Well, I have finally submitted the product of three years’ hard work and emotional strain to the academic powers that be and am now both dreading and anxious for feedback. The PhD is dead; long live the PhD. So whilst I struggle through my omnipresent existential dread, I think I’ll distract myself with SmackDown Live.
Holy shit, in all the excitement and aforementioned-existential dread, I just remembered that last week Samoa Joe fucked AJ Styles’ whole family to death. And there’s not even a recap of it to start this episode! Is that how banal this whole predatory shtick Joe’s doing is? Because to me it’s fucking terrifying.
This has all gone a bit HBO
The show starts off with Paige in the ring, talking about all the lies Vince told her to get her to take this job, like how she would be respected and independent and just as popular as Daniel Bryan. But apparently she wasn’t prepared for the sick, degraded individuals she’d have to deal with on a weekly basis, clearly the worst of which is Samoa Joe: the only man whose idea of locker-room talk could shock a Republican.
Paige says that last week Joe committed “the most dastardly crime in WWE history”, which is weird for two reasons: 1) the Undertaker has killed at least two people on camera and has also tried to force-marry and rape Stephanie McMahon, also on camera and 2) “dastardly” makes it sound like whatever act has been committed was done in aid of catching a pigeon or winning the Wacky Races, rather than gaining a World Championship and quieting the voices in Samoa Joe’s head.
Paige then shows Samoa Joe’s magnum opus of sexually threatening behaviour from last week before assuring us all that the Styles family is all fine and were not butchered and devoured by Joe in the name of compelling sports entertainment. Apparently they have filed charges against Joe for trespassing, and WWE management has also come to the decision that they need to fire actual criminal Samoa Joe. Who probably could have got away with it if he’d not felt the need to provide the entire world with a copy of his video manifesto.
The crowd is outraged at a man being held accountable for his actions, which apparently is something that a fair portion of Americans are against from what I’ve read in the news recently. But Paige says that she called AJ Styles, who, like I fucking said last week, dropped the charges and begged that Joe not be fired so that he can fight him. Paige, clearly as unconcerned with good PR as she is with decent iCloud security settings, was super-okay with that because it meant that she’d have to fill out way less paperwork. She announces that AJ Styles recorded a video of his own, which really makes it sound like he’s already murdered Joe and we’re about to see ten uninterrupted minutes of Styles making violent love to his dismembered corpse.
But Styles’ video is him announcing that he’s not at SmackDown tonight due to Samoa Joe’s disturbing tendency of showing up outside like Michael Myers with an eating disorder. The crowd boos: they actually boo a man looking out for his family’s safety. Christ on a cracker. And then he talks about how he wants to bury Joe alive. Ah, no. Not this: don’t you do it, WWE. A Buried Alive match can only be used when you need to reboot the Undertaker’s persona.
In what world did we imagine we’d ever be cheering for Carmella?
Here’s R-Truth and Carmella: proof that a wrestling duo can indeed be greater than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, they’re facing actual wrestlers Zelina Vega and sexy Latin God, Andrade “Cien” Almas, so this is about to suck for them.
Carmella and Zelina kick things off, jockeying for control. Vega gains control with a yank of the hair, but she takes a moment to mock Carmella with a moonwalk, paying for it as the Princess of Staten Island hits her with a flying kick. Vega quickly shuts down Carmella, hitting some damned impressive offence, including one move that looks like a 619 had a baby with Tajiri’s Tarantula. A jawbreaker allows Carmella to get some breathing room, bringing in Truth and Almas.
Truth and Andrade tussle before the two teams exchange taunts, then R-Truth and Carmella chase Vega and Almas out of the ring. A chant of “Truth TV” starts as Almas re-enters the ring, but takes a big spill to the outside as he misses a flying knee. During a commercial break, Andrade regains some control, and when we come back he’s got Truth in real trouble, working over his arm.
R-Truth manages to hit a calf kick, taking both men down to the mat. R-Truth tags out. Carmella enters the ring hard and fast, staggering Zelina with an offensive flurry. She’s almost got the pin before Almas drags her off the cover, drawing ire for…wanting to win a match, I guess? Carmella tries to superkick him and, to my pleasant surprise, Almas actually catches it rather than dramatically overselling in the name of what Vince McMahon thinks feminism is.
R-Truth barrels into the ring, clotheslining Almas out of the ring and diving on him. Meanwhile, Carmella locks in the Code of Silence on Vega; Vega taps out!
Not the result I expected, but this was a good match. Zelina and Andrade are pretty much faultless, and Carmella’s run of offence at the end was some quality stuff from her. 2.5 Stars.
Backstage, Paige runs into Tye Dillinger. He wants Randy Orton like Samoa Joe wants AJ Styles’ family members. Paige seems uncertain, bringing up the fact that Jeff Hardy could honestly be dead right now after that Hell in a Cell match. Tye says that he still needs to do this, and Paige says that “she will never understand men”, a fact that two broken-off engagements already made quite clear. But hell: if it means that Tye Dillinger gets an actual feud then she is willing to make that happen.
B. A. Star
Here come the New Day, off a two-week run of losses in singles competition against both members of the Bar that implies they’ll be retaining the belts in Australia. They’re apparently hosting a cooking show, based on the principle that these three can make anything funny. They bring Mr Bootyworth out with them, and he’s apparently going to share his famous pancake recipe with their world.
Before this can get going, the Bar interrupt. They run down the New Day’s comedy antics, but claim that they’re out here to help. Sheamus points out that they can use Cesaro’s Swedish knowledge pastries. And this just leads to Sheamus flipping the table. The ensuing fight sees the Sheamus throw flour in Kofi’s face and the Bar manage to overcome all three of the New Day, taking out every member. Honestly, I’d be fine with a title change after that display.
The two of them then dump pancake batter over Mr Bootyworth in what’s probably a scathing piece of social commentary that I just don’t understand.
What will Tye Dillinger do for a push?
Tye Dillinger is in the ring, ready to die at the hands of Randy Orton. The jobber entrance cannot be a good sign. Orton arrives, but doesn’t even get to the ring before Dillinger jumps him. Orton recovers once back inside the ring, hitting Tye with a few stiff shots before Dillinger manages to clothesline the Viper out of the ring. He makes the mistake of following, however, getting pounced on by Orton. But Tye is relentless, dumping Orton on the announce table and smacking away at him.
Orton throws Dillinger over the barricade, then catches him with a fist and hits the Vintage DDT on the floor. Orton looks like he’s about to hit Dillinger with the steel steps, but instead sticks Tye’s finger through the turnbuckle screw and starts bending it back. Jesus, I had to look away; that was almost as bad as the Hardy ear-fucking. Tye is left in a traumatised heap as Orton stands tall.
Shelton Benjamin, facing Bryan later on tonight, is working out in the changing room before the Miz shows up to let him know that he got him this opportunity and wants Benjamin to injure Bryan tonight. Shelton seems really fired up, so it might not just be Tye Dillinger getting a much-needed push this month.
Backstage, Aiden English is checking that the the production team are all prepared to air what I think we’re all assuming is a sex tape.
We already know that Lana’s slept with the Rock
Here come Rusev and Lana, who I guess have to be there in person to see whatever recorded filth Aiden has for them. Rusev says that he wants to annihilate English, but at the same time is totally willing to see this video as well. There’s a man trying to subtly hedge his bets if I’ve ever seen one.
English arrives, but says that before he shows the evidence, he wants to share some details. We get some geographic information about Milwaukee, with Aiden shilling Milwaukee more than any of its public figures ever have.
We get shown the video, which features the absurdly-ripped body of Aiden English as he practices singing. I’m not complaining, but it’s weird that he needed to be shirtless just to sing stuff. But then there’s a knock at the door. My word: intrigue. And it’s Lana, sadly not shirtless.
Lana tells Aiden that she wants him, and then the tape stops abruptly. Well, that’s not suspicious at all, but Rusev is clearly just dumb enough for this to be totally taken in. He and Lana start arguing, then Rusev charges after Aiden. If he really is this stupid and suspicious, then this is probably a happy escape for her.
Remind me again why Shelton’s not allowed to do more stuff?
Here’s Daniel Bryan, ready for a match of the night appearance against Shelton Benjamin. And, once again, right before a Daniel Bryan match, it’s time for backstage shenanigans. Rusev is looking for English, and has no time to hear Lana’s explanation; it’s crushing time. This gives enough time for Miz to get on commentary and for Shelton to get jobber-entranced.
The match kicks off with a hard, aggressive opening from Benjamin, who’s already done better than Tye Dillinger. A gutbuster seems to really put a dent in Bryan, but he manages to fight and kick his way back into the fight before getting flapjacked by the larger athlete. A sleeper hold gets locked in, but suddenly Bryan has the Yes Lock applied; Benjamin is close enough to the ropes for him to escape, and when Bryan follows Shelton out to the ring that he beats the fuck out of the former World Champion on the outside.
After a break, Bryan has just missed a flying headbutt, allowing Benjamin to lock in a rest hold. Daniel escapes with a flurry, but Shelton shuts him down again with a German suplex. Every time Bryan tries anything, Benjamin seems to have an answer for it. He takes Bryan up to the top, but suffers for it as he eats a hurricanrana from the top before getting knocked down from a huge kick. A distraction from the Miz allows Shelton to hit Paydirt, getting the win!
Solid match, and I’m happy to see Benjamin get even a tainted win. 3 Stars.
Miz beats on Bryan after the match, which is like the Diet Coke version of that Orton/Dillinger filth from earlier.
It’s going to be hard to accept the IIconics actually winning in Australia
Here’s Naomi, here to tell us how proud WWE is to be allied with Susan G. Komen: the worst cancer charity ever. And now here is Asuka, ready for a match against Peyton Royce. The IIconics arrive, having the basic sense to mock cancer survives. I mean, I’d watch it: it’d be the greatest heel move in the world.
When we come back, Peyton Royce is in control of Asuka: there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. This goes on for a little bit, with no-one buying into it at all; at least Asuka’s rep isn’t that degraded. Finally, Asuka applies an ankle lock, transitions into an Asuka Lock and wins.
This felt like filler because, you know, it was filler. 1.5 Stars.
Wrestlers getting artistic rarely leads to anything but fighting
Becky Lynch is in the house, getting mad chants from all in attendance. She says that she finally stopped waiting for opportunities and took her own. She claims that, with her at the helm, this division is now the most relevant thing in WWE. Friends are worthless and saying please is for dicks: real winners assault people who believed in them.
Becky shows us a video of her climb to the top, then bemoans the lack of respect that she’s received since becoming Champion: Charlotte Flair is still the standard-bearer for the Women’s Division for some reason. Becky reveals her own poster for Super Show-Down, which is just her standing over a defeated Charlotte.
This brings Charlotte out to the ring and the two fight, with Charlotte hitting a Spear to Becky before exploder-suplexing her through Lynch’s own poster, applying the Figure-Four over the ring post and then kicking Becky in the face. That was an aggressive beating, and I’m not sure if that means we’re possibly seeing a double-turn in the near future. I live in hope, so long as Becky can maintain her badass persona in doing so.
Tags: aiden english, AJ Styles, Andrade "Cien" Almas, Asuka, Becky Lynch, Carmella, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Lana, Paige, Peyton Royce, R-Truth, Randy Orton, rusev, Samoa Joe, shelton benjamin, smackdown live, The Bar, The IIconics, The Miz, The New Day, Tye Dillinger, WWE, Zelina Vega