So, last week Erick Rowan revealed himself to be the most incompetent murderer in recent memory. I’m still beyond pissed that we’re not getting a Phantom of the WWE storyline, which would be pure camp perfection, although I suppose that would also mean we’d have to get Superkicks Never Die some years later: a derided sequel featuring Corey Graves building a Mandy Rose automaton, Dominick Mysterio actually turning out to have been fathered by Eddie Guerrero and Shane McMahon owning an amusement park.
Before we get too inundated with references to musical theatre, let’s start the show.
Interesting definition of “ushering in a new generation of superstars”
Oh, look: it’s an embarrassment that most of us wish would just go away. Yep: the Undertaker’s here in Madison Square Garden. Maybe he’ll retire. I could get on board with that. Maybe’s he’s going to announce his nth One More Match. I would loathe that completely. Corey Graves yammers on about the fear the Deadman’s entrance still causes, which is odd because I feel like most relatively fit individuals could probably batter the decrepit fucker at this stage.
Undertaker says that he wanted to come out here and absorb the atmosphere at Madison Square Garden, and he tells the crowd to remember all the names that came out of this arena. Undertaker states that it’s time to usher in the new generation of superstar (and you could have fucking fooled me), and then Sami Zayn interrupts him. Honestly, Shinsuke Nakamura wrecking Taker’s shit would be an outstanding SmackDown moment, and I’m fully on board with that.
Sami tells the Undertaker that he’s a legend and that he truly admires his career in this very arena, which he sold out for thirty years. All the while, Undertaker squints at him like he’s someone’s dad who’s trying to understand what this Pokémon Go malarkey is all about. Zayn states that, all that aside, it should have been him kicking off the show, asking Undertaker when enough is enough. Well, I’m supporting Zayn in this particular feud, who proclaims himself to be the future. He requests that the Undertaker leave the ring and pass the torch to him. Fuck that, Sami: Helluva Kick him. I’d say Blue Thunder Bomb him but…yeah, I can’t quite see that happening.
Anyway, the Undertaker fakes out Zayn by starting to leave the ring, then chokeslams him. You’d think that Shinsuke Nakamura might have shown up to support his friend, but I guess it’s not that kind of arrangement. I don’t pretend to understand what kind of arrangement it is; I simply try not to judge.
Backstage, Shane McMahon meets with Chad Gable, vascular infant. He informs Shane that Elias has broken his ankle, thus cannot compete tonight. But he knows that Gable won’t be satisfied by just walking through to the final, so he intends to find a replacement competitor tonight, who could be from RAW or SmackDown. Fuck that: send in Adam Cole and blow everyone’s minds.
Throwing a Mexican at someone is considered an insult in all cultures
Here’s the Miz, who’s here to take on Andrade. Shinsuke Nakamura is apparently capable of getting himself down to the ring, but only if that involves sitting with the commentary team. Bad luck, Sami.
Andrade and Miz lock up for the opening tussle, both trading some extremely athletic offence as they struggle for control. We keep cutting back to look at Shinsuke because it’s clearly far more important to look at a man sitting in a chair rather than two men wrestling in the ring. I mean, for God’s sake, what if he got out of the chair? Andrade and Zelina perform Tranquilo, Andrade placing himself in an extremely vulnerable position for the purpose of, to be honest, looking sexy. Wrestling’s never been a very cerebral sport.
The Miz slams Andrade before mocking him with a Tranquilo pose of his own. Andrade charges, getting dumped out of the ring, and Zelina prevents the Miz from diving out after him. Miz ducks a blow from Andrade, almost scoring the roll-up pin, but a distraction from El Idolo prevents the referee from seeing Zelina gouging the Miz’s eyes, leaving the A-Lister open for a pair of knees to the face as we go to a commercial break.
During the commercial break, Andrade tries to cement his advantage, but the Miz refuses to make it easy for him, almost seizing control of the momentum with a suplex. Andrade manages to regain control, sending the Miz out of the ring, continuing his assault on the outside, eventually hurling his opponent into the barricade. Back inside the ring, the Miz manages to weather Andrade’s abuse, finally hitting a DDT that buys him a little time to recover.
The Miz revs up as the commercial break ends, hitting Andrade with a rush of offence, culminating in a back and neckbreaker. The It Kicks follow, with Andrade ducking the last strike only to receive a big boot to the face. Miz flays Andrade with chops in the corner, then hits a series of running knees. Andrade tries to catch Miz by surprise with a running knee of his own, but Miz ducks out of the way, sending Andrade out over the top rope!
A wrecking ball kick takes down Andrade, and following a sexually-charged staredown between Miz and Shinsuke Nakamura, the Miz hurls Andrade into the Intercontinental Champion. Back inside the ring, Zelina grabs the Miz’s foot, allowing Andrade to batter him across the face with an elbow. Andrade heads up to the top, looking for a moonsault. The Miz dodges one and manages to eventually turn the other into a Skull-Crushing Finale for the win.
A fine match, though I’m worried about Andrade’s position on the card. He’s got far too much talent to be overlooked like this. 2.5 Stars.
Shinsuke instantly hits the ring, kicking the fuck out of Miz before ending things with the Kinshasa. You don’t throw a Latino at a man and expect him to forget about it.
Backstage, Shane McMahon is looking for Chad Gable, lean newborn, and he’s got short jokes for days. He announces that he’s found Gable’s opponent, which is some impressively quick work by Shane, and promises that Elias approves of his replacement. Yeah, that was everyone’s number one concern: keep the scruffy musician happy. The opponent in question turns out to be Shane McMahon. Well, on the bright side, now there’s a chance that we might get to see Shane get German suplexed on top of his head and lose all motor functions below the neck. There’s always a silver lining.
B. A. Star
Here’s Fire and Desire, the team known for having terrible taste in team names. And also the reason that Corey Graves has wanked himself into early sterility. Mandy’s taking on Nikki Cross in singles action, but she gets a microphone to talk some trash about Nikki’s appearance first. I’ll have you know that in Glasgow, that girl would be considered a ten. Then again, in Glasgow, my Grandma would be at least an eight.
Mandy calls Nikki ugly, despite the fact that Cross’s mental state is a way more prominent target. Maybe Mandy respects the neurologically different, up to and including the fucking lunatic. This is interrupted by Alexa Bliss, who’s spent the last week and a bit acting like she’s never said an unkind word about anyone. And are we forgetting that she’s still using someone who doesn’t have a full grip on reality? Why are we standing by and allowing that to happen?
Alexa says nothing, merely stepping aside to let Nikki charge the ring at a genuinely frightening speed. She takes Mandy down in a barrage of offence, smacking her around like Rose just tried to steal her cheesy chips. Mandy finds herself locked in a sleeper, but she manages to escape and catch a crossbody from Nikki, hurling her across the ring with a fallaway slam.
Now Mandy’s on the offensive, punishing Cross. Her assault isn’t doing much, however, because in Glasgow a headbutt’s just how you say hello. Cross manages to work her way back into the match, hammering Rose’s face off the turnbuckle before squashing her in the corner. Cross heads up to the top rope; DeVille tries to distract Nikki before Bliss drags her back down to the floor.
Nikki’s flying crossbody misses, as does Mandy’s high knee. Cross rolls her up and gets the three.
Standard match with not much to say about it. I’d far sooner have seen Sonya in action, which is a rarer sight than Mandy. 2 Stars.
Alexa celebrates with Nikki Cross. I’m assuming that this is all leading up to a big betrayal from Bliss, but I’d prefer it if she had genuinely started to care about Nikki, her initial deception allowing her to actually find true companionship. I’m not going to get that, because this is wrestling and all friendships are worth less than the chance to become number one contender to the United States Championship, but it would be nice.
Backstage, Tucker and Otis are making what looks like a smoothie but which is probably a horrendous cocktail of sludgy drugs. There’s an explanation for whatever Otis is, and it’s absolutely not just a smoothie.
Elsewhere backstage, Ember Moon has come to give her two cents to Bayley, because Ember Moon’s opinion is clearly a matter of supreme importance. I hope that she’s a better talker than she is a number one contender, because she sucked at that. Anyway, Ember is here to find out what’s going on with Bayley, because she’s acting so crazy right now. Bayley tells Moon that she’s doing it all for the Division, for the Rock, for the people, but Ember replies that it’s about Bayley struggling to be relevant as Champion. Oh wow: Ember Moon wants to lecture a Women’s Champion about being relevant. The pair of them are having a match later tonight.
Wham, bam, thank you ma’am
Here’s Heavy Machinery, abut to face two jobbers. You can imagine what happens.
This was like watching my Create-A-Wrestler go through season mode on every WWE game I’ve owned, although with less vicious blows to the head and a great deal less blood. Still, if you’re going to watch a squash match, there are less entertaining teams to watch than Heavy Machinery. 1.5 Stars.
Backstage, Shane McMahon is talking with Kevin Owens, who’s still acting extremely calmly for a revolutionary leader. Shane tells Owens that he’s willing to overlook the $100,000 fine if he acts as the Special Guest Referee tonight. Well, no reason to watch the main event now; they just spelled out what’s going to happen.
Damn right, “let them fight”
We recap the latest episode in WWE’s police procedural. I’m not ashamed to admit that reviewing this storyline has got me right back into watching crime series, and I’ll take the opportunity to recommend Line of Duty to everyone reading this article: possibly the best British series ever.
We’re introduced to Erick Rowan’s ominous new music, then everyone’s favourite Viking metalhead environmentalist comes out to the ring. He tells the audience that he doesn’t answer to anyone; he’s a mastermind, a manipulator, a schemer. Damn it: they tried to warn us on RAW years ago that this man was a genius, but we didn’t take them seriously.
Before Rowan can lecture us more about his immense cunning, Roman Reigns’ music plays. He storms the ring, blasting Rowan out of the ring with a Superman Punch. He charges at Rowan on the outside, running into a kick. Now the two behemoths are beating the fuck out of each other in the crowd, neither of them giving ground. Roman’s tossed over the barricade to the ringside area, but he blasts Rowan with two more Superman Punches, dropping him to his knees.
And then Rowan picks up a fan and powerbombs him into Roman and the security forces that have arrived to separate. Fuck morality and attempted murder: that’s the coolest thing I’ve seen in months. Rowan continues to go after Roman, who keeps fighting back, the pair of them hammering each other up the entrance ramp. Roman scores with another Superman Punch, but Rowan recovers almost immediately, swinging a camera crane at Reigns’ face, putting him down emphatically. That was a damned decent brawl, and a good argument for a well-choreographed Falls Count Anywhere match between these two.
Backstage, after the break, Rowan is pacing and muttering, like a genius. I’m not sure what that added, but it’s definitely funny.
Ember Moon meets low expectations
Charlotte Flair is on commentary, wanting to get a closer look at her opponent for this Sunday. Bayley makes her way to the ring, followed by Ember Moon, disappointing number one contender.
The match starts off at a quick pace until Bayley rolls out of the ring. Moon follows her, unwilling to let her recover. The Women’s Champion manages to gain the advantage on the outside, tripping Ember up on the barricade and nailing her with a knee to the face. During the commercial break, Bayley remains firmly in control, keeping Moon grounded with a sleeper hold before slamming her onto the mat when her opponent starts to rise.
Bayley hits a hip toss and a shoulder tackle in the corner, but she then takes the time to taunt Charlotte Flair, leaving her open to a facebuster. What a smart cookie. A springboard crossbody almost nets Ember the win, and she’s on the offensive now, trying to suppress and overload the Women’s Champion. Bayley manages to work her way back into the match, finally hitting Ember with another knee strike to the face, spilling her out onto the floor. Moon fires right back with a blow to Bayley, heading up to the top rope as the Champion staggers.
Bayley ducks Ember’s dive, hits the Bayley-to-Belly and wins.
Slightly sudden ending, though I do like that Bayley’s finisher can be performed – to appropriate a phrase – out of nowhere. 2.5 Stars.
Charlotte gets into the ring with Bayley at the end, indicating that she’s going to take the Championship on Sunday. Bayley seems amused, leaving the ring.
I think that’s what you call “bookends”
Here’s Kofi Kingston, apparently set on taking us on a trip down memory lane. He states that it was in this building that he decided to step up to Randy Orton and beat the piss out of him. He says that it was that moment that he knew he’d return to Madison Square Garden as WWE Champion, and here he is, ten years on.
Kofi shows us the footage of him putting Orton through the table, promising that that’s only a small part of what he plans to do to Randy this Sunday. Orton interrupts, calling Kofi stupid again like it’s never going out of style. He comes out of the crowd, telling Kingston that he’s sick of hearing about the two things he’s done over the last ten years. Randy says that all that matters is what happens on Sunday, which is going to be him taking the WWE Championship back.
Orton claims that Kofi’s always pretended to be something he’s not, whether that’s Jamaican or part of the Power of Positivity mindset. This sets Kofi off for some reason, and he heads into the crowd towards Randy…who hits him with a chair and starts working him over. Kingston’s able to counter a Vintage DDT on the concrete, grabbing the chair and hammering Orton with it.
With Randy temporarily down, Kofi sets up a table and tries to drape Orton over it. Randy’s had too long to recover, however, and he fights back, the struggle between him and Kofi breaking the table. Kofi once again gains control, whacking Orton with the chair before hitting the Boom Drop through another table. Well, that felt…forced.
The only bad King of the Ring matches have been those involving Shane McMahon
Following a commercial break, Kevin Owens is in the ring as Special Guest Referee. I hate this for several reasons: firstly because Owens being the deciding factor in the match ending robs Gable of a lot momentum (and he’s probably losing to Corbin anyway) and because it once again allows a storyline featuring Shane McMahon to arise, like a Kraken, from the deeps and ruin everything.
Chad Gable, muscular embryo, makes his way to the ring, getting interrupted halfway through by Shane’s own entrance. We could have had Gable win a hard-fought twenty-minute match against a RAW wildcard, allowing him to perhaps pay back the insults from Samoa Joe or maybe put on an excellent match against Dolph Ziggler, but here we are: nine minutes of nonsense.
Shane mocks Gable by getting on his knees, and Chad for some reason doesn’t kick him right in the face. The pair begin to tussle, with Gable hitting Chaos Theory and…winning instantly. Jesus.
I hate everything and everyone. 0 Stars.
Shane McMahon grabs a microphone, claiming that the match is now two-out-of-three falls. Is…is Owens still the referee? Gable comes back to the ring, conferring with Owens before Shane attacks him from behind, slamming him all around the ring before we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Chad Gable has apparently forgotten how to wrestle and also that he’s a lot stronger than Shane McMahon. You know, I hated the first match, but it had one saving grace: Shane McMahon was proved to be a worthless physical competitor who was no match for any one of his employees. Whereas now, that tiny bit of goodwill is getting flushed away by Shane McMahon, once again, being portrayed as a physical threat.
Gable starts to rally, with Shane managing to fuck up being caught in a crucifix pin. Oh, and now Kevin Owens is apparently interested in working for McMahon, slow-counting Gable’s pin while fast-counting Shane’s roll-up. Gable contines to fire up, and it’s embarrassing that he has to do that while fighting Shane McMahon. A spinning neckbreaker hits, and Gable heads up for the moonsault, hitting it. Another slow count sees Shane kick out, and maybe Kevin Owens’ plan is to keep the match going so long that Shane suffers crippling physical damage. I’m still holding out for a snapped neck, personally.
Shane hangs Chad up on the top rope, hitting a neckbreaker of his own. He grabs a chair, getting stopped by Owens who protests at this. Shane hands the chair to Owens to dispose of, trying to low blow Gable as Owens does so, but Chad grabs the leg, applying an ankle lock. Shane taps and the bell rings. If Gable had any self-respect, he’d hit Owens with a few German suplexes for good measure.
This managed to get even worse, which is almost impressive. -5 Stars.
Owens and Shane argue after the match, and then Shane attacks KO from behind, apparently capable of beating him up after losing twice. I genuinely hate whoever came up with this, and I hope they never reproduce. Shane tells Owens that he’s fired, which I guess is supposed to be shocking, but who the fuck even cares?