Some handheld camera footage to begin the broadcast, showing the aftermath of a car crash and Elias writhing on the ground as fake doctors poke and prod him while singing the theme tune from Casualty in their heads. Renee Young – interviewer, backstage personality, fucking ghoul – is already on the scene, clearly still hoping to turn a fake wrestling segment into a Pulitzer Prize.
The big mystery, of course, is the identity of the man responsible for the accident, described as a man wearing a black shirt and black trousers. I know that this is WWE’s attempt to be serious as the nation boils with fury over institutionalised racism, cops murdering black people, and Donald Trump threatening to send in the army to wipe out people who have some objections to those things, but I really feel that they should have just gone the satire route and had witnesses claim that the man responsible was wearing a fur cloak. Have Corbin show up to SmackDown with blood liberally splattered over his clothes, doggedly maintaining his innocence with increasingly elaborate alibis.
Also, I get innocence until proven guilty, and I fully support that principle, but seriously? At least make King Corbin the very first guy that whatever authority figure currently in power sits down to investigate. Shit, maybe just call the cops now that a man who’s made four separate attempts to murder people in the past has just gone after one of his previous victims again. WWE put Becky, Charlotte, and Rousey in the back of a squad car just for scrapping, but apparently attempted murder is one of those things that WWE sweeps under the rug.
And maybe, bearing in mind what’s currently happening in the United States, just maybe a murder storyline is not what WWE needs to be trying out right this second now.
Ah, the cops are on the scene; I guess when attempted murder happens outside of a WWE-occupied building, all bets and under-the-table deals are off. I hope the New Day are keeping a low profile right now.
And the mystery deepens, by which I mean that there’s actually something of a mystery going on. One of the officers pulls down the sun visor, showing that the car is registered to Jeff Hardy. Haha: nice try, Corbin. The old classic: pin it on the addict because there’s a good chance he won’t be able to account for his whereabouts. If that’s the best that you could come up with, then you’re going to be fucking nicked by the end of this episode. They’re going to bump you down to a country fucking squire, my old son.
Sorry: I watch a lot of crime dramas, most of which are set in London.
And I’d like to thank the police for not arresting Renee Young: the closest thing WWE has to a member of the media. Then again, she is white.
Kayla Braxton is also there with an eyewitness: Universal Champion Braun Strowman. Mother of God: it looks like this thing goes all the way to the top. According to Mr Strowman, witness, he saw the vehicle arrive at dangerous speeds, colliding with the victim. Immediately following the impact, the unidentified driver exited the vehicle, fleeing the scene on foot. Kayla doesn’t ask why Braun Strowman seems suddenly unable to identify King Corbin: a coworker and sometime nemesis of the last several years. There’s something rotten in the state of WWE. Everyone is a potential suspect, but no-one more than King Corbin.
Egads, more excitement. The cops have found something and, judging by their enthusiasm, it’s a minority whose throat they can kneel on. It’s the prone figure of Jeff Hardy, groaning in pain, and the police just lift him onto his feet. That has to qualify as police brutality, although I know the bar for that is pretty high in America.
Jeff claims that he hasn’t been drinking, while the cops maintain that he smells like alcohol. I mean, just by looking at Jeff Hardy, I can tell that he always smells like alcohol, so it’s hardly stellar police work. Jaime Noble, loyal to the end, tries to hustle him away from the police, but the cops aren’t going to just let a near-fatal incident slide this time. They cuff Jeff and escort him to a squad car, taking him downtown. I know that we’re supposed to feel sorry for Hardy (because he was either set up or this is the most dramatic way that WWE’s ever brought someone’s career to an end) but you would definitely want to talk to Jeff Hardy considering the evidence. No matter how contrived this all looks, the important thing is that the police carry out an extensive investigation, follow every lead, and eliminate every false positive until they’ve proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Corbin did it.
And in the background, Jason Jordan can be seen carrying Elias’ unbroken guitar, which really sells the tragicomic vibe of this whole segment.
I can’t believe they’re going to make me watch wrestling after dangling a wrestling-themed crime show in front of me like this.
I also can’t believe that they’re calling Edge vs Randy Orton the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever. Did I imagine Andrade vs Gargano? Or Ciampa vs Gargano? Or Cole vs Gargano?
Backstage, the wrestlers are all receiving a news update about Elias’ condition. The fact that Corbin visibly laughs about this makes it pretty obvious that he did it. The real news is that Elias is unable to compete in the Intercontinental Championship tournament, which should automatically make AJ Styles a person of interest. And considering that Jeff was the alleged driver, it should also implicate Daniel Bryan.
Upon hearing the news about Jeff Hardy, Sheamus (another person of interest) claims that he’s been right all along and we all claimed that he was a jerk for being loudly and abrasively honest about his coworker’s personal demons while in the workplace. It’s quite shocking to realise how many potential suspects there are in this case. Or it would be if I wasn’t completely certain that Corbin did it.
Styles advocates for both him and Bryan immediately progressing to the final rounds of the tournament, and it certainly is interesting that he immediately tried to profit from this terrible incident. Bryan, on the other hand, prefers to piss all over the tournament format and randomly ship in two other contestants. Daniel Bryan wants competition, not your fascist system of bracket progression.
AJ is furious, and Elias and Jeff’s predicament is completely forgotten as every wrestler tries to parlay this scenario into an Intercontinental Championship match. I feel like that tells you everything about WWE’s employees in a single, depressing sentence. No wonder Jeff did all those drugs. Sheamus is first to try to get a shot, followed immediately by Corbin: both men who probably have less right to be in the tournament than anyone else (along with Nakamura and Gulak). That being said, this gets me the Sheamus/Bryan match I wanted, so fairness and merit can go hang. And hell: I’ve seen worse matches than Corbin/Styles.
AJ wants none of that 2016 nonsense, however, and refuses to jeopardise his free ride to the final. This is apparently a totally okay way to act, and Sheamus then proposes a Triple Threat match between him, Corbin, and Bryan. The other two seem okay with that, and it’s a match I’d not fast-forward past, but the rest of the locker room have their own objections to register. There has been zero wrestling thus far, and this is already my favourite episode of SmackDown. Now Jey and Dolph Ziggler want in on the tournament, as does Gable, and the bald authority figure finally gets fed up of this and institutes a battle royal for the chance to face Daniel Bryan for a chance to face AJ Styles for the Intercontinental Championship.
So, attempted vehicular homicide, a wrestling parliamentary debate, a battle royal, and a guaranteed Daniel Bryan match? This is the best SmackDown ever.
Wrestling is a bit of a comedown after that opening
Post-commercials, the 10-man battle royal has kicked off: it’s Sheamus vs Corbin vs Jey Uso vs Cesaro vs Nakamura vs Gable vs Gulak vs Dorado vs Metalik. Some WWE talent has formed a socially-distanced crowd; I’m not a fan of that because, like everything else, it’s not essential, but it does provide some crowd ambience. Apparently, they all have been tested, or at least Michael Cole says that they have, which is a truly excellent use of a limited resource.
It’s a big mass of blokes in the ring, but no-one’s eliminated yet. Ziggler has several close calls at the hands of Gran Metalik and Cesaro, and Gulak is almost eliminated by Sheamus, who takes a moment to yell at Michael Cole. Finally, Dorado is eliminated by Corbin as a vicious right hand knocks him off the apron. Gulak tries to take Corbin out immediately afterwards, but the King eliminates him as well.
Cesaro dumps Jey Uso on the apron but fails to eliminate him as Metalik unloads on Ziggler and Corbin, who manage to halt his momentum with a superkick before chucking him out. Dolph tries to betray Corbin, who returns the favour by chucking him out before Jey Uso superkicks him out of the ring! God bless Jey Uso!
After the break, Jey, Sheamus, Gable, Nakamura, and Cesaro are left in the ring, any one of whom would be a great Intercontinental Champion. Sheamus and Cesaro relive some of the old Bar days as they hammer Gable, who subsequently manages to wrench Sheamus’ arm over the top rope before knocking him silly with a DDT. Jey Uso unloads some superkicks, working with Gable to knock down everyone.
Nakamura exchanges kicks with Uso, winning the exchange with a blow to Jey’s head, but he’s then almost eliminated by Gable until Cesaro saves him. Cesaro tries for the elimination, dumping Chad on the apron, but he’s eliminated instead! Nakamura pounces on Gable, hitting series of strikes before Gable straight-up belly-to-belly suplexes him out of the ring! We’re doing another Kofi Kingston story! Cesaro dashes back into the ring to eliminate Gable! Looks like we’re not!
We’re left with Sheamus and Jey Uso, which is an odd final two and probably spells a Sheamus victory. Well, I like that better than Sheamus beating Gable clean again. The two men go right after each other until Sheamus gets Jey on the apron, but Jey beats him away until he can get on the top rope. Jey misses a dive, but almost eliminates Sheamus with a clothesline. The Celtic Warrior hangs on, rakes Jey’s eyes, and drags him out onto the apron. Both men battle on the edge of the ring, where Sheamus is able to block a superkick, using the trapped limb to throw Uso into the ring post. A Brogue Kick follows, giving Sheamus the win.
Good choice for the match, and a great battle royal in the process. I hope this gives Gable a lot more to do, and it’ll be interesting to see what a near-victory for Jey means moving forward. 3 Stars.
Backstage, Sonya DeVille talks some trash at Lacey Evans via a camera, unaware that she could just turn around and talk to Lacey face-to-face because Lacey is right behind her. Evans shoves Sonya over and then mocks her, and I hope DeVille literally murders her. Apparently, it’s legal as long as you do it inside a WWE-occupied building.
Elsewhere, Gable is protesting against being eliminated by an already-eliminated man. Surely that means that Shawn Michaels should still be protesting the results of the 2005 Royal Rumble. I know there’s a load of other examples, but that was the one that really pissed me off when I was 14.
Cesaro tells Gable that he eliminated him to do him a favour, because he could never be IC Champion, then challenges him to a match. Gable decks the smug Swissman, accepting the challenge.
I’m on board with this if Lacey starts calling herself a Blonde Supremacist
Lacey Evans is here to show the WWE hopefuls how not to wrestle. Apparently, this match got started over Twitter, which does seem to to be the standard way of kicking off feuds recently, but whatever it takes to get Sonya a Women’s Championship.
DeVille joins Evans in the ring, and the match is on. Lacey mocks Sonya for saying that blondes can’t wrestle. I’d just like to make the point that I have never linked Lacey’s complete inability to be one half of a quality wrestling match with the colour of her hair, and if she has a problem with that, I’m sure we can have a really awkward and clumsy fight about it.
Lacey gets down all fours, offering to let Sonya take the advantage. Sony actually goes for the grapple, rather than just slamming a knee or a boot into Evans’ head, but gains control of the match with a shoulder tackle. Lacy kips up, dodges a punch from Sonya and kicks DeVille before tossing a handkerchief at her. Really? In a pandemic-stricken world? That’s practically assault.
Sonya decks Lacey in the face, which I guess is also assault, and beats her down for a while. Evans fires back with a take-down before doing what might just be a DDT if your definition of a DDT is pretty broad. Lacey Evans, who is quite the pretty broad herself, gator rolls DeVille out of the ring, tying her up in the apron. Sonya escapes, spearing Lacey, but they’re so intent on brawling that the ref calls for the count-out.
It’s odd that Sonya would be happy with a roll-up victory over Mandy Rose, but somehow her new rivalry against Lacey is personal enough that wins and losses don’t matter. Still, I like any blood feuds that go down in the Women’s Divison. 1.5 Stars.
The fight continues after the match, with Lacey getting back in the ring and telling Sonya to join her and fight. Sonya says that she’ll fight on her terms and leaves as Lacey mocks her by pointing at her blonde hair. I have to say, now that Lacey has added her hair colour to the list of qualities that make up her entire personality (southern, mother, former marine), she has to be the most complex character on this entire show.
And former military sticks together, only some of them record whiney promos backstage. Yep: it’s the Forgotten Sons and their list of grievances. Considering WWE more or less dislocates its corporate jaw in its eagerness to fellate the armed forces of America, the fact that they’ve apparently neglected the Forgotten Sons does seem sort of personal. When you have Lacey Evans lauded for her military past rather than burned at the stake for crimes against wrestling, I can imagine being a little miffed if I was a former soldier working for WWE and that fact was completely ignored.
The Forgotten Sons do their usual bitching routine, but until they start proudly claiming responsibility for war crimes or state that the Iraq War was at least mostly about the oil, I’m not particularly interested.
In all fairness, who else is going to make matches if not Bayley?
After the break, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross are here for A Moment of Bliss. Their guests tonight are the New Day. I’ll be interested in seeing if the WWE trainees, who have been making a lot of noise, can be relied upon to laugh when WWE tells them to or if they’re allowed to make their own comedy appreciation choices. I doubt it really matters because the way that they’re acting makes it pretty clear that they’re all on some pretty incredible drugs.
Wait, could any of them have gained access to Jeff Hardy’s rental car?
Anyway, the New Day arrive for what Alexa Bliss refers to as a Tag Team Champion summit. I notice that the RAW and NXT Tag Team Champions have not been invited, which seems like some real favouritism. Nikki gives the New Day some Scottish pancakes, and the New Day give Alexa and Nikki some coffee beans in water. The live crowd laughs, lowering my respect for them and their intellect accordingly.
The New Day talk a little bit about their respect for the Forgotten Sons before turning their attention to any SmackDown challengers that Alexa and Nikki might have their eye on. This brings out Bayley and Sasha, who immediately start throwing shade at the Moment of Bliss hosts. I’d be annoyed that the New Day are now just here as window dressing for this segment, but even their reactions to whatever’s happening are seriously entertaining.
Alexa mocks Sasha by asking about where her title is, as she’s the only one in the ring without one. Bayley sticks up for her blue-haired friend, and Sasha states that the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection put the Tag Team Championships on the map, and they can take them back whenever.
Bayley does her usual shtick, which at this point is putting Sasha in a singles match. This time it’s against Alexa Bliss, who dropkicks Banks as we go to a commercial break.
I’d have paid money to watch Sasha Banks try to wrestle in heels
When we come back, both Bayley and Nikki are on commentary as Alexa and Sasha wrestle in the ring. Bliss starts off with several quick pin attempts, culminating in a big slap. Alexa stays on Sasha, trying to end the match quickly as Nikki screams in support. Sasha finally reverses a charge into the corner, managing to swing a pair of feet into Bliss’ face.
Sasha returns to the slap to Alexa before beating her down in the corner. A meteora almost gets the job done, and Banks starts wrenching the Tag Team Champion’s arms behind her back. Bliss tries to break out of it, but all that gets her is a backbreaker. Finally, Alexa starts firing back with shots out of the corner, managing to drop Sasha right on her face.
Bliss turns up the heat, knocking aside Sasha’s offence and hammering her with her own. Banks suddenly catches her by surprise in the corner, hitting her with a meteora and dropping a pair of knees onto her. Now she wants the Banks Statement, but Alexa reverses into a roll-up attempt, following that with a headscissors takeover, then a big forearm to the face.
Now Bliss wants to hit the Twisted Bliss, but Bayley’s up on the apron for the distraction. Nikki joins her, trying to help, but Bayley shoves Cross into Bliss, toppling both of them. Banks takes advantage, hitting a pair of knees to a dazed Alexa, rolling her up for the win.
The commentary, which is to say Nikki and Bayley hassling Graves and Cole, really made this match, though both Sasha and Alexa did a solid job. 2 Stars.
We recap the Jeff Hardy/Elias/but actually definitely King Corbin traffic collision incident, which is just as mental the second time you watch it. My favourite part is Jeff reacting in true horror at seeing Elias on a stretcher despite the fact that I don’t remember them ever interacting onscreen before. Or perhaps they did, and this is all part of a greater mystery. I literally cannot wait to find out.
Apparently, Elias is in “stable condition”, and I hardly think that putting the man in a stable is going to help him recover from a car accident.
Food for thought: if you were hit by a car tomorrow, would a battle royal need to be arranged in response to that? If not, what could you be doing differently in order to make this a reality? Are you being all that you could be in terms of battle royal-esque consequences? Maybe it’s time you started thinking about what you want to get out of life, which I think it’s pretty obvious should be battle royals.
Man, Jason Jordan and Chad Gable on the same show
Here come Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura, followed by Chad Gable. This is real torture from WWE: putting two of my favourite wrestlers in a match against each other so I don’t know which one I want to win more. Sadistic bastards.
Gable starts things off with a nasty rolling kick to Cesaro’s skull, following that up with a second. He keeps the heat on, rolling Cesaro up before catching him with a moonsault! God, this is a flurry. Chad starts attacking Cesaro’s leg before the larger man is able to swat him away, and a limping Cesaro is able to use that second’s breathing space to blast Shorty G with a clothesline.
Now, Cesaro is on the offensive, hitting several strikes before planting Gable with a vicious gutwrench suplex. He applies a rear facelock, but Gable works his way to his feet, pummeling his way out of it before catching Cesaro with a dropkick to his injured leg. He goes for another rolling kick, but Cesaro manages to somehow catch him, lift him right up, and powerbomb the soul out of that short man’s body.
Cesaro doesn’t allow Gable any quarter, blasting him with an uppercut before taking him up to the top rope for a back superplex. Gable rolls out, and he latches on an ankle lock! Cesaro struggles for several long seconds, but he’s finally able to roll through, sending Gable flying into the second rope. A huge uppercut almost finishes Gable, but he only just breaks the pin.
Now Cesaro wants the Neutraliser. Gable throws Cesaro over his shoulders, but Cesaro’s been countered that way before, and he rolls Gable up! Gable kicks out, then kicks out of a second pin attempt, rebounding off the ropes. Cesaro tries to powerbomb him once again, but Gable rolls over his shoulders, rolls Cesaro up, and he pins Cesaro!
This seemed like it never slowed down; it definitely never stopped, and it was one of those matches that felt like it could end at literally any point in the match. Please, WWE, commit to Chad Gable. 3 Stars.
We’re shown Otis and Mandy having a romantic weekend together. There’s no real excitement because you just know that WWE isn’t going to force them to fuck onscreen for the sake of ratings, the cowards. Still, Mandy really seems into the idea of Otis in tight speedos, and the fact that they do a parody of Fast Times at Ridgemont High definitely helps the segment. It, unfortunately, doesn’t end with a scene of Otis walking in on Mandy masturbating in the bathroom, but I guess you can’t ask for a perfect homage every time.
That being said, the parody itself is apparently all in Mandy’s imagination, which gives rise to some very important questions re. WWE’s cameras and what they’re capable of. If the mysterious hacker manages to access this equipment, which can apparently see inside WWE employee’s minds, then what chaos could he unleash?
You’d forgotten about the mysterious hacker until I mentioned him, hadn’t you?
Kurt Angle is backstage, building up Edge and Randy Orton as the greatest wrestling match ever. Are you kidding, Kurt? That is like resurrecting Jesus so that he can call Scientology the only real religion.
Kurt’s also here to tell us about the new face of SmackDown. Oh boy: telling us who to support always goes well. Apparently, it’s Matt Riddle, so be prepared to have him ruined and forced down your throats until his NXT career is an amazing memory.
But Sheamus seems to have a problem with Riddle, so at least that’s a solid first feud for the Bro ready-made. He tells Kayla that the IC Championship is the one title that he’s never won in this industry, and he promises to beat both Bryan and Styles to get it.
Bryan shows up at this point, and he stamps on Sheamus’ foot. Between Lacey, Gable, and Bryan, all the sucker-punches and sneak attacks have all been committed by faces so far.
We recap Jon Morrison and the Miz somehow getting themselves a handicap match against Braun Strowman for the Universal Championship. It’s very strange that WWE agreed to that. We’ve been down this road with Layla and Michelle McCool, and it ends with a belt getting snapped in half and a lot of nonsense.
Miz and Morrison will apparently have a warning for Braun Strowman next week. So, we’re being warned about the warning? A pre-warning warning? That’s considerate.
NOBODY KISS BRYAN
Anyway, Daniel Bryan is here to fight for another instalment of Styles vs Bryan, which I think would work for everyone. He makes his way to the ring, followed by Sheamus. I think it’s in everyone’s interests that there is some form of barrier between the Celtic Warrior and the WWE trainees; if Sheamus had easy access to any of them, the Performance Centre would become an abattoir.
The bell rings, and the match is on. Sheamus starts off as the aggressor, taking Bryan over in a headlock. Bryan reverses the hold, but Sheamus is able to drive him into the corner and throw him off. Sheamus continues to remain in control, wrenching on Bryan’s arm and neck, but Bryan beats him away with some fierce strikes, starting to build steam before Sheamus runs him over with a clothesline and starts stomping him.
Bryan responds with a quick flurry of offence before sending Sheamus out of the ring. He dives out onto him as we head to the commercial break, and when we come back, Daniel is still in control of Sheamus. The Irishman is able to break out of his grip, however, and then it only takes a few seconds for Sheamus’ hard offence to wear Bryan right down to the mat.
The pace slows as Sheamus sends Bryan out of the ring, throwing his opponent into the barricade before bullying Michael Cole. Back in the ring, a flying clothesline from Sheamus fells Bryan, and the Celtic Warrior mocks Bryan for his eighteen-second loss at WrestleMania 28, claiming to have “created” the Yes Movement. Bryan fires up, but he jumps right into an Irish Curse backbreaker before getting locked in the Texas Cloverleaf. Bryan reaches the ropes, forcing a break.
Sheamus sets Bryan up for the Ten Beats, but the smaller man fights back. He has Sheamus reeling, then he ascends to the top rope, only for Sheamus to Brogue Kick his legs out from under him, stopping him cold. Sheamus joins Bryan on the top rope, trying to bring him down with a superplex. Bryan batters him away, catching Sheamus with a flying front dropkick, then starts opening up some kick offence on the Irishman.
Sheamus suddenly tries for an Irish Curse again, but Bryan counters with a crucifix pin, only to get lifted up and planted with White Noise. Sheamus beats Bryan to his feet, throwing some weary punches before Daniel catches him with a drop toehold, firing up for a second before running into a double axe-handle from Sheamus! Sheamus looks to finish him with the Brogue, but suddenly Jeff Hardy is marching down to the ring! Did the cops let him out? Was he able to mumble anything that remotely resembled an alibi? How is he able to be here?
Bryan hits the running knee to Sheamus, and the crowd cheers like that’s not some serious bullshit. Bryan wins, but I’m not thrilled about how.
If Sheamus could be this dominant against Daniel Goddamn Bryan, how is it that Jeff Hardy is able to give him trouble? Could Bryan not have won before Jeff attacked Sheamus? 2.5 Stars.
Hardy attacks Sheamus for a little bit after the match, then stands there clapping like any rage he can create has a half-life of about two seconds. Playing to the crowd isn’t a great look for someone who’s presumably furious at being framed for a hit and run accident, Jeff.
Tags: AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, Backlash, Battle Royal, Braun Strowman, Cesaro, Chad Gable, Chad Gable vs Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Elias, Jeff Hardy, jey uso, King Corbin, Lacey Evans, Lacey Evans vs Sonya DeVille, Mandy Rose, Nikki Cross, otis, Renee Young, sasha banks, Sasha Banks vs Alexa Bliss, Sheamus, Sheamus vs Daniel Bryan, smackdown, Sonya Deville, The Forgotten Sons, The New Day, WWE