Did someone say
That’s right, folks. Get ready for an even more stressed and somehow even more political SmackDown Report, right up until December 12th. And come December 13th, when my countrymen and I finally find out what the future of our nation will be, prepare for either smug satisfaction that will register on the Richter scale or an unyielding wrath and bitterness that will make everything that I’ve ever said about King Corbin seem like a love poem to my best gal.
So, fun times ahead.
Also, the Fiend became WWE Champion in Saudi Arabia. This is something that I’m wildly happy about, but I’m restraining myself because I refuse to gush like a malfunctioning fire hydrant about sportswashing a country with that kind of human rights record.
Besides, if WWE were going to put the belt on him anyway, they could have done it at Hell in a Cell and saved themselves a real headache, so it’s not even the best version of a right decision; it was either them correcting a very stupid mistake, or them using an admittedly-impressive moment as pro-Saudi government propaganda, neither of which are what I’m minded to call “stellar rationales”.
But the Fiend is WWE Champion, and I’d be a liar if I said that I wasn’t pleased about it. And that, for the present, is that.
So, first things first, the plan to do a live show in America a matter of hours after Crown Jewel didn’t quite pan out, but that means that we’ve got Phillips, Renee and Aiden English on commentary so things could be worse.
Who needs you, Lesnar?
The show immediately kicks off with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman, and I’m sure that those who didn’t manage to make the show are very grateful that they’re not trapped in a terminal with an impatient Brock Lesnar. At Crown Jewel, Brock Lesnar wrestled for about twenty seconds, tapped out Velasquez and then got battered about a bit with a chair, courtesy of Rey “Has To Wear A Shirt In Saudi Arabia” Mysterio, raising the question of why Rey needed Velasquez in the first place considering what he was able to accomplish with an article of furniture. Chairs are also cheaper, don’t need plane tickets and they’ll never tap out while defending the honour of you and your husky adopted son.
Heyman rambles for a while, clearly playing for time while the rest of the SmackDown locker room frantically Ferris Buellers their way from the airport to the arena. Paul E. lauds the achievement of Lesnar finally beating his old rival, and I wish I had a billionaire friend who would create simulacra of real situations so I could heal myself of old defeats and embarrassments without ever having to attempt self-reflection. Us peasants just have to make do with therapy. I know I’m dangerously close to becoming the “wrestling’s not a real sport” guy, but Cain Velaquez actually beat up Lesnar. He beat up Brock Lesnar. I can’t even imagine living with that accomplishment; I’d never attempt any other activity, because what could ever live up to that dizzying high?
Well…probably drugs. In that position, I would absolutely do drugs.
Wow, that was revelation I’d not planned on having.
Anyway, Brock Lesnar’s now able to pretend that he really beat up Velasquez, presumably meaning that he’s able to feel self-worth first time in nine years. We’re then shown footage of Rey trying to bash Brock’s brain back to 2002, which Lesnar understandably feels is an HR-worthy issue. Apparently Brock feels that suitable compensation would be him being allowed rip Mysterio’s head off and force Dominick to play volleyball with it while blasting Eddie Guerrero’s theme music, but the brand split (rather than morality, civility or a shred of empathy) is preventing this course of retribution. Those contracts must have some seriously harsh penalties if breached.
So, Brock’s going to challenge God, humanity, USA and Fox to tell him where and even when he can go, and he’s quitting SmackDown and going to RAW so that he can hunt Rey Mysterio down like a Filthy Animal. Well, that solves the dual Championships dilemma.
Backstage, Brock and Heyman storm off towards the exit, then Triple H and Shawn Michaels are shown watching, clearly acting as the Greek chorus to tonight’s drama.
Let the war begin
Here’s Bayley, accompanied by Sasha Banks, ready for a Women’s Championship match against Nikki Cross. Good thing Saudi Arabia is such a misogynist nation, otherwise this show might have had a shortage of female athletes as well. Nikki makes her entrance, and my word: we get post-entrance announcements (BIG MATCH FEEL).
Bayley and Cross feel each other out, grappling into a corner before Nikki tries to roll up the Champ, looking for a quick win rather than the traditional Glaswegian “kick your opponent to death in an alleyway as a crowd of disaffected toddlers look on” offence. A headscissors sends Bayley out of the ring, and a tornado DDT off the ring apron almost wins Cross the title as we head into a commercial break.
When we come back, Bayley has regained some composure, and she levels Nikki with a clothesline. On the outside, Cross is shoved into the steel steps, but she’s still in the fight, trying to claw the momentum back in the ring with a series of strikes and then a crossbody. Nikki ramps up the offence, keeping the Women’s Champion staggered before planting her with a bulldog. Cross heads up to the top, hitting a flying crossbody before setting Bayley up for the spinning neckbreaker.
Sasha pops up on the apron, distracting Nikki just long enough for Bayley to blast her with a kick and follow that up with the Macho Elbow for a near fall. Bayley tries to remain the aggressor, but Cross manages to trap her in the ring apron, wailing away on her before going after Banks too. Back in the ring, a second distraction from Sasha allows Bayley to plant Nikki face-first on the mat, pinning her to retain the Championship.
A good, fast-paced match with a good showing from Nikki, despite having an obvious winner. 2.5 Stars.
Right after the bell, Shayna Bazler appears out of nowhere, shoving Sasha into the ring post and then blasting Bayley in the face with a knee! She throws the Champion into the post and plants her with a huge slam as the crowd shows their approval for any and all things NXT. A final knee strike to the face leaves Bayley laying, and Bazler stands tall.
Good for NXT for firing the first shot. Triple H really has gone rogue. Pat McAfee’s on commentary when we get back, so Phillips better watch it.
Kathy Kelly is backstage with Sami Zayn. I wonder if he’ll decide to go back to the only brand to ever use him well; I’m sure that everyone would understand. Zayn is mouthing off about the NXT aggression when Matt Riddle and Keith Lee show up to…mug him, I guess? Zayn tries to leave, but the two NXT talents don’t let him leave, following him as he tries to go to his car. I mean, I joked a couple of sentences back, but this situation is just realistic enough to be slightly disturbing. Sami ends up making a break for it, with Lee and Riddle in hot pursuit.
Sami runs out onto the main stage, but Riddle and Lee catch up with him in the ring. Dear God, Sami Zayn is going to die. On the other hand, Sami Zayn is actually about to do some physical stuff for the first time in what seems like years.
Zayn finally tries to take a swing at Riddle, who makes him suffer for it with a ripcord knee and the Bro Derek, and then Lee hits Zayn with a moonsault. It might be the choice of targets, but the audience is so far firmly behind the guys who have invaded the show and assaulted the SmackDown talent.
Didn’t know I wanted it until I got it
Here’s the Miz, who is unable to interview Bray Wyatt tonight due to mechanical failures. With one day to come up with some new material, what are the chances that Miz is the next man to get sacrificed to NXT? Pat McAfee keeps telling us that this is a night that we’ll “never forget”, the ominous, jort-wearing goon.
Miz first shows us the footage of Wyatt’s “better late than never” title win, which I’ll admit was a pleasant way to finish my Halloween. I actually had Trick or Treaters this year as well, including some very polite teenagers, so it was a decent night all round.
The Miz then segues from this to the latest NXT invasion, and call me a prophet, because Tommaso Ciampa interrupts him mid-flow, making his way to the ring. Ciampa grabs a microphone and questions Miz’s “must-see” quality before claiming to be the greatest sports entertainer of all time. Johnny Gargano just punched a hole in his TV.
Ciampa says that he’s here to give Miz a reality check, and the reality is that Miz is everything that’s wrong with RAW and SmackDown. He tells Miz that he’s playing a part, whilst Ciampa is exactly what Miz pretends to be. Miz dismisses Ciampa’s comments, saying that he was hoping for a more original criticism than what he’s heard for the last fifteen years. He states that if Ciampa is here to make a statement, then he should make one right now, and he challenges the former NXT Champion to a match right now.
When we come back, the bell rings and the match is on. Both men lock up, playing hold-and-counter, then Ciampa runs the ropes, knocking the Miz down and tossing him out onto the apron. Miz rolls Ciampa up, tosses him out of the ring and tries to hit his wrecking ball kick through the ropes; Ciampa dodges and throws Miz all over the outside, hurling him into the steel steps before applying a headlock back in the ring.
Miz fights back, hitting some running knees before following up with his back-and-neckbreaker. Ciampa eats a bunch of kicks in the corner, taking two sets of running knees before laying the Miz out with a discus clothesline. A knee to the face in the corner almost nets the Blackheart the win, but Miz manages to get the shoulder up. The A-Lister counters the Fairytale Ending, slips out of a back suplex and chop-blocks Ciampa’s knee.
Ciampa kicks away a Figure-Four Attempt, fails to hit the Fairytale Ending again, and the Miz takes advantage of the flub with a DDT. Now Miz gets the Figure Four, zeroing in on Ciampa’s injured knee. Ciampa guts through it, forcing Miz onto his stomach to reverse the pressure; Miz rolls through it, but this allows Ciampa to reach the ropes. Miz tries for another Figure Four; Ciampa rolls him up for two, dodges a kick and goes for another roll-up, transitioning into a half-Boston crab. Now the Miz goes for a roll-up, with Ciampa just managing to kick out.
Both men are on their knees, chopping and punching away at each other. Ciampa misses a dive at a cornered Miz, who returns with a clothesline. Miz tries for a dive, getting caught with a boot in mid-air by Ciampa, who finally hits the Fairytale Ending for the win.
Solid match, though I did get annoyed by the over-competitiveness of the commentators. Maybe Pat McAfee’s just annoying and I’m only finding that out now. 3 Stars.
Everyone acts like an NXT star beating someone from SmackDown is unheard of, despite Aleister Black, Ricochet, Gargano and Ciampa himself regularly running roughshod over the SmackDown Tag Team Division mere months ago.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan has wet his hair but not his beard, and he walks up to Triple H and Shawn Michaels: one man trained him while the other tried everything in his power to stop him becoming World Champion. It must be weird for him that they’re best friends. To be fair, they spent half of the noughties trying to murder each other, so maybe friendship in general is weird.
Anyway, Bryan asks what they’re doing here, like WWE Legends or guys married to people who run the business aren’t allowed backstage. But HHH and HBK pretty much agree that they’re here in their capacity as troublemakers as well as NXT’s two dads. Bryan says that if they’re here for a fight, he’s happy to take on Triple H. Are you kidding me, Bryan? Shawn is standing right there.
Trips squares up to Bryan, WrestleMania 30 clearly passing before his eyes, and we get a slight tease of Shawn getting ready for a fight before Adam Cole wanders up. Great: we get Daniel Bryan vs. 90% of Shawn Michaels. And then Bryan screws himself by challenging Cole for the belt, like there’s any possible way that he can win with that stipulation.
Graves either would have fought Rhea for Mandy’s honour
Fire and Desire are here; I love Sonya, but I don’t care anymore. Everything is now background noise to the ten minutes of Bryan/Cole we get before a mass brawl breaks out to halt the action without a clear winner.
Carmella’s entrance music plays, but we’re then shown footage of Carmella and Dana Brooke getting the sports entertainment kicked out of them by Bianca Belair. Rhea Ripley’s music then plays, and she shows up with Tegan Knox in tow. She declares that they’re Mandy and Sonya’s opponents tonight, and she and Knox head right after Fire and Desire.
Fair play to Sonya, who swiftly smacks Tegan into the barricade as Ripley mauls Mandy. On the outside, Tegan hurls DeVille into the announce table, wiping out Renee in the process. Way to go, Knox and Sonya: everyone else manages to do that without actually hitting the commentators, but you two took it in a new and interesting direction. Meanwhile, Rhea taps out Mandy with a sick-looking inverted Cloverleaf.
Not pretty, but it wasn’t supposed to be. And Pat McAfee has become so annoying to me that I’m rapidly approaching the point where I would condone his extrajudicial execution. 1.5 Stars.
After another commercial break, Shawn and Trips are making their way to the ring for some totally-not-suspicious ringside lurking. Before anything can happen, Stephanie McMahon shows up here to make us all hate her and our own ears for having to hear her.
Oh lord, she’s here to gloat about how two women were forced to cover almost all visible skin and get hit with water bottles so that WWE could pat themselves on the back and Saudi Arabia’s government could make another unconvincing pretence at respectability. And sure, I’m happy that the young women in the audience were able to see two female athletes performing, but that’s only in comparison to the continuation of the previous state of affairs, which was that very thing being prohibited. What happened on Thursday was an improvement, but when one takes into account the fact that the performers needed to conceal their bodies and performed in front of women who were not permitted to attend the event without being accompanied by a man, all it really did was demonstrate how much more progress is needed, and WWE expecting praise for their very small part in that tiny step forward (when what they’re actually doing is minimising very real and serious problems in the region) is really tone-deaf.
Anyway, here’s Daniel Bryan, ready to put up a losing effort after challenging for a Championship of a show that he’s not on. Adam Cole makes his entrance, emerging onto the stage with Roderick Strong before the North American Champion heads backstage. I suppose that Cole’s got enough back-up with his step-father and the wrestler he was Gemini Man‘d from at ringside.
Post-entrance announcements (#BigMatchFeel) and the bell rings. Cole and Bryan start off with some chain wrestling, both clearly cautious of the other. Bryan finally shoves Cole, then gives him a slap, and the NXT Champ starts blasting Bryan with right hands, only for Bryan’s own striking ability to net him the advantage. Cole’s not going to be cowed though, and he takes Daniel over with a headlock. A shoulder tackle knocks Bryan down; Cole runs the ropes straight into a hard kick.
Bryan goes after Cole’s arm, transitioning from striker to submission artist. He applies a surfboard to Cole, adding a dragon sleeper to it like the sick fuck that he is. Cole manages to fight out of it, but Bryan remains firmly in control…right up until he charges into a boot from the NXT Champion. Cole tries for a suplex, but Bryan blocks it, and his own suplex attempt takes both men over the ropes to the outside and into the commercial break!
When we come back, Cole has just dropped Bryan with a neckbreaker, following that up with a volley of blows to the downed Bryan’s head. He applies a Figure Four headlock to the former WWE Champion, who smartly rolls over to the bottom rope, forcing a break. Cole and Bryan start throwing hands, with an uppercut from the American Dragon dropping the Leader of the Undisputed Era.
Bryan starts picking up steam, flipping out of a corner and running over Cole on his way past. Cole catches Bryan with a kick, but he’s flipped over the top rope and he eats a flying knee on the outside, courtesy of the man who didn’t try to kill Roman Reigns. Back in the ring, a front missile dropkick takes Cole out, followed by a running dropkick to the corner. Bryan tries for a Frankensteiner, but Cole counters it into a roll-up and manages to catch his opponent with a big boot!
Now Cole has an opportunity to take over the match, but Bryan counters a suplex, sending Cole out of the ring and diving through the ropes onto him! He tries it once again, but Cole catches him with another kick, leaving Bryan laying as we go to a final commercial break!
When we come back, Bryan is on the top rope with Cole, but he takes the NXT Champ down to the floor with a German suplex. A diving headbutt misses, and Cole drops Bryan from a suplex position onto a raised knee for two. He lowers the knee pad, but Bryan dodges the strike, applies a Boston half-crab, then takes Cole to the floor, wrenching viciously at the leg. Cole rolls over on the mat, reaching the bottom rope, escaping the hold but not Daniel Bryan.
Bryan kicks away at Cole’s leg, screaming at him, but Cole fires back with blows, countering Bryan’s fireman’s carry by falling back, jarring the hairy environmentalist’s neck. Bryan kicks out of the pin and applies the LaBell Lock, trapping Cole in the middle of the ring! Cole manages to escape, but all that earns him is a bunch of stomps right to the head, followed by another LaBell Lock. Honestly, Bryan would murder Triple H if they fought now.
Adam Cole refuses to go flat to the mat; he tries to drag Bryan to the ropes, but Bryan grabs his other arm to snap that too, only for Cole to hook the bottom rope with his foot! Bryan starts smashing kicks into Cole’s chest, but Cole ducks the final kick to the head, trying for a roll-up; Bryan reverses the pin and blasts Cole’s head with a thunderous kick. He wants the running knee, but Cole scores with a superkick, the Panama Sunrise, the Last Shot! Adam Cole just beat Daniel Bryan!
Adam Cole went over Daniel Bryan clean on SmackDown. It’s as insane as it is beautiful. 5 Stars.
And because Triple H will never stop making things about him, he gets into the ring with his muscular black and yellow children and states he and the NXT army are ready for a fight. He tells WWE that they’ve fired the first shot, and to remember that they are NXT.
And that is how you salvage a show when half of your roster isn’t able to be there. Full props to whoever was behind this; that was excellent.
Tags: Adam Cole, bayley, Bray Wyatt, Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan, Keith Lee, King Corbin, Mandy Rose, Matt Riddle, Nikki Cross, paul heyman, Rhea Ripley, Roman Reigns, sami zayn, sasha banks, Shawn Michaels, Shayna Bazler, smackdown, Sonya Deville, Tegan Knox, The Fiend, The Miz, Tommaso Ciampa, Triple H, WWE