Winners: The New Day, Randy Orton, Becky Lynch, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, AJ Styles, The Miz and Maryse, Ronda Rousey, and Roman Reigns.
I like the Hellraiser-themed graphics the show had going on. The kickoff show got underway with the New Day defending the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships against Rusev and Aiden English in front of an arena that was still filling up; poor Rusev, I believe that’s two months in a row that he’s been relegated to the kickoff show. It might just be me but I feel like all storyline-driven and/or championship matches need to be on the main card and that the kickoff show should just be HeAT/Velocity/Main Event-style exhibition matches. If all its there for is the pump up the crowd, why waste the important things when you could get some decent talent in there to get a buzz in the air? Anyway, unusual intensity from Aiden English in this match as he really stepped up his game; the whole thing between these two was blind tags to maintain or regain the advantage. English kicked out of the doomsday Stomp and everything broke down a bit; Big E took a DDT on the ring apron, Rusev kicked Kofi Kingston out of the air during a top rope dive, and then English convinced Rusev to try a Flying Headbutt that completely missed, taking him out of the match. Aiden looked to have it won with his own version of the Accolade but Kofi got free, hit Trouble In Paradise, and got the pin as Rusev was held back by Bug E. after the match, Rusev was very frustrated and annoyed with the loss but, really, it was his fault; he had an opportunity to tag in but jumped the gun to attack Big E. not happy that we’re still gearing towards a Rusev/English split rather than Rusev with a belt but it was a decent enough match.
The event proper kicked off with Randy Orton taking on Jeff Hardy in the brand new Hell in a Cell (…it’s the same but red. A lot of people were upset about it being red; I’m not but I’d like to know why it’s red as it’s a bit weird…). This was a brawl right off the bat, with Jeff bringing in a table and a ladder and bringing the right to Orton; Jeff took a nasty Suplex onto a ladder on the floor and then Orton started whipping him with his belt like he’s Hollywood Hogan or something! Orton then went to a tool box, grabbed a screwdriver, and started going at Jeff’s ear with it like he’s Terry Funk or something! Jeff took control back with some chair shots and a Twist Of Fate and then hit a Swanton Bomb onto a chair that he put on Orotn. Randy’s leg started bleeding as Jeff set him up for a splash through a table from the cell roof but Orton missed so Jeff crashed and burned and then Orton grabbed the victory. This was uncharacteristically violent for modern-day-WWE, with Orton in particular showing a sadistic side and Jeff obviously trying to kill himself; kudos to Orton for not being boring.
The SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship was up next, with Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch working a ground and technical game in the early going; Charlotte was working over Becky’s leg and Becky focused on the arm. Eventually, all the wearing down and submission work amounted to nothing as, when Charlotte went for a Spear, Becky cradled her self-entitled ass and won the belt! After the match, Becky talked smack and Charlotte looked ad; I guess we’re still going with the idea that Becky’s a heel, then, but who cares because she had a great match and won the belt.
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre put the Raw Tag Team Championships on the line against Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose next and, once again, these four put on an absolute show-stealer; it’s like the WWE is having Rollins step his game up a notch since Roman Reigns became the Universal Champion. This match had some many tags from both teams and was pretty much non-step action right up to the closing stretch, which saw Drew strike with the Claymore during Rollins’ Superplex-Into-Falcon Arrow deal he does to retain the belts.
I’m pretty certain I’ve seen Night of Champions events with less championship matches that this card as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and the WWE Championship were up next. AJ wasted no time and went right at Joe after weeks of being goaded and taunted; Joe weathered the storm, however, and took control. Eventually, things became quite even, with the two slipping free of holds and moves and vying for control; Joe landed a massive Clothesline that looked like it killed AJ and busted his mouth open a bit. Joe then locked in the Coquina Clutch in the middle of the ring but AJ managed to twist it into a pinfall to retain the belt but you know this isn’t over as an alternative camera angle shows that AJ was actually tapping out but the referee couldn’t see it, so this will continue!
Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella went up against the Miz and Maryse next in a relatively short match, considering; Maryse distracted at the beginning to allow Miz to take control and work over Bryan, though he dodged out of the action as soon as it looked like Brayn was gaining some momentum. Brie and Maryse tagged in for, like, a second before the boys locked up again; they brawled a bit but, in the end, Maryse proved to be as wily as her husband as she was she rolled up Brie from behind to steal another victory for the Miz.
Ronda Rousey put the Raw Women’s Championship on the line against Alexa Bliss one more time next; Alicia Fox and Mickie James were at ringside for Alexa, while Natalya was in Ronda’s corner. Alexa, as predicted, spent the majority of her time targeting Ronda’s “injured ribs”, which gave her a fighting chance and put her in a measure of control, but this was pretty academic from the start; Rousey fought through the pain, hit a variation of the Finlay Roll, locked in the Arm Bar, and retained the championship.
Finally, the red cell was lowered again, Mick Foley popped out in his custom referee shirt, and the Universal Championship was put on the line as Roman Reigns took on Braun Strowman. Classic big-man-brawling kicked this one off until Reigns remembered that he’s a spam artist and started throwing the Superman Punches; Strowman cuts him off with a Chokeslam and some weapon shots so that we could get the traditional, awkward Reigns-In-Peril portion of the match. Reigns got control back by Spearing Strowman through a table, which brought out more bells and whistles: Dolph, Drew, Dean, and Seth and crashed the party and started brawling, even having a fight on the cell roof so that the big men could catch their breath, which eventually resulted in the obligatory cell-fall-through-a-table by Dolph and Seth. Amidst all that confusion, the biggest bell and whistle arrived as…Brock Lesnar smashed his way into the cell and his an F5 on both Reigns and Strowman to end the match in a no contest. Well, they did it, they did everything possible to distract people from booing the life out of Roman and even managed to conjure a finish where Strowman still looks relatively strong as he didn’t technically lose so, I guess, going forward we’ll maybe see a triple threat between these guys and then another one-on-one match between Lesnar and Reigns…probably at WrestleMania…ugh…
Raw started off on completed the wrong foot again this week, with THE BIG DAWG~! Himself, Roman Reigns, coming out to put over how brutal Hell in a Cell was but not particularly sell the effects of his devastating match. He immediately targeted Brock Lesnar, to throw some more coals on that fire, and got Braun Strowman instead. Baron Corbin shows up to book the triple threat I (and, I’m sure, everyone else) predicted between Strown, Reigns, and Lesnar when the WWE goes back to Saudi Arabia (which, I’m also sure, will piss off a lot of people). Paul Heyman then appeared to run them all down on Lesnar’s behalf and Corbin decided to book himself against Reigns later in the night because Reigns is hurt…okay then.
Dean Ambrose and Drew McIntyre started things off match-wise and once again I have to comment on the foolishness of competitors who were involved either in the Hell in a Cell match or taking massive bumps during said match competing the very next night. I know Dean and Dew didn’t get the brunt of it but still…anyway, Ambrose looked to have crashed and burned on the outside but made it back to the ring before the ten count, only to fall to the Claymore, which should theoretically emphasise how much stock the WWE is putting into McIntyre but he’ll probably be feuding with Titus O’Neil next week.
Chad Gable found some more dirt to toss onto the Ascensions grave as he defeated Viktor in singles action, which seems incredibly redundant since he and Bobby Roode have already defeated the Ascension quite emphatically two weeks in a row. Regardless of that or any other logic, Konnor attacked Gable and Roode after the match to keep this feud going.
Vince McMahon’s cheque must have finally cashed because the Undertaker appeared live on television! Once again, I find it very amusing that ‘Taker can take the time to hype up this throwaway match with Triple H but couldn’t be bothered to show up leading up to his WrestleMania match with John Cena. Anyway, this was vintage~! Undertaker, with all the talk of broken souls and burying bodies and all that, with the added twist that, as Shawn Michaels will be in Triple H’s corner at Super Show-Down, newly elected Major of Know Country, Kane, will be in ‘Taker’s, most likely to set up for a tag team match later down the line/at WrestleMania.
Bayley and Dana Brooke were up next, which saw Bayley win in literally no time at all. The Authors of Pain did one better, though, and squashed some nobodies in under a minute.
Moving right along, things picked up again with Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler going at it…again…and, again, the night after their big table bump. Mental! Anyway, though Dolph brought the fight, there wasn’t much to this; they hit all their sweet spots and entertained, and then Rollins landed the Blackout to retain the belt. I don’t suppose this means the end of this feud, does it? Because I really want to see Finn Balor and Rollins start up a rivalry over the belt…
Ronda Rousey got some mic time where she manufactured more cheers for herself by name-dropping a bunch of legends who “inspired her career” before the Riott Squad kicked her ass; the Bella twins made the save, so I guess there’ll be a good, old-fashioned six-woman tag between these two soon enough. Afterwards, Bobby Lashley and Elias went to a no contest after Kevin Owens chased Lio Rush (who was on commentary and, apparently, is now Lashley’s buddy/manager, which I missed the other week) into the ring. I guess Elias is hurt or something as this match never really happened and he’s barely competed at all lately.
Ember Moon and Nia Jax took on Mickie James and Alicia Fox with Alexa Bliss at ringside. Wow, I thought Nia had quit or something; remember when they were actually behind her and pushing her not that long ago? Also, it’s great and massively refreshing to see Alexa finally step away from the title picture. This match, though, was incredibly botchy and bad; it seems that, for every great women’s match the WWE puts on, they’ll still have stinkers like this. Ember and Nia won, by the way.
Roman Reigns and Baron Corbin got the main event which, in another timeline, could have been a really interesting prospect; if Reigns were allowed to have more personality and mixed up his moveset and, if Corbin was actually motivated to improve his in-ring game without have his push cut off and being lumbered with a nonsensical authority figure gimmick, I really think these two could have some decent matches. Instead, nobody really likes either of these to these days and this degenerated pretty quickly into a bog-standard Reigns match: Reigns weathered an initial assault, then Corbin took over, Reigns played “face in peril”, then Reigns started to Hulk up and began throwing his signature moves. The twist here was that Corbin threw a chair at Roman’s face, then made it a no disqualification match, which allowed Strowman to get involved. When Dolph and Drew arrived, Seth and Dean turned it into a bit of a brawl, which allowed Reigns to hit the Spear and win the match. Once again, the WWE throws smoke and mirrors to distract people from booing Reigns but, eventually, they’re going to run out of tricks and we’ll be right back to spam-master Reigns getting booed out of the building. Just. Turn. Him. Heel.
Miz TV was back this week on the Blue Brand as Miz announced that he and Daniel Bryan will square off at Super Show-Down to determine the new number one contender, which ties nicely into the fantasy booking I did recently. After Maryse talked some smack, Bryan arrived to attack Miz and, when Miz accidentally bumped Maryse, Bryan came out on top.
Cesaro was back in the ring in action against Kofi Kingston next, with all of their respective teammates at ringside. Cesaro worked the knee and the leg to neutralise Kofi’s air game, putting Kofi in a precarious underdog position that he plays so well. In the end, despite trying to rally against the pain, Cesaro put a stop of Kofi’s momentum, hit the Neutraliser, and got the win. If this is the first step towards a feud between the Bar and the New Day then I’m all for it; once the Bar get the belts and defend against some other team/s, we may finally get that Bar/Club rivalry I’ve wanted for so long.
Backstage, Rusev blamed Aiden English for their loss at Hell in a Cell, and Aiden ranted about how all of their recent failures have actually been Lana’s fault; I think there’s plenty of blame to go around, guys! Anyway, Rusev randomly got a shot at the United States Championship because, in modern day WWE, losing a big match at a pay-per-view means you automatically get a title shot or entered into a title opportunity the next night – I call it the “Reigns Effect”. Anyway, this was a bit of a weird heel vs. heel match (or, I guess, heel vs. tweener, given that the crowd loves Rusev); Rusev looked to have it won but got distracted by Aiden’s advice was quickly rolled up. After the match, Aiden attacked Rusev to turn heel on him; so, here’s the problem with that: is Aiden English really a threat to Rusev? I mean, really? Who is this really benefitting?
AJ Styles and Andrade “Cien” Almas were up next, continuing the recent push Almas has been getting. Once again, Almas showed why he’s a start on the rise on SmackDown! Live, bringing the fight to AJ right from the bell and forcing him into the defensive. AJ works well with almost anyone but, with a truly talented opponent, he can put on fantastic, instant classics and that’s what we got here with just a sense that they were saving something more for later down the line. In the end, AJ countered the Hammerlock DDT into the Styles Clash and got the win, only to end up in a brawl with Samoa Joe afterwards.
Asuka destroyed Billie Kay before Becky Lynch came out for her official coronation as the new SmackDown! Live Women’s Champion. She got the old “you deserve it!” chant and, though Charlotte Flair offered to bury the hatchet and build some mutual respect, Becky basically told her to shut the hell up and claimed the spotlight as her own before putting Flair into the Dis-Arm-Her, hitting an Exploder Suplex, and leaving a victorious, vindicated hero.