I’m getting thoroughly bored with being inside so much. Not to the point that I’m marching on city hall or any of that sort of heavily-armed, right-wing twattery, but there’s only so long you can pretend that growing a lockdown beard is a hobby, and learning Italian and playing the guitar is starting to feel like I’m giving myself homework. I’m a couple of days away from making a serious attempt at writing some Randy Orton erotica, just to see if that’s enough to force God Himself to intervene.
I like to think it would.
At least the Money in the Bank attempt’s almost here, which the kind of paper-thin excuse to drink wine that I’m direly in need of right now. I have the depressing feeling that I’m going to hate whatever aggressive nonsense that Braun vs. Bray will end up, as much as I want both of my beardy boys to do well, but I’m suitably keen to watch a bunch of guys and gals do more battering than a fishmonger’s convention up and down the hallways of Titan Towers.
I’ll admit to being optimistic, mostly because I hope that everyone involved in the match will be savvy enough to steer its nature towards the Boneyard match rather than Edge and Randy’s Every Single Room In The Performance Centre Tour. And considering that we’re all supposed to be in lockdown, with the world’s entire catalogue of movies, TV shows and video games only a few clicks of the mouse away, I refuse to believe that the match’s participants don’t have enough material to be inspired. The premise of this entire match is essentially an eighties movie, and with the competitors having a range of different fighting styles and personalities, I’ll be sorely disappointed by any attempt to think inside the box. Have Aleister Black go through an Arkham-style predator encounter. Make Otis and Corbin have a full-on Neo/Smith fight in a narrow hallway. Let Ziggler pull off a John Wick-esque rampage through the office environment, swapping out pistols for superkicks. I want to see Shayna Baszler go through an entire office supplies budget in her attempt to beat Nia Jax into unconsciousness, because when else do you get to lock a bunch of wrestlers in an office building and tell them, “Make the people at home forget about how horrible we are as a company”?
Speaking of Money in the Bank, the final two qualifying matches will be taking place tonight, pitting Otis against Ziggler and Mandy Rose against Carmella.
Corbin looks like someone turned a cartoon rat into a barely-human being
First, however, Daniel Bryan has got some business to take care of, and I mean “business” in the same way that people say “the dog’s done its business on the carpet”, by which I mean King Corbin.
Bryan makes his way to the ring, picking up a microphone. He tells us that he loves what he does, which I think all of us had sort of picked up on, what with the whole giving God and his own body the finger and continuing to wrestle shtick he’s doing. What he loves the most about it, surprisingly enough, isn’t the icy thrill he gets from feeling his opponents’ ligaments tear and bones fracture under his sadistic grip, but the opportunity to try new things.
Remember when he loved the planet?
And “new things” currently means twelve lads and lasses having a West Side Story rumble through an office building. Bryan does point out that he’s got no idea of the rules of the match, which seems like your typical WWE planning. He talks about his own connection with Money in the Bank, calling it the pivotal moment in his entire WWE career, noting that everything that happened afterwards came from that moment.
Then Bryan turns to the matter at hand, AKA the human equivalent of excrement, AKA King Corbin. He accuses Corbin and his associates (Corbin doesn’t have friends; he doesn’t understand the concept) of destroying Gulak’s dream and demands His Majesty come out and face him.
Corbin does emerge, and is there a record for how long anyone (not counting Jerry Lawler) has milked this whole King of the Ring thing? I get that it gives Corbin a personality that’s not “drooling gimp”, but is he really going to keep this up for a year?
Corbin mocks Gulak’s failure to beat him, showing us the footage of Drew – let’s face it – allowing himself to get distracted during a wrestling match which had a hell of a lot on the line. I despise Corbin with an intensity I reserve for white supremacists, child abusers and Michael Cole, but Drew screwed Drew.
The King reminds us that he, too, has been Mr Money in the Bank, which Bryan leaps on, taking the chance to mock Corbin for having the worst cash-in attempt ever, which seems to get under the King of the Ring’s oily skin, and he threatens Bryan to watch what he says, promising to show how much he’s grown from that disappointing moment in his career.
Corey Graves seems fixed on Money in the Bank having a bodycount
After a break, actual human being Daniel Bryan and the son of the most disappointed parents ever King Corbin are ready to go. They lock up, both trying to gain the early advantage. Bryan goes to the grappling game, luring Corbin in before stinging him with a swift kick to the leg. This causes the King to bull into Bryan, trying to outmuscle him, but Bryan goes right back to the leg, grasping on.
Bryan continues to focus on the leg, dropkicking Corbin’s limb out from under him before taking him to the mat and working over the hamstring, while Corbin sticks near the ropes, allowing him to break an attempted kneebar early on. He finally gets his hands on Bryan, applying a facelock which Bryan counters effortlessly, going right back to his “cripple Corbin for life” game.
After a minute or so of having the structural integrity of what, if he was a human being, you could call legs tested, Corbin has had enough. He pins Bryan under him, blasting him with some hard shots. Bryan’s not out, though, and few kicks to Corbin’s leg shows the King of the Ring what Bryan thinks of him: probably a lot more than I do. Disaster finally strikes for Bryan as he heads up to the top rope, and Corbin suddenly shoves him down to the outside. As the commentators audibly drool over the thought of King Corbin literally casting someone off the top of a building (Corey Graves seems like a troubled young man), the mediocre monarch drives Bryan shoulder-first into the ring post.
After a break, Corbin is still very in control, though a Razor’s Edge attempt is countered into a roll-up by Bryan before the skinhead takes control again, felling his opponent with a hard clothesline. He continues to beat on Daniel, using the ropes to torture the technician’s left shoulder. Bryan finally manages to leapfrog over Corbin, hurling himself out of the ring onto his Money in the Bank opponent as the larger man darts out to ringside.
Back in the ring, Bryan brings the pain to Corbin’s legs, finally applying an ankle lock as the force ghosts of both Kurt Angle and Chad Gable nod in approval. A kick right to the face almost takes Corbin down, but when you’ve got no brain, blows to the head are far less effective. Bryan, who’s never subscribed to the rule of not kicking a man when he’s down, hits a few strikes to the prone form of Corbin before going for some corner dropkicks. One connects, but the second sees him caught by the King, who plants him with Deep Six!
Corbin plants fist after fist into Bryan’s face, who responds suddenly with a half crab. Once again, Corbin is too close to the ropes, but Bryan stays on the assault, continuing to hit strike after strike to the American History X cosplayer. Corbin is finally forced to hurl a ladder into Bryan’s face to save himself, giving Danny Boy the win via DQ.
This was a great opener. As much as I miss his days of ruthless dominance, total dick Corbin gets under my skin like nothing else on this planet, which he carries into his in-ring performance. Bryan’s ferocity was excellent as well, and something I love seeing in any face wrestler. A feud between these two moving past Money in the Bank is something I’d be very interested in seeing. 3 Stars.
Corbin has the audacity to act outraged at the disqualification, which is beautiful. He brings Bryan into the ring, planning to hit the End of Days on the ladder, but Bryan manages to turn it into a Yes Lock on top of the ladder, which registers somewhere around “Irish Curse Backbreaker on the steel steps” in terms of dumb uses of weapons in wrestling.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro, who seem to have some unreasonable objection to Corbin losing the use of one or more of his limbs, break up these thoroughly satisfactory proceedings, with Cesaro blasting Bryan with the ladder before Corbin hurls his Money in the Bank opponent right off the entrance ramp and into the ladder display.
Once again, Corey Graves considers the viability of that same thing happening on top of WWE Headquarters. Someone, please offer him some counselling, because this is starting to give me “before turning the gun on himself” vibes.
Oh Christ, Captain Tom Moore’s getting honoured by WWE? And here I thought that an appalling musical single by Michael Ball was the lowest experience a human being could sink through. He raised money for NHS charities while WWE is taking advantage of the fact that Florida is speedrunning its transition from retirement community to mass grave, and that’s even before you get into what Vince McMahon’s presumably psychotic views are on nationalised healthcare.
Bray vs. Braun is essentially the Superman vs. Doomsday of WWE, in that it’s happening far too early
Well, here’s Braun Strowman: Universal Champion essentially by process of elimination. You know how there are members of the royal family who are never expected to sit the throne, but then there’s a plague or a succession crisis or a coup d’etat, and all of a sudden they’re wearing a crown and an expression of glazed terror? Well, probably not, most of you being Americans, but that’s essentially Braun Strowman. He’s the Theresa May of Universal Champions, his victory gained by the lack of any suitable competition in the general area. I’m not sure whether that makes Bray Wyatt or Roman Reigns Boris Johnson; I think it depends on which of them will be Champion next and also which of them has the greater number of bastard children.
All that matters is that Goldberg is Andrea Leadsom, and if you don’t know that is, that’s all I ever wanted from Andrea Leadsom’s political career.
Anyway, unlikely successor and all-around big lad Braun is here to talk about Bray Wyatt. Beat still my heart. He says that his past with Wyatt is just that: past. It doesn’t matter what Bray does, says Braun, before he’s completely interrupted by the Firefly Fun House broadcast.
Bray cheerfully greets Braun and announces that it’s storytime. He says that tonight’s story is a true story, in which case this isn’t really “storytime”, Bray; it’s just the news. The story is called “The Black Sheep”, and the gist of it is that Braun Strowman can fuck right off. It’s no Animal Farm, but as thinly-disguised political diatribes in the form of allegorical novellas that employ farmyard animals as characters, I’ve heard worse.
Bray promises to write a happier ending to the novel, and that happy ending literally utilises the word “slaughterhouse”. Bray Wyatt: laureate. Braun gets annoyed, challenging Wyatt to get down to the ring and face him. Bray declines, merely waving goodbye.
It’s even worse when it’s Sheamus beating up a black guy
Here’s Sheamus, so get ready for eugenicist propaganda and aggressive sexual energy directed towards Michael Cole. WWE seems to have fallen back on old habits, namely hurling jobbers at Sheamus in the hopes that it’ll distract him from taking his controversial beliefs on an organised campaign of mass sterilisation and/or executions in order to improve the overall quality of the human species.
Sheamus pretty much rips the soul out of the jobber’s body, staring at Michael Cole throughout in a combination of fury and lust.
I quite like the anger and intensity that Sheamus brings to his squash matches, but we need a feud for him, preferably one that isn’t Jeff Hardy. 1.5 Stars.
Sheamus dares Michael Cole to show more about Jeff Hardy’s inspiring journey of a man who made bad choice after bad choice and was handed second chance after second chance. Michael Cole, the absolute madlad, does just that. In the segment, Jeff says that there’s something left for him to do in WWE, and I can only imagine it’s going to be getting let go again following a suitably embarrassing incident.
Jeff’s back in person next week, as opposed to looming over the show like a gently-swaying, DWI-amassing spectre. Let the countdown timer and mean-spirited wagers begin. Sheamus promises that he’ll also be on SmackDown next week, and I don’t know whether that was his embarrassed way of asking Cole on a date or if he expects some kind of praise for literally doing his job.
Kayla Braxton is backstage, interviewing Otis and Mandy Rose. She literally asks Otis whether he plans on winning his Money in the Bank qualifying match, almost like she expects him to say “no”. The talk then turns to Rose and her collapsed relationship with Sonya DeVille. Mandy says that she’s done with Sonya, promising victory against former Money in the Bank winner, Carmella.
I’m frankly impressed that WWE hasn’t written a deranged lesbian angle with Sonya yet
That match is right now, and I almost hope that Sonya doesn’t interfere and cost Mandy the win; this weird, office building-based brawl is probably the only match in which Rose won’t look like a complete amateur. Carmella arrives, as does Mandy, and we’re on.
Both women lock up, with Mandy taking control in the opening seconds. Carmella responds, moonwalking away in a show of confidence. Some grappling is followed by rope-running, then Carmella hits a superkick to a prone Rose.
Mandy hits a bodyslam, pinning Carmella for two, then locks in a sleeper. This hold stretches out to Orton-length before Sonya suddenly shows up, addressing Mandy via a microphone. She takes Mandy for a walk down memory lane, reminding Rose of when she gave her her Money in the Bank spot last year. Man: I forgot how underutilised Sonya was. I really am more on her side than Mandy’s.
Carmella manages to fell Rose with a clothesline as Sonya continues to distract Mandy. A right hand from Rose decks Carmella before DeVille challenges Mandy to a fight right now. Mandy, like the goddamn moron that she is, turns to give Sonya her full attention, allowing Carmella to superkick her and win.
Like Drew Gulak before her, I’ve got no sympathy for Mandy. Less, actually, because at least Drew was concerned about his friend getting beaten up. Rose just has terrible prioritisation skills. 1.5 Stars.
Sonya follows up her proxy victory by beating Mandy up post-match, throwing her around ringside before hitting a shining wizard to the back of her head that knocks her into the steel steps.
So, either Otis wasn’t watching his girlfriend’s match or he didn’t head out there to help her. Either way, that’s some callous behaviour.
Sonya tries to head back after Mandy, but she’s neatly fielded by Charles Robinson, who apparently presents a real physical challenge to former MMA fighter, Sonya DeVille.
Post-break, Otis heads into the trainer’s room to check on Mandy. No explanation for why he wasn’t out there helping her. I’d say that I’d hope that Mandy doesn’t forget that, but she got bonked on the head pretty hard, so it’s actually possible.
Outside the trainer’s room, Otis comes across Dolph, who asks whether Mandy is okay, seemingly seriously. Otis just glares at him, even though he really should be angry at himself.
And, admittedly, Dolph Ziggler. Because fuck Dolph Ziggler.
It’s time for some Tag Team Champions action. Tonight, the New Day are taking on the Forgotten Sons, once they’re done trying to arouse Corey Graves while observing social distancing guidelines. The Forgotten Sons follow, and Cole talks them up like they’ve done a great deal more than beat Lucha House Party and have a brawl.
Before the match can start, the Miz and Morrison make their presence felt, heading down to ringside to join Cole and Graves on commentary. The match starts, and Cutler and Big E start things off, with the Champion’s power allowing the New Day to gain the early advantage. Meanwhile, Miz, Morrison, and Graves are making jokes about Tiger King and how Carole Baskin might have killed her husband. Oh, WWE and your inability to be culturally relevant in a timely fashion.
Kofi and Blake tag in, and Kingston manages to hold the advantage for a while before the Forgotten Sons team up to contain him. Kofi finally dodges both men before reaching Big E, and the large gentleman throws Blake around with ease before doing the same to Cutler on the outside. A splash to Blake on the apron serves as an exclamation point as we head to a commercial break.
When we come back, the New Day are still enjoying their superiority. Some interference from Cutler allows Blake to finally gain control, and he hits some rapid offence to Big E. It would be a lot easier to watch this match if the camera didn’t keep cutting to Miz and Morrison like someone in the production truck is edging to this. The Forgotten Sons continue to beat down Big E, hitting some solid double-team moves while keeping the Champion contained.
Finally, Big E erupts out of the corner with a ura-nage, tagging in Kofi as Cutler enters the match as well. Kingston’s a house of fire, hitting Cutler from each and every angle before planting the Boom Drop. An interjection from Blake sees Cutler slow down the former WWE Champion’s momentum with a backbreaker, and he takes Kofi up to the top rope for superplex. Kingston fights him back down to the floor, misses a flying stomp but manages to score a second attempt on a running Cutler.
Blake tags himself in, and a backstabber followed by an elbow drop somehow doesn’t get the job done. I don’t know what the Forgotten Sons’ finisher is, but that should be it. Kofi manages to escape the clutches of both challengers, tagging in Big E, who launches him over the top rope to take out both men. Back inside the ring, the New Day get Cutler up for the Big Ending, but Blake intervenes. In the following chaos, Cutler dodges Big E’s charge, sending him sprawling to the outside where Ryker hurls him into the post.
Kofi fights on, pounding Cutler until he’s caught in a powerbomb right into Blake’s legs, followed by a reverse-DDT and a stomp to get the win over the Tag Team Champions. Nice, but I prefer the first double-team.
That was a hard-hitting, competitive, intense match that made me very excited for the Forgotten Sons in the SmackDown landscape. A rivalry against either the New Day or the Usos would be outstanding. 3.5 Stars.
We’re taken back to the decision to allow Lacey Evans into the Women’s Money in the Bank match. Much like Mandy, I don’t object much as there’ll be little actual wrestling involved, making it Lacey’s best match by default.
Backstage, Tamina is talking about how she hates Sasha and Bayley, which makes it an odd time for Sasha to show up and try to make friends with her. Or it would be if it wasn’t A TRAP!! Bayley leaps on Tamina, and the brawl breaks out with Lacey getting involved as well. They’re eventually separated by referees and security, who are being rather effective tonight.
Elsewhere backstage, Sonya is with Dolph, talking about how much she loved hurting Mandy. You get the feeling that Ziggler’s kind of done with Sonya now that he can’t use her to manipulate Mandy into letting him hump her. Dolph says that people think they know him which, in a fair world, would mean a feud with Edge.
Ziggler continues to expound on his theory that Otis and those like him are nothing more than a permanent underclass, whereas he’s an ubermensch. And not the wussy Nietzschean version, where Dolph will use his strength for the good of the collective whole, but the other one: the bad one that Hitler liked to talk about.
I’m not saying that Dolph Ziggler is a Nazi. I’m saying that I think Adolf Hitler would be a huge Dolph Ziggler fan.
And Dolph seems to think that Mandy getting beaten up by Sonya and him becoming Universal Champion will make Mandy go back to him. And…would it? Does the Universal Champion have some kind of power than makes anyone fall in love with you? Is that why Goldberg challenged Wyatt for it? Is Braun Strowman just a few beers away from running the Strowman Express on the whole locker room?
I’m weirdly onboard with this. Let’s do it: let’s make the Universal Championship have mind-altering qualities and then never give it to King Corbin.
Money in the Bank will not have amazing selling
Anyway, Otis and Ziggler make their way to the ring, and the final qualifying match for Money in the Bank is on. Otis immediately shoulder-tackles Dolph right out of the ring, and Ziggler tries his best to keep away from the infuriated mass of strength and rage that is Otis. He’s caught, however, then brought down to the mat by a huge vertical suplex.
Dolph tries to fight back, but Otis’ power is a tough problem to find an answer to, especially when he’s bodyslamming your bitch ass. Ziggler continues to get radgolled all around the ring, and it’s as cathartic as all hell. A back suplex almost gets the job done only minutes into this match, but a last-second dodge from Dolph allows him to gain the advantage as Otis blasts the ring post with his shoulder. Ziggler shoves Otis into the barricade, leaving him laying as we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Dolph is still working over Otis, firmly in control. A dropkick puts the Heavy Machinery member on his back; he gets up to his feet before he’s rocked by another one. Ziggler latches on a sleeper hold, putting all his weight on Otis, keeping him pinned.
Otis finally reaches his feet, throwing Dolph off him, finally blasting him with a right hand. He runs into a back elbow, but backs Ziggler right back into the corner, dropping him before going for the Caterpillar. Dolph slithers out onto the apron, hanging Otis up before going for the Fame-Asser. That’s countered, but the ZigZag that follows isn’t, with Otis managing to kick out at two.
Now Dolph wants the superkick, which is sometimes his finisher and sometimes isn’t. Otis catches Dolph, throwing him across the ring before hitting the Caterpillar to win both the match and a spot in Money in the Bank!
This was a fair match, and either one of these two would have been fine additions to Money in the Bank. I only hope that all the competitors have something really special planned. 2 Stars.