It’s Valentine’s Day, and if we can get through this without a “St Valentine’s Day Massacre” match which involves dudes getting knocked out with giant hearts, literally shot with Cupid’s bow and arrow, or shoved up against the wall and machine-gunned by gangsters disguised as cops, then I’ll be reasonably content. I will still, of course, be taking breaks from said-contentment to hyperventilate into a pillow due to certain Goldberg-related developments, which are making me a combination of paranoid and absolutely furious.
We’re also going to see the latest chapter in the wonderful tale depicting attraction and romance crossing social boundaries and levels of wrestling ability, as Mandy and Otis go on their first date. Much like the Alexa Bliss/Nikki Cross friendship, I find myself hoping that this won’t turn out to be some kind of cruel trick on Mandy Rose’s part, with the punchline being that an overweight chap like Otis (who, as husky as he is, could easily snap both me and you, dear reader, in two) shouldn’t ever expect genuine romantic feelings from an attractive lady like Mandy, because nothing matters in romance except your physical appearance.
Then again, I hoped that Goldberg would never darken and viciously headbutt WWE’s doorway again, and look how that’s turned out.
Oh, and Hulk Hogan’s going to show up again. Have retirement homes raised their fees recently? Because if I wanted to see the elderly embarrass themselves, I’d have gone to more pro-Leave rallies while I had the chance.
Sounds like Carmella doesn’t want to go to Saudi Arabia
Anyway, the show starts with Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, who are hosting A Moment of Bliss: one small tendril of the nebulous web of talk shows occasionally hosted by professional wrestlers. They wish everyone Happy Valentine’s Day before revealing their celebrity crushes. Alexa’s is apparently Brad Pitt, which is fair, and Nikki doesn’t reveal her own. I’m quite sure, however, that it’s either James McAvoy, Ewan McGregor, or the guy who played Begbie in Trainspotting.
Wait, Robert Carlyle played Begbie? I’d meant it as a callous, unfeeling joke, but Robert Carlyle is actually quite the catch, as long as you can somehow look past 28 Weeks Later and Eragon. I couldn’t, which I imagine would make me something of an unenthusiastic sexual partner.
Alexa and Nikki are out there to interview Carmella, current heir apparent to the SmackDown Women’s Championship in a development described by this reviewer as “what, really?”. Bliss actually mentions this, stating that nobody had really seen this coming. Carmella ignores the barbed comment, saying that she surprised everyone last week and she’ll surprise Bayley in their match.
We then dig into the WWE superstar social media game, which is either a hideous and patronising work of artifice or a chance to get a look at Seth Rollins’ beastslayer (he calls it that: you know it and I know it). Apparently Carmella and Bayley used to be quite good friends: a weird decision, considering the level of backstabbing that constitutes WWE’s workplace culture. Shawn Michaels has betrayed so many people that I’m surprised he’s not divorced his wife yet out of sheer habit.
Carmella places the destruction of her and Bayley’s friendship at the door of Sasha Banks, who’s been offscreen for so long that I’ve just assumed she’s dead. Before we can get into a real discussion regarding Sasha Banks’ total lack of anything resembling a soul, Bayley arrives. She’s wearing the Championship like a sash, which is both an odd choice and a terrible aesthetic, and she tells Carmella that, to quote Owen Hart, enough is enough.
Bayley says that Carmella can’t blame Sasha when it’s really all her own fault, explaining that any friendship was out of pity and the desire to see what it feels like to be a mentor. Bliss tries to get involved, which is one way of trying to Charlotte Flair herself into the Championship scene, but Bayley merely reminds her that her record of trying to take the Women’s Championship isn’t exactly stellar. Carmella finally decides that they need a little less conversation and a little more action, telling Bayley that they can have their match right now. It’s frankly amazing that they didn’t need to consult anyone backstage on that decision, although it’s fun to imagine Road Dogg and Billy Kidman roaring at the sky in impotent fury.
If Carmella tuned up the band, those superkicks would be more effective
After a commercial break, it’s time for a Women’s Championship match. The bell rings, and Carmella manages to dodge and counter Bayley’s initial assault, denying the Champion a quick victory before taking her to the mat, working over the left arm. Bayley tries to reach the ropes, but Carmella is dogged, bringing her back into the centre of the ring. Bayley only escapes by ducking onto the apron, using the ropes to tie up Carmella and beat her down.
Now Bayley’s in control, relying primarily on yelling at her opponent. Carmella tries for actual physical offence, unleashing a slap and a dropkick, and Bayley realises what a good idea this is, answering with an assault of her own, putting the boots to her challenger. Carmella manages to stop Bayley climbing up to the top, winning a punch to the face and a back suplex for her efforts. Bayley heads back up, launching herself at Carmella in a crossbody that misses wildly, with Carmella almost picking up the win with a superkick.
A headscissors takeover connects, and when Bayley rolls out of the ring, Carmella throws herself through the ropes like a heel-seeking missile. In the ring, her own crossbody connects, but Bayley just shoots the shoulder up, rolling out of the ring again. This time, she’s able to slam Carmella’s face against the announce table, leaving her laying as we head into another commercial break.
When we come back, Bayley’s relying on that old Randy Orton standby: sleeper holds and headlocks. Carmella manages to land a jawbreaker, then counters Bayley’s bodyslam attempt, building momentum with some hit-and-run offence before catching the Champ with a hurricanrana. A quick moonwalk and a bronco buster follows, but Bayley uses innocent referee and Ric Flair’s secret child, Charles Robinson, as a human shield to dodge a superkick. Carmella doesn’t follow through with the kick, the coward, and Bayley’s able to take advantage with a big old punch to the face. Carmella’s not done, though still building momentum with a series of running forearms, but a Bayley-to-Belly out of nowhere stops her cold, almost finishing the match right there.
Bayley argues with the referee/barely-human shield about the speed of the count, like she didn’t just try to cause his death-via-superkick. She then waits on Bayley, missing a knee to the corner that allows Carmella to toss her out of the ring. Bayley hangs Carmella up on the top rope, but it doesn’t stagger the challenger long enough, and the Princess of Staten Island catches her with a superkick as she climbs the up to the top.
Carmella heads up into the high-risk district, hitting a Frankensteiner that almost gets the win. Several quick pins from Carmella follow, but Bayley blocks a backslide, trying her own inside cradle. We’ve just devolved into an exchange of pin attempts, but suddenly Carmella blasts Bayley with the superkick, and the Champion only saves herself by rolling out of the ring. Carmella follows, eager not to allow Bayley any recovery time, but that gets her tossed into the ring post.
Bayley drags Carmella back into the ring, planning on finishing the match now. Carmella blocks Bayley’s finisher (name still TBA) and almost scores another superkick, which Bayley ducks. Carmella manages a drop-toehold, locking in the Code of Silence! Bayley is able to knock out the challenger’s elbow to counter. A quick pin exchange follows, but Bayley gets her feet on the ropes, adding just enough leverage to make the three-count.
This was very well done. Carmella got to demonstrate her improved abilities in a decent-length match and got a rub from a strong attempt, while the field is cleared for either Naomi or Bliss. A good match to kick off the show. 3.5 Stars.
Bayley then attacks Carmella from behind, just to remind everyone that she’s evil. But she doesn’t get a chance to revel in what a jerk she’s been, because Naomi – who lost to Carmella last week in a textbook example of How Not to Build a Returning Face – is making her way to the ring. She gets nose-to-nose with Bayley, and the two are about to get into it when Carmella blasts Bayley from behind, knocking her into Naomi.
Carmella stomps the Women’s Champion before Naomi interjects, nailing Bayley with a step-up enzuigiri. Carmella finishes things off with a superkick, sending the Champ rolling out of the ring. There’s no awkwardness or aggression following Carmella accidentally knocking Naomi down; in the men’s division, this would have led to a three-month blood feud.
King Corbin: a hostile working environment story
Speaking of things that go on for months without end, remember how none of us particularly cared for Corbin vs. Reigns? Well, that’s still going on and will continue long after we are dead and forgotten. Climate change will drive species after species into extinction, baking the earth’s surface into a hostile, ashen wasteland, inhabited by no living thing. But, somewhere deep within the bowels of the earth, untouched by light and unwitnessed by any, Roman Reigns and King Corbin will continue their unending battle, tireless and eternal.
The latest chapter in this grand epic involved Corbin beating up a technician and dousing a fan with their own drink, leading to Reigns deciding to defend their honour in a steel cage match at Super Showdown. Maybe the reason they’re doing this in Saudi Arabia there is because WWE could then have the loser beheaded or stoned to death. I genuinely don’t care which one of them would have to die, as long as this ends somehow. And, realistically, the existence of bodily resurrection is more likely at this rate than Corbin vs. Reigns ever stopping.
Anyway, King Corbin is banned from the arena tonight, which in WWE means he either actually doesn’t show up or that he absolutely will and will also assault a lot of people. This is one of a thousand examples of why WWE is not like any other workplace, and one of a million reasons why wrestlers should unionise.
Backstage, Bayley is whacking her title off random stuff. She’s interrupted by an interviewer, who decides what’ll really calm Bayley down is calling her victory “controversial”. Conflict de-escalation, thy name is Kayla Braxton. Bayley states that she’ll next defend her Championship at Super Showdown, making her even more of a heel by helping to legitimise a morally-indefensible regime.
We’re shown clips from a touching and emotional documentary about Lacey Evans, who will do anything to be a good role model to young women who look up to her, except perhaps learn to wrestle without looking like a baby deer trying to take its first steps.
Backstage, Otis is all ready for his date, rocking the sleeveless jacket and red waistcoat over a Heavy Machinery shirt. This man’s confidence and belief in himself is so outstanding that I don’t even feel able to mock anything. Tucker arrives, and Otis asks him if he thinks it’s possible that Mandy Rose could actually like him. Tucker replies that, if Mandy deserves him, she’ll like him for all he has to offer. That is one of the most mature things I’ve heard in over six years of reviewing this show, and more than anything it makes me want this whole thing to just work out.
So, Chad Gable and Apollo Crews are losers: cool
Speaking of “working out”, here’s Sheamus. The joke here is that he is a big, muscular man. Tonight, he’s facing Apollo Crews and Shorty G in a 2-on-1 handicap match. Even if Crews and Gable win…is that something that can be considered an achievement? Would you be proud of the fact that you and a co-worker are more effective at your job when working as a team than one other co-worker? Because I’m supposed to see these two young men as the resilient babyfaces, meaning that it’s odd that Sheamus is the one facing the disadvantage.
Apollo and Shorty G rush the ring, beating Sheamus down in the corner as a team, like heroes. Then the bell rings, and Gable continues to put the boots to the big Irish lad in the corner before tagging in Apollo, who grabs Sheamus’ arm for Gable to tag in and hit a double-team with him.
Then Sheamus blasts Gable in mid-sprint, shutting down his momentum so hard that I think it erased the first part of this match. He pounds Gable’s chest with the Ten Beats of the Foreign Word, but there’s still life in Chad yet, who reverses White Noise into an ankle lock. Sheamus kicks Shorty G away from him, and Apollo tags in, hitting Sheamus with a volley of strikes, with a blind tag from Gable allowing the pair of them to hammer the former WWE Champion both inside and outside the ring in what would be a heroic effort if it wasn’t for the aforementioned two-on-one odds.
Sheamus suddenly powers up, Brogue Kicking Gable off the apron before hurling Apollo into the corner and pinning him with a Brogue Kick.
It’s weird that they’re using such a solid method of building a face for a heel, but that’s what this is, and I’m fully on Sheamus’ side because he’s capable of winning his matches. It is still, as I say, weird. 1.5 Stars.
Backstage, Kayla Braxton is clearly dedicated to annoying every member of the Women’s Division, asking Carmella about her loss tonight. Carmella says that she deserves a rematch, which she’s happy to have “any time, any place”. I’ve never seen anyone so close to and yet simultaneously far away from a Championship as Naomi is right now.
Urgh: the first mention of Wyatt vs. Goldberg, followed by a highlight reel of Concussion Bill’s career. Look, I would be fine with this match if A) Goldberg was going to put Wyatt over as clean as a whistle, which I really can’t see him or, if you like, WWE going through with, and B) he was able to be one half of a decent match, which I also doubt he has in him anymore.
I hope I’m wrong on both of those points. I hope that we get the sort of intense madness we saw during Goldberg’s final encounter with Lesnar: five minutes of high-impact, climactic offence that pleasantly surprised everyone. I hope that I can turn to my housemate and say, “honestly, that wasn’t bad”. I hope that this isn’t going to be the latest entry in WWE’s long, long, long list of occasions where, completely of their own volition, they shot themselves in the foot.
Like with Booker T vs. Triple H. Or Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna/Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna. Or Team WWE vs. Team Nexus. Or Reigns vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania 34. And those are just the first four I thought of.
Like I say: I hope I’m wrong.
And, not to be a jerk, but I notice that Undertaker vs. Goldberg doesn’t make an appearance in this pleasant and sanitised walk down memory lane. Neither does his WrestleMania XX match against Brock Lesnar, which taught a 12-year-old David Spain one of his first harsh lessons about professional wrestling: sometimes it sucks.
Whatcha gonna do when the old people refuse to leave wrestling?
And Memory Lane must be a longer hike than I’d thought it was, because now we’re interviewing Hulk Hogan, live via satellite. I’m compelled to ask why, though I’m worried about what the answer’s going to be. Are we going to see Hogan vs. The Undertaker in Saudi Arabia? Is the Hulkster going to give up-and-comer Aleister Black a bit of a rub by pinning him clean after a single leg-drop?
Hulk Hogan talks about the n.W.o, and Cole directs this discussion towards Goldberg vs. Wyatt. Hogan manages to say in about a thousand words that he thinks that Goldberg will probably win, but he’s then interrupted by an announcement from the Firefly Fun House, with an n.W.o aesthetic.
Bray enters the Fun House, imitating Hogan’s mannerisms. He tells Hulk that he followed his advice: eating vitamins and saying prayers, and it got him the Universal Championship. He then fatshames Huskus before giving him some chocolate, causing me to once again accept that I’ll never fully grasp the nuances of this broadcast. Hogan is unamused, grimly wishing Bray luck against Goldberg. Wyatt drops into a more menacing mood, telling Hogan that he doesn’t need luck before making a threat about Hulk having an encounter with the Fiend as well.
The day the music died
Sami Zayn and Cesaro are in the ring, surrounded by security, apparently planning on having a protest concert against the WWE in general. They are, of course, interrupted by Elias, who accuses Zayn of trying to make his name off him and claims to be here for a counter-protest. This irritates Sami, but he says that if Elias really does have something to say, he should get in the ring and be a part of this.
Elias does so, but any attempt at music-making from Sami and Cesaro is drowned out by the crowd singing “Walk With Elias”. The second attempt actually manages to start, but it’s then derailed by Cesaro going nuts with the cowbell. Sami asks him to quiet down, but the audience then start a chant in support of cowbell. In response, Cesaro tosses it out of the ring. That is some ice-cold heel work right there.
After a third attempt at making sweet music fails, Sami and Cesaro decide to make the best of a bad job and just assault Elias. This has some entertainment value, but it also causes Braun Strowman to charge the ring, scattering Zayn’s security team before chasing Sami and Cesaro up the entrance ramp. Braun and Elias then take out their frustrations on a random security guard, hurling him out of the ring onto his comrades.
God, Kayla is devoted to hassling the women’s division tonight. She’s now with Naomi, who’s got no time for her insensitive questions. She states that she’s tired of Bayley and Sasha, and she wants a title shot. Short and to the point.
We’re told immediately afterward that Bayley will face either Naomi or Carmella in Saudi Arabia, depending on who wins a match between the two next week.
This feels like karma for all the times I joked about that Rusev/Lashley/Lana storyline
We’re given a look back at the formation of Mandy and Otis’ connection, featuring Otis’ sensual cake-eating though not nearly enough of it.
And finally, it begins. We’re shown Otis arriving at the restaurant, flowers in hand and jacket sleeves missing. But Dolph Ziggler just so happens to be in the same restaurant at the same time. Oh no: not only is it all going to go wrong, but it’s going to feature Dolph Ziggler on top of it.
Otis, of course, sees Ziggler and Mandy sitting down together and walks off, despite the fact that actually walking up and seeing what was going on would at least give him more of an idea of…well, what was going on. There were a lot of ways to play this, and this was, factually, one of them.
I guess Bryan’s just not angry today
And here are the Miz and John Morrison, ready for a match against Roman Reigns and his mysterious opponent. They take issue with the Usos, noting that they’re not here tonight whereas they themselves are here every day unless one of them needed to make a movie about dogs that wrestle.
Speaking of dogs, the Big Dawg arrives, interrupting what I’m sure would have been a well-thought-out and respectful criticism of two DUI enthusiasts. His mystery partner is Daniel Bryan, who I guess is taking some time out from his descent into darkness following his brush with the Fiend to help out his old chum, Roman Reigns. I mean, if this means that he’s going to murder the Miz live on camera as Roman looks on, aghast, I could imagine a worse main event.
Oh, and King Corbin has bought a ticket and is attending the show as a fan. What is it tonight with heels employing face tactics? We had Sheamus prevailing in a two-on-one situation, and now Corbin is doing the old face trick of attending a show that he was barred from as a member of the public. Is Fox finally starting to affect the morality of WWE, assuming of course that there ever was one to begin with?
Reigns starts against Morrison, matching his power against Morrison’s athleticism and speed. The Shaman of Sexy is made to suffer at Roman’s hands, or more accurately his fists, before Bryan tags in, knocking Morrison down before taking an idle swing at the Miz. He handles Morrison easily, pausing again to dive through the ropes at Miz, then unleashes the Yes Kicks onto Morrison, blasting him straight in the head.
Bryan continues to batter Jon Morrison before hitting a Frankensteiner. Morrison is able to dodge Bryan’s running dropkicks, using his athletic prowess to avoid his opponent, sending Bryan sprawling to the outside. An attack by Miz, a distraction from Corbin and a dive by Morrison see us exit to the commercial break with the heels finally taking control.
When we come back, Morrison has Bryan grounded. The former WWE Champion tries to fight his way back onto his feet, but a boot right to the head puts a stop to that nonsense. Now the Miz tags in, cutting off an attempted rally from Bryan by crotching him on the turnbuckle. The A-Lister tries to superplex Bryan, who returns the crotchy-favour, dropping Miz groin-first onto the turnbuckle. Morrison swiftly tags in, ending Bryan’s quest to tag out with a spinebuster and a vicious shining wizard to the face.
Now Morrison heads up to the top rope, missing a 450 splash as Bryan rolls away. Both men are down, crawling to their corners, and Reigns and Miz both tag in. Roman takes out the Miz with ease, blasting Morrison with a right hand en route, before returning his attention to the A-Lister. He wants the Superman Punch, but the Miz almost counters into the SCF; Morrison gets a blind tag and knocks Roman down with a disaster kick! A second shining wizard plays concussion roulette with Reigns’ brain, but the Big Dog counters Starship Pain into a powerbomb attempt; Morrison escapes, only to springboard right into a Superman Punch!
Reigns is just about done, and he waits on Morrison for a spear. Morrison counters with a knee to the head, letting Miz nail Reigns with a Skull-Crushing Finale! Bryan breaks up the pin, unleashing hell on Morrison before the Miz blindsides him with a kick. Now the Miz wants to use his own running knee, which sees him sprint right into a Superman Punch. One spear later, and Roman wins.
It’s fun to see Morrison and Reigns match up, and it’s a good pairing. I’d have liked to see a little more of Bryan’s rage, if we are still doing that, especially with the opportunity to have Reigns appear a little discomforted by it. Still, there’s time. 2.5 Stars.
And then Corbin blasts Roman in the back of the neck with the sceptre. At a certain point, it’s attempted murder. It’s certainly assault with a deadly weapon.
Also, someone put Corbin’s platform on the stage? And they’re playing his music to close the show? So someone knew that he’d be here tonight and that he planned on assaulting Roman Reigns. Looks like someone backstage wants Roman dead.
Tags: Alexa Bliss, apollo crews, bayley, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Cesaro, Chad Gable, Dolph Ziggler, Elias, Heavy Machinery, Hulk Hogan, John Morrison, King Corbin, Mandy Rose, Miz and Morrison, Nikki Cross, otis, sami zayn, Sheamus, Shorty G, smackdown, The Miz, The New Day, WWE