Last week on Smackdown Live, Roman Reigns continued his, thus far, fruitless quest to unmask his mystery attacker. Kevin Owens was unceremoniously dumped from the King of the Ring tournament at the first hurdle. And the intensity was ramped up in the feud between WWE Champion Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton. Would Reigns finally discover who has been attacking him? Would KO make his presence felt in light of last week’s injustice? And who would advance to the next round of the King of the Ring tournament. Those were the pertinent questions as the blue brand rolled into Baton Rouge this past Tuesday night…
Kofi Kingston kicks off Smackdown
Kingston addressed the WWE Universe as the rematch with Randy Orton was set for Clash of Champions in a few weeks time. Kingston alluded to the fact that Orton had made things personal with his verbal bashing of his family, and the brutal attack on his New Day stablemate and ‘brother’ Xavier Woods. He vowed to show the Apex Predator why he was champion at next month’s PPV. Orton interrupted backstage and threatened to pay Kingston’s family a visit. An intense scuffle broke out between the warring superstars as officials tried to separate them.
Orton is at his best when he is the sinister, evil heel, and the Viper was true to form with his vile threats to Kingston’s family. Kofi is now forced to defend something that transcends his championship; his family. That, coupled with the storied history between the two, should make their match at Clash of the Champions a physical, tense affair.
King of the Ring First Round Match: Ali vs. Buddy Murphy
Two of the hottest superstars on the blue brand at the moment faced off with a place in the second round of the KOTR tournament at stake. Murphy is riding the crest of a huge wave at the moment, having took Roman Reigns to the limit and having knocked off Daniel Bryan in the past two weeks. And Ali may well have been in a much loftier position than his current midcard status had injury not curtailed what was looking like the beginnings of a sustained push for the former 205 Live star. The two felt each other out in the early stages, both displaying their brand of fast-paced athletic offence. Murphy took control, though, with a vicious knee. Ali hit back with a slingshot and a suicide dive to the Australian on the outside. Murphy seemed to have no answer to the speed of Ali but showed his strength by tossing his opponent to the outside and hitting him with a somersault. The action continued to swing back and forth as Ali responded with a superkick for a close two-count. Murphy scored a near-fall of his own after a powerbomb and a brain buster, as the match was more than living up to its hype. As ‘This is Awesome’ shouts rained down, the two exchanged hard-hitting strikes before a spectacular Ali DDT and 450 put Murphy away. Murphy showed his appreciation to Ali at the end of what was a stellar match.
An incredible match-up illuminated the King of the Ring tournament and underlined the importance the superstars are putting into it. Either man would have benefited from advancing here, though the result was slightly surprising given Murphy’s win over Daniel Bryan last week, but hopefully WWE has big plans for both of these phenomenal athletes in the coming months.
The Miz vs. Sami Zayn
The Miz continued his feud with Shinsuke Nakamura and his new ‘mouthpiece’ Sami Zayn which began on last week’s Smackdown. He was set to face the Underdog from the Underground but was attacked by Nakamura, who brutalised the A-Lister with two Kinshasas as the arrogant Zayn provided a running commentary.
This is likely to culminate in a battle over the Intercontinental Championship between The Miz and Nakamura, with Zayn probably factoring into the equation and, ultimately, the result. The Nakamura/Miz feud is fine, and should produce a decent match eventually. Zayn is doing a fine job as the Artist’s mouthpiece, which is unsurprising given his proficiency on the mic, but it further underlines how WWE have sadly got no real plans for him at the moment, and it looks a long way off before he climbs out of the creative purgatory he is currently in.
Bayley vs. Lacey Evans
The Sassy Southern Belle looked to plant herself back into the consciousness of the WWE Universe after a couple of months being rarely seen following her position in the title picture by beating the Hugger. It looked unlikely as Bayley took control in the early stages, working on the left arm of Evans. The champion tried a clumsy attempt at a pin and Evans responded with a body slam and a couple of well measured kicks in the corner. The action spilled outside, as Bayley’s future opponent Charlotte Flair appeared at the ramp. The distraction played into the heel’s hands as Evans gator-rolled Bayley onto the apron. Here she carried on the beatdown, as an upset began to look plausible. As the Queen looked on, Evans continued her dominance, scoring a couple of near-falls. The babyface staged the comeback, defying the injury to her arm with a couple of clotheslines, but she was unable to slap on the Bayley to belly as Evans hit a a beautiful moonsault from the top rope for a two count. The action continued to ebb and flow until it looked like a Bayley to belly was going to put Evans away, but she was able to hook the bottom rope to frustrate the champ. A second attempt and a big elbow from the top rope was finally enough to put away the Sassy Southern Belle.
This was a highly entertaining, battling performance from the women’s champ, who showed her resilience in the face of a determined Evans, who looked fantastic, replicating the form she showed a couple of months ago when she was challenging for the Raw Women’s championship. Evans pushed the champ all the way, but Bayley managed to build momentum ahead of her upcoming contest with Charlotte.
Big E vs. Randy Orton
The New Day’s resident funnyman shed the smiles and gyrating and was all business as he looked to avenge Orton’s recent attacks on his two best friends. He came out fighting, slamming the Viper into the apron and tossing him over the announce table, as he showed a rarely seen aggressive streak. Orton was then sent over the barricade and back into the ring to break the referee’s count. E continued the beatdown inside the ring but was unable to put away Orton, who showed his cerebral side with a rake to the eyes before slamming his opponent into the ringpost. E then missed with the big splash, allowing Orton to drop him onto the announce table. The popular babyface returned the favour to create separation between the two. Back in the ring, the back and forth contest again went Orton’s way, following a tidy dropkick. The Revival hit the apron, teeing up Orton for his patented RKO and the victory. After the bell, the 3 on 1 beatdown continued and the heels stood tall to close the segment.
E was the latest man to fall victim to the newly formed alliance of The Revival and Randy Orton. He looked determined and aggressive as he took the fight to the Apex Predator, but the crowd didn’t reflect his intensity, as it felt a little flat throughout. The payoff between Kingston and Orton at Clash of Champions should be decent, though, with the talent of the two main protagonists and the presence of the supporting cast, making it one of the more anticipated matches on the card.
King of the Ring First Round Match: Chad Gable vs. Shelton Benjamin
Gable not only looked to advance to the next round but to also gain a modicum of revenge on his opponent, who had been making jokes about his height in recent weeks. The former amateur wrestler came out strong, but Benjamin took control with a spine buster and a suplex. His arrogance got the better of him though, as he took his eye off the ball, and his former tag team partner whipped him into the turnbuckle and dropped him with a German suplex. Benjamin answered with a clothesline and then swung him into the barricade outside. Setting up for the powerbomb, Shelton was stunned as Gable flipped him over for the three count.
Both men put in real effort to make this work, but the crowd was completely apathetic. The were just not invested in two men who creative haven’t bothered with in months, particularly Benjamin. The advancement of Chad Gable is likely to be a false dawn, too, with it unlikely he knocks out Andrade in the next round. This match was a showcase of the depth of talent WWE has on its roster, but also of how little time it invests in feuds outside of the bigger superstars.
Daniel Bryan and Rowan demand an apology from Roman Reigns
Former tag team champions Bryan and Rowan demanded an apology from the Big Dog for accusing them of being his mystery assailants. Reigns showed a video which implicating Rowan in the scaffold attack, which prompted Bryan to unleash a series of slaps on the former Wyatt family member. He took to the ring to protest his innocence, but Reigns responded with a spear to close out the show.
The wheels look to be finally set in motion on the road towards a dream match between Reigns and Bryan. The interesting arc in the story going forward though is whether Bryan was really in the dark and Rowan acted alone, or whether they are setting the Big Dog up and playing mind games. Either way, a match between the two promises to be epic, with Rowan surely set to play a major part in determining who takes the victory.