Monday, October 9, 2017
Corey Graves called Gable and Benjamin “The Minnesota Wrestling Crew,” which is a name I love. They also debuted matching gear. Both teams worked quick tags in the early stages, with a Benjamin/Ryder exchange giving me ECW 2009 flashbacks. After the obligatory Kickoff commercial break, Ryder took the heat before making the hot tag to Mojo. Mojo was born for short bursts of offense. We got some quality near falls down the stretch, making for a better closing run than expected. When Shelton hit Paydirt, I fully expected the finish, but the pin was broken up. Mojo got dumped outside, leaving Ryder to fall to a powerbomb/bulldog combo that ended things at 10:24. One of the better Kickoff matches, though we have had Neville/Aries and New Day/Usos on Kickoff shows this year. Great tag formula, Shelton and Gable already have good chemistry and the close calls late ruled.
I’ve loved this feud. They had high quality matches at MITB (***½), Battleground (****¼), SummerSlam (****¼) and Smackdown (***¾). Thankfully, they went with tornado tag rules for this and it was fucking wild. They brawled right from the start and brought in a bunch of weapons. Chairs, kendo sticks (including a rainbow one), a damn gong and even a cowbell. Matches could always use MORE COWBELL. I loved that we got the crazy moments, but they did enough to change things up. This was also one of the more creative Cell matches. The spot where New Day trapped an Uso in the corner of the cell with a bunch of kendo sticks was fantastic. The same goes for the Usos doing a suicide dive spot where Big E was on one of their shoulders. Great stuff. It wasn’t just made up of big moments for the sake of it either. This was violent and had a sense of real hatred. The Usos handcuffed Xavier Woods to the ring post and wailed on him with kendo sticks while forcing Kofi to helplessly watch from outside. The Usos were downright barbaric. Big E went on a pretty great run following that, with the crowd completely believing it would lead to a victory. The Usos turned it around and hit the double splash, but a desperate Woods made the save, while still handcuffed. He got destroyed with kendo sticks for his efforts, before losing to the stereo splashes with a chair on his chest after 21:54. This was incredible. It wasn’t just a great match in the cell. It was a match worthy of the cell. It was the kind of personal, vicious match that you want from this environment. This was the best main roster match of 2017.
Following that Hell in a Cell was a tall task and this wasn’t the feud to do it. Randy Orton’s had one of the worst years I can recall. Luckily, this wasn’t as bad as his Bray Wyatt series of matches. It was perfectly acceptable pro wrestling, with a crowd that didn’t seem to care. I didn’t care either, to be honest. Rusev tried to do his best to make this work, which he does with everything. The best part came at the end. When Orton did his usual RKO taunt, Rusev grabbed his hands and flipped over into the ACCOLADE FROM OUT OF NOWHERE! He should’ve won there, but Orton slipped out and won with the RKO in 11:38. The wrong guy won. Better than most of Orton’s 2017 and technically fine, just really hollow.
Coming into this show, I wished this match involved Tye Dillinger. Luckily, Tye was added on the Kickoff Show. Early on, Tye and AJ ganged up on Corbin, getting revenge for weeks of attacks. We ended up getting some of the typical Triple Threat match tropes, with one guy staying outside. However, I think it worked here because Corbin isolated Tye. He didn’t want none (yea, I did that) of AJ, knowing his skill level. Corbin got to play the bully, which he excels at. AJ and Tye bumped great for him, adding to things. In the end, Styles hit the Phenomenal Forearm on Tye, only to get kicked out by Corbin, who stole the pin at 19:20 and won the title. I didn’t like the finish, as the WWE goes to that well too often and a big guy like Corbin doesn’t need that. Regardless, the match was entertaining and one of the better triple threats this year. It went a bit long, as you could shave off about eight minutes and miss nothing.
The WWE continues to put these two women together and it continues to underwhelm. Natalya and Charlotte are both solid in the ring, but lack any kind of personality. Unfortunately, not even the in-ring stuff worked this time around. Charlotte sold some of Natalya’s leg attacks better than usual, but most of it was just boring. Charlotte fought through it and hit her moonsault, but landed on the bad leg. Natalya then decided to just attack Charlotte with a chair, getting disqualified at 12:19. Like Orton/Rusev, this was kind of just there. Natalya is not an interesting heel and Charlotte makes for a shit sympathetic babyface. She works best as a dominant character.
One has had a lackluster WWE run. The other has been a boring champion since May. I missed this live (playoff baseball and all), but went back and watched it after hearing some high praise. I remained unimpressed. It just felt like Jinder’s other matches since becoming champion. Jinder’s offense didn’t interest me, similar to Natalya. Nakamura continued to not give his best effort, making for a bad combination. They at least had the decency to alter the finish this time. Instead of a Singh distraction leading to a Jinder win, their distraction just led to Jinder surviving Kinshasa by grabbing the rope. He ended up hitting his finisher to retain in 12:22. This was a match that happened and that’s about it. Both men continue to be dull. Most of the Smackdown roster is more interesting than them.
Dolph’s recent run has been the epitome of what I dislike about Smackdown now. Bobby Roode had a style he worked in most of his NXT matches, but didn’t go that route here, mainly because it doesn’t work as a babyface. Ziggler came out with no music, playing off his recent string of bad mockery entrances. For some reason, this went on forever. People just wanted to get to Shane/Owens. They chanted for things that had nothing to do with the match. This back and forth encounter ended when the Glorious DDT was countered and they exchanged rollups. Roode won out with a handful of tights to win his PPV debut in 11:40. Ziggler hit a Zig Zag after the match. This was a snooze fest and did nothing to make me care. Dolph checked out a while back and face Roode doesn’t work.
I’m someone who bites his nails often, but this match made me do that more than ever. Shane jumped Owens outside the cell, making me think they’d go the Seth/Dean or Taker/Foley route and go to the top early. Instead, Shane brought Owens in and they went at it in the cage. That segment took a long time and while it was good, things didn’t pick up until Shane decided to exit again. I loved Owens stealing Shane’s taunt right in front of Shane’s kids. He is incredible at little things like that. They did a wonderful job of building the tension. Shane and Owens both looking towards the top of the cell made the crowd go nuts. Owens set Shane up on the table and looked to jump off, but kept stopping. He couldn’t bring himself to do what Shane does. Shane followed him up and that’s where I started losing my mind. Their fight on top gave me the most anxiety I can recall. It seemed like each bump would break the roof. Owens’ doing his BIG BOY SENTON and Popup Powerbomb were both insane. Shane fought off being pushed to the ground and they battled on the side of the cell. Shane won out, sending Owens through the announce table. That still wasn’t enough for Shane, who set Owens up on another announce table and climbed to the top of the cell again. He jumped off, but Owens was miraculously pulled to safety. BY SAMI ZAYN! MY GOD! Sami placed Owens on Shane and made the referee count for the finish at 38:48. The Sami stuff was awesome and has me more intrigued than anything Smackdown has done in a very long time. Is he officially heel? Was it just compassion for his old best friend? Will they team up again? The match itself was great and one of the best cells in a while. Like the Usos/New Day one, it felt like something that belonged in the cell. The tense moments on top added to this and the finish was incredibly memorable.
Overall: This was one of the better solo brand PPVs in a while. I’d say it was the best Smackdown one this year. It reminded me of an NJPW event in that some of the matches were great and delivered in spades (Usos/New Day, Shane/Owens, US Title) and some stuff lacked (Roode/Ziggler, Natalya/Charlotte, Nakamura/Jinder). The matches that ranked in the middle (Kickoff and Rusev/Orton) were better than expected. Though the show went longer than usual, it only felt long during Roode/Ziggler as I was too captivated by the main event to care. Thumbs up.