SummerSlam really crept up on me this year. Still, we’ve got one more episode of SmackDown, which means we’ve got just enough time for another attempt on the Roman Reigns’ life, or for Daniel Bryan to show up and say nothing, or for Goldberg to fight a door and fucking lose again.
It’s not a Trish Stratus promo without an uncomfortable use of the word “uterus”
The show kicks off with Charlotte Flair. If there was one clue that I’d use as proof that reality as I know it is a warped simulation, it’s that Charlotte is not currently gunning for one or both Women’s Championships. The Queen gets into the ring and talks about how fucking awesome she is for a while, because she’s a wrestler and that’s just what they do. The moral of her speech seems to be that there are some people who are just better than others, something that Charlotte attributes to genetics. I can already see this promo being quoted in the next mass shooter’s manifesto. In Charlotte’s socio-wrestling world theory, Trish Stratus represents the Untermensch, with her loving family apparently serving as further proof of her supposed degeneracy. I know that being Ric Flair’s child must have been a…well, let’s call it an interesting experience, but Charlotte genuinely does seem to hate anyone with a more stable family than her own. Which, if we’re honest, probably includes the Mansons.
Charlotte mocks Trish’s desire for one more match’s worth of relevance, promising to shatter her dreams before showing us a pre-prepared video package of her own career…which has apparently been hijacked and replaced with a video showing Trish’s own career highlights. Fake news media all up in this bitch. As Charlotte scowls, Trish makes her entrance, walking down the ramp as she addresses her opponent.
Trish gets into the ring, saying that she played that video to remind Charlotte of why she’s even able to be here, and why the women of today’s WWE even have the opportunities they have now. She says that the reason she wants one more match is because Charlotte Flair represents everything that she’s ever fought for, and that she wants one last time in the ring. She also quotes Harley Race, one of the more coherent dead wrestlers. In response, Charlotte promises to make Stratus bow down before the Queen, and that must have been one more allusion to royalty than Trish could put up with, because she smacks Charlotte right across the face.
Charlotte stares Trish down but can’t fight her as Stratus is wearing ridiculously huge heels. So instead, she leaves the ring, smiling awkwardly. That robe really does make her look like an old-timey actress that’s gradually slipping into insanity, and it’s amazing that WWE hasn’t done a character based on that yet.
Cruiserweights are essentially interchangeable
Goldberg’s music plays, but it’s really for Dolph Ziggler. He recreates Goldberg’s entrance, losing points for failing to concuss himself on his own dressing room door. He might be able to salvage this imitation if he manages to briefly make the Undertaker hate both wrestling and his own failing body.
Rey Mysterio makes his own entrance, but Ziggler jumps him, blasting him with a superkick before things can get underway. Good call: no-one watching would have wanted to see a match between two extremely talented performers. Ziggler grabs a microphone and yells about how every WWE Legend sucks and that he’s going to beat Goldberg at SummerSlam. I know that Charlotte’s probably going to make Trish tap, but it’s still depressing to have Ziggler speak out against the constant nostalgia trip of WWE only to know that he’s going to get steamrolled this Sunday.
And then Ali runs to the ring. This can’t be right; he should be making video packages about how he confronts evil, not actually doing it. Ali blocks a superkick from Ziggler, sending him out of the ring with a kick of his own before diving out onto him. During the break, a match between the two is formed. Well, I happily retract my comments about a match between talented competitors being called off.
Ziggler manages to gain the upper hand early on by shoving Ali off the ropes and onto the outside, continuing the assault back in the ring. Ali tries to fight his way back up to his feet, but he gets slammed face-first to the mat and locked in a headlock. Ali catches Dolph with a dropkick, trying to hammer him into submission before dodging a charge into the corner and nailing Ziggler with a facebuster.
Dolph fires back with a giant clothesline, making Ali do a full rotation in mid-air. He misses a Sweet Chin Music, almost getting rolled up, but then he headbutts Ali and wins with a second superkick attempt.
This was fine if you like watching matches without sound in a small box in the corner of your screen. 1.5 Stars.
We finally address the fact that someone in WWE is trying to murder Roman Reigns, albeit fairly amateurishly. I feel like this is the sort of thing that the police should be looking into but, much like the Catholic Church, the WWE prefers to carry out its own internal investigation. Am I suggesting that Samoa Joe be sent to the Vatican in order to find out the truth behind all the buried child rape cases and to choke out everyone involved in the cover-up? Yes. Absolutely that.
Reigns is being interviewed after what Tom Phillips calls “the hardest week of his life”. Did you hear that, cancer, you fucking jobber? Shit, didn’t Bray Wyatt once threaten to kill Roman’s daughter? Didn’t Braun Strowman tip over an ambulance with him in it? Tom Phillips has an interesting system of priorities. Roman says that this situation is difficult because he has no idea who’s out to get him, and WWE presumably has a problem with him assaulting anyone who gets too close to him out of pre-emptive self-defence. He says that he’s turned down WWE’s offer of personal security, which you’ve got to put down to him being excessively paranoid or, more likely, a fucking idiot.
Kayla asks Roman who he thinks is responsible, and his answer is “everyone who is not Samoa Joe”. Jesus, Roman: once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Translation: don’t fucking trust Samoa Joe. Roman says that he wants answers and that he’s going to find them. I’m a little worried about how calm Roman looks; I was hoping that two murder attempts would lead to a focused, furious Reigns who would draw up a list of the most likely suspects and then beat a confession out of each one until he got his answer. You know: something I could be enthusiastic about.
Ember Moon: serious challenger
Here’s Natalya Neidhart: a rare sight on SmackDown in recent months. And she’s facing Ember Moon in what is honestly a decent use of the Wild Card rule. I could absolutely get behind challengers facing each other prior to title opportunities; it makes perfect sense and can lead to matches we’d not otherwise get.
Natalya tries to use her grappling skill, but Moon’s athleticism allows to her win the exchange. Irritated, Neidhart batters Ember in the corner, but her fellow challenger lands on her feet out of a back body drop, kicking Natalya in the stomach and slamming her face right into the floor. Ember climbs to the top rope, but Neidhart’s already moving, shifting out to the apron to try to catch Moon by surprise. The pair end up at ringside, with a running dropkick from Ember Moon blasting Natalya right into the barricade.
Natalya returns fire, hurling Ember into the ring apron before clotheslining Ember. And then she locks in the Sharpshooter, refusing to release hold and leading to a DQ.
I’m actually fine with the screwy finish, but I feel like five to ten minutes of wrestling beforehand would have made this a really good segment and made both challengers look strong, something that Ember Moon desperately needs. Hell, even a straightforward victory could have done both women some good. Lazy, cautious booking at its worst. 1 Star.
Bayley runs in to make the save, forcing Natalya off Ember. Nat shoves Bayley and then walks off in a huff. Bayley helps Moon up, with Ember looking warily at her as she does so.
Is it a heel move to not wager your career?
Here’s Kevin Owens with the Kevin Owens Show. He tells Shane McMahon, tonight’s guest, to hurry up and get out to the ring. Shane eventually obliges him, but Kevin Owens cuts off his customary dictator announcement, telling McMahon that he called him out here for a specific reason: because he’s just realised that he’s the only guy risking anything in this match. KO claims that he had his reasons for this being the case, but I’m willing to bet that someone had to sit his dumb ass down and explain it to him with a giant fucking diagram.
So, Owens proposes that Shane put his own career on the line, despite Shane having no reason to accept his offer. Shane, unsurprisingly, says no, mocking Owens for offering a one-sided stipulation in his original challenge for the match. He runs down all the ways that Owens could lose the match and, therefore, his career, but then Owens claims that Shane doesn’t have any balls. There’s that Churchillian repartee that I’ve come to expect from things that aren’t professional wrestling. The two men get ready to fight, right before Elias jumps Owens, giving Shane the edge.
Owens manages to prevail momentarily, hurling Shane over the announce table and starting to clear it off, presumably to allow Shane to put him through it in a few minutes. Elias recovers, but Owens simply stunners him on the table which, once again, is literally the same as a regular stunner except for doing more damage to Owens’ tailbone. Shane strikes suddenly, beating Owens down before tipping the announce table over onto him. Owens is trapped under the table unless, you know, he wriggled out of either end like a snake. Which he totally could do.
Shane ends up propping a chair against Owens’ head and running a dropkick into it. He yells at KO until a group of referees politely request that he fuck off and let them tend to the injured man.
Was this worth the self-imposed imprisonment in that cupboard?
Here’s Sami Zayn: the one man trying to get Aleister Black the professional help he desperately needs. He gets in the ring and says that he offered Black the chance to fight at SummerSlam, but Black doesn’t dare risk losing all the hype that he’s built up. Before he can get much further, Aleister Black’s music hits, and the man himself announces that the match is happening now. Jesus: did they bump Black from the PPV? Is this all so Goldberg can delude himself into thinking he’s not a fucking disaster in the ring nowadays?
Black makes his way to the ring. I’m praying this isn’t a squash match, but I feel like no amount of incompetence would surprise me now. Sami starts off aggressively, but he’s shut down in seconds with a hard kick that sends him out of the ring. During the commercial break, Black punishes Zayn on the outside, kicking all memory of Kevin Owens out of his head. Zayn regains some control back inside the ring, shutting down Black’s attempts to take over.
After the break, Sami is still in control, taking Aleister down with a clothesline before cutting off another comeback attempt with a backbreaker and applying a chinlock. Black struggles up to his feet and more or less explodes into a barrage of offence, culminating in a springboard backflip into Zayn, a vicious knee to the head and a Black Mass for the emphatic victory.
Fair enough: not a squash. Shame we couldn’t have got a longer PPV match, but I’ll take it as long as WWE is going to commit to this push. 2 Stars.
Shelton Benjamin is still hearing an announcer’s voice in his head. With mental issues like this, it’s only a matter of time before Bayley wants a match with him. Personally, I think we need to bring his mother back.
Bray Wyatt continues to horrify but in, like, the best possible way. He talks about how dumb it was for Finn to invite the Fiend to fight him, whilst Rambling Rabbit tries to remain out of sight. Bray gets a bit more serious as images of the Fiend flash up on the screen, finishing with a cold stare at the camera and a final shot of the Fiend. Spooky shit.
Chad Gable is working out backstage with his shirt off, as one does if one happens to be a douchebag. Elias arrives to tell him to keep his workout paraphernalia away from his guitar, in case he needs to smash it over someone’s head later. In what is the biggest twist of the night, Gable apologises, accepting responsibility for the incident. This clearly confuses and infuriates Elias, who claims that he thought that Gable was a child. What kind of herculean children does Elias see on a day-to-day basis? Are the Nazis trying to build a new super-race again? Do they not mind Elias hanging around?
Anyway, it seems like a programme is being built because Elias is an asshole and Chad Gable is short. It’s not quite Tolstoy, but as long as we don’t get any bugs projected onto the ring, I’ll take it.
We’re shown a video of Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton’s rivalry. I never thought I’d be into this feud so much, but it’s been competently handled from the beginning. All this storyline needs now is for Orton to bring his A-game for the match itself (sadly never a guarantee) and for Kofi to finally get that victory over Randy and it’ll have been a great success.
I think it’s naive of us to be surprised at the revelation that Rowan’s willing to attempt murder
The New Day is here, ready for a match against Daniel Bryan and his confused pet Viking. Both teams get into the ring, with Bryan kicking things off the second the bell rings, hammering Woods before the New Day member catches him with a headscissors, sends Bryan out of the ring and dives out on top of him.
After a commercial break, Bryan is in full control of Big E…right up until the New Day member drags him into a huge clothesline, tagging in Xavier and slamming his partner onto Bryan. Now Woods works Bryan’s left arm, but the veteran drags Woods into his own corner, allowing Rowan to tag in and assert himself into the match, slamming the Tag Team Champion into the mat. Woods isn’t going to be put down, however, and he rains blows down on Rowan, wearing the big man out until Rowan simply charges directly into him, reversing the match’s momentum in a single move.
Now Rowan and Bryan go to work on Xavier Woods, exchanging tags as they beat him down in the corner. Bryan alternates between painful holds and vicious strikes, trying to keep Woods suppressed and away from his partner. Woods manages to drop Bryan with a rolling elbow, but both men are now down, with Bryan able to make the tag first, allowing Rowan to toss Xavier to the outside and hurl him all over ringside.
After another break, Woods is making his comeback, felling Rowan with a dropkick and making the tag. Big E enters the ring with a plethora of offence, laying waste to his opponents. Bryan counters a Big Ending, cutting the leg out from under Big E with a running dropkick. More kicks slam into the chest of Big E, but he surprises Bryan with a roll-up before transitioning into a stretch muffler hold…which Bryan turns into the LaBell Lock! Big E finally manages to powerbomb Bryan, who’s still latched onto his arm, and then goes to work on the former World Champion.
Bryan manages to tag in Rowan, who takes Big E down with a massive spin kick. Big E slides out of a powerslam, getting a blind tag to Xavier before charging full-blast at Rowan! Woods hits a huge elbow drop, but Bryan makes the save, only for Big E to spear him right onto the outside! Woods charges at Rowan, who takes him out with the steel steps, forcing a DQ.
That’s how you do a DQ finish: after a lot of great action. 3 Stars.
An assault follows afterwards, with Bryan and Rowan destroying the New Day at their leisure. Bryan still doesn’t make his career-altering announcement, which I personally believe WWE never had any ideas for in the first place.
Meanwhile, Roman is walking around backstage, alone and unprotected but for a single cameraman. So much for that paranoia he was talking about. He heads into the locker room and demands that everyone get out except for Buddy Murphy. He demands that Murphy tell him what’s gone down over the last week, claiming that he saw Buddy at the site of the forklift accident. Buddy denies everything, but Roman stays calm, despite the fact that grabbing, threatening and screaming at Murphy would inject a bit of emotion into this thing.
After persistent polite questioning, Buddy tells Roman that he wouldn’t tell him anything even if he knew. And…Roman starts hurling him around the locker room, trying to beat answers out of him. Um…thank you, WWE. This was literally exactly what I wanted. Buddy finally says that Rowan did it, claiming not to have seen Daniel Bryan at the incident.
The footage cuts back to the ring, showing that Bryan and Rowan have been watching all of this, their expressions tough to read. Looks like Roman’s got a couple more bitches to beat some answers out of.
Tags: Aleister Black, Alexa Bliss, bayley, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Elias, Ember Moon, Erick Rowan, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Mustafa Ali, natalya neidhart, Nikki Cross, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Roman Reigns, sami zayn, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The New Day, Trish Stratus, WWE