Dr Spain’s SmackDown Report and Review for July 3rd 2020: The End is Nigh

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Oh, we’re still doing this, then? Yeah, fuck it: why not? Where I live, the pubs are opening at 6 am as the nation shambles to its bacchanalian demise, so who am I to say that a bunch of testosterone-saturated boys and girls prancing around in their pants isn’t essential business? Besides, I’m minded to take it easy on Vince McMahon at the moment; WWE’s been hit with so much bad press in the last few weeks that I’m bracing myself for Ghislaine Maxwell to reveal that the Chairman used to fly out to Epstein’s private island and make drug-addled nine-year-olds reenact WrestleMania 3.

And what would the gradual fall of civilisation be without WWE? Fully clothed and slightly more dignified, I’ll grant you, but I think we’ve forfeited our collective rights to dignity, and I’m typing this entire thing nude in any event.

So, as horror upon horror is unleashed into the general zeitgeist, let’s pause for a moment and watch the closest thing to modern gladiatorial combat not named Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which is no longer on Netflix, which is why I’m writing this review instead of watching that again.

On with the show.

Bro fuck yourself

The broadcast kicks off with Michael Cole in the ring. He’s here to introduce Matt Riddle, your friendly neighbourhood stoner/alleged rapist. We relive his victory against AJ Styles, albeit at a moment when Styles was so distracted that he made Madeleine McCann’s parents look watchful and alert.

Riddle says that he can’t put his feelings into words which, having heard this man speak, comes as no surprise to me whatsoever. However, he does then spend a lot of words, the majority of them being “bro”, explaining that the feeling was what I’d imagine he’d call “good” if he had more than a single working neuron up there.

Michael Cole then wants to talk about Riddle’s bare feet, I guess because they let Quentin Tarantino produce this episode. Matt tells a long, rambling story that I can feel making me stupider as I hear it. He literally tells the entire story. Someone signed off on this segment. Riddle can also apparently feel through his feet, which literally everyone can do, but I think he means it in the Toph-from-Avatar sense because he’s really fucking stupid.

Cole tries to drag the conversation back to a human level, like an exasperated father trying not to yell at his toddler in front of his ex-wife and her new family, but the toddler is literally glueing his own face to the side of the car, and somehow a really good scream would definitely solve this whole issue.

King Corbin’s music plays, and I have never said this in response to King Corbin before, but thank God. I hate Corbin so much that the only time I want to see him on my TV screen is if Fox News broadcasts uncensored footage of him being beheaded by ISIS, but I am genuinely glad that he has decided to derail this segment.

Corbin calls Riddle an idiot, which is fair assessment, then yells at Michael Cole for calling for his execution multiple times last week. Finally, we get to the meat of this segment, which is that Corbin’s pissed about Riddle attacking him with the rest of the locker room last week. It’s the one logical thing that’s happened on the show so far, and I’m clinging onto it like it’s a fucking face mask (topical!).

Anyway, Corbin wants to fight Riddle, only not right here right now. Instead, he’s fixed up a match for Riddle with John Morrison, who I guess bears a passing similarity to Riddle except that he gives you the impression that he can use three-syllable words without bleeding from his eyes.

Riddle’s lack of boots augments the impression that he is just in his undercrackers

Post-break, Corbin is on commentary, and the match is starting out. Riddle kicks his flipflops at Corbin before tussling with Morrison. The former MMA fighter comes out the better of each exchange until Morrison catches him with an Alabama Slam, only for Riddle to surprise him with an ankle lock. A backflip out of a German suplex and a Disaster Kick finally gives Morrison a sturdy advantage.

Riddle tries to fight back, but Morrison relies on some incredibly athletic combinations to keep him off-balance, which is helped by a couple of nasty knees right to the jaw. Riddle finally hulks up, challenging Morrison to hit him as hard as he can. Jon’s seen Fight Club enough times, however, and rather than start an anarchist collective only to discover that Matt Riddle is a split personality that manifests to him as an actual guy and then have to sleep with Helena Bonham Carter and shoot himself (spoilers: Fight Club), he pokes Riddle in the eye instead. This earns him a brainbuster, which is a fair trade. Riddle blasts Corbin with a cheap shot before we go to a commercial break.

Riddle’s in control after the break, lacing Morrison with offence. The Friday Night Delight manages to counter the Floating Bro with a pair of knees to the gut before planting Riddle with a spin-out crucifix bomb. Riddle latches on with the Bromission, though Morrison fights out with a series of Spanish Flies. An exchange of strikes follows, with Riddle gaining the advantage with a powerbomb and a knee to the face. The Bro Derek is foiled via distraction from the Miz and Corbin, though Riddle still wins with a roll-up.

Another good outing for Riddle, and Morrison can pretty much guarantee an entertaining match. Considering how good the exchange was here, it’s almost a waste (though a very welcome one) to have it given away on free TV. 3.5 Stars.

Styles jumps Riddle on the ramp post-match, only for the jumper to become the jumpèd as Gulak dives on Styles. This is obviously uninteresting, so the camera cuts away.

Backstage, Corbin, the Miz, and Morrison are having a traditional heels grumble. An interviewer that doesn’t have COVID-19 interrupts and Corbin tells her that he’s going to end Riddle’s whole career.

Fingers still crossed for an AJ Styles Open Challenge run

Meanwhile, AJ Styles and Drew Gulak, who have been waiting patiently until they could start, are ready to go. The bell rings, and Styles begins by stomping Drew, beating on him in the opening minutes. Gulak finally fights back, only for Styles to run him back down in short order. This goes on for a major portion of the match, and AJ begins to focus on Drew’s leg, clearly aiming for the Calf Crusher.

AJ eventually goes for the submission move, but Gulak counters the Calf Crusher, wrenching on Styles’ arm and chin in a hold of his own. Styles grabs the ropes, ducking out of the ring to regain some equilibrium. After a break, AJ is still in control, punishing Drew with a brainbuster before blasting him with a backbreaker. Gulak has some flares of offence, but Styles is still firmly in control for the most part.

Gulak finally elevates AJ into the top turnbuckle, staggering him. He quickly races through a volley of offence, not allowing Styles any time to recover, almost getting the win with a Michinoku Driver. A sudden powerbomb from AJ halts Gulak, allowing him to follow up with the Styles Clash. Styles refuses to go for the cover, however, instead draping Drew over the top rope, allowing him to hit the Phenomenal Forearm.

This firmly established AJ Styles as several levels above Gulak, which is an interesting move as the Intercontinental Championship picture develops. Hopefully, Drew isn’t lost in the shuffle, because his matches are always worth a watch. 2.5 Stars.

I’ve heard more convincing Undertaker impressions

Here come Bayley and Sasha Banks. They’re here to crow about their crazy week, and to be fair they’ve been pretty busy. They then take shots at the Undertaker, prompting Michael Cole to start dismantling the announce table to jerry-rig a crude guillotine. Finally, they reveal that they’ve made a tribute for themselves, which is the usual solid work from WWE’s production team. You have to admire the work ethic of those folks: face or heel, they make some beautiful propaganda.

This is all interrupted when Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross arrive. They have a list of their own accomplishments, which include Cross being the Queen of Scotland and 325th in line to the throne. Honestly, I’d like to think we’ve learned our lesson about putting the crown on a Scottish head, considering that the last time we did it, our political system took a harder pounding than your mum negotiating her health insurance. It becomes rapidly apparent that they’re just making shit up, although that’s pretty much how I got my PhD.

This is all supposed to be a lesson about questioning the sources of news and doing your own research, but it all comes down to wrestling in the end: it’s wrestling all the way down. Bayley and Sasha finally mock Nikki one time too many, which as royalty means she can have them killed and also rape a sex slave without having to talk with the FBI. In this specific case, it means that Alexa slaps Bayley, causing Sasha to make a match between the pair of them.

So, Corbin made a match between Jon Morrison and Matt Riddle. Drew Gulak vs AJ Styles was at least suggested by Daniel Bryan, and now there’s this. Has WWE management worked out that they can trust wrestlers to make their own matches without having to pay the wages of a general manager?

Nikki Cross doesn’t care for your match rules

When we come back, it’s Bayley vs Bliss. Miss Five Feet of Fury has a strong showing in the opening moments, keeping Bayley off-balance for several minutes. A distraction from Banks on the outside gives Bayley a little space, and she attacks Alexa’s arm, spending several minutes weakening the limb. Now it’s Bliss’s turn to take some punishment, which she eventually counters with a straight punch to the face, though with the cost of further injuring her hand and arm.

Bayley regains control, using the limb to stymie any attempt at a comeback from Alexa. Interference from Sasha Banks only makes matters worse for Bliss, until Nikki Cross has finally had enough, first wiping out Sasha before decking Bayley in the face, causing the disqualification.

It’s always good to be reminded that there are multiple viable number one contenders, and it’s something that the Women’s Division has been doing exceptionally well. Whether or not Nikki’s DQ antics are supposed to cause tension between her and Bliss are up in the air. I want them to stay together forever, but it’s certainly been long enough that a break-up will have a strong emotional impact. 2.5 Stars.

Nikki goes wild on Bayley, who is only saved by Banks, who drags her out of the ring. There’s no sign of dissent between Bliss and Cross.

Spooky videos for the boys and girls

We get a video showing Bray and Braun’s relationship, which is a weird mix of influences from Luis Buñuel to Michael Bay. Braun talks very openly about very definitely killing Wyatt but considering that we’re all making bets about how and when Ghislaine Maxwell is going to be assassinated by the US Government, I feel like he’ll get away with it.

I’ve put five quid on this coming Wednesday afternoon via spontaneous combustion, which would be extremely Dickensian.

Shinsuke Nakamura can kick you hard enough to forget a months-long WWE Championship reign

The New Day is here, and their very presence makes the audience of WWE trainees act like someone’s spiked their steroids with an even mix of ecstasy and crack. Kofi will be taking on Shinsuke Nakamura in singles action tonight.

Nakamura gets down to the ring, and Kofi starts off in a far more aggressive manner than usual, battering Shinsuke until the Artist is sent to the outside, then following and slamming him against the barricade. It takes a momentary distraction from Cesaro to allow Shinsuke to gain some measure of control, which Cesaro compounds by decking Kingston. When Big E chases Cesaro into the ring, bent on revenge, the referee tosses them both.

After a commercial break, Nakamura is working Kingston over, blasting Kofi with kick after kick and using hard strikes to suppress any attempted comeback. A running knee to the head almost nets Shinsuke the victory, but Kingston finally catches him with a running forearm off the ropes, building momentum with a series of dropkicks. Nakamura blasts Kofi with a hard knee as the former WWE Champion flies off the top rope, but it’s not enough to pick up the win.

Kofi dodges the Kinshasa, flips out of a reverse exploder suplex, then plants Shinsuke with the S.O.S. Nakamura runs into a pair of boots, then Kofi measures him for Trouble in Paradise. The kick is countered with a sleeper hold from Shinsuke; Kofi throws him off, but a Kinshasa to the back of the skull puts Kofi down.

Solid match, and it’s nice to see Shinsuke win a match clean. 2.5 Stars

Cesaro comes down to the ring, trying to set up a table, but Big E chases him down, attacking both Cesaro and Nakamura until he’s run them off.

It is bizarre that WWE okayed this segment

And because Sheamus can’t be in the pubs back across the pond, helping the thick cunts of the United Kingdom build up a massive second wave of COVID-19 because of their apparent inability to drink and do coke at home, he’s set up a makeshift bar in the ring. It’s not the same, Sheamus. Not if you’re not yelling and singing and crowded together, sending moisture droplets into the atmosphere and breathing in faecal particles in the bathroom.

Jeff Hardy shows up first, and it seems like a bad move for him to accept Sheamus’ invitation. Surely this is putting himself into the path of temptation needlessly?

Sheamus appears on the titantron, where he’s set up his own home bar. It’s actually worse than the one in the ring, although maybe WWE didn’t trust that Sheamus would return what looks like a couple of months worth of booze if they’d handed it over. I wouldn’t have.

Sheamus tells Jeff that he can’t face reality, drawing a link between Jeff’s imagined addiction to adrenaline and his real-life addictions to drugs and alcohol. He finally says that the answer to Hardy’s problems is in one of the bottles in the ring. I’m ashamed to say that I thought that this was going to be some kind of Crystal Maze-style puzzle, where Jeff would have to down bottle after bottle until he found a physical thing inside one of the bottles, but then I realised that Sheamus was just telling him to fall back into alcoholism.

Also, Jeff could have just broken the bottles, finding the item without having to drink alcohol. There’s even a safety screen that would keep the audience safe.

What I’m saying is I miss The Crystal Maze.

After a few more mindless taunts, Jeff calls Sheamus out on mocking a recovering addict, which is a pretty appalling thing to do when it’s not professional wrestling. Sheamus then makes his “personal bartender” (which is the kind of thing you’d only get real use out of if you were an alcoholic yourself) hold a glass of champagne right up to Jeff’s face. I was going to say that I’d feel sorry for that guy when Jeff inevitably attacked him, but he just dug his own grave.

Jeff fakes out drinking the bubbly as the knuckles of WWE’s production and management teams all whiten at the same time, then he pours it on the bartender’s head, which is his answer to just everything recently.

And then he smashes a bottle over the bartender’s head. I mean…you could have just hit him with a Twist of Fate and a Swanton Bomb, Jeff. People die from being hit in the back of the head with bottles.

Oh, then he does hit him with a Swanton Bomb. Honestly, that’s even worse.

I don’t know who the hero or the villain of this story is anymore. I do know that it’s not the person who wrote it.

David has a jaded and cynical view of wrestling, which complements his jaded and cynical view of practically everything else. He spends his time writing novels and screenplays, lifting heavy things while listening to classical music, and waiting with bated breath for his next opportunity to say "it's Dr. Spain, actually".