We’re almost there: only a few more days until the Show of Shows, wrestling Christmas, WrestleMania. I’m already coming up with some themed cocktails for the occasion and am looking forward to settling down with a Tom Rollins, a scotch on the Brocks, an Irish Kofi, a gin Becky…I swear I had more of these when I first started this list.
Randy Orton is the Club Penguin of human beings
Apparently the Kevin Owens Show is still what I will tentatively describe as “a thing”. And in case you thought this was going to be exciting, here’s Randy Orton, the dullest man to ever receive a dishonorable discharge. I’m not sure if I get more bored by Randy wrestling or talking, but I’m pretty sure having sex with me after I’d watched either would qualify as having taken place without my consent. And here’s AJ Styles, who on Sunday is going to have to wrestle this beige carpet of a human being as I watch sympathetically.
KO stumbles and falters his way through his interviewer role, something someone somewhere somehow clearly thought was a good use of his time. He asks Randy why he attacked Styles during his match with Kurt Angle last week, and Orton replies that he saved the world from having to watch an old, broken-down man embarrassing himself. That is far too true to even be an insult. Styles claims that Randy Orton knows only one move, and it’s absurd that he’s trying to discount vast array of headlocks, sleeper holds and stomps that Orton has in his arsenal. Randy replies that the RKO is so deadly that he only needs one move. It feels like everyone’s telling the truth way more than is usual in this segment.
Orton manage to drag the conversation back to sports entertainer vs. indie wrestler, but Styles has decided that getting honest and personal is far more fun and makes a crack about Randy’s failed drug tests. Jesus, the claws are out tonight. I’m on tenterhooks for Orton to admit that he needs drugs to cope with how boring his own matches are, but instead he says that if Styles was as good as he thought he was, he’d have been in the WWE a long time ago, and he’s now taken Cena’s role as “corporate bitch”. That corporate bitch has a name, sir, and it’s Roman Reigns.
At this, Kevin Owens gets up and promptly leaves the ring, satisfied at having spread a little more discord and ill-feeling throughout the wrestling world. I guess this is how he entertains himself when he’s not part of a storyline. Meanwhile, Styles and Owens get in each other’s faces, staring into each other’s eyes. I’m holding out some hope for a passionate kiss for a big ol’ swerve, but they just start fighting, like always. AJ eventually goes for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Orton catches him with an RKO. Feels like something they could have held back for the actual match, but I’m always happy to see Randy turn any move into the RKO like a wrestling Agent Smith.
Lot of international representation in this match
Aleister Black and Ricochet are here. I’m still so keen to know how these two agreed to become a team, because the only things they appear to have in common are an enthusiasm for wrestling and tattoos. They’re teaming with the Usos to take on Jobbers Without Borders.
Ricochet starts off against Cesaro, matching acrobatic ability with the Swissman’s strength, the exchange ending with an authoritative uppercut from Cesaro, who tags in Sheamus to take over. Ricochet escapes, tagging in his heterosexual life-partner to kick the Irishman in the face a lot. Black gives Sheamus such a kicking that it looks like there are still some scars left over from the Williamite-Jacobite War of 1688 (never say I don’t try to make this an educational experience), then Black tags in the Usos to continue the Usos-Bar conflict of the last few years.
Sheamus manages to club Jey Uso into submission, then tags in Shinsuke. I’d make a joke about the Samoan-Japanese conflict of whenever, but there wasn’t one; there’s just embassies and diplomatic goodwill, those selfish pricks. Rusev gets a blind tag and takes out the Uso with a low bridge, then hurls him into the steel steps and barricade before bundling him back into the ring for a kicking from Shinsuke. Jey tries to escape, but the Slightly Shittier League of Nations keep him pinned down as we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, the heels are still in control, having taken their various frustrations out on Jey all through the commercials. Nakamura hits a knee to the gut, then latches on a front facelock, holding the Uso in place. Jey manages to Samoan drop his way to freedom, tagging in Jimmy, who comes in hard and fast, giving Rusev the business before Nakamura gets involved. Ricochet disposes of Shinsuke, then gets uppercutted to hell and back by Cesaro, who takes a kick to the head from Black, who takes one in turn from Sheamus, who eats one of his own from Jey. Rusev is bamboozled by the two Usos, who double superkick him for the win.
Entertaining match, which did nothing to build towards WrestleMania on the last episode of SmackDown before, you know, WrestleMania. 2 Stars.
Alexa Bliss arrives after the close of the match, prompting Corey Graves to act like he’s just seen Mandy Rose, which is a polite way of saying “freak out and masturbate wildly”. She is apparently here to address the disloyalty that the Usos showed last week and puts them in a Fatal Four-Way Tag Team match against all of the teams in the match just now. This is supposed to be a punishment, but until now, the Usos weren’t going to get a WrestleMania payday.
A small nothing
Here are the IIconics, because it’s not like there are WrestleMania storylines that people are interested in. They address the Tag Team Scene, which sounds like a sex club, and they gush about how they might leave WrestleMania as the Women’s Tag Team Champions.
Well, that was a real waste of time but, on the bright side, it wasn’t much time.
We keep getting shown the arrest of Ronda, Becky and Charlotte, which strikes me as unrealistic because none of them were fatally shot for resisting arrest. Also, what kind of fuckwit police put two people who are trying to kill each other in the same squad car? And what kind of police car has a back window that a woman can kick through?
Brave New Miz
Here’s the Miz, who at WrestleMania will dodge a suicide dive from Shane McMahon at the very last second and thus win his match. But tonight, he’s doing charity work like any good celebrity, and this particular charity work takes the form of having a three-on-one match with SAnitY.
Miz says that WrestleMania means different things to everyone backstage, but for him it means retribution. He says that he is the best version of the Miz because of his family (except for his father). Miz claims that he’s fighting with a full heart, and along with his absurd costume, this scene could now not be more anime-esque. He promises to assault the shit out of Shane at WrestleMania, because he’s fighting for his deadbeat father’s honor. He uses SmackDown’s second “bitch” pass of the night, and SAnitY show up before this gets all CM Punk.
And then Shane comes out, saying he wanted to see this match personally. He makes the ring announcer say his name, and I’m really beginning to worry that he gets off on that, and then the match starts right before the commercial break kicks in. When we return, the Miz seems to be surviving alright against SAnitY, giving the Yes Kicks and running knees to Dain and Young.
Shane interrupts, making the match “falls count anywhere. That…really doesn’t change all that much, to be honest. He also shows Miz a photo of him grabbing Mr Miz’s face, because that emotional well clearly isn’t dry. The Miz still beats on SAnitY, disposing of them like the worthless jobbers WWE seems to think they are. He almost pins Wolfe, then takes Young for a trip through the tech area.
Honestly, a three-on-one falls count anywhere match has real potential, particularly with the use of hiding and hit-and-run tactics, isolating one team member at a time.
Young and the Miz end up outside, the other members of SAnitY being battered away in the Miz’s wake. If Miz is this formidable as a face, why was he ever a heel? The Miz then mildly crushes Young with a trolley, pinning him in what had better be a far inferior match to the one we’re getting on Sunday.
I hope WWE realises there’s the germ of a good idea in what they threw out just here. This wasn’t stellar by any means, but it was entertaining enough. 2 Stars.
Shane McMahon is in a car, watching the match, then drives away. Did he know that it would end up in the parking lot, or was that happenstance? And then a squad car pulls up. I genuinely thought that Miz was going to get arrested for assault and public indecency, which would have retroactively made this a five star match, but WWE is pulling a Get Out on us, and it’s actually Becky Lynch.
So…the police department acts as a taxi service for people they’ve arrested? That cop had its lights and sirens on just to drop Becky Lynch off at the arena. This was literally a subplot in The Usual Suspects, for God’s sake.
Becky walks through the parking lot, glancing bemusedly at the knocked-out members of SAnitY before electing to just ignore it.
Corey Graves can’t get no respect
We see a flashback from Monday involving Becky, Charlotte and Ronda. It’s not WrestleMania until someone’s in custody or has at least attempted murder. And I’m not sure what legal magic Vince managed to work in-universe to get these women released. Are they out on bail? Have the charges been dropped? Rousey, at least, assaulted a police officer, which feels like something the law would come down heavily on.
Corey Graves gets into the ring and introduces Becky to the ring. She comes out, grabs a microphone and stands on the announce table to make her statement. Becky says that it’s amazing what a difference a year makes; last year, she and Charlotte were the best of friends, and it seemed like the stars were aligning to make Ronda vs. Charlotte at this year’s WrestleMania. But Becky says, with sheer force of will, she managed to derail all of that.
She promises that this feud will explode at WrestleMania, and says that she’ll exit WrestleMania as the first ever double Women’s Champion. She drops the mic and points at the WrestleMania sign, as is the tradition.
Backstage, Bryan is reading his contract over with Erick Rowan. I find it hilarious that we are expected to believe that A) wrestlers go over their contracts before signing and B) Erick Rowan knows how to read.
Top Ten Anime Betrayals
It really does feel like the show is desperately trying to fill time tonight, which is odd ahead of the most packed WrestleMania I’ve ever remembered. Did the Undertaker really steal that much focus? I’m sure Samoa Joe and Rey Mysterio have some antics they could be getting up to. Why in the name of God are we doing an eighteen-person mixed-match challenge?
The highlights so far include a rare EC3 sighting and Corey Graves reaching back in time, grabbing hold of his virginity and flinging it at Mandy Rose. The Hardy’s are also there, making everyone’s expectations of a WrestleMania match with the Usos seem…well, ridiculous.
Lacey Evans arrives, sees the amount of black people in the ring and makes herself scarce. Meanwhile, Nikki Cross and Zelina Vega are having a fun old time in the ring, with Vega at on stage hitting a 619 that she transitions from into a modified tarantula; I’ve never been more jealous of Aleister Black. EC3 finally tags in, getting to face Jeff Hardy and get that glorious contact high.
Matt tags in, going to work on EC3. I’m barely paying attention to any of this and probably won’t until Andrade tags in. Jesus, even Asuka’s in this match. A week ago, she was the Women’s Champion. We go to a break, and so far the best thing about this match is Nikki Cross being very noticeably in character whilst on the apron. After the break, Mandy Rose and Naomi are half-heartedly writing the next chapter in their feud, and finally R-Truth and Andrade tag in to remind us of the outstanding US Championship matches we just stopped having for some reason.
R-Truth and Carmella declare a seven-second dance break, and Gallows breaks it up by tossing Truth out of the ring. Then Naomi throws out Karl Anderson, hilariously leading to a disqualification. It’s difficult to say how Anderson’s stock could sink any lower, but I have faith in WWE to come up with something I’d never even considered.
The only fun thing about this was seeing all the characters reacting to each others’ quirks, like Nikki Cross imitating Matt Hardy’s “WONDERFUL” and everyone enjoying the dance break. We actually need more of that, but this match itself was absolutely pointless. 1 Star.
And it all breaks down, with the statutory “chuck everyone out of the ring” shtick. Otis manages to terrify Mandy before Shelton Benjamin prevents a cut-and-dry sexual harassment lawsuit. Cross throws out Mandy before confusing the hell out of Shelton Benjamin and then rabidly attacking him. This should all just have been post-match insanity. Asuka and Jeff Hardy work together to toss out EC3, then Asuka fucks Jeff over and throws him out too.
But it’s no SmackDown Women’s Championship.
If Samoa Joe doesn’t kidnap and murder Dominic, WrestleMania is ruined
Here’s Samoa Joe. It’s our second-to-last chance to watch him choke out Dominic Mysterio, but it looks like he’ll be beating Mustafa Ali to death instead. You know what? Fair play to Joe for taking on another cruiserweight in a warm-up match; that’s the sort of prep you rarely see.
Joe tries to box Ali in, finally trapping him in the corner and smacking him into a tan cruiserweight pesto. Mustafa fires back with a dropkick, sending Joe out of the ring, allowing him to dive out onto him. Ali keeps up the offence with a big-time tornado DDT and facebuster. Samoa Joe may be biting off more than he can chew with Rey Mysterio.
The 450 splash misses, and then Joe chokes out Ali, proving that if he can only hit one move in a match, it had better be the Coquina Clutch.
This felt like it could have been a good match if we’d trimmed less necessary stuff from earlier in the show, like…God, most of what’s happened in this show.
Oh, some actual storyline build
Oh, here’s Daniel Bryan and his bald, bearded lawyer. They’re don’t appear to have the contract with them, leaving me no option but to assume that Rowan ate it. And Michael Cole is there, so apparently SmackDown announcers can’t be trusted to handle a WrestleMania contract signing. Michael introduces Kofi Kingston and the New Day, who dance their way to the ring as Bryan dares to be sour.
Before Michael Cole can even get out a “vintage”, “oh my” or “it’s Bawss time”, Bryan informs him that his services will no longer be required, having to wait for the crowd to stop chanting like crazy for Kofi before he can even say anything. Bryan says that he knows that this is now happening, and he’s not going to try to stop it from going ahead. He warns against being complacent and buying into the “good enough” frame of mind, and then says not to be a bystander in your own life, like Kofi Kingston has been until now.
Bryan finally ends the lesson by drawing a comparison between the WWE Universe’s support for Kingston with his own experience five years ago, warning Kofi that he’s not feeding off them, they’re feeding off him like parasites. The crowd are not happy with the character assassination and call Bryan an asshole. And Kofi’s had enough of Bryan’s big boy words, saying it’s time for him to listen.
Kofi says that he watched as Bryan became World Champion within two years of his WWE career, whilst he’s not had a singles chance at the Championship in eleven years. He says that Bryan knows exactly what comes next, and it’s going to happen at WrestleMania, just as it did for Bryan himself. Kofi signs the contract, staring down at Bryan as the show ends.
Tags: AJ Styles, Aleister Black, Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, Ronda Rousey, rusev, Samoa Joe, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Bar, The New Day, the usos, WWE