The coalition government of my country took a wrench to its own kneecaps yesterday and lost their majority. No-one knows what the hell is going to happen today. Tomorrow might not even happen, so great and terrible is the fog of uncertainty that presently clouds British politics. But some things are firm and steadfast. There are some institutions in which we are able to grasp such elements as certainty and even familiarity. A place where, even with the most mercurial of alliances and moral codes, there’s a sense of continuity: that what is now has always been and will be ever thus. A place where everybody knows your name.
It’s SmackDown Live.
Friends who lie on the locker room floor together, stay together
Speaking of mercurial moral codes, our first recap of the night is Bayley going fucking mental. Excuse me if I’m a little more focused on the fact that it’s the nth week that an attempted murderer has remained free following two near-fatal attacks on Roman Reigns. To be honest, everyone’s being way too relaxed about the fact that this happened. Is WWE like the Paris Opéra House and the wrestlers believe that this is the work of some theatrical figure with a deformed face and a misinformed approach to romance? Has Aiden English been seen skulking around backstage, appearing in mirrors in the women’s locker rooms and teaching them to improve their wrestling ability? Honestly, can we please just do The Phantom of the Opera but with wrestlers?
Anyhow, Bayley rocks up to the ring, looking cheerful. Maybe walloping someone with a steel chair is therapeutic; it certainly makes more sense than homeopathy. The crowd are decidedly split on their reactions towards her, though I believe that the Noes have it. Bayley comments on the confusing reception, telling everyone that they should have seen this coming, that they should have known she’d stick by Sasha, her friend and tag team partner.
The Women’s Champion claims that she’s trying to lift everyone in the Women’s Division up while also trying to teach her young fans what it means to be loyal. It’s all for the Greater Good (the greater good). She promises to put SmackDown and Women’s Division on the map, starting with her defeat of Charlotte Flair at Clash of Champions.
At this mention of her, Charlotte arrives. Jury’s out on whether professional wrestling dynamics have forced a change of her own position on the moral spectrum in reaction to Bayley, but I guess that we’re about to find out. Charlotte acknowledges that Bayley is right to call her selfish, stating that she’s the Queen of Selfishness. So, maybe no face turn just yet. She tells Bayley that she’s never pretended to be anything other than what she is, but before she can get much further, Sasha Banks makes her presence known. Wild Card? Is that still a thing? I don’t care.
Charlotte stares Sasha down, then takes advantage of the fact that Banks is still some distance away, opting to deck Bayley in the face and boot her right out of the ring. Sasha manages to reach the ring, and a brawl erupts from the pair of old rivals. Bayley, unfortunately, interrupts this love letter to 2016, blasting the Queen with a chair across the back. The crowd chants “one more time”, because, face or heel, there’s something just a tad insufferable about Charlotte. Sasha and Bayley both take turns hammering next Sunday’s challenger with an uncomfortable piece of furniture, standing over her for a moment before exiting the ring.
In other news, Daniel Bryan is demanding another apology. The last apology that I remember in professional wrestling was “I’m sorry, I love you”, and that was eleven years ago, so Bryan’s being optimistic at best.
Ali has a love/hate relationship with his own knees
First King of the Ring quarterfinal of the night, and it’s Ali vs. Elias. The high-flyer makes his way to the ring, looking amped up. Before Elias appears, we’re shown some footage of Banks and Bayley gloating backstage. We don’t hear what they’re saying because the commentary team talk right the fuck over them. Anyway, Elias arrives, and he puts his guitar on his throne and the crown on his guitar. You can’t help but like that scruffy bastard.
The bell rings, and the match begins with Elias wrenching on his smaller opponent’s arm. Ali backflips to counter, using his quickness in the early going to keep Elias from using his greater strength. A series of roll-ups from Ali get one-counts, then a hard kick to the skull sends the musician/wrestling enthusiast through the ropes and out of the ring. Ali follows a second later, diving through the ropes like a beard-seeking missile, only for Elias to snatch him out of the air and hurl him into the ropes. Ali eats a toss suplex onto the steel ramp, and Elias pauses to break the count before battering his opponent all the way around the ring, culminating by hurling him right into the timekeeper’s area.
Throughout the break, Ali is just trying to recover from the surprisingly-vicious assault he just endured. Elias isn’t helpful in this respect, mostly because he keeps trying to hurt Ali more. That’s not being a team player, Elias. Ali tries to gamely fight back, because not doing so just allows Elias to play his favourite game: “How far can I throw this small person?”
Following the break, Ali is trapped in a headlock, struggling to rise to his feet. A sudden dropkick gives the cruiserweight some relief, and he tries to capitalise on this with a series of strikes. Elias tries to bull through him with his power, but Ali’s rolling, planting him with a facebuster to the canvas. Elias rolls out of the ring, and this time Ali’s dive hits him dead on. Back inside the ring, Elias catches Ali on the second rope, gets beaten back down and eats a 450 splash right to his arm! A hurricanrana allows Ali to transition right into a crossface, torturing Elias’ damaged arm. Elias manages to reach the bottom rope, forcing a break.
Elias drags Ali into the turnbuckle, stunning him, and sit-out powerbomb almost nets him the win. Now it’s time for Elias to apply a submission of his own, locking in a stretch muffler, wrapping Ali’s busted leg around his neck. The 205 alumnus reaches the ropes, but Elias punishes him further, slamming his injured leg into the ring post. Ali fights on, climbing up to the top rope, only for Elias to shove him off; Ali manages to backflip onto his feet, but his leg goes out from under him, stopping him from capitalising on his acrobatics. Elias leaps from the top rope…right into a superkick, which damages Ali’s leg even more!
Ali bundles Elias back into the ring, heading once more to the top rope. The 450 splash is avoided, and Ali tries to kick away Elias’ attempts to go after the leg once more, only for a brutal kneedrop to the back of the leg to hobble him. Driftaway follows, netting Elias the win.
Great showing from both men. I’m a little worried about this stalling Andrade’s advancement in the tournament, heel vs. heel not being a common sight in WWE. Still, solid match. 3 Stars.
Kayla’s backstage with Samoa Joe. Wild Card? She asks him what’s up with that triple threat bullshit and also what the fuck he thinks he’s doing here. He says that he’s here to deliver a warning to whichever SmackDown superstar ends up facing him in the KOTR tournament: he’s gonna eat you.
Christ almighty: Aleister Black’s found another cupboard to lurk in. There’s your fucking Phantom of the WWE. He says that if the mountain won’t come to him, then he’ll go to the mountain. Maybe the mountain isn’t sure where to find you, Aleister. Maybe the mountain’s got better things to than check every undisclosed location in an entire arena. He promises to head down to the ring to see if anyone wants a fight with him. Well done, Black: you’ve learned how every other wrestler in the WWE arranges a wrestling match.
Let’s just keep this about the titles, please
It’s the Women’s Tag Team Champions: Pinky and the Brain. They are facing Fire and Desire, so please imagine the usual full-throated orgasm from Corey Graves. Mandy and Sonya’s new entrance choreography is throwing out some romantic vibes, and I don’t think that I could bear to watch WWE try to handle a lesbian relationship; it’d be like watching a man with no hands try to reproduce a Van Gogh.
Mandy mocks Nikki Cross to start off: always a good approach to take with the violently unstable. Rose gets her ass kicked, Glasgow-style, for several moments, until a distraction from DeVille allows Mandy to wallop her in the face. Now Fire and Desire take control with rapid tags and double-teams, but Nikki Cross is irrepressible and also fucking mental, and she overcomes the pair of them, culminating in a dive from the top rope to the pair of them on the outside!
After a commercial break, Nikki is once again on the receiving end of a beatdown. She manages to duck a high knee from Rose, and she tags out to Alexa and DeVille enters on the other side of the ring. Bliss takes the fight right to Sonya, overwhelming her with a flurry of offence. Mandy runs interference, then she tries to plant Nikki with the Double Underhook Facebuster. Cross counters it, taking Mandy out with a crossbody.
Sonya catches Alexa by surprise, hitting her with some hard strikes. Alexa answers with a DDT, and she heads up to the top rope. On the outside, Nikki is trying to choke out Mandy, but Rose slams her into the ring apron. This distraction is enough to allow Sonya to counter Twisted Bliss with a pair of raised knees. DeVille and Rose hit a double-team to Bliss, sweeping the leg while blasting her in the face with a high knee. Mandy gets the pin, and Fire and Desire just beat the Women’s Tag Team Champions.
Solid match from everyone here, and Mandy and Sonya are an obvious choice to challenge for the belts, having been together for longer than most of the other teams. 2.5 Stars.
Professional wrestler and small child, Chad Gable, is working out backstage. Has he not heard of gyms? Joe wanders by and immediately mocks Gable’s appearance. I mean, I get that the guy’s short and all, but he’s also ripped as all fuck. Even in school, I feel like short jokes would ring a little hollow if the victim was as shredded as Gable.
Kofi could have just not gone out there
Here’s Randy Orton, presumably here to talk. Gotta love that. Anyway, Orton rambles for a while: blah blah trap blah blah fraud blah blah stupid stupid. We’re shown various footage of Orton RKOing and otherwise assaulting various black men, which admittedly sounds worse than it actually is. I mean…it’s bad, but I’m pretty sure Orton doesn’t see colour; he only sees future victims. I’m not helping his case. I don’t know if that was ever my intention.
Orton then demands that Kofi come out and face him right here, right now. Well, colour me surprised: I was just about ready to take a nap until the next King of the Ring match. But it turns out to be a trap, and the Revival were clearly lying in wait for the WWE Champion. They beat Kofi down the entrance ramp, with Orton piling in to help them subdue him.
In the ring, Orton stomps Kofi while yelling “stupid” over and over and over and over and over and over again. It was an amazing callback the first time; now it’s getting a little sad. Randy tells the Revival to hold Kofi up as he rants about how he’s going to beat him in front of everyone Kingston loves next Sunday, and Kofi responds with a swift kick to the gut. This earns him a beatdown, which is what you get for not aiming for Orton’s dick when you have the chance. The Revival and Orton finish by hitting the 3DRKO, then Randy says “stupid” like a bunch more times.
We recap the various assaults on Roman Reigns and the gradual reveal that Rowan clearly had something to do with it. Now, imagine how much better that would be with a bunch of musical numbers and maybe a massive chandelier. Maybe some underground canals? Some dude throwing fireballs? Also, if you’ve not seen a production of The Phantom of the Opera, I heartily recommend it. The upshot of this is that Roman Reigns is going up against Erick Rowan at Clash of Champions, and Daniel Bryan wants another apology.
I just want Andrade to be happy
Here come Andrade and Zelina Vega, ready for the second quarterfinal of the night. They are facing worryingly-jacked toddler, Chad Gable. This reminds me of Rey Mysterio’s climb to the top, except with slightly less reference to a dead guy.
Zelina starts off by mocking Gable’s height, despite being a head shorter than him in heels. If I spent my day working with extremely strong men with very poor impulse control, I don’t think I’d spend so much time talking shit to them.
Anyway, the bell rings and Gable unleashes on Andrade, using amateur wrestling and some luchador offence to keep his opponent unbalanced. A moment’s hesitation allows Andrade to dump Chad out of the ring, and during the break, he lays a beating on him outside the ring and then inside. Gable is able to counter a back suplex and throw Andrade into the corner, gaining a reprieve. As we exit the break, both men engage in a slugfest, with Gable emerging with the advantage, hitting a running kick to the face, followed by a rolling neckbreaker. A chickenwing suplex almost gets the job done for Gable, but then he runs right into a boot to the face.
Gable catches up with Andrade on the top rope but gets caught in the tree of woe, eating a pair of boots right to the chest for the near-fall. Gable counters a German suplex attempt with a roll-up, but Andrade goes for the three amigos in response. Okay, so some reference to a dead guy. Chad reverses the final amigo into a barrage of German suplexes, technically making this an Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle cover match. Andrade counters the third German, hitting a final suplex before heading up to the top rope. A moonsault is missed, and the second moonsault sees him land across Gable’s knees!
Now Gable goes for a moonsault of his own, hitting it perfectly and almost picking up the win right there! Now Chad runs into a back elbow from Andrade, then gets flung into the ropes. Andrade misses the running knees, getting rolled into a German suplex, but Zelina distracts the referee! The spinning back elbow connects, but the Hammerlock DDT is countered into a roll-up! Gable beats Andrade!
Okay, I am pissed off because I love Andrade forever, but that was really good, and Gable vs. Elias next week has every indication of being a must-watch. Between Buddy Murphy and Chad Gable, WWE has been solid in building up underdog competitors over the past month. 3.5 Stars.
Black ain’t getting paid by the hour here
Oh, Aleister Black finally remembered the way to the ring. Maybe if he didn’t spend all his time in a cupboard, he’d have been entered into the King of the Ring tournament, the silly billy. And his opponent, Shelton Benjamin, got jobber-entranced for the second week in a row. It’s no life for a former Team Angle member.
Black and Benjamin test each other cautiously, with Shelton having to dodge both a moonsault attempt and a Black Mass in the opening seconds of the match, looking rattled. He runs right into a high knee, but Black’s pursuit of him to the outside and back into the ring allows Shelton to score a knee strike of his own, rattling Aleister momentarily. Black tries to regain control, facing stiff resistance from Benjamin. The end comes suddenly, with Black ducking a dragon whip and responding with a devastating Black Mass for the win.
Remember: a Team Angle member is for life, not just for your singleminded determination to hold onto the WWE Championship in 2003.
Short but sweet, proof that a quick match can still have merits. 2.5 Stars.
Meanwhile, Drake Maverick is backstage with his wife, evading an attack from…damn near everyone, until Bo Dallas manages to become the new 24/7 Champion off a roll-up.
One more bit of offence than I thought he’d get
Here come Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura, continuing their pan-global love affair. Zayn cuts the music, telling the crowd that they don’t get to sing along with it. He proclaims that the jobber Nakamura’s about to violently butcher represents the Miz: an example of what’s going to happen to him at Clash of Champions.
I think it’s accurate, though not legally defensible, to say that Shinsuke Nakamura literally murders his opponent so effectively that he’s automatically not a suspect in the Roman Reigns murder investigation. I think if he wants you dead, you’re dead.
What kind of sick, depraved mind puts a jobber in there with the King of Strong Style? Still, this made more sense than most squash matches. 1.5 Stars.
The 24/7 Championship insanity immediately rolls into the ring. Curtis Axel is trying to protect Bo Dallas, but Drake Maverick still manages to roll Bo up and get the belt back…only for Truth, who was disguised by the King of the Ring robes, to sneak out and roll him up, capturing his fourteenth 24/7 Championship. Haha, shit’s bananas.
Well…good for Erick Rowan
Here comes Daniel Bryan: the man we’re all sure is behind this but whom we’re all just tolerating because a coherent narrative framework isn’t considered evidence in a court of law. Bryan says that he knows how this whole thing must look, but it wasn’t him: it was the one-armed man. Actually, it was the bald man with the big beard, but Bryan claims that he will not be called guilty purely on account of his association with former members of the Wyatt Family.
Bryan says that he knows that people don’t like what he says or his ideology, but he says that he’s never lied to anyone this whole time. I’m sure that someone far more dedicated than me could find an instance of him telling a porky-pie (or whatever the vegan equivalent of that happens to be) if they went through all that footage, but I’ll admit that I can’t remember a particular case. Bryan goes on to demand an apology from Reigns, not just for attacking him last week, but for calling him a liar.
Reigns emerges, but before he can even get to the ring, Rowan attacks, smacking Reigns around on the outside. Bryan eventually tries to go to Roman’s aid, but Rowan shoves him away and continues to assault Reigns, powerbombing him against the ring post before throwing him into the ring. It looks like it’s Renewable Claw time, and Rowan definitively puts Reigns down before grabbing a microphone.
Rowan mocks Reigns for believing that Bryan was behind this, then challenges Bryan to get into the ring with him and see if he’s brave enough to slap him again. Well, shit: Erick Rowan can go on the mic. He tells Roman that he’s proud of all he’s done, but what he’s most proud of is what he’ll do to him at Clash of Champions.
Rowan then throws Roman out of the ring, blasting him with the steel steps before starting to clear off an announce table. Bryan runs up once again, trying to call Rowan off, and he actually does slap him again. Awesome, but poorly judged, and Rowan slams his recyclable ass through the announce table, standing tall amidst the devastation to end the show.
Tags: Aleister Black, Andrade, bayley, Buddy Murphy, Chad Gable, charlotte flair, Daniel Bryan, Drake Maverick, Elias, Erick Rowan, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Mandy Rose, Mustafa Ali, R-Truth, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, sami zayn, sasha banks, Shane McMahon, shelton benjamin, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, Sonya Deville, The Miz, The New Day, The Revival, WWE