Dr Spain’s SmackDown Report and Review for July 31st 2020: Fiend’s Back

Columns, Top Story

It’s time for another edition of SmackDown, so let’s don masks and get to it.

The show kicks off with Bayley and Sasha Banks backstage with a hefty portion of the available WWE belts. They’re laughing at Nikki Cross because SmackDown heels mock the neurodiverse. Nikki has a filmed response where she promises to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship tonight.

There’s a bunch of these filmed promos, actually, offering input from Big E, the Miz, Morrison, Lacey Evans, and Naomi. How do they decide the order of these promos? Are the superstars allowed to watch them and then respond, like it seems like they’re doing? Whose idea was this, and why am I watching it?

We’re then taken to an episode of the Firefly Fun House. Bray claims that he’s not seen Strowman since their random scrap in a swamp, which feels like something that WWE might want to look into considering that that’s their Universal Champion. He says that he never wanted to hurt Braun, but now the Fiend’s awake, so Strowman had better make peace with the prospect of getting raped to death by a man in a mask.

AJ Styles is better than you and your friends

And from death threats disguised as Championship opportunities, we move on to more straightforward Championship opportunities. Tonight, AJ Styles will be facing Gran Metalik, who is accompanied by Dorado. I’m still enjoying Styles continuing to offer open challenge matches after making clear that he would do no such thing.

We get some BigMatchFeel announcements, then the bell rings. Styles and Metalik feel each other out, cautiously at first, but it doesn’t take long for Styles to start throwing hands and hitting backbreakers. Metailk absorbs a fair bit of punishment before finally hitting a couple of punches and then catching Styles with a headscissors. AJ scouts the luchador’s offence, managing to retain the advantage, but Metalik trips him up on the ring apron, sending the champ sprawling.

When we come back, Metalik has caught Styles by surprise with a flying crossbody. AJ isn’t finished, however, and he powers through Gran Metalik’s flurry, starting to target the challenger’s leg as a means of slowing him down. Metalik suddenly explodes into another burst of offence, felling AJ with a tornado DDT before blasting him with a pair of feet in a front dropkick.

As Metalik tries to capitalise on his offence, his leg gives out from under him, and Styles is quick to take advantage. He takes Metalik down with a clothesline, then tries to follow it up with the Phenomenal Forearm. Metalik ducks out of the way, hits an enzuigiri and then leaps right into a blow from Styles that knocks him right out of the air. AJ uses the misstep immediately, latching on the Calf Crusher for a quick tap out win.

I am loving Styles’ Championship run so far, and I’d be happy for him to successfully defend against everyone in the locker room at this rate. 2.5 Stars

Styles attacks Lince Dorado as the other member of Lucha House Party checks on his comrade, putting him down with the Styles Clash. It probably doesn’t say much for my morality, but as long as Styles wrestles as well as he does, I don’t give much of a damn what else he does to people.

Chad Gable is watching this on the monitor backstage, or at least I assume that’s what he’s watching. It could always be pornography. In fact, it most likely is pornography. WWE seems like the kind of workplace where you could get away with that.

Anyway, King Corbin shows up to concern-troll Gable about being stuck on the sidelines, even offering to form an alliance with him. That’s ridiculous: Corbin doesn’t have friends. Gable is reluctant to be friends with, let’s be honest, a subhuman sewer person like King Corbin, but the SmackDown monarch is doing his best to appear sincere. As sincere as you can be while still making short jokes anyway.

This turns quite quickly into Corbin blaming Riddle for Gable’s lack of opportunity and then putting a hit out on the former NXT talent. And by former NXT talent, I mean Matt Riddle, rather than Chad Gable or King Corbin. He also calls it “a king’s bounty”, and I am annoyed by how good that name is. Corbin has no business being that creative.

And despite me missing SmackDown last week, the powers that be clearly want me to see the Jeff vs Sheamus barfight that WWE won’t shut the fuck up about. I’ve worked in a pub before, and that is the wussiest barfight I’ve ever seen in my life. No-one got stabbed, no-one was taken away in an ambulance, and only one bartender was inadvertently taken out in the melee.

Anyway, Brother Nero’s back, which means I can continue to not care about Jeff Hardy while he’s wearing a different kind of facepaint.

Jeff Hardy’s going to start missing Sheamus before too long

Speaking of not caring about Jeff Hardy, here’s Jeff Hardy. Jeff grabs a microphone and tells the audience that he’s not felt this good for a long time. Oh God, someone check his piss.

Hardy links beating Sheamus to his ongoing sobriety, which is probably not the kind of lesson he should take from this whole experience. He then goes on to talk about his life and his struggle before he’s interrupted by King Corbin, who I guess has forgotten that he’s in a feud with Matt Riddle. Although I guess he’s kind of outsourcing that feud to Chad Gable and whoever else in the SmackDown locker room likes money.

Corbin says what we’re all thinking, which is that Jeff needs to stop droning on and on about his life and his problems like he’s under the impression that that’s what people watch wrestling for. He goes on for some time, and while I’m amused by Corbin’s assertion that sobriety has made Jeff boring, it’s a relief when Gulak jumps Corbin from behind to start their scheduled match.

Matt Riddle in John Wick: Parabellum

When we return from the break, Gulak is giving Corbin some trouble as the commentators wonder how much a “king’s ransom” actually is. Interestingly, the Disney Robin Hood movie had two different bounties for Robin: one at £1000 (approximately £750,000 today) and one for 10,000 ingots (which, if you assume that they’re talking about gold ingots, would be around six billion pounds). So, you know, there’s a range.

Anyway, after taking some submission-related punishment from Drew, Corbin finally decks him right in the face to take control of the match. He lays into Daniel Bryan’s best friend forever, pulling a half-crab of all things. Gulak transitions into the Yes Lock, then hammers Corbin with dropkick after dropkick after dropkick. Corbin pulls out a Deep Six out of nowhere, at which point Matt Riddle’s music hits.

Riddle struts out onto the stage, distracting Corbin. Gulak rolls the King up, trying to catch him by surprise, but Corbin kicks out. One End of Days later, it’s Corbin’s match.

A fired-up Drew Gulak’s always worth seeing, and it was nice to see Corbin so much on the defensive. 2 Stars.

Riddle launches himself at King Corbin right after the bell, which is a fair reaction to someone literally putting a hit out on you. And suddenly, Chad Gable is in the ring, and he hits Matt Riddle with the Chaos Theory! Chad Gable heel turn! What even is 2020?

Big E’s bildungsroman, featuring belly-to-belly suplexes

It’s the year of Big E, as the big man of the New Day heads out on his own, starting out with a singles match against the Miz. The Miz and Morrison, who has clearly decided that shirt-wearing is not an activity that he will be engaging in tonight, follow the big man to the ring, and the match begins.

Both Big E and the Miz test each other to start the match before Big E starts to unleash the power, throwing the A-Lister. The Miz tries to overcome him with a bunch of strikes, but he gets caught in the abdominal stretch. A slap from the Miz finally seems to get on Big E’s nerves, and he starts getting serious, which spells bad news for Miz.

After some interference from Morrison, the Miz gets some more offence in, and the A-Lister is given another opportunity as the New Day member misses a splash on the ring apron. The Miz tries to stay on Big E, not allowing him to build momentum, but Big E is irrepressible, finally hurling the Miz across the ring before hitting the splash. The Miz desperately rakes the eyes to avoid the Big Ending before continuing to blast the big man with offence.

Big E keeps trying to fight his way back, even kicking out of a Skull-Crushing Finale following a kick from Jon Morrison, and surviving the Figure 4 immediately afterwards. Morrison finally gets a little too zealous with his interference, getting ejected from ringside. A distracted Miz falls prey to the stretch muffler submission, tapping out.

This was a decent coming out party for Big E, and I like the narrative of it being difficult to convert from tag wrestling to singles wrestling, especially when WWE highlighted the Miz’s own journey. All in all, this was good. 3 Stars.

Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro are backstage, sipping champagne and congratulating themselves. Lucha House Party crashes the event before getting rebuffed by the two champs, so I guess there’s your first number one contenders. Poor Heavy Machinery.

Sheamus is elsewhere backstage, still dressed in his clothes from the street fight. Gross. He claims that he shouldn’t have fought Jeff Hardy in a bar, as that is Jeff Hardy’s natural environment. Okay, Irishman.

Really, Sheamus should run with this: say it’s not fair for him to fight a Protestant country either.

Vince McMahon is going to make you regret retweeting that hashtag

Oh great, Lacey Evans. The Sassy Southern Botch grabs a microphone and mocks the “Naomi Deserves Better” hashtag before preparing to mock the artform that is professional wrestling. Naomi arrives, and the bell rings.

Lacey is aggressive in the opening moments, trying to tie up Naomi’s hair again. Naomi fights back, but she gets powerbombed by Evans, who hits dreadful offence after dreadful offence as Naomi is made to look like a joke. Never tell me that Vince McMahon doesn’t pay attention to what the fans say.

Naomi gets the shit kicked out of her for an extended period, but Naomi finally manages to get out of the box with a sunset flip onto the outside. Lacey tries to tie up Naomi’s hair again, but it doesn’t hold, and Naomi rolls her up for the three.

If Naomi deserves better, then Lacey deserves money back from whoever taught her to wrestle.

Backstage, Mandy Rose and Otis are planning either food or sex. Sonya DeVille is lurking in the background, still in search of a hobby that’s not professional wrestling.

A few moments later, DeVille jumps Rose backstage, kicking the fuck out of her while screaming that she’s going to “make her ugly”. She approaches Mandy with scissors, beginning to cut her hair off, but carefully enough that it’ll look attractive next week. It’s probably the least-bad thing she could have done with those scissors.

When Sonya grabs the electric razor, referees and security leap into action, stopping her before she can do anything else stupid.

Moments later, Kayla Braxton is on the scene to loudly and insensitively repeat what’s happened as Mandy is still in tears on the scene. Jesus Christ, WWE. Miz and Morrison arrive on the scene to make hair jokes, and that’s apparently considered a step too far. Tucker finally overhears this and comes after them, and I’ll take it if it means that Heavy Machinery gets back to tag team wrestling again.

The Fiend will not be ignored

Main event time now, as Nikki Cross challenges Bayley for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Michael Cole alludes to Bliss and Cross still getting on well, and I just felt a thrill of fear up my spine. I’m not ready for this, WWE. I said that I would never be ready for this, and I’m definitely not.

Bayley and Sasha Banks arrive, making their way to the ring with two belts apiece, and we get the second BigMatchFeel post-entrance announcement of the night before the match starts.

Nikki Cross seems impatient, and she kicks things off an extremely aggressive manner, managing to foil Bayley in the early going. Bayley finally takes back control after sweeping Nikki’s leg and dropping the leg onto the back of her head, but Nikki fires up again, throwing the Women’s Champion into the ring post as we go to a commercial break.

When we come back, Bayley has taken charge of the match again, putting the boots to Nikki. A charge misses, opening Bayley up to more offence from Nikki, who is pouncing on any and all mistakes that the Champion makes. As Cross gains momentum, she discovers that Bayley has Sasha Banks’ knuckleduster in her grip, turning her head to give the Boss a death glare. Rather than take a swing at Bayley with it, after clearly considering it for several moments, Nikki hurls it at Sasha. She back suplexes Bayley instead, but the SmackDown Champ hangs her up on the ropes, heading to the safety of the outside.

Nikki catches up with Bayley, who stopped to taunt Cross on the outside rather than attempt any offence or strategy. Sasha once again tries to get involved, which earns her a beating from both Alexa and Nikki, and then Cross turns her attention back to Bayley. There’s a great exchange from the pair of them in the ring, with Bayley surviving pin after pin before catching Nikki with her finisher out of nowhere.

This really cemented Cross as a main event talent, if her PPV match didn’t do that already. I’m still looking forward to seeing her hold the belt as a crazy heel champion, and I can see far more narrative value in Bayley retaining now, but I wish we could have seen Nikki get the gold. 3 Stars.

Oh God, two and half minutes left, and Alexa and Nikki are still in the ring. I can’t emotionally cope with this.

Bliss tries to help Nikki up, but Cross doesn’t want any of it. She finally shoves Alexa to the mat, walking out of the ring on what seems to be the verge of tears.

And then the lights go out.

Oh, Jesus.

When the lights go up, the Fiend is standing over Alexa Bliss, who stares at him in terror. He gets super close to her, raising his hand (the Hurt one) before slowly bringing it towards her face and then applies the Mandible Claw to close out the show.

Well, that’s one way to get Braun Strowman’s attention. I almost want him to beat the Fiend now.

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".