Kevin Owens just can’t do empathy
No gentle lead-in tonight: we go right to Daniel Bryan and Erick Rowan’s Beards on Tour band. Bryan is wearing a gilet, furthering his devolution into a man who will eventually cast off the trappings of humanity to go live in the woods forever. I give it two years before he’s the fucking Samsquantch.
Either that or he’s cosplaying as Zeb Coulter; both theories have merit.
Smirking, Bryan directs our attention to a video of the very second that Kofi’s dreams died and the WWE Universe remembered “oh yeah, Vince is sort of a racist”. And this then switches to a video of Owens pinning Bryan from last week. So…is this supposed to show that Bryan’s fine with getting beaten by a white guy? Is this our new WrestleMania 19? Is Bryan going to pin Kofi thirty seconds after the Running Knee?
Bryan gets on the microphone and says he stayed silent whilst everyone gushed about Kofi Kingston and when Kingston was replaced. But now it’s his turn to speak, so you bitches better love the environment and/or racism and/or Erick Rowan’s taste in t-shirts. The WWE Champion says that he’s not here to talk about Kingston, who could never hope to make it in the big leagues. That’s why the New Day is on a promotional tour in India, so…fuck you for wanting real stars, India?
And then Bryan segues into fat jokes about Kevin Owens and then calls him a nobody. It is weird to hear people booing that. But Bryan says that being a nobody makes Owens dangerous, like a school shooter or that guy who killed Jon Lennon. He once again ties his Championship reign to the fate of the entire planet, like you needed another reason to keep Bryan at the top of the card forever, then Owens interrupts.
Owens says that while he was injured, he watched Bryan’s descent into madness like it was a Shakespearean drama with way more Phenomenal Forearms. Kevin Owens continues to preach to Bryan about thinking he’s better than everyone else, like we’ve all just forgotten the kind of patronising son of a bitch Owens was day-in, day-out prior to his injury. It seems like KO might have been a bit peeved about Bryan tossing out the WWE Championship, though his motivation might be shifting to fat jokes given the amount of them in this segment.
Bryan then claims that Owens has no friends in what is quite possibly the laziest feud of the century. Owens claims he doesn’t need any friends to beat Bryan, then tries to desperately get the fact that he’s not a racist for taking Kofi’s spot clear in everyone’s mind. He gets into a brawl with first Rowan and then Bryan, but the numbers game adds up so Rowan can hit his stupid skull-chokeslam.
Well, that was certainly a thing that happened.
This programme is skyrocketing my blood-alcohol content
Here come the Usos, trapped in a feud that I wish I could hold under water for a good ten to fifteen minutes.
The Usos talk about their opponents, well aware that they’re just supposed to show up and witness Miz stabbing Shane in the back. They make fun of Miz’s terrible relationship with his father and Shane’s irrepressible desire to Owen Hart himself on live television. I’m still trying to work out if this is worse than the Mandy Rose storyline as the Miz and Shane show up.
And they want to talk too, so I’m going to pour myself a nice malty bottle of patience and try to ride this out at somewhat less than a hundred percent sobriety. Shane gargles something about how the power of friendship can overcome being good at wrestling and the Miz stakes his pride and dignity on a father’s love and the SmackDown Tag Team Championships, neither of which are anything I have any emotional investment in.
When we come back, the commercial break has eaten up a lot of the match like a Hungry, Hungry Hippo. Jey Uso is slapping the Miz around before the A-Lister slips out of a Samoan Drop attempt, hits a bunch of running knees to the Uso before almost getting caught by a backslide. The Miz recovers, hitting a DDT for a near-fall.
Skull-Crushing Finale is countered into a Samoan Drop, then the Samoan Wrecking Ball strikes. Jey heads up to the top for the Splash, but Miz gets the feet up in time. Jey catches the feet but is pushed into the corner, dodges the Miz and rolls him up, with Jimmy trying to help. Shane takes out Jimmy, Miz hits the Skull-Crushing Finale and I die a little inside.
I still hate everything about this, and I guess now the Usos are the villains for, like me, having no respect for Shane McMahon and the Miz’s dreams. The only good thing about this programme is that it must, at some point, end. 1 Star.
Kayla’s backstage with Charlotte Flair, because I guess someone had to do it. Charlotte mocks Becky Lynch for being absent, then invites Lynch to show up here tonight to discuss her capabilities prior to the match. Charlotte Flair forecasts the evil shit she plans to get up to better and at greater length than fucking Hamlet.
That’s about as long a Championship reign you get for not punching out Nia Jax
Here’s R-Truth and Carmella, proving that the Mixed-Match Challenge did way more good than such an idea deserved to do. We see the recap of Andrade not getting the fucking US Championship from last week, because stab me right in the heart, why don’t you?
Truth says that it’s still his dream to be like his childhood hero, John Cena (don’t question it), but having an Open Match Challenge every week is really difficult. R-Truth also keeps revealing the extent of his John Cena mania, and if it was any other WWE employee saying this, I’d say that Cena was in real danger of being abducted and having his skin cut off. As it’s R-Truth, I’ll just say that this is just innocent conversation from a man with the brain of a child who we’re all just happy to let fight for a living.
But I’ll let almost any mistreatment of vulnerable groups slide if it means we keep getting United States Championship Open Challenge matches, and we’re getting one tonight.
And here’s Lacey Evans, because it’s the second week and WWE’s already fucking up an extremely simple concept. As a side note, Lacey Evans could crawl out of my television screen and fellate me for the duration of SmackDown Live, and it still wouldn’t be worth the amount of build her eventual payoff has had.
Oh God, it’s Samoa Joe. This is either going to be really good or I’m going to be fucking furious in about ten minutes. And then Mysterio arrives, followed by Andrade. Fucking furious it is, then.
And the ref just makes it a Fatal Four-Way, because R-Truth clearly can’t be trusted with decisions. I know that I’ll be incandescent when the dust has settled, but I’ll admit that this has all the makings of a great match.
Following a break, Samoa Joe is wrecking everyone’s personal shit, then he foils a crossbody attempt from Mysterio by simply walking out of the way. Andrade and Truth are tossed out of the ring, then Mysterio gets bodyslammed and thrown out too. Joe continues to maul minorities (apparently Zelina Vega gets a pass) before going after Andrade inside the ring.
Mysterio tastes Joe’s general hatred of everyone as he crawls back inside, allowing Andrade to pepper Joe with shots for a few seconds before Joe regains control, chucks him out of the ring and dives through the ropes onto him. The Samoan continues to be the sole supplier of offensive moves in this match, idly kicking Andrade in the skull before going after Rey again.
Finally, Truth catches Joe with a dropkick as his challenger lifts Mysterio for a back suplex. We go to a break, and when we come back, Andrade has just hit Mysterio with the Three Amigos; can we please not get back to making Rey’s career and personality entirely about Eddie Guerrero? Which I always found to be particularly weird in-universe anyway. If the man who made me gamble my own child in a Ladder match died, I’d be opening the good scotch.
Anyway, Eddie being referenced of course leads to a comeback from Rey, leading to a Truth getting Andrade on his shoulders and Mysterio looking for the hurricanrana spot before Joe storms the ring, getting taken out by a springboard from Rey as Andrade rolls up Truth to almost capture the gold. Rey headscissors Andrade silly before Truth takes control, squashing Andrade and Rey in the corner before Joe slams him. Andrade takes out Joe with a dropkick, powerbombs Mysterio and goes for moonsault on Truth and Rey, hitting Rey!
Joe disposes of Andrade before Truth gets his comeback, taking out Joe with a slam before dumping Mysterio on him and hitting the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Joe dodges the Scissor Kick, locking in the Clutch! Rey breaks the hold with the 619, kicks out of Truth’s cover and tosses the Champ out onto the apron, where Andrade kicks him to the outside. Rey goes after Andrade with kicks to the leg, then slides out to belly-flop Truth!
Andrade flips over Mysterio on the apron, powerbombing him onto the outside! Vega hurricanrana’s Truth before Carmella superkicks her! Andrade looks shocked, then shrugs his shoulders before trying to powerbomb Mysterio into an early grave; Rey counters, spiking Andrade’s head before hitting the 619 and then the Frogsplash! Joe breaks it up with a back senton, slams Andrade hard into the mat and wins the United States Championship!
I can’t actually believe it. It’d be too much to ask for Joe to keep the Open Challenge thing going, though I can hope. This type of match is exactly what we need every week on TV; it’s the perfect use of the midcard in terms of stakes and performance. 5 Stars.
We see the New Day making a video threat to show up at Fastlane. How many WWE Superstars are going to get a texts on Saturday saying “Some of you guys are alright, don’t go to the Quicken Loans Arena tomorrow”?
The Bar is the lazy punchline of the Tag Division
Here’s Aleister Black, still not worthy of getting a SmackDown Live nameplate but having to use his NXT one. That’s practically bullying. Speaking of bullying, Black and Ricochet are facing the Bar tonight. Leave Sheamus and Cesaro alone: they’re already worthless.
But before that, Kayla Braxton has tracked down Samoa Joe and is taunting him about only just winning a Championship now. She’s gotten fucking mean lately, and I love it. Joe promises to murder anyone who even thinks about challenging for his title and giving their bodies to Daniel Bryan to recycle, then heads off to try to use his shiny new belt to lure Wendy Styles out of the compound.
Meanwhile, Ricochet and the Bar arrive, and one of these teams has a match at Fastlane whilst the other has precisely sweet Fanny Adams going on. So, this should be anybody’s match.
Sheamus and Cesaro gets on the microphone to mock Black and Ricochet, just to make their inevitable loss that much more pathetic. Even making fun of the Bar isn’t enjoyable to me any more; it’s become almost a reflexive action.
Sheamus starts off against Ricochet, who bamboozles the Irishman worse than a greased case of Guinness early on. Sheamus manages to right himself, bulling the new arrival into the corner before a distraction from Cesaro allows Sheamus to knee him right off the apron and into a commercial break.
When we come back, Cesaro is in control of the One and Only, wrenching the arm whilst keeping the high-flyer grounded. The Swiss Cyborg runs into an elbow but manages to contain Ricochet momentarily, only for the NXT call-up to play hit-and-run with both members of the Bar, finally planting Cesaro with a DDT to allow a tag to Black!
The former NXT Champion comes out hard against Sheamus, hitting a combination of strike-and-flight offence before Cesaro makes a save, allowing Sheamus to hit the Irish Curse backbreaker and tag out. Cesaro wants the Neutraliser, gets flipped over onto his feet before eating the Black Mass! Black tags out, takes Sheamus out of the ring and dives out on top of him as Ricochet hits the 630 for the win!
As much as I love to rip on the Bar’s ABYSMAL recent record, this was another good match from the NXT call-ups. I’m sure they’ll not take the belts at Fastlane, but the exposure’s good, and it’s not like RAW Tag Team Championships are exactly prestigious. 2.5 Stars.
Nakamura and Rusev attack post-match, laying a beating on both men before the Bar show up to help.
And…and then the Hardy Boyz make the save. I think I was honestly happier when two faces I loved were getting beaten up.
A quick Mandy Rose match is a good Mandy Rose match
Here’s Mandy Rose, and that sound you hear is Corey Graves’ patented Mandy Rose Detector, which is literally his erection. Mandy is fighting Naomi, because I guess they had a feud recently or whatever.
Naomi opens with a kick to the face, then a slap, then a jawbreaker. Sonya tries to get involved early, then a hardcore knee to the face and a facebuster wins the match for Mandy.
That match was 100% attacks to the face. 1 Star.
And Asuka shows up behind Sonya and Mandy to randomly assault them. Between her and the Usos, it’s like there are truly no faces or heels in this modern WWE.
Kayla Braxton is backstage, looking for more WWE employees to bully. Oh look: it’s AJ Styles again. Kayla asks him about his opinion on Kofi Kingston being screwed over, and AJ Styles states that he has a dream that one day people will be judged not by the colour of their skin but by their awesome Royal Rumble escapes. Then Randy Orton shows up to say something he probably thinks is scathing. His repartee is the verbal equivalent of a headlock or sleeper hold.
The “Yeah, I Guess” of Championship feuds
Meanwhile, here’s Owens and Rowan for Owens first singles match as a face in recent memory. KO tries to build momentum early, but Erick is too big and strong to be taken down, squashing Owens in the corner before some-crazy-how hitting a dropkick. Owens rolls out of the ring, then smacks Bryan around before Rowan mauls him some more on the outside. Bryan attacks Owens, leading to the DQ.
That was a big nothing. 1 Star.
The beating continues on the outside, because it’s not like Owens beating Erick Rowan would have helped this face turn we’re all apparently pretending is happening. The environmentally-friendly duo are fixing to put Owens through the announce table before Mustafa Ali dashes down to the ring to make the save, taking out Bryan with a dropkick before diving onto Rowan, smacking him around before Bryan hits the Running Knee from the apron.
Bryan drags Ali back into the ring to stomp on his face, then Owens makes the save with a Stunner.
Kevin Owens got the least-useful bit of Stone Cold Steve Austin
Here’s Charlotte Flair, who still may not know that her father was attacked. We’re shown a recap of Ronda Rousey turning heel for all the mockery she’s received for being unable to perform a promo like a human being.
Charlotte gets the crowd chanting for Becky as a way to draw her out, like she thinks Becky Lynch is a badger of some kind. Becky comes out, looking cheerful. She says that she’s hurt and beat-up, but it’s worth it to be inside Charlotte and Ronda’s heads. She says that Rousey fucked her up a hell of a lot yesterday, but she’s still here tonight and ready to fight.
She tells Charlotte that damaged people are the most dangerous kind, as they have nothing left to lose. I thought that nobodies were supposed to be the most dangerous, at least according to Daniel Bryan, but Charlotte seems to believe Becky, because she kicks Lynch’s crutch away and starts attacking her. She pauses to rip her jacket off, and it’s a shame she doesn’t drop an elbow on it like her old Dad.
Charlotte mocks Becky as she kicks at her, looking to go after the leg, but suddenly Lynch starts smacking at her with her crutch, then somehow locks in the Dis-Arm-Her! Referees run out, because I guess now it’s suddenly not okay when an injured person is attacking a healthy person. Charlotte is freed and runs out of the ring, clutching her arm.
Tags: Aleister Black, Andrade, Asuka, Becky Lynch, Carmella, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Erick Rowan, Fastlane, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Mustafa Ali, nakamura, naomi, R-Truth, Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, rusev, Samoa Joe, Shane McMahon, smackdown live, Sonya Deville, The Bar, The Hardy Boyz, The Miz, The New Day, the usos, United States Championship, WWE, wwe championship, Zelina Vega