Well. Vince told us to listen closely to his words, I guess.
Kofi Kingston was challenged with a seemingly insurmountable task last week. To get to WrestleMania, he would have to run the Gauntlet: defeat Sheamus, Cesaro, Erick Rowan, Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton all in one night.
And somehow, someway Kofi Kingston did it.
It was such an awesome show, too! Kingston wrestled for an hour straight as babyfaces gathered around a monitor backstage. First it was just Xavier Woods and Big E, but then the Usos showed up. And then the Hardy Boyz and R-Truth and Nikki Cross and Ricochet and Heavy Machinery and...
It fit the bill. It honestly described how I’d imagine WWE fans have latched onto this story. One crowd chanted so loudly for Kofi Kingston in that first Gauntlet that suddenly another crowd joined in. And another, and another, and another.
So that led us to this show. Kofi took on Sheamus first and honestly I thought it was the best match WWE has put on so far this week. It made sense that Kofi would face The Bar first, too! He got a familiar task to begin before treading into unknown waters, just like this run of his has panned out.
Cesaro cheated a bit on Sheamus’ behalf, but it didn’t matter. Kingston dodged a Brogue Kick and demolished Sheamus as he turned around with a Trouble in Paradise.
Cesaro quickly jumped in and gained the upper hand on Kingston, but he too was felled with a counter. Kingston slipped out of a submission attempt and delivered an S.O.S.
Erick Rowan was next and didn’t even bother with a traditional match. You see, Kofi had been worn down by The Bar, but hadn’t suffered anything...traumatic. Rowan was there to fix that oversight. He put Kofi through a damn table, y’all. And Kofi had to fight Samoa Joe next?!
And yet he did! And he got Joe too! Samoa Joe, incensed by his own loss last week, was looking to bust out the ol’ Muscle Buster on Kingston. Kofi wormed his way out of the attempt and folded up Joe.
Ah, and we left Randy Orton for last. The perfect choice. Fighting Kingston and trying to keep him down plays into Orton’s storyline with AJ Styles, as well. Orton called back to ‘09 or whenever the heck it was that he shouted “Stupid!” at Kofi. And here yet again, Kofi slipped out of RKO attempts and rolled Orton up for a shocking victory.
Five men defeated. All in one night. All by Kofi Kingston.
And after an explosion of joy and jubilation from the crowd and the New Day rushing to the ring, a pensive anticipation set in. There’s always a but, after all. Sure enough, Vince McMahon appeared with a microphone in hand. And after expression admiration for what Kofi had accomplished...he changed the rules.
Damn it all. And damn you, Daniel Bryan. The WWE Champion sauntered on stage, grinning a sly grin and giving a side-eyed look to the New Day as they were banned from ringside. Bryan was really smart, too; he kept going to the Yes Kicks as a crowd-participatory way to express displeasure with what was happening. He even mockingly did his old Yes! Chant before felling Kofi with a Busaiku Knee.
...And that was the show. A sudden end with no obvious conclusion. Vince, in effect, wins. For now. It was brilliant. Every single bit of it. The fact that Daniel Bryan is playing the heel in a story that nearly mirrors his own from WrestleMania 30 is insanity.
I also love how well this feud ties into everything else happening on SmackDown Live. I already mentioned Orton and mentioned how Samoa Joe was enraged from his loss to Rey Mysterio last week, but there was also some father/son continuity here. The Miz claimed on this show that Shane was as evil as his father, right? Well Vince went out and proved exactly how evil that is.
This story is phenomenal and executed light years ahead of everything else on the WrestleMania card.
The Kevin Owens Show – Speaking of the WrestleMania card, Owens sat down with Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair to discuss their upcoming triple threat match. He read off some index cards all the insults and verbal barbs thrown out in this feud and then summed it up succinctly: too much talking. Not enough fighting.
Owens scampered away as the two women brawled and what do you know?! He’s right! It’s way more fun when they fight! It wasn’t the greatest brawl by any means, but I enjoyed it more than I’ve enjoyed most of their segments lately.
The Miz vows revenge – The Miz is an awesome babyface and I can’t believe how well it’s working. He talked briefly about how important wrestling is to him and all the things he’s sacrificed for it. That point led easily into why impressing his dad mattered so much and how vile Shane McMahon is for what he did. I really liked how this segment mirrored the one Shane had last week. Same slot in the show, same location.
The IIconics def. Boss n Hug Connection – I wasn’t a fan of the IIconic’s promo here. The Ivy League joke seemed forced and I’m not sure how well “hah you guys aren’t important” is supposed to play. As for the match, it was fine. Their antics are fun and I assumed we’d be getting more teams in on the action once Nia Jax and Tamina interfered on Raw.
Surprise Dominic! - Geez he’s tall! Mysterio introduced his son and announced his match against Samoa Joe at WrestleMania. We’ll be on the lookout for Dominic holding a puppy; that’s how we’ll know we’re getting a contract announcement.
I really liked this episode. It was clean, easy to follow, and the Kofi stuff was yet again fantastic. That’s awesome because I was also keeping track of an NIT basketball game throughout the show and transferring my attention as needed.
And guess what? I didn’t see – nor did I need – any in-show recaps. Huh. Just a thought.
Also, I saw a Danny Sexbang Grumphead in the crowd right before the Gauntlet Match. Now it’s got me singing “Kofi Don’t You Know?” in my head.
I love SmackDown.