TABLES MATCH FOR THE WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
New Day(Kofi Kingston & Big E.)(c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro - 6/10
Standard tables match stuff, but they found a way to make the finish bigger, and Kofi sold the hell out of it. New Day lost the belts. I assume Heavy Machinery will get a title shot, and then New Day will wind up winning them back before long, though my dream scenario is that we get a series between Cesaro & Nakamura and Bryan & Gulak.
KAIRI SANE, ASUKA, & ALEXA BLISS! GET NIKKI CROSS TO THINK POSITIVELY - A fine follow-up to Friday’s segment, although Kairi’s final affirmative statement (“even if you lose, we will still be your friends”) didn’t really seem like the best thing to say to someone having a confidence in her in-ring abilities.
WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Bayley(c) (w/Sasha Banks) vs. Nikki Cross (w/Alexa Bliss!) - 6.5/10
A good match with a fine heel finish. I have to say, those big diamond-covered things of Sasha’s work a lot better as foreign objects that MJF’s stupid little ring.
FIREFLY FUNHOUSE - Yes, in the middle of a pay-per-view. Weren’t we supposed to be done with this Bray Wyatt? Anyway, this was just Bray cutting a goofy promo about the title shot later tonight.
THE US TITLE MATCH ISN’T HAPPENING BECAUSE “APOLLO DID NOT PASS HIS PRE-MATCH PHYSICAL DUE TO AN INJURY SUSTAINED LAST MONTH AT THE HANDS OF BOBBY LASHLEY - I call bullsh*t. The angle they showed us took place on the 6/22 Raw. Crews wrestled MVP on the next week’s show, so he must have been cleared then. If you want to say that MVP re-aggravated the injury then fine, but that’s not what they’re saying. They are specifically attributing this to Lashley. Also, if you’re going to do this, you really should play up the fact that Crews is injured more during the build. Nothing I saw would give me any indication that Crews not getting cleared would even be a possibility, so it’s pretty bullsh*t to do this to a PPV match.
MVP (& BOBBY LASHLEY) PROMO - With Crews unable to compete in their title match, MVP declares himself the new US Champion by forfeit, and walks out with the brand new belt he had made in the build-up to this. In this context, it does make this whole thing a little more palatable, as it’s clearly a necessary part of the storyline and not just something being done to stretch the feud out, but in a situation like this, an executive of the company should be running out here and telling MVP (and everyone else) that MVP is not the recognized champion. There is no kayfabe excuse for leaving the fans in a state of confusion.
EYE FOR AN EYE MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins - 6.75/10
First things first: I know this will seem like a nitpick to some, but WWE has been very clear that this match can only be won if you “extract the eye of your opponent.” What Seth and Rey spent most of this match trying to do wasn’t gouge an eye out, but rather poke the other guy in the eye to cause him to go blind. And yes, that bother me, simply because of how specific they’ve been with the stip.
In my review of the 10/22/2014 Impact, I was discussing the idea of match contracts in pro wrestling and, needing a purposely over the top example of a stipulation neither competitor would agree to, I came up with a match where the loser would get thrown into a pit of hungry crocodiles. That’s kind of what I felt like I was watching here. No matter how well these guys worked to the stipulation (and they did a fairly good job of it, I couldn’t shake the thought that either they were going to screw us on the stip somehow or I was going to see something gruesome that I didn’t really want to see, which made the match very hard to enjoy.
For those wondering, they did follow through on the stip, and Rey’s eye was kayfabe removed, so I guess we won’t be seeing him in the ring for a while. I assume there was some sort of effect here, but they showed just enough of the eye to make it actually feel believable, rather than the fully-blown Seth holding up a fake eye, stem and all, which is what I was expecting. They did an excellent job of selling everything afterwards, including Seth vomiting at ringside.
KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS BAYLEY & SASHA BANKS - Fine. They were doing a good enough job selling the Rey injury that they actually did get me on this one and I thought they were going to have Bayley cut a babyface promo in support of Rey.
Bayley brought in Sasha, who cut a promo hyping up the…
WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Asuka(c) (w/Kairi Sane) vs. Sasha Banks (w/Bayley) - 7.75/10
This was an awesome match brought down by an exceedingly dumb finish. Asuka worked the head while Sasha worked over Asuka’s arms and even her fingers to weaken the Asuka lock. Sasha took some TERRIFYING bumps. The Sasha/Bayley story made the overbooking work for me because every logical outcome feels viable.
Unfortunately, though, that overbooking resulted in a finish where the referee got blinded by green mist, allowing Bayley to interfere… and then pull the referee’s shirt off, put it on herself, and count the pin… and apparently this was official. At least they didn’t have the timekeeper react like it was official and he only rang the bell when Bayley threatened him, so I was still clinging to hope that someone would come out and make the continue, but no. Sasha’s music eventually started playing, and she and Bayley left with the belt. Are there no company executives backstage who can come out and correct this?
CHARLY CARUSO GIVES US A MEDICAL UPDATE ON REY MYSTERIO JR. - He’s on his way to the hospital. They might be able to save his eye.
SINGLES MATCH FOR THE WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE IN WHICH DOLPH ZIGGLER CANNOT GET COUNTED OUT OR DISQUALIFIED AND THE TITLE CAN CHANGE HANDS ON A COUNT-OUT OR A DISQUALIFICATION:
Drew McIntyre(c) vs. Dolph Ziggler - 8.5/10
Drew, this is why it’s a bad idea to let your opponent pick any stipulation he or she wants.
They did a TREMENDOUS job with the stipulation. The match went the way you’d expect, but I have to give the praise for two particular spots, both of which involved a certain table that Dolph had set up on the outside. The first came early in the match and saw Drew lift Dolph up for a vertical suplex but realize the table was there and have to quickly turn around on his way down to avoid putting Dolph through it and losing the title by DQ. That was just a damn clever spot.
The other spot I want to praise was when Dolph came off the post and put Drew through the table with a diving elbow drop that absolutely shattered the table. Drew then had to recover in time to get back into the ring and break the count… but Dolph didn’t. Even knowing the stips of the match and that it’s not fair on an intellectual level, we still process a chairshot in this match like in every other match. This spot, though, was a break from the norm, and helped the unfairness of the stipulations filter down to that emotional level (and props are also due to Dolph for just sitting there on the outside and screaming in frustrating when Drew made it back into the ring, helping to hammer home the fact that while Drew had to struggle to the ring, Dolph could just stay where he was and recover).
WYATT SWAMP FIGHT FOR THE WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE:
Braun Strowman(c) vs. Bray Wyatt - -5/10
Bray is sitting in his rocking chair in the middle of the road. Braun pulls up in a big pick-up truck. It’s good to see he learned his lesson and got something with a windshield that is high enough up that no one will break. Flashbacks happen. Braun gets out of the car and confronts Bray. Braun tells him “I’m home.” Bray laughs… and apparently Bray’s magical control of arena lights also extends to the floodlights on Braun’s car and the reflection of the sunlight off of the moon, because everything went black for a moment and Bray disappeared.
We got some intolerably pointless screen effects and cuts and heartbeat music. Braun threw Bray’s rocking chair into an “abandon hope all ye who enter hear” sign. More effects happened, and we heard Bray’s laugh.
Braun is now walking through the woods. We got off-color shots of the animals that Bray’s puppet friends are. Then Braun was attacked by two large masked men. We interrupted this for Bray being a cheerleader at the Firefly Funhouse.
Braun Strowman, who once walked off a major car accidented intended to kill him, was knocked to the ground by one shot to the back with a shovel. We pan up, and the guy holding the shovel is Wyatt Family-Era Braun. This is confirmed by him taking his mask off. In kayfabe, what is happening here? Am I seeing things that are only happening in Braun’s head? Did Bray clone him? Has he travelled back in time? Are they in that cave on Dagobah? Or at least that cave that Pentagon Jr. went in during the Ultima Lucha II? I’m being serious here. I don’t understand what is happening right now, and I need to understand it if I am to react in the manner that WWE desires.
Past Braun hit current Braun in the head with the shovel, apparently knocking him unconscious. He wakes up chained to chair inside a shack. We get shots of bloody sheep masks and a doll’s head, presumably from that atrocious House of Horrors match.
We were then given a good thirty straight seconds of Bray walking in, carrying his lantern, while his music played. Bray tried to convince Braun to rejoin him. Braun said “no.” This took several minutes. Then Bray called in someone with a big-ass snake. It bit Braun, and I guess this snake’s venom causes you to have flashbacks in black and white.
Braun wakes up in front of a camp fire. He sees the two guys from before and starts fighting with them. He knocks one of them down with a shovel and kicks him into the fire. The guy’s outfit catches fire, and he starts getting up and running around instead of doing stop, drop, and roll. He runs off into the night while Braun laughs.
A female voice calls out for Braun. It tells him he doesn’t need to do this and asks him to come home. It’s the snake-wielder from before, who I guess is Mercy the Witch? Ah, who gives a sh*t? Nothing we see here will ever be explained, anyway.
It turns out it’s Alexa Bliss!, and I call bullsh*t on that, unless we’ve got one of those cartoon deals going where she’s sitting on JoJo’s shoulders, because this person was as tall as Braun, and Alexa is about two feet short of that. She’s trying to seduce him, promising that they can be together forever. She asks Braun to follow her and retreats into the swamp.
Braun… listen to me. DON’T DO IT! I am Alexa’s Bliss!’s biggest fan, and not even I think that an eternity of hanging out with and boning Alexa Bliss! would be worth having to listen to any more Bray Wyatt promos.
Bray then leaps out and gouges at Braun’s eyes. Braun fights him off and chokeslams him into a non-dilapidated boat. The boat is also apparently magical, as its motor starts running and it takes off by itself. Then the boat returns. Braun, being an idiot, just wades into this swamp that we’re supposed to think is infested with alligators. He looks in the boat, and Bray is gone. It turns out Bray was hiding under the boat. He comes out and hits Braun from behind with a shovel, then tries to drown him. This is interspersed with black and white footage of alligators acting aggressive and scary. Bray stops, so I guess he has drowned Braun. We still haven’t been told what the rules of a Wyatt Swamp Fight are, but I’ll assume the opponent dying results in victory by some kind of stoppage or forfeit.
Wait…no… Braun’s alive. He swims to a ladder and climbs out of the body of water infested with terrifying murder-beasts that can swim much faster than humans. Always a good move in my book. He lays out on the pier and sees a black-and-white image of laughing children. Bray walks over to him and tries to kill him with the shovel again, but this time Braun actually manages to dodge the shovel. More Wyatt Family images flash on the screen while Bray tries to beat Braun to death with what I think is an oar. Bray monologues, allowing Braun to recover. Bray laughs, so Braun kicks him into the water.
Bray doesn’t come up so Braun says “it’s over,” and I guess the production people heard him because through the little tag up on the screen…but then a hand reaches out of the water and locks in the Mandible Claw. Braun gets pulled in. We get shots of first Braun and then Bray coming up and getting pulled back under. Then we just get a bunch of close-ups of lily pads for a bit until things start bubbling and the water turns red and The Fiend arises. Bray laughs as we fade to black, and after a final “let me in” from The Fiend, this is mercifully over.
This was the usual horse-sh*t we get from these things. It was fifteen minutes of random sh*t happening to fill time because people who don’t know what actual art is think it’s artsy and cool. All you need to know from this is that The Field is back. That’s it. Every other bit of this before the last ten seconds won’t ever be relevant. The fact that I gave this a higher- or, more correctly, a less lower- rating, than some of the other's we've seen is pretty much only due to this being shorter.
And…look: I will never like this stupid bullsh*t, but if you’re going to do it, could you please at least do me the courtesy of not advertising it as a wrestling match? Call it something else if you want (“tonight, at Extreme Rules, Braun Strowman will go to the Wyatt Compound!”), but if you’re going to bill something as a wrestling match (and the WWE Network billed this as a title defense), please make sure that there is a clearly-explained win condition? If you’d just do that and not confuse your cinematic bullsh*t segment with wrestling matches, I’ll still think they’re stupid, but at least they’ll make me a little less angry, okay?
This was… actually a much better show than I was expecting it to be, but the “main event” (if you can even call it that) definitely dragged it down for me. I don’t quite know if I can call this a good show because of the main event, but it was not the terror that I was dreading, either.<