So apparently a country can commit one small act of savage, inhuman butchery (well, actually countless acts over the decades, including 9/11, but this is the only one that’s stuck) and suddenly people feel a little squeamish about holding a wrestling event there. It was totally fine when they were just a theocratic dictatorship with sickeningly backward views on women, though, wasn’t it? In fact, for WWE, it’s still totally fine now.
And because fuck you and your feelings, because as long as you still sling the beast $9.99 per month, they have your tacit approval. Because, once again, money.
Are you going to boycott WWE? Are you going to cancel your Network subscription? Because if not, then they’re not going to pay any attention. They might be hit with pressure in other ways, but it won’t be from you: the lowly consumer. It’ll be from the people who really run things, so best hope that they have a conscience.
If nothing else, it would be something of a novelty.
And there are bigger problems in the world: sure. America has a malignant tumour to excise come election day, and Britain is teetering on the edge of self-inflicted diminishment in the pursuit of values no-one’s felt the need to sufficiently define. And there’s the small matter that, short of radical and decisive action, we’re going to continue fucking this planet – our home – so hard that it kills most of us off out of self-defence. But if you’re a WWE fan, then this is happening in your backyard. And if you feel that support-by-association of the brutal murder of a journalist isn’t something you’re happy with, then it might be a good idea to try to persuade WWE not to do it.
That’s how I look at it, anyway.
The show starts off with a restrospective of everything that’s happened over SmackDown’s history. You’ve got the awesome moments (Brock and Big Show breaking the ring, Jericho putting his hand in front of the Rock’s face, Cena’s debut), the weird (Bossman stealing Big Show’s father’s corpse, Billy and Chuck’s Commitment Ceremony) and, of course, the racist moments that look so much worse now. Honestly, there were some moments in that segment that might have been better left forgotten.
At least they didn’t include Heidenrape.
Because this is all about the McMahons, forever and ever
And the show proper kicks off with Truth TV, which is a promising start. R-Truth is under the impression that the show has been running for years, and it’s looking increasingly like Carmella is employed by the state to stop Truth from hurting himself.
Truth says that his next guest needs no introduction, so they have a dance break instead. Carmella steers the show back on course, inviting their guest out…and it’s Stephanie McMahon. Jesus, remember when she was a sympathetic figure? Well, me neither, but remember when she played a sympathetic character? Those were the days. I was twelve years old and I felt capable of anything. And I guess I handed in a PhD thesis this month, so good on twelve-year-old me for calling that one.
People boo the piss out of Stephanie McMahon as she recounts her history. Eric Bischoff could force another kiss on her right now and it would get a damn pop. Of course, that says a lot about America as well as Stephanie McMahon. Before she can get going, Shane’s music hits. Looks like it’s not too late for Vince’s dream incest angle: oh happy day.
Shane welcomes everyone to SmackDown and thanks everyone for making this show possible with their unquestioning loyalty to the WWE regime. Stephanie mocks the audience for appreciating Shane’s presence, and the two get into a dick-measuring contest over whether RAW or SmackDown is the better show. Bitch, you couldn’t handle what SmackDown would do if Brock Lesnar or Undertaker had ever come back to their roots.
And then Vince shows up, because this is nowhere near incesty enough for his liking. Okay, the crowd drowning out his theme tune’s lyrics by singing it themselves is something special: that’s what you call appreciation. Vince tells his dumb kids that these people want to be entertained, not see another McMahon Family scrap. There’s a special place in hell for anyone who tells Stephanie McMahon that her one-liners and ripostes to the crowd are funny, but I imagine it has a lot in common with interacting with Stephanie McMahon.
And Vince announces a dance break, ending the segment. Inspired, Vince. That must have been worth the trip.
Did the Usos just…
AJ Styles arrives to a hell of a reception, followed by Daniel Bryan, who also gets mad cheers. They’re teaming up tonight in advance of their presumably-fuck-finish match at Crown Jewel against…holy hell, the Usos. Alright, hell of a match: well done, WWE.
Bryan starts off first against Jey, the two shaking hands before locking up. Bryan is shot off the ropes, taking the Uso down before keeping moving, keeping the former Tag Team Champion off-balance. Jimmy tags in, taking Bryan down with a double-elbow before chopping him into the corner. Bryan rallies, taking out Jimmy’s knee and making the tag to Styles.
Jimmy fights Styles for every step as the Champ works over the leg, but a blind tag to Jey allows both Usos to deck AJ with stereo kicks to the head. Styles gets beaten down in the corner as Jey continues to go to work on him, but a wild charge sees him caught in a Calf-Crusher! Bryan stops Jimmy as he dashes in to break up the hold, applying the Yes Lock! Both Usos manage to escape before the commercial break, recovering and regrouping on the outside.
When we return, Styles is in trouble, but makes the tag to Bryan. Bryan blisters Jey Uso with kicks before taking Jimmy out on the outside, then dashing back into the ring to hit Jey with a missile dropkick. The Yes Kicks put Jey down; his brother breaks up the pin at the last second, ducks a Forearm attempt from Styles before getting flung out of the ring. A second’s miscommunication between Styles and Bryan sees Bryan hit Styles! Styles shoves Bryan again, then gets smashed with a superkick which Bryan ducks! Bryan’s hit with stereo superkicks! The Usos just beat Styles and Bryan!
I wish this could have gone on for longer. Traditional way to spread the tension, I guess, but it works. And I hopefully the Usos are about to get a major push as a result of this. 3.5 Stars.
Paige is backstage with all the former SmackDown General Managers.
Advert for Susan G. Komen, because why give your money to a good charity?
Have you missed 20-minute Evolution promos as much as they have?
Here’s Evolution, back to remind you of when more than one of them could put on a good wrestling match. If WWE had balls, Orton would suddenly snap and murder his former teammates to secure his psychotic persona. But that would require Triple H to get the shit kicked out of him, so you can go fuck yourself, great idea.
This is also stupid, because Evolution was never even on SmackDown. They were born and died on RAW, then everyone except Ric came to SmackDown separately.
Anyway, Triple H makes some sort of tortured evolution metaphor before Ric says some stuff and Randy Orton fondly reminisces on the days when he was only an asshole and not a horrifying sadist. Randy then takes shots at all the other Evolution members, and whilst it’s not some kind of SAW-esque scenario featuring Ric, Dave and Trips all chained up and having to work together to free themselves of Orton’s insane trap…I’ll take it.
Batista says that he’s a little nervous being back in the ring, but he’s just here to enjoy himself. He says that he doesn’t feel comfortable with a microphone in his hand, but he says that he’s got four reasons to be here: 1) it’s the 1000th episode of SmackDown, 2) he lives in Washington DC, so he might as well be here, 3) he loves the fans and 4) he likes Evolution, despite the fact that Triple H backstabbed all three other members in his pursuit of Championship gold, because human relationships are irrelevant unless he can use them to become World Champion.
Batista talks up how awesome Evolution was, really glossing over their devastating loss to the Shield last time. He then talks up the other members, including Ric’s days as a pussy hound and, it seems, sexual harasser extraordinaire (I can only imagine how awkward the Women’s locker room is right now). And then Batista mentions that Triple H has never beaten him, and everything gets real tense real fast. For Evolution, anyway: the crowd pops for that shit like Batista just announced that he was going to screen Avengers 4 after tonight’s show.
Trips and Batista eventually hug, but you can just tell that Triple H is being eaten alive by this. And, in a more meta sense, that he’s working down his list of people he can say he’s beaten before he retires.
Well, that accomplished nothing that couldn’t have been done in about thirty seconds backstage. But then it wouldn’t be Evolution.
A worrying percentage of WWE’s male demographic think that English is the face
Rusev and the Miz both got jobber-entranced for a World Cup Tournament Qualifying match. I’d find this odd, but I still have very little idea what this Tournament thing even is. Kurt Angle is at ringside, and Rusev opens by hitting Miz with a spinning heel kick.
Miz runs from Rusev, and a distraction from Aiden English allows Miz to roll Rusev up for the win.
I was actually interested in this match, but fuck me, I guess. 1 Star.
Lana confronts English following the match, then kicks him in the nuts so that he can’t run from Rusev. That is…actually a really smart plan. Rusev hurls English into the steel steps over and over gain before hurling him over the announce table. And then we just cut away from this like we’re not deeply invested in watching a man die.
Edge is giving out terrible advice
Edge arrives to a tremendous pop, ready for an episode of The Cutting Edge. Shame Angle couldn’t have stuck around; I’m sure he doesn’t still begrudge Edge for the whole head-shaving bit.
Edge talks about his time on SmackDown, looking back over the major events of his life as they’ve taken place here. He says that he’s been watching the show and has recently noticed something happening that he can’t ignore. Edge then invites Becky Lynch to the ring, and the Women’s Champ arrives.
Edge thanks Becky for being on the show, and he actually notes the positive reaction she gets from the audience before mentioning that the two of them have a lot of similarities. Becky says that Edge has been an inspiration to her, and she appreciates being on the show. Edge talks about the shift into being the Rated R Superstar and how it came from having to fight for a place in the main event, again noting the similarity between himself and Becky. The crowd chants “you deserve it” to him, and they’ve been doing stellar work so far tonight.
And then Edge fucks it up by telling her not to do that. And…why? Everything Edge did during his heel phase made him the WWE Champion main eventer, beloved by fans and only stopped due to a neck injury that probably would have happened anyway. This is either a terrible lesson or good advice being given by the absolute wrong person. Does Edge not even remember his own career? He should be enabling the shit out of her.
Edge says he burned every bridge he had, despite the fact that Cena – John Cena – literally brought the Authority back to save him from Seth Rollins. Edge says that you’re left with nothing and no-one and…isn’t he married to Beth Phoenix? They’ve got two daughters! Edge is literally erasing his own family to teach a lesson that never applied to him! This is bullshit.
And the Rated R Superliar tells Becky that if she continues, she’ll not even like herself. Becky says that he’s right: she doesn’t like herself; she loves herself. She tells Edge to get out of her ring and not to hurt his neck going through the ropes. And I don’t even care, because Edge has me really disappointed in him. That said, if he reverted to type and just speared her, I’d be on board with it.
Charlotte comes out to defend Edge’s honour, telling him that all Becky cares about is the Championship. She rips Lynch for running from her, and then spears Becky. The two start to brawl before referees break it up. Edge is just standing and watching, clearly trying to pick which one will be his wife considering that he’s clearly not married. The brawl continues into the break, because we’re just leaving things hanging like that tonight.
That segment was a disappointment. Even if Edge didn’t support Becky in what she did, despite the fact that the whole crowd is doing it, this could have been a real passing-of-the-torch moment: Becky would be an excellent spiritual successor to the Edge character, and this was the best possible moment to cement that. I still love this angle, but this was a missed opportunity.
And here’s the New Day, ready for a Tag Team Championship match against the Bar! Apparently the New Day has given their commentary booth to some WWE Legends…by which they apparently mean Booker T and Jerry Lawler. Super duper. And the Bar got jobber-entranced? The hell’s going on tonight?
Xavier Woods starts off against Woods, and the Irishman easily overpowers the smaller man. Woods’ speed allows him to dodge some of Sheamus’ offence, and when he has him off-balance for a moment, he’s able to stagger the larger man with a huge forearm, then take him down with a headscissors. Sheamus works his way back into the match following some interference by Cesaro, who then enters the match.
Woods is in trouble now, with the Bar keeping him isolated from Big E. Following a commercial break, he’s still in a bad spot, but manages to dodge a charge from Sheamus, finally tagging in Big E! Cesaro comes in, immediately getting tossed around by the New Day’s powerhouse. Interference by Sheamus doesn’t help, and Big E almost retains the Championships following a huge slam to Cesaro. A blind tag from Sheamus off a Big Ending attempt almost sees Big E getting Brogued, but Big E spears him through the ropes, sending him back into the ring for a Shining Wizard from Woods which almost ends the match!
Big E tags in, looking for the Midnight Hour. Sheamus counters, slamming Woods as Cesaro gets a blind tag. Big E hits the Big Ending to Sheamus, but the now-legal Cesaro catches him, hitting the Neutraliser! Xavier Woods breaks up the pin as we go to another break! When we come back, Big E is looking for a superplex on Cesaro, but Sheamus quickly tag in, allowing the Bar to hit an Uppercut/Powerbomb combination! Sheamus goes for the pin with his feet on the ropes, but Kofi knocks them off to interrupt the cover.
Sheamus comes after Kofi, but then Cesaro jumps Kingston before Woods dives onto the Bar…who catch him and hurl him into the barricade. Oh, and then instead of going after Big E, the wounded and legal man, they trash the Pancake announce table. Sure. Absolutely. Totally brilliant.
Oh, and then the Big Show turns up. God, I can’t remember how often I’ve had to write that. And then, yep: heel turn. He chokeslams Kofi through the table, and because Big E is absorbed by this, he eats a Brogue Kick and the Bar are new Tag Team Champions.
Well, this was an amazing match until the Big Show showed up and literally sucked all the excitement out of it. Would it have killed WWE to let the Bar win the belts by being amazing wrestlers? Are they just doing a Braun, Dolph and Drew thing with the Big Show and the Bar now? Fuck’s sake. 2.5 Stars.
He really does still have it
Aw yeah, son: Rey Mysterio’s back. And…oh God, either Big Show or Randy Orton’s going to attack him, aren’t they. He’s facing Shinsuke Nakamura to see who will advance to a mostly-meaningless World Tournament. Nakamura heads to the ring, and it’s on.
Shinsuke immediately starts off with a hard volley of offence, sinking knees and fists into Mysterio. Rey hammers back, but Shinsuke gets him under control in a front facelock. Again, Mysterio fights back, taking Shinsuke over with a headscissors. But Nakamura’s too tough to put down, and he fights his way back into the match before Mysterio almost catches him with the 619. Rey doesn’t let up, kicking Nakamura to the floor before sliding out of the ring to splash on top of him: he weaponised it!
The commercial break kicks in, with Nakamura gaining the advantage just prior. When we return, however, Mysterio has just hit Shinsuke with a seated senton, but the Artist stalls Rey with a kick the head up on the top turnbuckle. Nakamura looks to bring Mysterio down in the most painful way, but Rey fights back and hurricanranas Shinsuke back down to the mat!
A springboard splash attempt sees Rey fall across Nakamura’s raised knee, and the Artist pounces on the former World Champion, hitting the knee to the midsection for a two count. A reverse exploder suplex strikes, but Rey dodges the Kinshasa to roll Shinsuke up. Shinsuke goes for the Kinshasa again; it’s dodged, and the 619 strikes, followed by a frog splash! Rey Mysterio wins!
What a match: Rey looks like he was never gone, and this was the definition of a back-and-forth match done right. 4 Stars.
And then the lights go out. And I hate myself for actually getting a little bit excited, because I remember when this moment meant that something awesome was going to happen rather than something…well, kind of sad.
Yeah, the Undertaker’s here, still intent on tarnishing his legacy a little more in Saudi Arabia. He gets on the microphone as says that he has three words for DX at Crown Jewel. And God bless the crowd: they booed when he said “Crown Jewel”. Outstanding. And the three words are “Rest In Peace”.
I’d give anything for Shinsuke Nakamura to just blast him with a Kinshasa out of nowhere.