It’s time for another rousing episode of Twelve Years a Midcarder, with Vince McMahon playing every racist character in the world, ever, including Vince McMahon himself. It’s avant-garde, it’s daring, it’s the Road to WrestleMania.
I get nervous every time Vince has to give a promo in this feud
And we’re getting right into it, with the New Day here to speak out against centuries of injustice, but specifically what’s happened to Kofi Kingston over the last several weeks. They all seem pretty cheerful, considering that the buzz in-universe is that they’re going to quit. Maybe All Elite Wrestling made them a tempting offer. Maybe Xavier Woods is finally going to stop disappointing his professors and do something that relates to his PhD.
Woods says that they’d like to be serious for a moment, which underlines how momentous and grave this moment is, as these three would likely hurl pancakes at the funeral of a close friend. They say that the WWE Universe has been there for them this whole time, from hating them for being annoying and over-the-top to loving them for being annoying and over-the-top, and that they want to say thank you.
However, they know blatant racism when they encounter it, and Chris Jericho’s promised them all the breakfast foods they can fling, so they’re considering blowing this popsicle stand. They bring up the fucking horrible treatment of Kofi Kingston, but then say that before they quit, they need some answers. I swear, if they’ve hired Breezango to get said answers, this is the greatest angle in all of wrestling.
But they’re going the more straightforward but ultimately soul-destroying route of talking to Vince McMahon in person, and they’re happy to stay in the ring until he comes out here to talk to them. I really hope that Vince is actually at this show, or this is going to be a really short review.
But Vince does show up, so get ready for some more dog-whistles and an old man referencing his own dick a disturbing number of times. He tries to talk, but then gets interrupted by Daniel Bryan and the Boy Wyatt. Bryan’s here to make sure that this is the most ironic thing possible. He says that Vince should just let the New Day quit; they can replace them with three guys from NXT and hope like hell they don’t screw it up like every NXT call-up in recent memory.
Bryan says that Vince McMahon can’t give in to pressure, like he’s not ever seen five episodes of WWE programming in a row, demanding that he stand firm against this new attack on the master race. Woods accuses Bryan of turning into everything he’s ever fought against, calling him a hypocrite. At this point, Vince gets tired of people talking who aren’t him, and mocks the New Day for threatening to quit. He tells them they can’t quit, and I’m just praying Vince was warned before this segment not to say that he “owns” the New Day.
Vince calls Kofi a “B+ player”, which is rapidly turning into the “N word” of professional wrestling. But he says what he’s concerned about is whether Big E and Xavier Woods are a “B+ tag team”. All they have to do is a win a gauntlet tag team match tonight.
Well…another gauntlet match with the added bonus of every round featuring the New Day? I can dig that.
You thought Vince was happy going after only one minority employee?
There’s a new interviewer backstage, and she looks fucking drunk. She’s there with Becky Lynch, which might explain that, and they’re here to talk about how the RAW Women’s Championship match is going to main event WrestleMania and Becky winning the Bury the Riott Squad Challenge last.
Becky says that she’s wondering what it is that Charlotte’s bringing to the Championship match, starting to call her a third wheel, and then suddenly Charlotte’s making her entrance, interrupting Becky even though Lynch is backstage. I’m compelled to ask how Charlotte timed that so perfectly. Charlotte grabs a microphone, saying that she’s going to show what she’s going to bring to the match…and Asuka shows up.
Are they actually feeding the Empress to Charlotte two weeks before WrestleMania? What in the name of SAnitY is happening here? Have her destroy Sonya DeVille, Naomi or Sasha Banks instead. And…and then the ring announcer states that this is for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Oh good God. Is this what having no plans for Asuka looks like? Since when did the Road to WrestleMania take a turn through this dark road?
The bell rings, and this…whatever this is…is underway. Charlotte shoves Asuka up on the ropes, but the Champ quickly wraps up the arm. The counter-and-reverse is quick and furious, with Flair slamming Asuka onto the mat and applying a headlock to take control. Asuka counters, slapping on a headlock of her own. Charlotte shoots Asuka off the ropes, but earns a kick right to the stomach, staggering her early as we go to a break.
After the ads, Charlotte has regained control, dropping a bared knee to the back of Asuka’s head. The Champ’s irrepressible, however, and manages to apply a Black Widow, wrenching back hard on the Queen’s arm. Charlotte’s got the strength to break out of it, kicking out of Asuka’s attempted roll-up and stomping away at the Women’s Champion until she’s left her laying on the mat.
Charlotte tells Asuka that she’s “nothing anymore”, which would be a sad indictment of the WWE’s booking of Asuka if this wasn’t just a case of Charlotte Flair being an asshole. Said asshole runs off the ropes, getting caught by a goddamn Codebreaker from the Ayatolla of Tomorrow, who hammers away at Flair with a volley of strikes, finishing her off with a German suplex and a superkick. A running dropkick almost nets Asuka a win, but she’s on one bad leg and Flair’s still alive.
Asuka slams kicks into Charlotte’s back, but a hip attack misses, leaving Asuka open to a vicious boot that almost sees a new Champion crowned. And then Charlotte goes for her “piss all my momentum against the wall” move, otherwise known as the moonsault. And…yep, trapped in the Asuka Lock. One day, that moonsault is going to connect flawlessly, and I’ll be amazed. Flair escapes, almost winning right there with a roll-up, but a spinning kick from the Champ puts her down before another break.
When we come back, both women look worn out but are still going at each other. Charlotte chops Asuka, nearly gets rolled up and goes for the Figure Eight. Asuka knows she can’t afford to get trapped in that move with a bad leg, and frantically kicks Charlotte away, buying herself enough separation to drop the challenger with a roundhouse to the head. Charlotte kicks out of the following pin, somehow keeping herself in the match.
Now Asuka’s climbing up to the top rope, because stupidity is contagious in wrestling. Charlotte catches her, looking for a superplex…no, the Spanish Fly from the top rope! Asuka barely gets the shoulder up, wondering where the hell these matches have been for the entire rest of her Championship reign. Charlotte, understandably frustrated, resorts to trying to strangle Asuka whilst simultaneously punching the Champion to death. And this might have been a viable strategy, were it not for the fact that offering your arm to Asuka is to risk getting put in a triangle choke. And if Charlotte didn’t know that before, she absolutely does now. Asuka grips on the hold for grim death, but Charlotte Flair deadlifts the Champion right off the mat, lifting her up onto her shoulders before planting her in a Batista Bomb, but Asuka still kicks out! Backstage, Triple H smirks.
Charlotte immediately tries to go for the Figure Eight again, but Asuka still somehow has the wherewithal to resist, trying to apply a crossface, then an Asuka Lock. Charlotte struggles back, finally locking in the Figure Four, transitioning into the Figure Eight! Asuka taps! New Women’s Champion!
I am furious on behalf of Asuka, who got one good match during her Championship reign, the purpose of which was to end it. That aside, and that is huge aside, I totally get it: more prestige for the main event and now they don’t need to find Asuka an opponent. Pure match quality? 5 Stars, without question.
Orton’s obviously still sore about WrestleMania 22
And suddenly Kurt Angle’s music plays. I would not be surprised if he was about to change his last match opponent to Charlotte Flair, the way this is going. Actually, I’d want that match way more than Angle vs. Corbin, so that was a dumb example. He and Charlotte have no interaction whatsoever, making you wonder what the point of that was.
Kurt is here as part of his farewell tour for a match against AJ Styles, making his final three matches in WWE Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and…Baron Corbin. Christ. AJ Styles gets drunk-interviewed, where he says that he’s honoured to be a part of Kurt’s final days in the WWE. I’m just surprised that he managed to not mention Kofi Kingston this week.
Styles makes his way to the ring. Like Samoa Joe and unlike Baron Corbin, Styles has a long history studded with great matches with Kurt Angle, but this is the first time we get to see them match up in WWE. They shake hands, hug and then Angle German suplexes Styles, because that’s how Kurt Angle says that he loves and appreciates you. Angle goes for the Angle Slam early, but Styles leaps away, quickly locking in Calf Crusher. Angle teases tapping long enough that I thought he was actually going to do it: the man’s wrestling psychology has always been off the charts.
Suddenly, Kurt counters, managing to roll through and apply the Angle Lock! Styles struggles for the ropes, finally rolling through himself, tossing Angle into the corner. And here comes Randy Orton, who RKOs AJ Styles before Kurt Angle starts to show the cracks. Probably wise to protect Angle, but that still sucks.
Orton stomps Styles until Kurt Angle delivers an ugly Angle Slam to the Viper, sending him slithering out of the ring. Orton looks like he whacked the back of his head, and with luck he’s now forgotten how to stomp, sleeper-hold and headlock. Kurt Angle and AJ Styles celebrate in the ring together, though quite what the celebration is beyond “Randy Orton got hurt” isn’t clear.
We see an interview of Rey Mysterio and his bizarrely huge son, who namedrops Kofi Kingston to try to be part of the cool guys. Dominic seems more likely to be the Big Show’s secret son than Eddie Guerrero’s.
I hate how much of this feud has been about the Miz’s father
And here’s the Miz, who apparently has a WrestleMania proposition for Shane McMahon. If he’s betting Monroe Sky in a ladder match out of respect for Eddie Guerrero, I’m all over it. If anything, I’m frustrated that we’ve not had more matches involving wrestlers wagering their own children.
Miz is here to deliver part two of his speech from last week, and the takeaway is that he’s still angry. Beating him in front of his worthless husk of a father has made Miz want one thing in particular: to destroy Shane McMahon in a Falls Count Anywhere match. A Mr Miz on a Pole match seems far more appropriate, but Shane McMahon once tried to run Kane over backstage during a match, so what we’ve got instead still sounds exciting.
Shane shows up, accompanied by security made up of independent wrestlers and added protection made up of soon-to-be independent wrestlers. He demands that the announcer introduce him, and do it right unless he wants to get choked into sweet oblivion by his own employer. Greg Hamilton does a decent job, earning his oxygen allowance for this week.
Shane says that Miz is as dumb as his father looks, and I truly doubt that. And then Shane waxes lyrical about how many times he’s pleasured himself whilst watching the footage of him beating up one of his employees, after which he accepts Miz’s proposition. He says his only regret in this life is not beating up the Miz’s father more, and then talks about Miz’s parents having sex; I wish I was making any of this up.
Hearing talk about his parents hugging in a special way does to the Miz what mocking Eddie Guerrero does to Rey Mysterio: triggers the fuck out of him. He races right at Shane, slightly disregarding the press of bodies between the two of them. He smacks the indie workers around for a bit, reliving the early days of his feud with Daniel Bryan before turning his attention to the population of catering.
Primo and Shelton are dispatched quickly, but then SAnitY, God love them, actually get some offence in, starting to take apart the Miz. And, really, I’m almost surprised that they’ve achieve something. And then the Miz takes out all three of them as, backstage, Triple H weeps. Shane has slipped away, possibly regretting making a match between himself and a man who just took out five wrestlers and about six supposedly-professional security guards.
And here are the IIconics to say that they’re in the Women’s Tag Team Championship match at WrestleMania…which is now a Fatal Four-Way match. That sneaked right past me until right this second now. I’m in favour of everyone getting a WrestleMania payday, because I’m not a monster, but I’d have much rather seen Bayley, Sasha, Natalya and Beth duke it out in what should have been at least a solid match.
A reminder that there is no SmackDown Tag Championship match set for WrestleMania
Speaking of multiple tag teams, it’s time for the New Day to fight for Kofi’s right to compete at WrestleMania. Woods and Big E make their way to the ring, and first up is New Day vs. Gallows and Anderson. It’s got to be either the Usos to finish or another fast one where Vince tosses out Bryan and Rowan as well. Or even the surprise reformation of the Bludgeon Brothers, which would make me lose the entirety of my shit.
The match starts with Woods running right through Anderson with a dropkick, going after him hard and fast. Karl wrests control away from Xavier, landing several hard blows before running face-first into dropkick. Big E tags in, getting rid of Gallows before the New Day hit the Up Up Down Down to Anderson for the quick elimination! New Day defeat Gallows and Anderson.
People are watching backstage again; this time it’s the Hardys, Becky Lynch and Rey Mysterio. Dominic’s not there, I assume because Rey doesn’t want his son embarrassing him in front of his colleagues or because Samoa Joe’s locked him in a room and is insisting that he’s Dominic’s father now. Kid’s probably used to it.
And here’s Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev, so it’s New Day vs. Team Terrible Singles Pushes. Nakamura takes control of Woods with some hard strikes, but a headscissors allows Xavier to take advantage. A distraction from Rusev sees Nakamura hit a big knee to the gut of Woods, then the big Bulgarian lumbers in to rough Woods up before throwing him into a commercial break.
When we come back, Xavier Woods is your face-in-peril as Nakamura and Rusev wear the New Day member down. We see more people backstage (though still no sign of Miz, Owens or Styles, proving that talk really is cheap). Naomi’s also there, presumably leading to some real soul-searching for her if the Usos are sent out to put a bullet in the head of Kofimania.
Nakamura continues to punish Woods with a front facelock, transitioning into a sleeper hold before going for the reverse exploder suplex. Woods rolls out of the move, which would have thrown him over to Big E for the convenient tag regardless, and tags Big E into the match. Big E’s got belly-to-belly suplexes for days, and he Warrior Splashes Nakamura. Load up the spaceship with the motherfucking rocket fuel. Shinsuke counters the Big Ending, sending the New Day’s man out of the ring and tagging in Rusev; Big E hurls the Bulgarian into the steel steps, hustles him back into the ring and then gets hung up on the ropes by Nakamura.
A kick and then a fairly elaborate double-team move floors Big E, with Woods making the save, clearing Rusev out of the ring before planting a pair of boots into his face. Nakamura winds up for the Kinshasa, but Big E avoids it, slings Nakamura into the corner and delivers another Up Up Down Down with Woods! New Day defeat Team Had Their Chances.
More and more wrestlers are backstage watching, including Asuka of all people. If she can show up and support Kofi after what she’s been through tonight, Styles, Miz and KO had better be doing a goddamn run-in to justify their not being here.
And it’s the Bar, because maybe this is finally a match they can win. New Day vs. The Bar for Kofi’s dreams. We get a break for a promo that seems to be saying that Drew McIntyre could beat leukemia in a straight-up fight, which I for one would absolutely watch, and when we return, Sheamus has Big E on the mat, wrenching at his leg. Oh, and the Miz has joined the crowd watching the show backstage, so good for him. Even Aleister Black’s out there now, the big softy.
Big E escapes the leg wrench, but Sheamus quickly tags in Cesaro, who swings Big E for a few rotations before applying the Sharpshooter. Big E manages to shove Cesaro through the ropes, but the Swiss Cyborg recovers quickly, dragging the New Day member back towards his own corner, tagging in Sheamus to continue the assault. The Bar go for a double team, but Big E fights them both off, dragging himself to Woods, throwing Cesaro over his shoulder and tagging in Xavier!
Woods explodes into action, introducing Cesaro to the wonderful world of concussions before planting Sheamus with a tornado DDT and throwing himself over the top in a senton onto both men! A leg drop connects with Cesaro, but Sheamus breaks up the pin before we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Cesaro and Sheamus have once again regained control of the match, going back to work on Big E’s injured leg. Sheamus misses a dive from the top, recovers beautifully, but then runs right into a powerbomb from Big E! Xavier’s tagged in, weary and beaten up, and he leaps into an uppercut from Cesaro, his comeback cut short before it can begin. Cesaro heads up to the second rope for whatever in God’s name their double team is, but Big E shoves him out of the way and Xavier Woods rolls up Sheamus for the win! New Day defeat the Bar.
Oh, Kevin Owens is back there as well. All we need is you, AJ. And the Bar, because they love beating up black guys, assault the New Day after the break, going so far as to put Big E through the table.
Haha, and now it’s New Day vs. the Usos. Please God, show Naomi backstage; I need this. The Usos are apparently still confused about whether they’re faces or heels at the moment, very much wanting to start the match. They get some microphones, and either Jimmy or Jey – like it matters – says that they’ve fought wars against the New Day before, and that they know Kofi Kingston deserves to fight for the Championship at WrestleMania. Oh damn: the Usos are kicking off the revolution. And…they just forfeited. Wow: Naomi can look people in the eye in the locker room again.
We see Bryan throwing chairs and stomping shit backstage, and Rowan doing the same thing like he thinks it’ll help. After a commercial break, we’re being told that the New Day has to face one more tag team. Bludgeon Brothers, Bludgeon Brothers, Bludgeon Brothers…
Damn: almost. It’s New Day vs. Rowan and Bryan. They storm the ring, stomping the New Day immediately, assaulting them all around ringside. Big E tries to reach Woods, hammering away at Rowan, but Bryan locks in the half-crab, wrenching the man’s leg all the way around. Suddenly, Woods leaps into the ring, taking out Bryan with a dropkick! He sends Rowan over the top rope, then dives out onto him! Bryan goes for the running dropkicks, but Big E catches him slamming him to the mat! Big E drops the straps! Big Ending connects, but Rowan breaks up the pin!
Rowan wipes Woods off the apron, then tags himself in. Rock Bottom plants Big E, and the New Day member kicks out. Rather than going for the most environmentally-friendly move in sports entertainment, Rowan clears off a table, hurling a chair across the outside area, because Bryan taught him a new trick and he’s going to keep doing it, by God. Xavier takes Bryan out with a tornado DDT on the outside, then counters the Renewable Claw attempt from Rowan, running the big man into the steel post! Big E clotheslines Rowan over the desk, then tips the desk out onto him! The New Day make it back in the ring as the ref starts his count, reaching ten! New Day defeat Bryan and Rowan! Kofi Kingston goes to WrestleMania!
A second outstanding match in one night: that was played to perfection, with a quick elimination at the start, the growing challenge of competent teams, the forfeit from the Usos and the final smart strategy against Rowan and Bryan, all the while emotionally satisfying. 5 Stars.
Backstage, Kayla interviews Vince McMahon, who confirms that Kofi Kingston is going to WrestleMania. As the New Day celebrate, the locker room empties out to celebrate with him, even the referees and Byron Saxton.
But still not AJ Styles.
Tags: Asuka, Becky Lynch, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Dominic Guerrero, Erick Rowan, Gallows and Anderson, Kofi Kingston, primo colon, Rey Mysterio, rusev, Sanity, Shane McMahon, shelton benjamin, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Bar, The Miz, The New Day, the usos, VInce McMahon, WWE