread truth and love and shit all over people’s lives. They mock Charlotte for, once again, losing to Carmella. And rightly so, to be quite honest.
So, after making sure that the red mist has thoroughly descended over Charlotte’s field of vision, Peyton gets in the ring. Charlotte, determined to prove that this is a poor decision, backs her into a corner before being forced to let go. Several waistlock takeovers rattle Royce, before a knife-edge chop to the bosoms and an exploder suplex see her getting tossed out of the ring as we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Peyton is in control, latching on a sleeper hold. Charlotte jawbreakers her way free, but Royce rolls out of a back suplex and hurls the Queen into the corner. A kick-out sends Peyton into a temper tantrum, but she recovers fast enough to keep the pressure on, choking Charlotte with her foot before stretching her out on the ropes.
Royce smashes Charlotte’s loser face off the canvas, then applies a sleeper again. You know what I love about Money in the Bank Ladder matches? No sleeper holds. Charlotte breaks out, and is able to slam Royce down to the mat, gaining herself a slight reprieve. She meets a rising Peyton, countering her blows and scoring with some of her own. She throws Peyton into the corner and then tries to chop the Aussie out of her.
A big boot is dodged by Royce, who sees a kick of her own avoided. High angle back suplex plants Peyton, but she scrambles out of the ring. A body press from Charlotte takes out Billie Kay, allowing Peyton to take advantage on the outside with a neckbreaker. Back inside, Charlotte tries to fight back; Billie is able to distract Charlotte enough that Royce can level her with a spinning kick, and Charlotte only just gets the shoulder up.
A second spinning kick from Peyton misses, but a big boot from Charlotte doesn’t. And because Charlotte Flair doesn’t learn lessons, she heads up top for a moonsault. Jesus Christ, this woman beat Asuka. Peyton raises her knees, almost finishing things with a pin, following that up with a hard knee to the face!
Peyton seems a little stuck for inspiration, and suffers for it with a spear. She kicks out, counters the Figure Four with a roll-up, gets rolled up herself and then placed into the Figure Eight! Peyton Royce taps out, and Charlotte is going to Money in the Bank.
Seems like everyone’s raising their game tonight: this was the second high quality match. Not quite the equal of Miz/Hardy, but still a good match. 3 Stars.
Daniel Bryan is shadow-boxing backstage, until Dasha decides that she’s sick of this shit and interviews him in the hopes that it will make him stop. She asks about his match against Rusev tonight, and he reminds us that he actually cashed in his last briefcase in this same place. He promises to make Rusev tap, and then goes back to boxing his invisible opponent and Dasha goes to write mean things about him on the bathroom wall.
Cellphone promo with Shelton Benjamin and there are a lot of ropes in the background. Well well, Mr Gray. This is followed by Asuka, who apparently stole all the stupid fucking graphics so her promo could be full of them. Is this what I get for openly demanding a man’s death? Is this what justice is?
The Bar vs. Bludgeon Brothers: book it
Here come the New Day, and Xavier Woods is about to see if he can make lightning strike twice as he takes on Cesaro. The Bar, who have the coolest damn entrance in the WWE, arrive as well.
Woods starts off trying to chain wrestle Cesaro, which is a pretty bad idea. The crowd chants “we want pancakes”, and Xavier’s grin at that is confusingly attractive to me. Cesaro is a little distracted by Big E flinging pancakes with a reckless abandon, but manages to stay in control of Woods, catching the New Day member right out of the air, but he ends up on the receiving end of a tilt-a-whirl headscissors.
Woods keeps Cesaro reeling with strikes, until the Swiss Superman throws Xavier at the ref, taking advantage as Woods tries to stop his momentum. A gutwrench suplex sends us into a commercial break, and when we come back, Cesaro has Woods in an abdominal stretch. Woods fights his way free, exchanging chops and strikes with Cesaro. Cesaro runs into a volley of kicks, elevates Xavier out onto the apron and eats a springboard roundhouse kick!
Cesaro manages to hang Woods up on the middle rope, but Xavier backflips out of a back suplex attempt, gets caught by Cesaro, fights out and manages to hit a wheelbarrow facebuster! Cesaro kicks out, and Woods looks like he’s fixing to end things, heading up to the top. Sheamus tries to run interference; Cesaro rolls Xavier up, feet on the ropes, but Kofi knocks them off!
Woods rolls up Cesaro for two, hits the Shining Wizard and heads up to the top. Sheamus again gets involved, this time climbing onto the apron, but Big E commences his pancake attack, which just involves flinging pancakes at him. Sheamus tries to chase after Big E, but finds himself struck by a flying Kofi Kingston. Meanwhile, Woods gets up on the top rope, springboards off…right into an uppercut! Cesaro picks up the win!
Really thought they were going to give Woods a second win. Still, a strong showing by him, and a third solid match for tonight. 3 Stars.
Renee Young is backstage with AJ Styles, who’s she probably warned not to even try fucking with her after the shit Shinsuke pulled earlier tonight. Styles says that he descended to Nakamura’s level on Sunday, which makes it sound negative considering that it was a No DQ match and really not that bad considering some of the sick shit we’ve seen over the past few decades.
I mean, Shane McMahon once drove a car into Kane during a match. We all pretend it didn’t happen, but the guy tried to kill Kane on live television.
Styles says that he’s always ready for Nakamura, and manages to complete an interview without receiving an uppercut to his johnson. You’d presumably regard that as a win.
Meanwhile, someone has got a bunch of wrestling action figures and merch from the various tag teams and has set about destroying it, leaving it in a disturbing pile as some extremely creepy music plays over the scene. God, this has Breezango’s fingerprints all over it.
Yeah, no: it’s the Bludgeon Brothers. Even though WWE could have used this Hannibal Lecter-esque scene to completely revamp the Ascension and we’d have probably bought into it. Basically, the Bludgeon Brothers are a little miffed that they’ve had nothing to do for the past few weeks and have reached the point where they’re actually asking tag teams to come and pick a fight with them before they’re left off any more PPVs. Squeaky wheel gets the grease, I suppose.
Because Shane McMahon isn’t around to feud with the talent
Here’s Becky Lynch, to whom the commentators assign the dreadful word “slump”. And so begins the storyline no wrestler ever really wants to be a part of, but it could be worse: she could have lost clean to Carmella in a Championship match.
Mandy Rose and Sonya are backstage, when suddenly Paige shows up to tell Sonya that she can’t go out to the ring with Mandy because Absolution is dead. Really? Just because Paige isn’t in it anymore doesn’t mean that the two of them can’t hang out and be a team. Mandy and Sonya tell Paige that she can abandon them, but it doesn’t mean she can break up the two of them. Paige responds by banning them from ringside, and here we go again: the traditional SmackDown Live authority figure vs. wrestling feud.
And I’m on Absolution’s side here: Paige is basically being vindictive without any real reason: Sheamus and the New Day were at ringside at the last match; Billie Kay was allowed to accompany Peyton. I’m pretty sure that Paige doesn’t get to say who is and who isn’t a tag team; I believe the rule is still that a tag team can only be dissolved when you hurl someone through a barbershop window.
Anyway, Mandy Rose makes her entrance and the bell rings. Becky counters a waistlock and armdrags her across the ring. Mandy counters a Disarmer attempt with a punch to the face, then stomps Becky in the corner. A dropkick floors Lynch, followed by an honest-to-Gods Brogue Kick.
Sleeper hold is applied, then Mandy tosses Becky to the mat. Lynch fires back with punches, overwhelming Rose’s defences. Another Disarmer attempt is countered, but the Bexploder is not. Becky hits a flying forearm, has her kick countered and is rolled up for the win!
I love Becky, but I really appreciate the “fuck you, Paige” sentiment this win offers. Match itself was so-so. 2 Stars.
Time for the third MITB qualifying match of the night. Here comes Daniel Bryan, ready to face Rusev. Aiden English arrives to introduce Rusev. The big Bulgarian unit comes down to the ring, and here is our main event.
Bryan starts off with some technical-heavy offence, working over the arm, but Rusev bulls him over with strikes and a shoulder tackle. Bryan stays in the match, now going after Rusev’s leg and trying to tie him up in the surfboard. Rusev resists, and Bryan stomps on both his knees before slapping a kick into his arm. Again relying on his power, Rusev bodyslams the former GM, then kicks him in the face.
Another charge by Rusev is inadvisable, as Bryan low-bridges the Bulgarian right out of the ring. Bryan goes for a dive, but this time it’s his mistake: Rusev catches him and hurls him across the announce desk! When we come back, Rusev is in control, taking full advantage of that bump. Bryan manages to backflip over Rusev’s head, runs the ropes and lays him out with a clothesline! Running kicks after running kicks slam into a cornered Rusev, and then Bryan seats the Bulgarian onto the top rope before hurricanrana-ing him down!
Bryan winds up and lets loose some YES Kicks, with Rusev ducking the last one and going for the Accolade! Bryan scoots out, there’s a frantic exchange of holds and counters and then Bryan almost rolls Rusev up. A huge kick to the neck fells Bryan, but he too gets the shoulder up before the count of three.
Rusev’s starting to look just a tad frustrated, and he’s going to work off this stress by breaking Bryan in two. But Bryan’s assault on Rusev’s wrist seems to be preventing him from applying the Accolade, amongst presumably other vital parts of day-to-day life! Bryan reverses the hold, and he applies the YES Lock! Rusev is close to the ropes, however, and instantly forces a break.
A kick from the wounded Rusev staggers Bryan, but the smaller man lands on his feet following a German Suplex! He belts Rusev across the head with a kick of his own, and it looks like he wants the running knee! English drags Rusev out of the ring, so Bryan takes both men out with a pair of boots, then hits a running knee off the apron to Rusev! Back in the ring, Bryan heads up to the top rope and fells Rusev with a front dropkick! He kips up, waits on Rusev, but the Bulgarian counters the knee by lifting Bryan up and dropping him into a knee of his own!
Rusev slams a Machka Kick into Bryan, and Rusev wins! Holy shit!
Okay, sucks that Bryan is not winning everything forever, but did Rusev just win mostly clean over Daniel Bryan? Are we pulling the trigger on Rusev, finally? Can I still be excited about this? 3 Stars.
Tags: aiden english, AJ Styles, Backlash, Becky Lynch, Cesaro, charlotte, Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy, Mandy Rose, money in the bank, Paige, Peyton Royce, rusev, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Bar, The Bludgeon Brothers, The IIconics, The Miz, The New Day, WWE, xavier woods