(Editor: Say hi to Jess! She’s taking over SmackDown for us, despite living in the land of marsupials and sharks, and basically living in the future. She comes from a strange, strange place.)
So, we start with a recap of the Roman/AJ feud from this week’s RAW – Roman coming in for the save on the Usos, Anderson and Gallows running in after Roman’s match with Del Rio, and AJ taking a superman punch from Roman after he tries to break up their little squabble. I’m frankly still not sure how I’m supposed to be feeling about this feud, because AJ is really selling me on the idea that he doesn’t approve of what Anderson and Gallows are doing but everything seems to be trying to convince me otherwise. Then again, I was embarrassingly wrong about every match prediction I made at Wrestlemania 32, so let’s ignore anything that I say speculatively and focus on what actually happens, shall we?
The show opens proper with Roman’s music, and he raises the belt while looking extremely pretty about it. In the ring, he cuts a promo about how AJ has wrestled all over the world but that doesn’t stop him from being a liar, and demands that he come out and tell him the truth. I don’t recall AJ’s music starting with — oh, that’s because Miz and Maryse make an appearance instead.
Roman does not look as thrilled to be introduced to Maryse as Miz wanted him to be, which is a bit of a shame. Miz goes on to say that he was the first to notice that AJ, Gallows and Anderson are “more than just friends” and my brain explodes for a second wondering what to do with that information before I realize he means that they’re working together against Roman, but when he goes on to demand recognition for this, he gets a kiss from Maryse and a blow to the face from Roman. Roman pushes him out of the ring to follow, but does very politely return his IC title to Maryse.
This leads eventually into the announcement that they will be facing one another later in the night. I don’t know why I’m supposed to care about that, but I’m pushing through.
The League of Nations have an interview with Renee about excommunicating Barrett. Rusev is a little overexcited about things, and the way he says “United Nations!” is about my only takeaway from this interview. They hit the ring waiting for someone to come out for a challenging tag team of three, and —
I can’t help it. A part of me thinks that the uniting factor of these three is that their intro music makes me sit up and grin. There’s a few cracks about Sami Zayn, Cesaro and Kalisto being the “league of inferior nations”, before we get into things.
MATCH – The League of Nations (Sheamus, Rusev & Alberto Del Rio) vs. Kalisto, Sami Zayn & Cesaro
- The League of Nations can’t seem to decide who is going to start off in the ring for a minute before finally deciding on Sheamus. Kalisto waits for them politely.
- Kalisto is led into the corner with haste and Rusev, then Del Rio, tag in with haste to continue the beatdown. Del Rio hits a suplex then tags Sheamus back in.
- I look away for a second and Rusev has tagged back in, goes for an elbow drop, then a pin, but Kalisto kicks out.
- Rusev picks Kalisto up in a bearhug but he escapes and manages to tag in Sami Zayn.
- There’s some very lovely back and forth for a moment before Rusev goes for another pin and Sami kicks out.
- I hate ad breaks in the middle of matches, I really do.
- When we return, Sheamus is in the ring and unsuccessfully tries to pin Sami before tagging in Del Rio.
- Del Rio beats up on Sami for a little while, Sami looks like he’s going to make a comeback when Del Rio hits a backstabber and then gloats a little.
- Rusev tags in and the League of Nations start fighting in the middle of the ring before Del Rio storms out in a huff.
- Rusev keeps trying to beat on Sami but also still keeps yelling at Sheamus and then they start fighting again before Rusev storms out as well. I might care more about this if I had ever liked the League of Nations.
- Sheamus is left in the ring by himself and gets hit with a springboard hurricanrana and a corkscrew by Kalisto in quick succession before trying to leave and getting dragged back by Cesaro.
- Cesaro hits a crossbody and a series of uppercuts then a lovely dropkick but Sheamus just walks out again. Kalisto, Sami Zayn and Cesaro win by count-out.
When we come back from commercial and a Make-A-Wish promo, the League of Nations have a little scuffle and we cut away on “The league is finished! Forget the league!”
There’s another video package explaining some history between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, being beautiful bros together and then Kevin relentlessly beating the crap out of Sami. In hindsight I’m wondering if there’s anything we’re getting from this that we didn’t just get on RAW this week, so my attention starts to wander and as Sami starts to talk about stabbing brothers in the back I look back to my “countdown to the return of Seth Rollins” calendar for just a minute. But I also love every minute of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn’s feud, so I can’t be too upset by this — they’re amazing workers and I’m so invested in their feud. Is it any surprise that I love betrayal and heartbreak?
It’s all leading up to them facing each other this weekend at Payback, of course, and I’m so excited.
MATCH – Baron Corbin vs. Damien Sandow
We start with a little recap of Corbin taking it from Dolph Ziggler on RAW this week and a reminder that they too will be facing one another at Payback. (Editor: Do we actually know WHY Dolph and Corbin are having a row? Do we care?)
- Corbin throws Sandow out of the ring seconds after the bell rings and starts elbowing his head into the barricade.
- Corbin throws Sandow back into the ring and continues a fairly brutal assault, but takes a boot as Sandow rallies.
- For a minute I wonder if we’re doing the hokey pokey and Corbin is going throw Sandow back out again, but he bounces off the ropes instead.
- Corbin hits End of Days and a successful pin. He poses looking remarkably smug.
AJ gets waylaid for an interview with Renee Young while walking down a hallway. She asks how he feels about Roman calling him out, and he tells yet more lies by saying he doesn’t care about what Roman Reigns thinks and that he doesn’t answer to Roman. We all care what Roman thinks, don’t we? He also promises that he will be out there for Roman’s match tonight, which is suspicious and interesting all at once.
There’s only so much care that I can muster, though, when I know the next segment is a return to Dean Ambrose’s talk show. His potted plant and cardboard sign are already set up for him in the ring, which is nice. He cuts a promo about how he never lets go of a grudge and can’t seem to help himself but criticize Jericho’s fashion sense once more. Don’t know how much of a leg Dean has to stand on there, but then I look down at my own dirty jeans, jacket and t-shirt and decide to refrain from commenting.
So Dean is going to turn Bon Jovi into Meatloaf, but he is also a multifaceted entertainer so we get to the happy chipmunk talk show host portion of the evening. Natalya enters for a chat and we get a brief aside about Dean’s ficus, Mitch, before we discuss Natalya’s upcoming Payback match against Charlotte. Dean points out what we were all thinking, which is that Charlotte clearly tapped out and only Ric Flair’s interference saved her title 3 weeks ago on RAW. Natalya reminds us that she’ll have Bret Hart in her corner at Payback, which is… well, is the best way to protest having an interfering family member in a women’s match to have two interfering family members instead?
But Charlotte walks in before I can think too much about that, and has a bit of a go at Natalya for “parading” Bret around, only to be rightfully called out about doing exactly the same thing with lich king Ric Flair literally all the time. Natalya also points out that Ric is a creepy cheater and that Bret is just going to be there to stop him doing anything underhanded.
I stop listening when Ric starts talking, but I assume things still ended well for Natalya because when I zone back in she’s smiling and Dean looks pretty impressed.
(Editor: This is the ONLY SEGMENT WITH WOMEN IN IT for the whole show. The only one. No matches, no other women, just this, Maryse rocking up to stand by her husband, and the odd interview with Renee Young. No other women wrestlers are appearing in this show. Zero. Zilch. Nada.)
But then, IT’S A NEW DAY, YES IT IS! Back in the red jumpsuits, they go and… kick out the commentators so they can go sit in the booth. I am so excited for this and I don’t even care what the match is.
MATCH – Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel (Social Outcasts) vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady
Even the New Day are joining in on “And you can’t teach that” as Enzo and Big Cass make their way to the ring. Enzo Amore and Xavier Woods being in the same room is basically all I ever want, so I’m feeling this before they even start.
- Enzo and Bo Dallas start out in the ring together and Bo looks extremely pleased with himself getting in a little offense on Enzo before Enzo hits the running tag to Cass and makes Bo pay for that.
- Curtis Axel enters the ring as Enzo tags back in and dropkicks Bo, and takes a few fists for his trouble.
- The Vaudevillains wander in and stand around looking classically beautiful as they are wont to do.
- Big Cass spends a little while taking Axel to the cleaners before tagging in Enzo again and hitting Axel with the rocket launcher for the victory by pinfall.
The Vaudevillains politely golf-clap, but Cass takes the mic and I can’t help but spell out SAWFT with him even though I am sitting alone in my house, which I suppose tells you everything you need to know about what I want to see from that match at Payback.
R-Truth and Golddust are on my screen all of a sudden, but then Tyler Breeze walks in too. R-Truth is saying words but I just keep looking at Tyler Breeze’s selfie face because if he’s more interested in his own face than their new tagteam, “The Gorgeous Truth”, then so am I.
I’m more alarmed than anything else as the promo dissolves into some rather depressed gyrating.
MATCH – Apollo Crews vs. Stardust
- They almost immediately leave the ring and start trying to slam each other into the apron.
- Back in the ring and Stardust is putting the boot in on Crews.
- Stardust is really trying to work the left leg here and it looks a little dirty and very clever and that’s just the kind of thing I like to see.
- An attempt at a submission earns Stardust a kick to the face and then Crews is in control for a while.
- Stardust kicks out of a pinfall following a powerslam, and then hits a very nice dropkick to the leg
- Unfortunately for Stardust, another kick to the head and a spinning sitout powerbomb gets Crews the win.
We get a bit of a recap of what happened between Shane and Stephanie McMahon on RAW, and given that I thought that the future of Shane on Monday Night RAW was decided at Wrestlemania, I can’t bring myself to care that apparently we are now going to find out the future of the company at Payback. Why should I think this is going to matter any more than the Undertaker match at Wrestlemania did? I don’t mind the concept of the Shane McMahon story but I can’t help but notice that they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too.
MATCH – The Miz (with Maryse) vs. Roman Reigns
AJ Styles enters and takes himself a seat near the commentators booth to watch as The Miz and Maryse, then Roman Reigns, make their way to the ring. The commentators speculate about AJ some and he doesn’t say anything to address that, which is actually quite nice. He’s not here to chat, he’s here to scope.
- Roman backs Miz straight into a corner and then out of the ring. Tries to grab him through the ropes and gets his throat into the ropes for his trouble. I’m pretty sure that’s why you don’t lean through the ropes after someone, but I’m no expert.
- Miz ends up taking a shoulder from Reigns then a clothesline over the top rope on the other side. This time Reigns carefully climbs out to follow him and hits a Drive By.
- Roman appears to forget who he is fighting for a moment as he confronts AJ and there are tense words before Miz grabs him from behind and throws him back into the ring, but Roman kicks out of the pin at 2.
- When we’re back from the ad break, Miz has Roman in a submission. AJ looks faintly confused as Roman breaks the hold and I’m not quite sure what he’s thinking.
- Roman kicks out of three more covers. Miz is definitely still in control though.
- Eventually, Roman manages to hit a Samoan Drop on Miz but they both look pretty wrecked after that, so I hesitate to say that he’s actually in control.
- After a bit more back and forth Roman definitely regains control of the match hitting Miz with a pair of clotheslines and a series of blows, but Maryse pulls Miz out of the ring as Roman cocks his fist.
- Dropkicking the stairs into the knee was pretty sweet to watch, and Miz is back in control with a DDT and an attempt at a Skull-Crushing Finale, but Roman elbows out of it.
- A fairly predictable spear from Reigns for the win, but as a whole, the match contained a lot more back and forth than I expected.
AJ climbs into the ring as Roman Reigns celebrates his victory and they mouth words at each other that I can’t discern. Anderson and Gallows walk in, and while Roman tries to get the upper hand quickly, he is outnumbered. AJ turns his head and the commentators tell me he’s enjoying it, but if that’s AJ’s “enjoying this beatdown” face I am very disappointed in him.
The Usos come in for a save and take on Gallows and Anderson while AJ just stands around watching, presumably wondering where he has gone wrong to lead up to this moment. But then, Jimmy Uso drops him, and that gets him interested again and now it’s a brawl between the six of them. As the Usos take off and Gallows and Anderson try to go after them, AJ tries to stop things with a “hey, hey!” but that doesn’t stop Roman from continuing to bring the fight. AJ is yelling things at Roman but I have no idea what they are. He’s gesticulating wildly, and raising his voice, so I’m sure it’s not important that we know – after all, why end SmackDown with something that actually excites us for Payback?
We’ll see you Sunday.