I’ve already had a message this morning asking me if I’ve seen “what happened on SmackDown”, which has really done wonders for my paranoia this morning. Maybe someone died on-camera, literally during a wrestling match. I could live with that: I really could. On the other hand, if King Corbin and Roman Reigns are beginning a new chapter in their feud, then I’m going to pour myself a large glass of alcohol and try to shut off all sensory perception. Which, I’ll admit, is step one in terms of writing these reviews in any event.
Right, let’s rip the bandaid off. Curtain up. Good luck, everyone.
Ah, I might have just been handed a clue in the case of “Just What Exactly Is Going On”, and it’s the large and dramatic promo advertising that Bill Goldberg, door-headbutter and concussion aficionado, is returning to SmackDown. Last time I remember this happening, it led to the largest amount of schadenfreude I think I’ve experienced in my entire life, which involved watching the Undertaker and Baldy Bill attempt to perform what I’m still convinced was a live-streamed suicide pact in Saudi Arabia. I suppose as the latest Super Blood Money show approaches, Goldberg’s looking for another comically large bag with a dollar symbol printed on and, we can only assume, a second chance at hurling his weathered body into the void.
My tone might be making me seem remarkably nonchalant about the potential death of Bill Goldberg, but he’s been dead to me since WrestleMania XX.
How does Ziggler even look at himself in the mirror?
The show kicks off with the Miz: the only man to suffer a home invasion and psychological warfare from a supernatural psychopath and still be regarded as a villain. With him is John Morrison: half-Street Fighter character, half-antagonist in a wrestling movie with a canine protagonist. They’re presenting The Dirt Sheet, which you might remember if anyone ever strapped you to a chair in some terrifying homage to A Clockwork Orange and forced you to watch the short-lived reboot of ECW, in which case you may be eligible for compensation and counseling.
They have made a short film, which is the sort of thing you just have to put up with when these two get together. The main thrust of it seems to be that Miz still wants his father’s love for no discernible reason, but it features five-second cameos from both Lance Storm and John Laurenitis, which is far more effort than they ever needed to go to and exactly the kind of shenanigan I appreciate.
The Miz and Morrison start talking down to their audience because these morons paid actual money to see Goldberg and they should be made to realise how ridiculous that is, but then the New Day interrupt to laugh at Miz for not being loved by his own parent, and also to laugh at the idea that the Miz and Morrison will beat them in Saudi Arabia.
Before this can get out of hand, or even vaguely interesting, the Usos arrive to claim that the Miz and Morrison have never beaten the two of them, therefore they shouldn’t be able to walk straight into a Tag Team Championship opportunity. Dolph Ziggler’s music plays, and if I was Ziggler, I’d be spending tonight in hiding until I had confirmation that Goldberg had left the arena. Then again, if I was Dolph Ziggler, I’d be constantly weeping that my career hadn’t worked out quite the way that I’d envisioned it.
The distraction allows Miz and Morrison to jump the New Day before the Usos chase them off.
Post-commercials, we have a tag team match between the Usos and whatever stupid team name Roode and Ziggler are using right now. I guess the Miz, Morrison and the New Day just left, which I can sort of understand. Roode starts off aggressively against one or other of the Usos, who manages to dodge a charge and start returning some offence. An uppercut absolutely floors Roode, and Jey tags in, hitting a flying strike to Robert Roode’s arm. Ziggler provides a distraction like the sneaky little fashion disaster he is, allowing Roode to regain control, tagging himself in to kick around an Uso.
Ziggler puts the boots to Jey for a bit, occasionally distracting the referee so that Roode can have some fun as well. The pair trade tags as they work over the Uso, with a double-team suplex and Famouser almost earning them the win. A second double-team: a combination of a Zigzag and a spinebuster, seems poised to finish the match, but Jimmy interrupts the pin, disposing of Dolph and allowing Jey to kick Roode right in the skull. He tries for a splash, but another distraction from Ziggler allows Roode to shove Jey off the top rope, sending him crashing into a commercial break.
When we come back, Team Corbin’s Only Friends are still in firm control of Jey Uso, who’s still got some fight left in him. He tries to slug his way out of a corner, but Dolph stalls the attempt with a vicious kick to the knee, allowing Roode to take over for him. Jey still fights back, driving Roode out of the ring but still not reaching his brother. A moment spent mocking Jimmy costs Roode, however, as Jey scoots through his legs and makes the tag.
Jimmy Uso immediately kicks things into high gear which, as a matter of interest, is also his reaction when he climbs into his car after a number of alcoholic drinks. He takes down both Ziggler and Roode with Samoan drops, following that up with a wrecking ball to Dolph before running right into a powerslam from Roode. The Glorious One wants his DDT, but Jimmy counters with a backdrop; Ziggler tags in, immediately hitting a Zigzag to Jimmy, but the Uso kicks out! So, Ziggler’s actual finishing move can’t win him the first match on an episode of SmackDown? It’s like he’s not even a human being.
Ziggler goes for Sweet Chin Music because maybe a successful wrestler’s finisher will work out better for him. Jimmy catches him with a superkick of his own, but Ziggler is able to counter the following splash with a pair of knees, which still doesn’t earn him the win. Ziggler is an embarrassment to our species. Jey breaks up a double-team attempt, and the Usos are able to hit a pair of superkicks to Roode, followed by a splash to pick up the victory.
A decent tag team match that picked up momentum at the end. Good opener to the show. 2.5 Stars.
They’re describing Goldberg as “intensity personified”, whereas I much prefer “a man who once lost a fight to a door”.
The promo for WrestleMania is depicting WWE employees as pirates. Maybe they’re supposed to be privateers, hassling Spanish ships for the British government, rather than out-and-out murderers and rapists, but it’s a strange claim to make about your own employees from a PR standpoint nevertheless.
Backstage, Alexa is chatting with Nikki, seemingly confident in her chances of victory in tonight’s Fatal 4-Way. There are few good and pure things in wrestling, but the friendship between a stereotypical Mean Girl and a cheerful-yet-quirky Glaswegian is one of them, and I would die to defend it.
American History X, starring Baron Corbin
We take a look back at what I’ll describe as the “Dog Food Incident” from last week. The lesson here is that bullying is okay as long as you can argue that it’s a matter of revenge. Or if you have a company full of writers justifying your actions for you. Maybe the lesson is just to be Roman Reigns. What do I know? I’m just David Spain.
The video of King Corbin being all but drowned in dog chow apparently doesn’t sit too well with the man himself, because we’re shown footage of him storming into the production trailer, demanding to know who played that tape. The air of fury and menace is undercut slightly by the crown he’s wearing, so he overcompensates a little by slapping a technician around before hurling him down some stairs. The fact that the employee is black and Corbin looks like what you’d draw if you were asked to sketch a white supremacist makes it even more uncomfortable, but I’m confident that WWE isn’t about to run with a “Corbin is a racist” storyline. Surely not. Not even them.
Not the company owned by Vince McMahon.
Not the same WWE who once broadcast, live, Triple H simulating an act of necrophilia in an actual funeral home.
Anyway, you can tell this situation is serious, because Corey Graves and Michael Cole share the same moral stance on it, which usually only takes place during terrorist attacks or Fiend appearances.
It’s like he never even needed Shane McMahon
And we move right along from this harrowing scene of workplace bullying to Elias playing his guitar in the ring. It’s a cold and unfeeling world when you’re a WWE employee. Before Elias can get rolling with the song he’s written, Cesaro and Zayn interrupt so that Sami can shout his feelings at him.
This whole issue seems to have spawned from Elias interrupting Zayn last week, and I don’t care if it means we get more Cesaro matches. Have him attend Corbin’s Nazi rally next week if it means we get more Cesaro matches.
Corbin is probably not holding a Nazi rally next week.
Anyway, we lose the first portion of the match to the commercial break, but when we come back, Cesaro is in control of the scruffy guitarist, but Elias manages to catch him with first a backdrop and then a backbreaker. A mule kick leaves Cesaro sprawling, but Zayn hops onto the apron for a distraction, allowing the Swiss Cyborg to recover before booting Elias into the ringside area.
Cesaro takes his time coming after Elias, then he drops him onto the barricade before bundling him back into the ring for a chinlock. Elias struggles back to his feet, punching away at Cesaro before his opponent catches him with a backdrop of his own, then gutwrench suplexes him from a straight deadlift. Zayn is able to blast Elias in the face with a punch, setting the musician back further in this match and allowing Cesaro to apply a headlock.
Elias escapes, countering a sleeper hold attempt with a back suplex. Cesaro manages to reach his feet before Elias, but he runs into a boot to the face, which is followed by a running knee. Elias moves to capitalise, heading up to the top rope for the flying elbow, but Cesaro is up on his feet quickly, unbalancing Elias on the ropes before trying to bring him down with a superplex. Elias shoves him down to the floor, but Cesaro catches him with a running uppercut, then brings him off the apron right into a superplex!
Cesaro attempts the Neutraliser, but Elias counters into a jackknife cover before running into a huge uppercut. The Swiss Cyborg unleashes more uppercuts, but Elias isn’t done yet, still fighting back however he can, managing to drive Cesaro into the corner. He builds momentum extremely quickly, slamming Cesaro onto the mat before heading up to the top once again. The elbow connects this time, and Elias defeats Cesaro!
Elias continues some good work as a face, showing resilience and anger against a tough opponent. If they can commit to him on this run, this will hopefully lead to some good things for Elias soon enough. 2.5 Stars.
If you want a vision of the future, imagine Reigns vs. Corbin – forever
Oh lawd, King Corbin is still in the building, stormfronting onto the entrance ramp. Trump was acquitted, and now Corbin’s been emboldened to become an even worse human being. He yells at the crowd, outraged that no-one respects his imaginary authority. I know I’m a bit of a politics and history nerd, but this is exactly the kind of situation that having a clear set of rules regarding the powers vested in the King of the Ring would have allowed us to avoid. All we got was a laughable coronation.
Corbin describes last week as an “abomination”, proving that an absolute and total moron is right twice a day. He blames the Usos for Reigns’ victory at the Royal Rumble, saying that Reigns can’t hope to beat him one-on-one. Oh no. Oh dear lord, no. Not another week of Corbin vs. Reigns.
I take it back: make Corbin a Nazi. Give him the little moustache; give him German lessons at gunpoint; let him drive a Panzer tank into WrestleMania. Just not this. Not again. I honestly can’t.
Corbin says that the show will go no further until he gets to face Roman Reigns. I feel like this could be solved by sending any two wrestlers out to beat Corbin into a cringing heap, but I’d settle for a sniper blowing his brains out on live television if it meant avoiding Reigns vs. Corbin ∞: This Time With Even More Dog Food.
Corbin even pours a beverage over a member of the crowd, and this is clearly where Reigns draws his moral line, because he makes his way out into the arena, nailing the King with a Superman Punch before hammering him all around the ring. Corbin finally makes a run for it, but I’m willing to bet that we just got a match between these two in Saudi Arabia, and being forced to watch that is the closest thing to justice that the Saudi leadership will ever face for 9/11.
Reigns then challenges Corbin to a steel cage match, in what this reviewer is already describing as “please God no”.
I am not a fan of this decision
Meanwhile, Goldberg is live via satellite, soon to be barely alive in Saudi Arabia. Goldberg says that he’s not going to waste any of our time, which is several months too late, going on to say that he watched the Royal Rumble recently. Apparently the sight of young, healthy men who are still capable of putting on a wrestling match made Goldberg think, “I could go for several million more dollars”, and he’s decided to challenge the Fiend for the Universal Championship.
Oh God, they would.
Goldberg is interrupted by Bray, who is presenting Firefly Funhouse News. Bray accepts the challenge on behalf of the Fiend. I can’t even make jokes about this: I’m legitimately worried that McMahon would do this. Goldberg doesn’t stay to talk with Wyatt, telling him that he’s next.
So, best-case scenario: Wyatt drags Goldberg to a barely-passable match and retains his title.
Worst-case? I don’t even want to envision that.
Daniel Bryan: probably a murderer
Backstage, Heath Slater is apparently alive and employed, and he talks to Daniel Bryan about how he’s doing following the Fiend murdering him two weeks ago. Heath’s clumsy sympathy manages to offend Bryan, to the point where he challenges Slater to a match.
After Slater gets jobber-entranced to his own funeral, Bryan makes his way to the ring. We get a reminder of everything the Fiend put Bryan through, and then the bell rings. Bryan launches himself at Heath, hitting him with a running dropkick before hurling him through the ropes before leaping out after him. Back in the ring, Bryan hits a missile dropkick, followed by the Yes Kicks.
The Running Knee murders Slater, but Bryan disrespects the dead with a number of stomps to the face, then applies the LaBell Lock. Heath doesn’t even tap out before the referee stops things, lending credence to my belief that Bryan actually killed him and we all just watched it.
I guess the Revival are just a tag team for hire now
Renee Young is in the ring, ready to interview new Intercontinental Champion, Braun Strowman. Braun makes his way to the ring, saying that this title is his best achievement so far in WWE, which is a good way of reinforcing what a big moment this is and how important the Intercontinental and United States Championships are.
Before this can go any further, Sami and Shinsuke interrupt. Zayn demands that Nakamura be given a rematch, to which Strowman says he’s fine to go through with right now. But Zayn clearly knows that Super Showdown needs some more matches, so he says that it won’t be happening right now.
The Revival then jump Strowman, with Nakamura and Zayn piling in, overwhelming Braun by sheer weight of numbers. Shinsuke charges for a Kinshasa, but Braun catches him with a right hand, disposing of Dawson and Wilder in a similar fashion. He chases Zayn around the ring, knocking down the Revival en route, but Zayn is able to dash back into the ring, luring Braun into a knee strike from Nakamura, followed by a Kinshasa.
We’re shown how Otis is preparing for his date with Mandy on Valentine’s Day, which mostly involves working out and wearing sleeveless blazers, but which also features Tucker trying to teach him table etiquette. If there was any justice, we’d also get a video of Sonya having to go through the exact same thing with Mandy.
Sheamus is clearly just better
And here’s Sheamus, who’s having a match with Apollo Crews for no real reason. Crews does give Sheamus a tough contest for about ten seconds, then the big Irish lad wallops him with a Brogue Kick and wins.
I’ve more or less given up on Apollo Crews, so I’m fine with using him to make Sheamus a total monster. 2 Stars.
Before Crews can eat another Brogue Kick, Gable interrupts, fighting off Sheamus for several moments before he takes Brogue Kick himself. Why is this story still going on? Am I supposed to support Shorty G? Because he’s done terribly in every exchange with Sheamus so far.
Now bring us Ellsworth
It’s time for a Fatal 4-Way to determine Bayley’s next number one contender. Maybe they can have that match in Saudi Arabia: make it a “no skin revealed except for hands and faces” match, seeing as how making stupid decisions about title matches is so clearly the theme of tonight.
This match is Naomi vs. Carmella vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Dana Brooke, with Bayley watching from the outside. Brooke is the only gal in the ring not to be Women’s Champion, but Naomi seems like the probable winner tonight.
All four women start battering away at each other, with Naomi immediately trying to pin Brooke, which devolves into all of the four of them trying to get the pin quickly. Carmella takes some punishment from Brooke and Bliss, all three of whom end up on the outside of the ring before Naomi dives out onto them, with Bayley taking a moment to stand over them, belt aloft: that’s some solid heel work. Naomi stands up, taking a swing at Bayley, which earns her a fast, painful trip into both the steel steps and the commercial break.
When we come back, Naomi’s still laying on the outside, and the focus is on Bliss, Carmella, and Brooke. Naomi re-enters the match with a springboard, taking out all three competitors with some explosive offence before Bliss manages to toss her through the ropes. Alexa now takes the fight to Carmella, with Brooke interrupting with a Batista Bomb before Carmella manages to break up the pin.
Now the Staten Island Princess punishes Brooke, only for Naomi to mount another comeback, almost pinning Carmella off the split-legged moonsault, with Dana making the save this time. Naomi finds retribution with a wheelbarrow stunner to Brooke, but now Bliss is on her, trying to beat Naomi down and keep her down. Mrs Uso is irrepressible, however, and she’s able take Bliss out with a scoop slam and leg drop.
Now Naomi places Bliss on the top rope, scoring a headbutt as she gets her opponent into position, but Bliss wants none of this, shoving Naomi off the top before trying to capitalise with a quick pin. Alexa yells at Naomi to give up, losing some of her composure before hitting her with a big slap. Naomi returns fire with an elbow to the jaw, throwing Bliss into Carmella before suplexing Dana Brooke back into the ring.
After nailing Brooke with a split-legged leg drop, Naomi is dragged into the turnbuckle by Alexa, who looks to take advantage with Twisted Bliss. Naomi raises her knees at the last second, hitting the Rear View, only for Carmella to catch her with two superkicks, pinning Naomi for the win!
Hah, I did not see that coming. Fair play to WWE for letting Naomi’s road to the Championship build gradually, but it’s an odd choice to have Naomi herself be the one to eat the pin, especially with Bliss having just taken a Rear View. 2.5 Stars.
Tags: Alexa Bliss, apollo crews, Baron Corbin, bayley, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Cesaro, Chad Gable, Dana Brooke, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Elias, goldberg, Heath Slater, Miz and Morrison, naomi, Robert Roode, sami zayn, Sheamus, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown, Super Showdown, The Fiend, The New Day, The Revival, the usos, women's championship, WWE