Dr. Spain’s SmackDown Report and Review for April 24th 2020: Wrestling in a Time of Coronavirus

I hope everyone’s having a relaxing afternoon after, I can only assume, downing litre upon litre of bleach and detergent while also working out the best way to fit a lightbulb down their throats. Whether or not you’ve decided to take that big, brave step into a whole new world of definitely-not-cures-for-Covid-19, it’s time for us all to pause, reflect, and then ignore what’s going on in favour of a bunch of sweaty lads and lasses slapping each other around.

It is, after all, essential business.

We’re getting clips celebrating the career of Triple H tonight, which at least answers my question of “at what point during this show should I wander around the flat in search of whatever alcohol might still be hiding from me”. Because it’s at this one. It is at this point.

Michael Cole and Corey Graves remain our strident voices for this apocalypse in the making, and the announcement of a Lacey Evans match only serves to make things yet more dystopian. Evans is facing Sasha Banks tonight, in a match that will likely see Streeter and I somehow fuse into some kind of glowing ball of hatred as the two things that each we hate most in WWE come into contact with each other.

Hilariously, I actually had forgotten about the Forgotten Sons

But before that particular form of psychological torture, the New Day is here to gyrate, celebrate, and (in the case of Big E) attempt to masturbate Corey Graves. Kofi heaps praise on Big E for gaining the WWE Tag Team Championships by himself, then quickly heads Big E off before the large lad says something obscene and sexually threatening. They turn their attention to their legacy, which is now amplified by having held the titles on eight separate occasions.

And then Lucha House Party, last seen getting soundly defeated by the Forgotten Sons, make their way out onto the stage. They congratulate the New Day before complaining that their general ineffectiveness and lack of any accomplishment that I am able to summon to mind have been something of a hindrance in getting a Tag Team Championship opportunity. My heart bleeds for them. Not because of their lack of title shots, but because they’re terrible and if I was a member of Lucha House Party, I’d probably have killed myself by now. Not even painlessly, either; I’d do something truly gruesome just so that I’d be able to feel something.

LHP are promptly overlooked as the Miz and Morrison walk right past them. They’re not exactly happy at how they’ve been treated as Champions, having to defend their belts in an Elimination Chamber and two singles matches. Morrison claims that until the New Day can beat the pair of them in actual tag-team action, they have nothing to be proud of.

Lucha House Party get into the ring at this point, yelling in Spanish. And this was apparently an incantation that can be used to summon the Forgotten Sons, because that’s exactly who show up next. The funny thing is, they have a better claim to a title shot than LHP. I mean, it’s funny unless you care about the mental health of Dorado and Gran Metalik, which my insensitive jokes about their hypothetical suicides should have made fairly obvious that I do not.

The Forgotten Sons tell the assembled tag teams that, unlike the rest of them, they’ve served their country. Oh God: it’s Lacey Evans Syndrome; next comes endless speeches about your children and the inability to wrestle without looking like someone just Tonya Harding’d your leg out from under you. The Forgotten Sons promise to dominate and not have to spend their time selling vacuum cleaners or begging on the streets or whatever it is that veterans do in America. They then spend about ten seconds setting up a surprise attack so obvious that it should be legally actionable to refer to it as a “surprise” attack. I’m not quite sure on the exact timeframe, but I do feel confident in saying that any of the competitors in the ring should have had time to buy a copy of The Art of War, read it, driven to the nearest gun store, filled out the forms, waited through both the background check and the three-day waiting period, bought some ammunition, gone through a quick refresher course, driven back to the arena, and had time to kneecap all three of the Forgotten Sons before the first punch was even thrown.

Like, 95% sure.

Anyway, a brawl breaks out, mostly because no-one had the presence of mind to bring a gun to a wrestling show. If I was a wrestler, I think I’d carry a gun constantly, making sure to point it at anyone who interrupted me during a promo. This lack of firearms allows the Forgotten Sons to destroy everyone in the ring, with the exception of the Miz and Morrison, who quickly make themselves scarce.

Backstage, Johnny Abs and Michael Moviestar are flouncing around with purpose. They inform Renee that Lucha House Party clearly instigated the terrible events that they bravely fled from, and that they want a match with them tonight.

I thought Gulak was supposed to be smart

It’s time for another Money in the Bank: Streets of Rage qualifying match. Drew Gulak is here to face possibly the blandest attempted murderer ever: King Corbin. This man could have me tied up with an array of knives and a definitely incorrect anatomical chart on full display, and I’d still not have it in me to register any genuine emotion.

Corbin starts off by throwing Gulak out of the ring, telling him that the ring is for “big boys”: a statement that only adds to the air of vague sexual menace that surrounds Corbin like cheap cologne. Drew tries to outwrestle the King, finally managing to batter him out of the ring before dropkicking the rasslin’ monarch over the announce table.

Post-break, Corbin has managed to regain control, keeping Gulak contained with his “oops, I’m out of the ring, now I’m back in the ring, fuck you” clothesline. He beats on Drew for a while, who tries to surprise him with a roll-up before Corbin slams the little beardy boy down onto the mat. Gulak manages to catch Corbin’s kick, fighting his way clear of the corner, and ducking a clothesline before hitting a dropkick.

King Corbin attempts another clothesline, almost getting pinned off a sunset flip as Drew counters. A crossbody sends Corbin rolling out fo the ring, where he dodges a baseball slide before getting dragon-screwed right into the ring steps. Back in the ring, a flying clothesline almost puts Gulak in the Money in the Bank match, but then Cesaro and Nakamura are at ringside, grabbing Bryan and throwing him into a conveniently-placed pillar.

Distracted by this, because he’s an idiot, Gulak heads out after Cesaro and Nakamura, then gets caught by Corbin, because he’s an idiot, and he eats an End of Days that sees him – deservedly – take the loss.

Because he’s an idiot.

This was an okay match, which had one capable and one very good wrestler in it, but I can’t pretend to be thrilled by the result. 2 Stars.

Post-match, Drew gets decked in the face by Corbin’s sceptre as Cesaro and Nakamura hold him in place. As is the case with every wrestler who is distracted by something that can’t possibly affect the outcome of their own match, I have zero sympathy.

Rugby puns: we’ve got ’em

It’s time for the drunkest and most shirtless eugenicist you ever did see: Sheamus is here to improve the overall health of the human race, one murdered jobber at a time. Tonight he’s facing a former Australian rugby player, and while I have a healthy disgust for any ideology that contains references to a “master race”, I would be taken aback by any system that organised humanity into castes based on physical abilities that didn’t have “Australian rugby player” pretty damn high up in the rankings. I’d not pick a fight with an Australian rugby player unless I had a New Zealand rugby player with me as back-up.

Sheamus takes a couple of shots before erupting into a pure ubermensch aggression, unloading on Mr Australian Rugby Player, who attempts to prop himself up on the ropes before being Brogue Kicked into about the second row of the stands. One, two, three.

A good try by Mr Australian Rugby Player. I wonder if he was converted to Sheamus’ belief system. 1.5 Stars.

And if you were going to order the human race into different categories – which you shouldn’t and we’re not – and if one of those categories was entitled “a healthy relationship with drugs and alcohol” – which it wouldn’t be, because we’re not doing any such thing – then Jeff Hardy would be in the other one. In this segment, he talks about how he and Matt needed to finish their careers in WWE, which is a little embarrassing, considering.

Basically, intolerance is wrong, and WWE doesn’t need Jeff Hardy anymore.

The power rankings of the Tag Team Division are a mess

Here come the Miz and Morrison, who are here to fight the Lucha House Party for reasons that can be best summed up as “may as well”. Meanwhile, Michael Cole is still making a big deal out of Jeff Hardy and wondering why on earth Sheamus would have a problem with someone with such little disregard for his coworkers that he shows up to a wrestling show as high as a stoned kite.

The camera pulls back to reveal that Sheamus is right behind Michael Cole, and I can’t believe I’m expected to believe that Michael couldn’t smell the scent of Jameson and jobber blood that hangs around Sheamus like the aura of vague sexual menace that hangs around Corbin.

Sheamus rips the headset off Michael Cole, then just looms over him, staring deep into his soul as Michael cowers, images of Heidenreich flashing before his eyes and feelings of dread and shame filling his mind. You know what Cole wishes he had in this scenario? A gun.

Anyway, after taking the time to watch Sheamus try to literally stare a man to death (provided, of course, that Michael reaches Sheamus height-and-weight-based criteria on who actually qualifies as a member of the human race), Miz and Morrison turn their attention to Lucha House Party, who have made their way to the ring.

The match starts, and Dorado is able to keep Miz on the ropes for a moment before the Miz is able to boot him right out of mid-air. Miz and Morrison take over, with Morrison handling Dorado with ease before the LHP member hits an arm drag, managing to tag in Gran Metalik, who splashes onto Morrison off Dorado’s shoulders. Dorado tags back in, but he gets caught by Morrison in a rolling spinebuster, putting the former Tag Team Champions back on top.

Miz tags in, continuing to punish Dorado before handing things back over to Morrison. Finally, Dorado pulls out a handspring stunner to Morrison, making the tag to Metalik despite the Miz’s best intentions. Metalik’s athleticism allows him to gain the advantage over the A-Lister, but the Miz counters a moonsault with a pair of boots right to the chest, leaving Gran Metalik groaning in pain on the mat. Out of nowhere, Metalik rolls up the Miz mid-Skull-Crushing Finale to pick up the surprise win.

I really don’t care about LHP, but if it changes up the Tag Team Championship picture, I’m fine with a little variety, even if this was a fairly weak way to win. One wonders what the plan is for (hey hey, ho ho) Miz and Morrison moving forward. 2 Stars.

URGH

Hoo boy, it’s time for a Lacey Evans match which, much like Covid-19, you can be exposed to as many times as you care to count, but you’ll never be thoroughly immune to. Banks is accompanied to the ring by Bayley, and she’s holding a paper cut-out of Evans’ kid. I have literally zero interest in the wellbeing or otherwise of any of Lacey’s blood relations, but anything that provokes an emotional reaction out of her and, God willing, pushes her to become a better wrestler is absolutely fine in my book.

Bayley distracts Lacey with the image of her child, allowing Sasha to take advantage of Evans’ VETERAN RAGE and beat her down. That’s the kind of incredible focus and tactics that the USMC teaches you, I guess. Lacey does manage to rally, but a second distraction from Bayley and the literally-just-a-picture that she’s holding gives Banks the opening to smash Lacey’s arm into the ring post.

Back in the ring, Sasha goes on the offensive, attacking the arm until Lacey avoids a stomp in the corner, firing back with some hard strikes that send Sahsa reeling. She tries to hit her handstand-kick in the corner, but her arm is too damaged and she drops down to the mat, with Banks quickly taking advantage. A Meteora puts Lacey down, and Sasha continues to apply severe pressure to the injured limb.

A desperation counter allows Lacey to throw Sasha into the corner, then she actually hits the handstand-corner-kick thing. I imagine that this is supposed to show resilience and determination, but I just see a person who’s been handed empirical evidence that she’s not in the physical condition required to pull off a risky move try to hit the same move again, which makes me think that that person is an idiot and that maybe the Marines should think about having some sort of intelligence test. I’d suggest that wrestlers have an intelligence test too, but I don’t see much future in that road.

Evans blasts Sasha’s head again and again into the ring post, which doesn’t draw a DQ even though a Zigzag on the ring steps apparently does. This referee’s a psychopath. Both women fight on, with Banks countering a superplex attempt, returning her attention back to the injured arm. A sloppy powerbomb from Sasha is followed by the Banks Statement, with Evans rolling out of it and trying for a roll-up.

And then Lacey hits the Women’s Right. With her injured hand. See, now I am interested in the wellbeing of Lacey’s child, mostly because I feel like Evans might not have the cognitive abilities required to raise a small, vulnerable human being. Was that the point of this whole storyline? To make Lacey Evans seem like such a dull-witted human being that we’re forced to worry for her child’s safety? Is this all part of Samoa Joe’s master plan to carry out hostile takeovers of the families of his coworkers?

Bayley pops Sasha’s foot on the bottom rope, with the referee managing to completely ignore the very audible mention of this by both Graves and Cole. Maybe he’s learned how to tune them out entirely; I wish I could. Sasha is able to roll Lacey up, but Bayley’s taking just a hair too long to stop distracting the referee, and Lacey kicks out after being held down for a long time.

Sasha turns on Bayley, who’s already protesting her innocence, then turns into another Woman’s Right. Even if Lacey’s not that smart, which I think this match has gone some way to proving, she has to have some survival instinct, right? What even is Lacey Evans, other than a mother, a veteran and, as the referee counts to three, a Money in the Bank Ladder match participant?

I hate Lacey Evans like…well, like Streeter hates Sasha Banks, so I hate this. I’d have actually been happy about seeing a worked-over limb being taken so seriously in a match if it wasn’t for the fact that Evans then hit two Women’s Rights consecutively, like she feels that having a skinsack full of crushed bones and tendons for a hand is the next step in human evolution. 1.5 Stars.

As Sasha and Bayley head up the ramp, Tamina’s music plays. I am so grateful that the word “TAMINA” appeared on the screens to accompany it, because otherwise I’d have been in the dark.

Tamina superkicks Bayley, I guess to remind everyone that she’s still around. I’m not even joking; Tamina really should maintain a weekly presence, because until she showed up, I’d forgotten who the number one contender even was.

I wish all history was that easy to summarise

Next up, we take a look back at the history between Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman, which was more or less Braun being the mentally-challenged heavy for Bray during the decline of the Wyatt Family. I’m joking, but WWE literally just showed a few clips from that era, then stuck up a title screen saying “five years later” and showed Braun Strowman winning the Championship.

I could lie and say that I’d be fine with doing this feud now if it was at least being competently built and being given the gravity that this kind of storytelling requires, but fortunately this has been written so lazily that I can don’t even have to do that.

What has been quite well-written (I mean, for wrestling; not compared to novels or films or dirty limericks) has been the story breaking out between Mandy and Sonya. I’m really happy that DeVille has been allowed the chance to finally showcase herself after what seems like years of wanting far more opportunities for her, and kudos to whoever wrote her promo that ran through her grievances with Rose; every one of them had at least a grain of truth.

Anyway, Dolph and Otis will fight next week to see who gets to go to Money in the Bank. Purely performance-wise, either of these men would be an asset to that sort of match. Mandy, meanwhile, will be taking on Carmella for a spot. I note that Carmella’s previous objections to anyone competing in two matches in a row seem to have vanished in the wake of this news.

And the Staten Island Princess (a title that means for or less the same as “King of the Ring” for all the actual power one derives from either of them) gets called on this backstage by Dana Brooke: protagonist of the latest Rocky narrative of this show and definitely a new favourite of mine considering her adorable celebration last week. Brooke and Carmella do seem to be on the same page, which they’d better be considering they have a Women’s Tag Team Title match…

Man, Brooke must have still been tired from last week’s match

…right now. Alexa and Nikki make their way to the ring. The lack of post-entrance announcements and the BigMatchFeel that accompanies them is infuriating, but I have to appreciate an emerging trend of titles being defended on free TV. The challengers, Carmella and Brooke, follow them to the ring, and the title match is on.

The bell rings, and Brooke immediately hits a dropkick that knocks Nikki out of the ring. The challengers aren’t willing to let up, and both of them take out Alexa and Nikki on the outside as we go to a commercial break. Once we’re back, Carmella is in control of Bliss, keeping her contained. Nikki breaks up a pin but suffers for it on the outside with a handspring elbow from Brooke, who ends up eating a baseball slide from Alexa.

Carmella manages to bring Bliss down from the top rope with the Stratusphere, but Nikki caught the blind tag and almost picks up the win with a surprise cover on Carmella. She tags Bliss back in, then gets her head kicked in by Nikki before the Champions catch her with a modified 3D to pick up the win.

This sort of thing is what I’d like to see: Champions defending titles against some competitors lower down the ladder in between more serious feuds. This was solid enough, though I’m surprised at how little we saw of Brooke. 2 Stars.

I don’t even know what to think about this

And here’s Triple H, after the commentators have mentioned him at every possible opportunity. I’ve heard obituaries that dwelt less on their protagonist. Forgive me: I’d be less cynical about this if I didn’t think that Triple H was about to announce his nth One More Match.

Before Captain Trips can get many words out, Shawn Michaels’ music hits, and HBK himself shows up to the ring. I know that is supposed to be an emotional moment, but I can’t be the only one who just pictures these two spending all their time together anyway? I always imagine that Shawn is sort of like the sitcom character that is allowed to just walk into Triple H and Stephanie’s house whenever he feels like it, when he’s not mercilessly teasing NXT talent with the prospect of a Takeover match with him.

Anyway, we get some pretty decent jokes from Shawn about the empty arena before he brings up the fact that he never got to have a 25-year anniversary. This could either be a joke or the build to a fairly slow match, and it turns out that it’s a joke. This leads on to Shawn and Triple H reminiscing on the DX days, which is just leading up to a clip show of DX bloopers and funny moments.

And then another clip show of Triple H’s impressive loss streak at WrestleMania. They manage to get around showing Chris Benoit, making it seem like Shawn and Trips faced each other in a singles match with neither of them winning the World Championship.

Some comedy now about Stephanie not allowing Triple H or Shawn to have any fun, which is interrupted by Steph calling to complain about it. I’ll admit that I had to chuckle at her final words of “You tell that no-good, lazy-eyed -“. They then move on to Flair, and now he calls to talk, or as close as Ric Flair really gets to talking anymore. I’m just impressed he didn’t blade during this call.

This is all…sort of weird.

And now another phone call from…is that Road Dogg? I can’t even tell.

At least they mention Katie Vick?

And then Vince McMahon shows up for a few remarks of his own. I mean, it’s not like we’ve got long to build towards Braun vs. Bray, and here we are wasting time on this. Vince mocks Triple H in a rambling monologue that also references the Gobbledygooker and Katie Vick. This has gone so far off the rails, and I don’t know what the point of this is.

Vince tells Shawn and Triple H that he loves them, and then he leaves.

Christ almighty.

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