Starting SmackDown with a recap of the Sheamus vs Roman match, with Vince as special guest referee, and Vince telling us that he’s screwing us for the Royal Rumble for the second year running. I have such an issue with this; last year, Roman won the Rumble, and it was all boos and hatred. This year, we either have Roman lose the title, or we have Roman win the Rumble and get booed for overcoming insurmountable odds as the new superman, replacing Cena. I’m furious.
Two title matches tonight: Diva’s Championship and Intercontinental Championship. We get a close-up of Jerry Lawler, then the new commentator, Mauro Ranallo, and Byron Saxton. Why is Lawler allowed to dress like he’s not going to work, but to a college party?
Cena out first – and this is tempered with the news we already know, which is that he’s out until after Wrestlemania, most likely, and that’s a damn shame. He welcomes us to the first SmackDown of 2016, and the first on USA – I don’t care, America, I’m watching it online illegally, because it’s 1am here in the UK – Cena says we’ve got to like Del Rio, apparently. He introduces Del Rio, who does show up, which is a relief, or it would be a bit embarrassing for everyone concerned. He’s always got the belt hung in just such a position that it makes me think he’s not wearing trunks at all, but then, At least he dresses like a wrestler and not like a ten year old boy, a la Cena.
Del Rio tells Cena that he doesn’t deserve the US title, and that he’s not going to wrestle him for it. Cena works the crowd, getting them fired up for Del Rio, and we get a lot of lovely Spanish from Del Rio, too, Cena looking non-plussed in the best way he knows how. This is… making me care about John Cena AND Del Rio. Dear god, this is why we’re going to miss the hell out of Cena, because he might be a bland creature of habit, but he can work a crowd like no one else on the face side of the roster. Cena says that Del Rio should fight a man of his choosing – and out comes the wonder that is Kalisto.
There’s a start with a punch, there’s no title shot involved, but the start, before the bell rings, is fast-paced and gorgeous to watch. The minute the bell rings, Del Rio is a little slower, but Kalisto has so much speed and strength that he makes the match look much more interesting than it really is. Come on, Kalisto, you can kill this…. Okay, so we’re making ‘Killisto’ shirts, right, merch guys? No? Get on that. When we come back from commercials, Del Rio has slowed down the little luchador quite a lot, hanging him off the ropes and then going for a walk before coming back with a drive by. Hang on, is Ranallo actually calling spots? Is this a useful commentator?
Cena’s getting the crowd as into this as they can be, but watching Kalisto slow himself down for the aggression of Del Rio is upsetting. Kalisto heads into a rana, gets caught and thrown down with a sit-out powerbomb, but manages to kick out of the resultant pin at two. Del Rio is mauling Kalisto in the ring, and Cena’s got his shirt off, ready to come into the ring and interfere, but the distraction of a half-naked John Cena at ringside is enough. Kalisto hits a hurricane rana (thank you, Ranallo, you are helping me SO MUCH, you’re more useful than a thousand of Jerry Lawler) to get the pin, and picks up a strong win over the US champion, without Cena having to lift a finger.
Jojo is backstage, hearing Becky call Charlotte her ‘former best friend’, and say that she doesn’t need explanations or reasons for what Charlotte did on Raw this week. She’s going to take that Diva’s title, no matter who stands in her way, and it isn’t going to be a friendly match. I’m loving seeing so much more of Becky coming out now, seeing her be a person, rather than a little follower for Charlotte and Paige. It’s what she deserves.
Miz TV. Two words guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of any wrestling fan. He says the Rumble announcement shocked the world. Honestly, Miz, I think it just made us all regret our life choice to watch wrestling, but okay, you justify your life and career any way you have to. The New day come out to interrupt, and my wife, who does not like wrestling, says ‘it’s time for the precious unicorns?’. We learn that Big E pronounces ‘gifs’ as ‘jifs’, as they say Jericho parties like it’s 1999. Ziggler says Miz should go back to doing what he does best, and if he can’t think of anything either, then he can just host Miz TV. Goldust interrupts our gorgeous 80’s hair metal throwback Dolph Ziggler, to threaten Miz with Golden Globes.
Neville then appears, to talk, even if he does have a Newcastle accent, and he says Miz can borrow his Slammy and his accent, as long as he never talks again. Miz says when his hand goes up, everyone shuts up, and New Day prove they’re good children by putting their hands up and closing their mouths straight away. R-Truth says he’s going to answer the US open challenge, and Miz asks if he gives him a dollar, with R-Truth please buy a clue. Xavier Woods has somehow found popcorn to enjoy this with, and Miz just keeps on being annoying. So R-Truth hits him. Fair enough.
Impromptu match here, Dolph, Neville, Goldust and R-Truth vs. New Day and Miz, for some reason. Dolph’s hair, dry, is a sleek shimmery waterfall of wonder, like he’s got time on his hands lately and has been down the salon, talking to Lucille about how best to look after his balayage. The crowd chants ‘this is awful’, which is also going to be the chant for the entirety of the Royal Rumble, because it’ll just be this, but worse. Neville has a lovely standing shooting star press (thanks again, Ranallo, you’re a godsend) onto Kofi Kingston, for the spot of the match, but it’s mostly mid-card madness, and we’re going to see a lot more of it before the Royal Rumble comes around. This is to make sure we remember who these guys are before they show up at the Rumble, so we care.
We’re obviously selling Neville a little bit, because he gets an extended period of time with Kofi, before Xavier interferes and get him into the punishment of the unicorn stampede. Xavier gets a pin for two, but Neville eventually tags in Ziggler to wrestle Miz, the two of them racing in at speed, Ziggler getting a couple of good elbows in before Miz rolls him up. There’s a glorious brawl and Ranallo calls almost all of it, somehow, but it’s Ziggler who gets the win, in the end, pinning Miz for the three count, before Ziggler superkicks R-Truth, throws Goldust out of the ring, and says he’s going to be the winner of the Rumble, every man for himself. That straightened hair is a good look on you, Dolph, I’d stick to that if I were you. Better than wet cup ramen hair.
Jojo comes across Charlotte and Ric, and Charlotte’s gone full Flair, full bitch, saying Becky has no right to say she’s not a champion, because Becky’s never been one. Becky has apparently been leeching off her, and Ric accompanies Charlotte down to the ring, because we can’t ban old, drunken men from ringside, apparently, or Lawler would be out of a job. At this point, Charlotte may as well be Draco Malfoy, with ‘my father shall hear of this’ – except, of course, Ric doesn’t need to hear of it, because he’s always just stood two paces behind her, wondering how much money he can make off her. Becky’s gone full steampunk again, and she’s going to take on Charlotte for the Diva’s Championship. Charlotte gets booed by the crowd, and we get told, without irony, that the Diva’s championship title is prestigious, despite being a pink butterfly and looking like a seven-year old’s first pair of earrings.
The women start off with some mat wrestling, drags and low moves, lots of rolling each other around. Becky seems to be talking to Charlotte the whole time, telling her that it’s not right, and that she’ll get what’s coming to her. Becky bridges an armbar as the chant rises with her name, the two of them showing off their chain wrestling skills as they chase the pin. Ric shouts ‘come on champ’ from the apron, but Becky’s got the upper hand, springboard sidekick sending Charlotte to the outside, with Becky following her out once she warns Ric back, before she throws Charlotte back in. Charlotte climbs straight back out, and the boos rise for her. Becky climbs back out, and Ric stands between the two women, giving Charlotte time to recover.
Once he feels that Charlotte’s sufficiently rested, and the official is getting antsy, he moves and Becky takes a huge kick to the face from the champion. Charlotte has the upper hand now, making it a slugfest, before getting a huge suplex and a pin for two. The crowd are shouting ‘let’s go Becky’, but our challenger looks to be flagging, taking another suplex and more hard hits. Becky seems to rally eventually, and she’s coming back hard with a suplex of her own, getting a cover for two. She’s chasing that championship, shoving Charlotte around, but Charlotte gets a neckbreaker off the ropes for three pins, Becky kicking out every time.
Charlotte goes for chops, and they’re huge, you can hear them echo, but that’s a weakness, because it gives Becky a chance to get under her guard and throw Charlotte gain, getting another pin for the two count. You can see Becky’s desperation now, getting hit with a spear from Charlotte as she goes for the figure eight, but Becky gets a small package for two. A little more test of strength work, and Becky gets her in the disarmer for the tap… with Ric putting Charlotte’s foot on the ropes. Charlotte rolls her up, uses the ropes, and gets the win, because apparently the official doesn’t have eyes. Charlotte gives Becky a look of such disdain, and Becky’s face is utterly crestfallen – Charlotte retains the championship.
We get a small recap of Neville vs. KO, with Ambrose coming in to hit a huge elbow drop on the table. Renee is backstage, asking KO if she can have a minute. She asks if he’s okay having been put through the table, but he says nothing is going to stop him beating the cockroach that he considers Dean Ambrose. Renee keeps leaning back from him, like she’s objecting to the comparison, or just like she doesn’t want to talk about cockroaches at all.
There’s another recap of the Roman match from Raw, and how that all went down, but there’s a whole recap of that on here, you can just look at it there! The cry of ‘Sheamus from behind’ amuses my puerile, filthy brain, though.
We see the interview Renee did with Roman after he got the Royal Rumble news, and Roman says he’s going to be the last one standing, he’s used to the odds being 1 vs all, and he will overcome them.
Renee’s also interviewing Dean Ambrose, ahead of the main even match with Kevin Owens. Dean’s tapping his thumb against the title and shifting from foot to foot, all wired energy, and he says that Kevin Owens has put him through hell, but his face still looks pretty well-adjusted. Renee nods, helplessly. Dean says KO is a prize fighter, and hefts the IC title – that’s the prize, so fight, Owens… fight.
There’s a sign with an arrow on it saying ‘she came for Ambrose’. I hope those seats are wipe clean. Dean’s gone for the black tank top today, which makes him look even more concave than he’s been looking lately, and Eden’s stunning in red, getting ready to announce them as Owens and Ambrose circle each other like sharks. The IC title is held aloft high, and we’re ready for our main event match.
The two start off with grappling each other along the ropes, and then a couple of big shoves; it looks like a bar room brawl until Ambrose starts employing a few kicks, and a couple of moves off the ropes. Owens gets himself out of the ring as we go to commercial, and when we come back, he’s giving chops to Dean, who’s telling him to bring on more, before he settles KO down with a couple of boots.
Mauro gets my vote because he mentions Dean’s technical skill, just as he calls that Ambrose goes for the ‘lunatic lariat’ – my god, the man knows the difference between the clothesline and a lariat, he’s incredible, can we have him on Raw, too, and PPVs? Please? My pet peeve is that everyone on commentary thinks lariats and clotheslines are the same, and they’re not, and Ranallo actually called it properly. I want to cry, I’m so happy.
Sorry, back to your recap. Ambrose goes for the rebound lariat off the ropes, but KO catches him, throwing him over to the outside of the ring, as KO swings on the ropes, mocking the move. Owens beings Dean into the corner near the announce table, but Dean reverses it, slamming KO into the barricades a couple of times. You can see the slice of floor where the barricades have moved, as Dean gets a lariat off the apron onto Owens. Bringing Owens back into the ring, Ambrose gets hit with a DDT, and when we come back from the commericals, Owens has Ambrose in a headlock, after we get shown a cannonball on the outside of the ring administered by Owens.
Owens goes for a running senton, but Ambrose moves, both men struggling to stand. There’s a slugfest from Dean’s side of things, taking Owens out in the corner, getting the pin for two. Dean takes things to the top rope, but Owens heads towards him and he has to roll through. German suplex from KO, and these two are just tearing each other to pieces in the ring. A tornado DDT from Dean looks like it will take Owens down, but once more he kicks out.
Another huge cannonball from KO looks like the win, but these two men are all about working through pain for the win, and they keep going at it, Dean throwing all his tricks at Owens, but none o them are quite enough for him to get the win. The anger between the two of them sizzles, even through the tiredness and pain, you can see the hatred, the inability to let go of a grudge.
A suicide dive from Ambrose throws Owens over the announce table, and Dean stands on the table, wild and vicious, ready, before jumping down, Owens driving him into the steps. Dean throws Owens over the barricades, and then leaps off them onto him, the bell ringing as both men are counted out, fighting through the crowd and to the top of the ramp, still slamming each other around. Some referees stand around waving their hands and being ineffectual as Dean drags out one of the unpadded barricades, and Owens smacks Dean with laptops and packing cases, before the two of them are up high on crates, and Dean reverses a pop-up powerbomb to slam Owens down hard. He cries out in victory, eyes wild, and both men are send through tables, lying barely able to move at ringside, as officials check them over. SmackDown ends with the battered and pained faces of Dean and Kevin Owens, lying side by side, and Dean retains his title.