I’m convinced that the plan is to keep adding more and more people to this Roman/Corbin feud until that’s literally the entire Royal Rumble. God knows that seems to be the plan with the Rollins/Owens program over on RAW. I know that it helps if the people involved are excellent performers as well, but I can’t help but yearn for the utter simplicity of the Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy storyline I’ve been watching enviously from behind my blue-painted fence: two blokes who are going to clobber the shit out of each other until it’s clear to everyone who the best person is. I feel like WWE could rely a little more on the trope that they almost-exclusively employ individuals who want to be the very best at fighting and be allowed to carry around a shiny thing that indicates said achievement.
That sounds dismissive, which it was meant to.
Apparently the Big Dawg wants revenge on someone who enacted vengeance upon him in Robert Roode, as we enter the next stage in this nebulous, multi-man feud that just will not die. In other news, the leather-skinned husk of John Morrison is back for in-ring action against Big E, and Sasha Banks has finally taken time out of her busy schedule as a rap artist to be the latest conspirator in the masquerade dedicated to making people think that Lacey Evans can wrestle.
Well, don’t threaten me with a good time, SmackDown.
Politics is fucked
And speaking of things that I would sarcastically describe as “good”, here’s the Chubby Red Machine: Kane. I’d say that the people of Knox County, Tennessee must be embarrassed to see their elected official wearing a leotard and a rubber mask, but the people of Knox County, Tennessee voted for a professional wrestler to represent their needs at a local political level. And not just any professional wrestler, but a Libertarian professional wrestler who doesn’t agree with the impeachment and looks up to former President Ronald Reagan: a man who, half the time, probably forgot that he was the President and that he wasn’t just playing him in a movie.
So, I guess I’m saying that the people of Knox County, Tennessee deserve exactly what they voted for, and maybe a clip around the head for good measure.
Anyway, Kane talks about the Royal Rumble, lost souls and the importance of the free market. He’s mostly back for one last chance to win the Royal Rumble and main event WrestleMania: two things that he’s never been considered good enough to do. He goes on to talk about his Rumble process and how eliminating bitches gives him a big Libertarian boner.
And then the Firefly Fun House interrupts him. Fuck me, I’ve never been so happy to see Bray, and I love Bray.
Bray shows up onscreen and says that Kane hasn’t changed a bit, which I guess is true because Kane’s been a bit of a chubster for a while now. Wyatt then warns Kane not to brag about his evil deeds, then tells everyone that Ramblin’ Rabbit is alive and well after Bray – we can only assume – fucked him to death purely to send a message to Daniel Bryan. He then reminds Kane that winning the Royal Rumble potentially means that he’ll wind up face-to-face with the Fiend.
Wyatt gets serious then, reminding us of his and Kane’s history during Bray’s past life. The lights go down in the arena, and I have never been more on board for a Fiend attack.
When the red lights come up, Kane has got out of the ring before the Fiend can sneak up on him: there’s that crafty mind that qualifies him to be a mayor in Tennessee but literally nowhere with a higher state IQ. The Fiend rises up from the centre of the ring, creeping slowly up on Kane before the Big Red Fatty turns around to reveal that this was a trap: the Fiend turns around and gets blasted with a Running Knee from Bryan, who doesn’t stop for a moment, stomping on the Fiend’s head before the Universal Champion retreats back below the ring, with Bryan ripping some chunks of his hair out. I love how the Fiend and Bryan both have wine-drunk catfight moves in their repertoires.
Kane and Bryan do the Yes Chants, and I’ll definitely take this over Kane showing any dominance whatsoever over the Universal Champion.
Backstage, Bryan and Kane are debating which of them was the Tag Team Champions. Kayla hits them with an ambush interview, and Kane flees before another member of the Libtard fake news brigade can get another Republican on film advocating for white supremacy or gangrape. Bryan, who has abandoned his own environmental ideological platform in favour of bloody revenge, says that he’s shown everyone that the Fiend will run away when outmanoeuvred. So, to remedy this, he challenges the Fiend to a Strap match at the Royal Rumble.
Well, it’s probably possible to have a good Strap match, and if anyone can then I bet it’s Bryan and Wyatt, but this really seems like playing with fire.
Having said that, I’m just glad Bryan didn’t pick an Inferno match.
Morrison vs. Ali vs. Ricochet in a “Fuck Your Physics” match
It’s a New Day, yes it is, and Big E is here to take on the Ghost of Tag Teams Past, AKA the Shaman of Second Chances, AKA The Guy Who Was Cucked By Drax. His career highlights include almost literally jumping into Chris Benoit’s grave to deny CM Punk an ECW Championship reign and genuinely starring as the villain in a movie where the protagonist is a dog. And I’ll be honest: if you’re not Cruella DeVille, that’s not a good look.
Morrison gets to the ring, and he and Big E circle each other, locking up for an exchange before Big E literally shoulder-tackles Morrison out of the air. A little Capoeira offence allows Morrison to take control, with a neckbreaker to the outside from the apron cementing that advantage.
After a commercial break, Morrison is still in full control, reserving his more acrobatic offence for the adverts like a true professional. He keeps E grounded before scoring with a standing shooting star press, only for Big E to catch him, trying to hit the Big Ending. Morrison slips off his shoulders, managing to avoid the following charge, miss a springboard and get hurled around the ring with some belly-to-bellies.
Morrison hits a thumb to the eye, but Big E counters his next offence with a back body drop, following that up with a running splash. Morrison is in trouble, but he again fights Big E off, hitting a flipping neckbreaker that probably has a name but which I’ve forgotten. Big E kicks out, prompting a brawl between him and Kofi, with Kingston shoving Miz into the steps. Morrison wipes him out from the top rope, almost getting his shit comprehensively wrecked by Big E, with the Miz just managing to save him at the last second.
Morrison puts Big E down with several hard kicks, heading up to the top rope before delivering Starship Pain, kinda sorta hitting it for the win.
I’m able to admit when I’m wrong, and Morrison still has the acrobatics and athleticism to put on an exciting match. There’s some ring rust, but I imagine when that’s gone, there’s the potential for some great matches. 2.5 Stars.
Apparently if Roman wins his Tables match against Roode tonight, he gets to pick the stipulation for his match against Corbin, whereas if Roode wins, it’s Corbin’s choice. Man, now that the Strap match has been called already, both men must be going back to the drawing board.
We recap why Roode’s pissed off at Roman, which is because Roman didn’t appreciate Roode literally trying to crush his skull and made his opinion on the subject felt. It feels like a lot of people have tried to murder Reigns recently, and that’s before you count either God or Ozymandias giving him leukaemia.
Backstage, Roman is backstage with the Usos, trying not to breathe the air around them in case he gets drunk. They’re facing the Revival in a match already that’s already being described as “up next”.
Say what you like about the Usos, but you try wrestling that well while drunk
The Usos get to the ring, and apparently they say that the time off allowed them to “regain their focus”. Oh, come on: it’s like you’re asking me to make jokes now. The Revival join them in the ring, with Dash Wilder representing 100% of the muscular men in this match.
Dawson backs Jimmy into a corner, but the Uso responds with a wicked chop, knocking Dawson down before catching him again with an uppercut. Now Jey enters the ring, staying on the Revival member, who escapes with a blind tag to Wilder, hitting Jey with a suplex to help his partner out.
Wilder splashes into the ring onto the Uso before exchanging quick tags with Dawson. Elbows and headbutts from Scott help wear Jey Uso down, then a headlock puts on the pressure, Dawson clearly paying homage to his mentor, Randy Orton. Dawson gets a little cocky, however, and an enzuigiri allows Jey to tag out, with Jimmy Uso hitting the ring with a flurry of offence to both Revival members, leaving Wilder, the legal man in the corner.
Wilder counters a Wrecking Ball but doesn’t manage to avoid a flying crossbody. He blocks a superkick, with Dawson providing a much-needed distraction to almost topple the Usos, but Jimmy makes the tag to Jey, both brothers nailing each Revival member with double superkicks. Jimmy takes the tag again as Jey dives out onto Dawson. One splash later, the Usos pick up the win.
A solid match, and the second advertisement of the night for what could be an excellent Tag Team Division over the coming months. 2.5 Stars.
After the break, Kayla stops the Revival backstage to ask them how they can live with being such a disappointment to themselves, the WWE Universe, their families and, most important of all, Randy Orton. Dawson says that the company has to make a change and…like what? Only give you matches you can win? Not allow Samoans to wrestle? Invest time and energy into the Tag Team Division? All patently absurd suggestions.
And Wilder and Dawson’s interview about being unacknowledged and overlooked is interrupted by both tremendous irony, and by a brawl between Lacey and the Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection. Wow, anything to stop Lacey Evans from going five minutes in a match, huh? Also, if Lacey’s daughter was as great as she keeps telling us that she is, she’d be out there fighting alongside her mother. Dominick Guerrero didn’t get murdered by a psychotic WWE Champion just so parents could fight their children’s battles.
Otis definitely seems like a safer option than Graves
We go on to recap sexual attraction crossing the boundaries of social class and quite possibly species, with a look back at Otis’ infatuation with Mandy Rose. Sonya, who would probably date both members of Heavy Machinery plus Heidenreich if it meant she got some fucking in-ring action, is backstage, warming up to probably be Mandy Rose’s cheerleader again.
Oh, it turns out that Sonya does have a match tonight. Well, fuck you, WWE: that was a decent enough paragraph, so I’m leaving it in there. Sonya asks Mandy if Otis wouldn’t mind being at ringside for her match tonight, and it turns out that she thinks that Rose is just being sweet to Otis so that he’ll continue to provide distractions and help Mandy win matches. Oh Jesus: someone please explain heterosexual attraction to Sonya, preferably with helpful hand gestures.
Mandy is ready to explain how she’d totally be down to clown with Otis’s caterpillar, but Sonya doesn’t have several seconds to spare, even if they would make things a lot clearer for her. She leaves, and the comedy of errors continues.
Let Lacey Evans’ daughter defend herself
In the medical room, which has helpful posters of the skeletal and muscular systems in case the trainers didn’t exactly finish medical school, Sasha Banks and Bayley are busy despising Lacey Evans. Sasha says that Lacey doesn’t deserve a match with her, which is an accurate assessment. Some bald dude in a suit shows up to say that they’ve advertised a Lacey Evans match, so there needs to be one.
Okay, first of all, I feel like no-one would ever get upset at that particular promise being broken, and second of all, is this some new rule? I remember the Great Khali vs. The Undertaker in a Punjabi Prison match being heavily promoted, but that match had a total absence of Khali. Chris Benoit vs. CM Punk at Vengeance: Night of Champions was promised, then abandoned on the flimsiest of pretexts. You promised us that Vince McMahon was obliterated in a limousine explosion, then walked that shit back.
But no: promises involving a Lacey Evans match are apparently sacrosanct, so Bayley’s wrestling her instead.
Oh. Then this is quite like those other matches.
And that match is now. Personally, I’m just thankful that circumstances didn’t make a liar out of WWE, particularly considering the centrality of Lacey Evans to this whole issue.
Bayley arrives, followed by Lacey “Still Gives Off Racist Vibes” Evans. Michael Cole goes on to lecture us about how being a veteran is an impressive and difficult feat, which I’d find a lot easier to believe if Lacey Evans didn’t approach wrestling with all the grace and ability of a pregnant koala. Maybe, like most things, it’s easier if you’re holding a gun.
Evans chases Bayley in and out of the ring, getting stomped back inside. She lays out Bayley with a clothesline, hitting a headscissors and a baseball slide: two more moves than I knew Lacey could do. She stops Bayley’s sneak attack on the apron, rolling her up for a pin, which is another movie I didn’t know that Lacey could do. Bayley tries a pin of her own, putting her feet on the ropes, with the referee informing her that that is, in fact, “illegal”. That was officially more punishment than Erick Rowan faced for repeated attempted murder, which I’m informed is also illegal.
Bayley hammers away at Lacey, whose performance suggests that there weren’t a lot of opportunities to improve one’s acting ability in the Marines. The Women’s Champion then wrenches on Evans’ arm, keeping her in the centre of the ring. Lacey punches her way free before running into the back elbow. The real mystery here, other than Lacey Evans’ proximity to the Women’s Championship despite a deficit of talent, is why Evans doesn’t open every single match with the Women’s Right: a match-winner with zero charge-up time.
Lacey tries to roll up Bayley again, which I guess is a sign that she’s run out of wrestling moves, fighting her way back into the match. She clotheslines Bayley some more, in case you liked those other clotheslines she did earlier, dodges a charge from Bayley and hits her with a kick. She hits a sort-of Bronco Buster, then hits a springboard moonsault onto the knees of Bayley, rolling out of the ring. Bayley blasts Evans with a knee against the barricade, and we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Bayley is knocking Lacey around the ring, in a match that I’m just thrilled is still going on. Lacey dodges Bayley’s charge into the corner, but the Women’s Champion stays on her, smacking her around before throwing her across the ring. The beating continues, with a flying elbow smacking Evans in the jaw.
Bayley misses a crossbody, manages to drop Evans in the corner, then runs staight into a Woman’s Right.
Maybe Lacey has almost no real moves because her finisher is just that deadly. Or maybe she sucks and being a veteran isn’t something you should expect praise for. One of those two. 1.5 Stars.
I know I joke about the Usos being alcoholics, because I’m a spiteful bitch and also possibly an alcoholic, but interviewer Alyse Ashton is fucking drunk right now. Anyone who lets her drive herself back to the hotel tonight has no soul. She’s here to slur slowly at Shorty G, asking him about Sheamus and the Irishman’s recent and concerning avocation of eugenics for anyone under six-foot-three.
Gable says that he’s not scared of Sheamus, which makes sense considering just how many times the Bar were jobbed out on SmackDown. Sheamus arrives, making short jokes before transitioning to murder threats. He tries to patronise Shorty G, who tackles him to the ground and beats on him until security breaks it up. Chad Gable vs. Virgin Sheamus.
Elsewhere, Kayla is here to show Alyse how one delivers an interview without alcohol or a backstage brawl. She’s there with Braun Strowman, who promises to win the Royal Rumble, yada yada. He says that first, he wants an Intercontinental Championship match, or really any singles Championship, because so far his only title runs have been with a fucking ten-year-old and, worse than that, Seth Rollins.
Braun Strowman should carry the Greatest Royal Rumble belt around anyway
Meanwhile, Elias is in the ring. I’m stuck between wishing they’d pull the trigger on this guy and hating it whenever they do, though things might be different in the absence of Shane McMahon.
Elias starts playing the guitar and singing before Zayn, Nakamura and Cesaro interrupt him. Zayn immediately gets onto the topic of Braun Strowman, telling him that it’ll be a cold day in hell before the Monster Among Men gets anywhere near the IC title. He reminds us that Nakamura once won the Royal Rumble, which seems really weird now.
Elias begins to sing about Nakamura, but Cesaro charges into the ring to shut him up, followed by Shinsuke and Zayn. Elias is beaten down, and I still remember his association with Shane enough to derive some enjoyment from it, but then Braun arrives to ruin the fun.
Strowman clears the ring in jig time, with no indication as to when he’ll get that damn Intercontinental Championship match.
Straight people are Sonya’s number one problem in WWE
Poor Sonya gets jobber-entranced, then continuously covered up by football game adverts. Still, it’s a wrestling match, so it’s not like she can complain. Alexa Bliss makes her way to the ring with Nikki, followed by Otis and Tucker. If Tucker and Sonya became friends purely on the basis of cracking wise about their friends’ romance, I’d consider this an angle worth doing. It’s a hell of a lot better than Rusev/Lashley, which has descended to the level of dangling Lana and Liv Morgan intertwined bodies in front of audiences. Sex might sell, but it can’t make me watch Monday Night RAW.
Sonya immediately takes advantage of the distraction that a very large, hairy man will cause, attacking Alexa and wearing her down with a rear chinlock. Graves is leaping on Sonya’s theory that Mandy is just using Otis in the same way that he’d like to leap onto Mandy Rose, though it’s my eternal hope that in this instance he doesn’t have his cock out. Meanwhile, Alexa throws DeVille off her, trying to get her way back into the match with a series of strikes, followed by a low dropkick.
Sonya gets worked over in the corner, with Mandy Rose attempting to cause a distraction and Nikki shoving her into Otis’s arms. Outraged that Mandy and Otis would sully her moment with Braun Strowman via a cheap imitation, Bliss rolls up a distracted Sonya for the win.
Otis takes his shirt off out of what I can only presume is sheer confusion. I ship this. I think I ship everyone involved with everyone, like some kind of horrific pentagram. If actual ships were involved, every man aboard would drown. Those are my feelings.
Not much of the match to see here, which sucks for Sonya and Alexa, but I’m definitely amused by these shenanigans. 2 Stars.
Robert Roode is backstage when King Corbin and Dolph Ziggler arrive. It’s a hell of a thing when Corbin, in full regalia, looks less ridiculous than Dolph, but that is literally the case. Corbin starts reflecting on all of the matches he could put himself in with Reigns and all the ways he could humiliate the Big Dog, each one more staggeringly homoerotic than the last. I would be mad if this feud ends with Roman and Corbin violently fucking in front of a capacity crowd at WrestleMania, but I would have no choice but to admit that it made perfect narrative sense.
I also think when Robert Roode is the only sane man in the room, you need to seal up that room until the oxygen runs out, and this is one such room.
RR vs. RR with RR implications
This is the main event, it is a Tables match, and the winner will get to pick what flavour of belligerent sexual tension Roman and Corbin will display next Sunday. I hope they don’t just pick a standard stipulation, like some Strap match bullshit; it should be the most unfair condition in the world, like: “Roman gets a gun and King Corbin is tied to a chair”, or “Roman has to spend the week before the match having x-ray after x-ray while rubbing plutonium on his face” or “the contestant with the longest hair automatically wins the match”. Shoot for the moon.
Reigns makes his entrance, but Roode attacks him from behind, robbing us of a fair match and the chance to hear his GLORIOUS theme music. This guy’s the real heel. He stomps Reigns for a while before ripping off his shirt, but Reigns fights back once in the ring, knocking Roode down with a flying clothesline. Roode manages to drag Reigns through the ropes, but Roman rattles his jaw with an uppercut, leaving him laying on the outside.
And Roman Reigns is going for a table. Holy shit, can you imagine if he picked a Tables match for his stipulation after winning? Just to be a total dick? He starts clearing off the announce table, but Roode will not be put through that common piece of furniture, like a fucking peasant, and he shoves Roman into the steps. Roman rallies with a Drive By dropkick, but he misses a spear right into the barricade, just as King Corbin’s music starts because we aren’t allowed straightforward matches or satisfactory conclusions in this feud.
After a break, Roode is trying to superplex Roman through a table, but Reigns headbutts his way to safety, trying to powerbomb the Glorious One through the table instead. Both men trade moves until the pressure gets to Roode and he flips the table over. If someone gets impaled on the legs, does that count as a win, or is that a reverse victory condition, i.e. the table getting put through them? I’m not predicting that that’s going to happen, but I’m allowed to hope.
Roman props up that table in the corner because any impalement would be far too suggestive with Corbin so close at hand. He then decks Roode with a Superman Punch on the outside, planning on spearing him through the table. Corbin tries to interfere, but it’s merely a distraction so that Dolph can superkick Roman. Well, doesn’t this look oh-so-familiar? Every single week, you say? Get out of town.
Anyway, Corbin and Ziggler put Roman on the announce table, with Roode looking to put Reigns through it with a dive from the top rope. But the Usos interfere, which is also something it seems like I’ve watched a couple of times by now, superkicking bitches left, right and centre-left. They set Dolph up on the announce table, like that is in any way necessary for Roman to win, and thankfully Reigns just spears Roode through the corner table, with the Usos splashing Ziggler through his.
If I cared about this feud at all, I’d kill for a match with zero interference. Actually, that should be Reigns’ stipulation. 2 Stars.
Reigns grabs a microphone, and although I’ve got my fingers crossed for an “It’s a Wonderful Life” match (Corbin has his money stolen and Roman wins by default once Corbin kills himself), the bastard demands a Falls Count Anywhere match. Golly, can you imagine the amount of interference that could involve?
Tags: bayley, Big E, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Elias, Heavy Machinery, John Morrison, Kane, King Corbin, Kofi Kingston, Lacey Evans, Mandy Rose, Robert Roode, Roman Reigns, sami zayn, sasha banks, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown, Sonya Deville, The Fiend, The Miz, The New Day, The Revival, the usos, WWE