The show begins with a slideshow and a pithy speech about how American soldiers are the greatest people who ever did live. I imagine this has something to do with Memorial Day weekend, and I’m just going to skip over this mutual masturbation session. If I’d wanted to spend my Saturday morning’s throwing up, I’d have committed more to my teenage bulimia.
In Braun’s defence, I’d jump at the chance to fight the Miz whenever the opportunity presented itself
We then move on to the Dirt Sheet, which I guess must be different from MizTV, which was on last week. Miz and Morrison are still protesting Otis’ Money in the Bank win with all the maturity and logic of a concussed five-year-old. They’re also annoyed that Braun Strowman’s disdain for the pair of them outweighs his paranoia that Otis could have cashed in on him at any point last week.
Miz and Morrison run down Braun, Universal Champion, comparing him to rejected Firefly Fun House puppets. This is an amazing opportunity to reference the Manger Babies, which they, of course, do not take advantage of. This is all desperately mature and definitely hilarious to the point that I’m extremely relieved when Braun Strowman himself marches out to put an end to this.
Braun roars and trashes the set, which is a lot more entertaining than the last two minutes of dialogue and puppets were, while the Miz and Morrison look on in knock-kneed trepidation. He demands that they ask him about Bray Wyatt, and Miz reminds us all that Bray once psychologically tormented him and threatened his very young child: your classic unsympathetic heel backstory. This leads to Jon Morrison challenging the Strowman on behalf of the Miz, and Braun accepts the challenge and/or a chance to maim something while Bray plots his puppet-laced revenge.
Braun should probably call Nicholas
After the break, the Miz is on the receiving end of a large and loud beating from the Universal Champ, which goes on for a lengthy period. A low bridge allows the Miz to hit some honest-to-God offence, with Morrison taking advantage of a distracted referee to blast Braun with a kick. Miz dodges an infuriated charge from Braun, who cannons into the ring post.
Miz springboards into the ring after Strowman with an axe-handle, then tries for a second attempt, which Braun foils, getting the Miz up on his shoulders for a powerslam. Miz rakes the eyes, trying to keep Strowman grounded, but the Universal Champion counters a DDT, tearing the advantage back from Miz with a flurry of powerful offence. A running powerslam ends the match.
There’s not much to say about the match. I am happy that Braun’s getting an aura of invincibility around him, though hopefully, a loss to the Fiend doesn’t lead to a devaluation of everyone Braun stomps. 1.5 Stars.
Post-match, Morrison challenges Braun to a handicap match at Backlash against him and the Miz for the Universal Championship. That is an incredibly elaborate way to make me think that you’re a total bitch, Jon. Braun accepts, presumably aware that WWE isn’t about to make either the Miz or Morrison Universal Champion, and definitely not both of them.
Will Styles/Shinsuke be the new Ziggler/Kofi?
If you like nut shots and matches not living up to the hype, then this one’s for you: it’s AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura. Like Sheamus vs Jeff Hardy, this is an odd choice for a first-round match. Maybe WWE’s about to go all-in on low blows again and want to get it out of the way as soon as possible.
AJ and Shinsuke get in the ring, going after each other immediately before the referee separates them. They grapple in the centre of the ring, both trying to gain control through technical skill. The striking starts when Styles hits a chop to Nakamura’s throat, and when the Artist tries to respond, AJ catches him with a dropkick.
Now AJ tries to capitalise on that momentum, but Shinsuke knocks some sense into and probably right back out of him with a back elbow, showing Styles all there is to know about the striking game. AJ tries to answer with a suplex, but Nakamura’s irrepressible, and he manages to drop Styles with a sliding German suplex as we head into a commercial break.
When we return, Shinsuke is still in control, but AJ’s fighting him at every step. The two hit a rapid exchange of offence, with Shinsuke knocking AJ in the face with a spinning kick a second before a Pele kick from Styles knocks him down too. AJ’s in control as both men reach their feet, and he tries to put Shinsuke down properly with a fireman’s carry backbreaker. It’s Nakamura’s time to defend himself, but he finds himself locked in the Calf Crusher for several agonising seconds before reaching the bottom rope.
Nakamura hits a complacent AJ with a knee to the face, but the Phenomenal One responds with some hard strikes, only to get caught with a Michinoku Driver that almost ends the match. Now Shinsuke heads back to his kicking strategy, laying Styles out with a sliding knee to the face. He then sets up the Kinshasa, which AJ counters with a roll-up, only for Nakamura to reverse into a triangle choke, which Styles turns into a Styles Clash! Shinsuke, somehow, gets the shoulder up.
Styles heads right after Nakamura, who elevates him onto the apron, then counters a first Phenomenal Forearm with a kick, only for AJ to respond in kind, then finish the match with a second Forearm attempt.
With a live crowd and five more minutes, this could have been a perfect match. There’s not a lot to say, only that I thoroughly enjoyed it. 4 Stars.
We relive Charlotte being manipulative last week, which makes a change from simply being a host for the world’s largest ego. Backstage, Bayley tells Sasha she doesn’t want her in her corner tonight, leaving Banks looking conflicted. Man, it’s drama on a level of Shakespeare, in that Sasha Banks is taking a long time to decide whether or not to stab a bitch.
There’ll be no living with Bayley now
That match is right now. Both ladies get into the ring, and Charlotte uses her signature offence: beating her opponent up while yelling at her. Bayley avoids a charge, throwing Charlotte to the mat before mocking her. They lock up again, trying to outwrestle each other before Bayley stomps on Charlotte’s foot. Charlotte returns the favour with an elbow to gut before Bayley tries to get a pin with her feet on the ropes, only for Charlotte to try the exact same thing.
Charlotte is thrown into the corner, elevating herself onto the apron before Bayley manages to trip her up. She still lays the SmackDown Women’s Champion out at ringside, then throws her over the barricade. Charlotte then grabs Michael Cole’s headset, demanding that Bayley come out and face her too. Without crowd noise, the headset was probably unnecessary.
After a commercial break, Charlotte is in control once again, womanhandling Bayley with ease. A chop puts the SmackDown Champ on her back, and now Charlotte goes for the moonsault, AKA the Momentum Killer. Bayley, possibly out of pity, drags Charlotte down off the top rope. In the ensuing struggle, Bayley kicks Charlotte into the ring post, counters a bodyslam attempt before driving her into the ring apron.
Back in the ring, Bayley goes on the offensive, choking Charlotte on the ropes. After the referee makes her back off, Charlotte tries to battle back, but Bayley shuts her down with a clothesline. The Queen is locked in a headlock, struggling for an escape, and she finds one with a battery of fists to the stomach. Bayley staggers away before trying to suppress Charlotte with a crossbody, but the NXT Women’s Champion catches and hurls her away with a fallaway slam.
Charlotte goes on the offensive now, throwing Bayley hard into the turnbuckle. A moonsault is dodged by Bayley, but the blind charge that follows sends her right into the heel of Charlotte’s boot, and the Queen continues to go to work on her. Charlotte wants the Figure Eight, but Bayley fights tooth and nail to avoid it, finally hitting a stunner of kinds as Charlotte is half-in and half-out of the ring. A running knee builds on that before Bayley heads up to the top rope herself.
Bayley’s flying elbow lands right across Charlotte’s knees, and the Queen’s on her feet in seconds, trying to lock in a Boston crab. Bayley counters with a pin attempt before dodging another charge from Charlotte, and this time the flying elbow connects for a near-fall.
Bayley takes a moment to scream at Cole and Graves, which I have to assume is in some way therapeutic, before yelling at and chopping Charlotte. She tries to apply the Figure Four, but Charlotte decks her right in the kisser, unleashing on her before they trade roll-ups. Bayley manages to grab the ropes, holding Charlotte down for the tainted win.
Another solid match from this episode of SmackDown. It’ll be interesting to see if this gets built on, considering Charlotte’s NXT obligations. 3.5 Stars.
Backstage, Sasha is hugging Bayley, who pretends to be offended by Sasha’s apparent surprise before getting back on with their weird friendship.
It’s odd how many heels I’m supporting currently
Speaking of weird friendships, here’s one built on a foundation of gaslighting and quasi-rape: it’s Sonya DeVille and Dolph Ziggler, who either hate or love Mandy depending on which one of them they ask. I assume that Ziggler hates Otis and Sonya is largely indifferent.
Mandy Rose and Otis join the worst best friend and boyfriend duo in the ring as Michael Cole extols the virtues of the unknown agent who revealed the Ziggler and DeVille deception. Corey Graves is a voice against total surveillance, however, though more on account of his desire for Mandy and Dolph to make beautiful blond babies rather than any ideological opposition to the evergrowing apparatus of a police state.
Sony and Mandy look like they’re starting off before Dolph and Otis enter the match. Mixed match tag matches have always annoyed me, as the rules negate the advantages usually offered by frequent tags, and they’re not used often enough for anyone to develop a strategy for them.
Anyway, Otis works over Ziggler until Dolph tags out, which also brings in Mandy Rose. Rose beats down Sonya while Dolph takes Otis out on the outside before the commercial break. When we return, Sonya is still in control of Mandy, and I hope she doesn’t get tired because if she tags out, Otis is the legal man and all momentum is completely eradicated.
Mandy fights back with fists and a roll-up before DeVille re-takes control, clawing at Rose’s face. She continues to beat her former friend down, and at least Ziggler and Sonya’s strategy of keeping the real wrestler out of the match is working well. Mandy finally scores with a high knee – one of her two whole moves – and she makes the tag to Otis.
Dolph enters the match as well, getting worked over pretty thoroughly by the big man until he tags out again. Mandy has apparently found a way to make anger do the work of wrestling training, somehow subduing the professional fighter. Sonya manages to counter whatever Mandy’s ridiculous finisher is, hitting a shining wizard to the back of Rose’s head to win the match.
As long as the person who can actually wrestle keeps winning, I’m fine with this. I don’t dislike Mandy; I just think her hanging around with Otis in a non-wrestling capacity while she also, you know, learns to wrestle would do more for her than continuing to look godawful in the ring. 2 Stars.
And Dolph superkicks Otis after the match, because try and stop him from being a douche.
Oh good, it’s Jeff Hardy and his painted face and his addictive personality. He describes this as his last good run, which is setting the bar extremely high. Speaking of the Bar (haha), he’ll be facing Sheamus tonight in a match that I hope is a repeat of Sheamus’ recent thirty-second victories.
Did you know not all soldiers are amazing? As well as all the war criminals and the guys who are soldiers but who are also just pricks and don’t stop being pricks just because they’re soldiers, the Forgotten Sons are here to whine and complain about not getting enough praise for, you know, doing a job.
Backstage, Miz and Morrison are reminded by Renee Young that they’ll still be the underdogs with a 2-on-1 advantage.
It’s a victory for total screw-ups everywhere
In other news, WWE is trying to make me care about Jeff Hardy as something other than a sacrifice on the altar of Sheamus’ obsessive need to perfect the human race, one dead wrestler at a time. Mr “One More Chance, Baby, I Can Change” Hardy makes his way to the ring, followed by eugenics enthusiast and Ronald Weasley’s final form, Sheamus.
Both men lock up, and Sheamus relies on his power to bully Jeff into the corner. Hardy flails wildly before applying a headlock, but Sheamus is able to bring him back under control before trying to hit the Ten Beats. Jeff fights back, elevating Sheamus over the top rope before hitting a dropkick through the ropes. He throws himself off the apron at Sheamus, who catches him and drives him into the ring post before slamming him onto the announce table.
After the break, Sheamus is still in full control, which is super cathartic for me. Jeff is not in great shape, even by Jeff Hardy standards, and I can’t imagine that he’s going to be a difficult challenge for Daniely Bryan. For the sake of novelty as much as anything else, Jeff hits some offence with a Whisper in the Wind before Sheamus plants him with the Irish Curse Backbreaker. I’ve quite enjoyed this match so far, though I’m not enthused by the prospect of Jeff’s stunning underdog victory.
Sheamus hits the Ten Beats of the Something to Hardy, who manages to flip out of a back suplex. He throws hands at Sheamus before avoiding a shoulder tackle that sees Sheamus blast into the ring post. Jeff unleashes his signature offence, but Sheamus counters the Twist of Fate. He slides out of the ring, where Jeff drives him into the ring post again before wiping him out after running along the apron.
Back in the ring, Jeff tries for the Swanton Bomb, landing across Sheamus’ knees but managing to kick out at two. Sheamus follows that up with a running knee to the face, but Hardy kicks out again. Jeff ducks a Brogue Kick and counters White Noise with a roll-up for the win.
I knew it was going to happen, but I am not happy with having to trade Sheamus/Bryan for watching Bryan try to get a good match out of Jeff. 2 Stars.
Tags: AJ Styles, AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, bayley, Bayley vs. Charlotte, Braun Strowman, Braun Strowman vs. The Miz, Bray Wyatt, charlotte, Dolph Ziggler, Intercontinental Championship Tournament, Jeff Hardy, Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus, Jon Morrison, Mandy Rose, otis, Otis and Mandy Rose vs. Dolph Ziggler and Sonya DeVille, sasha banks, Sheamus, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown, Sonya Deville, The Forgotten Sons, The Miz, WWE