Do Americans dislike Paige’s voice or is this purely a British thing?
The show starts off with us being taught how to spell “fabulous”; I’d call that a little condescending, but considering the amount of misspelled fan signs I’ve seen over the years and considering the show’s in Texas I can almost understand. Carmella’s here and she wants praise and adulation like your mum wants you to call home more, but then says that tonight’s not about her: it’s about Asuka. She says that Asuka’s not who we think that she is, which would probably hold a tad more weight if we knew much about Asuka’s personality beyond “ASUKA MURDER PROTOCOL V.1.0 ACTIVATE”.
We get shown a clip of all of Asuka’s accomplishments, smartly cutting off before she was made to tap at WrestleMania to satisfy one half of Vince McMahon’s great white saviour philosophy. Carmella compliments her, but she claims that she knows the real Asuka, and there’s the tap-out footage we’ve been looking for. The clip then goes on to show anything which could reasonably be interpreted as a loss for Asuka, which apparently includes taking any offence in any match; I’m amazed there’s not a clip in there of her spilling her coffee or one of her recipes not going quite to plan. Carmella claims that Asuka’s loss has changed her, and so she feels confident in saying that she’s going to kick her around next Sunday like the Empress of Tomorrow is a footballer’s abused child.
The whole point is that apparently everyone’s ready for Asuka, which sounds like the title of either a doomed sitcom or reasonably successful porn film. Asuka herself decides that enough’s enough and shows up to the ring to state her objections. But before Asuka can get her hands on a microphone and alienate the audience, Mandy Rose and Sonya DeVille arrive. Mandy says that she may have lost to Asuka, but things will be different tonight. But Sonya also wants a chance to get beaten half to death, staking her own claim.
Carmella tries to reverse-psychology Asuka into fighting both of them, and the world seems to be conspiring to stop Asuka actually having to speak because now Paige’s music plays before Asuka is able to reply. The General Manager is here to assert her authority, which is undercut thoroughly by the fact that her accent could saw through a redwood. She then makes the exact same offer that Carmella was making, because having nothing to add but insisting on trying is something of a Paige classic. She also has this really annoying problem of trying to hype things up for the crowd, like she’s one of us and on our side and we should all accept that, but really it just makes me long for the halcyon days of Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman trying to get the faces killed on live television and the audience’s boos doing little more than give them an erection.
Asuka wants to face both women, because the world hates Absolution and desires nothing more than to see them fail. Mandy and Sonya look quite cheerful for two women who are about to look inferior to one, and Paige makes the match.
Carmella and Corey are going to heavily feature in Byron’s suicide note
When we come back, Asuka is in the ring with Absolution as Carmella is on commentary. Asuka gets the better of her two opponents in the opening moments, but I’m distracted by Byron telling Carmella, “I was talking”, his zealous defence of anyone who fits his obscure system of ethics pushing him to talk over a woman. I’m already more invested in seeing Carmella kick the shit out of him than I am what’s going on the ring, and that’s not a slur on Asuka or Absolution. Sonya manages to deck Asuka right in the face, slowing the crushing assault of someone who’s actually on the PPV card. She tags in Mandy Rose for a few token kicks before getting back into the action.
Meanwhile, Corey and Carmella are acting like Byron Saxton doesn’t exist, which would be a wonderful world where free love and mutual respect would form the pillars of a perfect society. Mandy Rose has Asuka in a headlock, but it’s hard to compete with the amazing sport of Graves and Carmella bullying Byron. Asuka finally Hulks up, smacking Rose around before hitting her with a missile dropkick. Carmella manages to distract Asuka enough that Sonya can blindside her, then celebrates by moonwalking across the announce table. I’d call it excessive, but it pisses off Byron so she can moonwalk all she pleases.
When we come back, Asuka is working her way back into it, making it seem almost conceivable that Sonya and Mandy have the slightest chance of victory. Sonya comes in, earning a knee to the nose, followed by an ass to the face. Rose breaks up the pin, which in non-wrestling terms is like making a concerted effort to forget your own safeword. Asuka and Sonya both smack each other on in skulls with roundhouse kicks, because vaudeville is alive and well in wrestling. Sonya gets kneed in the nose again, and that’s clearly a sore point for her because she hits Asuka with a spear so hard she should have just gone for broke and hit the Jackhammer right afterwards.
DeVille counters the Asuka Lock, but the Empress of Tomorrow has had it with Absolution at this stage and simply locks it in again to force a tap.
This was a fun match, with the unfortunate side-effect of cutting Absolution’s legs out from under them rather than building them as competent challengers. No reason it couldn’t have been Asuka vs. Sonya, who did most of the heavy lifting for her team anyway. 2 Stars.
Carmella decides that she’s going to get in the ring and raise the belt. Mandy takes advantage in a spirited attempt at suicide, then Carmella uses the distraction to smack Asuka with the belt and then superkick her in the face.
Backstage, Miz is doing something that he literally calls “Mizjitsu”, so his midlife crisis seems to be going as well as can be expected. He’s being visited by the New Day and Mister Bootyworth, who want to apologise for teasing him about who will enter the Money in the Bank match, and want to tell him that they’re taking the whole thing seriously. Miz, who still has not and therefore will never learn, genuinely seems to be taking this whole thing at face value.
The New Day state that they want Miz to help them reveal which New Day member will be in the match. Miz is at least savvy enough to know what the catch is, and the New Day blindfold him to make him dunk his fingers in what the Miz claims is pancake batter but you just know is Big E’s semen. I went to a private school: it’s literally always semen.
No hair vs. too much hair
The Bludgeon Brothers and Gallows and Anderson are slumming it tonight by engaging in singles action, with Luke Harper taking on Karl Anderson. Harper immediately dropkicks Anderson before beating the absolute fuck out of the bald bastard. I do hope that Gallows and Anderson aren’t going to be on the receiving end of a squash like this at the PPV. The tag team division’s been one of the highlights of SmackDown in recent years, and making every team but the Bludgeon Brothers look like bitches isn’t helping anyone…
Karl Anderson just rolled up Harper and got him by the tights as I typed that, so I’ll tentatively put those fears to bed for the moment.
It was a squash match in all but name, but the result at least surprised me. 2 Stars.
We take a look back at the dance-off/brawl from last week, which once again proved that women in the WWE can attack men who need to just stand there and take it. Backstage, Naomi and Jimmy Uso talk some trash, and the whole husbands-and-wifes thing would still make way more sense if Rusev was the one fighting alongside Lana.
Is this Aiden and Lana’s way of announcing their affair?
Jimmy Uso makes his entrance, and the bell rings as Naomi makes her’s, so presumably Lana could jump her right now and incur no penalty. English shows up to introduce himself and Lana, and whether he or someone else writes these lyrics it is still really impressive.
Jimmy Uso starts things off against the WWE employee in most desperate need of a suntan, and he hits him right in the throat. Lana tags herself in to protect the pale gentleman, and in the ensuing tussle Jimmy and Naomi hit them both with enzuigiris, then Naomi dives out of the ring onto both Lana and English!
Back from the break, Lana is desperately ducking Naomi’s kicks so as not to have her hair kicked off her head again. A knee to the face puts her on her ass, but a distraction from English allows Lana to regain the advantage and hit Naomi with an enzuigiri. Lana chokes Naomi on the ropes before hitting a running pair of knees to the back of her head. Lana has really shown improvement from the last time she did any real wrestling, but then I suppose the only way she could have been worse would have been by getting all four limbs amputated.
Lana mocks the Uso chant, which is hilarious but earns her a knee to the jaw. Naomi tries to tag out, but Lana’ll be damned if they have to clear out of the ring to let the men wrestle. She clamps a hold on Naomi, who jawbreakers her way out of it. Lana tries to stop her making the pin, gets rolled up and the pair of them clothesline each other.
Naomi tags out, and Jimmy gives English a quick tour of his signature moveset. Lana pulls Jimmy off the cover, which is pretty impressive considering the size difference, and then slaps him. Jimmy just takes it, because even the Bludgeon Brothers wouldn’t dare lay their hands on a woman, but of course Naomi tackles Lana so Jimmy doesn’t have to let her pin him as well. Meanwhile, Aiden English squashes Jimmy in the corner, then goes for the Samoan Wrecking Ball! The Shakespearean Wrecking Ball! He even does the Us chants!
Naomi hits a flying crossbody to English before the move can connect, and Jimmy blasts him with a superkick for the win. Can’t remember the last time I saw a superkick end the match; someone cut Shawn Michaels a check.
Quite a fun match. WWE’s weird obsession with women hitting men whilst the men stand there doing nothing is really starting to get weird. 2.5 Stars.
Apparently Paige has decided that there’s not going to be any of this contract-signing-devolving-into-a-brawl bollocks that literally every other contract signing in WWE history has involved, so she’s having Styles and Nakamura sign the contract backstage, which means she can’t even do contract signings right. Both men also seem to have brought lawyers out with them, which might mark the first time that a WWE contract has been subjected to the slightest bit of legal scrutiny.
AJ tells Shinsuke that he’s a dirty old cheater but his American ideals will let him rise to the top and prevail and some other John Cena buzzword, and signs the contract. Shinsuke goes to sign and then says that the pen is out of ink. Paige tries to take it, but Shinsuke just tosses it away: fuck you, that’s fucking hysterical. He asks to borrow AJ’s pen, and if he throws this one too then he should be Champion on the strength of that alone…oh my God, he did it. I love this: I’m literally laughing as I type this.
Styles gets really pissed off, and it’s quite possible that this is leading up to a massive mental breakdown for AJ. He slaps Nakamura before being hustled out by the lawyers. And Shinsuke has his own pen anyway, with which he signs the contract. Christ, give him the belt. Paige looks like trying to preside over this has taken years off her life, which has no downsides from where I’m sitting.
So…Becky’s better than Asuka too?
It’s time for Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch. Becky has apparently promised to take Charlotte’s arm tonight; that’s one way to make sure she can’t take down the briefcase. They lock up, and Becky throws Charlotte to start things off. She goes for the Disarmer, but gets tossed through the ropes instead. Back in the ring, Charlotte wants the Figure Eight but is similarly countered, with Becky applying a headlock. Charlotte counters with a headlock of her own, gets sent off the ropes and is able to bamboozle Becky with her athleticism. Becky goes after Charlotte, with both women exchanging holds and roll-up attempts. They have some tea-time, then both go for a kick, catching each attempt. There follows a brief argument over who will put the foot down first, and they reach a shaky truce on doing it at the same time before backing away. They then immediately collide with crossbodies, and the key to this thing is going to be not engaging in symmetry.
When we come back, Becky has the advantage with Charlotte trying to fight her off. Another Disarmer attempt is countered, and Charlotte lights Becky up with chops. Lynch returns with uppercuts before getting caught by a backslide. Back suplex drops Becky, but Charlotte runs into a book. Becky tries to climb the ropes, but the Queen catches her with a backbreaker to put an end to that. A Figure Four attempt earns Charlotte a wallop to the face, and Becky climbs to the top again before landing a leg drop for two.
A Disarmer is countered into a roll-up, followed by a spear which sends Becky out of the ring. Charlotte follows with a vaulting body press, then sends Becky into the ring. Moonsault is countered by a pair of knees and a roll-up, but Charlotte just kicks out; a Figure Four is again turned away by Becky, and a second attempt lands Charlotte into the Disarmer! Charlotte taps!
I love Becky: she’s up there with Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles in terms of favourite wrestlers, but forgive me if I’ve been burned too many times. Becky always gets wins like these which never transform into anything tangible, and I can’t see it meaning anything next Sunday. Great match, though. 3 Stars.
Charlotte and Becky hug afterwards, and if Charlotte had attacked Lynch then I think my heart might have broken. Admittedly I’d then be totally psyched for an amazing feud, but it would still hurt quite a bit.
Dasha is backstage with Samoa Joe, because he is the best at talking. He asks Dasha is she thinks he’s a monster, which seems like a loaded question. He says that everyone sees the negative qualities, but no-one ever sees him as a man of his word. Last week, Joe said that he’d be Mister Money in the Bank and he’ll keep that promise like he kept his word to put Bryan to sleep. I can absolutely understand giving Braun the briefcase, and guaranteeing Finn a Championship would be like Christmas came early, but Samoa Joe is rapidly becoming the guy I want to walk out with that contract next Sunday: his charisma is off the damn charts.
Big Cass’ Big Man’s World
Renee Young is in the ring and she asks us to welcome Big Cass, which is like being asked to welcome groceries except I’m often quite happy to see groceries and my groceries actually have more personality than Big Cass. So I guess it’s not that much like being asked to welcome groceries; in which case let’s say it’s like being asked to welcome prostate cancer.
Renee breaks the news that we’re doing more of this Daniel Bryan/Big Cass business. She asks him what will stop the result being the same as the last time, that result being a tap-out loss which should have put this entire thing to bed a month ago. In reply, Cass falls back to his usual self-affirmation of “I’m a big guy for you”. Because that’s what his personality is, really: he’s tall. What’s his driving ambition: to continue to be tall. Why does he do these things: well, he’s rather tall which somehow gives him justification for atrocities up to and presumably including genocide. Maybe Dostoevsky or Tolstoy could have moulded such an ideology into something which could make a character a vital and interesting part of fiction, but WWE Creative really don’t have the, let’s just say it, creativity. So Big Cass is exactly what he looks like: he’s a big man who reminds us that he’s a big man. Everyone he feuds with who’s smaller than him is presumably subhuman and only those seven foot tall or over are permitted to breathe his air or touch his cock. Even that would be an interesting if a tad insane motivation, but that’s not even what that is: Big Cass is just a tall man who wants you to know that too. It’s like MENSA suddenly instituted a height requirement.
BIG Cass tells us a story about how he was at WrestleMania 30 and ended up following Daniel Bryan through a hallway; it almost feels like it’s going to go off into a Michael Cole/Heidenrape direction, but even that would be giving Cass one dimension too many, so apparently Cass just thought that Daniel Bryan was very small indeed and that somehow leads us back to here. I shouldn’t keep digging into this, but it’s so bland and pointless it almost seems like there’s a requirement for there to be something else: some shadowy secret that all of this tortured exploration will eventually unearth. Does Cass have some sort of mental quirk which sends him into a blind rage whenever he interacts with someone who’s 5’10 or under? Does he see Daniel Bryan’s achievements in wrestling as willful defiance to the totalitarian heightocracy he’s trying to build? Eventually I’m going to just pick one of these and run with it, because another week of Big Cass proving that he knows that one thing is smaller than is going to drive me to childslaughter.
We get shown a video of BIG Cass hitting Daniel Bryan with a big boot which could have conceivably come from any one of three occasions during this feud. BIG Cass takes the microphone from Renee Young, because she’s definitely under six foot and so will be taken to one of his camps for processing, confinement and reeducation. He then says that Bryan has never been in the ring with anyone as big, educated or with such star quality as him, and these lines could be lifted word for word from a speech by Donald Trump, except for the lack of “believe me”s or “the best”s.
BIG Cass goes on for a while, using the word “little” like other people use the N-word. He also uses the phrase “Big Man’s World”, which apart from being another amusing name for a porn film also sounds rather like the heightocracy idea I mentioned a little while before, so we’re running with that now. And then we fade away, or else the cameraman was placed under arrest and is about to receive a bullet in his far-too-close-to-the-ground head.
Dasha is backstage and calls what BIG Cass just said “strong words” instead of “demented ravings of a mind clearly ravaged by mental illness”. She has Sin Cara here for an interview, and trying to listen to Sin Cara talk through that mask is like trying to listen to Asuka speak English, or Paige speak English. Zelina Vega shows up to yell at Sin Cara, because she’s Cien Almas’ girl now and Cien doesn’t need any of his old friends. And Almas attacks Sin Cara, meaning Dasha set up this whole interview knowing that this would happen; why else would you interview Sin Cara?
Let he who is without booty cast the first pancake
Meanwhile, it’s our main event and it’s a New Day. All six participants enter the ring, and the match is on. Woods and Miz start off, and Xavier weathers Miz’s initial assault before taking advantage with a forearm and tagging in Big E. The New Day hit Miz with a barrage of double-teams until the Miz scrambles back into his corner. Samoa Joe stares a hole through Big E, then enters the ring. Minor dream match here, as Joe tees off on Big E before running into a belly-to-belly from the New Day member. Woods tags in and hits a flying axe-handle to Joe. He knocks Miz off the apron, but Joe is on him immediately, crushing him in the corner before following it up with the enzuigiri.
Following a commercial break, the Miz has Woods in a sleeper hold, with Xavier trying to escape and the Miz keeping him grounded. Woods finally frees himself, but runs into a knee from the Miz. The A-Lister takes Xavier to the second rope, but the New Day member resists the superplex, knocks Miz off the top and hits him with a huge dropkick. Samoa Joe tags in, but eats a huge knee from Woods as Rusev takes out Big E!
Miz and Kofi tag in, with Kingston hitting the Miz with everything in his moveset. SOS is almost countered into a Skull-Crushing Finale, but Kingston lays him out and hits the Boom Drop. Kofi wants Trouble in Paradise, but Samoa Joe provides enough of a distraction that the Miz can hit a DDT. A Skull-Crushing Finale is countered; Kofi counters the legal Rusev’s back suplex and tags in Big E, who takes the Bulgarian overhead with a belly-to-belly suplex!
Big E goes for the spear, but Rusev counters with a knee and the kick. Joe tags in now, slamming Big E for a near fall. Woods takes Rusev out of the ring and dives on top of him; Kingston low-bridges Samoa Joe and then springboards out onto him! Big E spears the Miz off the apron before dragging him back into the ring! Samoa Joe drags Woods off the apron and locks him in the Clutch; Kofi leaps in for the save but eats a Machka Kick from Rusev; Big E misses a charge at Miz and slams into the turnbuckle! the Miz calls for Joe and Rusev to hold Big E, then gets the platter of pancakes. You can see Joe realising that following Miz’s plan wasn’t that smart after all.
Kingston tries to interfere, but the Miz knocks him off the apron. Rusev and Joe have let go of Big E, however, and so when Miz throws the pancakes they hit the pair of them. Retribution is swift, and it comes in the form of a Machka kick and a back senton. Joe decides that teamwork’s overrated, and he and Rusev leave the Miz to the neon-clad wolves. Midnight Hour strikes, and the New Day triumph.
Tied with Becky/Charlotte for best match of the night, and at least the ending allowed everyone to save face. 3 Stars.
Tags: aiden english, AJ Styles, Asuka, Becky Lynch, Big Cass, Carmella, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Lana, naomi, Paige, rusev, Samoa Joe, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Miz, The New Day, the usos, WWE