Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA
Announcers: Tom Phillips, JBL & Byron Saxton
We meet again Nation! If you’re reading this then you must be a fan of opportunity and the unpredictable. I’m still trying to wrap my head around Jinder Mahal as the #1 contender for the WWE Championship for instance. Mind you I’m not complaining in the least as your weekly SmackDown chronicler. These surprises keep me on toes. The way things are going, Vince may read this very article and decide to strap a jet pack on my back and elevate me to head writer in the creative department. And to think, I thought I had high blood pressure now! Anyway,I’m getting off subject again.
We’re now in week three of the superstar shake up and I’m going to shake things up right in this very column. It’s been brought to my attention that I don’t adequately transition from one segment to the next like most reviews. It seems I’ve been negligent in providing my own personal ratings on what we’re watching. Corporate is even calling for more bold type in my articles. And while the usual method of measuring quality of wrestling segments is taken in stars, as a loyal reader of my work, you know that’s just not my style. So as you read, be on the look out for how each match and interview segment ranks moving forward and remember that much like Whose Line is it Anyway, at the end of the day, the points really don’t count! And you stars out there, let’s just say I’m giving you the night off!
We begin in the ring with the vivacious Renee Young who introduces Shinsuke Nakamura. While his graphics didn’t show up on the tron right away, it hardly seemed to matter as the atmosphere in Des Moines was electric. We still had the strobe lights and the fans singing to go along with Nakamura’s unique dance moves. While the entrance makes him popular with the crowds, JBL points out that his strong style made him a champion. Before he can utter his first worlds on SD Live, however, out comes the human buzzkill, Dolph Ziggler. Dolph takes over for Renee and begins a mock interview segment accompanied by the customary heel move of pulling the mic away just as his subject begins to speak. Ziggler was admittedly quite creative in this bit saying that “Shinsuke” was only an alias and in actuality the man before him was none other than Michael Jackson. He pulled all kinds of references out of his hat including MJ’s appearance as an overweight crazy man on an episode of The Simpsons to Bubbles the Monkey. He then says that Shinsuke Nakamura translates to mean a “petty, pathetic, overrated freak.” The King of Strong Style didn’t appreciate this one iota so he took the stick from Dolph and conducted an interview of his own. He asked the Show Off what his problem was and then translated Dolph’s answer in Japanese ending his comments by calling Ziggler a jackass. Dolph then cheap shots Shinsuke and prepared to land a superkick but Nakamura caught it and dumped his new rival with a suplex. Dolph scurried away before Nakamura could line up for a kinshasa. We saw this program coming two weeks ago and I look forward to seeing what both men bring to the ring when given 10-15 minutes. I bet they put on a show-stealer at Backlash. MCGINN’S GRADE: 4.5/5 ICED COFFEES
On a side note, Papa Roach provided the official theme for Payback. That’s quite an accomplishment considering they died 10 years ago. And now here’s something that will get stuck in your head all day… Cut my life into pieces… this is my last resort…!
AJ STYLES VS. BARON CORBIN
Here’s a rematch from last week and much like seven days ago, Kevin Owens, the new Face of America, joins the boys on commentary. When asked if his Payback opponent, Chris Jericho, will soon be joining the SD Live roster as US Champ, Owens denied that notion while stating that Tuesday will still be The Kevin Owens Show. Owens stole a bit of the action away with his comments and his relentless shredding of Byron. When Saxton brought up the huge challenge of facing Jericho followed by Styles, Owens replied by saying Saxton has a huge challenge of becoming a good commentator. He also admitted to missing Michael Cole at one point after absorbing another “stupid” question by the babyface announcer. Now to the match at hand. These two are getting better and better against one another. Corbin impressed with his power moves. I love that choke slam he does that he turns into a back-breaker which Styles sold like he landed on concrete. After avoiding a superplex, AJ followed with a Pele kick. Corbin would block both a Styles Clash and the calf crusher, but could not put down the Phenomenal One. AJ went for his springboard forearm but Owens interfered though took a boot to his big mouth for his troubles. Back in the ring, AJ avoided being powerbombed and rolled The Lone Wolf over with a sunset flip to pick up the victory. After the bell, Owens jumped AJ and Corbin got a few kicks in before Sami Zayn’s music blasted on the speakers. Owens took a powder while Corbin and Zayn went at it ending in Zayn pasting Corbin with the Helluva kick. Owens sent Zayn packing to the outside and finished his night delivering the pop-up powerbomb on AJ while screaming “This is mine” and held up his title. Another very good match between these two and it was made even sweeter by the involvement of the U.S. Champion. Owens is so in a groove right now in his new role and I can’t wait to see him and AJ one-on-one. Plus we get the added bonus of a possible Zayn/Corbin feud which should also be a good program for the two of them. MCGINN’S GRADE: 4/5 ICED COFFEES
In the back, Charlotte Flair is interviewed and she says that gold runs in her veins. She is here on SmackDown Live because she is looking for a new kingdom to rule and she accomplished everything she ever wanted on Raw. She then stole from the Patriots by using the term “drive for five” but I’ll forgive her just this once. Perhaps imitation is truly the highest form of flattery or it takes one great to know another. Anyways, I’ll be stunned if she doesn’t take the strap sooner rather than later. MCGINN’S GRADE: 3.5/5 ICED COFFEES
BEAT THE CLOCK CHALLENGE – #1 CONTENDER FOR TAG TEAM TITLE
American Alpha vs. The Colons
The “Ass-Kicking” Primo and Epico get an entrance this week and now have slightly less happy music while simply going by The Colons. I like my name for them better but nothing was worse than The Shining Stars. We find out that Breezango vs. The Ascension is our other Beat the Clock Challenge match later tonight. Odds are one of these teams will win the whole thing but after the Jinder win last week, might we be in line for another titanic upset? Anyway, this is another rematch from last week in which The Colons won. As you’d expect, we see a great deal of quick pin attempts. The Colons seem to want to wear down Gable despite needing to win quickly in order to get a title shot. We see a few rest holds mixed in and Jordan can only sit and watch as his partner gets decimated. Five minutes pass and Primo kicks Jordan off the apron on a tag attempt by Gable. The former amatuer wrestling star took exception to such tactics and bull charged Primo to the floor. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Jordan hoisted up Epico and Gable finished off the bout by executing Alpha’s Grand Amplitude move at 5:17. Nice to see Alpha get their win back though I hope this isn’t the beginning of The Colons falling down the roster. 5:17 might be good enough for a return visit with The Usos but we still have one match to go before we start making plans for the tag team championship. MCGINN’S GRADE: 3/5 ICED COFFEES
Just a friendly reminder… The New Day is coming soon. Byron promises Tom and JBL an all-you-can-eat Booty-O’s Buffet upon their arrival.
Now it’s Handsome Rusev’s turn to talk. In an interview recorded earlier on Tuesday, Rusev expressed his unhappiness with his current situation. He doesn’t like SD GM Daniel Bryan or Commissioner Shane McMahon. He didn’t agree with the roster shake up that sent him to SmackDown Live in the first place. So he announces that the only way he’ll wrestle on the blue brand is if he receives presumably a WWE Championship shot at the Money in The Back PPV. Otherwise, it’s back to Bulgaria for the handsome one. I guess we now know when Rusev is supposed to be healthy again! I’d love to see him back in the title picture. This is very exciting news! MCGINN’S GRADE: 3.25/5 ICED COFFEES
Becky Lynch does an interview now. She describes her relationship with Charlotte as “complex” to say the least. It seems though that the Irish Lass-Kicker has some admiration for The Queen in her comments. Charlotte did step up to the plate only one week into her stay with the brand and got herself a title match just as she wanted. Becky admits that she appreciates Charlotte getting results. Hmmmm… I wonder what they are setting up here. Becky joins up with Charlotte for a two-woman power trip? Maybe Charlotte does a face turn and helps Becky someday down the road. My fantasy booking got placed on the back burner for a second when in came the group who I lovingly called the “Faction of Losers” last week. Natalya, Tamina, Carmella and Ellsworth hijack the interview and ask Becky where she stands on the Charlotte situation. Before Becky can respond, Carmella warns her to choose wisely. Are we really supposed to take this group seriously? This Charlotte turning face theory may have some legs because, let’ be honest, who could seriously root for Natalya? MCGINN’S GRADE 2.5/5 ICED COFFEES
Just a little housekeeping to do before we move on. It turns out that the House of Horrors Match at Payback is not for the WWE Championship. Bray Wyatt will not be taking SmackDown’s championship over to Raw if he wins on Sunday and this also means that Wyatt won’t be jumping back to Tuesdays as he’ll be entrenched in a feud with Ambrose or Jericho or Miz or whatever the hell they are doing over there on the red brand.
NO DISQUALIFICATION MATCH
WWE Champion Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan
The Randy Orton Mid-Card Championship Reign continues as we close out the first hour with another rematch from the previous couple weeks. I do like the build up to this match with Rowan pasting Orton with steel steps two weeks ago. The announcers bring up that Rowan is still a disciple of Bray and he’s doing everything he can to soften up Orton prior to Sunday. Orton though had the upper hand early taking the action to the floor and scoring with a belly-to-back suplex on the announce table. Of course, in typical Randy Orton fashion, the table doesn’t break. Does he lead the league in unbroken tables for a career? It’s almost comical at this point. We get our usual plunder in these matches from kendo sticks to chairs to even a table spot when Rowan got clotheslined off the apron with a kendo stick and through a table. Despite all that, Erick “The Red” maintained control of the champion throughout the commercial break. Rowan was a victim of his own treachery late in the bout as he introduced a chair after shoving off an RKO. He wedged that sucker into the corner and attempted to throw Randy into that unforgiving steel. Orton was too smart for that though and lured Rowan into that corner where he speared the chair and hit the post in a very painful exchange. Randy then sealed the deal with an RKO for the triumph over Bray’s muscle. MCGINN’S GRADE: 3/5 ICED COFFEES
After the match Randy gets himself a microphone and says he’ll find out like the rest of us what the hell a House of Horrors match is. I have an extremely bad feeling about this! He says it will be Bray’s eternal hell come Sunday which brings out our new #1 contender, Jinder Mahal. He feels disrespected as he suspects that Randy is overlooking him. He calls himself the true “horror” and he will take back his respect in addition to Orton’s championship at Backlash. We also get the now trademark Jinder “I have more wealth, class, talent, culture, HGH, etc. than all of you” routine. He caps off the promo by speaking in Punjabi and tries to sucker punch Orton as we’re all lulled into a coma. Orton responds with his fists and attempts a vintage DDT when out comes Jinder’s acolytes, The Bollywood Boys. The Singh Bros. neutralize The Viper and Jinder delivers his Cobra Clutch slam. If that wasn’t dastardly enough, Mahal grabs the WWE Championship and runs to the exits. The trio is then seen leaving in a stretch limousine with the title. India hasn’t looked this strong since Slumdog Millionaire hit the theaters! And talk about a promotion for the Bollywood Boys who were cannon fodder for Heavy Machinery just a couple of weeks ago. The plot thickens… MCGINN’S GRADE: 3.75/5 ICED COFFEES
LANA VS. THE CHAIR III
Match of the Night! MCGINN’S GRADE: 5,000,000,000/5 ICED COFFEES
BEAT THE CLOCK CHALLENGE – TIME TO BEAT 5:17
Breezango vs. The Ascension
Byron states at the get-go that these are two teams that have flown under the radar in WWE. Either that or it’s a ring full of underachievers but maybe I’m just cynical in my old age. In any event, Breezango has the words “Fashion Po Po” on their tights. I’ll leave that right there. These two teams are intentionally working fast because the timer is counting down. JBL kept brinng the great analysis saying that when you move too fast, you’re susceptible to getting caught which is exactly what happened to Fandango as he ate a high knee from Viktor. In the closing sequence, The Ascension try to double team but Konnor got tied up with Breeze in the corner. Viktor then went to clothesline Fandango but he ducked out of the way allowing Breeze to deliver the supermodel kick to Vik’s coconut. Dazed and off balance, Viktor fell victim to Fandango’s Falcon Arrow and three seconds later we have new #1 contenders! Are you serious bro!?! Miracles can happen on back-to-back weeks! The left-for-dead duo of Tyler Breeze and Fandango are now challenging for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships! Had it not been for Jinder a week prior, this might have been the most shocking event I’ve seen in wrestling over the past six years. While this is still unbelievable, I feel like we all should have seen this coming based on what happened last week. Again, I’m not complaining at all about this. Sometimes you have to throw your pasta against the wall and see if it sticks. If it it falls on the ground, then you move on and Breezango in a tag title match becomes a foot note in history. But if it succeeds and the fans dig it, like they did tonight after they won, then we’re all in for something special. Mmmm… now I’m hungry. MCGINN’S GRADE: 4/5 ICED COFFEES
Renee speaks with Naomi in the Gorilla position. Naomi says Charlotte is a stand-up competitor but then calls her George Forman to Naomi’s Muhammed Ali. Old boxing references play well in Des Moine I guess.
And that brings us to…
SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Naomi (C) vs. Charlotte Flair
Oh yeah! I went there with the match preview picture. You know it’s a big deal when that happens. These two fight a similar match to last week as Charlotte controlled early though I didn’t get the cocky vibe I got from her a week ago. They were hindered though with a lack of time as that goofy Team Ninja Warrior countdown was due to pop up at anytime during this match. Anyway, Naomi started her comeback with a number of stiff kicks to Flair’s skull. This time around, she even connected with the Rear View though it only got her a 2-count. Flustered by her challenger and perhaps sensing an end to her title reign, Naomi went for a high-risk hurricanrana though Charlotte skillfully and with a great deal of strength, turned that move into a devastating powerbomb. Flair, sensing the time was right to go in for the kill went upstairs for her patented moonsault though that was thwarted by Naomi lifting her knees up just in the nick of time. Finally, the champ regained her footing and lord only knows what she was going to try next before the Faction of Losers came out and disrupted the whole match. The announcers called Natty and her gang the Welcoming Committee and they beat down both Naomi and Charlotte leaving the ref no choice but to call for the bell. Naomi got crushed by a Natalya discus clothesline while Flair was superkicked twice by Tamina and Carmella. Fans pleaded for Becky to make an appearance but those prayers weren’t answered. And besides, would she save Charlotte or join the rest of the committee? I guess we’ll find out next week! MCGINN’S GRADE 3.75/5 ICED COFFEES
I feel like SmackDown Live is in experimental mode. What’s up is down and what’s down is up. If you were a perennial loser last month, you’re a main event player this month. If you’re the WWE Champion and own the top prize in the company, you’re fighting in the midcard and getting jumped by Jinder and the Bollywood Boys. If people thought you were on the chopping block, you’re now the #1 contenders for the tag team titles. That being said, how can you still be on the fence about this show? Shinsuke is here and about to mix it up with Dolph. AJ and Owens is at our fingertips. And the other two titles will have fresh matchups involving the old guard vs. some unfamiliar faces ready to make a statement. We’re in good place here folks. Take a moment, smell the roses, have a coffee and enjoy yourselves while leaving the complaining about the product to somebody else!
FINAL GRADE: 4/5 ICED COFFEES Had enough or are you thirsty for more?