We’re on the cusp of Money in the Bank as the warmer weather begins to make an appearance, which means that we’re only a few days removed from seeing if Corey Graves’ ghoulish dream of King Corbin hurling a coworker from the top of an office building will be a reality.
The pandemic really has made monsters of us all.
But there’s one more edition of SmackDown left, so let’s all remain indoors, maintain a social distance, and see if WWE can make Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt compelling at the very last second. My hopes are, as always, unbelievably high.
We begin with Mandy Rose and Otis backstage. Mandy is doing bicep curls with cables, focusing on a match with Sonya that she’s apparently having tonight rather than, say, at Money in the Bank. She and Otis exchange some clumsy show-don’t-tell-but-also-basically-tell dialogue explaining this, then she kisses him on the cheek and skedaddles.
Elsewhere, Sonya DeVille is shadowboxing, which shows rather than tells us that she’s capable of actually fighting someone. There’s always the possibility that she’s taking shots at someone who’s both just offscreen and just out of her reach, but it seems unlikely. Dolph Ziggler wanders up to her with the same aimlessness that’s categorised his professional wrestling career thus far, asking her if she’s ready. Are you not seeing the fake punches, Dolph?
Sonya claims that she’ll deliver five years worth of beatings to Mandy, which will at least make a change to the usual Mandy Rose match, which merely feels as though it lasts five years.
Dolph still seems to be holding out some hope that a beaten and humiliated Mandy Rose will – through some logic clearly not comprehensible to actual human beings – take him back even after footage of him supporting her betrayer, gaslighter and abuser airs on SmackDown. I’m not going to speculate on the kinds of relationships that Dolph Ziggler must have had to reinforce this worldview, but I will say that I pity the presumably-scores of poor, battered women who must have needed to explain to unsmiling police officers, between racking sobs, the exact mechanics of a superkick to the jaw.
Mandy Rose and Sonya DeVille didn’t become wrestlers so they could talk respectfully about their grievances
And that match is right now? Not even the main event on a free show of SmackDown? Otis, Mandy Rose, Dolph Ziggler and Sonya DeVille were part of the hottest angle of the last few months (more by default than on its own merits, admittedly), and it seems odd that they’d even pretend to blow it off like this.
Anyway, both Mandy and Sonya get down to the ring, and Rose immediately blasts DeVille with a running high knee before hitting her repeatedly while she’s down. Mandy must be taking this fight seriously: that was two-thirds of her whole move set.
Sonya DeVille, former professional fighter, gets beaten down for a while by Mandy Rose, rather angry woman. Sonya runs into a right hand before ducking out of the ring for a breather: that traditional MMA strategy. She manages to catch Mandy unawares with a kick before hitting a series of strikes that actually look like something a real fighter might employ.
The talented part of Fire and Desire works over the part of it that Vince drools over for a bit, then starts tearing her eyelashes off her face. Considering that Mandy Rose once did the exact same thing to Alexa Bliss (well, not the exact same thing, seeing as how Sonya is using actual wrestling moves while doing so), it seems to me that this is the one part of her treatment that she shouldn’t be allowed to complain about. Then again, a face-turn in wrestling seems to erase more sins than giving the Pope himself your confession, so it’s almost like that never even happened anymore.
Sonya talks some primo trash before Mandy tries to catch her with a sneaky pin. She warns Rose that she’s going to have to hurt her, which I’ll admit is sort of a risk you accept when you become a professional wrestler. This manages to make Mandy rally a little, hitting Sonya with some clotheslines and a high knee that knocks DeVille out of the ring. Mandy tosses Sonya into the announce table and the steel steps before yelling angrily at her. The referee abandons his count-out, clearly aware that these women have issues that need to be worked out without his interjections.
Back in the ring, Mandy screams for Sonya to get up. She goes for whatever her finisher’s called (it’s probably not “a total mess”, which is what I call it), but Sonya counters, then dodges another high knee, rolling Mandy up while grabbing the tights for the win.
Who did this ending help? It made Sonya look weak, Mandy ineffective, and took most of the intensity out of this feud. Why should Sonya care about winning the match if she didn’t also manage to beat down Mandy, which is what she really cares about? 1.5 Stars.
Did Jon Morrison ever attend Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters?
Up next, it’s the New Day and Lucha House Party vs. Miz and Morrison and the Forgotten Sons. Both LHP and the Forgotten Sons have come off huge wins over the two more successful teams in the past several weeks as WWE tries to pull off a quick reshuffle of the Tag Team Division.
All four teams make their way to the ring as it’s announced that they will compete in a Fatal Four-Way Tag Team Championships match at Money in the Bank, which is a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. Kofi and the Miz lock up, refighting the same United States Championship match between themselves over a decade later. It doesn’t take long for everyone to rush the ring, with Lucha House Party and the New Day ejecting the heels to the outside before Lindsay Dorado, Gran Metalik and Kofi Kingston throw themselves out onto their opponents.
Post-commercial, Big E is in firm control of Wesley Blake, tagging in Kofi to continue the work, before Gran Metalik takes a turn rocking Blake’s world. Frequent tags and double-teams keep the New Day and Lucha House Party in the driver’s seat before Steve Cutler drags Blake out of the way of Kofi’s splash attempt, causing the New Day member to crash and burn.
Now the Miz tags in, working over the former WWE Champion with help from Morrison. A knee to the jaw puts Kingston on his back and Morrison tags in Steve Cutler. Now the Forgotten Sons grind away at Kofi, with a cheap shot from Jaxson Ryker giving an assist. Kofi tries to gut his way through it, but a suicide dive from Blake kills any and all momentum.
After another break, the team of Miz, Morrison and the Forgotten Sons is still giving Kofi Kingston a bad case of getting the stuffing knocked out of him. Kofi finally manages a rally, dodging dives from both Cutler and Blake before evading the Miz. He’s about to tag out when the Forgotten Sons drag LHP and Big E off the apron, preventing Kingston from reaching them. Kofi forces himself to fight on, nailing Miz with an SOS, before finally tagging out to Gran Metalik.
Metalik hits Jon Morrison from every possible angle before tagging in Lindsay Dorado, who manages to dispose of both members of the Forgotten Sons before almost putting away Morrison. A spike-a-rana from Gran Metalik, a moonsault from Dorado and a perfect shooting star press from Metalik almost end the match there, but the Forgotten Sons roar onto the scene, breaking up the scene.
Now the New Day try to take over, but the Forgotten Sons seem to be everywhere at once, playing spoiler to every attempt to capitalise. They powerbomb Kofi onto Big E on the outside as Dorado gamely fights on against Morrison in the ring. Morrison finally foxes Lindsay Dorado, slamming him onto the mat before heading up to the top for Starship Pain. Dorado dodges, Morrison lands on his feet, misses a charge while tagging in the Miz and gets spiked by Dorado before the Miz hits the Skull-Crushing Finale, getting the win.
That was great: the Forgotten Sons were at their most dangerous here, preventing rally after rally, and Morrison and the Miz were a major threat as well. I’m definitely looking forward to the Fatal Four-Way at Money in the Bank. 3.5 Stars.
Miz and Morrison are overjoyed, but the Forgotten Sons don’t seem to be a celebratory mood, declining the attempts to high-five or hug. Fair play to them: they don’t actually jump Miz and Morrison, making them nicer blokes than I’d assumed they were.
Elsewhere, Kayla Braxton is the man whose personality can best be described as “diarrhoea”. Yes: it’s King Corbin. I also would have accepted “Dolph Ziggler”. He’s here to talk about trying to become Mr Money in the Bank again and this time not screwing it up, as well as how he’s teaming up with Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro tonight to take on Drew Gulak and Daniel Bryan and their MYSTERY PARTNER.
His Majesty then goes on to run down Rey Mysterio, Aleister Black and Otis, otherwise known as a trio of blokes who can kick his pasty arse. He also mocks Mandy Rose, I guess just to get the remaining poison out of his system before it manages to kill him.
And WWE is jumping on the “health workers are heroes” train, as athletes learn a medical professional’s name, put it on an item of clothing and then make a video about it. I mean, it’s not clapping, thoughts, or prayers, but I guess it’s just useless and virtue-signalling enough to be considered a good act by…
Well, idiots, I think.
And fuck WWE for getting involved with this, after somehow getting themselves deemed “essential”.
Also, stop using the words “heroes” and “sacrifice” when talking about healthcare professionals and other essential workers. A number of world leaders are clearly fine with a certain level of deaths, and using language like this about people who are still working despite high probabilities of infection only helps them make their suffering and deaths seem like an informed, voluntary decision, allowing them to throw out some meaningless, saccharine tribute while using that act to duck any responsibility. For God’s sake, learn a little bit about how politicians use the English language. George Orwell literally wrote essays about it.
And stop putting up and answering surveys like this, because it doesn’t matter what you think, feel, or reckon unless you have the sort of expert levels of insight that are going ignored by too many governments currently. I don’t care if you need a haircut, can’t stand being around your kids one second longer, or if you have just the most incredible argument for how social distancing and lockdown is almost exactly the same as being in an internment or concentration camp. It does not, as a former WWE Champion would say, matter what you think.
“Adrenaline” is one of the more societally-acceptable things that Jeff Hardy is addicted to
Anyway, I only need a quick shower after that feel-good bullshit session, then it’s on to a bullshit session involving what would happen if drugs became a person and took a lot blows to the head: it’s Jeff Hardy, and he’s getting interviewed in the ring by Renee Young. I’m so glad that Florida deems this “essential business”.
Anyway, Renee asks Jeff about what he’s got left to accomplish, and I can only assume it’s getting pulled over and arrested for driving while under the influence of a type of drug that he’s not tried yet. Hardy says that every low he’s hit has taught him how to get back up, and I guess that’s one way to learn even if it’s probably not a good way.
Sheamus is watching this on a screen backstage and ripping on Jeff in an exasperated sort of way. I’ve never felt so close to the Celtic Warrior. Jeff talks about the crowd that isn’t there and says that he can still hear their voices. Damn: the eternal conundrum. Do I make a “Randy Orton gimmick infringement” joke or a “Jeff Hardy’s brain has been so utterly molested by drugs that it doesn’t work the way a normal human brain works” joke?
Jeff asks us to stick with him for one more “good” run. I am deeply curious to learn how Hardy defines “good”. He eventually calls out Sheamus, saying that he can “feel his intensity”. God Almighty, they’re not even hiding it anymore.
Sheamus shows up on the ramp, calling this the saddest thing he’s seen in WWE. He insults Jeff with a couple of references about how he’s a junkie, claiming that no-one cares about Jeff Hardy anymore, even after all he’s done. He calls Jeff out on being one of the least-professional professional wrestlers in living memory, mentioning suspensions, releases, and wasted second chances. I’d say that it feels weird whenever a heel brings up the exact same points that I have before, but I’ve definitely grown used to it after this long. Sheamus is absolutely correct, and at least he hasn’t gaslit a friend into letting Dolph Ziggler hump them.
Jeff Hardy calls Sheamus a “hater”, which is the kind of ready wit and repartee that Disraeli would give his soul for, and says that it’s strange that Sheamus knows so much about his career. Even apart from the fact that we had to watch four videos about Jeff’s time in WWE over the past several weeks, Sheamus is Hardy’s coworker. They even work in the same department: the Office for Pretend Fights and Shenanigans. It’d be weird if Sheamus didn’t know about Jeff’s history. Hardy’s a problem employee.
Sheamus claims that he doesn’t hate Jeff. He even claims he used to respect him. Jeff then tries to turn that around on Sheamus by asking about his past, even if Sheamus has been a really solid if not the most dynamic worker without a history of drug abuse and suspensions.
This finally gets to the part where they stop talking and hit each other, which is, I guess, the main appeal of rasslin’. We get a bit of a muscle-tussle, and Jeff hits Sheamus with a Whisper in the Wind, a Twist of Fate, and a Swanton Bomb. Well, if it gets Sheamus angry and he murders Jeff Hardy so violently that it puts the nearest three drug dealers into comas, I can almost live with it.
Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt is in my “how are they going to mess it up?” category of matches
Here comes Braun Strowman. He will apparently go face-to-face with Bray Wyatt, and wow: something else that could be the go-home segment of this show. Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt will take place at Money in the Bank this Sunday, and there’s been little enough mention of the Fiend so far to make me wonder if WWE sees the demonic version of Wyatt staying home while Strowman powerslams Mr Rogers’ Omen-style adopted child as the best way out of this. And…maybe?
Personally, I’ll stick to what I’ve been saying since the Fiend debuted and Bray Wyatt before that: they shouldn’t care about the Championship until they’ve only got the Champion themselves left to beat, thus cementing their dominance over WWE. It wouldn’t even devalue the Championship; it would make him different. But God forbid an immortal spirit of terror not want a shiny belt that means he gets paid more human money.
Anyway, Braun says that he may have debuted with the Wyatt Family, but he’s a self-made man. Um, no: Adam Rose is your creator, your father, and the Lord Your God, Strowman, and I still expect to see Adam Rose vs. The Fiend in the most psychedelic match that ever there was someday. Braun claims that Bray has always felt threatened by him: then and now, and he demands that Wyatt get out there and face him.
And Bray Wyatt (sweater variant) does show up, smiling as he heads down to the ring. Once again, for the nth time, I have to give it to Bray: he makes his cheerful persona almost as disquieting as the Fiend. Bray says that it’s a shame that it had to come to this between him and Braun, claiming that all he wants is for Braun to apologise.
Strowman claims that he owes Bray nothing, despite the fact that Wyatt got him a chance to share the ring with the Brothers of Destruction. Do you think Adam Rose was going to get you that kind of exposure, Braun?
What a glorious storyline that would have been.
Strowman finally tells Bray that Wyatt doesn’t know anything about him in what is every break-up of every friendship between two white girls ever played out by two big, bearded men. Things take a slight left turn as Bray claims that he needs to relieve Braun of the burden of the Championship. He seems to be trying to bait Braun into saying “get these hands”, and Strowman claims that he won’t say it, telling Wyatt once again, “You don’t know me!” All that’s missing is a half-drunk bottle of Chardonnay, which would make all wrestling better if a lot more dangerous.
Bray Wyatt proffers a black sheep mask to Braun, telling him to “come home”. The puppets of the Firefly Fun House echo the words as creepy music begins to play. This reminds me far too much of calls I’d get from my parents while at university, though you have to imagine it with strong Northern accents.
Braun resists, telling Bray that he is home. He swears that he’ll keep the Universal Championship and that Bray will be left “playing with his puppets”. Sounds dirty but it isn’t. He then smiles suddenly and waves, delivering a rather good impersonation of Bray’s own farewell before leaving the ring. Bray Wyatt tells Braun that “he tried”. But how hard? And how far did he get?
Backstage, Otis is stomping around aimlessly, then Bryan and Gulak run into him. They ask about Mandy, like she didn’t get beaten by a goddamn roll-up as opposed, to say, unconsciousness or an injury. They then bring up what Corbin said about Otis which, as far as I remember, was just a lazy joke about his weight and then take a walk with him.
Oh no. I thought we were finally going to work on the rehabilitation of Chad Gable! What the hell?!
I’d want a thousand-year Tamina title reign before I’d let Lacey get her hands on the belt
We relive Tamina, Bayley, Sasha Banks and Lacey Evans having a brawl backstage last week, and it’s time for the tag team match of Bayley and Sasha Banks vs. Tamina and Lacey Evans. Bayley and Banks make their way to the ring, followed by Lacey – who is dressed like she works in a 1950s diner – and Tamina. We’re told that the men’s and women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match will take place simultaneously, and if that’s not an opportunity to make Aleister Black the number one contender to the Women’s Championship and give Shayna Baszler the opportunity to cash in on Drew McIntyre then I don’t know what we’re even doing anymore.
The match starts with a brief debate over who’s going to kick things off between Bayley and Banks, and Tamina brings that to a swift conclusion by running into both of them like a freight train. She takes control of Bayley, who tries to fight back with all the effectiveness of a toddler fighting literally a tiger.
Banks gets a tag, which allows her to overwhelm Tamina briefly with a flurry of offence. She and Bayley work the number one contender to the Women’s Championship in the corner together, but Tamina’s strength allows her to drive them both onto the back foot. Bayley and Banks both bail on the bout before backing into Lacey Evans, who batters Banks with a back elbow and backs a begging Bayley into Tamina, who briskly continues the beating.
After a break, Evans is hitting knees to Sasha Banks’ face, but she’s distracted from hitting a moonsault by Bayley, which allows Sasha to take advantage. Now Bayley and Banks take the pain to Evans as Tamina seethes on the outside. Lacey finally escapes and tags in her partner, but Tamina is jumped by both Bayley and Sasha before she can get in the ring. Snuka’s too strong to contain, however, and she quickly disposes of Banks before heading after her opponent this Sunday.
Bayley takes a swift and efficient beating, with Tamina swatting away attempted interference from Sasha. Bayley manages to counter a Samoan splash by raising her legs and hits Tamina with Bailey-to-belly before dropping an elbow on her. Tamina kicks out, almost hitting a Samoan Drop before Sasha and Lacey enter the fray. Banks is walloped by a Woman’s Right; Bayley kicks Lacey right out of the ring but turns right into a superkick and a Samoan Drop from Tamina.
Not a bad match, showing Banks and Bayley as an effective team even in a losing effort. 2 Stars.
After a “tour” through WWE Headquarters, which is a tour in the same way that me holding up random pictures of places in my apartment with no description attached to them is a tour, we head back to Kayla Braxton, who is with Carmella and Dana Brooke: both Money in the Bank contestants.
Kayla asks Dana about her unexpected success, comparing it to Carmella winning last week because Mandy Rose is an idiot. There’s already some tension on display between Dana and Carmella, who should be heading into a feud in the post-Money in the Bank landscape. Nothing too overt is shown beyond both women staking their claim to the briefcase, which is your standard Money in the Bank fare. I’m happy to let this develop organically.
I’ll say it: Money in the Bank invites foolhardy behaviour
Urgh, it’s the Corbinator, and I am the Corbin-hater. The Monarch Formerly Known As Baron Corbin makes his way to the ring, being joined by Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura.
We then get a weird interruption from Hacker McGee, who shows us footage that was literally broadcast on television. Do his dark abilities know no bounds? He then says that he can “hear anger”. If he’s trying to claim that WWE is anything other than an open book in terms of its “subtle” attempts to foreshadow face and heel turns, then he can fuck right off forever. He plays us an audio clip of a distorted voice stating that payback is coming “real soon”.
That could refer to anything.
Back to the action now, as Gulak and Bryan make their entrance. Their partner is, to no-one’s surprise, Otis. Is Chad Gable dead? Did the shame of being Shorty G drive him to suicide? I’d not be surprised.
Bryan kicks off things quickly with Corbin, by which I mean he literally kicks him. Corbin tries to outwrestle Bryan because King Corbin is a fool and even his own parents don’t love him. Gulak tags in, getting immediately punched in the throat, which is some visceral slapstick. Drew stays in the fight, not letting Corbin overwhelm him, and now Cesaro tags in for some grappling magic.
Drew reverses a bodyslam attempt with one of his own, but interference from Shinsuke allows the big Swiss lad to take advantage, throwing Gulak across the ring before tagging in Nakamura. Drew then tags in Otis so we can get Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Otis: the dream match you never knew you wanted. Otis manages to deflect Nakamura’s kicks by being a BIG BOUNCY BOY before wrecking Shinsuke, even hitting him with a Caterpillar! Cesaro gets dropped easily by Otis, and the three faces stand tall as we head to a commercial.
When we come back, Corbin is in control of Bryan following Daniel running into a straight-up forearm from the King. Bryan tries to fight out, but Corbin manages to keep him suppressed long enough to tag in Cesaro. Bryan is able to bring Gulak into the match, and he stomps away at a cornered Cesaro before throwing him clean across the ring.
An uppercut stalls Gulak slightly, but he manages to lock Cesaro into some incestuous marriage of multiple submission moves all at once, the sick bastard. The Swiss Cyborg powers his way free, getting a blind tag from King Corbin, who takes a beating from Gulak in turn. Shinsuke Nakamura saves Corbin from the Gulock, but he’s bounced right across the ring by Otis, who comes face to face with Cesaro.
Cesaro tries to beat on Otis, who throws him clean over the top rope. Corbin sends Otis out after him, turning his attention back to Gulak, who shows he’s still game with a flying clothesline. On the outside, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro hurl Otis into the ring post. Bryan retaliates with a flying knee to Cesaro before Nakamura beans him with a kick to the head. Gulak deals with Shinsuke on the apron before throwing himself at Corbin…right into Deep Six for the loss.
I’m happy with the Deep Six getting a more dangerous rep, as much as I love the End of Days. If AJ Styles can have three finishers that can end matches, Corbin should definitely be able to have two. This match was pretty good, and it’s now imperative that we get Otis vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Otis vs. Cesaro as soon as possible. 2.5 Stars.
After the match, Corbin tries to hit Gulak with his sceptre, but Bryan can’t be having with that and hits the monarch with a running knee. A brawl breaks out among the rest of the contestants, and they batter each other to the backstage area, leaving Corbin alone.
And Corbin, I guess because no-one has yet, sets up a ladder and climbs to the top before Bryan stops him, earning himself a short, painful journey directly into the ladder itself. Corbin sets up the ladder again, this time climbing up before Otis interrupts him, managing to hammer Corbin with the ladder.
Otis tries to climb up the ladder, but he’s apparently too heavy. Either that’s a stunt ladder or this whole match is monstrously unfair. Whichever it is, Corbin disposes of Otis before Bryan heads back into the fray, catching Corbin with a dragon screw. Now it’s Bryan who heads up the ladder, and what is the point of this? Corbin interrupts again, finally claiming the briefcase in a moment that means literally, literally nothing.
Tags: bayley, Bayley and Sasha Banks vs. Tamina and Lacey Evans, Bayley vs. Tamina, Braun Strowman, Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Cesaro, Dana Brooke, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Drew Gulak, Drew Gulak and Otis vs. King Corbin, Jeff Hardy, King Corbin, Lacey Evans, LHP, Lucha House Party, Mandy Rose, Mandy Rose vs. Sonya DeVille, Miz and Morrison, money in the bank, otis, sasha banks, Sheamus, shinsuke nakamura, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro, smackdown, Smackdown Tag Team Championships, Smackdown Women's Championship, Sonya Deville, tamina, The Fiend, The Forgotten Sons, The New Day, The New Day and Lucha House Party vs. Miz and Morrison and the Forgotten Sons, universal championship, WWE