Right, we’re days away from the Royal Rumble and I can’t remember anyone being tossed over the top rope. I’m fine with the build mostly being Elias playing the guitar while mouthing off about people, but I’ll admit to being a little bit twitchy now. Has anyone even pointed to the WrestleMania sign? Do we even appreciate what we have until it’s gone?
I guess that’s how Roman and Jey feel they’d react if Jimmy was ever badly hurt, or arrested after driving drunk
We’re live in Dallas: if you want to get shot in a car, might as well do it here. And if you prefer doing shots and then driving a car, then you’re probably the Usos, who are here for six-man tag team action with Roman Reigns. I love that they list “cancer-free” as part of Roman’s achievements. I mean, I’m doing that right now.
God, I hope I am.
We recap Roman’s idiotic choice of a Falls Count Anywhere match on Sunday: not the way I’d have chosen to forestall and combat all the interference that’s been bedeviling me for the past several weeks. Still, remember the motto of Dr. Spain’s SmackDown Report: we do not expect intelligence from wrestlers.
Anyway, King Corbin, Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler flounce their way to the room for what seems like far more of a PPV match than yet another singles contest between Reigns and Corbin. Dolph and one of the interchangeable Usos lock up, struggling for control in the opening moments of the match. Graves describes Corbin as “our omnipotent king”, suggesting either that the ex-Baron has untold-of power that is only kept in check by his tremendous morality, or that Graves doesn’t know what the word “omnipotent” actually means.
The Usos swap over via tag, and a double-team from the tipsy twins sends Ziggler fleeing to his own corner to tag in Roode. The TNA alumnus puts the boots to whichever Uso’s currently in the ring. The Uso in question is elevated out onto the apron, landing badly on his leg before it gives out from under him, only for Ziggler to sprint at him, slamming him immediately into the steps. The referee calls for trainers and assistance; it might be real and it might not, but we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, it’s a three-on-two match, with Jey and Roman taking on Corbin and his Mischief Minions. Jey is currently working over Dolph, trying to prevent him from reaching his partners, but Ziggler’s in a fighty mood, managing to drag Jey over to his corner and bring in Corbin. Uso smacks away at the King, managing to keep away from him before missing a dive from the top rope, running right into a Deep Six that stops his momentum cold.
Corbin takes a moment to mock Roman before going to work on the non-injured Uso. He tosses the former Tag Team Champion to the outside, tagging in Roode to continue the punishment. Back in the ring, Roode hits a big neckbreaker, almost ending the match right there. Dolph enters the match now, laying down some offence before continuing the frequent tags. All three members of Team Corbin get themselves some of Jey, before the Uo tries to fight his way out of the corner, laying out all three men, crawling towards Roman for the tag before Corbin jumps the Big Dog, knocking him into the stands.
After another commercial break, Corbin is in control of Jey, but a last-second reversal allows Uso to hurl him into the ring post. Corbin tries to prevent the tag, but Jey makes it to Roman, causing Corbin to frantically tag out to Ziggler, who enters the match only to be hit by every last piece of Roman Reigns’ rage. Ziggler gets his memory of every mid-card title reign erased by severe trauma to the face and head, with Roode managing to provide a distraction that allows Corbin to catch Roman from behind, leaving the Big Dog open for a superkick that almost nets Dolph the pin.
Reigns struggles back to his feet as Ziggler waits on him, finally dragging him back up before tossing him out of the ring for Corbin and Roode to stomp. Ziggler heads out after the Big Dog, yelling at him for a while – I guess to wear down his morale – before bundling him back into the ring to actually do some wrestling.
Corbin gets tagged in, hitting Roman with some heavy strikes before bringing in the Glorious Robert Roode. He wants the Glorious DDT, which Reigns counters into a roll-up before transitioning into a powerbomb, planting Roode before crawling over to Jey! Dolph drags the Uso off the top before this can happen, throwing him into the barricades and over the announce table as Corbin tags back in to take on a fading Roman.
Corbin beats Roman down in the corner, then tags in Ziggler, who hits a neckbreaker for two. Dolph tunes up the band, angering Shawn Michael and, by extension, God in heaven. Divine retribution takes the form of a Superman Punch to the jaw, and Jimmy Uso hobbles his way down the entrance ramp before taking the tag, working over the legal Roode before diving through the ring onto Corbin. Jimmy’s hitting everything in sight, almost pinning Roode with a crossbody before Corbin interferes.
The King tries to plant Jimmy with the End of Days, but it’s countered, setting Corbin up for a Superman Punch. Reigns continues to beat the fuck out of Corbin in the crowd, I guess because he knows cancer when he sees it. The ref just lets it happen, clearly taking a laissez-faire approach to the rules and regulations tonight. Jimmy Uso and Roode are struggling on the second rope, with Jimmy shoving Roode to the floor before pinning him with the Splash.
A decent-length match with some good storytelling, keeping Reigns and Corbin from gaining a real victory over each other days before their PPV contest. Solid, simple and competent: 3 Stars.
Later, Michael Cole will interview Lacey Evans. Shit, they’re going to have some much war to talk about.
Remember when wrestling feuds used to involve Triple H reenacting necrophilia?
Oh, turns out that that interview is now: beat still my heart. Michael introduces Lacey with a lot of adjectives, one of which is “sexy”, which seems unprofessional, and none of which are “good at wrestling”, which seems honest. They’re doing this on the entrance ramp, I assume so Lacey can stand at attention the whole time. You know, because she was a Marine. And a mother.
Lacey says that she stood up to Bayley and Sasha because they’re bullies, which is a solid motivation, though I’d also have accepted “because I want to be Women’s Champion”. We dig into Lacey’s past, and it turns out that her father suffered from depression and addiction: a fact that doesn’t make watching any of Evans’ matches less of a chore. Lacey’s voice is wobbling like an Uso trying to walk in a straight line, and all this segment is doing is making me hope that Bayley and Sasha beat her into unconsciousness using her own child on Sunday.
Lacey tells us all to believe in ourselves and believe in the heart of the cards, still apparently threatening to break down into tears like the strong, confident woman we’re all told that she is. Michael asks if her hard upbringing led her to join the Marines, to which Lacey says that it is, and that led her to the WWE. I’m not saying that it’s impossible; I’m just saying that that’s a very simplified account of a very strange career progression.
Michael then asks Lacey what kind of leader she’ll be if she wins on Sunday, giving the impression that Evans is undergoing some kind of job interview prior to becoming Champion. At least he doesn’t need to ask her what her biggest weakness is, because I assume he knows that it’s her lack of wrestling ability. Lacey tells us that she’ll be a Champion that we can all believe in, and I wouldn’t believe in Lacey Evans if she could literally walk on water.
And then Cole brings up Lacey Evans’ daughter: the shadowy, unseen figure that is somehow at the heart of this conflict. I missed the episode Evans Junior actually appeared, so it’s a bit jarring to be given proof that she really exists, though I still despise her for being a means by which a Lacey Evans title opportunity has manifested. Couldn’t she have been bullied by Asuka and Kairi Sane instead?
Anyway, Lacey’s daughter, who probably shouldn’t treasure any desire to be a child actor judging by her performance here, had a confrontation with Sasha Banks, which led to this travesty that I am being forced to recount. Why is this being treated more gravely than Roman Reigns almost getting murdered twice? Or Brock Lesnar assaulting Rey Mysterio’s family? Or Samoa Joe threatening AJ Styles’ family? Or Samoa Joe threatening Kofi Kingston’s family? Or Randy Orton threatening Kofi Kingston’s family? Or Bray Wyatt threatening the Miz’s family? Why do people in WWE insist on having families that love and support them? They’re only putting them in danger.
Anyway, Lacey tells us that her daughter was crying backstage, and I’d be crying too if my mother only wrestled as well as Lacey Evans. Lacey starts making promises about murdering Bayley, then Bayley barrels out of nowhere and starts beating the fuck out of Lacey. I wholeheartedly support Bayley in this feud, because she’s not been inundating me with references to her family and her previous career path for the last several weeks, and she’s been picking fights with the person who has been. Good on ya, Bayley.
Backstage, Kayla Braxton is here to interview Carmella and Dana Brooke, who will presumably be flailing uselessly against Charlotte in Sunday’s Women’s Royal Rumble match. They’re both very confident that they’ll win the match, which is adorable. Sad, but adorable. Like a pug, really
The interview is interrupted by Lacey and Bayley still having a scrap backstage, because several adult referees apparently couldn’t separate them. Dana and Carmella try to help break it up, and if this, in turn, got interrupted by Corbin and Reigns continuing their own brawl from earlier, then this is automatically an outstanding show.
This doesn’t happen, because WWE are cowards and afraid of world-building and good, honest comedy.
Lacey Evans ruins everything
It’s a Women’s Division Tag Team match, pitting Nikki Cross and her friend/unlicensed carer Alexa Bliss against Fire and Desire, with Otis looming over them like the ghost of Jacob Marley, if Jacob Marley had been fully erect while talking to Scrooge while also dancing and taking his shirt off.
It’s safe to say I shouldn’t be allowed to direct a theatrical version of A Christmas Carol, though anyone who knows me personally is already well aware of that.
Meanwhile, Fire and Desire have their own team theme music. And sure: it’s a bad mash-up of their individual themes, but the Kabuki Warriors only had to put up with that for a few months, then they got something actually good.
Earlier today, Mandy went backstage to apologise to Sonya for introducing heterosexual romance and a big hairy bloke into their sacred, feminine space last week. Sonya’s surprisingly chill about it, though she hints that maybe less involvement with Otis could be a good thing for them. It’s worth a try; statistically, something has to have a positive effect on their win/loss record.
Also, Paige apparently picked Otis has the winner of the men’s Royal Rumble. I’d like to say that this sums up everything that I dislike about Paige in one simple sentence, but it doesn’t make any mention of her ridiculous accent, which I guess I could just tack on as a postscript.
Anyway, Sonya starts things off against Alexa, taking her down to the mat with a waistlock. And then Bayley is on the ramp, getting chased into the ring by Lacey. Oh for God’s sake: can Lacey either ruin the Women’s Championship or other women’s matches, but not both? The match ends in a DQ, but at least Sonya got to perform a single wrestling move this week: an improvement on her overall average.
I hope Lacey Evans is never entirely happy with her life, no matter what she tries. 0 Stars.
Walk With Elias
Elias is here to team up with Braun Strowman, in a match that will hopefully not get ended prematurely by Lacey Evans and Bayley. But first, a brief musical interlude. I have to applaud Braun Strowman’s restraint in allowing Elias to strum along for a while before making his entrance. Elias actually provides Braun with an introduction, and the Monster Among Men makes his way to the ring.
Oh lord, they bring up Strowman’s Greatest Royal Rumble victory. Why not mention all the hookers he’s strangled while you’re ruining the man? Having said that, he’s my second choice to win the Royal Rumble, right after Aleister Black so that he can topple the Fiend at WrestleMania, and don’t you fucking tell me that I can’t have that. Anyway, Braun stomps his way to the ring, joining Elias.
Elias then invites Braun to sing a duet with him, and it might just be the glass of wine on an empty stomach I just inhaled, but I’m super up for that. And so’s my housemate, who’s just kind of hovering during all of this. Braun’s doing his crowd-pleasing shtick rather than his “make Brock Lesnar thankful he got out of the arena with his Championship” shtick, but before he can start singing, Cesaro interrupts with his excellent theme tune, followed by Shinsuke Nakamura.
Well, this has all the makings of a solid tag team match, and it’ll be interesting to see what Elias wrestles like as a face. In the early going, he manages to gain the advantage over Cesaro, matching power with the Swiss Cyborg as the commentators bring up his potential. He even pulls out Old School, turning it into a meteora before knocking Nakamura off the apron. A distraction from Zayn allows Cesaro to claw back control, sending Elias out of the ring to get kicked by Shinsuke, who gets run right over by a charging Braun.
After the break, Elias is still your face-in-peril, but he manages to fell Cesaro with a mule kick in the corner, dazing his opponent. Nakamura is able to tag himself in, cutting Elias off from the tag before knocking Braun off the apron and decking Elias with a kick to the mush. The Kinshasa’s charged up, but Elias blasts Nakamura with a knee instead, finally making it to Strowman for the tag!
Braun erupts into the match, knocking him this way and that before crushing him in the corner and hurling him across the ring. Shinsuke finally dodges a charge, capitalising with a flying knee to Strowman before tagging in Cesaro in the hopes of matching Braun’s power. They hit Strowman with several double-teams, with Cesaro desperate to shut things down with a pin. Zayn distracts the ref as Nakamura grabs a chair, but Elias knocks Shinsuke down as Strowman hits the running powerslam to Cesaro, with Elias dropping the elbow for the victory!
A very convincing coming-out party for Face!Elias, giving him a decent rub in a quality match. 2.5 Stars.
We recap the fact that Daniel Bryan wants to murder the Fiend while tied to him. That’s…that is quite the sentence.
Meanwhile, Big E is lubing himself for something presumably horrific backstage, with Kofi arriving to discuss his match tonight with John Morrison. That match is too athletic to be allowed.
After proving himself to be an embarrassment of a human being and whatever other species that he might belong to, King Corbin gets ambushed by Kayla Braxton for an interview to ask him why he hasn’t had the common decency to chug a bottle of bleach yet. He promises to destroy Roman Reigns and win the Royal Rumble on Sunday. And I say this completely seriously: I would rather die than live in that world.
Morrison vs. Styles would be a hell of a show
It’s time for Kofi vs. Morrison, just in case you really miss 2008. But before that, Sheamus is here to restate his own, brief version of Mein Kampf, where the main message is that small people need to be contained, say concentrated, in some kind of camp. And I’m trying to exaggerate all of this for comic effect, but he literally describes small athletes as “squeaking” and “vermin”, which is really starting to feel a little Nazi to me. I guess with Lars Sullivan gone, someone has to be the spokesperson for eugenics, and at least Sheamus can do it without looking like a hypocrite, because every picture of Lars Sullivan that I’ve seen looks like something that was grown in a vat by a surrealist artist.
Anyway, Sheamus is going after Chad Gable and employing a lot of holocaust imagery and Meatloaf lyrics. Wrestling is ridiculous.
And here’s John Morrison, who managed to dig out those fucking crucifix sunglasses from the mid-2000s. The Miz is there to yell at us for not appreciating someone who once played the villain in a “dog learns to wrestle” movie, which I swear offends me more than Sheamus’ holocaust imagery.
Kofi and Morrison lock up, then shove each other like big, muscular girls. They then exchange some video game-esque acrobatics, before Kofi counters a monkey flip, hitting Morrison with one of his own. Morrison sends Kingston out of the ring, dives out after him but crashes and burns as Kofi dodges, with the former WWE Champion wiping the Prince of Parkour out with a dive of his own. A distraction from the Miz sees Kofi shoved into the ring post as we go to commercials.
When we come back, Morrison is still proving a stiff challenge for Kofi, hitting a running knee to the face before failing to deliver Starship Pain. Kingston hits a springboard blow, building momentum as he catches Morrison with a hurricanrana and a running stomp, almost winning the match there. A knee of Morrison’s face returns the favour from earlier, and a Boom Drop connects.
Morrison counters Trouble in Paradise with a capoeira kick to the side of Kingston’s head, trying to capitalise as he places Kofi on the top rope. The New Day member fights back, and a second’s distraction of the referee allows Morrison to hit a thumb to the eye and the Spanish Fly, almost pinning the Tag Team Champion. He stays on Kofi but walks into an SOS for a near-fall. Morrison then tries a roll-up, putting his feet on the ropes before Big E shoves them off.
The Miz tries to attack Big E, getting chased around the ring and onto the apron, where Kofi blasts him with Trouble in Paradise. Morrison instantly strikes, hitting Starship Pain for the win.
As good a match as was promised by the competitors, with unorthodox offence and a good reason for Kofi to take a loss. 2.5 Stars.
If the Fiend can’t compete on Sunday due to a staph infection, this was a mistake
Michael Cole is in the ring, first explaining to everyone how a Strap match, then introducing Daniel Bryan. This is for a contract signing, which is a weird thing to try with the Fiend, but I’m so used to putting faith in Wyatt that it’s practically instinct.
Rather than coming out himself, Bray appears onscreen, trying to fax a copy of his contract to Bryan. He cheerfully calls Bryan’s plan to tie himself to the Fiend “madness” before calling up customer service and asking for “English or Ancient Sumerian”. I cannot overstate how much I love Bray Wyatt.
Bryan is getting a little sick of what I consider to be excellent comedy, demanding that Bray gets down here; Wyatt responds that his attorney, Mercy the Buzzard, has advised against that course of action, before revealing that the word Bryan just used – “mistake” – is the word of the day. He tells Bryan that all of this is his big mistake: he betrayed and lied to Bray in the past, and then reveals that as the Fiend is competing on Sunday, it’s only fair that he signs the contract.
The lights go out, and when they come up red, the Fiend is holding the other end of the strap that Bryan’s attached to himself. Bryan freezes up for a second, but this is a contract signing, and every WWE employee knows at a bone-deep level how to act in that scenario. So Bryan takes a swing at the Fiend, obeying instincts that have existed for as long as professional wrestling itself. The Fiend retaliates, clamping on a Mandible Claw while screaming, then takes Bryan out with Sister Abigail.
The Fiend’s not done, and he rips Bryan’s shirt off before whipping him with the strap. He looks at the contract, then stabs the pen into his own hand, smearing blood over the paper. The crowd chants “you got issues”, which is a fair assessment, and then the lights go out. I look forward to a group of lawyers discussing whether that counts as a legal signature before Sunday, while another group argues that contract signings serve no legal purpose in professional wrestling anyway.
Tags: Alexa Bliss, bayley, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, John Morrison, King Corbin, Kofi Kingston, Lacey Evans, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, Nikki Cross, Robert Roode, Roman Reigns, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown, The Fiend, The Miz, The New Day, The Uso's, WWE