Imagine a world where men prove their worth by climbing ladders, and where bearded maniacs hit television cameras with hammers. Picture a plane of existence where a man assigns personal worth based on one’s physical height.
That world exists. Its name is SmackDown Live.
Really the G7 of wrestling summits
The men get a night of first-time matches: Shelton Benjamin vs. Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, and Rusev vs. Samoa Joe. Meanwhile the Women’s Division gets a Money in the Bank summit with Paige, because Women’s Revolution, everything’s fine, like anyone wants to see these gals put on stellar matches of their own.
Paige is running the show, with her Victorian whore accent, and she introduces the women who are still physically capable of wrestling. Lana is so out of her depth in this group that you have wonder whether the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match is intended to house the most blatant of WWE’s assassinations since Owen Hart. Paige tells them that it’s every woman for themselves and lists off RAW‘s competitors, which the crowd greets with all the enthusiasm of a wet fart.
Paige says that she doesn’t care which of these gals wins so long as it’s a victory for SmackDown. Lana, eyes furiously blinking “extract me now, these fuckers are trying to murder me”, promises to bring the briefcase home. I’d laugh, but last year this match was won by a man. And not Roman Reigns or AJ Styles, which would be absolutely understandable, but a man spawned from the scientifically-induced mating of Zach Gowen and Colin Delaney with Josh Matthews acting as a doula.
Naomi tells her that it’s this sort of attention-grabbing shit that’s going to see her getting paralysed on Sunday, and Lana tells Naomi that she can’t dance. And you don’t say shit like that to Naomi, for whom dancing exemplifies and symbolises almost every aspect of her personality and being (there’s like a 5% portion entitled “married to one of the Usos”), so Naomi promises to “snatch her bald”. That could mean either kicking her hair off again or infecting her with cancer, and considering we’re a few days away from a PPV I’m betting it’s option B.
Naomi reminds everyone that she won the first WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal, and I’d make a joke about how the skills necessary for a battle royal don’t translate over to a ladder match, but I can actually see why Naomi feels the need to bring it up, because nobody else remembers and nothing ever came of it. Charlotte decides to stick her oar in, telling Naomi that the only reason she won was because Charlotte was too busy breaking Asuka’s streak at the time. She says she’s done everything to do in this business other than win the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, so she guesses she may as well knock it off her bucket list on Sunday.
Becky, who feels like she might as well say something even though it’s obvious to you, me and your mum that she’s got as good a chance of getting pushed as Paige has of getting voice-over work, that she’s totes going to win. She reminds us that she’s the first woman drafted to SmackDown and was the first ever SmackDown Women’s Champion. So, everyone’s done stuff except Lana.
Charlotte wishes Becky good luck, which Lynch clearly takes as some four-leaf clover racial slur, and reminds Charlotte that she made her tap out last week. Naomi reminds them that there are six other people in the match and this is bigger than their sexual tension-filled rivalry, but this discussion is interrupted by the IIconics, who are here to insult a ring full of people who could kick the fuck out of them and the woman who has the power to make that match happen.
Billie and Peyton do their accent mockery shtick (Peyton’s proud announcement of “I’m an Irish” did get an honest-to-God laugh out of me). I do seriously wonder if they’ll ever imitate Naomi in a bout of tone-deafness, and considering that Vince is still in charge I’m amazed we’ve not seen it yet. They make a decent point about the Electra complex allusions of Charlotte dressing up like her father (I may be inferring a little much), but err on the side of caution when it comes to Naomi, mocking her dancing as opposed to trying out minimalist blackface.
Then Absolution arrive to make the same point that the IIconics did in a more coherent accent, and Becky gets sick of all of this and leads the Money in the Bank competitors in a brawl with the others, because damn knows they weren’t getting a match any other way.
And during the break, Paige made the eight-woman tag match between four women not good enough to be on Sunday’s PPV and three women who are plus Lana.
All Daniel Bryan sees is a shorter, black Big Cass
Daniel Bryan responded to Big Cass on Twitter, because that’s the world we live in now. He promises to make Big Cass tap out on Sunday, which is sort of implicit in every Bryan match. But tonight, Bryan is facing Shelton Benjamin. The commentators call Shelton “outspoken” and “opinionated” which is code for “Vince, we can’t call him ‘uppity’ on live TV”.
Shelton backs Bryan into a corner to start, but Bryan explodes into quick offence before taking Benjamin down to the mat and trying to systematically cripple him. Shelton escapes, offering Bryan the opportunity to uppercut the shit out of him, but Benjamin is able to elevate Daniel out onto the apron before knocking him to the ground with a kick to the knee. He follows this up by dropping Bryan knee-first on the announce table, and we head to a break with Bryan writhing in pain.
When we come back, Bryan is trapped in a half-Boston crab, courtesy of Benjamin. Bryan. Benjamin. Boston crab. Battlestar Galactica. Bryan is able to flip out of a German suplex, duck a dragon whip from Shelton before taking him out at the knee. He starts kicking away at the knee, then hits Benjamin with a dragon screw. The Yes Kicks are unleashed, knocking Benjamin into a corner, before Bryan wraps his leg in the ropes and goes right the fuck after it.
Shelton’s almost set up for a superplex but scrambles out of it and slams a knee into Bryan’s skull. A superplex from Benjamin does connect, getting a two count. Benjamin tries Pay Dirt, but it’s countered into the Yes Lock! Shelton breaks Bryan’s grip, trying to roll him up before transitioning into the half-crab again. Bryan counters himself, and he locks in the heel hook for the win!
Good taster of what these two could do in a PPV-length match, and nice to see Bryan’s viciousness coming out. Personally hope he squashes Cass mercilessly on Sunday. 2.5 Stars.
Paige is walking backstage before running into Asuka, who wants Carmella tonight. Paige considers explaining how giving away a PPV match on free TV is a terrible idea, but instead throws her and Carmella into the big tag team match tonight because like hell there’ll be more than two segments tonight that are based around the women.
She then runs into the Miz, because this is one of those magical WWE corridors where you run into the people most relevant to your storyline (only unlike WWE 2K18 they actually have personalities rather than spouting meaningless soundbites that lead nowhere). He’s also dressed as a referee which has a whole long story behind it, but the crux of it is that he wants to referee the Rusev/Joe match tonight. Paige insults his acting ability and tells him that she knows what he’s up to and then…gives him what he wants. Nothing makes sense around here.
Oh good, Jerry Lawler’s here to objectify women and have a heart attack. But first he wants to interview AJ Styles. Styles comes out so King can slobber all over his dick, because Jerry hates foreigners and you should too. AJ says that he’s sorry he didn’t literally knock Nakamura’s head off last week, so Jerry loves him even more. AJ makes the usual “I’m still going to be Champion after Sunday” promise. Well, that was a big nothing.
Backstage, Miz is getting refereeing advice from an actual referee, which is the most research I’ve ever seen anyone do for the special guest referee role.
Get yourself a man who looks at you the way Samoa Joe looks at everyone and everything
And now it’s time for the Joe/Rusev. Miz makes his way to the ring, and either Aiden English had a rap prepared for the special guest referee scenario or he is a damn genius at improv. Rusev arrives, followed by Samoa Joe, who looks pissed. To be fair, the day Joe doesn’t look pissed is going to be a very strange day indeed.
Joe backs Rusev into the corner before Miz distracts him with the count and Rusev retaliates. Miz gets involved in the same way, but Rusev still clotheslines Samoa Joe so hard that he’s sent rolling out of the ring. Rusev fetches Joe back into the ring, but is sent out to the floor in turn and then struck by his opponent as Joe hurls himself through the ropes.
When we come back from a break, Joe has Rusev in a sleeper. The Bulgarian escapes, but runs right into a brick wall made from Samoa Joe, who clamps onto his arm to drive him back down to the mat. Rusev drives him away with punches, then works away on Joe in the corner. Joe doesn’t care for that at all, and decks Rusev right in the face. Rusev’s able to boot him in the face and manages to put Joe down with a bunch of kicks. He builds momentum, hitting a charge to a cornered Joe, then a spinning kick.
Samoa Joe dodges the Machka Kick, trying to clamp on the Clutch. English gets on the apron, distracting Miz as Rusev counters. Joe tries to attack Rusev, who dodges, and Joe slams into the Miz before hitting English with his enzuigiri. He slams Rusev, but Miz refuses to make the count because like hell that move was going to win the match.
Joe gets in Miz’s face for a second, then decides that it’s far easier to simply murder the Miz and deal with the mess later. Rusev takes advantage of the distraction, hitting a Machka Kick to Joe and getting the win! Rusev just beat Samoa Joe!
Another sample case, with Miz offering an interesting wrinkle. I’d like to see a proper King Kong/Godzilla fight between these two. 2 Stars.
Rusev hits Joe with a ladder afterwards, but Miz strikes with a Skull-Crushing Finale before climbing the ladder and retrieving the briefcase. Now some poor official has to put it back. He also yells at Byron, which is a face move in my book.
Oh my God, there are pancakes in the briefcase. That, and Miz’s subsequent breakdown, is a thing of beauty. The New Day are backstage, laughing hysterically. Woods and Kofi are wearing the same shirt at the same time: it’s never explained and doesn’t require explanation.
The only sane man in that ring is the referee
Someone woke Jeff Hardy up from whatever drug sauna he was residing in, ready for us to see what effect a bunch of really hard kicks and punches will have on his state of mind. Nakamura arrives, who may or may not still be doing his whole “every match is a Last Man Standing match” gimmick.
Both men start the match off cautiously, because Shinsuke’s a dangerous man due to his devastating strike-based offence and Jeff is a dangerous man because he sometimes goes out to wrestle whilst fucked up. They lock up, with both men jockeying for position in the corner before Shinsuke tries some mind games. Jeff, who arguably doesn’t have much of a mind left anymore, just starts smacking Nakamura about before Shinsuke slips out of the ring.
Jeff follows Nakamura, catching him on the outside and taking him out with a running clothesline off the ring apron before we head to a break. When we come back, Shinsuke has Jeff in a sleeper hold. Jeff manages to take back some control, hitting Nakamura with a basement dropkick. Shinsuke counters the Twist of Fate, but is caught with Hardy’s enzuigiri. A Cardiac Arrest attempt is met with a pair of boots from Shinsuke, who hits an enzuigiri of his own.
Shinsuke drapes Jeff over the turnbuckle, but the knee lift is countered as Jeff hangs Shinsuke up on the ropes, then strikes with a Whisper in the Wind! Nakamura is able to hang Jeff up on the ropes, hitting the knee lift to the back this time. Kinshasa is countered with a Twist of Fate! The Swanton Bomb hits, but Jeff’s back is giving him trouble. He still manages to make the pin, but Shinsuke gets his foot on the bottom rope, rolling out of the ring.
Hardy fetches Jeff back in the ring, then heads for another Twist of Fate. This time, Nakamura hits a low blow, getting the DQ. He hits a Kinshasa afterwards and counts to ten.
Good match, and I like how they protected both Nakamura and the Swanton Bomb. Another example of what great feuds await Shinsuke with or without the Championship. 2.5 Stars.
Carmella is backstage when Renee arrives to ask about the possibility of facing Asuka tonight. Carmella repeats her wrestling equation about how if Carmella is X, Charlotte is Y and Asuka is Z, and if X>Y and Y>Z, then X>Z. Never new wrestling involved so much maths, did you?
And now Renee is interviewing Tall Lives Matter advocate, BIG Cass. He dismisses the disgustingly petite Renee Young and goes on to monologue about the worthlessness of the inhuman undersize class with some metaphor about county fairs. It’s all fun and games and rollercoasters until he sets up camps full of little people.
Lana managed to not ruin a match which she was part of
A bunch of entrances later, we’re finally ready for the main event. Sonya and Naomi start off, exchanging their traditional greeting of kicking each other. A neat opening sequence ends with a hurricanrana from Naomi, and she tags in Lana to hit all three of her moves. Sonya drives the sacrificial lamb into her corner, because Lana may as well get used to a lot of pain in advance of Sunday. Carmella flubs her offence, allowing Lana to tag in Becky.
Becky knocks the Women’s Champ all around the ring before hitting an exploder suplex for two. Sonya tries to interfere, allowing Carmella to tag out to Peyton, who fells Lynch with a kick before tagging in Billie Kay. Rapid tags continue in the heel corner as DeVille re-enters the match. Post-break, Becky is still the Ricky Morton of the team which contains a fucking Lana. She counters a suplex into a roll-up, but eats the spear which Sonya must have inherited from Goldberg.
Kay comes back into the match, wrenching Becky’s head around as we get a commercial reminding us that WWE is genuinely considering putting the belt on Ronda Rousey in her second match ever. Becky slips out of a bodyslam and enzuigiris Billie. She makes the tag to Charlotte, who runs through everyone before chopping the Oz out of Peyton. A distraction from Kay allows Peyton to take advantage, but Charlotte hits a spear good enough that it probably turned Sonya DeVille’s head.
Peyton tags in Sonya, who tags in Mandy for a double team. Their double suplex is countered by Charlotte, who tags in Asuka for a missile dropkick. Mandy counters a German suplex, tries to slam the Empress but gets caught in the Asuka Lock! The heels break it up, and the faces pile in for the save! Asuka knocks Carmella off the apron, then Charlotte moonsaults out onto the IIconics! Absolution hurls Becky into the barricade; Naomi takes out DeVille! Asuka decks Mandy with a kick, then eats a superkick from Carmella! Lana breaks up the pin; Carmella tries for another kick and a roll-up, but Asuka catches in the Asuka Lock, and Carmella taps out!
The liveliest match of the night, without the expected breakdown which usually happens in these sorts of tag team matches. Best choice to end the night. 3 Stars.
Everyone gets serious following the celebration, looking up at the contracts. Except for Asuka, who stands there cheerful in the knowledge that she’ll beat whoever tries to cash in on her to death with their own briefcase.
Tags: AJ Styles, Asuka, Becky Lynch, Big Cass, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy, Lana, naomi, rusev, Samoa Joe, shelton benjamin, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Bludgeon Brothers, The Miz, The New Day, WWE