I was happy with the Royal Rumble, to be quite honest. I think it’s worth acknowledging that we’ve reached the stage where the Women’s Rumble can afford to start changing things up and getting some more narratives involved, though, as apart from Lana/Liv, Bianca’s reign of terror and Charlotte Flair getting another accolade to put on her hypothetical shelf, there wasn’t a whole lot happening.
In terms of the Men’s Rumble, I’m as happy as a clam. Brock played his role to perfection, still leaving plenty of time for the ring to fill up, and we got moments like Lesnar, Lee, and Strowman slamming into each other. Meanwhile, Edge has an old face but a youthful body that still knows how to wrestle, Drew McIntyre is going to WrestleMania via the ancient Scottish tradition of kicking heid, and the Fiend and Bryan managed to make a Strap match work. All in all, a successful show, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that Drew calling Lesnar a “fanny” would constitute the greatest WrestleMania build in WWE’s history.
And that’s all the positivity I have in me on a Saturday morning, so without further ado let’s find some things I can complain about.
So, tonight is called “Super SmackDown”, due to what I understand has something to do with American football. Seems like the sports equivalent of stolen valour, but I’m sure there’ll be better targets shortly.
This entire segment is wildly out of control
Speaking of, here’s Rumble runner-up, Roman Reigns. Reigns didn’t have a total wash of a night, considering he did manage to beat King Corbin in what my esteemed colleague, S. Streeter, accurately described as “a standard boring Corbin match“. Still, I hazily remember the crowd enthusiastically booing him throughout his Rumble appearance, so it turns out even the rub of being a cancer survivor fades with time and with enough uninspired matches.
And the Big Dawg is out here with his cousins, who made a separate entrance to him presumably so their inability to walk in a straight line didn’t lead to them crashing into Roman. Once the Usos have brought down the average sobriety of the in-ring population to around 33%, Reigns gets a microphone and prepares to soliloquise. The crowd is lukewarm, and he literally asks them to be a bit more enthusiastic. Your top babyface, ladies and gentlemen.
Reigns says that while he did finally get a win over Corbin, he lost the Royal Rumble, putting his third WrestleMania main event attempt at Lesnar in serious jeopardy. In the light of Brexit and the Republicans’ refusal to allow witness testimony, at least I have this: no Lesnar vs. Reigns WrestleMania Main Event Part III. Roman says that they’re going to keep pushing on to the biggest show of the year, and this brings out King Corbin, Robert Roode and the fashion disaster that is Dolph Ziggler. Apparently this is a repeat of a match that managed not to make me hate it last week, but it’s cheapening Reigns’ victory over Corbin just a tad. Then again, the theme of this feud has been Roman repeating matches over and over again until he got the result he wanted.
Hey Reigns, you lost: get over it.
Corbin says that Roman only won on Sunday because the Usos interfered, which was probably the only good reason for Reigns picking a Falls Count Anywhere match, which is still a stupid decision considering he could have picked a “Corbin gets no interference help, and also I’m allowed to use a massive sword and replace my left arm with metal one that literally turns into a cannon” match. Apparently Corbin demanded this rematch, making me feel a hatred for him that I usually reserve for right-wing politicians and child molesters.
The Usos mock Corbin, who brings up their drink-driving charges in response. That is some gun-to-a-knife-fight behaviour, Your Majesty. He then loses all this goodwill by replaying the handcuffs-and-dog-food shenanigans. Remember when wrestling was better than this, like when Shawn Michaels was literally forced to tag team with God?
Roman finally accuses Corbin of having a dogfood fetish, and this promo battle is getting increasingly out of hand. He makes a challenge to Corbin, saying that the loser of the match has to eat dog food, before calling him “fetish boy”. What even is tonight? Corbin accepts, and the feud I wish I could leave unattended in a hotel room in Portugal so that it might disappear forever keeps on going.
I’m always surprised to be reminded that Lucha House Party exists
And here comes Corey Graves’ rival for Mandy Rose’s affections/unconscious body, as well as one half of Heavy Machinery, Otis. He and Tucker are here for a Fatal Four-Way tag team match to determine who will be the new number one contenders for the New Day’s Tag Team Championships at the next Saudi blood money PPV.
Their opponents are the Miz and Morrison, the Revival, and Lucha House Party. Wilde starts off against Tucker, who uses his power and athleticism in effective tandem to take control. Otis enters the match, placing Dash in a bear hug. Wilder breaks out, tagging in Dawson to tee off on the big man. He staggers Otis, who receives a blind tag from Gran Metallik, as Dawson is tagged by John Morris.
Metallik and Morrison exchange some outstandingly athletic offence, with the Lucha House Party member gaining control before interference from the Revival. Dorado enters the match to dispose of Dawson and Wilder, before dropkicking Heavy Machinery out of the ring. A dive from Dorado goes awry, and it allows the Revival to hurl the luchador into the ring post.
In the ring, Morrison decks Metallik with a kick to the skull, heading up to the top rope before corkscrewing out onto Heavy Machinery. The Miz decides that he might as well go for a dive, but Dawson catches him with a clothesline, only to be disposed of by Metallik, who hurls himself out onto everyone before the commercial break.
When we come back, Morrison and Dorado are the legal men, with Dorado stunning both Miz and Morrison. He makes it over to Heavy Machinery’s corner, tagging in Otis to clean house. Miz and Morrison take the brunt of his hefty fury, with Tucker providing an athletic assist. Morrison tries to kick his way through Otis, but that just forces Otis to remove his shirt, overpowering the Shaman of Sexy with a throw across the ring. He crushes Miz and Morrison in the corner before hitting the Caterpillar to both men, pinning Miz for the near fall!
Miz tries to catch Otis with a dive, but he’s literally caught in turn. The Revival prevent the Trash Compactor, making a blind tag to try to take Otis down. Metallik tags himself in, possibly in the hopes of becoming a sacrificial lamb, with Dorado tagging in immediately afterwards, with both men hitting dives onto Dawson; Wilder and the Miz both prevent the match from ending right there.
Tucker hurls himself at the Miz, but Morrison catches him with a spear, springboarding off the second rope. Otis stops Morrison dead with a sit-out powerbomb, clotheslines Wilder out of the ring, then eats a huge DDT from Dawson. Dawson and Dorado struggle, with Dorado scoring a superkick and two moonsaults before Wilder saves his partner. Both Revival members are looking to end the match with a superplex and a splash, but the Miz makes a tag, tosses Wilder out of the ring, gets rolled up by Dawson, only just kicking out.
Miz hits the Skull-Crushing Finale to Dawson, followed by Morrison vaulting into the ring to hit Starship Pain for the victory!
What a match: plenty of false finishes, everyone got a chance to shine, and the ending makes perfect sense. 4 Stars.
Backstage, Heavy Machinery are trying to rationalise their current position as the great tag team who’ll never hold the belts. Fast-forward to Otis being found unconscious backstage and it turns out that the culprit is actually Tucker, and they’ll still be more successful than the Ascension ever were.
And then Mandy and Sonya arrive. Mandy wants to thank Otis for his assistance in the Royal Rumble match, and apparently she and Sonya have managed to work through the miscommunication that led to both of them being eliminated on Sunday. It’s nice when things don’t always obey rasslin’ logic. Or, more likely, the writers have just forgotten about it.
Anyway, Otis and Tucker begin discussing some sort of scheme, which Sonya rightly points out is a weird thing to do right in front of people. I swear, Sonya and Tucker’s reactions to this whole thing are the best parts of this storyline. Anyway, Otis asks out Mandy next Friday, but she can only make it the Friday after. What a strange wrinkle to throw in there.
Oh…two weeks from Friday is Valentine’s Day. Okay, that actually makes sense, which is a weird thing to be able to say about anything on SmackDown.
We revisit the Strap match between Bray and Bryan, which was both better than a Strap match probably should have been and also didn’t involve the much-maligned red light, the loss of which didn’t hurt the Fiend’s aura in any way.
Creepier than everything, however, is the fact that WWE’s camera crew went on to film Bryan while he took a post-match shower. We focus a bit on Bryan’s condition post-match, as well as the gnarly marks that the strap left on him, with the possibility being floated that he might be on the verge of stepping away again. Nothing’s concrete enough to make any definitive statements, but this could be the beginning of an interesting story.
Beating Fire and Desire is more or less a prerequisite for Tag Team Championship opportunities
Meanwhile, here’s Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. We’re told that this is a “very important tag team match”, but unless you actually use the term “number one contenders”, then you can go right to hell, Michael Cole. They’re facing Fire and Desire, who will either finally get a Tag Team Championship opportunity or implode, and we’ll get to see not-wrestler Mandy inexplicably beat trained fighter Sonya DeVille.
Mandy and Sonya jump Nikki and Alexa before the bell, but Bliss and Cross are able to get the better of them on the outside of the ring, until Sonya bounces Alexa’s head off the announce table, bundling her into the ring so that the match can actually start.
DeVille starts off aggressively against Bliss before exchanging frequent tags with Mandy, finally locking in a headlock on the Goddess. A blind tag from Mandy allows her to use Sonya as a distraction before decking Alexa with a high knee to the face. Rose continues to go to work on Bliss, tagging in Sonya for some actual wrestling. Or, you know, to get punched in the face a few times so that Bliss can make it over to Nikki.
Cross flies into the match, taking down Mandy and screaming randomly because that’s how WWE perceives and portrays mental instability. Sonya saves Mandy from a pin, getting punched in the face again for her trouble, then Cross hits Rose with a neckbreaker and Alexa hits her with Twisted Bliss for the win.
At least Mandy and Otis will have something to talk about on their date: never getting Tag Team Championships. 1.5 Stars.
…didn’t see that coming
It’s time for an Intercontinental Championship match, but not before we get a look at some crew member stirring the dog food. What, so it doesn’t congeal? Is that considered a negative among the dog food community? What is the logic behind this decision?
Anyway, Braun marches to the ring. They’re making this seem like Strowman has it in the bag, which is worrying me quite a bit. I can deal with him having a bit of a chase as the official number one contender, but it seems like a dirty finish or a DQ is going to push the title change back to Saudi Arabia, which leaves something of a sour taste in my mouth. Besides, is it so bad for titles to change on free TV? They put two shots in the head of Jinder Mahal’s title reign at a house show, for God’s sake, although only once they’d ruined Shinsuke’s whole face run.
Anyway, Shinsuke’s here in his Carmen Sandiego coat for what seems like it’s going to have to be the dirtiest match in quite some time to even look competitive. Apparently Nakamura’s held the Championship for 199 days, which is a bit more accurate than my guess of “since before records or the mind of man can recall”.
Shinsuke dodges Braun’s first attempt to cuddle him to death, hitting a volley of lethal strikes before he runs into a wall called Strowman. Nakamura tries to keep ducking and to choke Braun out, but he gets crushed in the corner by the Monster Among Men. He manages to dodge a big boot attempt, and Braun crashes and burns in the corner, his leg going out from under him.
A punch to the face from Zayn goes undetected by the referee, and Nakamura applies a front facelock, looking to put the giant to sleep. But fee-fi-fuck-you, says Strowman, as he lifts Nakamura off the ground and chucks him across the ring. Shinsuke, not a fan of Strowman’s treatment of him, blasts him with a kick to the head before finally attacking the wounded leg: something one would think he’d have started doing far earlier in the match.
But Braun will not be denied either victory of a Championship belt he can go for literally decades without apparently needing to defend, and he starts building momentum with sheer, dominating power both in the ring and out. Shinsuke only just manages to avoid getting powerslammed, smashing a kick and then a knee into the back of Strowman’s head for a near-fall.
Zayn hops up on the apron for a distraction, followed by Cesaro, and Sami is able to remove the turnbuckle cover in the ensuing confusion. Nakamura tries to use the exposed turnbuckle to hit the big red coma button in Braun’s brain, but Strowman saves himself at the last second, smashing Nakamura’s head into the steel instead. One running powerslam later and…good lord: Strowman just won the Intercontinental Championship.
Well, I’d have been okay with a more vicious fight from Nakamura – show what he’s capable of with no help and backed into a corner – but if this is how we finally begin a competent build for Strowman then I’m all for it. Besides, there’s nothing preventing Nakamura from being given a rematch in which this could be accomplished anyway. Solid decision. 2.5 Stars.
I had a mini-heart attack when it looked like the referee was calling off the decision for a moment, but it looks like WWE’s absurd complexity addiction might finally be on its way out.
Backstage, Sami is apoplectic that it turns out that other people can cheat too. The alcoholic interviewer arrives to ask Zayn why he’s such a cancer of a human being, and it looks like Sami’s on the verge of actually punching her before he’s interrupted by a guitar strumming. Elias is in the ring, raising the question of how it is that Sami can hear him.
Sami demands that Elias know his role and shut his mouth, and Elias continues to play over him. This is just my father all over again. Sami asks Cesaro to go and take care of this, so it looks like Elias just earned us a chance to see the Swiss Cyborg in action: the face turn is officially complete.
Cesaro marches out to the ring, and I can imagine a worse result than this going ten minutes. Elias pounces on Cesaro, putting up some stiff offence before a running knee sends Cesaro out of the ring. Did…did we just get a Cesaro storyline?
So, Gable’s only slightly a jerk?
It’s time for the first of two rematches of the night, with Shorty G vs. Sheamus. Sheamus gained a victory over Gable at the Royal Rumble on Sunday, and he starts to make his way to the ring before Shorty G blindsides him, knocking him to the mat and running past him to the ring. It seems like the more sensible approach would have been for Gable to stay where he was and start properly laying into a dazed and surprised Sheamus, but maybe that’s just not inspirational enough.
So, Gable has made Sheamus angrier than he was already and is probably going to die because he’s too good a person to literally kick someone when they’re down. This is like that part in Harry Potter when the forces of good move heaven and earth and almost get a bunch of civilians killed to save the life of a junior fascist school-shooter. To be honest, it’s also like the part when the Order of the Phoenix didn’t carry out a campaign of well-organised, clandestine assassinations of every suspected Death Eater in book five, just to be on the safe side.
I’ve been told that kids don’t want to read about realpolitik, which to me just sounds patronising.
Anyway, Sheamus has been in control since the start of the match, which reinforces my point that Chad Gable is paying the price for his lack of vision. He manages to tip Sheamus out of the ring, which sees him take a running senton for his trouble. I’m firmly in Sheamus’ corner in this match: that’s how utterly stupid Gable has proved himself to be. If you’re going to provide a good example to kids, you sort of have to prove that what you’re advocating is worthwhile.
Anyway, Shorty G’s worked over some more, and I’m fine with this going on all night if it means we avoid any dog food nonsense. He finally fires up before Sheamus knocks him right back down, but Gable fights on, hanging the Irishman up on the ropes before hammering him. Back in the ring, a missile dropkick catches Sheamus, as does a running cannonball into the corner.
A moonsault connects as Gable builds more momentum, picking up a two-count en route. Sheamus flares up with a White Noise attempt, but Gable rolls through, only to eat an Irish Curse backbreaker. I really did forget what a solid wrestler Sheamus was. The Brogue Kick connects, Sheamus wins, and we all learned a valuable lesson: kids don’t want to support a loser.
I’d missed the Royal Rumble match, because suggesting that I watch the pre-show is an insult I’d literally – literally – kill in response to, so this was a nice reminder of what a good set of moves Sheamus has. I’m not sure what’s happening with Gable now, but if he’s going to act like an idiot then I am at least certain I don’t care. 2 Stars.
Oh wow: competence
Oh right: Bayley also had a match on Sunday. I skipped that, because I was hosting a party to watch the Royal Rumble with people I respect, and I wasn’t about to sit there and make them think I enjoy wrestling because of people like Lacey Evans (you can take that to mean people who don’t shut up about being a marine, being a mother, or people who can’t actually wrestle).
Bayley basks in her victory, wearing a jacket with her own picture on it. She crows about her win over Lacey Evans, just enough that I’m beginning to worry that WWE is stupid enough to give Lacey a rematch for the title. I mean, that they’re stupid enough is not in question (for further reading, please refer to WWE’s entire broadcast history). Bayley then starts talking smack about Lacey’s daughter, and oh God: it’s happening, isn’t it? Are they going to do it in Saudi Arabia, at least? I feel like if Evans gets another shot, she should at least have to battle not only Bayley but also the paranoia that a member of the extremely progressive crowd will throw a bottle at her.
But no: it’s not Lacey who interrupts Bayley, but Naomi! Oh, thank you, God: someone who can wrestle. A wrestling feud between two women who can wrestle. Why am I so grateful for this?
Naomi says that ever since she’s come back, she’s not been able to avoid the trash talk that Bayley’s been putting out, and she reminds Bayley that she’s never beaten her. Before she can get any further Bayley blindsides her with a shot to the face, hammering her with punches before trying to blast her with the Championship. Naomi ducks, springboards off the ropes, and nails Bayley with a Disaster Kick.
Bayley rolls out of the ring, and this is already better than the entirety of Lacey’s number one contendership.
Let. It. End.
And the Usos make their entrance as Naomi leaves. Naomi gives her husband’s breath a quick sniff-test, but if it doesn’t make her pass out, it’s safe for him to wrestle. And if Corbin gets injured by one of the Usos, this feud finally ends, so I applaud the sentiment.
Roman follows his cousins to the ring, and they are joined by Corbin, Roode, and Ziggler, who apparently had a second stupid outfit in reserve, complete with a ridiculous hat.
Jey kicks things off against Corbin, getting a few chops in before the King decks in. The Uso manages to stay on top of his opponent, tagging in his twin, whom Robert Roode low-bridges before hitting with a spinebuster on the outside. Roode chucks Jimmy into the timekeeper’s area as we go to the commercial break.
We return, and as a reminder: earlier tonight, Roman Reigns called King Corbin “fetish boy”. That is a thing that happened, and I’m still trying to get my head around it. Anyway, Jimmy or Jey (like it matters) are taking some punishment from Roode, until an enzuigiri puts the Glorious One down. Ziggler quickly tags in, but he misses the Stinger Splash, crashing and burning in the corner. He manages to tag out to Corbin, who blasts Roman off the apron before putting the Uso down again.
Probably-Jimmy tries to fight off the heels, managing it before tagging in Roman, who explodes into the match with clotheslines and punches to spare. A big boot puts Corbin down, and Roman stands there for about thirty seconds before remembering what his finishing moves are. This allows Ziggler to distract him, which enables Corbin to recover, catching Reigns with a chokeslam.
On the outside, Corbin takes out an Uso with an air of “might as well”, returning to the ring in time to get decked in the face. A superkick blindsides Roman, allowing Corbin to almost take the match with a Deep Six. Jimmy Uso takes out Roode before Roman almost scores the win with Superman Punch, then Jey removes Ziggler from the match with a dive through the ropes!
In the ring, Corbin counters a spear attempt with a knee to the face, but gets rolled up for the win. Feels like that could have just ended with a spear, but as long as it’s finally, finally over.
This wasn’t a bad match, but I’d feel better about if it wasn’t for the stupid stipulation and the fact that this whole feud feels like it’s older than I am. 2 Stars.
Corbin tries to escape, but the Usos superkick him into submission before putting handcuffs on him, then Roman spears him. Even if they literally murdered Corbin, or even executed him via guillotine in front of the crowd, it would still feel like this feud went on too long for it.
Anyway, Corbin is attached to the ring and covered in dog food. Is the story over? Are…are we finally free?