Shane’s iron grip on the dystopian hellscape he presides over is getting lazier by the second, because not only does he kick off the show by telling us that he won’t be on SmackDown tonight, he does so by recording a message on his mobile phone, making his face look even chubbier and flaccid than it usually does.
Shane is placing the blame for his absence squarely on the shoulders of Kevin Owens, whom he promises to defeat at SummerSlam and make redundant, blah blah blah, I’ve already lived this a thousand times.
Well, speak of the devil and he shall appear, in this case manifested as a portly Canadian. It’s Kevin Owens, who last week came to the genius conclusion of “if I’m already beating up Shane McMahon at every opportunity, then I probably don’t have to do what he says either”. I’m sure that there’s a correlation between all the blows to the head wrestlers take and the fact that most of them have the logic skills of a concussed turnip, but damned if I can make the connection.
Owens starts off by over-exaggeratedly telling the audience to remain calm and try not to despair at the news that Shane’s not there, providing more evidence that a warmed-over retread of Stone Cold Steve Austin was never going to match the original. He says that, tonight, the show can finally be about the talent. It’s like WWE is trying to be both Good Cop and Bad Cop when it comes to their abysmal booking. It’s like receiving grief counselling from my children’s killer.
KO goes on to state that it’s his intention to prove that Shane doesn’t belong in the same ring as people like him, but he says that even after he wins, there’s nothing to stop Shane from dancing around every week like a sentient dildo because he’s a McMahon after all. So…a moral victory then? Yeah, that’ll pay for a house.
Drew McIntyre arrives, because Kevin Owens hasn’t had his nose headbutted into his skull yet and that’s an affront to the Scotsman’s cultural sensibilities. He tells Owens that they have a match tonight, then he smacks the shit out of him for a bit before telling him that the match is right now. See, that’s the kind of antic that Steve Austin pulled, and we loved him for it. If it’d been Owens who’d interrupted and then assaulted McIntyre, I’d be his number one fan.
Not much America in this match
The match starts with Owens trying to fight back from underneath, taking a strong suplex from McIntyre and then a huge belly-to-belly. McIntyre latches a hold onto the arm, keeping Owens grounded, throwing him back down to the mat when he tries to stand. KO manages to reach his feet again, but his momentum is cut off by a big back elbow from Drew.
The punishment of Owens continues, as McIntyre tries to reduce the structural integrity of his humerus to that of cooked spaghetti. Another belly-to-belly flings Owens a good way across the ring. KO manages to avoid a charge from McIntyre, who blasts the ring post before eating a Cannonball from Owens. Drew catches Owens as his opponent ascends to the top rope. Owens manages to batter McIntyre down to the mat before plummeting down on top of him with a frogsplash.
Owens continues to beat down Drew during the break, but the Scotsman is able to hurl him into the ringside barricade, regaining some of his earlier momentum. Back inside the ring, Drew batters Owens further, trying to bring him down from the top rope, but Owens once again counters McIntyre’s assault, this time headbutting the Scotsman off the top rope; that’s cultural appropriation if ever I’ve seen it. He follows that up with a senton bomb, then tries for a stunner. McIntyre counters, headbutts Owens and then slams him down onto the mat for two.
McIntyre calls for a Claymore but runs right into a superkick. A second superkick leads into the Pop-Up Powerbomb, but Drew somehow kicks out! Owens heads up to the top rope again, and again gets caught by McIntyre. A Celtic Cross from the top rope isn’t even enough to put the Canadian away, and McIntyre decides to take this thing outside. He sets Owens up on the announce table, but Owens hits him with a stunner on top of the table, which makes no difference to the move’s impact whatsoever. Back inside the ring, Owens hits a superkick and another stunner for the win.
This was really good, except for that absurdity with the stunner on the table. 2.5 Stars.
Kayla Braxton is backstage, introducing Dolph Ziggler as someone who’s caused “a lot of chaos”. Dolph Ziggler couldn’t disturb the surface of a puddle. We’re shown the footage of him superkicking Shawn Michaels, who’s the latest Hall of Famer to be shuffled out to try to improve the product without trying to do anything good. It’s not like it’s the first time an old man’s been beaten up on this show, and I truly doubt that it’ll be the last.
Ziggler says that he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, taking shots at Shawn, Mick Foley and Goldberg. I don’t understand if WWE thinks that going after Goldberg will make Dolph even less sympathetic or if this is just retribution for that hate crime of a match in Saudi Arabia, but Ziggler’s right either way. Anyway, this is all apparently leading up to Dolph vs. Miz for the infinityith time at SummerSlam, plus Dolph has a match with Balor tonight where I just bet the Fiend won’t show up to prevent a clean finish and keep both men strong.
Ember Moon is in the locker room, and she’s found herself in the weird situation of having to team up with someone whom she attacked last week. #JustWWEThings. Bayley arrives to tell Ember that she’d not be number one contender if it hadn’t been for her, and Moon looks pissed off, like she wasn’t standing in the ring when Bayley made the match. The Champ warns Ember not to try any of that “attack me from behind” shit in their match tonight, and Moon grins like a psychopath. This has an HR complaint written all over it.
Good God almighty, who let Aleister Black back in the cupboard? He’d finally come out because of Cesaro! Are you telling me that no-one could have locked the door in that time? Is Zelina having their house remodelled and this was her best option to keep Black out of the way? Does Aleister Black live in a cupboard now? Is Andrade concerned but does he also not regard it as being his business? So many questions.
Black, the man who spends 95% of his time in a fucking cupboard, says that he’s different. This is the most roundabout way of picking a fight I’ve ever seen. Where I live, it’s easy. Sometimes you can get into a fight without even realising it until someone throws a pint glass at you. Anyway, Black wants another fight but isn’t prepared to get in touch with Shane and politely ask for one.
Rough night to be Ember Moon
Here’s Ember Moon: proof that the victims of bullies are just as capable of being assholes as the rest of us. Mandy Rose and Sonya DeVille are already vindicated by history. Bayley joins Ember in the ring, and I guess that Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross are two of the other Wild Cards tonight, with the first being Drew McIntyre. Have you noticed that no-one mentions the Wild Card rule anymore? It’s WWE’s version of the insane foreign wife they’ve locked up in the attic, only it’s one of seventeen insane foreign wives and none of them have quite worked their way up to setting shit on fire yet.
Moon starts off against Bliss, her athleticism and speed keeping Alexa off-guard before she tags in Bayley, who batters the former RAW Women’s Champion right onto the outside. Nikki Cross tries to halt the assault, but Moon wipes her out with a dive between the ropes. After a commercial break, Nikki has taken advantage of Bayley, trapping her in the ring apron and hammering her.
Bliss tags in to continue the beatdown, slapping Bayley across the face before bringing Cross back in. Frequent tags are the name of the game as Cross and Bliss wear down the Women’s Champion. Bayley manages to dispose of Cross, dodges both of her opponents and makes the tag to Ember.
Moon cleans house with some impressive offence, staggering both opponents before nailing Cross with the Eclipse. Now Bliss regains control, hurling Ember into the ring post, nailing Bayley with a huge right hand and beating Moon with Twisted Bliss!
An unexpected result, which hopefully will develop this storyline a little more. 2 Stars.
Bayley heads into the ring to comfort Moon, which I hope is just a way of twisting the knife a little more when she Bayley-to-Bellies her across the ring. Oh shit: that’s exactly what does happen. Good for Bayley.
That drunk blonde interviewer is backstage with Sami Zayn, who I guess is the fourth Wild Card. Zayn says that he’s here to help Aleister Black, who’s clearly having a mental breakdown with no-one willing to help him. And Sami plans to help Black by beating the fuck out of him at SummerSlam, because that’s what passes for mental healthcare in WWE.
Kayla Braxton is backstage with Daniel Bryan, who’s been dragging his feet on that whole “career-altering announcement” thing he had going on. And he still doesn’t say anything. What is even the fuck?
It’s better than a Snooki match
And after last week’s attempt at having a WWE Legend interviewed on a WWE employee’s talk show ended with an assault, WWE is going to have a WWE Legend interviewed on a WWE employee’s talk show. There’s method in their madness, and that method is the Batshit Crazy method that originated at Fuckwit University. It’s also hosted by Jerry Lawler, so the odds of sexual harassment or a fatal heart attack just went through the fucking roof.
King is interviewing Trish Stratus, which is like booking Bill Cosby for a speaking engagement at a women’s refuge. This entire thing is stilted and horrifying, but Lawler doesn’t grab Trish’s ass, say “puppies” or suddenly clutch his arm and collapse, so I guess you could call it a success if you were a lying sack of shit.
Lawler talks about the Legends sitting backstage, talking about how they wished that they could have one last match. Please God, make it stop. King asks if Trish would like one more match, and when Stratus tries to brush that off, it brings out Charlotte Flair. Well, at least it keeps her away from the Championship for a few minutes. Charlotte arrives to make a few laboured royalty jokes, and she steps into the ring. If any more women come out here, Jerry’s going to declare a bikini contest on pure instinct.
Charlotte then mocks Trish Stratus for being a mother, I guess because she thinks that if you’re not willing to abandon every other aspect of life, including the love of your own children, then you don’t deserve to be in the WWE. Let’s face it: Charlotte Flair would sell her own newborn to Jeffrey Epstein if she got a title match out of it. Anyway, Charlotte challenges Trish to a match, forcing me to do an immediate about-turn on my whole “no more ‘one more match'” stance, because that sounds pretty good to me.
Charlotte then runs through her entire insult catalogue, reinforcing my suspicion that she really hates mothers. Trish calls Charlotte a bitch and tells her that, like every generation, they’re building on a legacy that was built before them. She rattles off a list of names of women who helped create the Women’s Revolution (can’t help but notice that Kelly Kelly wasn’t on the list). Trish accepts the match, walking off.
Backstage, the OC are providing a commentary and summary of events leading towards SummerSlam, lending the evening a theatrical element. They’re looking amped up before AJ Styles’ match against Kofi Kingston.
I’d watch an actual horror movie of this
Meanwhile, it’s another episode of the Firefly Funhouse, with Ramblin’ Rabbit coming out as quite the Finn Balor stan. But apparently Balor has made a big mistake, because the Fiend is now unleashed. So…was Balor supposed to prevent that? Was Finn supposed to follow Bray Wyatt to his second job as a children’s television presenter and beat the fuck out of him? I mean, I’m not opposed to that in the slightest, but I feel like it’s unfair to assume that Finn would know what to do.
Suddenly, Ramblin’ Rabbit flees as an irritated-looking Wyatt marches onscreen. Wyatt looks about him for a second before breaking out into giggles and then going dead serious as images of the Fiend show up. Bray is knocking this out of the park.
We get a recap of Brock Lesnar proving that murdering someone for a disturbingly-long time will make a WWE crowd cheer for you. Also, American ambulances will apparently just let someone steal their patients and assault them. Jesus, no national health insurance and now this.
And yet the Miz can’t be bothered to interfere
Here’s Dolph Ziggler, who’s recently taken to assaulting the elderly to remain relevant. There were a lot of chances to pull the trigger on this guy and to prevent this kind of elder abuse. His opponent, Finn Balor, arrives, and this match gets underway.
Dolph immediately hits Finn with a dropkick, going on the offensive early with a sleeper hold. Dolph continues to beat down Balor during a commercial break, but Finn manages to pull out a dropkick as we return. The former Universal Champion batters Dolph again and again, dashing from one side of the ring to the other before catching Ziggler with a huge kick to the side of the head.
A reverse DDT scores a two count, but Ziggler counters a slingblade, managing to score with a Famouser. He tunes up the band for Sweet Chin Music, but Balor explodes with a slingblade and a stomp before hurling Ziggler out of the ring.
And then the lights go out. Well, it’s not like I predicted this earlier in the article.
The Fiend is shown on camera briefly, then the lights come back on, revealing Ziggler stalking Balor before blasting him with a superkick. Call it a tainted win, but Dolph at least wasn’t distracted by the interference.
This was a very obvious ending, but the match itself was still fine. 2 Stars.
In the ultimate irony, Mustafa Ali is getting a Kofi push
I didn’t watch Smackville, because you can shove it up your arse, but I’ll admit that I’m happy to actually see the rematch between Ali and Shinsuke. Honestly, I’m relieved that Ali’s doing something other than making fucking videos.
Ali hits a running dropkick right off the bell, sending Nakamura out of the ring and diving out onto him. Back in the ring, Ali hits a diving crossbody, but an opening allows Nakamura to level his challenger with some hard strikes. Ali counters a reverse explodes, thwarting Shinsuke with a kick of his own before hitting a facebuster.
Nakamura catches Ali heading up to the top rope, then he blasts him with a reverse exploder. He charges up the Kinshasa but runs right into a superkick. Shinsuke just avoids the 450, misses another Kinshasa but plants Ali with a DDT. A third Kinshasa is dodged, this time with Ali rolling Nakamura up for three!
I’d like many more minutes of this, please. And sure, it’s 50/50 booking, but if it means that Ali is getting a serious push, count me in. 2.5 Stars.
We get a recap of Kofi and Orton discussing history from last week, plus some video footage with monotone commentary from Randy Orton. Jesus, bald Randy Orton was a horrifying sight. I’m poking fun, but this is genuinely a good video package: it builds on Kofi and Orton’s history whilst also pointing at a bunch of different stories heading in and out of the fateful Elimination Chamber match.
Kayla Braxton is backstage with the New Day, but Woods and Big E take over her interview duties. The New Day declare that SmackDown Live is now the Palace of Positivity, and they head out for Kofi Kingston vs. AJ Styles. Styles and the OC join them in the ring, and it’s time for high-profile main event.
You literally couldn’t pay Orton to put on a match this good
Kofi and AJ lock up, both struggling for control in the opening moments. Styles knocks Kofi down with a shoulder tackle, then Kingston wrestles Styles to the mat. Now the match gets a little more heated, with Styles hitting several hard headlock takeovers. Kofi returns a running right hand, which AJ answers with a dropkick.
Kofi manages to hit a springboard dropkick and tries to capitalise immediately with Trouble in Paradise. AJ is sent out of the ring, and the Club prevent Kofi from diving out onto him. This prompts an argument with the New Day and, in the confusion, AJ scores a sliding knee right into Kofi’s head, which he then slams right into the ring post. We go to a commercial break as Kofi tries to come to terms with having what is essentially pesto for a skull now.
When we come back, Styles is understandably in full control, wearing Kofi down. Kingston elbows his way free of a hold, then hammers his way free of Styles on the top rope before pouncing into a beautiful tornado DDT, planting AJ. Now Kofi amps it up, exploding over Styles with a flurry of offence, hitting the Boom Drop and stalking AJ for a stinger splash; Styles dodges, but he runs right into a stomp.
Trouble in Paradise is blocked, with Kofi flipping out of a fireman’s carry neckbreaker and scoring a near-fall with the SOS. AJ counters a suplex then batters Kofi with an enzuigiri, sending him into the corner. Styles charges into a kick; Kofi heads up to the top and hits a frogsplash to the back of Styles, with the Club dragging AJ out of the ring for the save.
Things get a little West Side Story between the Club and the New Day, whilst Styles decks Kofi in the face, sending him staggering back. It looks like a Phenomenal Forearm could be in the offing, but Kofi blasts Styles in the face with a boot as a brawl breaks out between the New Day and the OC. Kofi dives out onto Styles, Gallows and Anderson, but a distraction from Gallows allows Styles to regain control, hitting another huge neckbreaker. Now Styles wants the Forearm, but he dives right into Trouble in Paradise. Kudos to the guys in the production truck, who managed to fuck up every conceivable camera angle at once towards the end.
Obviously a good match, though a PPV-length bout would be several levels higher. Definitely a great choice for the main event. 3 Stars.
And we zap immediately to a Roman Reigns interview. Jesus: just pretend that the WWE Championship’s important when neither Brock or Roman’s holding it, would you?
And then someone drops a bunch of stuff onto Roman Reigns, who…is totally fine. He neglects any medical examination and walks off looking suspiciously at everything. Oh good. Another whodunit. My God, we can relive the halcyon days of Kane trying to find the Undertaker’s killer, or Cass trying to find out who attacked Enzo. God, remember all of those amazing storylines? Or the Higher Power mystery? Christ, that’s what we’ve been missing this whole time.
Fuck this, I’m day-drinking.
Tags: AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, bayley, charlotte flair, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Ember Moon, Finn Balor, Gallows and Anderson, Jerry "the King" Lawler, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Mustafa Ali, Nikki Cross, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, SummerSlam, The New Day, Trish Stratus, WWE