SmackDown begins and we’re all happy to see a sign saying ‘KO plays w/kittens’ because it’s obviously the truth. There’s a smaller roster today as WWE heads off to India, so they have to make the most of what they have. Kalisto has his first title defence later against Del Rio, and then Dean and Neville will face off against Sheamus and KO.
Renee starts us off, waiting for Dean (insert screams of the women), who pulls up in a truck which squeals its way up, and Dean clambers out and says he’s going to give that speech he said he was going to give before SmackDown in the ring, and he suggests that Kevin Owens joins him. Jerry Lawler is wearing a shirt my wife owns, which always makes me feel a little weird, but it’s okay, because Mauro is here to look after us.
Dean wants a drum roll for his announcement, but then cuts it, because KO isn’t in the ring. Floofy dry curls Dean is left standing there looking around for a little, making faces. He has his drum roll back and challenges KO to a last man standing match. Sheamus comes out like the bioluminescent squid he is, and Dean flops over like a puppet with cut strings, which Sheamus doesn’t like. He says that Dean’s a little kid, annoying all the adults, and calls him ‘Deano’. He says that this is reality, and Dean says the League of Friendship tree club doesn’t sound all that real to him. Sheamus counters that Roman stole the HWC away from Dean, and that Sheamus isn’t happy about his stitches, either; that he shouldn’t wait for the tag team title and just beat the hell out of Dean right now. Dean says they can have a little physical therapy, where Dean beats him until he cries.
However, here comes KO to spice up our evening and ALSO call Ambrose ‘Deano’, which appears to be a thing. He says that it doesn’t matter what match they have, but at the Royal Rumble, KO won’t let him walk out of the match. He’s not going to walk out at all. Sheamus and KO come out both sides of the ring, and all of a sudden there’s Neville, like he was hanging under the ring, and the two of them take over the ring, KO and Sheamus beating a hasty retreat. KO looks like he’s going to come back for another go, Sheamus putting an arm around him to keep him back, but KO is having none of it. He does back off, eventually, but it’s a close thing.
Mauro’s a little worried as the Dudleys come down to the ring, tables set up everywhere, ready to face off against Rowan and Harper, who appear behind the Dudleys. Strowman is at ringside, and Mauro seems scared he might get hurt in this match. Don’t worry, Mauro, anyone hurts you and the WWE Universe with riot. Dudleys are the early victors, as well they should be, with this being their raise d’etre, setting their table up early, but the Wyatts are taking physical control straight afterwards. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long, because we know how the WWE likes to bury new talent for the old guys who still get the crowd pop.
Strowman at ringside is causing a nice distraction, and then hands out kendo sticks likes candy, because there are no disqualifications. After a limited level of effort, Bubba Ray and D-Von push Harper off the steps and through the table in front of the announce table. Strowman doesn’t take it well, attacking both Dudleys, and Harper pulls the announce table apart, threatening our precious Mauro. I swear, Harper, you hurt him, and we’ll actually murder you. Both Dudleys go through a table each as Harper flings Bubba Ray actually into Lawler, right next to the audience, and the Wyatt set up two tables, then double chokeslam Bubba Ray through them from the announce table. Strowman seems to be orchestrating the action from the ring, and then we hear Bray’s call of ‘follow the buzzard’ and his creepy laugh. It would be nice if, you know, the Wyatts could win a match for once, instead of losing the match and winning the bust up afterwards.
We get a recap of Kalisto becoming US champ on Monday’s RAW as someone puts the announce table back into order, and probably gives poor, shaken Mauro a brandy. Jojo is interviewing Kalisto, who says it feels surreal that he’s here now. He says he lost hope because he was a little guy in the land of giants, and that Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio gave him hope that he could make it in the WWE.
The Social Outcasts are out, in the best t-shirts I’ve ever seen, against The Other Jobbers… so Sandow, Ryder, Swagger and Goldust. Uh, how did we find anyone lower on the card than the Social Outcasts? Bo leads them all in a lap of honour around the ring, and my not-into-wrestling wife asks me what’s going on. I tell her it would take too long to explain, but that Adam Rose is involved. She makes a pleased noise and then goes back to something that isn’t the ridiculousness that is wrestling.
Obviously they’ve dug up everyone they can because we’re meant to remember who these guys are for the Royal Rumble. Heath Slater does a little dance on the side of the ring, and even though BO Dallas manages to accidentally hit him off the apron as he hits a bulldog for the win, they all have a cuddle afterwards. Especially touching is the way Bo and Axel snuggle up together, like two hairy baby mice seeking warmth. Bo, in fact, touches every member of his little group of friends as they head back up the ramp, because he’s just so surprised he has any, I guess. The Other Jobbers look pretty miffed to have lost to some guys who haven’t even done any wrestling for weeks. Especially angry are Jack Swagger – who was previous wrestling the US champion, remember that? – and Goldust, who deserves better than this nonsense. A quick, fast-paced match to remind us that these guys will all be in the Rumble, and we’re sort of supposed to care about it.
We talk for a bit about Cena’s shoulder surgery, because they’re making him into the billion-dollar man, a bionic monster of a man who will break jobbers left and right. We’re reminded about that 1 vs all match against Roman, because Vince lives for the boos of the crowd. Our hatred is keeping him alive, guys, we need to start having nice feelings about him. That will kill him faster than taking out a hit.
We get a recap of the rest of Monday, because we don’t have a memory longer than a day and a half, apparently. I love that they deliberately give us Steph laughing derisively at Roman, because he’s clearly delusional. She does evil so much better when she’s with Daddy, and her bleeding heart husband isn’t there to temper her. I wonder if Trips has been banished because Vince hasn’t liked the way Raw has been going without him on it, so he’s sent Trips to just handle NXT and he’s teaching Steph the family business of being racist, getting arrested, and genuinely being an evil person towards all the hopes and dreams of WWE fans.
Oh, we also get a replay of Brock Lesnar rocking up to beat the hell out of everyone, and the weird moment that it makes Roman smile, because apparently he likes to be smacked around by bigger men. I don’t know, Roman, but I guess if you’re into that, then you picked the right career.
Renee is interviewing Alberto Del Rio, who seems pretty salty about having lost his title to ‘just a little guy’, like we’re going to unmask Kalisto and it’ll be surprise! Hornswoggle all along! Obviously he gets booed, and she talks about how happy everyone was to see Kalisto win, and wonders whether that affected Del Rio at all. He says nope, he doesn’t care, he just wants to squish Kalisto.
I get distracted from the action again to watch Eden be glorious, and then we get a close up on Del Rio’s weird bulging veins. Kalisto takes the humble route, while Del Rio stands up to shout ‘I’m the real champion’ in the corner. Funny, Del Rio, the corner is where you probably belong. The second the bell rings, Del Rio is using all of that remarked-upon aggression to slam Kalisto into the mat over and over, punishing him for taking the title.
This is a difficult match to watch, because it is just Del Rio beating the hell out of Kalisto, slamming him around and dragging him about. Mauro seems to be calling fewer spots, which upsets me a little, because I’ve never marked out harder for someone than when he called a lariat last week, but he’s though he’s still better at it than both Saxton and Lawler. Del Rio takes to working Kalisto’s arm heavily, just trying to put all of his effort and energy into wrenching the joint as far as he can. At this point, it’s not even about pinning him and getting the win, it’s about making him pay for the humiliation of losing a match. Because of this, we got a lot less of Kalisto’s usual high-flying moves, and just get a lot of brawling, though there’s a great headscissors takeover by Kalisto (thank you Mauro) from Kalisto breaking Del Rio’s set up for the double stomp that leaves both men looking beaten down on the mat.
There’s a sudden Barrett on the side of the ring, because obviously the Euroboys are like women, in that they go everywhere in pairs, or maybe Sheamus just sent his wrestling husband out to hold their golden bae’s hand a little. There’s a stunning hurricanrana in the middle of the ring where it looks that Kalisto will take the win, but Del Rio kicks out.
(At this point, your recapper leaves her home at 2.30am to head to her local hospital, where she is fed painkillers and has needles poked in her, and is then returned home at around 6am, where she sleeps all of Friday. The following has been written from 3pm Saturday, on little sleep and a lot of good opiates. You have been warned.)
Heel Lawler is in full swing, which is really working for me, to be honest, as Kalisto hits a lovely corkscrew to send Del Rio down for the two count, but that left shoulder just can’t hold up to the punishment for much longer. Barrett gets a distraction for Del Rio to put on the cross-armbreaker, that looks like it’ll make Kalisto tap out, but he manages to get his feet on the rope at last. Kalisto dodges a move from Del Rio which ends up with the bigger man on the floor. As Kalisto goes to leap through the ropes at him, Barrett moves Del Rio out of the way, leaving Kalisto stunned with the impact on the floor. When Del Rio drags Kalisto back into the ring, he puts the armbreaker back on, and Kalisto has to tap out. They let him keep the US title for two days. That’s heart breaking. I may never get over it until he comes back for another title challenge. Come on, Kalisto – don’t let the big guys keep you down.
We get a recap of the current state of the Diva’s division, where ‘women just hate each other’ as Booker T succinctly put it. Becky’s disheartened, talking to Renee about how the Charlotte who attacked her wasn’t the Charlotte she knows and is friends with. Renee says Becky doesn’t stay down, and then we get the recap of Becky’s retaliatory attack on Charlotte on Monday’s Raw. Becky’s proposing a title match at the Royal Rumble, and says Charlotte can bring her whole family and her little dog too, but she’s taking that Diva’s Championship.
Brie’s out first, with Alicia Fox in her corner. As Becky comes down to the ring, Brie looks disgusted, like she can’t believe she had to give up her match with Charlotte on Monday for this instead. She’s not a happy bunny, and she goes hard at Becky, not giving her a moment’s respite. Lawler says you can’t take all vows seriously, referencing Becky and Charlotte’s vow of friendship, and says that’s why half of all marriages end in divorce. Alright, King, let’s keep your bitterness out of this, alright?
Brie won’t stop trash talking Becky, furious that her match was forfeit on Monday for Becky’s little stage of animosity, and that’s what it comes down to in the end. Becky wants the win more than she wants anything else, whereas Brie is still dismissing Becky as someone who isn’t a credible threat. Becky hits the disarmer after a few aggressive moves, and Brie taps out, giving Becky Lynch the win.
Apparently the next match is our third main event – who knew we’d get so lucky? – and Squidman Bioluminescent Sheamus is on his way, along with Murderbear. It’s like an Attenborough documentary over here. Neville and Ambrose out, to the deafening screams of the crowd – faces who are actually over? Good grief, no wonder they took Roman Reigns to India, he doesn’t get a pop like this just for showing up. Dean flings the IC title out of the ring, like it’s not prestigious or something. Come on, Dean, we’ll start to think it isn’t worth anything, and that Kevin Owens just wants it back because he promised it to his little boy.
Kevin Owens is obsessed with the title, commentary remark, as he screams about being the next champ, slamming Ambrose around. There seems to be a bit of an agreement that they’ll let Ambrose take the punishment, that Neville can just hang out on the apron and wait a while as they tear strips off on Ambrose. There’s an early cover from Sheamus that doesn’t go anywhere, and a lovely neckbreaker from Ambrose to KO that lets Neville get in the ring to show off his moves as Dean slumps in the corner. The real issue here seems to be that KO and Sheamus can work together, and Ambrose and Neville aren’t looking like a cohesive unit.
Murderbear decides to call out our favourite commentator ‘four eyes’ and tell him he needs to watch and learn. Careful, KO, you might be the person everyone loves to hate, but you mess up Mauro and we’ll kill you. Not even kidding. Mauro further proves why we love him by asking Lawler, who’s making a Dumbo quip about Neville, what relevance that has to the match. Good on you, man. Kevin Owens is letting his anger get the better of him a little, taking cheap shots on the apron barely centimetres away from the ref, who isn’t at all happy about it.
Mauro uses ‘mercurial’ to describe Dean Ambrose, which I think is the best description I’ve ever heard of him, and also a bigger word than I thought any WWE commentator knew. And then a minute later he calls the lunatic lariat and I can’t help it, I have to pause and grin a little longer. The match eventually falls apart as Ambrose takes a suicide dive to the outside, on top of Owens, and Sheamus joins in to throw Ambrose into the steps. The two men methodically take the announce table and Ambrose apart, bell ringing for disqualification, and KO sets the steps up next to the announce table for the powerbomb that so ruined Ambrose the other week. Sheamus has another plan, however, and as they argue, Neville comes over the top rope at both of them, sending them crashing to the ground.
Ambrose takes Owens back into the ring and hits dirty deeds, before Neville begs him to move Owens to a position where Neville can hit the red arrow. Ambrose not only provides the positioned Owens, but a gesture that shows off Neville’s skill at aerial moves. Red arrow hits, and the two roll Owens out of the ring and celebrate their victory together. We end SmackDown with Dean standing on the ropes with his IC title, shouldering the championship and the weight of defending it.