Raw gave us Legends Night this week, one of only a dozen shows out of the year where they drag out old guys and play canned applause while your nine year old nephew asks “who’s that?” Meanwhile, SmackDown offered a gauntlet match to name Roman Reigns’ next challenger, and you’ll never guess who out-wrestled Shinsuke Nakamura.
I really can’t quite figure out why WWE split up The IIconics only to immediately put both women in weirder and far less entertaining tag teams, but they sure did. Peyton Royce has continued to team with Lacey Evans, which is about as unentertaining as you can get. Charlotte was accompanied by her dad, a man you man know as Ric Flair. Charlotte took down Lacey early on, but the Southern Belle felt the power of flirting with a man who eats dinner at 4:30 pm and escaped to the outside. Royce and Evans double teamed Charlotte, but the Queen battled back and hit a back breaker on Evans. Asuka wiped out the heels with a hip attack and got a 2 count on Peyton. On the outside, Lacey started to strut with Ric, and things broke down into a brawl with Charlotte. Ric Flair, for the record, is 71 years old, and potentially couldn’t survive even shaking hands with someone south of 35 years old, so this is a bold move by Lacey. Back in the ring, Asuka fought out of Royce’s clutches and tagged in Charlotte, who knocked down both women. She took control of Evans to defend her father’s honor, delivering several chops and a suplex to Lacey. Royce tagged in to get a suplex herself, and Charlotte landed a moonsault on the heels. Asuka almost got the win with a knee strike, but Royce barely kicked out. Lacey almost kissed somebody’s grandfather on the apron, but Charlotte hit her with a drop kick to save her family’s reputation. Ric tried to grab Royce’s leg but was so distracted by Lacey’s very awkward flirting that he accidentally tripped his own kid, allowing Royce to get the roll up. After the match, Charlotte once again had to tell her dad to leave her the hell alone. The match here was fine; we’ve seen “Ric ruins Charlotte’s life” before and I don’t doubt we’ll see it again. I’d still rather watch Royce and Kay team than her mismatched efforts with Evans.
Murderer-Arsonist Feels Moderate Regret
Remember last week when Raw ended with the huge cliffhanger of did Randy Orton burn Alexa Bliss alive? Well, the results were more than a little anticlimactic, as Randy cut another bland promo about enjoying flames and pain. He said he couldn’t kill Alexa because he was too compassionate, which meant he had been changed by interacting with The Fiend. I guess The Fiend imparted some of his classic love thy neighbor virtue on Randy before he burnt to a crisp the other week. He then promised to remind everyone why he was the Legend Killer, and spent a few backstage segments bullying old men. Once this got boring, he faced Jeff Hardy in the ring, coming out hard against the Enigma by running him into the commentary table. Hardy came back with some hits and went up top for a Swanton, but Randy got out of the way. He pulled on Jeff’s gauges to get control again, which made me physically wince. I can handle a lot of brutality in wrestling, but I think we should leave ear holes alone. Jeff tried for a Twist of Fate but found himself eating an RKO anyway, and Randy picked up the win. Really not sure where they’re trying to go with Orton here, other than making him an enemy of a lot of septuagenarians.
Suburban Dad Mad at Angsty Nephew
As promised last week, Keith Lee vs Drew McIntyre delivered in a big way. Keith was flanked by the legends as he entered, including Mickie James and Alicia Fox, which would be all the inspiration I’d need going into a big match. McIntyre started out backing Lee into the ropes, but we actually got a clean break between these two professional Nice Guys. Drew struggled to match the power of Lee, but found himself knocked down by a shoulder tackle. Another right hand sent McIntyre to the outside, rocking the champ. He came back with some chops to Lee in the corner, but again Keith knocked him to the outside. Lee ran him down and sent him over the barricade, easily taking control. A few near falls almost caught McIntyre, but he stayed in it somehow. He fought out of a powerslam to hit a belly to belly on Lee, which was impressive, because I’m pretty sure a tight hug from Lee would crack my spine in half. What a way to go, though. Lee dodged the Claymore and landed a slam, but McIntyre just kicked out at 2.8. He powerbombed Lee through the announce table, then landed a flying clothesline back in the ring. Lee stayed in it, kicking out of the Futureshock DDT and headbutting McIntyre on the top turnbuckle. A beautiful Spanish Fly and Drew still somehow kicked out, coming back to finally hit a Claymore and score the win. This was hard hitting and a great show for both men; when Lee finally claims that title, it’s going to be explosive.
Post match, Drew and Keith were fist bumping like friends who just casually targeted each other’s ribs, when somebody’s music hit. It was Goldberg, and not the lovable scamp from The Mighty Ducks trilogy. Instead, it was the star of Santa’s Slay who strolled down to condemn McIntyre for his lack of respect towards the legends. Arguably, he could have picked the man who made fun of Mark Henry’s scooter and made Big Show cry earlier tonight, but instead he went with McIntyre. It’s gonna be McIntyre vs Goldberg at the Royal Rumble, which is… A match. It’ll happen. I don’t totally hate WWE bringing out Goldberg once a year, because he still does his 3 moves pretty solidly. And if anybody can stretch that into a 6-7 minute match, it’s McIntyre.
Apollo Crews is Mad Now
Crews vs Big E kicked off the in ring action on Friday night; a bold choice considering the wrestling probably wouldn’t get better all night. Apollo started out strong, decking Big E with a boot and going for an early pin. E came back with a splash on the apron to crush Crews, but again Apollo took over. A series of suplexes wrecked Big E, but he still managed to just kick out. A standing moonsault to the outside wiped out E yet again, but still Crews couldn’t get the pin. A superplex off the top from Crews saw both men hook each other’s leg, and the bell rang. The ref declared it a double pin fall, which meant the title would stay in Big E’s hands. Crews was pissed and delivered a slap, prompting another match to start right away. It seemed to be a genuine mistake, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if this was WWE’s nonsense booking at its finest. Why just let two very talented wrestlers perform when you could throw in some convoluted time filler?
In the second match, Crews fought out of the Big Ending to hit a splash, but E kicked out. They went back and forth for. A bit before E countered the spinout powerbomb to land an uranage, then got the Big Ending to retain. Weird stop-start moment aside, this was excellent work that could have run a lot longer. Crews had a hot intensity here, and Big E matched him perfectly. I’m excited to see these two face off again down the line.
Damn Good Dirty Dogs
After they jumped the Street Profits last week and ruined their New Year’s Celevration, nasty boys Ziggler and Roode got another shot at the tag team champs. Dawkins and Ziggler started out, but it wasn’t long before the Profits pulled off a double team on Dolph. Ford grabbed at his injured leg before the cover, which the heels continued to target. I gotta hand it to Roode and Ziggler for their neon pink gear; it made them look like Claire’s lip glosses in 2006. I loved it. Ford executed a great dive onto the heels on the outside, but injured his knee further in the process. Dawkins laid out Roode with a bulldog, but couldn’t get the win. Montez was still recovering on the outside as the heels delivered a double team, and Dawkins barely kicked out. Roode came in to knock Dawkins around some more, but Angelo finally kicked him to the outside. He barely made it to his corner, but Roode yanked Ford off he apron. Finally he made the tag and Montez slapped Ziggler six ways til Sunday. He climbed the ropes to go for the splash, but Dolph snuck up and hit a DDT instead. Still, amazingly, Ford kicked out. Ziggler chopped at the leg again, following it up with a suplex from Roode, and Ford managed to kick out yet again. With Dawkins wiped out on the outside, a Spinebuster into a ZigZag finally got the mean gusy the win. The best down the Profits once again before posing with their new gold. This was a really solid tag match; I’m not the biggest fan of Ziggler or Roode, but they very work well as a heel team.
Man Who Hasn’t Wrestled in 6 Years Beats Best of the Best
Roman Reigns once again started SmackDown by talking about other people’s failings; this week, it was Adam Pearce. He was mad at Pearce for allowing KO to fight Uso last week, and for sanctioning the gauntlet match later in the night to determine Reigns’ Rumble opponent. He then challenged Pearce to step up to him, but the official was a little wary. Nevertheless, he found himself part of the gauntlet match anyway, at Reigns insistence. I’m unclear how Reigns has the power to put people in matches and yet can’t refuse the matches Pearce himself books, but I guess we shouldn’t think about it too hard. We started off with Sami Zayn vs Rey Mysterio, with Sami getting on the mic and bemoaning his disadvantage. He also shouted out his new documentary team, which I hope is genuinely going to air on the network soon. Sami got run down and hit with the 619 almost immediately, with Rey following it up with a splash to get a quick win. So long, Sami.
Shinsuke was out next, and he and Mysterio had some great back and forth sequences. A strong start from Rey sent Nakamura reeling for a minute, but he managed a flying knee to knock Mysterio out. Mysterio evaded a powerbomb attempt and hit a face buster, then the 619. Shinsuke got his knees up for the splash, then locked in an arm bar and forced Mysterio to tap. King Corbin ran down to beat the Mysterio family some more, before turning his attention to Nakamura. He had control early on, forcing Shin into the corner. He threw Nakamura into the ring post for a two count, then countered the Kinshasa into Deep Six for another near fall. Shinsuke locked in the triangle hold, but Corbin powered out. He still found himself running straight into the Kinshasa, sending Nakamura on to face Daniel Bryan. These two were fantastic, as expected; they traded reversals on the mat, until Nakamura grabbed the ropes to break the Yes Lock. After exchanging strikes in the center of the ring, Bryan hit a brutal kick to the head. He landed the Yes Kicks in the corner, then finished with the running drop kicks. Nakamura cut him off with the Kinshasa, scoring another win.
Reigns came out to stare Nakamura down, then Roman and co followed Pearce down to the ring. Uso jumped in and went after Nakamura, laying him out with a Superkick. Reigns joined in with a Superman Punch, knocking Nakamura down for Pearce to cover. Pearce tried to refuse, but Uso hit him with a Superkick and dragged him into the cover. That’s right, our Royal Rumble match will be Roman Reigns vs Adam Pearce for the Universal Championship. I admire WWE for letting a match come from a story, and Roman has yet to do any wrong with his heel persona, but I also can’t find it in me to get excited for Adam Pearce headlining a big 4 PPV. With all respect to Pearce’s in-ring career and talent, he’s been a producer for the past 5 years. He deserves a lot of credit for booking such bangers as Murphy vs Mustafa Ali on 205 Live, but there’s a long list of active guys on the SmackDown roster I’d rather see step up to Reigns, even with the knowledge that they’d never win.
Adonis Thee Legend
Ariya Daivari continued to selflessly build new stars on 205 Live, as he faced Ashante Thee Adonis in the opening match. He worked on Adonis’ leg, crushing it on the ring post and trying to twist him up on the mat. Adonis finally forced some separation and managed to crawl to the top turnbuckle for a crossbody. He tried for a Superkick but couldn’t get it with his leg. Daivari took advantage and locked in the Figure Four; Adonis reversed to flip the pressure. Daivari set up the Hammerlock Lariat, but Adonis ducked and nailed the Superkick. He covered Daivari for the win, scoring another notable victory in his 205 career.