So, last week, the Fiend assaulted a lady as part of his quest to be Universal Champion, and though I am amped to up to see an utterly furious Braun Strowman go head-to-head with full-powered Bray Wyatt, I think I’d be even more excited for Nikki Cross to go full psycho and come for the Fiend herself.
Most of all, I’d like Vince McMahon to somehow not fuck this up, though I recognise I might as well ask for the moon at that point.
The show starts with the Firefly Fun House, where Bray uses his cutesy “the Fiend is akshually a disassociative identity, and I cannot be held responsible for his nonsense” excuse. I guess mental illness really is just one big get-out-of-jail-free card; just look at Randy Orton and his intermittent explosive disorder, or Kanye West and his presidential bid/spoiler campaign.
Also, “a bunch of haters sliding into my DMs” are words I doubted I’d ever hear Bray Wyatt say, but I’m happy that I live in a world where it’s been said.
Wyatt also blames Braun Strowman for letting the Fiend attack Alexa, and he’s really running down the list of excuses. Up next: a critical examination of what Bliss was wearing at the time of the assault. He promises that the Fiend will be there later, and is it too late for Braun to form a deep, personal bond with Lacey Evans before that segment?
Sheamus vs Gable is eternal
Taking a short break from Bray’s veiled threats of Sean Connerying a coworker, it’s time for Matt Riddle vs Sheamus. We’re reminded that King Corbin and Chad Gable are waiting in the wings and/or Gorilla position, which I’m sure will have zero impact on this contest.
Riddle and Sheamus arrive, and we’re told that Sheamus has a big issue with Riddle: potentially the laziest story-writing I have ever seen in my entire life. Whatever reason you need to have these two fight each other, WWE: I’m just here for the match.
The two men test each other before Sheamus takes the NXT talent to the ground with a headlock. Matt works his way free, trying to keep Sheamus away from him with strikes, but the Celtic Warrior continues to break through his defences in the early going. Riddle manages to catch Sheamus in an armlock briefly, but this resilience is stopped abruptly by a powerbomb.
Sheamus continues to punish Riddle until he heads up to the top rope, which gives Riddle time enough to recover, and the Original Bro shoves Sheamus right into a commercial break. When we come back, Sheamus is in control again, something he cements with three Irish Curse backbreaker. Riddle is in trouble, but he gains a reprieve after sliding out of a back suplex and staggering Sheamus with a roundhouse.
Riddle starts building momentum, hammering Sheamus with strike after strike. Sheamus rolls out of the target area of the Floating Bro, catching him with White Noise. Sheamus wants the Brogue Kick, but he finds himself on the receiving end of a German Suplex instead. He responds with a backbreaker but is too enthusiastic with his follow-through, running shoulder-first into the ring post.
The match looks like it’s Riddle’s to win, but suddenly Chad Gable flies at the Original Bro, taking him down on the outside and hammering him for the DQ.
I was enjoying that, but the interference was visible from a mile away considering how they literally showed the cause of it. 2.5 Stars.
Gable is made to pay for his insolence, and the form of repayment is Riddle beating that absolute snot out of him. Then Sheamus, irritated at being the loser by Gable’s actions, tosses Shorty G back into the ring so that we can relive one of my least-favourite feuds of Gable’s whole career. Gable takes two Brogue Kicks and a lecture about staying out of Sheamus’ way. It’s too much to hope that this will eventually lead to Sheamus vs Corbin, AKA the hardest-hitting hoss fight I can imagine right now, but it is nice to dream.
And speak of the devil, and he will appear, albeit backstage and wearing a plastic crown. King Corbin is talking to a woman who is neither tied up nor aggressively pressing a personal panic button, so I call bullshit on this whole segment.
Sheamus cockblocks the crowned cock, demanding satisfaction for Chad Gable’s ungentlemanly conduct. Holy shit, am I getting what I want? When did this become official WWE policy? Sheamus and Corbin get in each others’ faces, and I’m happy with them either fighting or kissing. Corbin eventually flounces off, leaving behind the promise of a slobberknocker in our future.
It wasn’t even the worst thing that happened to a woman on last week’s show
It’s time for the Dirt Sheet, and our hosts Miz and Morrison show Sonya DeVille assaulting Mandy Rose and cutting her hair. I mean…I guess that qualifies as amputation if that makes this seem any more villainous, but AJ Styles once put Shane McMahon’s head through a car window, and the only reaction was essentially “man, he’s really fired up for WrestleMania”: the WWE equivalent of “boys will be boys”.
Miz and Morrison announce that they’re giving Mandy Rose a platform to share her side of the story for the sake of ratings. Only this is a swerve, and they actually have a puppet made of Mandy Rose’s hair so we can sit through some nonsense. This goes on for approximately six hours too long, and then Miz and Morrison bring out Sonya DeVille.
Charmingly, even Sonya seems a little weirded out by Miz and Morrison’s shenanigans, which is a fun character trait for a crazy evil villain. She talks about how Mandy Rose self-worth is entirely married to her attractiveness. Well, it was never going to be her wrestling ability. Sonya mocks Mandy for collapsing after one single backstage assault and forced haircut, which compared to Kurt Angle is really pathetic.
The shit-talking goes on until Heavy Machinery charge the ring, tossing the Miz before putting the boots to Morrison. Miz saves his partner from the Caterpillar as we got to the commercial break.
Shinsaro aren’t here to play games
And after the break, we weirdly do not get an impromptu match between Miz and Morrison and Heavy Machinery. Instead, it’s Cesaro vs Lince Dorado as the new Tag Team Champions get into their first feud as champs.
Cesaro takes control with ease in the early moments, hitting a backbreaker and a huge uppercut, his raw strength overcoming Dorado’s agility until a headscissors sends him out of the ring. The lights flicker a little bit, and Cole and Graves make a note of it, so Retribution may be hanging around. Back in the ring, Dorado has Cesaro all turned around, fending him off at every turn, only to launch himself directly into Cesaro’s grip, eating a massive backbreaker.
Cesaro takes the luchador to the mat, keeping his opponent’s speed out of the equation. Dorado fights his way back to a vertical base, ramping up his offence as he does so. He goes for elevator moonsaults, only for Shinsuke to run some vital interference that allows Cesaro to halt the barrage of aerial assault.
Cesaro goes for the crucifix powerbomb, almost gets rolled up by Dorado, but recovers and hits the Neutraliser for the win.
This was a solid match, and it makes sense to position Lucha House Party as the underdogs in the run-up to the title match, which I imagine will be well worth the price of admission. 2.5 Stars.
Backstage, Otis is in a rage, shaking whatever he can find to shake. Tucker is trying to calm him down, but Kayla Braxton shows up to twist the knife with her innocent questions. She asks Otis if he’ll be able to channel his rage tonight.
Tucker calls what Sonya did last week “despicable”, and I’d be pretty careful if I was DeVille, because apparently hitting women is back on the table. Heavy Machinery storms off, promising to annihilate Miz and Morrison later tonight. Ah, so we are getting a match, just later.
This is WWE’s version of The Phantom of the Opera, only the Phantom’s not a fucking loser
The Fiend arrives now, and I hope that the excitable WWE trainees are smart enough not to chant random slogans throughout this. There’s a commercial break, and then the Fiend is standing in the ring with Alexa Bliss; quite how this happened is not fully explained, but he seems content enough to crawl around the ring like a toddler, trying to creep her out.
Also, fuck every person in the locker room who, with advance warning that this was going to happen, is sitting around doing nothing about it. I’m fully aware that Sheamus is a big pile of arseholes, but you’d assume that the opportunity have a real fight would awaken his blood knight tendencies. Tucker and Otis were all over Miz and Morrison just for making jokes about Mandy Rose, and yet apparently watching a coworker assault a woman is fine by them. Big E is strong enough to lift Mark Henry onto his shoulder with ease, but he’s clearly busy these days. I get that they need to have Braun Strowman handle this, but when the Undertaker kidnapped Stephanie, at least two other people showed up before Austin arrived. It just showed some common decency.
The Fiend goes to Mandible Claw Alexa, but she doesn’t want that gross glove in her mouth, and she instead puts her hand to the Fiend’s mask, making him flinch away. Well, thanks for telegraphing that “swerve” at SummerSlam, WWE. God knows a surprise turn from Bliss might have been a decent shock, but no: it’s best that I go in expecting it.
And then Braun’s voice echoes around the arena. He’s on the titantron, so I guess he couldn’t be bothered to appear in person. Either that or hanging around in bars sans mask has put him in a precarious spot, healthwise. He tells Bray that he doesn’t care about Alexa Bliss, only about destroying Wyatt. Shit, Braun: do both.
Apparently being thrown into a swamp made Braun more sadistic and evil, which is at least better than getting a brain parasite. I think getting thrown into a swamp would just make me generally irritated, but then I don’t fight people for money.
Strowman tells the Fiend that he can keep Alexa Bliss, putting the Fiend in the uncomfortable position of having to kill or rape her so he doesn’t look like he was bluffing. Normally, I’d question the logic of turning Braun in the middle of a Championship feud, but seeing as this plays into the story of Wyatt’s ability to change whomever he takes on (that’s not called “Goldberg”), I’m still on board.
Corbin hasn’t made a single joke about Jeff’s alcoholism, which is presumably a refreshing change
Jeff Hardy’s here now, rather than five minutes ago when he could have rescued Bliss. He’s here to fight King Corbin, who is probably the only person I’d be surprised to see trying to help Alexa, and who follows Jeff down to the ring.
Jeff gets the better of Corbin in the early exchanges, keeping the larger man reeling as he runs through his signature offence. He actually goes for the Twist of Fate twice before Corbin is finally able to clothesline him, stopping the flurry. Now Corbin slows down the match’s pace, hitting Jeff with measured shots, keeping him suppressed and on the mat as he works him over.
Hardy tries to fire up, which takes a couple of attempts, but Corbin finally dodges a charge, hitting the barricade hard. Jeff moves to take advantage, but the King of the Ring catches him with a perfect Deep Six for a two count, followed by a knee that sends Hardy right out of the ring.
Suddenly, Sheamus is at ringside, blasting Hardy with a Brogue Kick! So, he screwed Corbin while at the same time exacting revenge on a former rival. That’s what I call efficiency, and that is why I support Sheamus.
Jeff can definitely still go in the ring, and I long for the day that Corbin can escape the upper mid-card and become a genuine threat at a World Championship level, possibly with a less grating brand of villainy. But before any of that, Sheamus vs Corbin please. 2 Stars.
Sheamus and Corbin get into each others’ faces, yelling at each other, and when we come back…it’s Sheamus vs Corbin! What is happening tonight?!
Sheamus is stomping away at Corbin in the corner, clearly pissed that the wrestling monarch’s shenanigans are affecting his career. Corbin manages to catch the Irishman with a kick, but that just earns him a knee to the gut. King Corbin blindsides Sheamus on the outside with a clothesline, gaining some distance and allowing him to put a hurting on the Celtic Warrior outside the ring.
Back in the ring, Sheamus fires up, now sending Corbin to the outside and starting to work him over in turn. He misses a clothesline from the top rope, eating a sideslam from Corbin, who then sends blow after blow into Sheamus’ face. He tries to wear the Irishman down, keeping a tight hold on his arm and chin. Sheamus tries to counter with White Noise, but Corbin clotheslines him, and then suddenly Matt Riddle has launched himself into the ring and right back out! Corbin’s distracted for a second, and that second is all that’s needed for Sheamus to hit the Brogue Kick! Sheamus wins!
So, a full match, with an actual decision, and Matt Riddle is a total dick to Corbin? What an excellent use of a segment. 2.5 Stars
Backstage, Sasha is worrying about Bayley being afraid of wrestling Asuka, and there’s heavy passive-aggression going on before some dude in a suit shows up and tells them they’re wanted for a video conference with Stephanie McMahon.
Elsewhere, Kayla Braxton is with Big E, asking what’s next now that his partners are currently sidelined. He seems…well, let’s go with “enthusiastic” to set out on his own while remaining loyal to his two best friends. If his stellar in-ring career until this point hasn’t already proved the point enough, the charisma that Big E shows here is a perfect argument of why he needs to be pushed good and hard right now.
This is the most corporate thing WWE’s ever done
We now move to the ring, where Bayley and Sasha are waiting for their video conference while not facing the titantron. Smart cookies, those two. Stephanie finally shows up, and apparently, she’s there to congratulate rather than emasculate them. What a refreshing change of pace from the last ten years.
Sasha and Bayley seem very happy, without realising that Stephanie is just drawing this out to fuck them over. Because no-one gets to succeed in WWE by being evil who’s not called “McMahon”. Stephanie promises not to lecture them, so instead simply promises that Sasha will defend her title at SummerSlam against a currently-unknown opponent. She also announces a triple-brand battle royal next week to determine who will be Bayley’s SummerSlam opponent.
Well, I am sports entertained.
Backstage, Kayla wants to talk with Miz and Morrison, who are hanging out with Sonya because their aesthetics match; aesthetics, in this case, means “the colour black”. They claim that they’re not worried about Heavy Machinery, despite Kayla claiming that Otis is furious. I love that Kayla stirs the pot, and also that she’s never quite forgiven Miz and Morrison for dumping paint on her that one time.
Mandy’s interference really helped these guys dodge a bullet
That match is right now, and the Miz and Morrison show up to the ring, accompanied by Sonya. Heavy Machinery follows them to the ring, and it’s always weird seeing Otis with the briefcase. They’re playing the long game, at least by WWE’s standards.
Tucker works over Morrison to begin the match, battering the smaller man before bringing in Otis, who continues the beating, which only stops when the Miz enters the match. Heavy Machinery’s teamwork lets them get the better of the former Tag Team Champions, sending both men to the outside where Tucker wipes them out with a running senton.
After a commercial break, Tucker is in trouble and trying to evade the clutches of Miz and Morrison, who are doing a good job of keeping him contained. Tucker finally manages to send Morrison out of the ring and literally squash the Miz before reaching Otis.
Otis explodes into the ring, running through both Miz and Morrison as he crushes and hurls the pair of them with abandon. His rampage is only stopped as Miz dodges a wild charge, sending Otis right into the steel steps, right after Tucker has slammed into the barricade.
Suddenly, Mandy Rose is at ringside, her hair cut sort of short. Well, there’s the emotional centre of this storyline. She blasts Sonya with punch after punch, leading to the DQ as the chaos enters the ring.
There wasn’t a huge amount here, though I’m happy with this match being saved for a bigger stage. 2.5 Stars.
Heavy Machinery drag Mandy away, I guess in case she runs out of wrestling moves. Miz and Morrison actually help pull the two women apart, but apparently two full-grown, athletic men can’t hold back one woman. Bizarre.
After a break, they’re still trying to fight each other backstage, when suddenly the lights go out. Did they accidentally charge into the Fiend’s rape dungeon?
Back at ringside, Retribution suddenly enter the ring, armed with bats and other weapons. Michael Cole and Corey Graves have to run for it, with Graves executing a goddamn beautiful slide to avoid getting smashed by one member’s club.
I think we can all agree that the best reveal to this would be that it’s the Nexus again. I’d not even be mad.
Retribution even attack cameramen, so they presumably are as fed up with the ridiculous number of cuts as I am. They challenge the WWE trainees to do something about it, then actually jump into the crowd and start working them over. They beat on the female trainees as well, which would be shocking if the ones who did it weren’t obviously women too.
They also tip over the announce table, which I guess would be dramatic if WWE talent didn’t destroy those things at every opportunity. This then descends into spraypainting everything, but I won’t feel like this is serious until one of them takes a shit in the ring.
Actually, it gets serious when one of them brings out a chainsaw and cuts the ring ropes, though thankfully it all goes well and no-one gets whacked with the ropes as they’re severed, which I imagine could really mess a person up.
It’s a powerful way to end a show, even if this is clearly Vince’s way of trying to turn people against protests currently happening in America. Who’s got money on the Forgotten Sons coming back as the brave, resilient heroes?