Live from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this is Smackdown Live for episode #917. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the very creative banner up top based on some Miz comments about Cena last week.
The show began with a video package from last week when AJ Styles yelled at Shane McMahon after Styles lost to Randy Orton. Highlights aired of the great Orton/Styles match and Styles’ complaints throughout the night.
Daniel Bryan, the GM of Smackdown, was shown backstage talking on the phone. He mentioned we'll hear from Miz and Orton during the show while also adding that Mickie James will face Alexa Bliss. AJ Styles showed up complaining and he said he was looking for Shane McMahon. Styles said he’s going out to the ring to speak his mind while Bryan told him to think about his career and Styles said that’s what he is thinking about.
The duo of Tom "allowed to talk during matches this week" Phillips and John Bradshaw Layfield were at ringside on commentary. No Mauro Ranallo and David Otunga this week.
AJ Styles made his entrance wearing one of his shirts and jeans, so he’s not in his ring gear.
Styles looked angry in the ring as the crowd chanted his name. Styles said he’s sick and tired of being messed with by Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon. He talked about how you would think they would roll out the red carpet for him at WrestleMania, but that’s not what happened. Styles spoke about how John Cena just asked for a WWE Title match at the Royal Rumble and it just happened because he’s practically brothers in law with Bryan. Styles said he lost, but he didn’t get his one on one rematch. He complained about how he got a triple threat where he didn’t get beat. Then he whined about being in an Elimination Chamber. Styles mentioned the battle royal that he claims he won, but there was controversy so he beat Luke Harper the week after that. He complained about how Randy Orton burned down Bray Wyatt’s house, Orton didn’t go to jail and he went to the main event of WrestleMania.
Styles talked about how he had the best year of anybody in WWE in 2016. Damn right. He bragged about how he’s the reason why people are in the building, why they are watching the show and why people subscribe to WWE Network. Styles bitched about how he doesn’t have a match at WrestleMania. Styles spoke about how he could have slapped the kale chips out of Daniel Bryan’s mouth, but we know that Bryan is nothing more than a puppet. Styles said he’s going to have a conversation with Shane McMahon tonight about his career. Styles: “That is, if I even have one.” Styles left.
Analysis: That was a great promo from Styles. He had several justifiable reasons to complain about things being unfair. Cena was just granted that title shot at the Royal Rumble without earning the shot. Also, Styles never got a singles match rematch for the title like he was promised as well. It shows that the writing of this show has been consistently strong because they don’t forget the little details so that when Styles is out there complaining it’s easy to defend what he is saying because he's right about a lot of it.
The announcers mentioned that Mauro Ranallo had travel problems and David Otunga is filming a movie. I'll miss Mauro, but not Otunga.
Randy Orton will be there later. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya up next.
Becky Lynch made her entrance. She’s against Natalya, who hit her with a German Suplex during a tag match last week.
At WrestleMania, it’s Alexa Bliss defending against “all available women” and we don’t know the match type yet. Tom claimed that WrestleMania is the “ultimate thrill ride” because we don’t know what kind of match it is.
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
The crowd chanted for Lynch early as Natalya kicked her in the ribs. Lynch tried to attack, so Natalya called a timeout. Lynch came back with a hard slap to the face followed by a forearm and a kick to the ribs. Lynch tripped her up looking for a submission, but Natalya got to the ropes. Natalya went to the floor as they went to break two minutes into it.
Back from break as Lynch hit a leg drop for two. Normally the heels are in control after the break. Lynch went after Natalya on the floor, so Natalya hit a Michinoku Driver sitout slam to take control. Natalya hit a dropkick to the back for two. Headlock by Natalya, Lynch to her feet and Natalya whipped her into the ropes. They slugged it out with Lynch hitting two clotheslines, leg lariat and a Bexploder by Lynch. They fought by the ropes. Lynch slammed her down and applied the Disarmer submission. Natalya tapped out for the loss after eight minutes.
Winner by submission: Becky Lynch
Analysis: **1/2 It was a solid match as usual from them. They’ve had plenty of matches together, so we know we can expect an entertaining match every time. I liked how Natalya got control with a move on the floor. Lynch is very good at making the comeback with her signature spots that the crowd is very familiar with by this point. Good finish to the match with Lynch winning clean. I always want Natalya to get wins, but it doesn’t matter too much since all of the non-Bliss women are number one contenders anyway.
After the match, Carmella went into the ring and hit Lynch with a superkick. Carmella also hit Natalya with a superkick. Her buddy James Ellsworth was with her. They left.
Analysis: It makes sense for Carmella to make her mark since she wasn’t a part of the women’s promo last week.
Styles was shown in the parking lot waiting for Shane McMahon.
There was a video package about John Cena hosting the Kids Choice Awards. Nikki Bella was there as well. Looks like Cena did a terrible “you can’t see me” joke there. He also got slimed because that’s what they do apparently. I have no other analysis for it.
Miz TV is up next.
PLUG TIME: Earlier this month, I started a countdown of the 33 Greatest Matches in WrestleMania History that will end on April 2, which is the day of WrestleMania. Some of the matches I’ve written about in the last week are: Bryan/Triple H from WM30, Lesnar/Reigns (and Rollins) from WM31 and Rock/Austin from WM19 to name a few. Earlier on Tuesday I posted the review of Undertaker/Triple H from WM 27, which is match #20. Every day from now until April 2 I’ll have a new post up, so check out the list of the Greatest Matches in WrestleMania History now!
Carmella and Ellsworth were shown backstage walking. Dasha Fuentes interviewed her. Carmella just said she wanted to make her presence felt for the Women’s Title match at WrestleMania.
The Miz was in the ring with his lovely wife Maryse for a “special edition” of Miz TV. He said his guests are “The It Couple” Miz and Maryse. He showed clips of things from last week from when they beat up John Cena and Nikki Bella. It also showed a clip of Talking Smack when Miz and Maryse did a great job in ripping on Cena and Nikki. I think Miz is the best WWE performer on Talking Smack.
Maryse held up her wedding ring as Miz said that Cena only loves himself. Miz asked Maryse to tell a story about Nikki Bella. Maryse said that a while ago she was asked to be on the first Total Divas, but Nikki Bella – her best friend at the time – told her to wait to sign the contract. Maryse said the deal was off the table. Maryse claimed that Nikki said she would take care of it because she was dating John Cena and she was untouchable. Maryse said that was the last time she heard from her. Maryse spoke about how Nikki once texted her “I hope you don’t mind” that Nikki was on the first season on Total Divas from Maryse. It led to Maryse ranting about how Nikki hurt her, embarrassed her and cost her 3.5 years of time spent with her husband. Maryse called Nikki Bella a lying, backstabbing bitch. Here comes John and Nikki.
John Cena and Nikki Bella ran into the ring. Miz and Maryse left the ring. Nikki said if she could prevent Maryse from working in WWE then why would she be there now? Nikki said they were never best friends while noting that Maryse stabbed Nikki and Brie in the back. Nikki called Maryse a brainless blowup doll. Nikki told her to step into the ring right here, right now so Nikki can kick her ass.
Miz told Nikki she can’t make matches. Miz: “Who do you think you are, John Cena?” Great job by Miz. Miz went to wrap it up saying that’s the end of Miz TV for this week.
Daniel Bryan showed up on the stage. Bryan asked Miz who he thought he was. Bryan said that Miz promised it would be a special edition of Miz TV, but all Miz did was run his mouth and he ran away. Bryan said since Miz promised something special and didn’t deliver it makes him want to punch Miz in the face. Bryan also spoke about how Miz mocks him for not being able to wrestle and mocking Bryan’s moves, so both of those things make Bryan want to punch him in the face. Bryan said the fact that he can’t punch him in the face and Miz takes advantage of that makes Bryan want to punch him in the face even more. Bryan noted that he knows two people who can punch them in the face.
Bryan announced that at WrestleMania it will be Miz and Maryse vs. Nikki Bella and John Cena. Nikki and John celebrated in the ring while Miz and Maryse just looked on without a major reaction. The crowd cheered the announcement.
Analysis: The WrestleMania match was rumored for a couple of months, so now it’s official. There wasn’t as much Miz talk as usual. The promo from Maryse was okay. She’s got star power, charisma and is obviously gorgeous, but talking a lot isn’t a strength of hers. There was probably some truth to the story that she tried to tell about Total Divas because I believe there were plans for the show before it actually aired. Whether all of it was true is unlikely, but that’s fine. It’s a heel telling a story. Bryan did a fantastic match of talking about how he wants to punch Miz in the face while providing reasons for why he felt that way. The segment accomplished the goal of setting up the WrestleMania match. It worked.
AJ Styles was shown backstage still waiting for Shane McMahon.
Later: Randy Orton addresses Bray Wyatt. Up next is Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James.
The announcers plugged women’s history month.
The great Mickie James made her entrance. A replay aired from last week showing Mickie’s Mick Kick on Alexa Bliss last week. Bliss made her entrance.
Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss
This is not for Bliss’ Smackdown Women’s Title.
There was a shove to start the match. They did an aggressive lockup. Bliss sent her face first into the middle turnbuckle. Double knee attack by Bliss to the back of James against the ropes. They did a spot by the ringpost where Bliss sent James into the post. It looked like James’ hand hit the ring post. Bliss pulled her off the apron and slammed her onto her back as the show went to break two minutes into it.
Bliss had James grounded in a headlock. The crowd wasn’t into it that much since both women were heels. James tripped her up and applied a single leg crab. Bliss got to the ropes. JBL noted that Mickie has six Women’s Title reigns and is just one behind Trish Stratus, so she can tie her at WrestleMania. Running kick by James for a two count. James with a Fisherman’s Suplex for two. Bliss came back by grabbing James’ hair and slamming her down. Hair toss by Bliss again, but it didn’t look great. They did it again and it looked better the second time. James came back with a headscissors, kick to the gut and kick to the face. Sunset flip into a pin by Bliss for a two count. James blocked a DDT attempt. James came back with a kick to the gut and wanted a DDT, but Bliss got a rollup. James came back with her own cover for two. Bliss with a punch and double knee to the ribs. James avoided another knee attack and hit a Mick Kick for the pinfall win after eight minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Mickie James
Analysis: **1/4 Good effort by both women. As I noted in the review, it was tough to get the crowd into it since both women are heels and the crowd had a tough time getting into the match. There were a few spots that didn’t work out as smoothly as they may have wanted since it was their first match, but they got through it. The weakest aspect of Bliss as a performer is her offense in a match because she doesn’t do a whole lot of moves. Her strength is promos and character. The win by James was no surprise because champions often lose title matches on television. Perhaps WWE should have waited a week to build up this match a bit more. I think it was done because WWE felt that James needed a win, which she did.
AJ Styles was still in the parking lot waiting on Shane McMahon. Renee Young showed up to interview him. Styles said WrestleMania is the ultimate thrill ride and he doesn’t have a match at WrestleMania, so he’ll get his thrills where he can.
Shane McMahon pulled up to the arena in a car. Styles attacked Shane by sending him into doors, walls and crates that were. Styles pounded on Shane with punches. Styles sent Shane face first into the back window of the car! Ouch. That looked nasty. Fit Finlay showed up telling AJ to stop and called for paramedics while Renee noted that Shane was bleeding. There was blood on the top of Shane’s head.
Analysis: That was a vicious attack by Styles. You don’t see guys getting thrown through windows like that. Good to see Styles overly aggressive in that way. Fans cheer Styles a lot. This was a cheap attack and dirty move to remind people that Styles is still a heel. Obviously, this is going to lead to their WrestleMania match.
A replay aired of the attack by Styles on McMahon as the announcers said that pictures tell the story.
Shane was getting checked on by doctors. His head was bloody. The doctor said that he had a skull laceration. Shane was helped into the arena.
The announcers talked about it with JBL saying that there was no way in the world that was acceptable.
Styles was in the locker room with The Usos and Curt Hawkins. The Usos said you can’t be doing stuff like that. Styles grabbed his luggage and left. Daniel Bryan showed up with cops. Bryan said he lost all respect for Styles. Styles asked Bryan what’s he going to do, fire him? Bryan said damn right he’ll fire him and Bryan ordered the cops to take him out. The crowd booed that.
Analysis: I like the way they went over what happened. Showing Shane getting checked out by the doctors, plus having a heel announcer like JBL even ripping on a heel like Styles is the right way to get the angle over as a big deal. If you had the heel announcer defending what Styles did that wouldn’t be an effective way of getting the angle over. Bryan telling him he’s fired…or simply ejected this week…is a natural reaction by the GM that is friends with Shane.
The announcers talked about the AJ attack on Shane with JBL noting that Styles may be the greatest wrestler of this generation and now he’s fired from Smackdown. It won’t last, but that’s the story.
Mojo Rawley vs. Dolph Ziggler
Rawley was aggressive early on as he sent Ziggler over the top to the floor. Ziggler went back in the ring, so Rawley tossed him over the top to the floor again. Ziggler took control by sending Rawley neck first into the top rope followed by a Ziggler dropkick in the ring. Rawley came back by sending Ziggler over the top rope for the third time. The ref counted Ziggler out and Ziggler had no interest in getting back into the ring. It went three minutes.
Winner by countout: Mojo Rawley
Analysis: * The match was a tease for the battle royal with Rawley throwing him over the top rope three times. Ziggler had enough and stayed out of the ring since he’s the cowardly heel. It fit his character.
There was another replay of AJ throwing Shane through the car window. They even had a camera angle from inside the car. Way to make it look like it was random lol.
Analysis: It’s silly to show the camera in the car as Shane’s head got put through the window. You’re supposed to make things look real and not too contrived like that. "Hey fans, here's the shot from inside the car!" We don't need to see that angle. The original shot is enough. That's overproduction on WWE's part.
It was mentioned that Eric LeGrand is getting the Warrior Award at the WWE Hall of Fame as they showed on Raw. No time for a video package on this show.
Neville did a backstage promo about 205 Live. He said it doesn’t matter who wins the Fatal 5-Way match because he’ll beat them at WrestleMania.
Let’s Hear From Randy Orton
Rand Orton, the number one contender for the WWE Title at WrestleMania, made his entrance to mostly cheers from the ground. He was in his street clothes.
Orton spoke about how a viper strikes when the timing is absolutely perfect. Orton talked about how he waited for months and months and months. He said that he could have attacked Wyatt at any time, but a RKO would have been too easy. Orton thought that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Orton mentioned how he devised a plan to become a member of Wyatt’s family. He said if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em and if the timing is right, screw ‘em.
Orton said that he knew that he had to destroy the one thing in the world that Wyatt loves and that one thing is Sister Abigail. Orton spoke about how he could feel Bray Wyatt’s power taken away and the Face of Fear had fear on his face. Orton said the thing Wyatt feared was being alone and now Wyatt is alone. Orton stared at the WrestleMania while noting that the job is not yet over. Orton said he needed to finish what he started and that is why at WrestleMania, he swears to God he will take everything from Bray Wyatt. The crowd cheered.
Bray Wyatt, the WWE Champion, appeared on the video wall. Wyatt said he was helpless, naked, stripped of all his power. Wyatt said that Sister Abigail is the spawn of Satan and was forged in hell itself. Wyatt said that Abigail still beats in the hearts of all her apostles. Wyatt said that he’s the all knowing, all powerful and it’s his duty to purge all of the infidels in this life. Wyatt said he would start with Orton. Wyatt said that Abigail lives through him now internally. Wyatt said that he’s born again – he claimed that he baptized himself. Wyatt grabbed some dirt that was on the ground and put it on his body. He grabbed more dirt and put it on his head. Wyatt: “Follow the buzzards.” Wyatt yelled to end it. Orton just looked on from inside the ring.
Analysis: Orton did a good job of explaining the reasons for burning down the Wyatt house and why he did what he did. It made sense for him to say that the RKO wasn’t enough – he had to make it personal and go after what Wyatt loved, which is Sister Abigail. The rebuttal from Wyatt made sense since it was his way of saying that he feels reborn and it puts over the idea that he could be more dangerous than. I like that they were kept apart too. Hopefully they aren't in a tag match or anything like that. Keep them apart until WrestleMania.
Up next: American Alpha vs. The Usos.
There was a Snickers sponsored ad showing last year’s WrestleMania when The Rock announced the attendance with over 101,000 people.
A replay aired from last week when Baron Corbin attacked Dean Ambrose backstage while using a forklift for an assist.
Corbin was standing by a forklift backstage and Dasha showed up to interview him. Corbin said that Ambrose came looking for him, so Corbin put him in the hospital. Corbin suggested that Ambrose get out of the hospital for WrestleMania and put that IC Title on the line so that Corbin can put him down for good.
Analysis: The rivalry has been built up well. It makes sense to have the IC Title match at WrestleMania.
The announcers said there will be a medical update on Shane McMahon after this tag match and on Talking Smack.
American Alpha made their entrance first followed by The Usos.
American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) vs. The Usos (Jimmy & Jey)
This is not for the tag titles held by American Alpha.
Jordan with a dropkick on Jey early in the show. Jordan grounded Jey with a headlock. Shane was shown limping backstage with Finlay and Jamie Noble by his side. The heels took control by isolating Jordan. The Usos stood on the top rope as Gable stood beside Jordan. Gable and Jordan each hit dropkicks as the show went to break.
A commercial aired for Raw next Monday featuring Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns. Plus, Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel with the “real” Kevin Owens.
Back from break, the heels isolated Jordan from his partner. The fans chanted “we want Angle” as Jimmy worked over Jordan in the ring. Jey tagged in and jumped off the top rope with a forearm to the chest. The Usos continued to work over Jordan in the ring. Shane McMahon was shown backstage getting helped by Finlay and Noble again. Instead of leaving the building, Shane was shown walking back into the arena. Back to the match, Jimmy missed a corner charge as Jordan moved. Jimmy hit the ring post with his shoulder. Gable got the hot tag with two German Suplexes on Jey and a belly to belly suplex on Jimmy. Gable sent Jey into the ropes leading to a bridging German Suplex for a two count. Gable jumped onto Jimmy and dumped him out of the ring. Jey got a rollup for two. Tag to Jordan, he picked Jey up and Jimmy shoved Gable off the top. Jimmy with a superkick to Jey leading to Jey landing on top of Jordan for the pinfall win. It went about ten minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The Usos
Analysis: **1/2 A decent tag match from Smackdown’s best tag teams, but they have had better matches. I liked the way the finish was done with The Usos outsmarting them and hitting the superkick to win. They set up the finish well, which is always important. No surprise that The Usos got the win since champs often lose on WWE TV. It was the second time they went with that finish on this show in terms of champion(s) losing.
Shane McMahon was shown backstage near the entrance area. He grabbed a microphone and walked onto the stage. Shane said: “AJ Styles said he doesn’t have an opponent at WrestleMania? He does now.” Fans cheered. End show right at 10pmET.
Analysis: I thought they might go a few minutes past 10pmET this week. Nope. A simple promo by Shane to announce the obvious WrestleMania match against AJ Styles. It’s official now after several months of slow build up to it.
Three Stars of the Show
1. AJ Styles – Loved the way he was booked and the way he showed an attitude.
2. Shane McMahon – Give him props for that bump through the car window.
3. The Miz & Maryse
6.5 out of 10
Last week: 7
2017 Average: 7.14
Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.66 - Raw is at 5.76
Last 5 Weeks: 7, 8, 6, 7, 7
2017 High: 8 (Jan. 3, Jan. 24, Feb. 28)
2017 Low: 6 (Jan. 10, Feb. 21)
It gets a 6.5 out of 10.
It was a slightly below average edition of Smackdown based on my numbers for the year, but that's because the average has been high. There was not a standout match, but they still got a lot done. There were good promos as well as strong angle development especially the AJ Styles/Shane McMahon storyline.
The champions losing non-title matches is repetitive to the point that as soon as they have a champion in a non-title match I don’t get excited about it because I know what the result is going to be. I’m sure a lot of fans feel that way.
I liked most of the promos. That’s normally a positive on Smackdown. It was this week as well.
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