You know what? I have a rich and fulfilling life with many varied and cultured activities. I could be watching The Killing of a Sacred Deer with my hands clamped over my eyes, or watching Michael Cohen give testimony with my hand down my trousers.
So why am I reviewing SmackDown Live with my hands on a keyboard?
Guess we’ll find out.
Happy Black History Month
Daniel Bryan is sitting at a table in the ring, looking like an independent movie villain. Erick Rowan is standing behind him, looking like a Viking who got a little confused and raided an Urban Outfitter’s instead of an Anglo-Saxon monastery. And Shane and Stephanie are there as well, looking like two people who are about to make this whole thing inordinately about them.
Yes: it’s a contract signing.
It’s odd to see Stephanie and Shane managing to keep a lid on their catty comments and ever-simmering sexual tension, but they actually appear almost professional as they introduce Daniel Bryan. Stephanie specifically mentions that the chair Bryan is sitting in is leather, clearly needing to find some outlet for her horrifying emotional bitterness that is not Shane McMahon.
The crowd is extremely pro-Kofi, whilst I’m pro-anything that gets Stephanie McMahon off my screen. Shane talks about Kofi whilst showing some footage of his career, trying to make it seem like a lot of the man’s career wasn’t mostly repeats of that one match with Dolph Ziggler. They throw some Royal Rumble stuff out there, because people go nuts for that, and I’m impressed by how little Ziggler has appeared in this video package. Finally, we get to the New Day, the Gauntlet Match and the Elimination Chamber, which are all the good bits of his career anyway.
Stephanie’s nasally voice is a power drill right in my ear canal, and the stupid cow even tries to do a verbal drum roll whilst Shane’s talking. Is she fucking drunk? Because this is what I picture when people talk about suburban mothers day-drinking. Thankfully, the New Day arrive to further dilute her presence, with Kofi doing a lap of the crowd, kissing hands and slapping babies.
Kofi gets on the mic and reiterates that this is the first time in eleven years that he’s come even slightly close to a World Championship, unless you count that STUPID! STUPID! feud with Randy Orton, which I do not, because it was as worthless as the love and respect of Miz’s father. The crowd chant “You Deserve It”, and Stephanie can’t even fucking clap in time. Roman Reigns could have severed her spine with that spear a couple of WrestleManias ago, and he chose not to.
Kofi thanks the crowd for their support, being decent enough not to ask where the fuck that was for eleven years, and tells Bryan that he’s going to beat him at Fastlane. Then he sits down at the table so we can perpetuate the myth that professional wrestlers are able to read contracts and write their own names.
But you had to guess that only two McMahons weren’t enough to make this segment grating, so here’s Vince to shit on your dreams, endorse Donald Trump and put on wrestling shows in Saudi Arabia. He stays up on the stage, clearly not trusting his quads to hold up on that dangerous ring apron terrain. Vince lies and says that he appreciates all of Kofi’s incredible work, at least managing to not call him “boy”.
But what’s a little mild racism compared to taking away a man’s chance at the WWE Championship? Because Kofi Kingston is being replaced. This could still be on account of racism, I suppose. This is Vince McMahon, so it’s likely that it is. He says that he’s got someone who’s more deserving than Kofi to have a shitty, the-title-won’t-change-hands Fastlane PPV match. If it’s AJ Styles again, I’m going to blind myself.
Oh shit, Kevin Owens.
So, in the last interaction between Owens and Bryan that I remember, Bryan fucked Owens up in revenge for jumping and trying to cripple him. Also, Bryan should really remember how he felt in Kofi’s place when this happened to him, even maybe paying something back as the man the Authority tried to replace but who got his WrestleMania moment anyway. But Bryan just wants to be a dick and fingerfuck Mother Nature, so he lets this shit slide. He’s really had a chill time of it for this whole segment.
Owens signs his name, or at least it looks like he does so; I’m not convinced. The New Day storm off, and if they don’t destroy that match at Fastlane then I don’t believe WWE remembers how to write compelling storylines.
Meanwhile, Kevin Owens and Daniel Bryan are still saying nothing, presumably hoping to carry this match on the strength of their wrestling ability.
Which, to be honest, isn’t a bad plan. Actually, none of this is really bad. This moves Kofi out of the no-hope Fastlane spot whilst replacing him with an opponent who can put on a great match with Bryan, allowing Kofi to catch fire with how he responds to this and, we can hope, get his WrestleMania moment.
Backstage, Owens is being super-smug, because that’s his shtick. He requests a match against Bryan and Rowan with Kofi Kingston as his partner. If Kevin Owens emerges as a champion for racial equality out of all this, I’d not be dismayed.
The Bar keeps getting lowered
Dear God, the Bar really are a glutton for punishment. I’m trying to think who there’s left for them to be beat by. Are the Corre still a thing? Did I imagine that? Did I do a bunch of heroin and dream it? I think I’d prefer a heroin habit than for the Corre to have been a real thing. Throw in erasing Jack Swagger’s title reign and you could literally shove meth up my arse.
And they’re facing the Hardy Boyz, so those drug comments were really well-timed. So, now Sheamus and Cesaro can add “tired old veterans” to the list of people they’ve been beaten by, which is a lot worse than “the future of the industry” label you could hang on Ciampa and Gargano.
Jeff and Matt start off strong for the portion of the match they’ll actually have energy for, then the Bar take control so Matt can have a nice rest. But Matt’s not that sleepy yet, so he and Jeff take control with a flurry of double-team moves. Matt throws up a “V.1” sign, which makes me want to slap a tornado, and then Jeff hurls himself out of the ring and onto both members of the Bar as we go to a break.
That must have been a long commercial break, but I feel like the less of this match I see, the happier I’ll be. It’s like taking an old horse behind the stables with the shotgun but out of nowhere it knows Krav Maga and you’re suddenly getting your ass beat. Also the horse has limited stamina and a drug habit. That simile fell apart, just like the Hardys have seemed poised on the verge of doing for the past year
Jeff manages to take the Bar out with a Whisper in the Wind that they patiently wait for, crawling over to his brother and getting the tag. Matt works over Cesaro, almost finishing him with the Side Effect, then hits a diving elbow from the middle rope. Twist of Fate is interrupted by Sheamus, allowing Cesaro to drop Matt into the ropes and Sheamus to kick him right in the head.
The Bar try a double-team, but Jeff makes the save, laying out Cesaro with a Twist of Fate before Matt does the same to Sheamus, then Jeff hits a Swanton Bomb for the win.
I still have fond nostalgia for the Hardy Boyz; I used to play as Jeff all the time on my friend’s old copy of SmackDown 2: Know Your Role. This is getting sad. 1.5 Stars.
Backstage, Ricochet is squeeing about the return of the Hardys to Aleister Black. He’s a fool, but he is a sweet fool. Black is saved the trouble of having to humour his acrobatic acquaintance by the arrival of Lana, followed by every NSFW image of her they’ve seen flashing through both men’s heads.
Turns out Lana’s here to be a bitch, saying she doesn’t see what the big deal is about the two of them. I mean, not everyone can have three United States Championship reigns in WWE like Rusev, or two United States Championship reigns in WWE like Nakamura.
Ricochet says that they beat the RAW Tag Team Championships, and does someone want to tell him that beating the Revival has been done by…literally everyone? Black just promises to kick Rusev and Nakamura’s heads in, because that’s what he likes to do best. Lana checks them both out and leaves, vaguely-defined goals presumably accomplished.
Here’s R-Truth and Carmella, who’ve missed several episodes of SmackDown. If Carmella had been around, maybe she could be challenging for the Women’s Championship right now. And getting the shit kicked out of her by Asuka, sure, but details.
This is apparently an Open Challenge, but first R-Truth wants to talk. He says that since he was a kid, he’s always wanted to be like his hero, John Cena. Don’t question it: we’re getting an Open Challenge match whatever his bizarre reasoning.
Holy cow, it’s Andrade. Oh please, God, I don’t ask for much, but let him win. Put some gold around that sexy Latin waist…oh, for fuck’s sake. Andrade gets jumped by Rey Mysterio, who barrels into the ring before him. I am irritated by this turn of events. R-Truth takes a moment to puzzle out what to do…and then makes it a Triple Threat match.
Well, it won’t be a win for Andrade, but it should be a fun match.
Andrade jumps Rey first, then goes to work on Truth before Mysterio returns the favour, sending Andrade out of the ring. Rey and Truth tussle, with R-Truth winding up on the apron, where Andrade powerbombs him onto the outside and Rey Mysterio slides out of the ring…right into a dropkick from Andrade as we go to a break.
When we come back, Rey’s just hurricanrana’d Andrade off R-Truth’s fucking shoulders. He goes after the Champ, ending up colliding with him off a pair of double crossbodies. Andrade hits some running knees to Rey, then misses an attempt to Truth. The United States Champion hits a flurry of offence to Andrade, then starts hitting John Cena’s Five Moves of Doom.
You sort of can’t not like R-Truth a little bit.
Five Knuckle Shuffle connects, then Truth tries for the Attitude Adjustment. A distraction from Vega allows Andrade to save himself from certain defeat, hurling Truth into the turnbuckle before turning into a seated senton from Rey.
Now it’s Andrade and Mysterio, picking up their rivalry once again. Rey headscissors Andrade into the ropes, misses the 619, runs into a back elbow but manages to kick out. Andrade catches Mysterio right out of a springboard moonsault, then R-Truth gets involved, and we end up with both Rey and Truth in position for a 619. Andrade eats the move, but Truth ducks and…rolls Rey up for the win.
FUCK. 2.5 Stars.
Andrade attacks Rey after the match, which is definitely justified in my book, but Rey counters the Hammerlock DDT, tries to 619 Andrade again, but Andrade ducks out of the ring. I hate everything and everyone except Kofi Kingston.
Batista clearly doesn’t have Charlotte’s attention yet
Here’s Charlotte Flair, who can’t help feeling that there’s something strangely familiar about the Kofi/Owens/Bryan situation but just can’t put her finger on it. We see a replay of Becky Lynch’s descent into Stone Cold levels of “couldn’t give a fuck” and Ronda Rousey wanting bloody vengeance more than the Women’s Championship.
Charlotte spews racist rhetoric by claiming that the main event of Fastlane is now better that there’s no black man involved, then draws parallels to herself in case wrestling fans in North Carolina are too stupid to realise this. Charlotte says that she stays in her lane and doesn’t make waves, and that’s why she’s so awesome.
Charlotte says that Becky and Ronda are afraid of her and that’s what’s causing all of this, rather than the boiling resentment that the two of them feel for each other. She shows a clip of Ronda saying that a true Champion fights whether they’re healthy or sick, and Charlotte says the difference between the two of them is that she’ll never quit or put the title down like Ronda did.
She then promises to show up on RAW to be crowned the new Women’s Champion. Oh great: the Triple H/World Heavyweight Championship precedent. I get that Ronda’s never going to show up on SmackDown and Becky can only get into arenas that have disabled access at the moment, but if we were going to spend five minutes on Charlotte masturbating herself in front of an audience, could it at least be physical instead of just metaphorical?
Also, has no-one told her about her Dad yet?
Rusev already misses Aiden English
Here’s Aleister Black, the NXT call-up most likely to stick around at the moment, not having unfinished business like Ciampa, Gargano or Ricochet. The former North American Champion joins him, and we get a video showing all the shit black people had to go through before the United States agreed to treat them like they were, you know, people.
Meanwhile, Rusev and Shinsuke just got jobber-entranced. Seems about right. Nakamura and Black start off together, exchanging strikes and mind games. After a beautiful exchange, Black takes control of Nakamura’s arm and tags in Ricochet. The One and Only continues to work over the arm, but Shinsuke escapes, tagging in Rusev for a big old beatdown.
Rusev bullies Ricochet for a while, then tags in Shinsuke once he’s been softened up a bit. Nakamura hits some hard strikes, then continues to exchange frequent tags with Rusev, who continues to keep Ricochet blocked off from his tag team partner. Ricochet finally manages to avoid both men, tagging in Black, who runs over Nakamura. A distraction from Rusev nets Shinsuke the advantage, and a swift beating on the outside leads us into a commercial break.
When we come back, Rusev is laying a beating on Black, culminating in grasping him in a bear hug before taking his damn head off with a clothesline. Black finally counters a back suplex into a press, tagging in Ricochet, who takes out Rusev and Shinsuke with his frankly insane acrobatic offence. He misses a dive, dodges the Machka Kick and then gets caught and slammed by the burly Bulgarian.
Ricochet battles out of Accolade, leading Rusev to tag in Nakamura. Ricochet fights off both men, tags in Black and dives onto Rusev on the outside. Meanwhile, Aleister goes after Nakamura, gets caught with a reverse exploder, then counters a Kinshasa with a thunderous Black Mass for the win.
Solid tag team match featuring (cough-Hardys-cough) two teams who are able to put on great show. Rusev and Nakamura seem like a natural tag team, so they may as well do that until there’s something for them to do as singles competitors. 2.5 Stars.
Kayla is backstage with AJ Styles, who’s found himself with fuck-all to do at Fastlane. She asks him what he’s going to do about that, huh, you big dickhead? You sitting on your couch, getting fat, trying to catch Samoa Joe sneaking up to Wendy’s room? I mean, I’m exaggerating, but Kayla is being way more aggressive than usual.
Styles makes an impassioned speech about how he’s his own worst critic, and he admits that he’s been in a slump recently, but he promises to bring himself right back up to the top. And then Randy Orton, the man with even less going on than AJ Styles, shows up for a pithy one-liner and then walks away.
Here’s Lacey Evans, who so far has demonstrated the ability to walk and wave: that’s some Mensa-level shit for your average wrestler. Still, she’d better have the technical skills of Daniel Bryan, the athleticism of Andrade and the charisma of CM Punk when she finally becomes an active wrestler, or this will have all felt like a colossal waste of my time and patience.
In other news, Roman Reigns’ cancer is in remission. Sometimes good things happen.
Kevin Owens is the wrestling face of white privilege
Kofi, Owens, Bryan and Rowan make their way to the ring, with Owens letting Kofi start off against the Champ…who tags out to Rowan. Erick takes off his shirt, that one alteration turning him from hairy hipster to scary metalhead. He shoves Kingston away, then bodyslams him. Kofi strikes back, hitting a bunch of shots to Rowan before running into a big ginger wall.
Owens tags himself in, smacking away at Rowan before getting flattened himself. He stays on Rowan, fighting back until the former Wyatt Family member hits a goddamned dropkick. Now Bryan wants in, running into a back elbow from KO. Owens tosses Bryan in the corner, then tags in Kofi for a double-team. Cautious and suspicious, Kingston goes through with it, then elevates Bryan out of the ring before tagging in Owens, who hits a senton out of the ring onto the WWE Champion!
When we come back, Kofi is in a headlock courtesy of Rowan, as backstage Orton crosses one leg over the other. Pumphandle backbreaker drops Kingston, then Bryan comes in to continue an assault, standing on Kofi’s face. Kofi continues to get worked over by both Bryan and Rowan, the beating spilling to the outside of the ring before Erick brings him back inside to keep going after him, eventually running Kofi sternum-first into the corner.
Bryan enters the match, looking for a superplex from the top rope and finding it. Bryan stays on Kofi, starting to wrench at his arm, but Kingston fights back, going for a roll-up before Bryan counters into the LaBell Lock. Kofi grasps the bottom rope with his feet, and the Champ continues the beating with a volley of kicks in the corner, only for Kingston to suddenly erupt out of the corner with a double-stomp!
Kofi crawls over to Owens, who tags himself in before unloading on Bryan, hitting a back body drop, then a missile dropkick from the top, a shot to Rowan and a back senton! A Cannonball strikes Bryan in the corner before Rowan interrupts to lock in the CLAAAAAWWWW. Owens kicks Rowan away, sends him out onto the apron and superkicks him to the ground.
Bryan runs at Owens, gets caught with a Pop-Up Powerbomb, but kicks out! He heads up to the top rope for a frog splash, but Rowan catches him, hurling him over the announce table. Kofi leaps out on the big bald bastard, gets caught, but shoves Rowan face-first into the turnbuckle and dives out on him in a trust fall!
Bryan throws Owens into the ring, misses the Running Knee and eats a stunner! Owens beats Bryan!
Good match with plenty of layers. It’s impossible for me to see Owens as anything but a heel ever, but watching him work the match as a face was an interesting experience. Kofi has to be in the main event at WrestleMania, and I never thought I’d type that sentence a month ago. 3 Stars.
Tags: AJ Styles, Aleister Black, Andrade, Asuka, Carmella, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Lana, Mandy Rose, R-Truth, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, rusev, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Bar, The Hardy Boyz, The Miz, The New Day, the usos, VInce McMahon, WWE, Zelina Vega