Big E’s face is a treasure.
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Worst: Curtain Jerkoffs
We’re kicking off the show with Ryback vs. Big Show? Really? I’ve had, like, 10 hours of sleep over the past three days. I can not deal with this shit right now. Then again, this is the pre-taped show. Maybe Ryback and Show had an surprisingly great match, and that’s why they decided to open the show with it. I mean, crazier things have happened, right?
Welp, that theory didn’t pan out. 30 seconds into the match Big Show hits one clothesline, Ryback is selling like he’s dead, and we’re off to Plodding Offense Town. Ryback briefly manages to come back with an ugly spinebuster, but then eats a spear while going for the Meathook. Eventually things spill outside, Ryback clotheslines Show through the barrier around the timekeeper’s area, and the ref calls for the bell? When has that ever been a DQ? That violates one of the bedrock rules of pro wrestling. You can’t hit somebody in the head with an inanimate object, but you can take their head and slam it into said object. Throwing somebody into or through the crowd barrier, stairs or announce desk is fair game. Sure, it makes no sense, but it’s tradition, dammit. Jerry Lawler guesses maybe it was a count-out, even though the ref made no indication either guy was about to get counted out, then everybody just shrugs and moves on, so I guess I will too.
Best: Blue Chippers
Somehow The New Day made dunking on the heads of hapless backstage workers with a mini-basketball hoop even better. New Day approaches their victim, and Big E claps the papers right out of his hands. Big E just made New Day’s passive-aggressive clapping, literally aggressive. That’s brilliant. Then Kofi dunks on the dude and New Day carry him off in a Superman flying pose. These guys.
Best: Flowers for Torito
I’ll admit, I very nearly gave a New Day match a Worst. Most of Los Matadores & Torito vs. New Day just wasn’t very good, and featured way too many scary moments when I thought Torito was going to pin Big E or something. Then something glorious happened. Kofi posted Torito, then Big E grabbed him, killed him with a backbreaker then crushed the little guy with a splash. Big E then tagged Xavier who entered the ring thusly…
…and pinned his tiny nemesis. This wasn’t even the best part.
After Xavier’s victory, Kofi gives him a bouquet of flowers, and a heartfelt, “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU DID IT.” Watching Torito’s corpse bounce on the mat as New Day jump up and down in celebration may be the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. Is that weird? Yeah, probably, but there it is.
Worst: What a Real Pain Is
Oh God, Dolph Ziggler returned on Raw, so I guess he and Lana have to go public all over again. Can we have more Big E jumping on a tiny man in a bull costume? Please?
Ziggler starts his speech with an resigned sigh, while Lana makes the most pinched-looking smile possible, then both of them stare awkwardly out into the crowd for a few seconds before launching into things. You can feel the love. Dolph was in a lot of pain while he was out, but the most painful thing of all was watching Hot Summer put HIS LANA in the Accolade. His concern here was about as genuine as his tan. Ah, but Lana didn’t want coddling or snuggling, she wanted to crush those bastards. Also, Lana thinks she’s, like, kinda the best because she slapped Rusev in the jaw and shoved that fishy-fish in Summer’s face. Fishy-fish? What the hell is going on here? This can’t possibly be the same Lana who used to dominate the mic on a nightly basis. Now she has to nervously smile and nod her head between everything she says, like a teenager at a job interview.
Eventually both Dolph and Lana start rambling about how much they like each other’s sense of humor and start kissing. Blissfully that doesn’t last long due to RUSEV INTERRUPTUS. Thank goodness the guy who was communicating with boards two years ago is here to rescue this segment from the guy who was just away acting in a movie. Rusev is going to show Dolph what a real pain is, and force him to watch and listen as Summer breaks Lana in the Accolade. Rargh! Yeah! Dolph responds with a gross comment about stealing Rusev’s girlfriend, then Lana sticks her nose in his ear. Crush these people noooow, Rusev.
Worst: Neville vs. Bo Dallas
Uh, well, this was a match that happened. Stop me if you’ve heard this one – Neville got beaten up by his opponent for a couple minutes, briefly went on the offensive, then followed up with the Red Arrow for the win. This time Neville literally hit a single enziguri and Bo had to lay around for, like, 40 seconds while he set up for the finish. Poor, poor Bo.
Best: Red and Green Turn Black and Blue
Thankfully the match was just an excuse to get Neville in the ring so The Powers Cosmic could taunt him with a promo on the ‘Tron. Barrett was marvelous here, petting his crown like a Persian cat and proclaiming, with extreme confidence that, yes, he is going to punch Neville. I believe you, buddy. Stardust was great in his own right, shoving a flashlight down his sleeve to simulate him holding a star, and giving a truly ridiculous delivery of his name. Hopefully these guys stick together after Stephen Amell moves onto greener (eh?) pastures. I’d love to see them as the core of a whole comic-book inspired division. A little mini Chikara with the hipstery-ness ratcheted back a couple notches.
Worst: Cancel the Revolution
Like a lot of people, I’ve been asking WWE to get on with it and start building some actual storylines for the new Divas division, but this segment was a graphic example of why that may not be such a good idea. The new NXT women may have raised the level of in-ring action, but this segment was everything that’s awful about main roster female characterization and storytelling (and then some).
In the past, I’ve stuck up for Nikki Bella’s promo skills. She has a certain awkward charm, and knows how to play the heel. That said, she lived down to everything her detractors say about her here. She was incredibly robotic, and bouncing between heel and face on a sentence-by-sentence basis. It didn’t help that she had to chew through awkwardly phrased lines like, “As you all know, I pride myself on being fearless, but even I, Nikki Bella, have doubts, too.” Somebody wrote that down on a page, looked it over and was, like, “Yeah, seems good.”
Eventually Team BAD strutted out, things quickly took a wrong turn and we ended up in the midst of a Sasha Banks vs. Brie Bella verbal sparring match. Again, the writing did neither girl any favors. Brie was dealt lines like “You call yourself The Boss, but I can think of a word that better suits you that starts with THE LETTER B” and “Instead of BANKING ON IT, why don’t you SHOVE IT.” Sure, Brie delivered them terribly, but would you be able to do any better? Sasha didn’t do much better with her “You’re riding your husband’s coattails” material.
I’m not sure what the solution is here. Obviously the writer in charge of this segment needs to be fired immediately, but this isn’t going to be the end of this kind of material. NXT needs to start a “Salvaging Main Roster Promos 101” class, and the entire Divas division needs to be enrolled.
Worst: Becky Lynch Wrestling for Three
Well, this wasn’t a great advertisement for the triple-threat tag match at SummerSlam. This match was just kind of slow, and not particularly well timed. Brie did not look good, and even Sasha seemed a little uninspired. The almost-savior of the match was Becky Lynch who booted it around kicking enough lass for three girls. Becky was throwing some good uppercuts, and snapping off some nice t-bone suplexes right up until the moment Brie Bella rolled her up for the win. I know Team Bella needs to win occasionally, but come on, this was also something that starts with the letter B (followed by something that starts with the letter S).
Best: Throwing Psychology Out the Window
The main event featured Randy Orton going for an RKO within 10-seconds of the bell ringing. It was a forebearer of things to come. This match pretty much eschewed tag team formula and psychology in favor of guys tagging in and out at and hitting big moves at a hyperactive rate. The match started with everybody tagging in to briefly battle their rival at the PPV, before both sides emptied out and things almost broke down barely five-minutes or so into the bout.
The second half of the match delivered plenty of highlights — Luke Harper hitting an Eddie Guerrero senton, Cesaro blasting Sheamus with a perfect dropkick, Roman Reigns destroying every damn person in the match with Samoan drops. After a particularly fast-paced finisher parade, Ambrose ended up getting the surprise pin after Dirty Deeds-ing Luke Harper. I wouldn’t want most tag matches to be like this, but this was a nice change of pace, and it made sense in context. There was nothing on the line here except pride, so why be careful? If there’s a time for hit-and-run wrestling, this is it. Smackdown go-home shows are usually the most useless Smackdowns of all, so I say make the senseless pile of moves pre-PPV tag a regular thing. Smackdown could (and does) have worse calling cards.