Well, the last week or so has certainly turned things upside in WWE land, hasn’t it? We’ve had viral infections, unexpected dream matches and comebacks, and the sight of half the Smackdown Live roster, heels and babyfaces, running riot through the RAW ring and locker room. Will there be any retaliation tonight? What will Shane McMahon have to say for himself after leading Monday night’s attack? Where do KO and Sami Zayn fit into the ‘Team Smackdown’ picture? Will the likes of The New Day and Rusev, Tye Dillinger and Baron Corbin, and Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler have each other’s backs or be at each other throats? So many questions! It can only be the most illogical time of the WWE year – the build to Survivor Series.
Shane McMahon Returns
Shane O’Mac kicks things off making a hero’s return to TV after that Hell in a Cell match. Oh, but wait – he was on TV last night, wasn’t he? And he kind of diminished that sympathy by ruthlessly leading an unprovoked assault on the RAW roster so I don’t know what to think anymore. Yay, Survivor Series!
Shane launches into a justification for his actions the night before, sounding very much like someone who has just turned heel speaking of their frustrations about lack of respect and opportunity. Fittingly, Sami Zayn, who gave a very similar speech just a couple of weeks ago, comes out and really hams up the dancing and jumping around – a nice touch to get him over as an annoying heel. He reiterates how concern for KO’s well-being prompted him to interfere at Hell in a Cell, and then begrudgingly accepts the offer that nobody has made for him and Owens to lead Team Smackdown at Survivor Series.
Shane responds that he does not want Sami or Kev anywhere near Team Smackdown but concedes that they could be good assets. He tells Sami he will have the chance to earn his spot later tonight and his opponent will be… the Viper Randy Orton. A promising start – I thought they navigated the potential minefield of their personal animosity and the need to put a Smackdown team together for Survivor Series very well.
The New Day v. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
This match is sponsored by a make of candy with the slogan ‘Keep on sucking’ – not a wise choice considering the recent reviews Smackdown has been getting. The Usos – not sure if they are heels or faces anymore – are sitting in for commentary on this one. This is a face v. face match up (albeit with superstars who were acting like total heels on RAW) so we see plenty of reversals and quick tags. Kofi Kingston gets dumped to the outside and we get the image of Big E trying to revive him with Booty-Os pulled from inside his singlet burned into our minds as we go to commercials.
Back from the break, and The Usos are discussing their upcoming match with Ambrose and Rollins at length as well as how to pronounce Shelton Benjamin correctly, which kind of distracts from the in-ring action. The match ends when Benjamin hits a cheap shot on Woods while the referee is distracted, and Gable gets the pin. The face-heel line blurs some more. Winners: Gable & Benjamin
Leaders, leashes, and Lana
Backstage we see top babyface Becky Lynch bragging to Charlotte, Naomi, Lana and Tamina about beating up top babyfaces Bayley and Sasha Banks on RAW. Carmella comes in brandishing an empty leash saying Ellsworth is missing. Daniel Bryan announces the five of them are in the Survivor Series team (but in a scathing burn adds ‘not you Lana’) After a predictable argument about who will take that all-important captain’s role, Bryan announces a predictable five-way match for later in the night (without Lana).
I wasn’t going to include this in the review but then I saw evidence that WWE Creative actually has talented writers as The Ascension reveal the missing James Ellsworth tied up in a chair. They say ‘he knows something about a briefcase.’ Just as they are about to slice his chin off, Carmella makes the save. Fandango inspects her Money in the Bank briefcase and finds… Ellsworth’s discoloured y-fronts. The Ascension then spell out that ‘2B’ must be the Bludgeon Brothers and Fandango announces ‘Strangerer Things’ for next week. If you watch one Smackdown segment this week, make it this one!
Baron Corbin v. Sin Cara
This match was set up after Sin Cara’s shock count out win last week (I thought this was going to be a title match but based on the pre-match announcements, it is not). Corbin starts off aggressively, but Sin Cara soon takes control with high-flying offence inside and outside the ring. The Lone Wolf loses it and unloads punches and elbows on his opponent in the corner until the referee disqualifies him. Corbin hits End of Days on the outside prompting the fans to chant ‘one more time!’ A count out and now a DQ victory over the champ? Sin Cara is the new James Ellsworth! Winner: Sin Cara
AJ Styles v. Sunil Singh
Even though Sunil is wrestling tonight, he still comes out in a black shirt, trousers a dress shoes with his brother to introduce Jinder. They mock Paul Heyman’s style of introducing Brock Lesnar. Interestingly Michael Cole says Brock and Jinder will face off at Survivor Series ‘if they are both still champions’ – foreshadowing? We live in hope. Jinder cuts a promo drawing laughs when he says he is Lesnar’s ‘worst nightmare.’ This is the problem with the whole ‘brand rivalry’ concept. Even the most ardent Smackdown fans will never cheer Jinder over Brock just because of ‘brand loyalty.’
Anyway, there is a match scheduled so AJ Styles cuts of the champ to a huge pop. The referee immediately ejects Jinder from ringside (I guess because he refused to leave the ring so the match could start) and we are underway. After blasting Samir on the apron, AJ rolls Sunil into the calf crusher and that is it. Next week, we will have the pleasure of watching Samil v. AJ. Winner: AJ Styles
Women’s Fatal Five-Way Match
Natalya has herself introduced before the match begins for absolutely no reason. With Lana at ringside and Ellsworth tied up to the post, we have the entire women’s division here! And… we go straight to commercials. Back to the action, everyone is fighting on the outside. The action is frantic with Naomi taking a couple of big bumps on the barricade and the ring post. It all boils down to Becky Lynch and Carmella in the ring and the Lass Kicker gets the win with her Disarmer submission. Winner and captain of the Women’s Survivor Series Team: Becky Lynch
Backstage, Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode take up four minutes of our time just to announce a 2 out of 3 falls blow off match for next week. Kevin Owens v. Shinsuke Nakamura is also announced as a Team Smackdown qualifying match.
Sami Zayn v. Randy Orton
This is a minor grudge match after Sami went south to pin Randy in the tag match last week. Zayn starts off as the cocky heel delivering chops and slaps to the Viper before being floored by a huge forearm. He keeps cheating to gain the upper-hand but Orton keeps over-powering him to retake control. They trade a number of near falls as the pace picks up. A huge trademark Orton superplex from the top tope slows things down until Kevin Owens runs in just as Randy is setting up for the RKO. While KO argues with the ref, the Viper hits a low blow to get revenge for last week. He then delivers the RKO (definitely not out of nowhere this time as Cole points out on commentary) and earns his spot on Team Smackdown. So much for Team Sami and Kevin. Winner: Randy Orton
A whole evening of teasing a ‘RAW Retaliation’ came to nothing but there is bound to be revenge wreaked once the teams are clearer. This was a decent show – not a classic by any means, but not a dreadful one either. Promos were generally on point and we got five matches, four of which ran for more than five minutes. The only question mark over the show was the decision to hand Sami Zayn a defeat so early in his heel turn. Sure, it was a tainted finish, but it kills the whole ‘heel turn leading to greater success’ angle. Next week looks set to be another good one – Nakamura v. Owens! (Even if it does mean one of them will miss Survivor Series…)