Hello, wrestling fans. First, an apology for my absence last week; after three years of occasionally shoehorning the fact that I’m doing a PhD into these wrestling reviews – the academic’s equivalent of slapping one’s dick onto the dinner table, I’m reliably informed – I actually had to put my money where my mouth is and sit in a small room whilst
a jury of my peers my fellow academics judged what I’d done in those three years and, hilariously, was told that “it’ll do”. Believe me: no-one was more surprised than yours truly.
Anyway, I’ll soon be able to legally call myself “Doctor Spain”, and that means that these reviews are now academic articles as well as 3,000 word rants full of hatred, bile and passionate erotica. And you’re now reading the words of an expert in the field of political fiction, which is a description of myself I still can’t say without laughing hysterically, so it is my hope that I can inspire and inform you at a level which is expected of my new station, whilst still managing to cyber-bully Randy Orton into a lengthy sabbatical or self-induced coma.
But now, SmackDown.
Becky and Charlotte are eschewing any moral scale in favour of being awesome
The show kicks off with Paige and her accent in the ring. She welcomes back Becky Lynch, whose concussion and broken face has literally been used to propel Nia Jax into an undeserved title-chase storyline. I’m not, by nature, thoroughly vindictive, but I do hope that Ms. Jax does get a nice long run of humiliating and demeaning roles as a result of that. Or even just, you know, sent back to wrestling school to learn how not to injure her co-workers. A guy can dream of such accountability.
Becky makes her way to the ring, face looking far less fucked than the last time I saw her. Admittedly, she made a black eye and a busted nose far more appealing than I ever could, but then some people could make the Black Death look alluring. The audience, as should be expected by now, throws their metaphorical underwear at the Lasskicker, who notes that even two weeks seems to have been too much time away.
Lynch states that she never turned away from a fight, even when she was injured, and she’s now been cleared to fuck up everyone’s shit. She demands that Charlotte Flair get to the ring right now, and I could buy her either congratulating Charlotte for being a psycho asshole at Survivor Series or straight-up attempting to murder her for contributing to SmackDown’s shite showing. Charlotte arrives, and now all three members of PCB or whatever they called themselves are in the ring together.
Becky says that Charlotte did a hell of a job trying to literally beat Ronda back to UFC, but notes that it took Charlotte having to channel Becky to put Rousey down. Charlotte laughs this off, with her luminous Jimmy Carr teeth, and says that she was just being herself, as she was a heel for way longer and far earlier than Becky. Charlotte calls herself “genetically superior”, in a move which is sure to make a few swastika-tattooed gentlemen lift their shaved heads up in interest. Look, boys: another Aryan beauty who you can pretend doesn’t find your ideology repellent.
Charlotte says that she’ll do anything it takes to get the job done, and Lynch tells her that she’s a bootleg Becky, and this just degenerates into a massive game of “who copied who”, which is always a hilarious thing to see in wrestling: an industry dedicated to reboots, reimaginings and in which there was an actual team actually called “Legacy”. Charlotte finally tells Becky that she didn’t fight for her, but she’s ready to fight her right now.
Paige finally remembers that she’s there too, and stops the ruckus before making a match at TLC for the Women’s Championship: Tables, Ladders and Chairs. And this brings out Mandy Rose and a bunch of other women, but they all use Mandy Rose’s music and Corey Graves is only openly masturbating to Rose. Mandy calls bullshit on continuing this awesome rivalry, claiming that this group of nobodies and Sonia DeVille all deserve a shot too.
This brings out Naomi, Carmella, Asuka and Lana, all of whom elect to use Naomi’s music. Did these guys just pick a theme out of a hat? The crowd chants for Asuka, whose addition to that match would be pretty fucking awesome. Naomi says that any one of them could be Champion, which Becky interprets as a desire to die at her hands right there and now. Paige manages to restrain Becky from stage-diving the entire Women’s Division, instead announcing that there’ll be a Battle Royal tonight, and that the winner will be added to the match.
If it’s not Asuka, then I have no idea what WWE’s thinking.
Backstage, the Usos are talking about how they had the only SmackDown win at Survivor Series; they will be facing the Bar tonight, because it’s really hard to screw up the SmackDown Tag Team Division.
Now imagine this plus the Bludgeon Brothers
And that match is happening right now. The Usos roll up to the ring, followed by the Bar, who are without the Big Show tonight. We get shown footage of the three arguing backstage following the food fight bollocks from last week. So, now the Bar is apparently just back to being a duo, which is how everyone liked them anyway.
Sheamus and Jimmy get into it, with Jey staggering Sheamus with blows, backing him into his corner to tag in Jey. Sheamus regains some control briefly, managing to tag in Cesaro and hang the Uso up on the top rope to secure their advantage going into a commercial break. When we come back, the Bar are still firmly in control, using double-teams and quick tags to keep Jimmy down. Finally, the Uso fights out of the corner and is able to tag in his brother.
Jey storms into the ring, unloading on Cesaro before flattening him with a Samoan drop and a wrecking ball. Sheamus makes a blind tag, and Jey dives right into an uppercut from Cesaro. Sheamus capitalises, not allowing the Uso to regain his composure. A missed dive allows Jey to force some separation, and he lays both Bar members out with superkicks for a near-fall on Sheamus. Jimmy and Jey both ascend to the top rope for splashes, but Cesaro knocks one out of the air with an uppercut, and the other lands across Sheamus’ knees in a counter that nearly ends the match.
Sheamus starts smacking Jimmy Uso around, but Jey arrives to disrupt a planned double-team from the Bar, allowing Jimmy to almost roll Cesaro up. Cesaro misses a charge, eats a superkick, a splash and the loss.
Great start on the way to a great feud. 3.5 Stars.
The New Day are laughing at something on their phone backstage, and the Miz asks what’s so funny. It turns out they’re watching Miz’s match from last week, which I hear was really dumb. This turns into Survivor Series dick-measuring, which apparently is the only purpose served by that whole shitshow. This whole thing leads into a match being arranged between Miz and Shane’s Stockholm Syndrome and the New Day.
AJ Styles is here to summarise the last two weeks
Here’s AJ Styles, and I just hope that he’s wearing a cup. Because if you don’t learn eventually, you don’t deserve to not get hit in the nuts. Styles says that he’s been cold turkey from the WWE Championship for two weeks now, and that what bothers him was the manner in which he lost. He finally addresses the insane fixation the SmackDown locker room has on his testicles, but says that he understands. That seems…arrogant?
AJ sdays that the beating from Bryan put him on the shelf for two weeks, and that he watched Bryan babble insanely and he says that whatever excuse, reason or mental disorder that Bryan has isn’t going to stop him Styles from beating him to death in order to get his Championship back. He says that they can do this right now, which is exactly what you say if you want your rival to appear behind you in punt you in the dick. He says that Bryan isn’t there, and that he’s been absent from the live events too, unlike Styles. AJ tells Bryan to show up at TLC and to bring his WWE Championship with him.
Nakamura apparently doesn’t care to do the work he’s paid to do
Here’s Shinsuke Nakamura, ready for a match against…Rusev? Well, colour me keen. I was ready to make a joke about a sequel to the Russo-Japanese War (as in the Russia-Japan conflict from 1904-1905, rather than Vince Russo fighting all of Japan) but I remembered that Rusev’s Bulgarian. And then Nakamura hits Rusev with a Kinshasa to the back of the head, then another to the face that knocks him out of the ring. And then another on the outside, because I guess fuck Rusev.
Man, this is like Schroedinger’s WWE: if this leads to a feud and a more dangerous Nakamura, then awesome. If nothing comes of this, then what’s the fucking point? At least Rusev looks murderous, hinting that he might not just forget about this.
Samoa Joe doesn’t accept your whitewashed version of WWE history
Apparently it’s Jeff Hardy’s twenty-year anniversary with the WWE, give or take a few suspensions, TNA runs and lengthy drug-related absences. All the SmackDown locker room is on the entrance ramp, so Jeff’s either retiring or is already dead, and Michael Cole is in the ring to let you know that this is a big deal.
Jeff arrives, and I can already feel myself losing interest in this whole thing, so I might just do the highlights of whatever soapy titwank this turns into. It opens with a video highlight reel of Jeff’s career. God, there were some terrible haircuts in the late nineties. Jeff says that he can’t believe that he did half of those things and he wonders what’s wrong with him. Jesus, Jeff: who has the time to puzzle that one out?
Hardy thanks WWE and the crowd for giving him a creative outlet and telling him to do what he loves. He runs through some family members, missing out Matt, and tells us that this isn’t a retirement speech. Then…then what was the point?
Ah: Samoa Joe’s music hits. I think we just found the point. Joe shows up, barging through the crowd before making a crack about Jeff’s sobriety or general lack thereof. Samoa Joe, you are the Prince of Hearts. Shane actually tries to take the microphone off Joe, which was a nice touch, but Jeff tells Shane to let him talk. So Joe immediately makes fun of Jeff’s drug problem again, because he’s the best heel to ever heel, and says that Hardy allowing himself to be placed on a pedestal after all his mistakes makes him sick.
Samoa Joe says that people like Jeff don’t change, and promises that Hardy will once again succumb to his demons. Jesus, if Jeff actually does fall off the wagon again, this is going to be the most uncomfortable segment ever to be deleted from the WWE Network. Jeff tells Joe to get in the ring with him right now, in a tone that is still way too calm for what the Samoan was slinging at him, but Joe walks away.
Holy shit, I just saw Styles in the crowd of wrestlers. I guess he and Joe worked out their issues involving, you know, Samoa Joe threatening AJ Styles’ family. I’ve yet to see a single sane person in wrestling.
Sometimes, I doubt Shane’s commitment to Team Best in the World
Here’s the New Day, and apparently this match is going to be Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz, who follows the pancake-loving trio out to the ring. Kofi’s speed and athleticism allows him to keep Miz off-balance in the opening, and a distraction from the New Day allows Kofi to wipe him out on the outside as we head into the break. Post-commercials, Kingston is still in control, with the Miz just avoiding a Trouble in Paradise.
Both Miz and Kofi hit a collection of reversals and counters, with Kingston almost getting the win off an S.O.S. and the Miz nearly getting the three following a huge DDT. The Miz undoes the turnbuckle pad, but before he can run Kofi’s face into it, Big E puts a stack of pancakes in the way. Miz puts Kofi down, then dives out onto Woods, knocking him to the ground mid-trombone solo.
As the ref is distracted by Big E, Miz brings a chair into the ring, only for Woods to pull it out again. The Miz turns right around into Trouble in Paradise, and Kofi wins.
Not sure what purpose this served. 2 Stars.
Somewhere backstage, Randy Orton turns around to look at a camera, smirking vaguely. The horror…the horror…
Nobody ever claimed that Rey Mysterio was smart
And here’s Randy, making his way to the ring, holding Rey Mysterio’s mask. I am genuinely impressed at all the creepy shit they’ve thought of for Orton to do; I just never want to see him fingerbang Jeff’s ear ever again. Speaking of which, I notice they missed that off Hardy’s Highlight Reel.
Orton says that everyone from the Pope to Corey Graves has denounced his actions from last week, but he says that he feels euphoric. Oh God, they’re turning him into a neckbeard. He says that he’s never cared all that much about the history of Rey’s heritage or the meaning of the mask; he did what he did because he likes humiliating and hurting people: it’s, like, his whole deal.
Before Orton can explain further about how he’s a dick, Rey Mysterio’s music hits, and he emerges, wearing a neckbrace. Randy dashes out of the ring to meet him as Mysterio approaches, quickly beating the fuck out of him. He rips off Rey’s neckbrace, bundling him into the ring as Rey questions all the choices he’s ever made that have led him to this moment.
As Randy climbs into the ring, Mysterio batters him with kicks, even hitting a 619 to Orton’s arm. He continues to fight Randy off, beaning him with an enzuigiri before hitting him with another 619. Rey doesn’t go for the splash, because that looks like the kind of RKO-outta-nowhere opportunity that Orton would crawl over a mile of broken glass for, and instead grabs a steel chair.
Before Rey can bring the chair into the ring, Orton catches him with a Vintage DDT and then slams the chair, and Rey’s throat, off the steel ring steps. He tries to rip the mask off Mysterio again, but now the officials have decided that enough’s enough, and they drive him off.
Backstage, Shane is texting before Miz shows up, still trying to gaslight his own boss into thinking that the two of them are in a tag team. I have no idea whether Miz truly believes this or if this is just another of his horribly elaborate attempts to troll the people he works with, but either way I love it and I love him. I have never seen Shane look more confused than he does right now, and all of this is adorable.
Oh, thank God
It’s time for a main event Battle Royal, and Carmella arrives first with R-Truth. If this all ends with him eliminating Carmella to try and get a Women’s Championship opportunity, then this has been the best long game in modern WWE history. Honestly, I’d watch Charlotte vs. Becky vs. R-Truth in a TLC match in a heartbeat. The Team Formerly Known As Absolution arrives, then the IIconics, then Zelina Vega (accompanied by Andrade “Cien” Almas’ theme tune, but not the gorgeous man himself). Lana is similarly without Rusev, but at least uses her own theme music. Asuka arrives to by far the best reception, and Naomi enters last. I’d accept a win from Naomi, but it would still seem like a missed opportunity for the most badass Women’s Championship match ever.
So, the match kicks off, and you know my deal with Battle Royals: I can’t call everything, so you’re getting the highlights, the eliminations and whatever crude thoughts I have between those two things until it’s, like, the final four. Vega’s eliminated first, because it’s not like Luchadora the Explorer has exciting offence that would fit a match with a ladder in it. She attacks Lana, who eliminated her, on the outside as we go to a break.
When the show comes back, everyone else still seems to be in the match. The IIconics manage to toss Lana by working together, but fail to notice that Asuka is behind them. The Empress makes short work of the pair of them before maneuvering them both onto the apron, then takes them both out with a hip attack.
Carmella tries her luck against Asuka next, actually laying her out with a superkick. God, I forgot that she’s actually beaten Asuka. She’s similarly beaten out onto the apron in retaliation, but before the Empress of Tomorrow can knock her to the outside, she ducks and screams. Asuka, bless her, actually stops to check whether Carmella’s alright, and doesn’t actually kick her off until she’s sure that she is. Asuka is a good person. We should all try to be more like Asuka.
Post-Absolution jump Asuka, taking out Naomi when she tries to make the save and then trying to eliminate Asuka. Naomi prevents the elimination – stellar Battle Royal strategy – and engages both Rose and DeVille. Mandy is strong enough to halt Naomi in mid-hurricanrana, hoisting her out over the top rope. Naomi and Rose struggle for control on the ring apron, with Mandy grabbing Naomi’s leg and pulling her into the splits. I’m not psychic, but I feel confident in saying that every guy in the locker room just looked at Jimmy Uso in unison. Mandy makes a wild charge, slamming into the ring post and eliminating herself. Before Naomi can recover, however, Sonya runs into her with a knee to blast her down to the floor.
And, fittingly, it’s down to the two most badass women in the match: DeVille and Asuka. And whilst Asuka is the obvious choice, I’d not entirely be able to disapprove of Sonya getting a shot at the gold. Both women measure each other, the crowd firmly behind Asuka, and then they approach, trading and ducking tips before DeVille spears the Empress. Asuka’s thrown out onto the apron, and Mandy Rose tries to grab her leg and pull her down the floor, eating a knee to the face for her efforts.
Sonya almost catches Asuka with a spear, eating a kick instead, and Asuka drags Sonya out of the ring with her. They trade blows before both scoring with a roundhouse kick simultaneously, somehow staying on the apron. Sonya recovers first, backing up for a charge, but Asuka manages to catch her with a knee to the face, knocking her to the floor! We have our dream match, people!
Lack of storyline building in this match – I’d have thought that Rose and DeVille would face a split as a result of this – but the final moments managed to draw me in. This was the clear and obvious result, and I am beyond excited for the match itself; I just hope Asuka becomes a vital part of the build and not merely an “also ran” in the background of Charlotte and Becky’s rivalry. 2.5 Stars.
Tags: AJ Styles, Asuka, Becky Lynch, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy, Paige, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, rusev, Samoa Joe, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Bar, The Miz, The New Day, the usos, TLC, WWE