Well, Kofi Kingston finally has a challenger for his WWE Championship, and Kevin Owens’ shenanigans with the New Day served a purpose beyond the comedic. Can’t say I’m not a little intrigued. Then again, after that last episode of Game of Thrones, I feel like there have been some limits placed on what I’m allowed to expect from television media, which now does not include character development, coherent themes and intelligent writing.
Michael Cole wants to wear Kofi Kingston’s skin
My hopes are lowered immediately as the show opens with Michael Cole in the ring. He introduces Kofi Kingston as “the new WWE Champion”, which is like referring to your one year old child as a newborn. Good old Maggle performs the traditional verbal fellatio of Kofi, as it is now professional wrestling law that everyone has to be nice to him . I’m happy as hell that Kingston’s World Champion, but it does feel like everyone on SmackDown’s joined a cult. A real cult, too; not Bray Wyatt’s Tesco’s own brand gang of ragamuffins.
Kofi is asked how he feels, and he responds with a typical uplifting “you have to keep fighting” speech from any Rocky movie. Cole claims to speak for the entire WWE Universe, something I consider to be legally actionable, and calls Kingston’s win “the greatest WrestleMania moment ever”. I’ve been less complimentary and more honest to people that I have wanted to have sex with. We get to watch that particular moment on the titantron, and then Maggle gets disturbingly close to Kofi and says “you deserve it”. I’ve met actual convicted murderers that have put me at my ease more than Michael Cole’s been doing. Is this some residual guilt over his “I hate Daniel Bryan” phase? Is he desperate to be on the right side of history this time?
We finally get to the point of this segment, if one chooses to believe that there is a point other than Michael Cole talking a black man into bed, and that point is that Kevin Owens don’t give a damn about your boyhood dream. Kofi says that people are saying that he shouldn’t have trusted remorseless sociopath and probable Antichrist, Kevin Owens. But the New Day is like Christianity without the judgement: they’re all about those second chances and baked foods. And they were willing to believe that there was a single shred of decency left in the shrivelled husk of Owens’ soul, rather than a black hole that will eventually cause the man to rot from the inside out whilst still being a more exciting in-ring performer than Randy Orton. Kofi says that Owens can bring it at Money in the Bank, and then the number one contender and former honorary New Day member Kevin Owens arrives.
Owens says “challenge accepted”, like he’s Barney Stinson without the good looks, fashion sense, sense of personal grooming and predatory undertones, 50/50 booking preventing anyone on the roster from being a predator. Owens tells Kingston that no-one believes that he’s Championship material, and gets a few more words into his wrestling hate speech before Xavier Woods jumps him from behind. Looks like a powerbomb onto the ring apron doesn’t cripple folks like it used to. Or, you know, at all.
KO drops Woods with a superkick and exits stage left. I assumed that Owens destroying Xavier last week was so that we could have the storyline of Kofi having to face his first title defence completely alone. I guess there’s time for Owens to truly fuck him up before Money in the Bank.
Charlotte Flair will not be ignored
Here’s Bayley, committed hugger and lying-on-the-floor-like-a-petulant-child aficionado. She’s facing Becky Lynch, so get your “Charlotte Flair arrives to steal the spotlight” timers ready.
Backstage, Woods has been given a bag of ice, which is how WWE medical personnel treat any ailment: torn quads, broken freakin’ necks, Roman Reigns’ leukemia. Kofi asks Woods what he was thinking and makes it clear that Woods is in way worse shape than his “I’m totally fine” attack on Kevin Owens made him appear.
Becky gets her own Kofi-esque introduction, with the announcer hyping to double title win. I feel like this outpouring of love and praise from WWE towards Kingston and Lynch weeks after WrestleMania is almost like some subtle satire of their audience’s support for these characters. Either that or WWE has some of the worst writers ever, and their lack of understanding when it comes to human emotions makes this seem like satire when it’s just bad.
We have a look at Lacey Evans’ and Becky Lynch’s brawl from last week. Evans’ accent makes me super-curious as to her views on a Kofi Kingston as WWE Champion; I feel like they can’t possibly be positive.
The bell rings, and Becky gets the better of Bayley in the early going, dumping her out of the ring before the Hugger hangs her up on the ropes and we go to a break. When we come back, Becky seems to have hurt her knee a little bit, with Bayley taking advantage. The Lasskicker gets beaten down, despite her attempts to work her way back into the match.
Lynch finally catches Bayley with a kick to the head, building some more momentum with a flying dropkick: absolutely the best tactical decision with one bad leg. She smacks away at her fellow Horsewoman, who fires back with a punch of her own. This is met with some irritation from Becky, and she demonstrates this by punching, kicking and hurling Bayley across the ring. A double clothesline puts the pair of them on the mat and keeps Vaudeville still alive and well in wrestling.
Bayley tries for a sneaky roll-up, then scores a back suplex. She heads up to the top for an elbow drop, but lands her arm bang across Becky’s knees. Lynch immediately applies the Dis-Arm-Her for a tap-out.
Solid if quick match, which I’m impressed to see reach its conclusions without shenanigans. 2.5 Stars.
And Charlotte managed to restrain herself from interfering until the second after the match ended, almost like she knew the result and the time in advance. She boots Becky in the face, then throws Bayley into the ring post. Can’t say I’d be making extra rivals a bare handful of weeks before my Championship match, but then again I suppose I also wouldn’t use a moonsault in a fight, so I guess Charlotte and I just subscribe to different strategic and tactical schools of thought.
Aleister Black is still giving sermons in the dark, keeping us in suspense about whether WWE’s managed to ruin him yet. I personally give it a month before they have the man wrestling in vampire fangs.
It’s like the universe is trying to tell us that the Hardy Boyz shouldn’t be Tag Team Champions
Here come the Hardy Boyz, Jeff limping to the ring on crutches. I know I’ve said that anything was preferable to Matt and Jeff being Tag Team Champions again, but did I really mean, in my heart of hearts, for that to include a serious injury to Jeff Hardy?
Absolutely I did. They could find the Hardy Boyz’ headless corpses in a ditch, burned to a crisp, with a signed photograph of the Two Man Power Trip left as the only clue, and my first thought would be, “Well, at least they’re not Tag Team Champions anymore”.
Kayla Braxton is in the ring to ask Jeff how crippled he now is on a scale of Zach Gowen to a horse on his way to the glue victory. Jeff responds by showing us a promo video for Lars Sullivan, which either means that Jeff blames Sullivan for his injury or that he’s on drugs again. Let’s be fair: it could also be both.
Jeff says that he needs surgery and he’s going to be out for a long time. And Matt says that, as a result, the Hardy Boyz must now give up the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. As someone who literally prayed and sent a petition to Lourdes asking God to ensure, somehow, that the Hardys didn’t hold onto the belts for that long, I do feel a slight measure of responsibility, so, you know, you’re welcome.
Jeff starts to talk about how this isn’t the end of their journey, and that he and Matt will be back to reclaim the titles. And before I can write some sort of acidic response to that, Lars Sullivan arrives to express my thoughts in a more physical manner. Sullivan tosses Matt out of the ring, then approaches Jeff at a glacial pace, allowing Matt to re-enter the ring and get mauled in his brother’s place.
Once Matt has been deleted, Jeff Hardy raises his crutch, telling Sullivan that he can take his mobility, his Championship and his brother, but he’ll never take his freedom, and suddenly R-Truth appears out of nowhere, walloping big old Lars in the back with a chair. Let it be known that the most successful strategy for dealing with Lars Sullivan has come from the combined forces of R-Truth and Jeff Hardy, two brains so addled by drug abuse and run-of-the-mill insanity that they’re basically just there as decoration.
Sullivan, as it turns out, isn’t partial to having a heavy bit of metal slammed into his back, and he makes R-Truth aware of his frustration by literally punching the chair out of his hands. That is a power move. We’re then treated to a live-action snuff film wherein R-Truth plays a sex crime victim and Lars Sullivan plays Lars Sullivan. I love this terrifying man with his ridiculous beard, which I’ll admit is a weird thing to say about a man whom, only one sentence ago, I accused of being a serial rapist.
It seems like an oversight that Paige is not dressed as Mr Fuji
Here’s Asuka, Kairi Sane and Paige, here for tag team action. Dear God, someone let the IIconics be on commentary. What psychotic allowed this?
Apparently the Kamikazes are going to be facing a couple of jobbers, which has always seemed like a classic heel move to me. At least pretend that they’re two lady serial killers with the chance to wrestle for their freedom; that’s what I’m going to do, anyway. Both hardened convicts get about one shot in each, which is somewhat less entertaining than the IIconics straight-up bullying Byron Saxton into his next suicide attempt. Kairi gets the pin off the Insane Elbow. Sorry ladies: looks like it’s the chair for the both of you.
Squash match that allowed us to see a showcase of moves without interruption. Simple, effective, no point in rating it.
Backstage, Mandy tells Sonya that one of the two of them is going to be in the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match, and Shane has let the two of them decide between themselves, because Shane McMahon wants less friendships and more cat-fights. Rose tells Sonya that it should be her, and Sonya responds by telling her, with touching genuineness, that Mandy was so close to gaining the Women’s Championship earlier this year and that it’s only right that she should have a chance to finish that story.
Goddammit, Sonya DeVille is the purest person in wrestling right now and the friend that none of those psychopaths backstage deserves.
I’m not looking forward to the inevitable Shane/Roman SummerSlam match
Here’s Roman Reigns, who since coming to SmackDown Live has been beaten up by Elias and Shane McMahon. This really is the B show.
Roman grabs a microphone, so we’re not off to a strong start, and says that you get one shot at a first impression. Does he think that people who watch SmackDown Live don’t watch RAW and so are not aware of him? I mean, I don’t watch RAW, because who’s got three hours to throw away on that? So, his idea of a great first impression was assaulting a seventy-something year old, which is slightly less disturbing than the fact that an arena full of people stood there and praised him for it.
Shane arrives, demanding an introduction from probable-sex slave, Greg Hamilton. He tells Reigns that the McMahons own the land; the WWE employees just work on it, like…well, not slaves, but you get the idea. Roman challenges Shane McMahon, who at this stage I truly believe could beat Brock Lesnar clean at WrestleMania, to get in the ring with him alone. Shane declines, instead sending the B Team at him. Jesus, like Dana Brooke, I’d forgotten that these men existed.
Roman can’t believe that this is the extent of the bullshit, and of course it’s not: Elias is going to be the special guest referee enforcer, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. I can only assume that chemo must now seem like a pleasant memory for Roman. I think I’d rather watch Roman Reigns receiving chemotherapy than I would this match.
But that is not an option and, according to my housemate, “an unnecessarily creepy thing to say”. So the match gets underway, with the two men that are so useless that I genuinely lost all memory of them somehow able to overcome Roman Reigns for the first several minutes. Reigns finally wakes up from whatever coma he’s spent the opening portion of the match in, immediately taking out both of them. That advantage vanishes pretty damn fast, and we mercifully go into a commercial break, allowing me to pound vodka in the hopes of either enjoying this match or choking to death on my own vomit. But when we come back, the match is still going on and I can’t differentiate the keys on my keyboard.
Reigns finally starts his second comeback, and I can believe that this would be compelling if this match A) involved two threatening opponents as opposed to two men that I literally forgot were ever on the same planet as me, B) had any consequences beyond winning or losing a match and C) wasn’t part of a storyline involving Elias and Shane McMahon.
Reigns is about to win, smothering this match under a pillow like it deserves, when Elias drags the referee out of the ring. Reigns stalks Elias, gets distracted and then attacked by the Drifter. Roman gets hit with the Perfectplex, kicks out, and then Elias grabs his guitar. Reigns manages to Superman Punch Elias, spear Axel and win. I now feel a slight kinship with Roman and his struggles with cancer, because watching this match was, in a very real way, like willingly taking a kind of poison into my own body.
This was some real pointless bullshit, which is a useful phrase to describe this whole storyline. 0 Stars.
Bray Wyatt is here to terrify your children. I’ve no idea what the end goal is for this, but Bray has been outstanding in these segments. He’s so disturbing that I even feel weird writing that; it’s like I’m praising a paedophile for his hide-and-seek abilities.
Randy Orton really earned his pay tonight
Here’s Mustafa Ali, who tonight is teaming with Finn Balor to take on the team of Randy Orton and Andrade. I’m truly terrified that Orton or Corbin are going to win the briefcase again. Give it to Finn, Andrade, Ali, Richochet, McIntyre or even try to make it work for Braun again, just don’t make me watch Randy or Baron take down that briefcase for a second time.
Andrade arrives and promptly insults everyone in the match, including his own tag team partner. I’m minded to view that as a strategic error, though it’s that’s not as bad as it could be, as no-one in the ring can really understand Andrade. Orton starts off the match by smacking Ali around, something that seems to continue throughout the commercial break, only ending as Mustafa scores a dropkick to the Viper.
Andrade tags in, as does Balor, and the speed of the match increases like we’re suddenly not watching a man fight both his opponent and the treacle that the air appears to be made out of in every Randy Orton match. Both Finn and Andrade trade advantages, one-upping at each other at a furious speed, until the IC Champion tosses Andrade out of the ring and dives out onto him, with Ali taking out Orton on the other side of the ring!
Finn wants to end the match right there, but some interference from Zelina allows Andrade to drag himself back into the fight, bringing Balor down off the top rope before slamming both knees into the man’s head for a near fall. Finn reverses the Hammerlock DDT, dropping Andrade before tagging in Ali for the 450…and it’s over.
That was really quick, though I am fine with some action being kept in reserve for the PPV. Shame Andrade had to eat the pin, though that seems to have been his role since making it to SmackDown. 2.5 Stars.
And Orton drops Balor with an RKO after the match, because God help us if he doesn’t look dominant even in defeat. But then Ali superkicks his unoriginal ass out of the ring, standing tall to end the segment. I did not see that coming.
There’s a new interviewer backstage, and she is either drunk or terrible at her job. She does, however, just about manage to announce the final two participants in the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match: Ember Moon and Carmella. I’d joke about Carmella not being allowed to have a man win it for her this time, but I would not put it past R-Truth to get himself involved somehow. Let’s face it: I wouldn’t even be mad.
More WWE segments should involve action figures
And Kevin Owens needs to harvest more hatred from a live audience, because that’s his main source of nutrition. He says he’s taken away all the pageantry and decoration from the Kevin Owens Show, because he is the show. Owens says that, earlier tonight, he was trying to make the point that Kofi is drowning, and Owens is there to save him from his fate by taking the WWE Championship away from him. Last week, Owens stood on Kofi’s head, which is probably the least-helpful thing you could do for a drowning person. I might be reading too much into that.
Owens invites Woods to come down and join him, and is met with a resounding silence. He says that he came equipped with a plan B. Like all brilliant plans, it involves an action figure. Owens places the Action Figure!Xavier Woods on the interviewee’s chair, then adds an Action Figure!Big E to keep him company. I’ve missed evil Kevin Owens. Owens starts to talk about how he thinks Woods and Big E feels, but he is interrupted by Kofi Kingston, who walks down onto the ramp, staring a hole in Owens.
Kofi takes off his shirt and charges towards the ring: clearly a man with something on his mind and a burning desire to share it. Owens and Kingston brawl, and Kofi gets the better of the exchange, dropping KO and hammering blows into his face. Owens escapes to the outside, but you can’t evade the anger of a pancake-loving man, and the assault continues on the outside, with the World Champion hurling a chair onto Owens’ prone body, yelling at him all the while.
Owens manages to rake Kofi’s eyes, sprinting away into the crowd following the separation. The two exchange a long look as the show fades to black.
Tags: Aleister Black, Andrade, Asuka, bayley, Becky Lynch, Carmella, charlotte flair, Elias, Ember Moon, Finn Balor, Kairi Sane, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Lacey Evans, Lars Sullivan, Mandy Rose, Mustafa Ali, Paige, R-Truth, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Shane McMahon, smackdown live, Sonya Deville, The B-Team, The Hardy Boyz, The IIconics, WWE, xavier woods