It is a little over two weeks until WWE Clash of Champions and there are a number of talking points heading into this week’s edition of Smackdown. Will the Roman Reigns attack saga finally be resolved? Who will progress in the, so far, entertaining King of the Ring tournament? And will Bayley address the WWE Universe after her shocking heel turn?
Bayley kicks off Smackdown
The Hugger did address the WWE Universe, and justified her attack on Becky Lynch using the rationale that she was showing loyalty to her best friend, the recently returned Sasha Banks. She said she has always striven to be a role model for the company’s young fans, and this act was an example of this. Bayley’s Clash of Champions opponent, Charlotte Flair, cut the diatribe short to claim nobody does selfishness like the Queen. Sasha Banks joined Bayley to lead a steel chair-led beatdown on Flair.
It is a bold move by creative to turn Bayley heel, but could turn out to be an inspired one. The chemistry between three of the four horsewomen was, unsurprisingly, red hot and the championship match in a couple of weeks should be stellar. The only sticking point in this programme is that Charlotte now becomes the de facto babyface, a point highlighted further by the 2 to 1 beatdown she suffered. Charlotte is top drawer whatever spot she is in, but it looks like she has been turned face for the sake of facilitating Bayley’s character shift.
King of the Ring Quarter Final Match: Ali vs. Elias
The popular Ali started on the back foot as Elias’ power advantage showed in the early stages. Ali would have to rely on his athletic ability, but his attempts at offence proved futile, as Elias caught him in mid-air and launched him aggressively around the outside of the ring, finally dumping him in the timekeeper’s area. After the break, Ali had staged a comeback, showcasing his speed, driving Elias’ face into the canvas for a two-count. He followed this up with a dive to the outside through the middle rope, injuring the heel’s arm. Ali continued to work this area, but the Drifter managed to drag him into the turnbuckle to create separation, then taking out Ali’s leg on the ringpost. In a stunning sequence, A,i backflipped off the top rope and superkicked Elias, then missing with the 450. This allowed Elias to hit the Drift Away for the victory, and a place in the semi-finals.
This was another quality match in what has been a hugely entertaining King of the Ring series. Everybody seems to have brought their A-game for the prize of a moniker which used to mean something back in the day. Not least Elias, who looked aggressive and focused here against the talented Ali. The two styles meshed well and it was probably the right result that the Drifter went over here.
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya DeVille
With a tag team yet to emerge as real contenders for Bliss and Cross’ straps, this was a good opportunity for ‘Fire and Desire’ to put themselves in championship contention ahead of Clash of Champions. Ross and Cross started off, the Scot starting strongly with some clubbing blows and a running bulldog. Rose managed to fight back after a Deville distraction, allowing them to isolate Nikki in the corner. They took turns beating up Cross as Bliss could only look on. The hot tag was eventually made to Little Miss Bliss, who hit Deville with a DDT, but couldn’t her attempt at a Twisted Bliss was thwarted by the knees of Deville. Fire and Desire then took out the Goddess to score the win.
Deville and Rose, with their natural cohesion and chemistry, would be a fine fit for the tag titles, and looked to have earned their shot with a not wholly surprising win here. It is not outside the realms of possibility that Fire and Desire get the win take the gold in a couple of weeks, allowing Bliss to return to singles action, and a more organic tandem to take the division forward.
Randy Orton speaks
The Viper took the mic to hype his upcoming championship match with Kofi Kingston. He talked of how he had enjoyed decimating the New Day and looked forward to exposing Kingston as a ‘fraud’ when he becomes the new champ. He called out Kofi, who was dragged to the ring by The Revival. Dawson, Wilder and Orton brutally assaulted the New Day member in the ring, finishing him with a super-RKO.
Orton continues to get the better of Kingston, and also continues to pose the greatest threat to the popular babyface’s title run. The Viper has looked formidable with the Revival by his side, who are benefiting from being in a meaningful spot. The three men have done what few stables have managed in recent times, and cracked the solid foundation of the Power of Positivity. When E and Woods return from the injured list to even the numbers, the payoff should be explosive.
King of the Ring Quarter Final Match: Chad Gable vs. Andrade
Fresh off his impressive showing last week, Gable looked to continue his mini-push with what would be an upset victory over Andrade. He held his own in the early stages, until Andrade dumped the former tag team champion over the top rope, allowing him to take control. Gable responded, though, with a rolling neckbreaker and a German suplex, resulting in a two count. Andrade stemmed the flow with the Three Amigos but missed with the moonsault, allowing Gable to hit one of his own for an agonising two-count. The crowd chanting for the former American Alpha member, he should have scored the win, only for Zelina Vega to interrupt. He countered an Andrade spinning elbow, though, to eventually gain the victory.
The top-notch calibre of match in this King of the Ring tournament continued here, with another superb encounter, which could have gone either way. Gable, who has been on a roll, was mightily impressive again, and the crowd have been fully invested in his journey. Elias waits in the semi-finals next week, and it would be deserving of his recent endeavours if he could knock off the Drifter and book his place in the final at Clash of Champions.
Aleister Black vs. Shelton Benjamin
Black demanded more competition and the veteran Benjamin answered the call. A talented and decorated superstar over the years he may be, but Shelton proving a viable threat to the undefeated Black was a non-starter. And so it proved, as Black made quick work of Benjamin, finishing him with a Black Mass.
Black has continued to prove himself against some of the more talented superstars on the roster since he was promoted from NXT, and he has put on some decent displays. He quickly needs a meaningful feud, however, as to not waste his huge untapped potential, as this process of calling out new competition is getting stale quickly.
Daniel Bryan responds to Roman Reigns
Bryan stated that he hated liars, in the wake of his tag team partner Erik Rowan seemingly being the man who attacked Roman Reigns. He demanded an apology from the Big Dog for the accusations and the for the spear he ate last week on Smackdown. Reigns appeared, but didn’t make it to the ring, as Rowan destroyed him, even pushing Bryan to the floor in the process, demanding he try to slap him again and see what happens. He confirmed he was Reigns’ mystery assailant and destroyed both the Big Dog and Bryan.
Rowan was presented here as an unstoppable and unapologetic monster, who clearly doesn’t answer to Daniel Bryan anymore. The angle, though, that started off red hot a few weeks ago, has become a bit of a mess. Where it looked like the eventual pay off would be Reigns vs. Bryan, it will now become a glorified squash match at the expense of Rowan, who is supposed to be the heel here. Whether that makes Bryan a heel or a babyface muddies the waters further and the whole programme has become a bit shambolic.