Tonight we are in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for another episode of the sometimes useful but often pointless WWE SmackDown! Every week I just hope for a the very least a few good matches and some storyline progression. I know I would just be up for disappointment if I asked for more out of it. Previewed for the show is an 8-man tag match featuring The Usos, Dolph Ziggler & Dean Ambrose vs. The Wyatt Family. WWE’s very best commentator Mauro Ranallo has the call tonight with the always amazingly awful Byron Saxton. Let us get to the action.
Promo Time: Miz TV
We open up this week’s SmackDown with Sami Zayn on Miz TV. This reminds me of a rehash of the Miz TV when AJ Styles first came on the scene. After the back and forth banter, Miz brings out Kevin Owens. Zayn tells Owens he is going to win his Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania with Owens replying that he doesn’t deserve it. As Owens it leaving, he is cut off by Neville who says he want and Intercontinental Championship shot. The Miz also makes it known that he wants a title shot too. Zayn tells Miz his main event days are over provoking Miz to attack him. Not an awful segment giving some build to the Intercontinental title picture at WrestleMania and a setup for our first match tonight.
Sami Zayn & Neville vs. The Miz & Kevin Owens
We get a fairly standard tag match here out of the gates with Zayn getting the upper hand of Miz and then Neville on Owens. Owens makes sure to tag in Miz whenever Zayn hits the ring to keep as much distance from his rival as possible. Miz and Owens get the upper hand and work over Neville for a while. Neville eventually gets the hot tag to Zayn, who runs wild with clotheslines. Owens again avoids Zayn and then ultimately leaves The Miz on his own. Zayn beats down Miz and hits the Helluva Kick for the win. Decent tag match that did its purpose of setting up some sort of drama for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania and increasing the dynamic for the Owens and Zayn feud.
Final Rating: **3/4
Here we have another R-Truth and Goldust segment proving this storyline is lasting way too long and going absolutely nowhere. Once again, they are in a bathroom, which seems perfect for where all of this is headed. Move along people, nothing to see here.
Brie Bella vs. Summer Rae
Lana is out on commentary for this match. We have exactly what you would expect from a Brie Bella and Summer Rae match. Summer gets the early offense getting a couple of decent looking moves in. Brie comes back quickly with a top rope dropkick and Yes kicks. Brie misses the Brie Mode knee giving Summer a moment to capitalize with a DDT. Summer’s comeback is short lived, and Brie applies with Yes Lock for the win. After some verbal back and forth with Lana and an attack on Summer, Lana attacks Brie and hits her with the Bella Buster. I’m a little confused to where with Lana/Brie Bella feud is going. Lana participating in a match is not something I look forward to seeing.
Final Rating: *1/4
Promo Time: Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho heads to the ring to give his thoughts on his problems with AJ Styles. He has one of the “new” Y2AJ t-shirts. There is a small part of me who feels bad for the fan who bought one of these t-shirts, and the team was over before it could even be shipped to their house. I guess that is what they get for thinking a team of Jericho and Styles was a good idea. Jericho rants about the fans chanting Styles's name and then burns the shirt in a trash can. AJ and Jericho have had some good match, but I am done with this feud.
Lucha Dragons vs. League of Nations (Sheamus & King Barrett)
Sheamus and Barrett representing the League of Nations in the ring tonight with Rusev at ringside. No Del Rio out with boys tonight. On a good note, it is a positive to see Barrett getting some in-ring action. I know it is few and far between these days, but I’m still a fan of this guy’s work. Kalisto gets worked over early by the League. Kalisto gets the hot tag to Sin Cara after a missed attack by Sheamus. Sin Cara immediately goes into high flyer mode with springboards and dives. After hitting a moon sault, Sin Cara gets a near fall on Barrett, but it is broken up by Sheamus. The Lucha Dragons get in some more high flying offense, but Rusev makes high ringside presence known shoving Sin Cara off the top who is then hit by a Bull Hammer by Barrett for the win. Yes, you heard that right, King Barrett got a pinfall. I can’t remember the last time this happened.
Final Rating: **1/4
Backstage we get a quick promo with The Usos, Dolph Ziggler, and Dean Ambrose. The Uso talk about growing up watching the Dudley Boyz but not respecting them now. Ziggler says something of no real value and Dean Ambrose says they are going Wyatt hunting and that he will win the WWE Championship Saturday night at Roadblock.
Dolph Ziggler & The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper, Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman)
A SmackDown main event of epic proportions! Okay, not really. I feel like I have seen this same match hundreds of times now. The early part of the match is Ziggler, The Usos & Ambrose taking it to Luke Harper. Harper was able to regain the upper hand before the break, and when we get back, the Wyatts are taking it to Ziggler. This is what Ziggler does best. He has some decent offensive skills, but he takes a beating better than most. Ziggler finally gets a hot tag to Jey Uso and both Usos proceeded to go wild on Harper and Rowan. After Harper gets his knees up on a splash from Jey, Ambrose and Rowan tag in. Ambrose went on a quick run of offense before the match broke down. The Uso and Ziggler take the brawl to the outside with the Wyatts leaving Dean inside to get the Dirty Deeds on Erick Rowan for the win. An average main event, but it had a few good points. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, it was just there.
Final Rating: **1/2
THE SMACKDOWN! RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Sami Zayn
Least Entertaining: Byron Saxton - I know it gets repetitive, but he makes me want to scream at the TV.
Match of the Night: Sami Zayn & Neville vs. The Miz & Kevin Owens
Summary: Things are beginning to take shape for our WrestleMania card, and SmackDown! is acting as the show to add a little bit of hype to as many storylines as possible. This show is not something I would call good by any means, but it did the job it needed to do. My faith in ever getting an entertaining Thursday night from WWE is out the window, but if they continue to keep using this show like they did tonight, at least it has a little purpose.
Before we kick off the show, Video Control shows highlights of Dean Ambrose getting a shoeing from Triple H on RAW. Are WWE really going to pull a big switcheroo on theirWrestleMania booking? There’s certainly a hint in the air that they might. If they do decide to go ahead with Roman Reigns facing Hunter in the main event, then WWE will be showing that they have learned nothing from the past two years. We’re in Atlanta, Georgia, and hosts are the excellent Maura Ranallo, the bland and largely pointless Byron Saxton, and a now-heel Jerry Lawler. More on that later.
Promo Time: Dean Ambrose
Dean is battered and bruised not only from his beating at the hands of Triple H, but also from a recent leathering from Brock Lesnar. Despite being barely able to move, Ambrose threatens to mess up the ‘Mania booking by winning the title from Triple H at the Roadblock Network Special. He wonders who he might then have to defend against at ‘Mania. Will it be his scheduled opponent, Lesnar? The winner of the number one contender’s triple threat match, Reigns? Or will Hunter evoke his rematch clause? Perhaps, he suggests, they should throw all four of them in a cage. That gets my vote. I wonder if he was testing audience response for that possibility? Anyhow, he gets interrupted by Kevin Owens, who points out that all Ambrose has achieved recently is to get beat up, while Owens himself has no credible contender for his Intercontinental Championship. Owens goes for the cheap shot, but Ambrose evades having seen it coming on the big screen! The gauntlet is laid down for tonight’s main event.
The Usos vs. League of Nations (Sheamus & Rusev)
The L.O.N. are a terrible faction, but at least they look as if they’ve been having fun recently, especially since introducing their half-Rimmer hand salute thing. With Lawler calling an Uso punch a cheap shot, this might be an appropriate juncture to bring up his inexplicable switch to a heel commentator in the last few months. It’s some of the worst announce desk work in WWE’s history. His run as a fawning face commentator over the past decade or so has been bad enough, but there has been no justification offered as to why he’s suddenly changed which locker room he supports. He backs up nothing that he says; instead, he just simply puts the faces down because he’s heel and no more. Listening to him just makes me want to stick on old WWF programming so that I can admire the work of the all-time great heel announcers such as Bobby Heenan and Jesse Ventura. Perhaps Lawler could benefit from doing the same? The match is actually much better than I’d anticipated, considering that it’s two members of a faction that I find boring against a tag team that I find boring. Rusev is a hoot in this one, too, teasing Jey (or is it Jimmy? Who cares?) with “tag your brother,” while preventing him from doing so. Usos get on top, but the numbers game is too much, with Sheamus finishing with the Brogue Kick. I think I could enjoy the L.O.N. if they stick to having a blast in the mid card. Except Sheamus. Never Sheamus.
Final Rating: **1/2
Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz
A rematch from RAW, where the jinxed Ziggler lost to Miz in something like ninety seconds. Naturally, Dolph gets his win back in similarly quick fashion via a backslide, despite having zero prior offence. Fifty-fifty booking with Miz: how Ziggler’s star has plummeted. Ranallo makes the quip that Miz could star in Gone in Sixty Seconds. I can’t find my copy of that film, but it was definitely here a minute ago.
Final Rating: DUD
Backstage, R Truth is in catering. He sees Goldust, whom he offended on RAW, and tries to make peace by completely flip-flopping on his attitude towards their potential as a tag team. Expect Golden Truth to be beating The Ascension and Social Outcasts within a fortnight before being relegated to Superstars. A sad-sack Goldust is particularly forlorn, expecting Truth to smash the plate of food in his face, so he reclaims the power and does it to himself. “Who’s the idiot now?” he asks. “Who’s the bigger idiot? That’s the better question,” says Lawler with the best sentence he’s spoken in over ten years.
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
There was no clear winner of their match on RAW, so they go again to determine the number one contender for Charlotte’s Divas Championship. The opening mat exchanges are exceptionally good, and the two ladies have great chemistry from working with and against each other on NXT. They put together what I dare say is one of the best women’s match on either RAW or SmackDown! since their call up to the main roster. The counters, reversals, and switches are all crisply executed, and the play on the fact that they know each other well. Of course, there has to be some sort of outside involvement, and it comes in the form of Charlotte taking her senile dad out for ringside stroll. Ric’s wearing a suit with slippers and no socks. I start to get even more concerned for his mental health when he gets out of his seat and starts some kind of dance and wooing routine that is reminiscent of Zoidberg’s mating ritual in front of the two competitors. Charlotte waffles them both for the DQ, leaving the number one contender spot still to be decided. This was heading toward a four-star TV match before the outside interference.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Video Control takes us to a RAW Exclusive, which is just a repeat of Bubba Ray vs. Jey Uso. That match has already been covered, but I want to bring up here how annoying I find these “RAW Exclusives.” There’s too many on the show, which takes away time that could be used to get the likes of Tyler Breeze or Damian Sandow back on TV. In this episode ofSmackDown! there is the aforementioned Dudley-Uso encounter, a full repeat of Ryback vs. Adam Rose, and Undertaker’s return. Fortunately, I watched a recorded version of the show, so I was able to skip through all this, but I think SmackDown! should be penalized star ratings for the amount of content that is just repeats of the crappy bits of RAW.
We then get a short VT for Luke Harper. Is he going solo again? I love Harper.
Backstage, Renee Young gets a word with Charlotte. She claims that neither Becky or Sasha (or, Sosha, as she pronounces it) deserves a shot at her title. Renee has breaking news, though: it’s going to be the triple threat match that everyone wants to see at WrestleMania. The only way to top that would be to throw Bayley into the mix.
Kofi Kingston vs. AJ Styles
A singles match ahead of the New Day vs. Y2AJ (horrible name, on a par with Jeri-Show) title match on next week’s RAW. Before the match, New Day get their customary promo.Xavier Woods addresses the League of Booty (I was hoping that their suggested feud had been quietly scrapped. Sadly not), while Kofi can’t get over the “scrumpdiddlyumptios delicious taste of Booty-O cereal.” Big E runs down “Trashlanta,” as does the native Woods.
AJ plants Kofi with a beauty of a dropkick early on, then makes a grab for Francesca II, with the distraction ultimately being enough for New Day to take advantage of the numbers game. Kofi one-ups Big E on the one-man Unicorn Stampede by actually getting in and out of the ring as if simulating multiple stampers! It’s the little touches. Kingston actually looks good against AJ. It’s not a match that I instantly thought of as potentially decent when AJ first signed on, but it could be quite the gem if given enough time to develop. Xavier and Big E try to get involved again after AJ plants Kofi with the Pelé kick, so the referee ejects them from ringside. They don’t even get to the aisle before AJ finishes with a springboard forearm. Fun little match.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control takes us to the Wyatt Family lair, where Bray talks in mythical riddles. At one point I think he might be referencing Dante’s vision of hell, but I can’t be sure. Without directly saying so, he’s challenging Brock Lesnar to a match at Roadblock. I think.
Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose
There’s been a few a matches between these two already, but unlike the usual effects of WWE overkill, I still want to see more. The basic story being told here is that Ambrose is battered and bruised, while Owens is a violent bastard who wants to capitalize on Dean’s injuries. It’s the perfect set up for the aggressive Owens. Ambrose, of course, doesn’t care how much he gets beat up because he’s just that crazy. As much as I love him, and I do, I sometimes wish he’d tone down the histrionics, though I’ve no doubt that his antics are a directive from above his head. There’s no subtlety when it comes to WWE characterization. Owens is in control for the most part, but gets caught out when he stops to mouth off at Ranallo and again when he tries to clear the announce desk in preparation to plant Ambrose through it. After a few counters of each other’s signature moves, Dean wins clean with Dirty Deeds. It makes Ambrose look strong going into his title match at Roadblock, which I guess was the point, but I am a little disappointed that Owens had to job cleanly. The curse of the Intercontinental Championship strikes again. This is one match that might’ve benefited from a DQ finish: for example, Owens could have attacked Ambrose with a chair, thus worsening and adding to his injuries ahead of Roadblock.
Final Rating: ***
THE SMACKDOWN RECAP
Most Entertaining: Kofi Kingston
Least Entertaining: Let’s split it four ways between Ziggler, Miz, Truth, and Goldust
Match of the Night: Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
Summary: The primary goal was to keep Ambrose ticking over as a potential upset for the Heavyweight Championship at Roadblock, which was by and large achieved with the opening promo and his victory over Kevin Owens in the main event. I actually enjoyed four matches on this broadcast, where normally I feel lucky to have liked that many in a whole month. It’s still advisable to watch the show pre-recorded, though, so that you can skip through the RAW recapping and crappy filler.
Fastlane is in the books and the final march to WrestleMania has begun so this week's episode of SmackDown...doesn't really accomplish much in the grand scheme of things. Aw man. At least Mauro Ranallo is back on commentary after being out last week. Don't ever scare me like that again, sir!
Promo Time: Triple H
The WWE World Heavyweight Champion makes a rare appearance by opening the show, placing his championship on a velvet-covered platform to show it off while he speaks. Triple H says that he may be the devil depending on who you ask then says if his WrestleMania opponent Roman Reigns didn't expect retribution from the latter's attack months ago there's definitely no doubt now. We cut to a video from RAW where Triple H beat the holy hell out of Reigns, concluding with a Pedigree on the steel steps. Back live we cut to a post-surgery photo of Reigns, who needed to have his nose reconstructed due to the attack. Triple H says the look on Reigns in that photo is the look of a man who has been humbled, then launches into a screed about how no one can ever defeat authority either in wrestling or in real-life because the authority always wins. Triple H says Reigns has given his sweat then he pulls out a bloody rag and says he has Reigns' blood and at WrestleMania he will take Reigns' tears. There's not a damn thing he can do about it either because Triple H is the law, the authority, and THE GAME. It probably didn't translate well into text but this was a solid opening promo from Triple H to build their WrestleMania match. Hope Reigns isn't out for too long though they kind of need him to do his part in building the match as well.
Neville, Dolph Ziggler, & The Lucha Dragons vs. The League of Nations
Naturally, with so many men involved, this one immediately breaks out into an out of control brawl. The Dragons hit duo tope suicidas to the floor but get taken out by Rusev and Del Rio. The League of Nations wear Ziggler down, with Barrett hitting the Winds of Change and Del Rio connecting with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Ziggler tries to tag out but gets driven into the LON corner by Rusev. Sheamus tags in and toys with Ziggler some more but falls victim to a superkick. Neville gets the hot tag and takes it to Barrett, who's now the legal man. He goes for the Red Arrow but Sheamus runs in so he jumps over him and goes with a 450 splash instead for the 1...2...Rusev breaks the count. Sin Cara and Kalisto clear Rusev out of the ring and Neville finally gets to hit his Red Arrow but Del Rio kicks him in the skull and Sheamus finishes him off with a Brogue Kick to give The League of Nations the victory. A fun enough opening match, usual WWE multi-man shenanigans. (4:58 shown)
Final Rating: **1/4
Cut to an interview segment earlier in the day between Renee Young and Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens. Owens says he was inspired by the resiliancy shown by Dean Ambrose on Monday (getting beaten up, returning in an ambulance, then getting beat up again by Brock Lesnar) and offers him a title shot for tonight. Young says Ambrose isn't here so Owens smugly says that since Ambrose has the night off he now does as well. The Big Show interrupts and grabs him by the collar when he tries to snark, saying they have a match tonight. If anyone can drag a watchable match out of Show it's Owens.
D-Von Dudley is in singles action against Jimmy Uso tonight but before the match Bubba Ray Dudley gets on the mic and says the people aren't getting tables because they are neither a circus or nostalgia act, they're the greatest tag team ever. The people can take their tables and chants for tables and shove it.
Jimmy Uso vs. D-Von Dudley
Bubba pulls out a table to distract Jimmy, D-Von rolls him up for the win. That's that. (0:46)
Final Rating: N/R
Chris Jericho is backstage with AJ Styles. Jericho says he wasn't expecting their team to be as good as it is and mentions they have the same chemistry as he had with the partners he's won Tag Team gold with. Jericho says if they beat The New Day tonight then that puts them at the top of the list for a title shot and Styles is all for his WrestleMania moment coming with the Tag Team Championship. They need a partner however and in comes Mark Henry to offer his services. Jericho and Styles agree and Henry shakes Jericho's hand a little too hard, making sure he's serious and there will be no funny business. Jericho promises such.
The Big Show vs. Kevin Owens
Owens' championship is not on the line for this one. Show overpowers Owens right from the outset, hitting him with one of those hard skillet chops. Owens holds up his index finger asking for a minute and bails to the floor to recover. Show palms him to the apron and Owens charges right into a Chokeslam. Show randomly decides to climb to the top turnbuckle and gets crotched on the top rope, tumbling to the floor and earning himself a countout loss which Owens sells by immediately bailing to the back to avoid any fallout. A solid game plan by Owens in this one but Show trying a top rope move was super uncharacteristic and felt forced in order to set up the conditions for the countout. That was dumb. (3:03)
Final Rating: **
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
These two Divas are all about respect. They back and forth a bit and Natalya sends Lynch to the floor with a release German suplex. Naomi and Tamina Snuka show up and cause a DQ when Snuka superkicks Lynch's head off. That's disappointing, this match could have been good. (1:22)
Final Rating: N/R
Natalya is an afterthought as Sasha Banks runs to the ring to help Lynch fight Naomi and Snuka off. Out comes Divas Champion Charlotte who announces that Banks and Lynch will face off for the #1 contendership this Monday on RAW, and she'll be at ringside to watch it go down. Fingers crossed they end up doing a triple threat at WrestleMania but I'll settle for Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks too.
R-Truth vs. Heath Slater
Slater has his Social Outcasts buddies with him. Goldust comes out to Truth's chagrin, but promises to stay in a neutral corner. Slater gets a little offense in but it's mostly Truth and Bo Dallas tries to distract the referee so the Outcasts can help their friend. Goldust instead interferes and decks Slater so Truth can roll him with a backslide for the victory. Shrug. (2:33)
Final Rating: N/R
Truth seems to be somewhat warming up to Goldust after the match. Just kiss already guys, jeez.
The New Day make their way out for their customary pre-match promo segment. They doubt Mark Henry's claim of being the 'World's Strongest Man' with Xavier Woods posing and insinuating he's stronger. Kofi Kingston says to be as strong as Woods the first thing you need to do is eat your Booty O's. Woods then disparages Y2AJ, saying they're not a team like The New Day who ride together, eat together, and take baths together. New Day-led chants as we go to commercial before the match and there you have it. Not their strongest segment but when WWE has you doing this before everymatch every week they can't all be winners.
Mark Henry & Y2AJ vs. The New Day
Henry and Y2AJ are all offense before the break, clearing the ring of The New Day and doing a little dancing of their own to mock their opponents. After the commercial The New Day take over with a Unicorn Stampede on Jericho followed by a running basement dropkick by Kofi and some celebratory dancing as Woods plays his trombone. Perhaps you've seen them do this before. Big E tags in and hits a splash while Woods hits a legdrop for the 1...2...Styles breaks it up. Jericho escapes the Big Ending and hits Big E with a kick then tags out to Styles who hits Woods with the inverted DDT of a springboard backflip. He covers but Big E breaks the count so Henry takes him out. Kingston then takes Henry out with a Trouble in Paradise and tries to do the same to Styles but Jericho moves him out of the way and eats it instead. Styles and Woods jockey for position and Styles rolls him up into a Calf Crusher, Woods quickly tapping to avoid injury. A really fun ending sequence to an otherwise okay match. Man this SmackDown felt pointless. (7:51 shown)
Final Rating: **1/2
The faces celebrate and that's the end of the show.
THE SMACKDOWN RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Kevin Owens, probably. His 'give me a minute' sell to Show's hard chop was tremendous.
Least Entertaining: Goldust and R-Truth's “will they or won't they” schtick.
Match of the Night: Mark Henry & Y2AJ vs. The New Day
Summary: Outside of Triple H's opening promo this felt like a pretty lame duck SmackDown with nothing all that memorable happening. Almost felt like a two-hour Main Event. There's thirty or so days left to build to WrestleMania it'd be nice to see SmackDown get some love and actually help build to the show instead of just have a bunch of matches that don't matter for once.
Welcome to this week’s SmackDown! where we are at our final show before Sunday’s Fastlane event. Advertised for tonight’s final build is a main event of Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose against The Dudley Boyz, a confrontation between A.J. Styles and Chris Jericho and for the first time on SmackDown! in twelve years, “The Beast” Brock Lesnar will make an appearance. I am not expecting much from this show being the last ditch effort to put over matches for Sunday, but we can hope for an entertaining show. We are in Ontario, California for tonight’s show and as much as it pains me to say this, Michael Cole, Jerry “The King” Lawler and Byron Saxton are on commentary. The best thing going for SmackDown!, Mauro Ranallo is out with the flu. Please get well soon Mauro, my ability to watch this show with any enjoyment depends on it!
Dolph Ziggler & The Lucha Dragons vs. Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus & Rusev
To start out the show we get the usual RAW recap followed Kevin Owens coming out for commentary. Hearing Saxton give the opening to SmackDown! instead of Mauro is such a disappointment. You can tell from the beginning the main focus of this match is to hype up the Ziggler vs. Owens and Del Rio vs. Kalisto matches at Fastlane. I feel like I have seen some combination of this match over and over before. Rusev and Kalisto start this one off with Kalisto getting the early offense. From here they have the standard rotation for each team getting everyone involved in the match for a short time. As we head to the commercial break, Kalisto, Sin Cara and Ziggler all dive onto their opponents on the outside. We get a replay from the commercial break where Sheamus throws Sin Cara into the outside barricade insanely hard. This was the beginning of Sin Cara being beaten on by the League of Nations for a while. Eventually, Ziggler gets the hot tag from Sin Cara and begins to run wild on Sheamus. Ziggler hits the Fameasser on Sheamus to which he kicks out making me wonder if that move ever beats anyone. Owens leaves commentary to jump up on the apron, distract Ziggler, who turns back around into a Brogue Kick from Sheamus for the three count. Not an awful match as multi tags tend to be on this show and did its job of hyping the matches for the pay per view Sunday.
Final Rating: *3/4
Sasha Banks vs. Tamina
They are wasting no time tonight getting right into the matches. Before the break, Sasha was shown in the back making her way to the ring with the Total Diva’s music playing. This made me cringe slightly at the thought of them ruining the best women’s wrestler they have. I also want to note that Tamina has her regular entrance music back this week after the Jimmy Snuka reject entrance theme they gave her on RAW. In my opinion, this is the best against the worst on the main roster and a test to see if Sasha can get a decent match from Tamina. Right out of the gate Tamina takes the early offense using her size in a monster like beat down. They are keeping this high impact obviously knowing Tamina's lack of technical skills. Not long into the match, Naomi jumps up on the apron, but Sasha quickly knocks her off, dodges a clothesline from Tamina. Here is where the slight innovation is impressive. Knowing it would probably be tough to do the standard setup into the Bank Statement, Sasha comes off the ropes, jumps and turns wrapping her legs around Tamina and pulls her down into the Bank Statement cross face for the tap out. This match was very short, but it gave you a quick glimpse into the great mind and in ring ability Banks has to get a decent match out of even the worst of opponents. Post match Naomi and Tamina attack Sasha with Becky coming out for the save.
Final Rating: **
Backstage we have Sasha and Becky trying to work out their differences before the tag match they have this Sunday. They end it with Sasha saying “we are not friends, but I hate losing”.
Chris Jericho heads to the ring to announce his decision whether or not he will have a match with AJ Styles at Fastlane. He says he will give the answer, but he wants to say it to AJ’s face. Instead of AJ, The Miz hits the ring as Jericho repeatedly says “please quit the business Miz”. Miz says Jericho doesn’t have to worry about AJ because he has a match with him right now. Miz goes for the quick cheap shot, but Jericho counters and throws Miz out of the ring.
Chris Jericho vs. The Miz
Coming back from commercial, the match is on with Jericho getting all of the early offense. Lawler and Cole spend a lot of time discussing The Miz’s false claim that he made it into the Playboy Mansion’s Grammy after party to which Lawler states “you mean he never made it to the grotto like I did?” Lawler as a heel is so much better all around. Miz gets control of the match for the first time as Jericho goes shoulder first into the post. This doesn’t last long, and after Jericho throws Miz to the outside, he hits a beautiful springboard dropkick knocking Miz off the apron. Miz gains control again as we head into the commercial break. Miz did get in one great spot where Jericho misses the lionsault and Miz immediately hits him with a DDT. This looked great. After a little more fast paced back and forth action, the Miz runs and jumps at Jericho, but Jericho catches him by the legs and turns him over into the Walls of Jericho for the submission win. That finish came out of nowhere. Decent match and to be honest, The Miz’s matches with Jericho and Styles over the past couple of weeks have been his best in years.
Final Rating: *1/2
Post-match, again Jericho invites out AJ Styles so he can give his answer about Sunday. Jericho tells Styles that in the WWE you are only as good as your last match and in the last match, he beat AJ. Jericho goes on to say that he respects Styles, but he doesn’t like him and doesn’t want to do him any favors, so his answer is no. After a brief stare down, AJ attacks Jericho knocking him out of the ring. He throws the mic to Jericho and says “now what do you say?” He tells Styles that was a stupid move, and if he wants a match with him at Fastlane, he’s got it, but he is going to regret it.
Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose are backstage discussing their tag team match tonight. Roman says “don’t try and pull that dirty deeds stuff again tonight” to which Dean replies “you can’t take a joke?” As Dean is walking away, he runs into Paul Heyman. Paul tells him that Brock is here at SmackDown! and is looking for him. Dean acts scared and asks Paul for advice saying “you're an advocate, advocate me!” This short segment showcased Ambrose’s incredible talent for promos. Scripted or not, he delivers perfectly.
JoJo is backstage interviewing The New Day about being on the Cutting Edge Peep Show at Fastlane. I can easily describe this for you; It is every new day interview or promo you have ever seen! at one time these guys were entertaining, but in many ways it has run its course and hit bottom. Annoying babyfaces to entertaining heels to annoying heels....life of The New Day.
Natalya vs. Charlotte
This match has a solid start with both women having an incredibly smooth technical matchup, which they should if you have ever seen their previous matches. Commentary again disappoints making everything a Total Diva’s reference. I understand, promote your show, but don’t kill the match. At one point they both slide out of the ring and Charlotte comes around the corner with a kick to Natalya’s face that would even make Sheamus proud. After a little more basic mat work, Natalya gives Charlotte a huge clothesline knocking her out of the ring. As Natalya begins to head out after her, Charlotte pulls the ring apron causing Natalya to go down. Showing her veteran skills, Natalya briefly sells her knee before Charlotte rolls back in and puts her in the figure eight for the win. A talent like Natalya shouldn’t be taken for granted. While she is being beaten on SmackDown!, Summer Rae is getting wins on RAW.....what?!?!? Anyway, Brie Bella runs down post match and give Charlotte some yes kicks before Charlotte is pulled from the ring by Ric. Decent final setup for their championship match Sunday.
Final Rating: *1/4
The R-Truth and Goldust saga continues this week with Truth talking to his wife of the phone and being interrupted by a rapping version of Goldust naming himself “Duster Rhymes”. The rest is just like every other Truth/Goldust segments with Truth eventually blowing him off.
Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose vs. The Dudley Boyz
Our main event of the evening starts off with Ambrose and D-Von but Bubba is tagged in pretty quickly. Bubba takes a cheap shot at Reigns on the apron which prompts Dean to tag him in. Little offense by the Dudley Boyz heading into the break. When we get back, Bubba has Ambrose on the mat and has slowed the match down. Ambrose continues to get worked over for a while before Bubba misses a move from the middle rope and gets the hot tag to Reigns. Reigns is on fire taking out both Dudleys and preparing for a superman punch when Brock Lesnar's music hits. It is a little weird that Brock’s advertised appearance on SmackDown! is an “unplanned” walk to the ring. As Ambrose and Reigns are baffled by the sight of Brock and Heyman, The Dudleys attack them from behind. They set up for the 3D but Reigns hits D-Von with a superman punch and Ambrose hits Bubba with an elbow off the top. Ambrose heads outside to throw D-Von back in the ring and Lesnar attacks him for the disqualification. Lesnar, Ambrose and Reigns begin to brawl and Lesnar gives suplexes to both men. Back on his feet, Reigns goes for a spear on Lesnar, but Brock moves and Roman runs into Ambrose. This provokes Ambrose to go for the Dirty Deeds on Roman, but it gets reversed into a Samoan drop. Lesnar then hits Reigns with an F5 and his music begins to play as if it was the end of the show. Lesnar’s music is interrupted as Triple H’s music begins to play and he makes his way out. With Roman and Ambrose both down on the mat, Lesnar and Triple H have a staredown to close the show. The match was not too good, but the setup for Fastlane was efficient.
Final Rating: *1/4
THE SMACKDOWN! RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Tie between Sasha Banks and Chris Jericho - They both showed off their talents in the short amount of time they had tonight.
Least Entertaining: Byron Saxton - He did absolutely nothing to add to this show.
Match of the Night: Chris Jericho vs. The Miz
Summary: Ultimately, this was not a very exciting show and a fairly average SmackDown! at that. The one positive I can give it is that it did exactly the job it was meant to and that is give the icing on the cake to the build for this Sunday’s Fastlane. Often as we have seen in the past, the true go home show for a pay per view can be rather bland with most storylines being capped off on RAW and SmackDown! just being used to add the smallest bit more excitement or intrigue. Tonight, SmackDown! could easily be called the glorified Fastlane pre-show and I am okay with that. On a final note, if you ever wondered if Mauro Ranallo could already be greatly missed on commentary, he is and this show was proof.
May 1 2016
The build up to Payback as been quite exciting. There are a couple of genuinely interesting booking strands coming in, including the possibility that someone unknown is controlling Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows and the various McMahon’s squabbling for control over Monday Night RAW. Plus the card is unusually strong on paper and looks to be a solid evening of wrestling. Perhaps more importantly this is being billed the “first PPV of the new era”, with a tonne of new names being called up of late. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton.
WWE Tag Team Championship #1 Contenders Match
Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady vs. The Vaudevillians
Enzo has a wonderful turn of phrase and all his verbal spots are already over. A guy I work with, who’s a WWE fan rather than a wrestling fan, is totally into Enzo. That’s a great sign for them. New Day watch this match but not from the announce table, which is a pity, but instead on bean bags eating a pizza. Gotch whips Enzo into the ropes and he stumbles into the middle rope and hits his neck. His eyes are open but he’s out. It’s an unfortunate injury and the match is over. Luckily for Enzo the injury was only a concussion and could have been far, far worse.
Final Rating: N/R
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
They’ve finally nailed the hype on this match up, getting the history across and painting a picture for those who’ve not been watching them compete over the years. Given their history and experience together it’s easy for them to build a compelling match that allows both Owens’ deviousness and Zayn’s pluck to get over. Owens has been trying hard to not do anything to get himself cheered but Chicago is a heel town and they love KO. Both guys work really hard to make sure the crowd aren’t disappointed. I’m pleased they opt for Sami to have the showier offence and entertain while Owens is more of a jerk, taking shortcuts. Owens eventually gets to throwing the big bombs and they go to such indie-rific offence as the half and half suplex, Blue Thunder and a cross-fixed brainbuster over the knee. The best part of the match is that the crowd react and buy into the story and the action. That makes the difference between a good match and a great one, sometimes. The finish is a touch flat with Owens avoiding the Helluva Kick and hitting the Pop Up Powerbomb but the match that preceded it was filled with energy and raw emotion. The hatred was palpable.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Post Match: Owens decides he wants to be interviewed by Byron. “I beat Sami Zayn. Kevin Owens is the better man”. Kevin decides during the interview that he wants to commentate on the IC title match while he’s out here. I have no problem with Kevin Owens just being allowed to do whatever he wants. It’s a shame he’s refocused on the IC title here, after saying he was heading up to WWE title contention after losing the belt at ‘Mania.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz (c) vs. Cesaro
Miz has been doing a solid job as a heel champion, even if he’s nowhere near the level that Owens was operating on. A lot of Miz’s success in the role is the addition of his wife Maryse as valet. Sometimes subtle little changes can freshen up stale acts. Cesaro, Swiss Superman and evident fan of European grappling or maybe just New Japan, has started borrowing spots from Will Ospreay and Kazuchika Okada. Cesaro busts out the freaky strength in this one, hurling Miz around for fun. Miz works over Cesaro’s injured shoulder. There’s nothing terribly creative from the champ but it’s solid basics. Owens on commentary claims he doesn’t care who wins but then cheers Miz on for the entire match, while bad mouthing Cole and Saxton. His little “come on, Mike” is funny character work as he gets so carried away he ‘accidentally’ shoots. He also destroys Cole finding things “hilarious” when he sees them “a thousand times a year”. The match really starts to gain traction when Cesaro goes nuts with uppercuts and Miz counters by going to the shoulder. The pacing is terrific. Sami has heard enough of Owens though and returns to put a beating on the guy who just beat him. This leads to them brawling into the ring, causing the ref to miss Miz tapping out. The distraction allows Miz to retain with a cheeky roll up. This was a very good match and the Owens-Zayn angle allowed them to run a cheap finish. Crowd were really into this match too, always a good sign.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose
The crowd remain hot for this one. I don’t really agree with Jericho’s assessment that he’s the “best in the world” or the GOAT as his shorts read. He’s certainly been a consistently good wrestler for a very long time but he’s rarely ever been among the top elite guys in the promotion even in 2000 when he was riding the crest of his late 1999 debut and flying high. Ambrose makes a point of inserting a lot of goofy offence. I prefer him in promos with his sardonic laid back style. This match suffers from doing a lot of the same things that the last match did, in terms of heat and structure, only without the same passion. They could have done with popping something else in here. They’re not helped by some sloppy work, including an awkward tornado DDT and a weird counter into the Walls of Jericho. Given the standard that everyone else has set, it just doesn’t measure up. The work isn’t to the same standard. The issues continue as Ambrose clocks Jericho across the nose on a dive and opens Y2J up hardway by the eye, something that caused a stoppage during Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor. That doesn’t happen here. Is that double standards? Or have referees been told not to anger the crowd after Dallas? Ambrose wins with Dirty Deeds and the match underwhelmed me.
Final Rating: **1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where Mauro Ranallo asks AJ Styles about Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows. Styles persists that he’s going to go one on one and his friends won’t interfere. If Styles is flat out lying here then he’s turning heel tonight and winning the title. Imagine that?
WWE Women’s Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Natalya
Charlotte’s father Ric Flair is out here to corner her, as per usual, but Nattie has her uncle Bret Hart to offset that. I wonder if Jim Neidhart is upset he never gets to appear in these spots? Bret gets a nice reaction as he hobbles out, having beaten prostate cancer recently. Bret has been enormously critical of WWE programming of late, ripping WrestleMania a new hole during his podcast. One thing is for sure, Natalya gets a bigger pop for having Bret out here so it worked. This match has heat but it also has decent technical props. WWE make one very stupid mistake however, and that’s showing Sasha Banks backstage before the match. It only serves to remind them that Sasha’s logical ‘Mania win never happened and the crowd want her in these big matches. Charlotte displays a lot of confidence in this match, posing throughout, even when she’s not in charge. She’s certainly grown into the champion’s role. Maybe she’s been watching her Dad’s tapes. Natalya does great work in selling an injured knee, almost Bret Hart-esque in limping around to sell it. As Charlotte asserts her dominance with moves like Natural Selection and the moonsault, Natalya gets to look all plucky by kicking out. Charlotte then slaps Natalya in the Sharpshooter and Charles Robinson calls for the bell. Montreal Screwjob again! The Flair’s get strapped in tandem Sharpshooters for the post match pop but it was weird seeing another Montreal throwback. Good move in using Little Naitch though. I didn’t even see him until the finish.
Final Rating: ***
Promo Time: Vince McMahon
Vince is over huge in Chicago and he milks it, babyface style, until the crowd loudly chant for “CM Punk”. He puts that down to another “crazy crowd”. How many “crazy crowds” will it take before they start listening? “I don’t always appreciate your point of view” says Vince. That’s an understatement. McMahon talks about RAW morphing and changing before bringing out Stephanie McMahon and Shane McMahon. His decision? To let them both run RAW and figure it out between the two of them. Steph gets molten heat, to the point where even Daddy Dearest gets into a tizzy. Be careful here Chicago, you may never get another live event. Shane does something bizarre here and references online websites to support his cause, which involves acknowledging stuff outside of WWE’s bubble. Shane even references how he felt the company was going in the wrong direction when he left seven years ago and he blames Steph for it. It sounds suspiciously like a shoot. Anyway, at the end of the day it’s still McMahon family drama and this answered no questions. Also Vince’s “I don’t listen to anybody except me” is so indicative of WWE’s long-standing deep-rooted issues that it’s completely hilarious that McMahon is blissfully unaware of the problems he causes by carrying on into his autumn years in charge of a company that thrives on being cool.
Video Control gives us clips from the pre-show where Baron Corbin managed to lose to Dolph Ziggler in a nonsensical piece of booking. In the other pre-show match Kalisto retained the US title by pinning Ryback with Salida del Sol. I can’t understand Ziggler, who has been floating aimlessly through the midcard for the past two years, going over a hot new heel. Especially with this being the “New Era”. Ziggler is one of the guys who was permanently damaged by the old regime. I can’t see much hope for him being rehabilitated. I personally thought he should have left when his contract was up.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles
Striking while the iron is hot is having Styles main eventing this quickly but it boggles the mind that they jobbed him to Jericho at WrestleMania. What part of that made any sense? It’s not like Jericho has done anything with the win! Except, maybe, stopped dragging AJ down. Roman gets a tonne of heat, as you’d expect from a traditionally angry crowd like Chicago. There are a fair few Reigns fans out there, based on signs, but the volume from the fans is totally in AJ’s favour. Styles is well capable of having solid matches with bigger opponents and they go for a speed vs. power match up. Styles leans toward heel, in a desperate attempt to get Roman cheered. It doesn’t work but it does make the crowd suspicious of AJ’s intent and the possibility of the Bullet Club reunion. Styles takes some extreme bumps to get over Roman’s heavy hitting style too. He’s a good opponent to make Reigns look like a powerful champion. It’s perhaps not the best of ideas if WWE want Roman to get popped however. The good news, for both guys, is it definitely has a big match atmosphere. The crowd are invested in it, although they’ve been hot all night long. Chicago is a great town for crowd noise. AJ brings his best and a Phenomenal Forearm to the floor has such velocity that it wipes out the announce table. However AJ rolls into the ring and Reigns does not. AJ Styles wins the match but not the title. That is a dubious booking decision at best. Normally someone can break the count by rolling in and then out again.
Anyway, that’s not the finish. Not in the New Era and Shane McMahon powered regime. I had a theory that it was Shane who was behind Anderson & Gallows, based on his ‘Agent of Change’ persona. The one thing he currently hasn’t been able to change is the champion, a relic already of the previous regime and Vince McMahon’s poster boy. Roman accidentally punches Styles below the waist line and AJ wins the match again but not the title.
Once again, we’re in the New Era so that’s not the finish. Merely another fake out. Babyface Stephanie restarts the match under no DQ rules. Which of course opens the window for interference. Toward the conclusion of the match the tension of the situation becomes palpable. This is an important match. It’s important for Roman, hanging with the new super talent and from a booking perspective. Anderson & Gallows make their presence felt, as we all knew they would, which sets up a breathtaking near fall with Roman getting his foot on the rope to survive the Phenomenal Forearm. The Usos even up the odds with Anderson & Gallows and AJ falls victim to a Spear. Epic storytelling but still leaving unanswered questions about Anderson & Gallows relationship with AJ Styles. AJ looked completely at ease in this match and effortlessly great at times. There’s no doubt he’s capable of being WWE Champion, it’s just when and how. This felt like a good time to do it and shock people. Instead they had me with near falls and I bought on several of them, big time.
Final Rating: ****
Summary: On paper it looked like a solid card and that’s what it delivered. It’s a pity for Enzo & Cass that Amore got injured in the opener but that didn’t affect the performances up and down the card nor the crowd reactions. The main event had potential to be a blow away match and it was only the booking, which was inevitable, that stopped it. Maybe WWE had doubts about how good it would be but this surely makes a rematch at Extreme Rules an even better contest, unless they have more booking shenanigans planned.
RAW has been on a roll for three weeks, suggesting that the ‘Shane McMahon regime’ has produced better television with actual wrestling occurring than the standard of Monday night TV. Unfortunately the ratings are in the toilet still but at least the shows have been good.
We’re in Hartford, Connecticut. Hosts are Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and JBL.
Promo Time: Shane McMahon
What is the reasoning for Shane being in charge once again? The ratings are down, Shane has pissed off Kevin Owens, and there’s no legal reason why he’s here. There’s no logical reason why Vince, Hunter and Steph haven’t stopped him. Shane’s reasoning is he’s still in charge because of the fan support, because now, suddenly, WWE listens to the audience. The whole “new faces, new match ups” line sounds like a general fan complaint, reflected in Shane’s speech. Anyway, logic starts to kick in here because Stephanie McMahon is back. Ultimately whoever is running RAW it’s all about McMahon family drama, a card WWE has been wielding since 1999. The crux of this is that Vince McMahon will decide at Payback who gets to runRAW permanently on Sunday. Shane kicks Steph out of the ring to close the segment. The whole era of the McMahon’s fussing and feuding is nothing new and I’d rather they left it alone. Unfortunately it gets reactions and it’s easy so we’ll continue to see this, no doubt. Having Vince’s decision on the PPV creates yet more intrigue around an already intriguing show.
AJ Styles vs. Sheamus
The thing with Styles is that just about every match he can have is new and fresh, which is why he’s the poster boy for Shane’s run. AJ is so adept at facing new talent as well, due to his journeyman past. He’s worked everywhere so he’s worked everyone. JBL makes a solid point by suggesting Sheamus is a warm up, due to his similar physique to champion Roman Reigns. If you think Reigns is a poor champion just remember it could be Sheamus! We’re doing ok. Interesting to note Styles hitting a series of kicks in the corner, in the style of Daniel Bryan. Are they hoping that AJ can slide into Bryan’s spot as beloved underdog babyface? He certainly has the in-ring ability to do that but it’s whether people will take to his personality the same way. Bryan was incredibly likeable whereas AJ is unless you bring up something that makes him angry. He can easily fly into a Jesus-based rage. So far so good in WWE though. The match has slightly odd booking with Sheamus dominating big chunks of the match, which is odd because AJ has a title match on Sunday. You’d think they’d want him to look stronger against a midcarder like Sheamus, recent title run aside. Phenomenal Forearm puts Sheamus down in the end. Solid match. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows appear on the stage after the match to show support for AJ. The ‘Bullet Club’ angle is intriguing. It’ll be interesting to see where they go with it.
Final Rating: **3/4
Promo Time: The New Day
The champs have got a lot of sing-a-long gimmicks going, which is good news for their longevity. The focus here is on the number one contender’s spot so they’re interrupted by the Vaudevillians, who are in turn interrupted by Enzo Amore &Colin Cassady. Their sing-a-long game is strong too. Enzo might be the best promo in the company and he’s only been here for a couple of weeks. The New Day getting into Enzo & Cass’ promo is pretty great. Number one contenders match is another to get excited about at Payback. Someone new is getting a title match.
The Usos vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows
“They were part of a club there” says Cole of Styles, Anderson and Gallows in NJPW. Looks like they can’t say “Bullet Club” on the air. Either that or the term is a little too edgy for Maggle. The crowd chant “Bullet Club” anyway, as to fill in the blanks. I wonder if the bulk of the crowd now has sufficient interest in either ROH or New Japan to know everyone that comes from there. I’m inside that wrestling bubble but I think there’s enough core fans that know to get a new talent over in most places. A major issue with Anderson & Gallows is they aren’t that interesting in the ring. Especially big Doc. A quick squash win would have been more effective, as opposed to the protracted, yet dominant, display from the new guys. It’s a bit dull and I feel bad for Karl Anderson, who’s a terrific talent when he’s given the chance to be. The crowd plays an interesting role in the match, hating on the Usos. Are they getting this heat based on their association with Roman Reigns? Injured Jay gets thrown into the crowd and Jey takes the Magic Killer.
Final Rating: *1/4
Post Match: the winners beat down the losers some more but the Usos get saved by Roman Reigns. Logically this is leading to a six-man tag at some point. Maybe Smackdown? Speaking of this angle, Renee Young gets a word with Styles and the good brothers interject. The idea from them being they’ve got AJ’s back against the evils of the Usos. “This friendship of ours is forever” says Gallows, virtually telegraphing a turn at some point. But to side with who? WWE have my interest with this angle.
Video Control gives us a way overdue look at Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens. The video finally gives us a reason to care about all this angle, which they’ve been firing ahead with, failing to acknowledge the details of their relationship in the past. This video goes a long way to fixing that. If you’ve been following wrestling, or even NXT, you understand and that’s the footage they use to showcase how far this goes back. I love the way it builds, showing how they’ve been essentially after the same spot their whole career. Their match at Payback could be a showstealer. I’m glad they stopped off to address their issues first. Another reason to watch the PPV would be this match, it could be all kinds of great.
Sami Zayn vs. Rusev
The one thing that WWE has to love about Sami is he’s job proof. His “underdog from the underground” gimmick means he can lose all the time because he looks great in losing and it amplifies the wins. Rusev looks so much better and a much bigger star away from the League of Nations and he has Lanain tow. There are aspects of the WWE Universe that still want eye candy and that’s what Lana is. While the women’s division has taken massive strides, there are elements of the crowd that need sating and putting the sex appeal elsewhere allows the women wrestlers to wrestle. The story of the match is that Rusev is a big Bulgarian powerhouse and Sami has to fight from underneath to stay involved. It’s not a bad match but the crowd seem oddly detached from it. RAW is a long show. Sami shows off his athleticism with some tidy spots including a moonsault off the guardrail. Rusev goes after the Accolade but Zayn slips out and rolls him up for the win. Lana’s angry response is to throw her shoes at poor Sami. This was good but the crowd weren’t into it, which hurt it a little. Post Match: Owens lays Sami out with a blindside attack.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us to Renee again where Apollo Crews gets interview time but he’s interrupted by Stardust. Apollo references “Cody” and Dusty Rhodes and Stardust acts his usual weird self.
Stardust vs. Apollo Crews
Apollo has potential to be a break out star because he comes across like an overly nice version of Goldberg. The structure of the matches does not reflect that and he’s taking too much heat at the moment. Stardust shouldn’t get anything in this one, if they’re serious about Apollo. Eventually Apollo just finishes with the Toss Powerbomb. This was basically a squash, which makes Cody’s early offence seem odd.
Final Rating: ½*
Promo Time: Dean Ambrose
Ambrose gets all serious about his match against Chris Jericho this Sunday, denying us a beautifully laid back Ambrose Asylum. As he points out, Ambrose is a surprisingly good talk show host. Ambrose calls out Jericho, who arrives with his usual vast array of weak insults. “Stupid idiot” is almost embarrassingly weak. As if Jericho doesn’t know how to insult someone beyond a pre-school level. Ambrose’s response is to compare Jericho’s hair cut to that of Bon Jovi and show Chris a few sly actual insults. Maybe Jericho is just playing his heel role well because I really actively dislike him at the moment. Jericho wins the segment with the Walls of Jericho on the announce table. As if doing the move on a table makes it more devastating somehow.
Natalya vs. Emma
Both these ladies are currently involved in feuds. Emma with Becky Lynch while Natalya is gunning for the Women’s Championship. Speaking of which, Charlotte joins commentary for this match up. Emma has worked hard at improving down in NXT but she gets the shitty end of the stick here, beaten clean with the Sharpshooter. It doesn’t bode well for her main roster run. They have a lot of women on the roster who could have come out and jobbed for Nattie, why sacrifice Emma? Odd booking. Was Alicia Fox busy?
Final Rating: ½*
Video Control gives us a tribute to Chyna who passed away this week. I’m glad they acknowledged her although WWE’s treatment of Chyna when she was alive wasn’t as shining. It’s sad that Joanie passed away in her mid-40s. She had trouble dealing with life after WWE. Sometimes wrestling takes talent, takes everything they have and then discards them. Too often we get stark reminders like this, or Balls Mahoney or Axl Rotten, that wrestlers have issues directly related to their wrestling careers and pass away a lot younger than they could have without wrestling. Hopefully this is the final generation that has such issues with improved working conditions. The constant reminders that wrestlers die young cannot be good for the business and is downright depressing.
Baron Corbin vs. Damien Sandow
This doesn’t happen as Dolph Ziggler jumps Corbin before the bell. Poor Sandow. At least he got to walk to the ring and the crowd cheer him regardless.
Final Rating: N/R
Miz criticises fan reactions to his celebrity and accuses the crowd of underachieving by cheering for Cesaro. Miz suggests his section, Maryse, looks better than all the internet trolls in the Cesaro Section. Miz does some Robert DeNiro impressions, and Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. “The only movie you belong in isJackass” states Cesaro, putting Miz in his place. A massive Swiss forearm puts Miz on his back although Maryse stops the swing. Cesaro should probably be higher up the card than this but any Cesaro match on PPV is better than none.
Video Control reminds us that John Cena is back on RAW next month. Four months early. You don’t have to rush your rehab every single time you get injured John. While his star power and in-ring talent is welcome on cards, he tends to overwhelm new talent. Let them have a few extra months to get over by themselves. WWE also quickly announce that Ryback has another shot at Kalisto on Payback’s pre-show.
Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio
Roman’s very deliberate move to greet a family who he granted a wish for this week is very John Cena-esque in terms of the booking. It’s great WWE do stuff like this but putting it very deliberately on TV is an agenda pushing move. ‘Look at what a nice guy he is’. For every child that’s here supporting ‘nice guy Roman’ there are a hundred men who don’t want him as champion. It speaks volumes about Del Rio that the crowd can’t muster any support for him either. Given the choice I’d rather have Roman, due to Del Rio’s streak of lazy or bad matches since he came back to WWE. He should have stuck it out on the Indies for longer. This run is only harming his reputation. This isn’t a bad match and they work relatively hard. The bigger spots are on the clumsy side. The double stomp off the top being a prime example, with Roman ‘moving’ out of the way. Reigns simply isn’t fast enough for that spot. Roman puts Del Rio away with a spear.
Final Rating: **
Post Match: Anderson and Gallows show up to beat the champ down. This is entirely contrary to what Styles asked them to do so he pops down to call off the dogs. For this act of kindness Roman clocks AJ with the Superman Punch. What a dick move from the champ. AJ retaliates with the Phenomenal Forearm.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: AJ Styles. The storyline between Styles, Reigns and the former Bullet Club members is the most intriguing thing they’ve got going on right now.
Least Entertaining: Chris Jericho
Quote of the Night: “I’m gonna keep it one hundred with you like a high fever, English” – Enzo Amore throws out words.
Match of the Night: Sami Zayn vs. Rusev
Summary: RAW is a long, long show and it’s tough to stay with the action for three hours. Payback is being built up solidly through the last four weeks of RAW though and it’s coming together to be a strong card filled with matches I have an interest in. For that alone, RAW is doing its job. The storyline surrounding Roman Reigns and challenger AJ Styles had intrigue before they brought Anderson and Gallows into it. Coming into Payback I’m genuinely interested to see where they go with it. That’s a booking success right there. Another success is finally addressing Sami and Owens and their history. That video was all the feud needed to get it over with the casual fans. The tag division is exciting, the women’s division is alive and well. These past four weeks have been refreshing from WWE. RAW might still be too long but at least they’re using it for useful run-on booking. It’s been a long time since that was the case. Genuinely excited for Payback this Sunday as the card is far superior to the WrestleMania one. If the booking reflects that and we get good matches, Payback could be a turning point for the fortunes of WWE. Imagine that.
Live from London, UK, only 226.5 miles from my house. I didn’t go. I haven’t been to a live WWE (then WWF) show since 1994 when the main event was Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart. I probably should make more of an effort, but ticket prices are way too high. The usual useless trio of Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton host. The excellent Mauro Ranallo is being wasted as a backstage interviewer. He really needs to become the lead guy of RAW as well as SmackDown!.
The Ambrose Asylum
Dean muses on the news and discusses a monster sighting in the Thames (the awful joke being that it’s Braun Strowman). Perhaps he’s confusing the Thames in London, southern England, with Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It’s only two different countries and 580 miles’ difference. Next to get a pop are the small and surprisingly thin parents of fat, unfunny, talentless, waste of blubber and oxygen, James Corden. Man, do I hate that guy. At least he’s not there, unless he’s unable to move beyond the hot dog stand, you know, like Cat trying to pass a mirror in his gold space suit. Except his name wouldn’t be Cat; it would be Fat. Ambrose’s guest is Shane McMahon, who is running RAW for a third week in a row, despite losing his match at WrestleMania, rendering another WWE stipulation pointless. Shane becomes the proxy voice of the fans (and the internet) by reeling off a list of popular superstars. Kevin Owens is the first to interrupt, calling Shane out for producing the “same old crap” and being a power-mad McMahon with a personal vendetta against this generation’s top superstar (by which he means him). Is it just me or does the idea of Owens vs. McMahon somewhere down the line sound great? Sami Zayn is next to make an appearance, and is shortly followed byChris Jericho. “Zayn, there’s a lot bigger issues here than your stupid, idiot emotions,” Jericho coolly informs him. Shane is also the focus of his ire, presumably for cancelling last week’s Highlight Reel. Shane books the obvious matches for Payback, Owens vs. Zayn and Jericho vs. Ambrose, then leaves, taking Ambrose’s plant with him, so that they four guys can finish with a scrap. Ambrose and Owens were really entertaining here, but it was Y2J that stole the show.
Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn
After the commercial break, this match has started. I was expecting a tag team main event following the previous segment, but it’s two singles matches instead. Shane apparently booked this on Facebook during the break. What if neither guy checked their Facebook account in that short time? It seems unlikely that they would, seeing as how they didn’t have their phones with them or access to a computer. It makes no sense. Realistically, the booker, Shane, would tell the competitors what match they are in and when, and as the show is broadcast live, everyone else will find out about it after the break anyway. Zayn is now the latest hot new talent to be thrown in with Jerciho in singles competition. The ageing Jericho has a bit of trouble keeping up with Sami’s unique and exciting offence, so slows the pace whenever possible. The Blue Thunder Bomb is only good for a two count, but then after Sami escapes the Walls of Jericho, a thumb to the eye and a Codebreaker is enough for the three. So that’s two wins overAJ Styles and one over Sami Zayn for Jericho now. Ever get the feeling that the wrong guy is going over? At least Zayn seems job proof at this stage of his career.
Final Rating: **1/2
Backstage, Mauro Ranallo gets a word with AJ Styles. He’s soon interrupted by Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, and it gets all pally-pally. I’m finding it curious that they debut essentially as heels last week by attacking The Usos, who happen to be the cousins of Roman Reigns, AJ’s next opponent. Something is brewing here.
Number One Contender’s Tag Team Tournament Semi Finals
Enzo & Cass vs. The Dudley Boyz
The catchphrase kings are massively over on both sides of the pond it would seem. Even though Enzo’s promo isn’t as good as some of his recent stuff, the crowd are still willing punctuate each sentence with a rousing “How you doin’?” The Dudleys, especially Bubba Ray, are excellent as straight-faced, no nonsense foil for Enzo & Cass. The match is largely Enzo taking a physical and verbal assault until Big Cass gets a hot tag. A Dudley miscues leads to the Rocket Launcher and that’s it.
Final Rating: **1/4
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
London says “booooo.” Roman repeats his the good, the bad, and the guy phrase, which was effective the first and only the first time. His promos are edging towards a heel turn. Why not? He’s getting tonnes of heat anyway. Notice how he’s been kept apart on-screen from his “brudda” Dean Ambrose, too. Before long AJ shows up. He’s much better at promos than I think he sometimes gets credit for. He acknowledges that he’ll have to have the match of his life to beat Reigns, but fortunately for him, he points out, that’s exactly what he does each and every night. Roman says that he’d rather be respected with the title than liked without it; AJ has his sights set on both respect and accomplishments. WWE hasn’t broken him yet. After AJ leaves the ring, Gallows and Anderson attack Reigns. AJ looks as if he’s surprised by it, but then we cut right to a break.
After said break, AJ approaches Roman back stage to protest his lack of involvement with the attack. Reigns shows absolutely no signs of having taken a pummeling, nor any aggression toward Styles, even though he’s not buying that Styles didn’t put them up to it. In that case, logic dictates that he should sock him in the mouth. This was really weird.
Fandango vs. Baron Corbin
Perhaps Fandago is here on the off-chance of getting Fandangoing trending again. No chance. Dolph Ziggler joins commentary. Naturally, Fandango gets launched into Ziggler, which is what always happens in these situations. End of Days finishes. The hapless Ziggler attacks his latest nemesis after the bell, but he gets his ass kicked anyway.
Final Rating: *
Maryse introduces her husband in French again. Pot pourri, bonnet de douche, Chateauneuf du Pape, Rodders, which I think I have translated accurately. They compare themselves toWilliam and Catherine, of whom I could go on a rather lengthy diatribe about, then show some pictures of Prince George. Unfortunately, it’s the not the Prince George played by Hugh Laurie. They make some parable about how they and the Intercontinental Championship are more regal than a child before another promo time interruption occurs, though I am most grateful for this one. Cesaro, looking sharp in his suit and one of the few men I’ve seen who make bald look cool, calls Miz a “royal pain in the ass.” Miz has a response in a prepared a monologue, which despite myself and my hatred of all things Miz, I have to admit is quite amusing. It’s a take on a Liam Neeson scene from Taken, which requires multiple takes. I haven’t seen the film, so I can only presume that Miz is deliberately doing it badly. Cesaro cuts him off on the third take to quote another movie star, Rowdy Roddy Piper. It’s the famous chew bubblegum and kick ass one (and to make it authentic, Cesaro is actually chewing gum). Miz point out that his ass is temporarily saved from a kicking because Cesaro is scheduled to face Rusev right now, but the Swiss Uber Mensch counters with a change to the booking (approved moments before by Shane O’Mac) to make it an eight-man tag match.
The League of Nations & The Miz vs. The New Day & Cesaro
Cesaro strips his suit to reveal a Booty-O’s vest. Gotta love them Booty-O’s. If only they had a catchy tag line, one that assured the consumer against any potential bootyness. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances under which this match was announced, there is no pre-match promo from New Day. We do at least get a few toots on Francesca II during the Unicorn Stampede. Otherwise, there is not much of interest going on in the match. For the most part it’s a long, long, long heat on Xavier Woods. There’s no excuse for a multiple-person tag bout to become boring, as there are enough guys there to come in and out, thus keeping it fresh. Cesaro does try to ramp up the intensity when he gets the hot tag, uppercutting just about everyone in sight before scoring a surprising clean victory over Sheamus, who seldom loses clean on TV. It’s not been the best week for the big ginger galoot, with him also displaying a serious lack of ability to kick a football on Soccer A.M. at the weekend.
Final Rating: *1/2
Backstage, Mauro gets a word with Charlotte and shows a clip of the controversial ending to her Women’s Championship match with Natalya last week. Charlotte makes an astute point that the champion does not need to beat anyone. Fair point. Champion’s advantage worked well for The Honky Tonk Man. Natalya interrupts (seriously, these interruptions are really grinding my gears now) to inform the champ that a) they have a rematch at Payback, and b) Natalya will be cornered by her uncle, Bret Hart, to nullify Ric Flair’s involvement.
Natalya, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks & Paige vs. Charlotte, Summer Rae, Tamina & Naomi
Back to back eight-person tag matches. Is it Survivor Series? No, just poor planning from the bookers/road agents. Substitute Summer Rae for Emma and you’d get a good idea of the depth in the newly-titled Women’s Division. It’s actually not that bad, plus Asuka and Bayley will find their way there sooner or later. The match goes at a fairly quick pace, with frequent tagging in and out on both sides. It still fails to be interesting, somehow. Becky takes a brief heat and it quickly becomes formulaic tag action and pretty much the same as the last match on the show. Nattie taps out the champion with the sharpshooter, leaving the result of their match at Payback in little doubt.
Final Rating: *1/2
Number One Contender’s Tag Team Tournament Semi Finals
The Vaudevillains vs. The Usos
Anyone who has read my NXT reviews will know that I have a real soft spot for The Vaudevillains, but I still fear the worst for them in the long run since their call up. I do, however, expect and all-NXT alumni final in this tournament. If there is one thing about The Vaudevillains that I might criticize, though, it is that their offence does not always suit their old-timey gimmick (which has also been pointed out by Arn in a previous review). The Whirling Dervish is a cool name for a finisher, but I think that it should incorporate an airplane spin. That’s what wins it for the dastardly scoundrels.
Final Rating: **
Apollo Crews vs. Heath Slater
On the RAW pre-show, Slater and his Social Outcastcounterparts tried to recruit Crews for their crew. He’s agreed to join on one condition: that one of the Outcasts can beat him in a singles match. He won’t be joining, then. Actually, the caveat does generate a modicum of interest in an otherwise piss-break squash match. The downside is that Slater gets too much offence, which translates as stomps and a chinlock. He even rolls through a cross body for a two count. Apollo is much more exciting to watch and looks every bit a star in the making. He takes out the rest of the Outcasts (minus the absent Adam Rose) with a standing moonsault from the apron before pinning Slater following the sit-out powebomb.
Final Rating: *3/4
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens
Looking at some of the recent RAWs that I’ve covered, Ambrose vs. Owens is a massive step up in the main event scene from a second Authority promo and Big Show vs. Braun Strowman. They’ve had a fair few matches since Owens stepped up to the main roster, but they do at least try to keep it interesting by throwing a few variants on the usual routine such as Ambrose taking the cannonball while in a tree of woe and Owens hitting a frog splash from the apron to the outside. The chinlocks aren’t quite as welcome, though. Ambrose seems to be in booking limbo at the moment, drawing the Jericho short straw after a comprehensive defeat to Brock Lesnar and several failed attempts to capture the heavyweight title, while Owens has Zayn and possibly Shane on his horizon before hopefully moving into the main event scene. He is definitely the company’s top heel. However, I do worry about the number of jobs Owens has to do, and he does another one here, losing clean to Dirty Deeds. After the match, Jericho takes Ambrose out with a codebreaker.
Final Rating: ***
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, and Chris Jericho for their contribution to the Ambrose Asylum segment.
Least Entertaining: James Corden just for being mentioned.
Quote of the Night: “Zayn, there’s a lot bigger issues here than your stupid, idiot emotions” (Chris Jericho).
Match of the Night: Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens.
Summary: If we pretend that Shane is really running the show, then it’s another good outing – just – for the Shane O’Mac regime. The talk show segments were very entertaining and most of the wrestling was decent enough, with the nice bonus that most victories were decisive and clean. There’s interesting things afoot with the relationship between Styles, Anderson and Gallows and how it will play out in the main event match, too. That said, only one match just about cracked three stars and the constant interruptions to every promo and interview became grating extremely quickly, so it won’t be going down as a classic show by any means. Zayn and Owens doing jobs doesn’t sit too well with me, but at least Cesaro and the other new stars got over and looked strong.