Dr. Spain’s SmackDown Report and Review for March 20th 2020: Reporting to You from the Quarantine-Zone

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Well, the UK government finally closed down the gyms, which I will acknowledge was probably the right thing to do while also pointing out that that was 50% of why I was even leaving the house anymore. So, I imagine I’ll be dealing with a sudden surplus of energy over the next few months that I could either put towards profitable and creative projects or spend typing furious and irrational vitriol targeted at the denizens of WWE-land.

I guess we’ll just see how it goes.

No man can handle this level of hype

Triple H, Town-Crier of the Endtimes, doesn’t bother greeting us with a speech tonight. I’m a little relieved; his declamation from last week was a wee bit heavy on the apocalyptic undertones, and this “show performed by phantoms in an abandoned auditorium” vibe that WWE’s currently rocking is eery enough by itself.

Michael Cole’s commentary greets us as the show begins, and it doesn’t take the man long to cut his own credibility off at the knees by calling Roman Reigns vs. Goldberg “a dream match”. Reigns vs. Goldberg isn’t a dream; it’s not even a nightmare, because a nightmare is something that you can eventually wake up from.

The main point here seems to be that Roman and Goldberg will be having a contract signing tonight, which at the very least will be an enlightening experiment that will determine whether it’s possible for Goldberg to concuss himself purely by writing his own name.

Also, WWE will be giving us a freebie and themselves about twenty minutes of relaxation by showing us Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena from WrestleMania past. Despite my cynical tone, I have no objection to this whatsoever; the match itself was good despite its poor conclusion, and this long-form storytelling and exploration of the men’s relationship is exactly what’s needed to elevate this feud. It’d be nice if WWE could pull off this sort of organic, natural narrative-building in other storylines as well but, if they could, then they wouldn’t be WWE at all.

And Paige is back, which is good news for everyone who enjoys the accent equivalent of a cheese grater.

Michael Cole is in the ring, telling all of us that WrestleMania is “too big” and so will take place over two different nights. That’s a hilarious way to explain away poor planning and an inability to get one’s affairs in order. And, you know, the global pandemic.

We’re also treated to a quick profile of one Rob Gronkowski, host of WrestleMania this year, presumably for those of us who aren’t familiar with this individual’s work. I’m one of those who had remained, until now, unenlightened, and my impression of Mr. Gronkowski is that he won’t make cause much alteration to the average intellect of the WWE.

My dream host of WrestleMania, you ask? Benjamin Disraeli, resurrected from the grave by either the cold hand of science or via a pact with a malevolent, eldritch entity. My second choice? Mr. Blobby.

Michael Cole is joined in the ring by Mojo Rawley: a poor man’s Mr. Blobby in his own right. They’re here to introduce Robert Gronkowski, who approaches the ring with all the enthusiasm of a coked-up children’s holiday rep in Magaluf. He proclaims himself to have been a fan of professional wrestling since he was a small and presumably unintellectual child.

Mojo promises to protect Gronkowski from anyone who might, for whatever reason, want to take a swing at the big man, which isn’t a comforting sentiment from the man who declared Zack Ryder “ain’t hype” and proceeded to maul him in front of a horrified audience. Then Gronk and Rawley start chopping each other and yelling in an interaction that is equal parts aggressive, homoerotic, and incredibly stupid; it’s like the mood of any frat house after about 11 pm.

And if you want aggression and incredible stupidity, then look no further than King Corbin, who decides to make his royal presence known (Corbin is not an erotic being, and I’ll fight anyone who tries to claim otherwise, subject to social distancing guidelines). His Majesty is here to throw his weight – most of which resides in a jiggly tummy cunningly concealed behind a black vest – around. It’s a bold move from a man who manages to be an accurate visual representation of Game of Thrones season eight.

Corbin demands that El Gronko get on his knees, which seems to be perfectly in-line with the furious sexual ecstasy that he and Mojo were engaged in a moment ago, but all of a sudden, Gronkowski’s got standards and he refuses. Corbin then draws a lot of comparisons between football players and professional wrestlers, which seem to revolve around the fact that wrestling has way fewer safety precautions. One day, this little speech is going to be exhibit A in a huge insurance case.

Anyway, Elias then announces his own presence with a strum of the guitar. He’s written a song for Corbin, and it’s a prophetic verse about Gronkowski murdering him. Ah, wrestling. This causes Corbin to get in Gronk’s face, threatening him with such mild sentiments as “you’re gonna get hurt”. Mojo gets on his knees behind Corbin, and Gronkowski pushes the monarch over him.

Remember when Corbin once tried to actually murder Dean Ambrose with a forklift? Me neither.

Corbin gets up, vague displeasure in his eyes, but Elias has slipped into the ring, and he tosses King Corbin over the top rope and onto the entrance ramp. Then Gronk says that a match should be made at WrestleMania between Corbin and Elias.

This: this right here is why you had to split it between two nights. Because of matches that literally no-one cares about. Between this and Roman Reigns claiming a title match and a WrestleMania main event with no-one even challenging him for it, this really is the year of lazy feuds.

Zayn and Cole are actually a bigger crowd than some indie shows that these guys have wrestled at

Bryan and Gulak are in the house, ready to take on Nakamura and Cesaro in tag-team action. We recap the events of last week, then Cesaro, Shinsuke and Zayn make their entrances.

Shinsuke and Bryan start things off, both exchanging holds and grapples and whatever else is going on as the camera lingers lovingly on Sami Zayn. Gulak tags in, and Nakamura manages to back him into his own corner, tagging in Cesaro to reckon with Gulak’s technical ability. Bryan and Gulak hit a double-team dropkick to the leg, remaining in control, but a blind tag to Cesaro, coupled with the Swiss Cyborg’s strength, allows Cesaro to stop Bryan’s momentum cold with an incredible backbreaker.

After a commercial break, during which the wrestlers presumably rested against the ropes, trading mild pleasantries, we’re back with the action, and Cesaro’s ridiculous power is still making things tough for Bryan. A dropkick from the former WWE Champion decks the Swissman, allowing him to tag out to Gulak, who immediately takes it to Nakamura with a volley of offence, almost winning with a German suplex.

Shinsuke catches Drew with a spinning kick to the face, and Cesaro tags in to strength him to death. Gulak suffers from a combined transnational assault, with only Bryan making the save. Drew takes some more punishment, but a last-second dodge and a huge clothesline manages to buy him some time.

Bryan’s down on the outside, leaving Gulak all Billy-no-mates. Cesaro smacks him around for a while, but he should have taken Gulak out of his corner, because Bryan’s able to get a blind tag! A double-team sunset flip from the top rope nets Bryan and Gulak the win!

That was a good match, with everyone getting a chance to show off. I always appreciate bouts that end without a finishing move being employed: it keeps things interesting and unexpected. 3 Stars.

Sami Zayn practically has a stroke at this turn of events, which is just good entertainment.

After the match, Bryan and Gulak are stretching backstage. This is like wrestling’s equivalent of a gritty true-crime drama. But Sami Zayn interrupts, declaring their win to be MEDIOCRE, getting personal with both of them. Bryan responds by calling Zayn “barely Intercontinental Champion”, and he parlays this into a WrestleMania match for the Intercontinental Championship on the line for himself. That’s some real hustling from Bryan.

Zayn says that if Bryan believes in Gulak’s teachings so much, he can prove it: if Drew Gulak can defeat Shinsuke Nakamura next week, then Bryan gets his Intercontinental title shot at WrestleMania. Holy competent storytelling, Batman!

Paige’s voice makes dogs run off cliffs

Michael Cole is in the ring, communicating with Paige over Skype. Fortunately, this is interrupted by Bayley and Sasha, who march their way down to the ring and dismiss Michael Cole. Don’t you dare call them heels for that.

Bayley and Sasha tell Paige to say what she’s sort-of here to say so people can go back to forgetting about her. Paige responds by saying that more than greatness, courage is needed to change people’s hearts. Who gives a damn about changing people’s hearts? Bayley’s the Women’s Champion; isn’t that more important when it comes to WWE?

Bayley mocks Paige by challenging her to a match before reminding everyone that Paige isn’t cleared to wrestle, and this is treated like a real low blow. Remember when Triple H once literally recreated an instance of necrophilia that he’d accused Kane of, at an actual funeral home? Remember when Kane tried to actually kill the Undertaker? Remember when the Big Boss Man stole Big Show’s father’s corpse? Because that’s where the line is, just for reference.

Does anyone else think it’s weird that the Big Show invited WWE to record his dad’s funeral? And that he wore what appears to be black leather to, again, his dad’s funeral? I feel like this was never sufficiently explored, either by WWE or a team of psychologists.

Anyway, Paige announces that Bayley will be defending her title at WrestleMania against Lacey “A Mother And A Veteran But Not A Wrestler” Evans. Oh wow: another match I have zero interest in whatsoever.

Oh, and Dana Brooke? And Tamina? Has Paige been doing drugs? Because that’s the only explanation I can think of for any of this.

Paige then also adds Naomi to the match, and at least Naomi makes sense in that conversation, even if she was defeated easily and for zero reason in Saudi Arabia.

Sasha finally calls Paige a “bitch”, which is an accurate description for anyone who’d serve up that convoluted mess as a WrestleMania title match. Paige then declares the match an Elimination six-pack match, and Sasha’s placed in the match as well.

Well, that pulls it back from the brink just a little.

After this, we get Cena vs. Wyatt at WrestleMania 30. I never held much hope for either a Wyatt victory or a Cena heel turn, despite how excellent either or both of those would have been, but it was still a depressing turn of events to see Cena pull out the utterly predictable win.

God, I’d forgotten that Wyatt started the match by offering Cena a free shot. At least he had his reasons for that; what was weird was that Cena didn’t take the shot in the first place, considering he would spend the next fifteen minutes trying to beat Bray into unconsciousness. Maybe Cena only enjoys it when he can feel his victims struggling.

I’d also forgotten how good Bray’s character work was in this role. I feel like the supernatural and darkness elements got way out of control towards the end of his first run, especially considering how simple and creepy his backwoods cult leader persona was at the very start, but Wyatt has always been consistently excellent in his portrayals.

Also, that referee at the end. “I know this isn’t who you are! You don’t wanna do this, John!” Were they sleeping together? Because that is the only reason I can imagine this random dude being that invested in an outcome he should have been utterly neutral to.

Man, they really messed that up, and with it Bray Wyatt’s whole character.

Michael Cole then takes us back to last week, to Cena and Wyatt’s community theatre production of “Seriously, Though, What The Fuck?” I feel like they missed quite a bit of middle there. If you needed to fill up some time, then maybe do a retrospective of Wyatt’s career. Hell, let Bray make it and traumatise everyone for a solid twenty minutes. I’d absolutely stay tuned for that.

Miz and Morrison: Masters of Mimicry

Here’s Miz and Morrison, and they’re just doing The Dirt Sheet again. Well, I’m sure it won’t feel like a complete retread of last week.

But first, Kayla Braxton is backstage with Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss. These people really need to get their schedules in order. Alexa takes over the interview, telling Asuka that if she wants to play it this way, that’s fine: she’s played it that way herself and she’s very good at it. She challenges Asuka to a match next week, which I would still consider to be a theatrical way to commit suicide.

Back to Miz and Morrison, and their main topic of conversation is who should challenge them for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania. They end up imitating all of their potential challengers, and their portrayals are surprisingly good. Also, does anyone else feel like we really need some more build towards Ziggler vs. Otis at WrestleMania, if that’s still the plan?

And apparently not, because Heavy Machinery suddenly arrive, making their way to the ring for a match against the Tag Team Champions. What even is this WrestleMania build?

Dolph Ziggler is a bad, bad man

After a commercial break, both Miz and Morrison are trying to cope with the terrifying strength of Otis. It’s quite interesting that whatever Otis is saying during the match is just as incomprehensible without the roar of the crowd. Morrison finally manages to bamboozle the big lad with some high-flying offence, but it’s all for nothing as he runs into a wall made of big, meaty man.

Tucker tags in, keeping Morrison contained for a while, but the Prince of Parkour manages to escape, tagging in the Miz to effectively take his beating for him. Heavy Machinery more or less runs roughshod all over both Tag Team Champions, with Tucker taking both men out with a running senton, until some good teamwork and a low bridge from Miz and Morrison allow the champs to regain control, taking advantage of the opportunity and laying a beating on Knight.

The heels reign supreme now, not allowing Tucker to get anywhere close to Otis and trying to keep him either cornered or grounded. Quick tags and double-teams keep Tucker on the defensive, though a sudden burst of adrenaline allows him to dispose of both men, and now he crawls towards Otis, reaching out for the tag.

Oh God: here comes the coronavirus in human form. Yes, it’s Dolph Ziggler. Well, at least I get something approaching a build towards another WrestleMania match; they can’t all be announced by Paige via Skype, thank God.

The distraction and presumably the disgust caused by Ziggler’s presence allow Miz and Morrison take control once again as we head into a commercial break. When we come back, the Champions are still in control and Dolph Ziggler is on commentary. Tucker manages to reverse a double suplex, tagging in a fired-up Otis to clean house. Miz and Morrison are bounced around like pinballs as Otis builds momentum, and now it looks like it’s time for a Caterpillar to both men.

And then Ziggler leaps on the microphone, distracting Otis even more. He says that he wants to show Otis “some pictures”, which I’ll admit piqued my interest in no small measure, but they’re just of a clothed Mandy and Dolph together. What, WWE’s too good to just broadcast sex tapes or nudes of their stars to help us all through these trying times? Make the first night of WrestleMania an orgy, you cowards. Give us terrifying, confusing erotica.

Otis tries to straight-up murder Ziggler, who unfortunately gets away. With his intended victim fled, Otis changes the flavour of his rage from “targeted” to “indiscriminate”, mauling both Miz and Morrison with horrifying ease. He finally grabs a chair and, despite Tucker pleading with him not to throw their title shot away, Otis batters both of the Tag Team Champions with it.

Heavy Machinery are disqualified, and Otis ends up sobbing into Tucker’s shoulders. I didn’t need to see that, WWE. I didn’t need my entire day ruined.

The match was decent enough, but Otis’ breakdown was everything this needed. I am amped up to see a pissed-off Otis destroy Ziggler at WrestleMania, and why? Because this feud got an actual build. 2.5 Stars.

As a result of this, we’re also getting the Usos vs. the New Day next week to decide the number one contenders at WrestleMania. Hot damn: thank you, Otis.

Reigns should have Bret Hart in his corner, just to be an asshole

It’s time for contract-signing and concussions. I hope that we can skip the cordiality and get right to Reigns calling Goldberg a worthless old man and trying to beat him to death in the ring. If there was ever a time for arrogant badass Roman or terrifying-and-furious Roman, it’s now.

Reigns makes his way to the ring with little fanfare. Goldberg does have fanfare, but to be fair, it is a part of his entrance music. Michael Cole invites both men to take a seat, and both men throw their chairs out of the ring. Otis is teaching everyone in WWE bad habits and getting us amazing tag team matches.

Both Roman and Goldberg stare at each other as Michael Cole nervously addresses both of them. He asks Goldberg who he expected to pick up the gauntlet he threw down, and Goldberg admits that he hoped that Roman would be the man to answer, even though he had his doubts that Reigns would have the balls to show up. Cole then asks Roman why he did answer the challenge, and Roman responds by saying that all the greats have chosen him to go up against, and every single one of them’s lost. He promises Goldberg that he won’t be any different.

Cole, like the meddling little demon that he is, then brings up a tweet that Roman sent out several months ago, in which the Big Dawg, like everyone else on the planet, laughed at how goddamn stupid Bill Goldberg is for headbutting a door every time he works. When Goldberg does eventually die, presumably as a result of his own failing body letting him down mid-wrestling-match, I’d pay a huge amount of money to hear the mortician’s report on that man’s brain. It must look like semolina.

Cole asks why Roman would send that tweet, and if Roman says it’s because Goldberg’s an idiot and deserves to be told that, then they should just give him the title right now. Instead, he asks why not take that shot, calling Goldberg a “little bitch bulldog sitting in my yard”. So, yeah, we can probably afford to ease up on the dog metaphors, but at least there’s some attitude and anger from Roman here.

Reigns finally says that Goldberg never earned the title he’s holding, then signs the contract. Goldberg responds by saying that he’s been destroying steel doors for years with that headbutt (WHAT?!) and that Reigns will be the next victim at WrestleMania. He signs the contract, flips the table and goes nose-to-nose with Roman, who stares him down to end the show.

I hate that Goldberg’s Champion, and I hate the fact that they’re trying to make this an epic confrontation with zero build, but I will fully admit that the lack of respect shown by both men to each other, plus the seething, just-under-the-surface rage that Roman is portraying is way more than I expected from this feud. If Reigns can go full-on murderous anger against Goldberg at WrestleMania, it’d at least be a fitting start to his title reign, and hopefully WWE will finally get that this is the Roman Reigns that everyone wants to support.

David has a jaded and cynical view of wrestling, which complements his jaded and cynical view of practically everything else. He spends his time writing novels and screenplays, lifting heavy things while listening to classical music, and waiting with bated breath for his next opportunity to say "it's Dr. Spain, actually".