I’m a little distracted today because I’m a few hours away from having to watch my country get handed over to a blustering, bigoted bastard called Boris Johnson, who’s managed to convince the majority of the fraction of the nation who actually gets a vote that he’s anything other than a cynical, deviant opportunist who’s far less clever than he thinks he is. The rest of my time has been spent getting in shape for the civil unrest/riots/purges we’ve been told to expect following a No Deal Brexit. I should be alright, considering how many pensioners live nearby. I can steal their food and rip out their teeth in case that’s becomes the basis of our new currency.
But between trying not to drink myself to death and preparing for the apocalyptic hellscape to come, I’ve been watching SmackDown Live. Because say whatever you like about my country’s current political situation, but at least we don’t live under the iron sneaker heel of Shane McMahon. There’s also no Randy Orton, which isn’t a political matter although it is a plus.
We recap last Tuesday, which involved an even less authentic pretence at democracy than WWE usually manages, Shane McMahon botching a stunner and Dolph Ziggler continuing to be ineffective at damn near everything he tries.
Shane McMahon needs to jump off taller objects
The show proper begins with the New Day. Corey Graves and Byron Saxton are not present, so at least we’ll have a night away from their simmering sexual tension. Woods and Big E are apparently going to join Tom Phillips and David Otunga on commentary, and then Shane McMahon arrives, demanding the usual audio-fellatio from Greg Hamilton before reminiscing on that great nostalgia titwank: the RAW Reunion. He states that he was thrilled that Kevin Owens wasn’t present, but it has been brought to his attention that Owens has challenged him to a match at SummerSlam, despite this course of action running counter to Owens’ prime motivation of preventing Shane McMahon from taking television time away from more actual athletes. The only winning move is not to play, although there’s a great deal to be said for the kidnap and brutal murder of Shane McMahon.
Shane accepts, because God knows we’ve not had him stealing enough focus on PPV. And apparently KO has promised to quit if he doesn’t win at SummerSlam, so the result is either spoiled already or the stipulation never meant anything to begin with. The crowd chant “you can’t wrestle” at Shane, likely because “please kill yourself in front of your own children” is a tough chant to put a beat to. Shane then plays footage of Kevin Owens’ phony retirement from almost a year ago, which I’m not ashamed to admit I’d completely forgotten about. Shane says that Owens’ word means nothing – a serious claim to make in this fractured realm of lies and phony violence – and says that this time he’ll want Owens’ resignation in writing, almost like WWE is a real, actual company.
And then Owens arrives to inject life into this story that I don’t care about. He says that Shane is smart, but he claims that the Owens in the footage is a different version of himself. If he loses and then argues that the Kevin Owens who resigned was also a different version of himself, I’d be on board. I like the idea of Owens having split personalities or, failing that, some portly, scruffy Doombots. KO promises to destroy Shane at SummerSlam, then decides to just give the violent beating away on free TV.
Shane says that if Owens attacks him now, then the match is off. This stops Owens, though it shouldn’t because 1) Owens would still get the pleasure of murdering Shane inside a wrestling ring and 2) Owens is the only one wagering anything tangible on this match; a victory over Shane in an actual wrestling match means very little. What I’m saying is, Kevin Owens should spend the next hour or so tearing Shane’s limbs off. Shane then puts Owens in a match against Roman Reigns. Say what you like about Shane, and I want to submerge his head in a bucket of bleach, but that does sound like a fun match.
Backstage, Shane meets up with Elias and Drew, otherwise known as the men he pays to be his friends. Elias says that his strategy so far has been “genius”. Drew McIntyre’s from Glasgow, where they eat thistles, piss pure Irn Bru and think that the alphabet is a sexually-communicable disease, and even he knows that Shane McMahon is not a genius. Shane then makes Drew McIntyre the special guest referee of the match, ensuring that A) what would have been a good main event is watered down with too much bullshit and B) I’m instantly enraged when Kevin and Roman don’t open the match with a ten-minute beating of the aforementioned special guest referee. Elias is given the role of special guest timekeeper, because otherwise he’d sulk, and Shane makes himself special guest ring announcer. People say it’s immigrants taking people’s jobs, but it’s mostly just Shane McMahon.
Shinsuke Nakamura: concussion factory
My God, actual wrestling. Shinsuke Nakamura, who has clearly kicked Carmen Sandiego to death and stolen her coat, is making his way to the ring, setting off every seizure-detection dog within ten miles. He is facing Apollo Crews, who I’m forced to assume willed himself back into existence a month ago, escaping whatever void he’s existed in for the past several years.
The match starts hesitantly before Shinsuke latches on a headlock, gets sent off the ropes and runs into a wall named Apollo Crews. Crews continues to work over the IC Champion, hitting a bodyslam and a vertical suplex that’s so delayed that it’s damn near rude. Nakamura fights back with a flurry of strikes, but Apollo clotheslines him out of the ring and moonsaults out onto him.
Nakamura manages to avoid an attack back inside the ring, then starts going to work over his opponent, wearing him down with strikes before trying to keep him grounded with a sleeper. This beating continues, with Nakamura trying to create as many concussions as he can in Crews’ brain, trying to fight him from the inside and the outside. Crews finally powers up, hurling Nakamura across the ring before turning him inside out with a clothesline.
Apollo boots Nakamura in the skull, seeing if he can dish it out as well as take it. The “it” in this case is career-shortening concussions. A Samoan Drop, which is absolutely cultural appropriation, doesn’t get the job done, and Nakamura slips out of Crews’ press slam before walloping him in the face with a kick taking Crews down with a snap German suplex. He wants the Kinshasa, but Crews counters with a kick, hits the Angle Slam to Nakamura and almost gets the win.
Crews goes up to the top rope as a means of pissing away all his momentum, clearly following up his Kurt Angle tribute with one to Charlotte Flair. Nakamura catches him on the top, burying a knee in his gut and going for the Kinshasa again…but Crews counters, hurling Nakamura up into the air and slamming him on the mat before missing with a standing shooting star press, eating a Kinshasa and the loss.
It is astonishing to me that it’s taken this long to (hopefully) make use of Crews’ outstanding abilities. This was a very entertaining match and, by the end, I was hoping that Crews would pull out a win. 3 Stars.
Shinsuke assaults Apollo after the match, finally nailing him with a Kinshasa at ringside. I’m hopeful that this is WWE’s way of indicating Crews’ continued involvement with the Intercontinental Championship.
Sonya DeVille is backstage, and then Mandy arrives. It’s so odd to see Mandy Rose and yet not hear Corey Graves’ shuddering, shameful orgasm. Tattooed deviants aside, Mandy Rose has snitched on the IIconics to Shane for not saluting the flag or attending the Two Minute Hate or whatever, and she and Sonya have been rewarded with a match against the IIconics. There’s some confusion about whether this is for the Championships or not, because either Mandy or Sonya flub their lines pretty badly. I’ll take this over forced sexual tension; if I need that, I’ll spend more time with my Grandparents.
Damn it: someone was good enough to let Mustafa Ali inside the arena, and now he’s just making his terrible videos in stairwells. He is a fire hazard, and I will not have it. Ali’s promos are also becoming dangerously close to slam poetry, so I’d appreciate it if someone beats him into bloody unconsciousness before it gets any worse.
We’re finally abandoning all pretence about Ziggler
Meanwhile, here’s the Miz. Maybe he’s a Wild Card tonight. I truly could not give a fuck. We get shown a recap of the RAW Reunion in case you didn’t watch it. Joke’s on you, WWE: I’m not watching the recap either. Once that’s over, the Miz introduces Shawn Michaels. I used to love whenever this man showed up onscreen; now it’s getting a little sad.
Miz asks whether Shawn feels like the RAW Reunion was mostly legends taking opportunities away from up-and-coming superstars. I mean…isn’t that what WWE legends are always brought in to do? Shawn gives what was probably supposed to be a diplomatic answer but which just comes across as WWE going down on its knees and begging for love. Well, this is already cringeworthy.
We finally get around to a topic that is in any way interesting: Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar. And of course, this is interrupted by Dolph Ziggler. He says that if he ever finds himself showing up to WWE as a legend and being happy just to be there, then he’ll want putting out of his misery. Bit presumptuous of Dolph to just assume that he’ll be a WWE legend.
Ziggler tells Shawn that everyone used to idolise him, but that he kept showing up and embarrassing himself. Meh: where’s the lie? Ziggler also takes a shot at Goldberg’s wrestling, and I guess that someone had to say it, and he says that Shawn was embarrassing when he wrestled last year. Christ, I shouldn’t be agreeing with a heel in this scenario. Then Shawn admits that last year was embarrassing, but he’d be far more embarrassed if he’d worked as hard as Dolph Ziggler had and was still regarded as nothing more than a second-rate Shawn Michaels wannabe. Holy fuck, this thing got uncomfortably real.
Dolph says that there’s only one second-rate Shawn Michaels in the ring now, then rants until the Miz yells at him to just do something rather than bitching and moaning. The Miz then challenges Dolph to hit him, but Ziggler walks away. Shawn grabs his arm, then ducks the punch that Ziggler sends at him, which hits the Miz. Shawn turns around into a superkick from Dolph, getting laid out, and then the Miz chases Dolph out of the ring. That was way more entertaining than I thought it would be.
Absolutely: we can’t have a full women’s match on this show
Here’s Charlotte Flair and Ember Moon, who will be doing their best to suddenly make it seem like Ember’s always been Women’s Championship calibre rather than just some awkward kid getting bullied by Mandy and Sonya.
Charlotte starts off as the aggressor, beating Moon’s athleticism with her greater power. And then Bayley’s music hits, and the Champ comes out…allowing Moon to roll Charlotte up for the win. What in the actual fuck?
I mean, it’s not like Ember vs. Charlotte for ten, fifteen minutes would have been a great way to build Moon up as Bayley’s challenger. No: a fluke win with the help of a distraction’s definitely the way to take this. 0 Stars. Fuck you, WWE.
And then Ember tosses Bayley into the ring to get beaten up by Charlotte, then she hits Charlotte with the Eclipse and hits a second Eclipse to Moon. This is the perfect example of a complex approach being inferior to the straightforward one, and it’s a lot of what I hate about WWE.
Kofi can really hold onto a grudge
Kofi Kingston is here, ready to discover who his SummerSlam challenger is. Or, rather, he gets to pick his own opponent. I’m less and less sure what the point of Shane McMahon even is. Kofi, as we all guessed, names Randy Orton as his challenger. Orton arrives, making his way to the ring, and Kofi says that the pair of them have a little bit of history. He recounts their previous feud, and he shows footage of him hitting a Boom Drop to Orton through a table.
Kofi says that that was supposed to be the moment he rose to the main event, but that didn’t happen. But he claims that Orton used his influence to ensure that Kingston never got there which, despite Orton’s best efforts, he managed to anyway. Randy asks if that’s what Kofi really thinks, and then he says that that’s exactly what happened. He tells Kingston that he wasn’t ready then and he’s not ready now.
Orton states that he’s never had to work hard to get where he is, as though anyone would ever accuse him of working hard after seeing his matches. He says that it’s only because of him injuring Ali that Kofi is even WWE Champion right now, and he states that he could take the title away anytime. Kofi makes the match, and Orton promises to end his eleven-year fairytale.
Honestly, that was a competent way to set this up, matched with Orton’s victory from last week, and the use of real-life details really sells it. All we need now is for Orton to give Kofi his best effort at SummerSlam and this could be a very fondly-remembered feud.
A Joe/Orton feud is an intriguing idea
Samoa Joe makes his way to the ring, and Randy Orton returns, clearly wanting a closer look at the match. The bell rings, and Kofi and Joe exchange holds, each one working the other’s arm. Samoa Joe grabs a rope to break Kofi’s grip on him, and the two continue to struggle for control. Joe goes on the offensive, slamming a chop into Kofi’s chest and hitting him with a couple of headbutts before Kofi drops him with a leaping elbow and a running dropkick. Kofi dives out of the ring onto Joe, then he bundles him back inside, continuing his assault until Joe drops him face-first onto a turnbuckle.
Kofi tries to rally, but he runs right into a slam out of the corner from Joe, who hits the WWE Champion with a volley of strikes, trying to beat him into submission. Kofi takes the punishment for several minutes, getting his head wrenched around by his former challenger. He finally fires back up, catching Joe with some hit-and-run tactics before laying a Boom Drop on him.
Kofi wants Trouble in Paradise, but Joe backs away. Kofi still catches him with a dive, but suddenly Randy Orton is in the ring, going for an RKO. Kofi counters, then challenges Orton to bring it. Randy seems about ready to take him up on that, but he notices Samoa Joe behind him and RKOs Joe instead, leaving himself open to a Trouble in Paradise from Kofi.
Oh, look at that: a satisfying match that still built towards the title story. So, what the fuck happened with Ember Moon and Charlotte Flair? 2.5 Stars.
Bray Wyatt is on all of the drugs
Finn Balor’s here, fresh off his attack by the Fiend. Kayla Braxton comes into the ring to twist the knife like only she can, asking Balor about his rough fortnight. We’re shown the clip of him getting attacked by Bray Wyatt, and Finn says that he doesn’t know what the hell’s going on, but he’s going to deal with it like he deals with every problem: jump on it from a great height and try to cave in its ribcage. He challenges Bray to a match at SummerSlam, and suddenly “Firefly Funhouse” starts playing on the titantron.
Bray Rogers is there, singing Finn’s praises. He’s really nailing this role. I’ve said before that I really doubt that they can keep this going without wrecking it, but it damn sure won’t be Bray Wyatt’s fault if it does fall apart. We’re shown some disturbing footage involving the Fiend, who Bray says has accepted the challenge for SummerSlam. I really do want this to work.
In other news, R-Truth has abducted Drake Maverick’s wife. I know WWE has what you might call a “live and let live” approach to…well, felonies, but this is definitely going to end with a sobbing, bloodstained Drake Maverick standing over the body of a murdered R-Truth. And the main eventers will all still ignore it.
Backstage, Charlotte Flair has requested an interview so that she can announce that she’s having a match at SummerSlam, promising that her opponent will be better than Ember Moon. That is…well, that’s quite a large pool of people.
Owens and Reigns are goddamn morons
It’s main event time, and everyone involved in this farce make their way to the ring. My God, Drew McIntyre in a referee’s shirt is the sexual awakening I didn’t know that I was getting today. Shane proves that he’s incapable of taking the high road, making his introductions for Kevin Owens and Reigns petty and insulting. Owens heads out of the ring and says that McMahon’s getting his ass kicked by the end of the night, even if he has to go through everyone here, including Reigns.
Reigns seems to take this as a real insult, and he says that now he’s going have to kick everyone’s ass tonight. Oh, so the story here is that Reigns and Owens are intellectually deficient? I can buy that.
Owens and Reigns lock up, so clearly this isn’t some cunning ruse to run through Shane’s protectors and then murder Shane. I keep saying it, and I always will: a relatively clever individual would be a God in WWE, because they’d be the only one capable of thinking with any sense of strategy.
Eventually, Drew manages to turn Owens and Reigns against him just by being an asshole, so they attack him and Elias before going after Shane. So…there’s no reason they couldn’t have made this the plan all along, thus making Owens and Reigns look quite sensible rather than impulsive idiots who change target on account of the slightest provocation. Drew and Elias manage to run interference, taking out Owens before they and Shane start beating down Reigns.
Owens manages to save Reigns from a spear from McMahon, then superkicks Drew, leaving him open to a spear from Roman before he stunners Elias. Reigns catches Shane as the boss attempts to retreat, and he tosses him back into the ring for a Superman punch and a couple of stunners, then Owens gets on the microphone to say that if the people liked that, they’re going to love what Owens does to Shane at SummerSlam.
Tags: Andrade, apollo crews, Asuka, bayley, charlotte, Daniel Bryan, Drew McIntyre, Elias, Ember Moon, Kairi Sane, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Mustafa Ali, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The IIconics, The New Day, WWE