We open Smackdown Live! with clips of the Miz’s supposedly amazing “shoot” promo where he went off on Daniel Bryan for Bryan calling him “soft” and a coward in the ring, which are both absolutely true. Miz brags about never being injured. Easy to not get injured when your in-ring style is that of a complete clownshoe. People have jizzed all over Miz for this interview, and they’re the same people who thought Fandango was amazing. It’s a decent promo, but it’s obviously a work, and it doesn’t change my opinion that Miz is one of the worst workers in history, and there’s not a redeeming quality about him.
This cuts to Bryan and Shane McMahon apparently watching said promo on a monitor. Shane tells Bryan he owes Miz an apology, because he can’t take things personally with the talent. At the same time, he completely agrees with Bryan. Bryan agrees to the apology before saying he finds this ironic coming from the guy who has beef with Brock Lesnar. Again, Bryan is on-point.
After the show’s opening video, we go to Miz and Maryse coming down to the ring. Oh, goody. I’ve already seen more than enough of him and his useless wife this week, and we’re only five minutes in. The fans dump all over him as he sounds about on the verge of tears. He bitches about being pushed aside every week, then reminds us he’s been the IC Champion for 148 days. He says the belt has been tarnished by quitters and serial failures, but he plans to bring back its prestige. Good luck with that, moron. He brags about not taking hits. The fans don’t see what goes on in the back. Who do the WWE hire to do all the useless things no one else wants to do? HIM! He talks about his lack of experience prior to WWE (which isn’t helping his cause), then turns the blame on the fans.
I never thought I’d be so happy to see Dolph Ziggler interrupt things. Ziggler agrees that Miz does it all, but there’s a reason no one will get behind him: they see right through him. All WWE superstars love this life; all Miz wants is to be famous. That’s why no one will ever believe in him, why Bryan calls him a soft, coward. Everyone sees through his facade. He just wants to walk a red carpet, hold up a belt and be famous. Every week, Miz has a chance to change perceptions and prove he’s not a coward, yet he doesn’t. If Miz wants to prove to everyone, including his wife and himself that he’s not a coward, he can do it right now. No titles, no referees, no bell…Miz and Ziggler in a fight right now. If he can do it, he can prove he’s not a coward. Miz has Maryse leave the ring like he’s going to fight, then bails to a wall of boos. However, he takes his coat off at ringside and gets back in the ring…only to bail once more. Ziggler guesses that everyone in the world was right: Miz is nothing but a soft, safe coward. Miz storms back down to ringside, but Maryse stops him and shoves him back up the ramp.
MATCH 1-OPENING ROUND MATCH IN THE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT: THE HYPE BROS (MOJO RAWLEY AND ZACK RYDER) VS. THE VAUDEVILLAINS (AIDEN ENGLISH AND SIMON GOTCH)
We get a prerecorded promo from the ‘Villains, talking about things that make men men. At the top of the list is the Smackdown tag belts. Right.
Ryder and English start with a tackle, drop-down sequence before Ryder hits a dropkick. He connects with some forearms to set up the Broski Boot, but Gotch pulls English to the floor. Ryder dropkicks Gotch through the ropes before heading outside, only to have English stop him with a spinning neckbreaker. Back in, English does some Hindu squats while working over Ryder’s left arm. Gotch tags in and sends English in for a shot in the corner before hitting a high exploder for 2. Gotch continues the arm work while doing some one-arm push-ups. Gotch hits a rolling fireman’s carry slam before tagging out to English. English misses a swanton, but rolls through. Ryder crawls through his legs and tags out to Rawley. Rawley hits a couple shoulders and clothesline. He connects with a pair of corner splashes and a fireman’s carry into a pancake for 2 as Gotch breaks it up. Ryder takes care of him with the Broski Boot before getting dumped. English eats a big clothesline, and the Bros hit the Hype Ryder for 3.
WINNERS: THE HYPE BROS
Charlie Caruso does an in-ring interview with the Bros. Ryder and Rawley sell themselves in a weird promo.
We get a graphic for the tournament bracket. The Usos will face American Alpha in the semis while the Hype Bros will face the winner of tonight’s match between Rhyno & Heath Slater, and the returning Headbangers. Jeezus. A team that wasn’t even good 20 years ago is returning tonight, and it’s two guys who are nearly 50 each pretending to be goth rockers. As I’m looking at the brackets, I realize there is not a single heel team in the semifinal round thus far, which is weird booking.
AJ Styles is in the back, introducing himself to random people before coming across Apollo Crews, a name Styles doesn’t remember. Crews says his name, then spells it, for some reason. Styles makes fun of him before saying he’s the “Face that runs the P-L-A-C-E”.
After some commercials, we’re back in the arena, with Styles making his way down to the ring. Styles gets a big face chant. No matter how heelish WWE tries to make him, it’s not going to happen. The face that runs the place is here, and the face that beats up John Cena, and the face that beat Cena at Summerslam, and the face that will beat Dean Ambrose, is here. Ambrose will see this face in his nightmares. He will look at that face at Backlash when Styles is being crowned the new WWE World Champion.
Apollo Crews interrupts, mic in hand. Styles orders the music to be turned off. Is Crews out here to challenge him to a spelling bee? Crews has gotten permission from Daniel Bryan to challenge Styles to a match. And it’s right now.
MATCH 2: AJ STYLES VS. APOLLO CREWS
Despite a couple PPV matches, it’s obvious WWE gave up on Crews in a hurry. He had a go-nowhere feud with Sheamus, he jobbed to the Miz, and now he’s going to job to Styles. He’s decent in the ring (not great, not terrible), but he’s like a mini Bobby Lashley in that he has the right look and build with some natural ability, but extremely lousy mic skills. No one is taking to this guy at all.
Styles fires away with rights before eating a boot. Tackle, dropdown sequence ends in a Crews dropkick. Crews drags Styles outside and nails him with some shots. Crews spells “Punch” to the announcers. Is this his new gimmick? Commercials.
Back from the break, Styles has Crews in a rear chinlock. Mauro Ranallo calls this a “mouth-watering match-up”, and that seems extremely generous. And strange. Crews fights out with some forearms to the head. Styles responds with a few of his own before eating a pair of clotheslines. Crews with a big running boot and a corner splash. He hits a jumping clothesline to a very mixed reaction, then looks for Crews Control. Styles escapes before taking a sloppy backdrop to the floor. Crews moonsaults from the apron, missing by quite a margin. I think maybe his arm caught Styles, but that’s about it. Back in the ring, Crews sets Styles up top for a superplex . Styles escapes and sends Crews into the middle buckle in an awkward spot. Styles nails a corner clothesline as JBL claims Styles came out here, unprepared for a match. That might be believable if Styles wasn’t in his gear when he came out. And if JBL wasn’t saying it. Anyway, Styles scales the buckles and comes off the middle with a cross-body, only for Crews to catch him and toss him into a Samoan drop for 2. Think the Usos’ Alley-Uce move. Crews heads top and dives over an incoming Styles before running into a pair of boots. Styles hotshots him, then connects with the Phenomenal Forearm for 3.
WINNER: AJ STYLES
We get a video from this past weekend of Renee Young with Heath Slater and Rhyno at Slater’s ramshackle home. His wife, a homely, slightly overweight woman is there as well. She brings Cheez-Whiz, half a hotdog and crackers as “Whores-derves”. Young moves onto her point, which is that Slater was never drafted to either show. Slater calls it an oversight as Rhyno eats crackers. His wife chimes in that she bought pizza crusts for dinner. Young moves on to Lesnar as Rhyno makes sad faces on crackers with Cheez-Whiz. Then it’s onto Slater technically beating Randy Orton a couple weeks ago, nearly getting his contract before spacing out mid-signature. Young, trying to look uncomfortable, moves onto tonight. Slater says this is more for his family than anything. Rhyno continues to eat crackers. Young asks Rhyno why he’s doing this. Rhyno shrugs with a mouthful of crackers. Slater says Rhyno is helping his family, and when they win the belts, he’s going to upgrade this trailer to a double-wide. He wishes she could meet their kids…who are just outside, picking up bottles. We hear tires squealing. Slater and his wife leave to go after someone named Roscoe. Rhyno…well, you know what he’s doing by now.
Up next, Bray Wyatt has a “sermon for ‘The Serpent'”. Ugh.
Wyatt comes out to the ring, and I’m not even sure why I’m bothering with this. It’s the same thing with every feud with this guy. It’s the same stuff with every feud, of which he loses mostly all of them. WWE gave up on this gimmick so quickly. Sadly, so have I. He says he fears nothing, because he is fear. He thinks of Randy Orton as just a man and calls him sick. He likes that. What Brock Lesnar did to Orton was interesting, exploiting all of Orton’s flaws. Orton went in fearless, thinking he was untouchable. He came out of the fight damaged. Wyatt eradicates the infected. If Orton really has voices in his head, he hopes they are telling him to run.
Speaking of hearing voices in his head (they counsel him, they understand), here comes Super Orton himself. He takes forever to walk down to the ring before saying the voices in his head…are asking who the hell this guy thinks he is. Wyatt thinks he’s damaged; he’s been damaged a long time. So. From. One. Damaged. Man. To. Another. You. Have. My. Attention. This is the Orton Wyatt was hoping for, apparently. He admires Orton’s courage, but there’s something he doesn’t understand: he’s no longer the predator. He’s damaged and weak; Wyatt is the predator now. Orton should know better than anyone that what a predator does best is kill. At Backlash, he’ll cut the serpent’s head off and hang it on his mantle like the trophy Orton is. Orton says he’s played this game with many and is still standing. He mentions Cactus Jack and the Undertaker. The scars Wyatt needs to concern himself with are internal. He blathers on about demons before having some half-assed respect for Wyatt. Good lord, this man is fantasic for insomnia. Orton accepts the challenge for Backlash. He’s not afraid of Wyatt, nor is he afraid of kicking Wyatt’s ass. Right now. The lights go out as Orton hits the ring and…well, that’s it. We go to the graphic for the upcoming next. That’s pretty dumb.
MATCH 3: NATALYA AND ALEXA BLISS VS. NAOMI AND BECKY LYNCH
Nikki Bella is on colour commentary for this match. WHY?! WHY JEEZUS WHY DID HORRIFIC BELLA COMMENTARY HAVE TO RETURN?! WHY DOES NIKKI BELLA STILL EXIST IN PRO WRESTLING?! She says she’s the real-life Wonder Woman as comic book fans everywhere (including myself) die just a bit more inside. So glad “Mute” is a thing that exists.
I had forgotten Naomi does a horrible blacklight dance routine for her entrance, now with sunglasses that appear to feature an LCD screen. Lynch is back to her regular gear this week. She looks good either way. The match starts with Naomi botching a kick out of the corner on Nattie. They trade a couple spots before Naomi sends Nattie to the floor with a hurricanrana. Nattie regroups with Bliss as we go to commercials.
We’re back, and Nattie has Naomi in a side headlock on the mat. STOP ZOOMING IN ON NIKKI! SHE’S A NON-FACTOR IN THE MATCH! Back in the ring, Nattie whips Naomi down by the hair, then cheap-shots Lynch. Lynch gets held back by the referee, which is a stupid spot, as Nattie waits to tag into Bliss until referee Rudy Charles is looking toward their corner. Bliss goes into her standard stomp-based offense before Naomi connects with a forearm and a basement dropkick. Bliss prevents a tag by pelting Naomi with forearm shots. She applies a neck vice now as we go to MORE CLOSE-UPS OF NIKKI. Naomi hits a variation of Eat Defeat, putting both feet into Bliss’ chest instead, then makes the hot tag to Lynch. Lynch goes to town on the heels before connecting with the Flying Firearm in the corner. Bliss comes back with an elbow and a backdrop outside, but Lynch lands on her feet. She comes off the top with a seated dropkick for 2, only for Nattie to break it up with a stomp in the back. Naomi botches a kick again as Carmella has appeared from out of nowhere to attack Nikki at ringside. Carmella throws her back-first into the barricade. For some reason, Lynch is distracted by this, which allows Bliss to roll her up with a handful of tights for 3.
WINNERS: ALEXA BLISS AND NATALYA
Carmella celebrates on the barricade at ringside. What a waste of Lynch’s and Nattie’s collective talents this was. Bliss has yet to show me anything at this point, aside from a twisting splash. Not sure why everyone was so big on her in NXT.
We get a video for the Headbangers, who are making their first appearance in WWE in 16 years. They should have stayed gone. The video just backs this up.
Curt Hawkins Facts time. Rumour has it he was going to re-debut tonight, as he was in the arena. Hasn’t been seen yet. This week’s facts are as follows: “The Marines are looking for a few good men…or one Curt Hawkins”, “There used to be a street named after Curt Hawkins but it was changed because no one crosses Curt Hawkins and lives”, and “Curt Hawkins can win a game of Connect Four in only three moves”.
MATCH 4-FIRST-ROUND MATCH IN THE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT: THE HEADBANGERS (MOSH AND THRASHER) VS. HEATH SLATER AND RHYNO
The ‘Bangers have even more generic music than the first time around. Mosh and Slater start, with Slater going for a side headlock. Slater comes off with a flying shoulder before Mosh knocks him to the apron. Mosh punches Slater and connects with a flying clothesline on the apron. Back in, Thrasher botches a flying clothesline of his own. Slater fires off some rights before taking a back suplex. Mosh back in, and the ‘Bangers hit a double flapjack. Mosh goes into a rear chinlock as Otunga makes fun of them. For once, I’m okay with Otunga saying something, because he’s right to mock them. Back in the ring, Mosh hits a hip attack in the corner before knocking Rhyno down on the apron. Thrasher makes the tag, and the ‘Bangers hit the Stage Dive for 2, only for Rhyno to break it up. He knocks Mosh to the floor and drags Slater to his corner for the tag. Rhyno tags in and the Gore gets 3.
WINNERS: RHYNO AND HEATH SLATER
I hope this was a one-and-done appearance for Mosh and Thrasher solely for filling out the tournament. Rhyno is bleeding from the face, though I’m not sure what caused it. We go back to the tourney graphic, and I’m still confused as to why four face teams have advanced.
AJ Styles will be on commentary for tonight’s main event. This is a colour commentator I’m okay with.
Before the main event, there’s a guy in the ring on a mic. He introduces himself as Gary “The Milkman” Millman. Um…okay? WWE is breaking out references to Jake “The Milkman” Milliman now? He wasn’t even a WWF guy! Anyway, this Millman guy claims he’s got a license to compete tonight, but those in the back have told him there’s no one that wants to get in the ring with him. He’s not leaving until someone gets in the ring with him. Millman takes off his dress shoes and shirt, then the slacks. He’s a chubby boy with chicken legs.
Kane comes out here. Is there a point to this? And by that, I mean Kane still being employed. Millman starts to put his clothes back on, only to eat a chokeslam instead. What, was this a segment just to remind us Kane still exists and collects a paycheck? Kane then leaves as Baron Corbin comes out for the main event. Corbin glances at Kane in passing, who in turn just looks straight ahead. What a complete waste of time.
MATCH 5-BARON CORBIN VS. WWE WORLD CHAMPION DEAN AMBROSE (NON-TITLE)
Corbin is another guy WWE seems to have given up on in a hurry. In this case, I’m not complaining. Ambrose takes a shoulder off the ropes in the opening moments. Corbin continues the attack with strikes. And more strikes. And more strikes. Ambrose comes back with a cross-body into some punches and a clothesline to the floor. Outside, Ambrose connects with something resembling a cross-body from the apron before slamming Corbin face-first into the announce desk. Ambrose is temporarily distracted by Styles before hitting Corbin with a hotshot on the apron. He follows up with a seated dropkick from the top and a corner forearm. Corbin shoves off a bulldog attempt, giving Ambrose a Hart bump in the corner. Corbin hits a northern lariat, then stomps Ambrose down. Ambrose gets thrown to the floor as we go to commercials.
Back from the break, Corbin is celebrating in the ring before he goes into a chinlock/half-nelson combo. During the break, Ambrose got whipped into the steps. Ambrose fights out of the hold, runs into a forearm and goes for the Lunatic Lariat, only to get caught with a standing STO for 2. That looked pretty lousy. Corbin goes back to his hold, which Ambrose fights out of yet again. Corbin cuts him off with a kneelift, then avoids a corner whip by sliding under the bottom and to the floor. He comes back in and gets caught with a swinging neckbreaker from Ambrose. Ambrose connects with a few strikes, escapes a bodyslam and goes for Dirty Deeds. Corbin drives him back into the buckles, then misses a shoulder charge, allowing Ambrose to roll him up for 2. Corbin no-sells colliding with the ring post and levels Ambrose with a clothesline. He screams a bunch and trades a couple punches before Ambrose hits the Lunatic Lariat for 2. Ambrose heads up, only to get cut off by Corbin. Ambrose blocks a superplex attempt with some forearm shots, knocking Corbin down. Ambrose drops to the apron, where he low-bridges an incoming Corbin. Ambrose hits a tope suicida at ringside, then rolls Corbin back in, where he runs into the Deep Six for 2. Ambrose heads outside, with Corbin shortly behind. Corbin throws Ambrose into the barricade, and that’s when Styles gets out of his seat. He yells for Corbin to stay on Ambrose. Corbin turns and says no one tells him what to do. Ambrose knocks Corbin into Styles, wiping Styles out. He rolls Corbin back in for the flying elbowline, which gets 2. Styles jumps on the apron for a distraction, which leads to a Corbin roll-up for 2. Ambrose goes for Dirty Deeds again, but Corbin reverses and tries to shove Ambrose into a kick by Styles, only for Ambrose to duck. Corbin eats the kick, and that’s going to end this on a DQ.
WINNER VIA DISQUALIFICATION: BARON CORBIN
Ambrose wipes Styles with a slingshot plancha at ringside before Styles tosses him over the announce desk. Ambrose dives on him from the desk, only for Corbin to attack Ambrose from behind. He rolls Ambrose in, where Ambrose immediately plants him with Dirty Deeds. Styles is up for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Ambrose crotches him. Styles comically over-sells the hell out of it. Ambrose mumbles something and shakes the ropes a bit before shaking Styles’ hand. He then pats Styles’ face before heading to the back.
END OF SHOW
Follow Dustin on Twitter at @XdustinEFLX
WWE: Attitude Era Unreleased Volume 3
WWE: Living on a Razor’s Edge: The Scott Hall Story (BD) [Blu-ray]
Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com