A Happy Halloween to all of you, and what better way to spend such an evening than by reviewing the latest installment of SmackDown Live?
We begin the show with Crown Jewel being talked up without the words “Saudi Arabia” being mentioned. It really is pathetic.
Happy PPV Match on Free TV Day
AJ Styles is here to kick things off, and the commentators take us through the vaudevillian miscommunication that’s characterised his recent interactions with Daniel Bryan. They’re still insistent that Bryan will meet Styles for the Championship at Crown Jewel, which doesn’t gel with the last thing I’d heard, but maybe the idea of another World Championship run somewhere down the line has allowed Daniel to become slightly flexible when it comes to his principles and belief in human rights.
Styles says that he’s got something to say, but he wants to say it directly to his opponent. Bryan arrives, joining AJ in the ring. Styles apologises for what went down last week, and Daniel is quick to wave off the incident whilst reaffirming that he’s gunning for Styles’ Championship on Friday, dismemberment of a journalist or no.
Styles reveals that, actually, he’d intentionally kicked Bryan last week. Daniel gets a little riled up at this devastating revelation of AJ Styles’ dark and sinister motivations, threatening to deck the Champ right there and then. AJ doesn’t back down, saying that he’s not afraid to defend his World Championship right here tonight, and fuck Saudi Arabia and its bullshit embassy. The crowd loves this, and here’s Shane McMahon, ready to dive right the fuck onto this like it’s blood money.
Shane says that the match is on, which was what was going to happen before he came out to announce it, the glory hound. And the match will happen right now, because a main event slot for a World Title contest? What are you, an idiot?
Fair play: the match hasn’t actually started when we come back from a commercial break; I was expecting us to be halfway through it. We get the belt-raise and the announcements (big motherfuckin’ match feel), and Bryan and Styles go at each other, immediately heading into technical wrestling territory. Daniel wins the exchange, letting AJ regain his feet. They move in again, with Bryan going right to the arm before Styles tosses him onto the apron.
Another lock-up leads to a shoving match, and Bryan goes after Styles’ arm with a new aggression. AJ fights back, punishing his challenger; Bryan tries to go quickly for his finishing combination, but Styles catches him with a dropkick that sends Daniel out of the ring. AJ throws himself out after him, but Bryan has dodged right back inside before hurling himself onto Styles as we enter a commercial break.
When we come back, Bryan is lacing Styles with the Yes Kicks, only to be caught with a dragon screw. Now it’s AJ attacking a limb, going after Bryan’s left leg. Bryan tries to transition into an armbar, but eats more punishment to the left knee in retaliation. Daniel keeps fighting back, finally countering AJ’s assault with a throw and a vicious kick to the head.
Bryan goes for the Running Knee, but winds up on the receiving end of a dropkick. He has the awareness to counter a Phenomenal Forearm attempt, and both men wind up on the top rope together. Bryan attempts a back superplex, but AJ shifts his positioning, allowing him to land on top of Bryan as we go to a commercial break.
We return as Bryan manages to apply a Yes Lock right next to the ropes; Styles quickly escapes, then counters Bryan’s attempt to bring him back into the right by suplexing him onto the outside. The fight spills out into the ringside area, turning nasty as Bryan’s knee is dropped onto the announce table and Styles is flung into the steel steps. Back inside, Bryan hits a dropkick to a cornered AJ, the worked-over knee slowing him down.
Styles counters a top-rope hurricanrana briefly, but still gets brought down. He fights back, getting sent out onto the apron before Bryan kicks away at him. Styles manages to hang Daniel’s left leg up on the ropes, then tries for the Phenomenal Forearm; Bryan manages to reverse the move, transitioning from double-underhook suplex to an armbar to the Yes Lock! Styles fights back, finally hitting a Styles Clash and immediately applying the Calf-Crusher. Bryan valiantly fights back, but is ultimately forced to tap.
A very good match. These two would clearly be capable of more at a PPV, but I doubt that the Crown Jewel version would have been where we’d have seen that. I didn’t actually expect a non-screwy finish, and it was a bold one to have Bryan tap this early on. 4 Stars.
Following the match, Bryan and AJ shake hands and hug, then it turns out Samoa Joe isn’t about to take irrelevance quietly; he shoves Styles into Bryan and locks AJ in the Clutch. Bryan rushes into the ring to save AJ, but just gets put in the Clutch in Styles’ place. Joe stands tall, raising the Championship. Guess human rights abuses are fine if he gets a title shot out of it.
We get a quick vignette of Jeff Hardy, showing us that your brain on drugs is a terrible thing, but your brain on drugs and lots of blows to the head is thoroughly horrifying. Then the Miz delivers a promo about his life is the most awesome thing in the world, and you could all suck his dick if Maryse hadn’t already called dibs.
Backstage, Paige has invited Charlotte to her office to congratulate her for having the best match of the night at Evolution and recruit her to be the SmackDown Women’s Team Captain for Survivor Series. Charlotte seems uncertain, admitting that she’s not sure if she’s the right woman for the job. Paige just asks her to think about it, and if we could actually make some real storylines about the formations of these teams, I’d love another reason to get way more invested in Survivor Series.
We get a promo for the contest to see which team can slit the throats of the WWE Universe’s nostalgia and dump it in a shallow grave more effectively. Christ, this is going to be like watching eighty year old men fight both each other and terminal cancer, and I cannot disagree more strongly with Shawn coming out of retirement for this shit.
WWE really doesn’t do enough self-referential cosplay
Here’s the New Day, ready for a Halloween-themed street fight (you knew it had to happen), but they save the segment instantly by coming out dressed as the Brood and doing their entrance to perfection. God bless this crazy trio.
Cesaro and Sheamus don’t cosplay as another team, the fucking killjoys, and they make their way to the ring with the Big Show as we go to a commercial break. When we come back, Cesaro and Big E, representing their respective team, are whacking each other with Halloween accoutrements. Sheamus saves Cesaro from the Big Ending, prompting a massive brawl involving all parties.
Big Show shoves Kofi and Xavier out of the ring, then sends Big E through the ropes afterwards. The Bar dismantle the New Day once again, with Cesaro slamming Big E onto Jack O’Lanterns, Sheamus hitting Kofi with pancakes and Big Show holding Woods’ head in a bucket of water…wow, that last one feels a little terrible. The match goes on, but Sheamus interferes once again, getting put through a table for his efforts.
Woods and Kofi try to prevent the Big Show from getting involved; he grabs both of them for a chokeslam…and Xavier hits him with the red mist. Dear God, I love the New Day. Back in the ring, Cesaro wants the Neutraliser, but Big E counters, hits the red mist himself and then hits the Big Ending for the win!
In anyone else’s hands, this would have been worthless, and it’s to the New Day’s credit that they managed to make this really entertaining with all of their antics. 3 Stars.
Backstage, Shane is finally doing his damn job again and trying to make his employees fight backstage. He’s gathered the World Cup competitors around him, and if you want to make this way more fun, take a shot every time Rey Mysterio references Eddie Guerrero. Drink everything in your house if Randy Orton tells Rey that Eddie’s down there…IN HELL. Then Jeff and the Miz snipe at each other, all unaware that Shane McMahon is manipulating the four of them into this manufactured conflict, the sick motherfucker.
And then Shane makes this whole deal another personal contest between him and Stephanie, because we all care so much about that, Shane. He says that whoever makes it to the finals and then loses will no longer have a home on SmackDown Live. So…just throw one of the first two matches and minimise the risk, right? Because Shane just made that the obvious choice.
Elsewhere backstage, Paige is having her own meeting to prove that she’s important too. Styles arrives, demanding the right to murder an American citizen in the Middle East, just like Saudi Arabia does. Paige seems reluctant, but then remembers that she literally doesn’t care about any of these morons and makes the match.
This is just sad
Here’s Shinsuke Nakamura, ready to face R-Truth. Truth and Carmella rap their way down to the ring, and apparently this match is for the United States Championship: does it feel like 2011 to anyone else?
Shinsuke immediately takes it to Truth before performing a mocking dance. This is a bridge too far for R-Truth, who smacks Nakamura around before dancing in his face. Shinsuke charges, eating a hip toss and getting clotheslined out of the ring. And then Carmella comes in for a dance break as we go to commercials: outstanding.
When we come back, Nakamura is taking it to R-Truth, working him over on the mat. Truth finally begins working his way back with a flurry, keeping Shinsuke reeling. A spinning crossbody almost gets Truth the win, but Nakamura ducks the scissors kick, catching Truth with kicks before driving a running knee into his gut.
R-Truth flips out of a reverse exploder, but some hard strikes from Nakamura and a Kinshasa put Truth down and out.
This had a few fun moments, but seemed to have no point: Shinsuke could have at least straight-up brutalised Truth in about thirty seconds to remind us what a badass he is. 1.5 Stars.
Like hell they let Ronda lose to Becky
Here’s Becky Lynch, fresh off her Last Woman Standing defeat of Charlotte Flair. Sucks that she’s about to get fed to Ronda Rousey, because tell me that’s not what’s going to happen.
Becky revels in her win, absorbing the cheers and chants of the crowd. Thank God she’s stopped trying to make out like we never liked her; that was going to get old. She tells us that she had the match of the night and can take anyone from either locker room. She drags Ronda, mocking her weak list of opponents thus far and promising to rip her arm off at Survivor Series. Short, effective and to the point. Good stuff.
You can’t stop Randy being an asshole
Main event time, and the Miz, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio and Jeff Hardy make their entrances, punctuated by a promo from Samoa Joe about how he’s given up on raping Styles’ wife and now just wants to be WWE Champion. Oh no, I’m wrong: he’s still all about invading the sanctity of AJ Styles’ family. He manages to threaten AJ without using the words “torture”, “dismemberment” or “bone saw”, which is, of course, fortunate.
Back at the main event, Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton start things off. Jeff assaults Randy’s arm early on, going for the Twist of Fate before having to field an attack from Miz. Hardy wards off Orton, but a distraction from the Miz allows Randy to gain the advantage, putting Brother Nero down. Miz tags in, wearing Jeff down further and keeping him isolated from Rey. Teamwork from Orton and Miz allows them to dominate the Hardy, not allowing either separation or reprieve.
Jeff Hardy ends up in a sleeper hold – something Randy Orton makes an inevitability – but he breaks out and fells Orton with a Whisper in the Wind. He’s a long way away from his corner, but makes the tag, and Mysterio hits the Miz with a blitz of offence before the A-Lister scores with a neck and backbreaker. Mysterio keeps the Miz off-balance, and a tag to Jeff allows them to hit a hurricanrana and Poetry-in-Motion to Miz.
Miz eats the 619 and the Swanton Bomb, taking the loss.
This felt like it never really got going, partly because of Randy Orton’s love of sleeper holds. I’m not all that enthused for this World Cup thing. 2 Stars.
Orton immediately hits Jeff with an RKO, then catches Mysterio out of the air with an RKO, and then hits the Miz with an RKO on general principle/misplaced bloodlust. Either way: bitches are unconscious and Randy Orton is fully erect in at least two ways.