Show opens with a recap of Jinder Mahal’s shenanigans, reminding us he’s the no.1 contender for Randy Orton’s title
The crowd is either not mic’d properly, or quite bored. They sound quiet, which is worrisome for the famously loud UK crowds. WrestleTalk News was at RAW live last night and reported the crowd tried their best but couldn’t maintain enthusiasm for that show. This could be a WrestleMania weekend type of deal with many of the fans checking out both shows and potentially tired from the previous night, hungover, or potentially having to work in between.
Whatever the case, the opening vibe is similar to WCW Thunder. Not good.
Randy Orton promo
Orton meanders out and I’m getting the feeling the roster might be hungover as well. Since his current storyline is very boring, he reminds the crowd that he only lost to Wyatt because of Jinder Mahal and his goons interfering.
He does make a funny reference about the fridge from the House of Horrors but then…
Jinder Mahal interrupts
Mahal’s voice is so ragged my theory of a partied-out roster is gaining traction. He can barely say his usual spiel as his voice sounds like Nick Nolte in the morning. He is just about to speak to his people in Punjabi when…
Kevin Owens interrupts
Owens brings a bit more vocal energy but still saunters out. He tells the pair no one cares about the House of Horrors or India. The crowd responds but Owens says not to get excited, as no one cares about England either. It seems like every single week he goes for the cheap location-based heel insults. He’s much better than this, but I’ll forgive mentioning England since it’s a rare event.
He tells both idiots to get ready for his run at the World title. But then….
AJ Styles interrupts
Styles is the first one to come out with gusto but his crowd chant isn’t saving the vibe either. He references Jericho leaving but reminds Owens that he and Jericho are ‘no AJ Styles’. We don’t hear anymore because…
Baron Corbin interrupts
Corbin barely gets going when…
Sami Zayn attacks Corbin!
Zayn comes out to get revenge on Corbin and a brawl erupts, letting us know there’ll be a six-man tag. The groups of three stare at each other and Orton’s lame music hits.
An extremely flat opening has me worried for the rest of the night. I think most of the action happened last night in the pub.
Carmella, Ellsworth, and Tamina introduce Natalya
Ellsworth yells at the crowd, insulting their teeth.
Carmella calls herself the ‘moonwalkin, trash-talkin, American Princess’ before introducing the ‘best there is, was, and ever will be’
Natalya comes out but you’ll never guess what happens…
Naomi starts off with what every Londoner wants to hear. That’s right, a fake british accent. She introduces…
This whole thing has been entrances. Becky and Natalya square off, but I shit you not before they lock up…..
Charlotte interrupts!!! WTF?
Charlotte says she doesn’t need an introduction (thank god) and they go to commercial, dear lord.
Becky Lynch vs Natalya
Natalya gets the advantage outside and does her awesome ‘YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY’ taunt. I see flashes of heel Owen Hart and would love to see her get more freedom on the mic because her in-ring talking is hilarious. Lynch gets some offense in and Natty cries out ‘no no no’ as she fears an impending suplex.
Becky is distracted by the Welcoming Committee, Naomi goes to assist, Charlotte grabs Naomi in the heimlich maneuver and Natty uses the opportunity to grab the win.
WWE has a bad habit of throwing every woman into one match for these big events. I understand they’re trying to be inclusive, but it would be much better to add another match instead of diluting the one cluster-F.
Charlotte and Naomi argue backstage with Becky mediating
Naoimi blames Charlotte, Charlotte is not scared of Naomi ‘glowing’ on her. Becky talks about bonding for a six-woman tag at the PPV as WWE continues jamming more women into a match than clowns in a car. Naomi wants to bond like super glue and Charlotte says she’s the greatest…at bonding.
The broadcast team hypes up threat that the faces won’t ‘bond’ in time. Exhilarating stuff!
Fashion Police sketch
Bad choice for the next segment, this crowd needs some action. The last Fashion Police sketch was fine but the pacing of this show is awful.
Breeze holds up an old British Bulldog picture with the pun ‘fashion faux paw’. Again, the crowd is either not mic’d or extremely dead as we hear zero laughs during this sketch. The jokes aren’t bad, but it feels awkward.
They follow face paint, and eventually find the Ascension in a closet being rowdy.
Luke Harper vs Erik Rowan
This should have come much earlier as the boys have their work cut out getting the crowd back into it.
Harper punctuates the opening exchange with an impressive dropkick that wins applause. The two big men have a lumbering match that ends with a confusing eye injury to Harper as Rowan gets the pin.
Harper is great but these two are too slow together. We needed a barn-burner to get some momentum and this wasn’t it.
Ziggler tauns the crowd for giving up on him and cheering Nakamura like sheep. Ziggler sets the crowd up well to get some easy chants and they begin to liven up.
Ziggler calls out Nakamura.
Nakamura’s music hits and the crowd makes the most noise since the start of the show.
Ziggler tells him to stop the theatrics. Nakamura tells him to shut-up and takes his jacket off as a referee comes in for a match that we know won’t happen.
Ziggler grabs the mic and says he won’t do it unti he wants to: at Backlash. He throws his jacket as a distraction and attacks Naka, hopping on him MMA style.
The King of Strong Style gets the upper hand and delivers some great strikes too as Ziggler runs off.
This should have opened the show. An established story and just as much action as the rushed matches.
Sami Zayn talking strategy with Orton and Styles
Zayn furiously rattles through his lines and works the comedy angle of the excited youngster annoying the old vets. Zayn closes his eyes to visualize but the old dogs use the chance to disappear.
The Ascension vs Breezango
The broadcast team actually has a bit of nice banter. It’s odd hearing them after a sluggish show filled with promos and backstage segments.
This would have been a great opening match too as Breezango get in some entertaining offense and the crowd digs the Fandango song.
Usos come out and ask the winners not to grab each other’s light-sticks. The Samoan brothers go on a tear with a ’12 days’ call and response, mostly centering around Breezango being homosexual.
Like I say every week, the heel version of the character has been more entertaining because the performer can stop sucking up to the crowd and focus on escalating their performance. When faces realize they can still be a bad-ass but do their trash-talking to the heel, they will be more successful.
Mojo Rawley talking to children
Mojo Rawley reminds me of Michael Rappaport playing Louis CK’s annoying acquaintance .
This didn’t need to be on the show. The lack of in-ring entertainment is an insult to the UK.
Mahal, Owens, and Corbin vs Orton, Styles, and Zayn
Corbin and Styles begin with their usual great chemistry of power vs finesse. Mahal yells ‘come on Corbin’ and sounds like General Grievous. he comes in to face Zayn, pounding him in the corner but Zayn rebounds quickly and then tags in Orton.
The crowd cheers a potential Orton and Mahal confrontaion but he runs away, tagging in Owens. Owens yells at Orton, we almost see an RKO and then go to commercial.
Back from the break for Styles and Corbin once again. Corbin gets control and brings in Mahal who loses the advantage to a sweet Styles dropkick. We eventually wind up with Zayn and Owens for a great back and forth that reminds me how great wrestling can be when not smothered in the WWE style.
We settle into Zayn taking the beating from the heels. This makes the most sense as he’s the smallest and lowest on the good guy totem pole. Zayn sells pain extremely well, it’s an easy way for Mahal to look strong and the crowd is dying to see Styles or even Orton come in for the hot tag.
Back from the break and Zayn starts to make the comeback but Corbin puts him back in the corner for more punishment. Zayn dodges a punch and brings in Styles for the retaliation. He cleans house until Corbin powers out of the Styles Clash, Styles dodges the next charge and locks in the Calf Killer. Owens saves the day but Orton tosses him outside for a brawl. The three heels end up outside near the entrance ramp and Zayn delivers a plancha on all three. The crowd is pumped up.
Styles has a chance for Phenomenal Forearm on Corbin but Owens interferes at the last second, giving Corbin control. He launches Styles a million feet in the air with a back-body drop.
Mahal tags in and lays in a ton of viscous knee strikes to Style’s head that has me worried about concussions. Mahal got away with the Balor incident, but taking out another top wrestler would surely be the end of his current push.
Styles eventually counters Owens and Orton comes in to kick the final ass. He gives the fast slam to Mahal and Corbin, a mid-rope DDT to Owens, and sets up for the RKO to Mahal. The Singh brothers distract him and Mahal gets in a superkick to Orton (reminding me of the Goldberg superkick that ended Bret Hart’s career).
The rules are thrown out the window as we get a parade of finishers. Zayn gives Mahal a Blue Thunder Bomb (that Mahal gets great air on). Corbin manhandles Zayn with his chokeslam backbreaker. Styles boots Corbin with the Pele kick. Owens shoves Styles out (he seems like a safe worker) and Orton RKOs Owens. Mahal comes up from behind and Orton is the victim of the Cobra Clutch Slam for the heel victory.
An exciting match with a furious finish that made everyone look entertaining. The six-man format helped Orton get over with the crowd but the show suffered from the top talent being held until the end.
This was a terribly organized show that started weak and couldn’t recover until the main event. Considering the WWE rarely visits the UK, it felt like a wasted opportunity and I genuinely felt bad for British fans that waited for this. Thankfully the end was strong, but overall, a very mediocre program and one of the worst Smackdowns in months.