My government’s collapsing in on itself, and I have a cold that’s actively trying to murder me. Watching SmackDown seems like the best use of my time.
Holy shit, it’s Daniel Bryan vs. Mustafa Ali tonight. One of the greastest wrestlers of all time up against my adorable Pakistani cinnamon roll. I was super-excited for Charlotte/Asuka II, but this show looks like it set out to under-promise and over-deliver. And I know Ali needs to get his moment in the sun with the Cruiserweight Championship, but I can only hope that this leads to a main roster run.
Bryan’s going to make you all support climate change if it’s the last thing he’ll do
Bryan himself arrives, and he immediately apologises for calling the people sheep last week. By which he means he wants to apologise to the sheep, because working from a book of insults written in 1875 is also clearly a part of his heel shtick. This segues into him denouncing humanity for their horrific damage to the environment, which of course leads to these people booing him. It’s moments like this that really depress me.
Bryan says that the old Daniel Bryan is dead, then mocks everyone for supporting the outstanding wrestler and terrible husband/father, AJ Styles. He promises to crush Styles’ dreams at TLC and remain WWE Champion. The crowd sounds sceptical, like they don’t know how competent booking works, and Bryan says that he doesn’t know whether they’re stupid or willfully ignoring facts.
Mustafa Ali arrives to put a stop to this arrogant member of the liberal elite talking down to these good-hearted, simple folk, but before he can say anything, Bryan says he’s very familiar with Ali and invites him into the ring. He tells Ali that he’s an incredible performer, and that he sees a lot of himself in Mustafa. To be honest, if Bryan revealed himself to be Muslim right now, the crowd would probably lynch him. He tells Ali that they don’t need to have the match tonight, as these people won’t even remember it in a few weeks and that they don’t deserve it. You shut your trash mouth, Mister Bryan.
Ali looks shocked and asks what happened to Bryan, former hero of the cruiserweights. He says that the old Daniel Bryan would want a fight, and that’s what Ali wants too. I have to say, I do like the attitude of WWE superstars towards their heroes: don’t just meet them, but beat the fuck out of them to prove that you’re better than them now. Bryan deflects, asking Ali what kind of car he drives. False: Mustafa Ali leaps from building to building like a sexier shirtless Spiderman.
Ali says that he has an SUV, which he needs for his wife and two kids, and Bryan slaps him a bunch of times, either for unnecessary gas consumption or reproducing. Ali fights back, eventually hurricanrana-ing Bryan out of the ring and diving out onto him before we go to a commercial break.
Amazing how you can have an actual Pakistani wrestler and not make him a terrorist now
When we return, Bryan is beating on Ali, kicking away at him in the corner. Daniel dodges a leapfrog, levelling Ali with another couple of kicks. Bryan then shifts to the submission game, wrenching back on Ali’s neck and head, making the cruiserweight scream in pain. More kicks smash into Mustafa, but he ducks the last, hitting a volley of superkicks to the back and head of Bryan, lowkey trying to cripple the man on live television, but Bryan is able to gain control on the outside, hurling Ali into the steel post as we go to another break.
We come back to Ali in the Yes Lock, following a Spanish Fly. Who the fuck is in charge of these commercials? Ali reaches the ropes, breaking the hold, and Bryan locks him up in the Tree of Woe before using him as a pinata. Running dropkick slams into Ali’s face, then Bryan goes for a back superplex. Ali rolls out of the move in mid-air, reaching his feet as Daniel crashes to the mat.
Bryan misses a running dropkick, crashing into the turnbuckle, and then Ali smacks away at the WWE Champion. Bryan flips over Ali’s head, but gets caught with a massive tornado DDT for two. Ali ascends to the top rope, but the 054 misses, allowing Bryan to whack his legs off the turnbuckle again and again. Bryan continues his assault on the leg, hitting a bunch of chopblocks before locking in the heel hook, forcing the tap.
Good match, if one which mostly took place during commercials. Bryan’s heel hook finisher is very fitting for his new persona, but it’s nice to see he still uses the Yes Lock. 3 Stars.
And Bryan keeps attacking Ali on the entrance ramp, most of which is missed due to the commentators talking up TLC. Seriously: what gives with tonight’s editing?
Sheamus and Cesaro are either committing or deserve a hate crime
And now it’s time for a rap battle. Maybe one of the teams will talk about Xavier Woods having sex with Paige again in a fit of slut-shaming; it’s almost Christmas, after all. The New Day are here to host, and they are joined by the Usos and the Bar. Quick question: if you looked at both of those teams, which would you assume would win a rap battle?
The New Day immediately mention the previous rap battle, with Woods giving the Usos a dirty look. Well, looks like I got what I wanted out of this. The Bar are up first, and I don’t have the words to describe what happens next. And I’m fucking amazing at words, according to a PhD panel. I think the saddest thing about all of this is that RAW still has the inferior Tag Division.
The Usos give a pretty decent attempt. Or maybe not; rap is not exactly my area of expertise. Still, they get a hell of a lot of pop culture and old wrestling references in, so I have to respect that. The Bar attack, but immediately get thrown out of the ring. The Usos and the New Day briefly think about going at it, but this gives the Bar their window; they dive back into the ring and clear out all the competition.
This was just weird, but I’d crawl through broken glass to watch the PPV match that comes of this.
Hard to believe I found myself pulling for the Vegas Boys
After the break, the Miz is in the ring, and he tells Shane that he wants him to come out here and listen to what the Miz has to say, eventually going down on one knee and begging for him to come to the ring.
Shane arrives, asking the Miz what the hell is going on. Miz tells Shane that they could be so good together: they need to tag together one more time. Shane tries to introduce Miz to the concept of boundaries in the workplace, but the Miz is determined to go through with…whatever this is. Miz calls out a referee and announces another tag team match between Team Co-Besties and some plucky up-and-comers called the Vegas Boys.
The Vegas Boys, who I’m pleased to see are not using some unspeakable male stripper gimmick, come to the ring. Shane still seems to want none of it, but the Vegas Boys jump him and start the match. Big mistake, Vegas Boys: that man almost beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania, because that’s the horrible world we all live in. Shane fights back, because like jobbers have a goddamn chance against a man who took Kevin Owens to the limit in a Hell in a Cell match, and starts working over both Vegas Boys, finally felling one with an elbow.
A terrible floatover DDT puts down one Vegas Boy, and then a Triangle Choke makes the other tap out.
Whatever. 1 Star.
The Miz celebrates like a big goon, and I have literally no idea what his endgame is here.
Backstage, Paige is yelling at a referee for sanctioning the match, but it turns out the Miz told him that she said it was okay. And then the Vegas Boys show up, wanting payment that the Miz said that she’d promised them. Honestly, if this sort of thing can happen behind Paige’s back, then the fault is mostly her’s for being that incompetent.
That being said, if this is all leading up to a Paige/Miz match, then I’m tentatively on board.
This section has increased my average use of the word “chair” by seven thousand percent
Here’s Randy Orton, so prepare to look away from the screen if he does any of his usual sick shit, or get a comfortable chair ready if he’s going to just latch on fifty-seven headlocks. He’s got a Chairs match with Rey Mysterio at TLC: second only to the mythical Stairs match in terms of putting everyone to sleep.
Randy picks up a steel chair and waxes poetic on chairs in general before showing us two pieces footage of him abusing Mysterio with a chair. This literally feels like product placement, and it’s probably not a good sign that I’d forgot both of these attacks had happened before I was shown this footage. Orton talks about how he’s going to murder Mysterio with a chair again, and if there’s one person who could make actual murder boring, it’s Randy Orton.
And then Rey suddenly batters Orton with a chair of his own, even hitting a sort-of Van-Terminator before walloping Randy with a 619. I’m not sure whose benefit any of this is for, but if it’s supposed to be for mine then I am superbly offended.
Backstage, Becky Lynch is striding around randomly before Kayla asks her if tonight’s match will give Lynch the advantage. Becky says that she has no advantage, as she’s having her first match back in weeks, but she says that’s exactly how she likes it. She says she’ll be at ringside tonight in order to scout both of her opponents, and then walks away.
Nakamura managed to weaponise a dance break
Tag team time, with Jeff Hardy and Rusev up against Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura. Jeff and Rusev arrive, followed by Joe and Nakamura, and it is odd to not see the two foreign guys tagging together. Shinsuke’s wearing his all-blue outfit again, presumably under the assumption that the SmackDown vs. RAW deal didn’t end at Survivor Series. Worrying, considering that Joe’s got semi-red shorts on.
And Carmella and R-Truth arrive to declare a dance break. Eventually, the guys in the ring are going to go along with it, seduced by the all-out insanity that is SmackDown. Instead, Nakamura uses it to blindside Jeff, beating him to the ground before tagging in Joe to continue the assault. Following a commercial break, Jeff is trying his best to stall Joe’s momentum, but the big Samoan appears unstoppable.
Nakamura re-enters the match, keeping Jeff away from his partner before running a knee right into Hardy’s sternum for two. Joe comes in again, wrenching Jeff’s arms behind his back. A second’s separation allows Jeff to hit a Whisper in the Wind, leaving both men prone on the canvas. Joe reaches Nakamura and, at the same time, Hardy tags in Rusev, who charges into the ring with a clothesline that knocks Shinsuke loopy.
Rusev’s assault continues, with Nakamura unable to muster any defence, let alone offence. A sharp elbow shot staggers Rusev, but the Bulgarian answers with a hellacious roundhouse kick, dropping the United States Champion. Joe breaks up the pin, but immediately eats a Twist of Fate for his efforts. Hardy pursues Joe, flying off the apron onto him.
Meanwhile, Nakamaura attempts a Kinshasa, almost finds himself locked in the Accolade but escapes. He charges for a second Kinshasa attempt, but his path takes him directly into the Machka Kick, and Rusev picks up the win!
I never like to rely on this formula, but it does seem like Nakamura is now fated to retain the US Championship. This was a fun match, and I note that they kept some distance between Joe and Rusev: interesting to see what the future holds for these two. 2.5 Stars.
Backstage, Shane admonishes Miz for acting like he’s the General Manager. Miz defends himself, saying that he was just trying to push Shane into letting loose his killer instinct. He says that he was never considered best in the world until Shane came along, offering the Commissioner his hand. Shane leaves, and Miz looks like someone just ripped his heart out and booked it in a match with Jinder Mahal.
Another promo for Lars Sullivan. Cannot wait to see how they’re going to waste him.
Backstage, AJ Styles is asked if he’s prepared for TLC. Styles says that he’s biding his time, not wanting to do anything to Bryan that will stop him from attending TLC. AJ should learn from his past and start terrorising Brie Bella.
Catering to both wrestling fans and perverts alike
Main event time, and it’s a WrestleMania rematch. Asuka makes her entrance, then has to wait for Charlotte to have an interview before the Queen joins her. Charlotte then makes her entrance, looking focused. Becky Lynch joins the two of them, taking a spot at ringside in order to observe the match.
Charlotte tries to open things up with a big boot, but it’s blocked, as is Asuka’s hip attack. Asuka changes tactics, going for a knee bar, but Charlotte hoists her right off the floor into a back suplex: the first decisive move of the match. The Queen chops away at Asuka, who responds with a violent German suplex before missing a second hip attack, allowing Charlotte to catch her with the big boot she was looking for earlier.
Charlotte goes up for the moonsault, because fuck remaining in control of this match, and she somehow finds herself almost locked in the Asuka Lock. Nice to see that Ric’s inability to hit anything from the top rope is genetic. Charlotte fights off the hold, not allowing her to fully apply it, and managing to reach the bottom ropes and scrambling out of the ring into a commercial break.
When we come back, Charlotte has just buried a fist into Asuka’s face, and the Empress of Tomorrow returns the favour. An abdominal stretch is applied to Charlotte, who manages to power out of it, holding Asuka up in the air, but Asuka’s able to turn it into a cover attempt, followed by an armlock immediately upon Charlotte’s kick-out. Charlotte breaks out momentarily, only to find herself locked in a triangle choke. Charlotte tries to fight her way out, but once again relies on her strength, raising Asuka up in the air before planting her with a sit-out powerbomb.
Charlotte slaps Asuka across the face, raising her to her feet, but Asuka suddenly surprises her with a pin attempt, only for Charlotte to turn it into the Figure Four, slapping Asuka as she screams at her to tap. Asuka is able to turn the move over, reversing the pressure APPARENTLY. Charlotte drags Asuka into the ring, attacking the leg again, not allowing her to regain a vertical base.
Taking a page from Bryan’s book, Charlotte hammers Asuka’s leg against the ring post several times, then goes for the pin. Asuka kicks out at two, but a Figure Four attempt almost sees Charlotte beat by an inside cradle. Charlotte chops away at Asuka, who returns with a fireman’s takeover and a kick to the back. Charlotte goes for the spear, but Asuka catches her with a Codebreaker! Charlotte tries to rise as Asuka laces her with kicks, then slams elbows and kicks into her head.
Asuka runs the ropes, but this time Charlotte catches her with a spear for a near fall. Charlotte goes for the moonsault again; Asuka blocks it with the knees, which Charlotte tries to use for another Figure Four, but Asuka counters that with an Asuka Lock! Charlotte rises to her feet, sending both women falling out of the ring.
Charlotte grabs a kendo stick from underneath the ring, hammering it into Asuka and causing the DQ.
Disappointing ending, but good for character development. Otherwise, great match. 3.5 Stars.
Charlotte attacks Becky from behind as the Champ walks away, then turns to attack Asuka once again. Becky’s not taking this shit, so hurls Charlotte into the steps and beats the fuck out of her with the cane. Asuka, who has recovered, grabs Becky and hurls her over the announce table, now hitting Charlotte and Becky with the stick mercilessly as the show ends.
Tags: AJ Styles, Asuka, Becky Lynch, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy, Paige, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, rusev, Samoa Joe, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Bar, The New Day, the usos, WWE