The show started with the great Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan ready to eat an apple. The Miz and Maryse showed up to complain about things. Miz complained about not having his own locker room. He wondered what Bryan would do to make this right. Bryan said he could block off a stall in the public restroom. Miz and Maryse did some fake laughing. Bryan told Miz he can get his rematch against Dean Ambrose for the IC Title. Miz suggested a No Disqualification Match. Bryan said he’ll make it a Lumberjack Match instead. Miz and Maryse left not looking thrilled about it.
Analysis: It was a quick segment to set up a big match for later. If it was Raw they would have talked for 15 minutes to set it up. On Smackdown they get things done in a more efficient way because there’s less time to kill.
The announce team of Mauro Ranallo, John Bradshaw Layfield, David Otunga and Tom “no talking during matches” Phillips were shown on camera.
There were replays shown of the issues between Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper to set up Orton vs. Harper.
Orton and Harper made their entrance along with Bray Wyatt even though Orton is against Harper.
Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper
Wyatt sat in his rocking chair at ringside watching the match.
The fans chanted “RKO” as Orton stared at Harper. They did a tight lockup. Orton hit a back elbow leading to Harper bailing to the floor where he stared at Wyatt. Back in the ring, Harper got the advantage with a forearm, but Orton came back with two clotheslines. Orton dumped him out of the ring. Harper tried to get back in, but Orton dropped him with a draping DDT with the crowd cheering for him. Harper bailed to the floor again. Orton followed him out there with a back suplex onto the announce table, but not strong enough to break it. Harper came back with a boot to the face to knock him down. Both guys were down on the floor. Wyatt rolled Orton back in the ring and he rolled Harper back in as well. The show went to break there.
Back from break, Harper had Orton in a headlock while Bray Wyatt watched from his rocking chair at ringside. Body slam by Harper. When Harper went up top, Orton rocked him with a punch. Fans chanted “RKO” for Orton as Orton hit a superplex although he was on the middle rope rather than the top rope like he usually does. Orton with a powerslam for a two count. Back elbow by Harper into a Michinoku Driver for a two count. When Orton went for a RKO, Harper got a rollup for two followed by a superkick by Harper for a two count. Wyatt was smiling at ringside because he enjoyed the battle. Orton came back with a rollup. Harper went for a Discus clothesline, but Orton avoided it and hit a RKO outta nowhere for the pinfall win at about 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Randy Orton
Analysis: *** Good match with several spots in the match where it looked like both guys were close to winning. I'm a huge fan of Harper and always like seeing him in a ten minute match like this. He's so skilled in the ring. Orton works well with him too. Orton getting the win was what I expected since he’s the bigger name. I liked the finishing sequence with Harper going for the clothesline, Orton avoided it and dropped him with the RKO. That’s the beauty of the RKO “outta nowhere” because you never really know when it can end a match and the crowd is always going to respond to it in a big way.
After the match was over, Wyatt went into the ring. It looked like he was going to give Harper a hug, but instead Wyatt dropped Harper with the Sister Abigail move. Crowd let out a big “ooohhh” reaction for that. Orton left with Wyatt while Harper was left alone in the ring.
Analysis: This isn’t the kind of story where you need to guess if people are turning face or heel. I don’t think it means that Harper is no longer in the Wyatt Family or anything like that. It’s more of a situation where Wyatt is giving him tough love. At least that’s how I’m going to interpret it.
There was a replay of last week’s Smackdown Live main event when the great Mickie James was revealed to be La Luchadora as she helped Alexa Bliss retain the Smackdown Women’s Title over Becky Lynch.
There was a shot of Mickie James walking backstage. She’s up next.
Later on Smackdown: AJ Styles calls out John Cena.
Mickie James was introduced by Renee Young. Mickie entered to her normal WWE theme song.
Mickie James Explains Her Actions
Mickie started off by mentioning that she won her first Women’s Title over Trish Stratus at WrestleMania. Mickie bragged about winning five Women’s Titles and one Divas Title. Mickie said that even though she hasn’t been around for a little minute, she hasn’t stopped watching WWE. She said that that Becky Lynch and other women of the revolution act as if they were the first athletes in the women’s division as if she didn’t matter. Mickie said that they would have gotten away with it if not for Alexa Bliss. Mickie talked about how Bliss has been fighting against the women’s revolution since day one and that Bliss is the only one that remembered Mickie’s championship moments as well as her WrestleMania moments. Mickie told Renee that if it wasn’t for Alexa then Mickie wouldn’t be there right now. Mickie said to forget about the revolution because this is about the re-invention of Mickie James and she is here to tell us Mickie James matters.
Becky Lynch walked down to the ring with a purpose. Lynch tripped her up and punched her. Mickie got out of the ring, she jumped over the barricade and Lynch followed her. Bliss showed up in the aisle and punched Bliss to knock her down. The heels went into the ring with Lynch with James hitting a spin kick to knock her down. Bliss went to the top rope and hit a Twisted Bliss splash. James told Lynch she should have learned a lesson from Alexa: “Always be one step ahead.” Mickie and Alexa smiled to end the segment. JBL praised the heels for doing a great job with the set up.
Analysis: I enjoyed that. It was Mickie’s first promo on WWE TV in about seven years. I thought she handled it well even though the crowd probably doesn’t want to boo her since she’s one of the most popular women in WWE history. Bragging about the number of title wins she has was great because nobody likes a bragger. The heels outsmarting the face is something we see all the time especially with Lynch, who has been the victim of numerous attacks in the last couple of years. I’m glad that Mickie was given a chance to do a promo to explain her actions. It’s so great to see her back in WWE again.
The announcers shilled the Royal Rumble on WWE Network while telling us to subscribe to WWE Network.
There was a video from last week where Carmella took James Ellsworth on a shopping spree. They were at a men’s clothing store. Ellsworth said the stuff looked expensive. He was in his ring gear while at the store. Ellsworth tried on some clothes that looked silly. She mocked him for one outfit asking if he was Sami Zayn. Ellsworth was in an Elvis Presley outfit at some point and even a Godfather-like look as well. After his stupid outfits, Carmella said she’ll pick out his outfit. He was wearing some god shirt, a chain, gold pants and a black hat.
Analysis: That was bad. The video went on for a bit too long because it wasn’t as funny as they likely intended it to be. I groaned a few times trying to get through that. I don’t mind Carmella with Ellsworth, but that was tough to watch. It was a comedy segment that completely failed. Not sure how else to say it.
Baron Corbin made his entrance to join commentary for a battle royal up next.
Battle Royal For A Spot In The Royal Rumble
The winner of the battle royal will be in the Royal Rumble match.
Rhyno hit his partner Heath Slater to start. Aiden English and Simon Gotch went after them, so English and Gotch were quickly eliminated. Mojo Rawley eliminated Curt Hawkins after he put him on the top rope and nailed a running clothesline. Heath Slater sent Viktor out of the ring. After the elimination, Viktor held Slater’s leg and Konnor knocked Slater down to eliminate him. Rhyno and Konnor were battling by the ropes, so Rawley dumped both guys out.
Final three were Rawley against the tag team of Tyler Breeze and Fandango. The crowd was chanting for Rawley. Fandango was sent over the top on the apron. Breeze went for a kick on Rawley, but Rawley moved and Breeze eliminated Fandango accidentally with a superkick. Rawley did a back body drop to Breeze to eliminate him. It went about four minutes.
Winner: Mojo Rawley
Analysis: * It was an average battle royal to put over a midcard face like Rawley. He’s not going to do that well in the Royal Rumble and is probably a candidate to be in the match the shortest. At least he got a quick moment to celebrate here.
There was a clip from earlier in the day where Natalya attacked Nikki Bella by the production trucks. Natalya tossed her into the side of a truck and left.
Analysis: It was a simple way to continue their angle with a quick segment outside the ring.
Styles and Cena are up next.
It was mentioned that Cena is hosting the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards 2017. I guess that’s a good thing. I’m a grown man without kids, so I’m going to skip that one. Sorry Cenation.
AJ Styles Confrontation With John Cena
The phenomenal WWE Champion AJ Styles made his entrance. Good ovation for the champ along with some boos. It noted that he has been WWE Champion for 134 days. A replay aired from last week when Styles hit the AA on The Miz and Styles.
The crowd chanted “AJ Styles” as the champ was in the ring. Styles said that as the WWE Champion he wouldn’t have to deal with things like this, but he wanted to share the Royal Rumble poster. It showed up on the screen. He complained about how he can’t find AJ Styles on there. They enhanced the post to show Styles all the way in the back while Cena was up front. Styles complained about Shane McMahon not showing his champion some respect. He called out Cena.
Analysis: The poster thing upset a lot of fans online. I totally understand why people were mad about it and think WWE made a major mistake putting Styles near the back on that poster. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Is it a big deal? Not really, but it’s good for the Styles character to bitch about it.
John Cena made his entrance to mostly cheers. It was a loud reaction. He’s got some new merch that he was wearing. At the Royal Rumble on Sunday it’s Styles vs. Cena for the WWE Title. It should be awesome. The announcers noted that Styles made his WWE debut on the Royal Rumble last year on January 24.
Cena had a microphone in hand as the crowd did the “Let’s Go Cena/Cena Sucks” chants.
Styles mentioned how Cena was on the Today Show on Monday morning and he heard this. A clip aired from the Today Show with Cena and the co-hosts talking about Cena’s match. The woman co-host said “guy from Atlanta” without saying the name. Al Roker didn’t know the name either. Way to put over the product, Today Show.
Styles complained that Cena has forgotten that AJ is the “Phenomenal” AJ Styles. Styles bragged about holding down Smackdown Live since Cena’s been gone. Styles told Cena that nobody missed him. Loud “Cena” chant from the kids. Styles claimed that he was the face that replaced Cena. Styles spoke about how Cena has come up with excuses every time Styles has beat him and he wondered if Cena had any excuses left. Styles told him that Cena is the only excuse left because Cena is a sorry excuse for a wrestler. Styles wondered if he’ll get respect when he beats Cena at the Royal Rumble. Styles claimed that he has fought he has fought for every inch in WWE, but he’s not settling for an inch, he’s taking a foot and “I’m putting it in your ass.” That drew a good reaction.
Cena noted that the champ is complaining that he doesn’t get enough respect. Cena mentioned that he has 10,000 people telling him that he sucks, but he doesn’t complain about how respect. Cena credited Styles for being hot for like six months while Cena claimed that he held this place down for a decade. He wondered why Styles complains about him and wondered if it was because Cena didn’t spend time on the indy scene. Cena said a “spoiler alert” that he wasn’t built for the indy scene, he was built for the WWE, for Smackdown Live, for the Royal Rumble and moments like right here, right now. Cena said that regardless how good Styles thinks he is, he isn’t at Cena’s level or the level below him. Cena said he doesn’t complain about the critics – he just earns every day and shuts every mouth. Cena said that Styles should just photoshop himself over Cena on the poster and said that Styles isn’t just a guy from Atlanta, he’s just a guy. Cena claimed that Styles was holding onto that championship because Cena let him. Cena told Styles that every guy that rips him does what they can to be him, Mr. face that runs the place. Cena reminded Styles that there’s only one John Cena, he’s still a bad, bad man and his time is now…recognize. Cena dropped the microphone and left.
Analysis: That was amazing. Perhaps their best promo together to date. They always deliver the goods when they get the time to deliver a money promo to sell a match. Cena has delivered excellent promos so many times in these types of settings and he reminded us once again how good he can be when he can let loose. Styles made a lot of great points, but Cena fired back and put him in his place as well. It’s smart to have them not do anything physical because they got into it a bit last week. They left us wanting more this week. I think they’re going to have a classic match on Sunday. I’m very excited about it. I’m probably picking Styles to win at Royal Rumble, but I’m not sure about it. With Elimination Chamber happening two weeks later the title situation could change a lot by then as well.
Later: Ambrose vs. Miz.
Up next is Ziggler vs. Kalisto and they were both shown walking backstage in separate parts of the arena.
Kalisto was already in the ring for the next match. Dolph Ziggler made his entrance. There was a replay of Ziggler’s segment with Jerry Lawler on Smackdown last week when Ziggler dropped him with a superkick.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kalisto
Ziggler with a forearm shot leading to a neckbreaker for two. Kalisto avoided clothesline and hit a spin kick. Kalisto went for a springboard attack, but Ziggler nailed him with a superkick for the win. It went about 45 seconds.
Winner by pinfall: Dolph Ziggler
Analysis: 1/2* A short match to give Ziggler a much-needed win. It’s been a while since he could get some victories, so having him beat Kalisto easily makes sense for the direction of his new persona.
Post match, Ziggler got a chair. JBL yelled at him about it. Apollo Crews ran down and nailed him in the back with a punch. Crews grabbed the chair. He swung the chair at him, Ziggler avoided the chair shot and Crews hit the ring post with the chair. Ziggler ran up the ramp to end the segment.
Analysis: Ziggler is in chickenshit heel mode. I'm excited about his future in this role even if he is just going to put over a guy like Crews. That's okay because I like his heel work a lot.
Natalya vs. Naomi is up next.
There was a shot of a family of four that got a seat upgrade for the show sponsored by Little Caesar’s Pizza.
Naomi made her colorful entrance. It’s been a few months since she’s been on the show. JBL wondered if he and Ron Simmons could do an entrance like that. That was funny.
Natalya’s music played. There was no sign of her. The camera cut backstage to see Nikki Bella attacking Natalya. Nikki took her down and beat on her with punches. Referees showed up to pull Nikki off.
Analysis: It’s another week where Natalya and Nikki brawled before a match could get going. Since they won’t have a match at Royal Rumble it will probably be saved for Elimination Chamber two weeks after the Rumble. That’s fine with me.
Naomi grabbed the microphone. She said that she came back to Smackdown Live because it’s the land of opportunity. Naomi wondered if any woman on Smackdown wanted to feel the glow…please come on out.
Alexa Bliss, the SD Live Women’s Champ, responded. Bliss said she’s not there to answer a challenge from a nobody. She noted that Naomi hasn’t been on TV for three months and asked who she was. Naomi said she’ll show her exactly who she is. Naomi said she’ll snatch that hair bald and claimed she would be the next Smackdown Women’s Champion. Bliss went on the apron and then backed away like heels tend to do. Bliss said that Naomi isn’t worth her time, but say hi to obscurity for her.
Analysis: It was fine, but I would have had Naomi specifically ask for Bliss to come out rather than Bliss doing that promo where she acted like a bitch towards Naomi. At least if you had Naomi call her out then Bliss would have a reason to be there. It’s just a small complaint because I like Naomi. It makes sense as a feud too.
Ambrose vs. Miz is next.
There was a plug for Talking Smack after the show with Renee Young and Shane McMahon as hosts with AJ Styles, Mickie James and Mojo Rawley as the guests.
Analysis: I’m not sure why Daniel Bryan has been off for a few weeks as the co-host. He was at the show, which we saw earlier. My guess is that maybe WWE management doesn’t like some of the stuff Bryan says and that Shane could put over the stories better since he is a McMahon after all. I don’t know the reason. That’s just a guess.
Dean Ambrose was backstage. He was interviewed by Dasha Fuentes as he said that he’s going to leave with his title and there aren’t enough lumberjacks in the world to stop him.
The Miz made his entrance with his lovely wife Maryse for the Lumberjack Match. Replays aired of when Ambrose beat Miz for the IC Title three weeks ago.
Lumberjacks made their way down to the ring.
A new match was announced for the Royal Rumble: Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch & Naomi vs. Natalya, Mickie James & Alexa Bliss. That should be fun because there are a couple of good feuds in there plus the new Naomi vs. Bliss rivalry. Naomi pinning Bliss would make the most sense there.
The lumberjacks were shown standing outside the ring. It’s noticeable that most of them are heels. Smackdown is hurting a bit in terms of faces.
The Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose made his entrance to a good ovation.
Lumberjack Match for the Intercontinental Title: Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz (w/Maryse)
Miz tossed Ambrose out of the ring, but the lumberjacks were too slow to get him and Ambrose went back in. Ambrose missed a cross body block. He landed on the floor where he had to punch to avoid some of the heel lumberjacks. Miz capitalized with some kicks on Ambrose. Ambrose came back by sending Miz over the top the floor. The lumberjacks beat on Miz a bit and sent him back in so Ambrose could get a two count. Show went to break there.
As the show returned from break, Ambrose went for the Lunatic Lariat, but the heels pulled him out of the ring to beat on him a bit. Miz dumped Ambrose out of the ring. The lumberjacks sent Ambrose back in and Miz hit a DDT for a two count on Ambrose. Miz came back with some Daniel Bryan-like kicks to the chest to piss off the fans. Ambrose came back with a rollup for two. Miz dumped Ambrose to the floor, but Ambrose fought off the lumberjacks by sending Baron Corbin into the ring post. Ambrose did a necksnap on Miz against the ropes. Ambrose up top and he hit a flying elbow smash to knock Miz down for a two count. Miz was on the floor, so Ambrose hit a suicide dive to take him out. Ambrose had to fight off lumberjacks again. Maryse held onto Ambrose’s leg. Miz nailed a running knee to the face like Daniel Bryan for a two count. Great nearfall there. Miz with two corner dropkicks and Ambrose dumped him over the top to the floor. The lumberjacks attacked Miz, so Ambrose went up top and jumped onto everybody on the floor to knock them all down. Fans chanted “This is Awesome” for them. They went back into the ring with Ambrose hitting the Lunatic Lariat for two as Corbin went into the ring and nailed Ambrose with a forearm to break up the pin. All of the lumberjacks went into the ring for a brawl. Corbin cleared the ring by tossing a punch of guys out of the ring. Ambrose ducked low to send Corbin over the top to the floor. Miz got a rollup with his feet on the ropes for a two count. Ambrose came back with Dirty Deeds for the pinfall win after 12 minutes. The crowd loved that finish.
Winner by pinfall: Dean Ambrose
Analysis: *** Fun match where they did a good job of implementing the lumberjacks into the match. The finish was weird with other guys getting into the ring and the ref not disqualifying the match. The crowd reaction for the match was really strong. I’m not that surprised by it because Ambrose is popular, but it shows how well the IC Title has been elevated.
Ambrose celebrated with his title while Maryse tended to The Miz. That’s how Smackdown ended.
Three Stars of the Show
1. John Cena
2. AJ Styles
3. Randy Orton
It’s one of those shows where it was hard to pick just three people. A lot of them did a great job.
8 out of 10
Last week: 7.5
2017 Average: 7.38
Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.57 - Raw is at 5.79
Last 5 Weeks: 7.5, 6, 8, 9, 7.5
2017 High: 8 (Jan. 3 & Jan. 24)
2017 Low: 6 (Jan. 10)
It gets a 8 out of 10.
I enjoyed the show a lot with very few complaints. They did a lot of things right such as the Wyatt Family angle following a good Orton/Harper match, Mickie explained herself well, the Cena/Styles promo was fantastic again, it was nice to see Naomi back in the mix and the main event was an energetic match that the crowd loved.
The complaints I have are minor such as the Ellsworth/Carmella thing being really bad and not that funny at all.
Something that has bothered me in the last few weeks is that the tag team division has been completely ignored. I hate that it’s happened and hope they can fix that after the Rumble.
Once again I thought Smackdown delivered a very entertaining show from top to bottom.
Here’s the Royal Rumble lineup:
30-Man Royal Rumble Match
WWE World Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena
WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns (No Disqualification Match where Chris Jericho will be suspended above the ring in a shark cage)
Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Bayley
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