Ah, SmackDown, the best wrestling entertainment we have, since Mauro Ranallo joined the team. We’re told we’re getting a Miz TV segment with Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens – ten bucks says Miz gets punched in the mouth – and Roman Reigns will be facing off against the League of Nations because he needs a few more bruises before he heads into the Royal Rumble on Sunday.
However, we start with Chris Jericho, who appears to have forgotten that it’s only meant to be Raw is Jericho, not SmackDown as well. He’s got another exciting sparkly jacket, because the man loves shiny things, he’s like a magpie. It’s the only reason he ever wanted a title, because it glittered in a way he found enticing. He reminds us of the victory conditions of the Royal Rumble, and we get the recap of Jericho’s Highlight Reel, and how that all went down on Raw – the Wyatts arriving and taking the pain to Lesnar and Reigns, being spooky in victory.
Jericho tells us he’s going to win the Royal Rumble as out come the New Day, to shame Jericho for destroying Francesca, and cheering while they’re in mourning. I live for New Day shouting ‘SHAME’ at other members of the roster, I love their evil gospel preacher gimmick so hard, I can’t even tell you. Especially when they’re shouting at Jericho, who always struck me as the sort of man who doesn’t believe in shame. They say if he bows his head and gives them silence for Francesca’s untimely death, then they’ll consider him somewhat redeemed. The crowd and Jericho won’t be silent, because Jericho thinks their unicorn horns are ridiculous. He says their unicorn names aren’t good enough… and it’s the return of ‘rooty tooty booty’. Please, old man, you’re embarrassing yourself.
He eventually annoys New Day enough that they get into the ring with him, but he insists they don’t have time, because they’ve got a six-man tag to be a part of – and out come the Usos with their third painted man… Dolph Ziggler? I mean, I’m not complaining, we all know how much I love Dolph at this point, but… really?
Apparently, during the India tour Dolph joined in with the Usos, and was wearing the face paint there. The Rock welcomed Ziggler into the family on twitter, so I guess it’s official. Like anyone will notice another face in the sea of 500 cousins that Roman has said he has, although Ziggler does rather stand out. Dolph seems to have finally had some of the bleach cut out of his hair; it’s nice to see him take care of himself. The match is fast paced, and Dolph even gets himself a little chant going by stomping in the rhythm for ‘new day sucks’.
Dolph is the one who ends up taking a lot of the pain and punishment early on from the New Day, kept out of the corner and away from the Usos, under the unicorn stampede. Ziggler gets a hell of a dropkick on Kofi, and manages to get to make the tag while Kingston is still down and out. Jimmy is thrown out by Big E while the official’s back is turned, and when we come back from commercials, Jimmy’s in an abdominal stretch from Big E, being spanked to the rhythm of ‘new day rocks’. I’m not sure if I’m watching wrestling here, or a sex tape, but either way, I know Mauro is the voice I’d want to call the action. Unicorn stampede to Jimmy Uso as well, who’s taking an awful lot of punishment – he hits a hell of a spot off the ropes onto Big E, both men down, and they both manage to get a tag.
Ziggler vs Woods is short-lived as Xavier sends Dolph over the top rope and onto the ring steps, face first, and then he’s back to punishing the Usos for simply existing. Eventually Woods takes a superkick from all three members of the opposing team at the same time – I’m not sure his face has room for three boots – and it’s Jimmy Uso who gets the pin over Xavier, earning his team the win.
There’s another recap of how the Rumble works, because WWE thinks we don’t have a memory anymore. That’s okay, we’ll survive, I guess. I also love how they don’t show us Roman winning last year, because it was a bit… awkward, to say the least.
Next we’ve got Diva action, with Charlotte and Ric at ringside, because apparently they go everywhere together now, and Charlotte can’t be bothered to have matches before the Rumble. Okay, suits me, because it means we get to see Becky Lynch vs. Alicia Fox, both of whom wouldn’t be out of place in a cybergoth nightclub in their chosen ring attire. I like it, makes them look dangerous instead of cutesy.
Charlotte says the face of disbelief she had when Ric answered the challenge for her wasn’t because her dad answered the challenge for her, but because she couldn’t believe Becky would talk to Ric that way. Really? I think Becky was pretty tame compared to what most of the wrestling fans I know have been saying, but alright, maybe you don’t go online very often. The match is a little jumbled – a lovely northern lights suplex with a bridge from Alicia to Becky on the outside of the ring, Brie there to offer moral support. Becky’s got a lot of fight in her, and she isn’t making it easy, but the focus is drifting to the discussion outside of the ring.
Byron is trying to make a point to Charlotte that she used to want to do things right, she used to want to pave her own way and be a role model, and now she’s out assaulting her friends and calling herself the victim. She tells him she’s still the same, and Ric chimes in to say his little girl is the best female wrestler of all time – he does, however, make a comment that every woman who comes out to the ring is incredible, but they’re not all champions. That, guys, was Ric Flair putting over the Diva’s division more than anyone else has bothered to – he even calls Becky a great wrestler. There’s a level of respect from him that others just don’t show, and I walk away from that feeling slightly confused that it was said by Ric Flair.
Becky gets the disarmer for the win, and it wasn’t a great match for the ages, but it was pretty cool, and both the women gave it a hell of a lot of energy and some really good moves. I get the feeling superstars are bothering to pull out the good moves now that they know Mauro will call them properly and give them the credence they deserve. Becky mimes taking the title off Charlotte, who smirks and waves her little finger at Becky in a mockery of the Team PCB friendship. On Sunday, Charlotte had better be ready for a fight.
Miz TV. Poor Miz has the most thankless job in television, listening to people cheer Dean and boo KO while no one cares about him. Dean comes out to interrupt Miz telling us what a last man standing match is, to say that actually, it’s serious business and someone could get really hurt – in fact, it’s not really a match, it’s more like an amusement park. Miz tries what you do to naughty third graders, by putting his hand up and demanding silence, but Dean’s not really the plays nice with others type, Miz, and you know he loves punching you in the face like it’s a second day job, so really… maybe your mouth should be the one shut.
Dean thinks he can do Miz TV better than Miz, so Miz has a paddy and says he’s going to sit in the corner and sulk, while we all enjoy Dean TV. This drags a ‘yes’ chant out of the crowd, because, well, sorry Miz. We just don’t like you all that much. Dean says a last man standing match may not be pretty, but it’s always fun – oh yeah, Dean, we remember your CZW days. He takes us on a tour of the ring via how many ways he’s going to break Kevin Owens on it, and your recapper must admit to being a little flustered by all this. There’s nothing I like more than Dean Ambrose drawling to me about violence. He also comments about KO being a bear – Murderbear! – and says he’s going to use Mauro as a weapon if it comes to it. Uhm. Dean, we love you, but I’m not sure if we love Mauro more, and are willing to protect him with our lives. Stick to just using inanimate objects to break Kevin Owens, how about that?
Dean coos at the announce table like it’s his favourite baby, and sticks one leg up on it like he’s modelling clothing. He says he’s going to bring it full circle, and take KO through the announce table like Murderbear did to him. So of course, Kevin Owens shows up, looking bored and frustrated at having to deal with Dean, with a look on his face like a harassed father trying to get a toddler to agree that it’s bedtime. Never going to work, Kev, sorry. Dean doesn’t even take naps, he’s wired on coffee and aggression and people punching him in the face.
KO says he prefers zoos to amusement parks, and that Dean may be insane, but the he’s obsessed with the IC title, and will stop at nothing to get it back. He says Dean won’t know when the fight ends on Sunday, because he’ll be unconscious. Dude, have you see any of those CZW matches? Man took a saw to the face, there’s no way anything you can do on PG era television is going to put him down. I love this feud, it’s two of my favourite guys getting mic and ring time to do what they do best – trash talk and beat the hell out of each other, and I am loving it.
Dean flings the ring furniture around, and Miz has had enough, flings Dean around, and KO just watches, before Miz gestures him down to the ring. Miz is still beating Dean down as KO comes in – and then KO powerbombs Miz, because clearly no one can touch Dean but him. KO says Sunday will be all the Kevin Owen’s show, and as Dean tries to hit dirty deeds, he rolls out. Dean applies it to Miz, instead, and then counts, slowly, to ten. That’s how long KO will need to keep Dean down for on Sunday, to get the win and get his title back.
Ryback vs Bray Wyatt next, for a little pre-Rumble filler. We get a recap AGAIN of the Wyatts breaking into the highlight reel, and Brock and Roman getting a sister Abigail. Ryback’s out for revenge, but it’s not like the numbers will be doing Ryback any favours. It’s a slugfest, basically, with Ryback chasing Bray out of the ring, and heading out there despite the numbers being against him, but actually, he doesn’t seem to need their help. He’s beating Ryback without any help at all, until he takes time to grandstand in the corner and Ryback gets him off the top of the ropes and down onto the mat.
After that, it’s all Ryback, and it’s really nice to see no one coming in to save Bray, to see him taking his licks for a little while, before Rowan, Harper and Strowman come in. Bray gets the win via sister Abigail after distraction from Harper lets Rowan and Strowman knock him into the steps. The Wyatts hang about for a bit, Bray bellowing at the crowd, and this has interesting connotations for the Royal Rumble on Sunday. Hmmm.
Titus O’Neil is out to talk about he needs eyes all over his head like some sort of Lovecraftian monster, and to face Stardust, who keeps Lovecraftian horrors as pets. Stardust doesn’t look like he’s particularly excited about a match, sliding out of the ring at every chance he can, and trying to keep Titus out of it as much as he can. He leaps out, punishes Titus, then leaps back in to try for the cover. This match struggles to hold my attention – not sure if the painkillers are wearing off or what, but I can’t help but look at Titus and think ‘so where’s Darren Young, then?’. I miss him. And as much as I love Stardust, there’s no fire in this feud, there’s no rage or pacing. This is just two guys who’ve been given a storyline to run with, and are doing the best they can with it. It’s a short match, Titus winning again, leaving Stardust down on the floor.
Backstage Kalisto is being adorable and talking to Renee Young, telling us how Del Rio is his Goliath, how he knows he can beat Del Rio again and get the title back. Del Rio shows up and says that Kalisto’s fight wins were a fluke, and that Kalisto is nothing to him. The rest of the League of Nations show up, and we get to hear Seamus being called ‘Sheamy’ before he puts the boot into Kalisto. They leave him writhing on the floor as they head out to their match tonight against Roman Reigns.
Roman ambles out to the adulation of the crowd, title still in his hand and not around his waist as he tries to get down the steps without being manhandled too much. Poor boy. He’s playing up to the crowd, saying he can’t understand why Vince would set him up at number one, I mean, it just seems so unlikely. I’m glad someone’s worked out that we like Roman best when he’s being sassy about people we don’t like. He says he believes in fighting the big fight, and the odds for the Rumble might not look good – but the odds for tonight look a lot better. He calls out the Euroboys, saying he hasn’t got all night, and the screams of the women are loud and all around.
Seeing the League all come out in trunks is pretty funny, like Roman’s wearing more clothes on one body than they have on four of them. He’s doing his best to keep out of the corner where the whole League are waiting, and while he doesn’t take Sheamus down, he manages to get Rusev over the ropes, into the barricades and then back into the ring and into the corner. Sheamus draws the attention of the referee which gives Barrett a chance to hold Roman by the foot, keeping him in their corner for Rusev to maul. Sheamus steps in to get the first cover, but it’s easily kicked out of. They’re going to have to try harder.
Rusev and Del Riot use the bottom rope to dig it into Roman’s neck for a little while, cutting off his hair, and Sheamus tries a submission move, but once Roman’s back up and moving, he starts to gain some momentum. A clothesline takes both men down, Sheamus tagging to Rusev, and Roman’s left in the opposite corner – with no one to tag. He gives ten corner clotheslines to Rusev anyway, and warms up for a superman punch, but Barrett and Del Rio grab his angles, and Sheamus comes in to put the boot to him. The bell rings, disqualification, but then, this match was never really about that. This match is about making sure Roman’s as beaten down as he can be when he heads into the Rumble on Sunday.
The official leaves the ring, and the four Euroboys take the fight all over Roman. The Usos come out to try to fight their cousin’s corner, give him a little time to breathe, and get their lickings, too, and then – the Wyatts are here. Once more, they’ve surrounded the ring, and Roman’s face might be all pain, but he’s waiting for it, ready for them this time. He gets Rowan and Harper out of the ring easily, and then tussles with Strowman in the centre of the ring, before the big man throws him out to Rowan and Harper’s mercies. Bray gets his boys to bring Roman back in, and then Strowman drops Roman off his shoulder, leaving him stunned and unmoving. Bray moves in for the sister Abigail, and SmackDown ends just like Raw – with the Wyatts paused curiously on the edge of power, ready for the Rumble.