I cannot put into words how excited I am to get back into what I will persist in referring to as “the wrestling crime of the century”, so I’m not even going to bother trying. Let’s just get straight to the part where we humanely execute King Corbin for his role as mastermind and sole actor in this sickening plot against everything that’s right and decent, as well as Elias and Jeff Hardy.
We see Jeff Hardy backstage. He seems to be in a cheerful mood, which I assume means that he doesn’t remember the events of last week. That could be a concussion joke or a “mind ravaged by decades of drug abuse” joke; whichever way you want to play it.
There’s then a recap of the incident in question, the question being, “how have they still not arrested King Corbin?” The summary of it is that someone hit Elias with their car, which I can at least understand from a moral perspective, and then amateurishly framed Jeff Hardy for it, which I can similarly understand from the perspective of one who knows an ideal fall guy when I see one. As a veteran of procedural crime dramas, I’m disgusted, but as someone who loves WWE’s fumbling yet earnest attempts to present a simulacrum of anything that remotely resembles real events, this whole production is like heroin for me.
Also, are we genuinely trusting United States police officers to carry out an unbiased and accurate investigation of events, given the present circumstances? This is probably the one time that I’m in favour of wrestlers investigating a crime; they could argue that the WWE Performance Centre is sovereign territory.
I truly doubt that Jeff Hardy’s statement was reviewed by his lawyer, or indeed any lawyer
We’re in the Centre itself now, and Jeff Hardy makes his entrance, applauded by WWE trainees who have most definitely been screened for the Coronavirus. Jeff says that he’s happy to see them, even though I’d just assumed he’d been seeing people in the stands for months now. Or, quite possibly, giant spiders. He goes on to say that something awful happened last week, claiming that the show was thrown into chaos. Not really: we got a battle royal and Bryan vs Sheamus out of it.
My God, Elias almost getting killed has been the most positive effect he’s ever had on a wrestling show.
Jeff calls Elias “a good man”, so you just know that he’s on something and it’s something that someone smuggled into the country via military aircraft. Hardy then presents his own account of events, which can be summed up as “everything went black suddenly”. As criminal defences go, it’s only slightly more effective than, “Your Honour, my client pleads guilty to all the charges”. Jeff woke up in the bushes with his clothes reeking of alcohol, but apparently this was different to all the other times that’s happened, mostly because this time, there were consequences.
Jeff also says that his “brain was barely conscious”, which is actually too obvious a target for me to make another callous joke about.
Hardy claims that he questioned “everything”, although apparently that doesn’t include his decision to return to WWE and perform matches at a ponderous pace. The trainees are applauding this lazy racking of whatever’s left of a man’s soul, seemingly at random, and then Jeff suddenly says that everything’s good and that he knows he didn’t drink or do drugs last week. Admittedly, this is backed up by eyewitnesses and sobriety tests, which I trust a hell of a lot more than anything Jeff Hardy says.
The eyewitnesses also claimed that the man driving the car apparently had “red hair and a beard”, which is definitely enough for Jeff, even if it wouldn’t be for any police force or legal system in the world. Hardy promises that his rage can only be released through action, making it seem like half of the matches in WWE could have been settled through a well-researched argument.
Sheamus appears at this point, drawing the ire of the trainees. His defence is that Jeff is a loser addict who never claims responsibility, and he goes on to claim that Jeff’s fans are enabling his actions. Finally, Sheamus asks Jeff to “be a man” and admit what he did, before correcting himself: Jeff isn’t a man, but a junkie.
After one crack too many is made about at Jeff’s fraught relationship with sobriety, Hardy charges up the ramp to face Sheamus, who catches him with a Brogue Kick after a quick exchange. The Irishman then hurls Jeff into the Coronavirus shielding around the ramp in a clear attempt to compromise the defences of the WWE Performance Centre and doom us all.
Backstage, Mandy and Otis are walking around with Otis’ briefcase. It’s a weird feeling, seeing Mandy again. After WWE gave us all a trip into her mind, displaying her thoughts as a visual medium, I’m technically closer to her than I’ve ever been to another human being. I’ve literally shared her thoughts. Am I even really me anymore, or have I been undeniably altered by that experience?
And Otis then spots Corbin’s crown and robe on a random chair, as though we’re expected to believe that the smirking skinhead would really just leave the closest thing that he has to a personality lying around. Otis takes the crown but leaves the robe, although Pimp Fur Coat Otis is an incarnation I’d certainly be interested in seeing.
Corbin arrives literally seconds later, amazed and aghast that stuff he just left sitting there, in an environment that houses men who’ve attempted murder (including him) has been purloined. Is nothing sacred? He grabs a random bloke in a suit, who shops Otis with a distressing readiness. Apparently, Corbin vs Otis is next, which is damn good timing by WWE.
I can’t wait until the Mysterious Hacker shows us footage of Otis stealing the crown like it’s some big revelation.
Otis might be too powerful
Otis and Mandy then make their way to the ring for a match that now has the added spice of theft behind it. Corbin marches to the ring right afterwards, eager to take revenge and/or his stuff back.
Otis triumphs in the early showing, clotheslining Corbin out of the ring multiple times. The King is able to take advantage on the outside, following through once back in the ring, even hitting a spinebuster to the big man: something only Graves draws any attention to.
After another stretch of punishment from Corbin, who even tries to wear him down with a sleeper, Otis is able to power through the Monarch’s assault, firing back with blows of his own. Some impressive throws and power moves take most of the fight out of Corbin, but he rolls out of the ring before he can taste the Caterpillar, retrieving his crown before slamming a chair into Otis’ gut, earning a DQ.
Corbin at a physical disadvantage (which seems fair to say considering Otis’ power game) makes him a more intriguing opponent. A feud against Strowman for the title wouldn’t be a complete waste of time as we build towards bigger things. 2 Stars
The chair, incredibly, seems to have little effect against Otis, who manages to overcome Corbin, finally hitting the Caterpillar. Braun Strowman really might be in trouble, though I’m still holding out for Otis cashing in on the Fiend.
The Miz and Morrison’s Day Off
Elsewhere, the Miz and Morrison are in a white surveillance van in advance of what it seems fair to call “a nefarious scheme”. It takes a special kind of stupid to appear on camera while openly planning a crime in light of Jeff’s allegations against Sheamus, and by God, Miz and Morrison are as special as they come.
Their plan seems to rest on Braun parking his car in the only available parking spot, already opening up a lot of questions about how airtight this whole plot is. Miz and Morrison then address the camera, claiming that they’re sick of being “underestimated”. This seems particularly rich coming from two guys who thought that booking themselves into a handicap match for the Universal Championship resembled a fair fight.
We’re then shown a recording of Braun filling up his water bottle, which foams up uncontrollably. Oh God: Braun’s bare arms and cheap trousers! I have to hope that this is all a lot of juvenile stuff to lull Strowman into a false sense of security, only to reveal that Miz and Morrison have travelled to his parents’ house and committed a Mansons-esque slaying.
Chad Gable is getting interviewed but doesn’t even get any words out before Mojo Rawley shows up to try to leech off Gronkowski’s name. Parasites are described as beings that exist at the expense of a host organism, and I can’t think of anyone that description fits better than Mojo Rawley. A few short jokes serve as a distraction, allowing Nakamura and Cesaro to jump Gable. The plucky Olympian is saved, however, as the New Day intervene.
What is it about a big screen that grabs a wrestler’s whole attention?
Lacey Evans is making her way to the ring, but Sonya DeVille jumps her out of nowhere. I’m thrilled until it’s revealed that the match is still going ahead. Next time, aim for the head, Sonya.
The match itself is an aggressive one, with Lacey using her power rather than the wrestling skill that she only possesses in negative quantities. Sonya mostly relies on strikes and holds to break through Lacey’s early advantage, absolutely decking her with a boot at some stage.
Sonya keeps Lacey in check with more kicks as well as standing on her hair, taunting her all the while. Evans finally powers out, slamming knees into Sonya’s face, but her sunset flip attempt knocks the referee down, injuring his poor little ankle. We go to a break as the referee is replaced. Sonya takes advantage during the transition and continues to punish Lacey with increasing violence, including dragging her neck first off the ring apron before standing on the neck as it’s pressed against the steel steps.
Lacey finally wins her way back into the match with some hard clotheslines, increasing the pace of the match as she delivers kicks of her own to DeVille. A moonsault connects, but Sonya counters a backbreaker before dragging Lacey’s neck against the ropes and hitting a knee to the face.
Mandy then appears on the titantron, telling Sonya that she’s not a fighter but a failure. Sonya, rather than reasoning that she’s beaten Mandy twice and is literally a professional fighter before snapping Lacey’s neck and winning the match, decides to yell at Mandy until Lacey decks her with the Woman’s Right, winning the match.
I get that this is leading to Mandy vs Sonya, but it seems dumb to sacrifice DeVille’s build for another win for Lacey, particularly when I don’t trust WWE to put Sonya over Mandy in the long term. With all that said, Lacey really seems to have improved recently, and that was on display in this match. 2.5 Stars.
Braun Strowman is getting interviewed by a comically tiny Kayla Braxton. Braun is irritated by Miz and Morrison’s dumb pranks, and he’s only more irritated when the duo manage to dump green paint on Kayla. I’d like to imagine that Miz and Morrison didn’t set that up, but merely took advantage of an abandoned and forgotten Degeneration X booby trap that never got used.
Miz and Morrison are shown getting into a fight about whether “left” and “stage left” are the same thing. They both seem quite worried about Kayla’s reaction to this; Kayla herself spits out “those bastards” before storming off. Miz and Morrison then judge the venture a success, reasoning that at least some of the paint managed to splatter on Braun. I have to admit that they’re making this angle work.
I’d literally kill for Bryan doing a run of Intercontinental Championship Open Challenge matches
Renee Young is in the ring with the Intercontinental Championship. Rather than interviewing the belt, which would be incredible television, she’s here to introduce Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles.
Before an interview can happen and another Miz and Morrison prank can ruin countless lives, AJ Styles says that he knows that Bryan is going to call him a coward for taking an easy way out, even though it’s only Jeff’s interference that saved Bryan from getting beaten by Sheamus. He insists that his own method was the right one, declaring himself to be the best Champion that the WWE has ever seen.
Styles admits that Bryan is all heart, but adds that he thinks that makes Bryan stupid. Daniel claims that the two of them have different visions of what an ideal Intercontinental Champion is: Styles would rarely defend it, making sure that only those he deems to be on his level have a shot at it. Bryan, on the other hand, would institute an Open Challenge, making sure that anyone who thinks that there good enough gets an opportunity to prove it.
Well, as in all feuds, I’m supporting the guy whose manifesto includes “mid-card title open challenge”.
AJ calls Bryan’s vision “handouts”, like a good honest Republican, then turns the conversation over to Daniel’s friend, Drew Gulak, who he also claims received a handout. He challenges Drew to a match right now, putting literally nothing on the line apart from, I guess, the opportunity to get paid for being part of a match on SmackDown.
I’d take it.
Gulak shows up, immediately attacking Styles as we go to a commercial break.
Not the most surprising part of 2020, but it’s up there
When we come back, the match is already in full swing. Styles is the aggressor for the most part, but Gulak plays the smart technician, almost trapping AJ in the Gulock in the opening moments. Styles keeps Gulak suppressed from then on, with occasional flare-ups from Drew, who’s unable to overcome AJ past initial flurries.
Finally, Gulak has a sustained explosion of offence, catching Styles off-guard and cementing his advantage with a suplex and a Michinoku Driver. AJ manages to avoid an electric chair drop via a rake of the eyes, planting Gulak with a reverse DDT. Gulak rolls Styles up to counter a Styles Clash and…wins?
I did not see a clean win for Gulak there, but AJ is one talent that won’t get damaged by this loss. If this all leads to a series of matches between Bryan and Gulak for the Intercontinental Championship, colour me entertained. 3 Stars.
Elsewhere, Miz and Morrison have strayed away from simple pranks and into smashing up Braun’s apparently expensive car with golf clubs and baseball bats. On camera. Using each other’s names. It really does seem like Strowman could just sue them and demand that they are fired. It’s not like Jon Morrison has a spotless record prior to this point.
That ain’t hype
The New Day is here to team to with Chad Gable against the evil forces of Nakamura and Cesaro, and the just kind of annoying force of Mojo Rawley. The League of Pricks make their way to the ring, and the match is on.
Gable and Cesaro kick the match off with some impressive reverse-and-counter right out of the gate, which I could stand to watch for twenty minutes. Both men tag out then, and Mojo Rawley’s intensity plus some quick tags give the heels some control before Big E’s power and a belly-to-belly puts the advantage back in the New G’s corner. A dive out of the ring onto Cesaro seems to tweak Kofi’s leg, and a pounce from Mojo leaves the former WWE Champion laying on the outside.
After the break, Kofi is your face in peril, getting worked over by the Easy-Bake heel collective. Mojo’s athleticism is particularly highlighted, hinting at big things for him, as are Gable’s abilities following a hot tag. He wails away at Mojo for a while, hitting a barrage of offence including a moonsault (not that hard, is it, Charlotte Flair?). An ankle lock almost taps Rawley out before Nakamura makes the save, and a sneaky uppercut from Cesaro clears the way for Gable eat a Hyperdrive – an outstanding finishing move, it has to be said – which he surprisingly kicks out of.
Gable dodges another Hyperdrive, tags in Big E and helps set up the Midnight Hour before keeping Cesaro and Nakamura out of the ring for the three-count.
That was a superb finish in a high-quality match. Mojo and Gable looked great here, making a perfect argument for them being pushed towards the Intercontinental Championship in time. I’d have happily seen this go on for far longer. 3.5 Stars.
Braun leaves the Performance Centre, becoming positively enraged when he sees his car. I know it’s only windshield damage, but it’s not like he can drive it like that, and can he afford to risk getting a taxi or an Uber, exposing himself to Covid-19?
Strowman roars at a security guard, who stood there without comment as Miz and Morrison massacred Braun’s windscreen, demanding to know where the pair of them are. In the van, Miz and Morrison realise that neither of them has the keys and lock themselves in.
Morrison’s comment of, “It’s fine; we’re protected by a van!” is some outstanding dialogue. Braun gets right in the van’s face, promising that the two of them are dead men, then goes to his usual tactic of tipping the van over.
If you knew that Braun could tip over large vehicles, and I think every WWE employee would have made note of Strowman’s ability to do so, why would you conceal yourself in a van?
Streeter’s going to love this
It’s time for a Women’s Tag Team Championship match, pitting Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross against Bayley and Sasha Banks. Both teams appear confident as they make their way to the ring.
The match is action from the outset, with Cross dragging Bayley to the corner and the Champions working her over. Bayley is able to block a suplex, allowing her and Banks to get some offence in as they isolate Alexa in their own corner. Bliss manages to overcome the assault, making the tag to Nikki, who batters both heels as Alexa recuperates. There’s something truly terrifying about being yelled at in a Glaswegian accent, and only a meteora from Banks saves Bayley from being deep-fried and eaten with a side of cheesy chips as we go to a break.
The heels retain control after the commercials, doing a competent job of trapping Nikki. The Scotswoman takes several minutes of punishment from both Banks and Bayley before countering a draping neckbreaker, kicking Bayley away and tagging in Bliss. Alexa manages to deal with both women for a moment, but the numbers advantage allows Bayley to hit a Bayley-to-Belly from the top rope, and a shining wizard from Banks almost leads to a title change.
With Cross preventing further interference by way of a tornado DDT to Bayley, there’s another near-fall as Alexa hits Code Red to Banks. Sasha absorbs more punishment, unable to tag out to an absent Bayley until the Women’s Champion gets a blind tag as Banks hits the Backstabber. Sasha is unaware of the tag, locking in the Banks Statement, causing some confusion as Bayley breaks up the move, saving them from a DQ. Nikki breaks out, almost catching Bayley with a pin of her own before Sasha, after some hesitation, breaks it up.
Sasha drags Bayley over to their corner, tagging herself in and fighting off Nikki, applying the Banks Statement again. Bayley drags Bliss out of the ring as Sasha almost gets rolled up, reverses into a roll-up of her own, and gets the pin!
That was a solid match: a surprising result, the enmity between Banks and Bayley getting furthered even in victory, plus the potential for a feud between Alexa and Nikki if WWE should decide to take it that way, although there are a lot of tension between women’s teams happening right now. 3 Stars.
Tags: Alexa Bliss, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs Bayley and Sasha Banks, bayley, Braun Strowman, Cesaro, Jeff Hardy, King Corbin, Lacey Evans, Mandy Rose, Miz and Morrison, Mojo Rawley, Nikki Cross, otis, Otis vs. King Corbin, sasha banks, Sheamus, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, Sonya Deville, Sonya DeVille vs Lacey Evans, The New Day, The New Day and Chad Gable vs Cesaro Shinsuke Nakamura and Mojo Rawley, Women's Tag Team Championships, WWE