I’ve resurfaced briefly from my immersion in Line of Duty and Game of Thrones to do this review, so I demand outstanding writing and some beautiful character work from this episode of SmackDown Live.
Shane McMahon didn’t get abused enough as a child
Well, off to a flying start with Shane McMahon. He plays his usual sick domination games with Greg Hamilton, like this is Fifty Shades of Grey Hair. Shane is here to talk about Roman Reigns, and golly gee willikers, I can only hope that this leads to Shane vs. Roman in a PPV match. I can’t think of anything I’d love more, except possibly brain cancer.
We’re shown the footage of Roman punching out an seventy-three-year-old man, cementing his reputation as our benevolent hero. Shane is apparently disgusted that anyone would lay his hands on Vince McMahon, so I guess repeated jumps off tall shit have finally managed to erase his memory of WrestleMania X-7. I know people change, but I feel like beating the shit out of your own father as thousands cheer you on is the kind of thing that’d stick in your mind.
Also, AJ Styles decked Vince recently, and I swear there were no consequences for that. Almost like the entire storyline got dropped out of nowhere.
Shane runs through every possible repercussion, most of which involve taking Roman off TV and therefore won’t happen as long as the man’s tumour-free. He calls out Reigns, which does make it seem like Shane wants another spear-related concussion. Not that I’d be personally opposed to that. Reigns shows up and, in the greatest of all face moves, throws away his own microphone. Loving this new characterisation.
Shane drops his own microphone, which is a lovely little bonus, and a sneak attack from Elias apparently enables Shane McMahon to beat down Reigns. I’m getting extremely bored of having to validate Shane’s need for attention, if I’m honest. I get that Vince McMahon being your father is the prime ingredient for a sad childhood, but that doesn’t mean I should have to sit here and watch this red-faced dickbag make-believe that he’s an athlete.
Reigns fights back, but apparently isn’t able to take on one wrestler and one managerial figure. On the bright side, this is the most offence I’ve ever seen Elias achieve ever. Reigns gets hit by the Drift Away, and Shane and Elias leave victorious. I already hate this episode. My tolerance for Shane McMahon is matched in a one-to-one ratio by the likelihood that he’s going to accidentally kill himself on live television.
Based on his work in this segment, Corey Graves would be an incredible state propaganda mouthpiece if a dystopian fascist nation ever needed one.
Backstage, Kofi Kingston is getting interviewed by Kayla, still giving us no hints as to who his first challenger is going to be. The message here is that apparently everything’s great, and the whole “Kevin Owens is hanging around with New Day” thing wasn’t just a one-time deal.
Lot of man-candy out there
Oh, sweet Finn Balor. At last, something I can feel good about on this show. He’ll be facing fellow gorgeous man, Andrade, in a classic example of 50/50 booking. Andrade makes a promo backstage that I get about three words of, but the commentators tell me that he was talking about destroying Finn Balor. I’m just glad Finn’s getting something resembling a storyline.
Andrade starts off with some real aggression, but the Irish are a fighty bunch, and Finn manages to seize control quickly. Zelina tries to get involved, allowing Andrade to bean Balor in the face with a boot, and the referee doesn’t immediately exile her to the backstage area. He probably has a crush on her, which I’d be the last person to condemn. Andrade makes the best of his advantage, tossing Finn out of the ring and diving out on top of him as the commercials start.
When we come back, Andrade has control of Balor’s arm, but the IC Champ is able to turn a powerbomb attempt into a DDT, staggering El Idolo. A stomp to the chest and a kick to the face drops Andrade, but Finn is too slow heading up to the top turnbuckle for the Coup De Grâce, allowing Andrade to trap him up there. Andrade brings Balor down with a Frankensteiner, which Finn turns into a pinfall attempt before sending the former NXT Champion up and out of the ring. A flying senton takes out Andrade, and Finn brings him back into the ring.
A slingblade is countered, and a spinning back elbow and a pair of running knees sees Andrade get a near-fall. He wants the Hammerlock DDT, but Balor counters with an elbow to the throat. And Zelina, who I guess just can’t reach climax without an absurd amount of mid-match interference, leaps off the top rope to try to take out Finn. Andrade ends up catching her, which allows Finn to hit the running dropkick and the Coup De Grâce. You’d think after Andrade lost his NXT Championship in this exact same way, he and Zelina would abandon this as a tactic.
Not a bad match at all, though indicative of the 50/50 booking that remains a blight on WWE. If Andrade had won, especially if he’d won clean, then it would have made him seem a real threat to Balor and raised his stock immensely. As it was, it looked like he couldn’t hang in there without Zelina’s help. 2.5 Stars.
Elias is backstage, playing his guitar. I’m truly amazed that Reigns hasn’t already zeroed in on that sound and beaten him to death with an orchestra’s worth of instruments. Elias sings a challenge for Roman Reigns at Money in the Bank, despite Elias being a huge step-down from Drew McIntyre and, let’s face it, leukemia. Shane makes the match official, then the two of them hustle away in a limo. Oh great: guess that’s where this storyline ends for the week.
I’m also in favour of Paige putting down microphones
Here’s Kairi Sane and Asuka in what I’m sure is a heartfelt attempt at bullying the former SmackDown Women’s Champion. Apparently Fire and Desire are pissed off that Paige wants nothing to do with them; it’s like they miss hanging around with a stupid accent on legs.
And here are the IIconics, who are in the rare position of being the most intelligible people in a segment. They mock the Sky Pirates 2.0, which has always sounded like a fancy way of saying “hijackers”. And apparently this is a singles match between Kairi and Peyton, and the IIconic starts off by stomping and choking Sane in the corner. Kairi manages to catch a foot, laying Royce out with a dragon screw, an axe kick and a neckbreaker, following up with a hell of a spear.
Kairi continues to take apart Peyton, pinning with after an Insane Elbow.
Exactly what you’d expect, considering the IIconics only seem to have success as a team. 2 Stars.
Mandy and Sonya then arrive to slow-clap on the ramp. That is a lot of effort to go to in order to be an asshole. Then again, this is wrestling.
God bless you, Lars Sullivan
Wait, Jinder Mahal’s back on SmackDown? Did I do something in a previous life to deserve this? Was it a genocide? This worthless sack of steroids is facing Chad Gable, or that was the plan until Lars Sullivan shows up and fucking murders the Kurt Angle clone. Go find yourself a fourth tag team partner, you headband-wearing dork.
Sullivan then proceeds to go after Mahal, who dives out of the ring before his utter lack of wrestling ability can be exposed, so Lars annihilates the Singh Brothers, whose collective HGH content doesn’t equal half of Mahal’s. I’m in favour of Lars Sullivan’s anti-Jinder-Mahal-match stance: sensible policies for a happier WWE.
R-Truth shows up, his addled brain at least able to recognise the concept of revenge, and Sullivan kills him too. They’re building this guy perfectly, and I’m having to watch comparatively less shit as a result.
Backstage, Roman Reigns accepts Elias’ challenge, though he doesn’t have the good manners to do so in the form of a song. Then again, I truly don’t know whether I’d be more or less irritated with this feud if he had done.
Bayley can’t exactly sell “tough” or “angry”
Here’s Charlotte Flair, who’s clearly decided that the Women’s Division isn’t revolving around her as much as it should. She talks over their WrestleMania match in case you’d fallen asleep by that time, then makes the point that she never actually lost the match, so she should still have the SmackDown Women’s Championship. This is Post-WrestleMania 30 Randy Orton aaaall over again.
Becky comes out and tries to explain the concept of a winner-takes-all match, adding that she did what Charlotte Flair couldn’t do: beat Ronda Rousey. But Charlotte still wants that Championship back, because otherwise she’s just a woman standing around looking like a parade float. The two have a debate about who’s scared of who and who’s in whose head, which is the kind of quality dialogue I don’t look particularly anywhere for.
Becky finally snaps at Charlotte, saying that she’s sick and tired of Flair denying other women opportunities at her Championship, saying it’s time for someone else to get a go. Bayley arrives, looking to punch her ticket. Charlotte tries to play the “patronizing asshole” card, and Bayley challenges her to a number one contender’s match, slapping the microphone out of Charlotte’s hand whilst trying to look tough, something that Bayley is biologically incapable of doing.
So close to having a Flair-free PPV
After a commercial break, Charlotte and Bayley are starting a match, tussling with each other before Bayley shoves Charlotte to the floor. Bayley continues to stay on top of Charlotte, blocking a shoulder tackle through the ropes and hanging Flair up before pursuing her to the outside, dropkicking her through the ropes.
Back in the ring, a crossbody takes out Charlotte, and Bayley keeps coming after the former Champion, who finally throws Bayley into the ropes and buys herself some breathing room with a neckbreaker. Charlotte now starts to punish Bayley, who suddenly rolls her up out of nowhere before flooring Flair with a crossbody. Charlotte takes some running shoulder blocks in the corner, but she manages to dodge a final charge, kicking the shit out of Bayley’s leg, snatching control of the match back as we go to another commercial break.
When we come back, Bayley has just blasted Charlotte with a knee to the schnoz, then almost pins her off a hard clothesline. A boot to the face takes the hugger down, and then Flair goes for the “fuck everything up” moonsault. She tries to land on her feet, but she’s no Andrade, and Bayley pounces with a back suplex. Charlotte tries to go after the knee again, but Bayley dumps her on her face, then sunset-flips the back of the Queen’s head right into the bottom turnbukle for two.
Bayley heads up to the top rope, having learned nothing from Charlotte’s own mistake. Flair takes her down off the top, goes for the Figure Eight, gets rolled up, kicks out and spears Bayley for the win.
I’m always a fan of wrestlers having multiple moves that can end a match: adds to the tension. Shame that Charlotte’s still not getting out of the number one contendership spot, but you can’t have everything. 2.5 Stars.
Backstage, Becky promises to defend both Championships at Money in the Bank, which seems like a ridiculously stupid idea.
In other news, Bray Wyatt is now the sketchiest children’s television host since Jimmy Savile. I actually can’t think of a creepier way for this character arc to go than for Bray to finally be revealed as a child molester, though it would make any future face turn a really awkward prospect.
And, on the strength of that one segment, I’m already sold on this character. Bray’s got enough acting ability and charisma to carry this off, and there’s just enough wrongness to it that the whole thing is extremely disturbing. If WWE can manage not to ruin this like they ruined Bray’s backwoods cult leader persona, I really want to see where this could go.
Kevin Owens ain’t never gonna change
Kevin Owens once again does the Big E-style announcement for New Day, proving once again that WWE can take something that worked once and hammer it into the ground until you hate it. On the bright side, Shinsuke Nakamura in a singles match.
Both Kofi and Shinsuke grapple for initial control of the match, with Nakamura gaining the advantage with a swift kick to the gut and a headlock. Kingston uses his agility to avoid concussion a la Shinsuke, finally dropkicking Nakamura out of the ring and fakes diving out onto him. Nakamura slithers back into the ring, hitting a quick collection of strikes to the WWE Champion, followed by Good Vibrations.
Kofi dodges a knee drop, hitting some choice strikes of his own, including a big splash onto his opponent, and then starts working Nakamura’s arm. Shinsuke’s not one for being beaten down, however, and he applies a sleeper hold before quickly transitioning into an armbar. Kofi escapes, staggering the Artist before laying a splash from the top rope across Nakamura’s back. Shinsuke is dropkicked off the top rope, but catches Kington mid-dive attempt, dropping a knee onto the back of his neck as we go to a commercial break.
When we return, the WWE Champion is trapped in a front facelock, held down on the mat. Some vicious knees punish Kofi, and then Nakamura slings him out of the ring. He tries to throw Kingston into the steel steps; Kofi hops over them, but misses a charge at Shinsuke, allowing Nakamura to remain in control. Back in the ring, Shinsuke kicks away at Kofi, who counters one of the blows, flipping over Nakamura and back onto his feet before taunting his opponent.
Shinsuke charges, hitting Kofi with a volley of shots before hitting a sliding German suplex whilst Kingston was hung up in the ropes. Nakamura charges up for the Kinshasa, but runs right into a double-stomp to the chest. Now it’s Kofi waiting on Nakamura; Trouble in Paradise misses, as do several kicks from Nakakmura, but SOS connects! Before Kofi can make the pin, Rusev interferes.
Good match, with some strong moments from Kofi. 2.5 Stars.
Woods and Owens make the save, with KO tossing Rusev out of the ring and Xavier disposing of Nakamura before diving out onto Rusev. Nakamura blasts Woods with Kinshasa, then Kofi saves Owens from a second Kinshasa attempt, striking Shinsuke with Trouble In Paradise.
And Owens superkicks Kofi. Thank God: the double-whammy of Owens being a face and Kofi not having a challenger was starting to get to me. Now, both my problems are solved. Owens rips off his New Day shirt and starts assaulting Kofi, and I assume that he’s as relieved as I am that he’s a total bastard again. He finally throws Kingston out of the ring before hurling him into the barricade, then the ring post, his facial expressions absolutely on point.
Owens sends Kofi back into the ring, then grabs the WWE Championship. He screams at Kofi that he’s coming for the title, and Kofi tries to fight back before Owens stomps the absolute fuck out of him, looking possessed. He once again throws Kingston out of the ring, then looks to finish him off with an apron powerbomb, only for Woods to make the save…and get powerbombed in Kofi’s place.
Looks like we’ve got ourselves a title feud.
Tags: Andrade, Asuka, bayley, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, charlotte flair, Elias, Finn Balor, Fire and Desire, Kairi Sane, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Roman Reigns, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Hardy Boyz, The IIconics, WWE, xavier woods, Zelina Vega