Dolph has a year’s worth of emotion to spend in just a few days
The show kicks off with the New Day, whose longer introduction is still throwing off crowds. Kofi is to face Dolph Ziggler on Sunday in a steel cage match, extending Dolph’s yearly few weeks of relevance by roughly 100%. But before that title match, Ziggler is going to have to face Xavier Woods tonight.
Dolph interrupts the New Day, claiming that they’re trying to distract the WWE Universe from the fact that Kofi Kingston doesn’t deserve to be World Champion. Ziggler once again reminds us that a steel cage match means that Kofi won’t have any outside help, despite the fact that no disqualifications, no roof, and an easily-opened door are all features of your standard steel cage match. Erection visible, Dolph talks about Kofi having to go back to Ghana and apologise to a whole nation for losing the WWE Championship. That’s an aspect of WWE that I’ve not seen before. Boston must be fed up of hearing “I’m sorry” from John Cena.
Kofi reminds Dolph that he’s used to cage matches, having been in an Elimination Chamber. Those are two quite different matches, Kofi. In fact, a ladder match would be a more appropriate comparison, because at least then you’re trying to prevent your opponent from scaling up to a considerable vertical height. Regardless, Kofi promises to win and remain Champion, which he sort of has to say. He reminds Ziggler that he still needs to get through Woods tonight, and Dolph requests that Kofi pay close attention to the free TV-level beating that he’s going to lay on the New Day member, then starts ranting about how “it should have been me”. I don’t know who taught Dolph Ziggler to act, but they’re either the greatest prankster of all time, or they need to be hunted for sport.
At least Jack Swagger can’t concuss Ziggler if he wins the title this time
The match begins with both men feeling each other out. Dolph Ziggler is wearing the American flag on the ass of his tights, which probably means nothing but is a fun detail. Woods and Ziggler struggle for control before a shove enrages Dolph, prompting a blind charge that Xavier takes advantage of, dropping him throat-first into the ropes. A kick to the leg allows Ziggler to go on the offensive, solidifying that advantage with a neckbreaker.
Dolph punishes Woods until a boot to the face and the Honor Roll drops him. Before Xavier can build on that, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens sprint down to the ring, assaulting Big E and Kofi Kingston. Now hol’ on just a minute there, playa. The referee, apparently wary of this clear attempt to summon Teddy Long FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE, bans Owens and Zayn from ringside, only for Woods to dive out of the ring onto them. Woods heads back into the ring, walking right into a huge DDT prior to the commercial break.
When we come back, Xavier Woods has started his comeback and the New Day have been ejected from ringside. He runs into a boot but is able to toss Dolph out of the ring, flying through the ropes feet-first and levelling Ziggler. Back inside the ring, Xavier hoists Ziggler clean over his head before dropping him onto his knees, almost ending the match with that move. Woods takes Dolph out onto the apron, but a hard shove into the ring post leaves him vulnerable to a superkick, and Woods is blasted off the apron.
Ziggler doesn’t opt for the count-out victory but instead brings Woods back into the ring for a Zig-Zag. Woods instinctively rolls over to the ropes, looking to counter the pin, but Ziggler uses the ropes to hold him up, blasting him with one more superkick to emphatically win the match.
Good, strong match to start the show. Woods looked good in defeat, though I think a more dominant Ziggler might have helped build to the PPV more. 2.5 Stars.
We take a look back at Seth Rollins hitting everyone he can find with a chair, which is definitely my favourite current WWE character trait. And apparently, Baron Corbin can get his own dressing room even when he’s one of this week’s wild cards. But he still can’t afford real wrestling gear.
Shelton Benjamin, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel are lined up outside the door, excited for this opportunity to be a special guest referee in a title match. That is a depressing sentence. Shelton Benjamin, at least, is aware that this is pure self-interest from Corbin, but is still going along with this plan, apparently secure in the idea that he’s doing so “ironically”.
Matt Hardy leaves the office, addresses Shelton as “Senor Benjamin” and leaves. It was worth it just for the callback. I’m half-convinced that the special guest referee will just be Brock Lesnar, continuing his run of appearing on PPVs that he’s not on the card for.
Coffee and NXT smack talk are serious business
Alexa Bliss is here with Nikki Cross to present A Moment of Bliss. Alexa calls for coffee but instead gets Bayley, who drinks Alexa’s coffee in a caffeine-related taunt. Bayley tries to deprogram Nikki from the one-woman cult she’s found herself in but gives up five seconds later, opting to argue with Alexa instead.
Bliss claims that Bayley made her feel worthless in NXT, calling her out on pretending to be a good person instead of a raging asshole. Bayley dismisses this as fake news, telling Alexa that she deserves nothing. The argument rages on, and Bayley states that, unlike Bliss, she’s never needed anyone to succeed. Somewhere, one of Sasha Banks’ friendship bracelets just caught on fire.
Alexa finally tells Bayley that she peaked in NXT, which is apparently fighting talk because it starts a fight. Nikki drags Bayley off Alexa and she and Bayley start arguing, leaving the Women’s Champion open for a big punch to the face from her challenger, ending the segment.
Backstage, Zelina Vega is checking herself out in the mirror when Apollo Crews comes a-creepin’. Understandably rattled at being cornered by this imposing, muscular stranger, Zelina asks what he wants. It turns out that Crews is trying to use Vega as bait to lure out Andrade, and it works like a charm: Andrade barrels out from around a corner, destroying Apollo before walking off with Zelina. I like to imagine that Charlotte and Aleister Black also enjoy spending time together whilst their partners are working.
Not a lot of viable tag teams on SmackDown right now
The B-Team is taking some time off from its busy schedule of trying to be special guest referees to get their asses kicked by Heavy Machinery. Daniel Bryan is out here to do commentary, and Erick Rowan is out here to sit in sullen silence.
The B-Team actually get some offence in during the opening moments of the match, but a huge clothesline from Tucker allows him to make the tag to Otis, who doesn’t so much clean house as he does clean the entire neighbourhood. Daniel Bryan is utterly disgusted by the prevalence of hip-thrusting in this match, which really elevates this whole contest. Heavy Machinery pick up the win with the Compactor. Erick Rowan has not said a word this whole time.
It’s a shame this feud didn’t start earlier; it would have allowed Heavy Machinery to face more teams in advance of their title match. Nevertheless, this was fine. 2 Stars.
And Seth Rollins arrives to decimate the B-Team with a steel chair. It’s a nice change, having a main Champion who’s actually a badass.
Out in the parking lot, Shane McMahon has arrived and is immediately accosted by Zayn and Owens, who demand that something is done about Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston. Shane, whose mind seems to be on other matters and who also probably has less-than-fond memories of both Sami and Kevin, puts them in a 2-out-of-3 falls against Rollins and Kingston tonight.
*Insert fake snoring noises here*
Here’s Shane McMahon, and there goes my investment. He has Elias and Drew McIntyre with him, and the three of them walk down to the ring. Shane says that he’s here to put the spotlight where it should be, several months too late. McIntyre whines about Roman Reigns overcoming a four-on-one advantage and kicking his ass, promising no mercy at Stomping Grounds.
The Miz arrives, ensuring that his own feud with Shane McMahon limps doggedly on. He seems to be here just to show the footage of Reigns destroying the Revival, McIntyre, and Shane, and then again in slow motion. It seems astonishing that I was enjoying a match between Ziggler and Woods less than an hour ago.
The Miz mocks Shane for having a rich father, prompting Shane to comment that Miz really seems to have issues surrounding father figures. Of course he does: the Miz’s father refused to tell his own son that he loved him until he won the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. The Miz says that Shane once wanted SmackDown to be the land of opportunity, whereas now he’s making himself the main event on both RAW and SmackDown. Damn it: he’s right.
The Miz says that this all started at the World Cup in
Saudi Arabia wherever that might have been, and promises to kill the Frankenstein’s monster that he’s created. Shane laughs this off, making another tag team match. Shane says that Miz can pick any partner he wants, as long as he does so in the next ten seconds.
As the countdown starts, R-Truth is wandering around at ringside. Miz spots him and instantly reforms the Awesome Truth. It’s callback city tonight.
Meanwhile, Akam and Rezar are outside Corbin’s office when the IIconics show up to eyefuck them. Feeling objectified and harassed, AOP leave to make an appointment with HR. The IIconics then run into Paige and her unfortunately-named team, and Paige mangles the English language in order to tell them that the Women’s Tag Team Championships are on the line next week in Tokyo.
Can a stipulation in one of these matches be “Shane leaves forever”?
Back in the main arena, the tag team match is on, with R-Truth and the Miz working over Elias effectively. Ideally, you’d have Elias get eliminated and then have Drew McIntyre run right over both men, but instead, I bet we see Miz losing valiantly in a handicap situation.
Drew enters the match, beating down the 24/7 Champion with some sneaky assistance from Elias. Elias re-enters the match, screwing up enough that Truth is almost able to tag out; McIntyre and Shane distract the referee, meaning the tag isn’t seen and a running knee from Elias eliminates R-Truth. Fucking called that one.
And, of course, the entire midcard locker room empties, pursuing R-Truth. There’s a commercial break, and then the Miz is fighting an uphill battle in the latest iteration of this holding pattern that’s been going on for about fifty years now. He begins a comeback against Elias, almost pinning him several times. A Glasgow Kiss from McIntyre, followed by the Claymore Kick, finishes the Miz.
My idea made far more sense. 1 Star.
And Shane throws the Miz into another Claymore after the match, managing to look utterly exhausted from that alone. A third Claymore follows, with McIntyre yelling Roman’s name like Reigns gives a fuck about what happens to the Miz.
Ember Moon is wandering around backstage, still mourning the loss of her Switch. She asks a passing Carmella if she’s seen Mandy and Sonya, and Carmella says no, busy looking for R-Truth.
So, Carmella is either blind or a liar, because Mandy and Sonya are literally fifteen feet away, eating donuts in full view of everyone. Why did Ember need to ask Carmella; they were in her line of sight when she walked into the room. Anyway, Ember Moon is here to yell at them. She finally tosses their donuts everywhere, prompting a brawl until they’re separated by referees. I’m not saying it’s a worse build than a pirate stealing Bret Hart’s jacket, but…
In other news, Bray Wyatt is getting closer and closer to snapping completely and Drew Maverick is the new 24/7 Champion. I’m not sure which is more of a harbinger of the apocalypse.
Kofi Kingston’s not getting paid by the hour
Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston make their way to the ring for the main event, followed by Owens and Zayn. Kofi immediately opens up with a Trouble in Paradise to Zayn, winning the first fall.
After a commercial break, the match begins again, with Owens and Rollins reigniting their feud from some years ago. Seth takes down Owens, exchanging tags with Kington, but a distraction from Zayn allows KO to score with a hard DDT, almost winning back a fall. We’re shown Paul Heyman watching the match backstage, meaning either Brock Lesnar’s here tonight or Heyman’s TV is broken.
Meanwhile, Zayn is taking the fight to Rollins, who’s struggling to make his way back into the match. Owens tags in, but he ends up on the receiving end of a blockbuster from Rollins, who tags out to Kofi Kingston. Kofi hits the ring with an explosion of offence, his momentum only stalling as Zayn avoids a Trouble in Paradise, booting him in the face. Kingston recovers, felling Zayn with a flying crossbody but then falls victim to the Blue Thunder Bomb.
Sami tags in Kevin Owens, who walks right into a dropkick. Kofi tags in Rollins, who dives out of the ring onto first Zayn and then Owens. Rollins catches KO with a springboard forearm over the top rope. Zayn distracts Rollins, almost allowing Owens to score a win with the Pop-Up Powerbomb, only for a Seth to kick out. An excellent exchange of reversals and counters follows, ending with Rollins hitting the Stomp to pick up the second fall and the win.
I’m impressed by the clean sweep here: exactly what was needed in advance of a PPV match. 2.5 Stars.