It's time for the new era of Smackdown with Shane McMahon as the Commissioner and Daniel Bryan as the General Manager. Battleground and Raw were both excellent shows, so let's see what WWE can do with Smackdown's first live show in the new era.
Before you read about tonight's show, check out my attempt at fantasy booking the first episode of Smackdown Live. It was a lot of fun to do and I'll probably do more of it in the future. Let me know what you think.
Live in Buffalo, New York this is Smackdown for episode #884.
Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon and General Manager Daniel Bryan started off with microphones backstage. They walked through the curtain as the crowd cheered. Then they walked out to the arena to lead the crowd in “YES” chants. The ring was full of wrestlers. There’s no ramp.
The Smackdown intro video aired. There’s a new song, so that’s similar to Raw.
There were crowd shots as Mauro Ranallo welcomed us to Smackdown.
Shane and Daniel were in the ring with the wrestlers standing on the apron. The ropes are blue. Shane says that Smackdown is on opportunity. He spoke about how on September 11 they are going to have the first Smackdown only PPV called Backlash. He said that since Smackdown is the exclusive home to the WWE Champion, they need to find an opponent for Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam.
Dean Ambrose made his entrance with the WWE Title. Big ovation for the champ. He was standing in the ring with microphone in hand. Ambrose said that he’s ready for a new challenge and he’s got that Smackdown Live fever. He wondered who was first.
Bryan said that’s what he loves about Ambrose because he’ll fight anyone at any time. Bryan said they had a plan for his opponent for SummerSlam. They’re going to have a Six Pack Challenge #1 Contender’s match where six superstars will compete for the number one contendership to wrestle Ambrose at SummerSlam for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Bryan said the first entrant in the Six Pack Challenge is John Cena. Shane said the next man is Bray Wyatt. The guys were just standing side by side in the ring. Bryan said Dolph Ziggler was next. Shane said Baron Corbin is next. Bryan said next man they are bringing in is the Phenomenal AJ Styles. Bryan mentioned that there was only five of them and that the sixth spot is open to everyone. Bryan said there’s a battle royal and Shane said that’s next.
Analysis: Solid opening to the show. The good thing about the way they have set it up is that the matches mean something when there’s a reward for the win. Guys in the Six Pack Challenge are going for the WWE Title shot while the guys in the battle royal are competing to see who can get into that match. We want the matches to mean something and they are doing a good job of that already. I like the energy on the show. That’s going to be a strong aspect of this show with Daniel Bryan out there.
The announce team of Mauro Ranallo, John Bradshaw Layfield and David Otunga were on camera welcoming us to the show.
Analysis: I’m encouraged by this trio. JBL should be the heel guy while Otunga will likely be the face announcer. Ranallo is the best at calling moves. I got sick of JBL with Cole, so he could be better with Ranallo.
Battle Royal to Determine Who Enters Six Pack Challenge
People were going after Kane early, but he fought them off. There’s Simon Gotch out of the battle royal first. The lesson is don’t get in a fight by catering. Apparently Sin Car knocked his ass out last week and he had a black eye. Kane dumped out both Ascension members. Kalisto was going after Kane and JBL called him Sin Cara, which was wrong. There was a corner ring camera that was used a lot for this, which is different from the norm. Del Rio nailed a nice enziguri kick on Kane that stunned him. Superkicks by one of the Usos on a couple of guys. Breeze and Fandango dumped out Jey Uso. Time for a commercial.
Back from break, Ranallo let us know that Aiden English and Erick Rowan were eliminated. Del Rio knocked out Rawley as JBL was talking about Rawley’s potential as a former football player. There goes Del Rio and there goes Breezango dumped out by Kane.
Final four wrestlers are Kane, Kalisto, Crews and Ryder. Ryder nailed a dropkick on Kane, then Crews with a standing moonsault and Kalisto hit a splash on Kane, so the smaller guys worked together against Kane. Kalisto and Crews worked on Ryder, but Ryder fought out of it and hit a neckbreaker on Kalisto. Crews clothesline on Ryder, but Ryder stayed on the apron. Kalisto with Salida del Sol on Crews. Ryder slipped trying to do a top rope elbow drop. Oops. Kalisto with a hurricanrana to Ryder. Kane grabbed Kalisto by the throat and eliminated him. Kane with clotheslines for Ryder and Crews. Ryder with a dropkick to Kane’s leg followed by a Broski Boot. Kane grabbed Ryder by the throat and tossed him over the top to send him out. Crews did a flip to avoid a Chokeslam, then he low bridged by the ropes and Kane went over the top to the floor. Crews wins after about 13 minutes.
Winner: Apollo Crews
Analysis: ** It was an average battle royal. There really wasn’t much going on, but then the final four were given a bit of time to tell a story and they did a good job. Kane was the dominant guy, he cleared the ring and Crews was crafty in getting rid of him. Solid way to put over a newer talent like Crews. Good choice for the winner.
After the win, Crews was interviewed by Renee Young at ringside. He said he’s not going to start the celebration until he wins the main event and goes on to SummerSlam.
Analysis: Raw had post match interviews, so Smackdown is doing them too.
The #1 Contender’s Six Pack Challenge match is John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews. My pick is Wyatt because I expect Cena vs. Styles at SummerSlam.
Analysis: My pick was wrong! Wrong I say!
Natalya and Becky Lynch were backstage walking to the ring for their match.
A video aired for Shelton Benjamin returning to WWE soon on Smackdown Live.
Analysis: That’s awesome. He’s 41 years old. He was released by WWE in 2010 after being a part of the company through the 2000s. Great athlete. He’s there to provide roster depth. I doubt he’s going to get a significant push, but he’s always going to put on great matches.
Dolph Ziggler did a promo backstage about how he got lost somewhere from stealing the show. He said that at the end of the night it’s going to be him taking his place winning the main event and going for the WWE Title at SummerSlam.
Becky Lynch made her entrance and then Natalya did. The ring announcer is Greg Hamilton (he was in NXT for a while, called up a few months ago) in case you’re wondering.
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
This is a rematch from Battleground where Natalya won via Sharpshooter. Good heel taunting by Natalya as she did stuff like stepping on the ribs of Lynch and posing to the crowd in order to get them to boo her. Lynch with a rollup gets two. Natalya kipped up and Lynch came back with some clotheslines. Lynch missed a forearm attack in the corner, then Natalya swept the leg when Lynch was on the middle rope to take her down. Time for a break.
Natalya had Lynch in an abdominal stretch, but then Lynch came back with an arm drag to take her down. Lynch nailed a forearm shot again and a kick. Natalya tossed her back to the turnbuckle. When Natalya caught her foot, Lynch nailed an enziguri kick. Lynch went up top and hit a leg drop for a two count. Natalya tried to go for a Sharpshooter, Lynch fought out and Natalya nailed a perfect release German Suplex for two. Lynch got a rollup, then she went for the Disarmer, but Natalya fought out of it and Natalya nailed the Natty by Nature discus lariat for a two count. When Natalya went for a Sharpshooter, Lynch got out of it and applied the Disarmer submission. Natalya tapped out for the Lynch win in a match that went ten minutes.
Winner by submission: Becky Lynch
Analysis: **3/4 A pretty good match from two ladies were technically proficient in there. Natalya got the win by clean submission on Sunday, so it’s no surprise that Lynch would get the win in this match. I liked some of the big spots they did with the leg drop by Lynch, Natalya hitting the German Suplex and huge clothesline and then Lynch coming back with the Disarmer to win.
After the match, Lynch was interviewed in the ring by Renee Young. Becky said “just call me Becky Balboa, baby.”
Alexa Bliss entered for a promo. She talked trash to Lynch by saying that she is the personification of what the new era looks like.
Here comes Naomi for a promo. She talked trash to Alexa about how she shouldn’t talk without being in the ring. Naomi just added that she was ready.
Carmella showed up to say that she is the princess of Staten Island. She said Tuesday nights are about to get fabulous.
Eva Marie entered with a superstar Hollywood entrance. The crowd was booing as she took a long time posing by the entrance. Eva just blew a kiss. JBL: “This could be the greatest night ever. Awesome! All red!” No promo from her.
Analysis: The women of Smackdown talking trash is a fine way to introduce them. They have so much faith in Eva that all she did was blow a kiss to the other girls while JBL marked out over her. She’s easy to hate even though she is gorgeous.
The Miz is up next.
Baron Corbin did a promo backstage about how he’s not winning the match for mom or dad or anybody else like other people say. He’s winning it for himself.
Miz TV with Randy Orton
The Intercontinental Champion The Miz and Maryse were in the ring to host Miz TV. I like when Maryse is on the screen. Oh look The Miz is there too. He talked about how they are making history and then he did an introduction for himself as his guest.
The Miz did a mock interview asking himself how he remains so humble. He bragged about being married to the perfect woman and how he’s the perfect Intercontinental Champion. Then he asked Maryse a question, so she bragged about how great it is to be married to him.
Randy Orton made his entrance. He was in his ring gear along with a RKO shirt. Nice ovation for him as he went into the ring with Miz. Lots of “RKO” chants for him.
Miz asked him why he was out there. Orton said he thought Miz was talking about him, so that’s why he is there. Orton congratulated him on a great job on the microphone, Miz said thank you and Orton said Miz is an expert at playing with himself. Clever line. Miz wondered why Orton would interrupt him.
Orton talked about how he used to make a living here in WWE killing legends. He knows he’s going to Suplex City, but it only takes on RKO to send Lesnar straight to Viperville – same line he used on Sunday at Battleground. Miz mentioned that Orton sounded confident for a guy that hasn’t been in the ring for nine months.
Orton was thinking about how his first match back after nine months away should take place right here in Buffalo and how cool would it be for it to take place against the Intercontinental Champion. Miz asked the crowd if they wanted to see it. Miz said no to that idea. Orton said no title on the line, then Orton said they’re old friends and Miz reminded Orton about how he beat him for the WWE Title – that was a Money in the Bank cash-in.
Orton asked Miz if he’s scared about getting his ass whipped in front of his wife. Orton asked them who is doing the pitching and catching in that relationship. Maryse accepted the match for Miz. Miz didn’t look thrilled while Orton was happy. Show went to break there.
Analysis: That was a little boring even though I like both guys and I’ve missed Orton. Promos are not his strengths. He was in a long talking segment with Chris Jericho on Sunday, so why have him do it again? It felt pretty repetitive. There were some mildly funny lines by Orton in there although not as much of a hit as WWE probably thought they would be when they wrote them. It’s comical to me that they would hype this “new era” stuff all the time, yet they set up matches like this doing the same things they have done for many years.
There’s a reminder that Orton faces Miz on SummerSlam.
Randy Orton vs. The Miz (w/Maryse)
It’s not for the Intercontinental Title. This is Orton’s first match in nine months. Miz shoved him out of the ring, Orton bumped on his shoulder and Orton looked angry about it. Miz kept going at him. Miz tossed Orton’s right shoulder into the barricade. Miz stomped away on Orton in the corner as Ranallo noted that Lesnar was likely smiling from his farm in Canada. Miz sent Orton shoulder first into steps. Orton has a history of getting legit mad in matches that when he does it as a selling technique in a match it works. Miz sent Orton back in the ring and Orton was waiting with a RKO out of nowhere. It connected perfectly. Orton didn’t cover him. Orton went over to the ropes to lean against them as he stared at Miz. Orton took a while to walk around the ring while firing up the crowd to support him. Miz popped back up, so Orton hit another RKO. He covered for the pinfall win after four minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Randy Orton
Analysis: *1/2 A quick match to put over Orton big in his return after being out of action for the past nine months. I liked the way Miz aggressively went after the shoulder and Orton was doing a great job of selling it. Then it was back in the ring, RKO time and that was it. Well, not right away because he did a second one. Really put over the RKO well. I can also understand why they wouldn’t put Orton in a long match when he’s getting back into ring shape. A quick match is satisfying enough.
Post match, JBL was putting over the idea that Orton can beat anybody anywhere because of the RKO finisher. JBL did his “if you could build a sports entertainer from the ground up he'll look like Orton” line too. Orton posed to celebrate the win.
The Six Pack Challenge still to come.
A video package against my favorite team in WWE, American Alpha. It featured comments from Jason Jordan and Chad Gable talking about how they have similar backgrounds as amateur wrestlers and they were able to gel right away. They are on Smackdown next week.
Analysis: They should have been on this week. They’re a hot act that would get people talking. Why not do it on the first show? Feels like a mistake.
There was some no name guy in the ring, so Heath Slater got into the ring to knock that guy out of the ring.
Slater wondered how he could not get drafted to Raw or Smackdown Live. He said that if Shane and Daniel want to go into the new era they should put Slate in the main event to make it a Magnificent Seven match. Slater started a “sign Heath Slater” chant. The fans actually chanted it.
Shane McMahon came out to talk about how if Shane is looking for a job he should send in a resume. Slater told Shane to type Slater’s name on WWE Network
Slater plugged his groups The Nexus, The Corre, mentioned the one man band, 3MB, Social Outcasts, he mentioned being a tag team champion and talked about how he could do more. He kept on ranting about how great he is. Rhyno showed up from behind Slater as Shane said he’s looking at the hottest free agent right now. Slater turned around and Rhyno nailed him with a huge Gore to a huge ovation. As Rhyno posed for the crowd, JBL said that Rhyno was the first free agent signee.
Analysis: Slater’s promo was actually solid because he got the crowd to get behind him even though he’s been a heel for much of his career. As he named his groups, it was pretty sad considering how bad they were (The Nexus were okay). It was a good way to debut Rhyno. He’s another guy in his 40s that they brought back to help with the depth on this show. He’s also worked in NXT for a couple years too.
AJ Styles did a promo backstage. He complained about how they didn’t draft The Club and now he has to face five other guys to qualify to face Ambrose at SummerSlam. He said he’ll beat up all of them, saying John Cena last of course. Main event is next.
A “greatest moments in WWE history video” (sponsored by Mountain Dew) aired about Daniel Bryan winning the WWE Title at WrestleMania 30 in 2014. One of my favorite moments that I’ve witnessed live.
Bray Wyatt did a promo from his lair in the arena. He said he’s Bray Wyatt – the Eater of Worlds and said it all revolves around him. Wyatt said that soon he’ll have the whole world in his hands. He said “I’m here” because he’s all alone now.
Order of intros for the main event: Bray Wyatt, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles and John Cena.
Six Pack Challenge #1 Contender Match: Bray Wyatt vs. Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. AJ Styles vs. John Cena.
Match starting at 9:38pmET so should get close to 20 minutes. The bell rang, they were throwing punches and it just went to commercial about 10 seconds into it.
Wyatt and Styles were both standing over Crews. They looked like they were working together until Wyatt hit a clothesline on Styles. Ziggler with a neckbreaker on Wyatt. Corbin pulled Ziggler out of the ring and nailed an uppercut. Styles with a knee to Corbin’s face. Styles hit a Springboard 450 Splash that he made look easy. AJ Styles with the fireman’s carry into a kneebreaker. Crews with three German suplexes on Styles. Corbin took Crews down with a STO for a two count. Corbin applied a chinlock on Crews while the other four guys stayed out of the ring. Corner clothesline by Corbin on Crews. Corbin with a back suplex for two. The crowd is dead as they went to break.
Analysis: Weak opening part of the match. Too much of “two guys in the ring, four guys on the floor” spots in there.
They did a double Tower of Doom spot at the same time as they returned from break. Corbin did a spinning slam on Crews. Crews hit a spinning Powerbomb. As he went for the pin, Wyatt pulled the ref out of the ring. Wyatt hit Sister Abigail on Crews. Ziggler hit the Zig Zag on Wyatt and went for a cover, but the ref John Cone is down outside the ring. Cena back in the ring with an Attitude Adjustment on Ziggler. Styles with a Pele Kick on Wyatt and then Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on Styles, but Styles kicked out at two. Cena caught Crews and hit him with an Attitude Adjustment. Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on Corbin as well. Cena turned around and Styles hit the Phenomenal Forearm on Cena. When Styles turned around, Ziggler nailed a Superkick on Styles and covered for the pinfall win after 18 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Dolph Ziggler
Analysis: ***1/4 The last few minutes were awesome and elevated it to the three star level. The first part of the match was pretty slow, but they really picked up the pace with everybody getting nearfalls and Cena going nuts with the AA fest. I didn’t except Cena or Styles to win since they’ll likely be paired up at SummerSlam. Ziggler winning was a huge surprise, but they really set it up well because that Superkick on Styles looked like it connected really well. I just didn’t think Ziggler was going to win with Wyatt out there. The crowd was pretty surprised by it too. It shows why the brand extension is good because it allows for guys like Ziggler to become a featured act after not being used right for a while.
Ziggler celebrated the win. The crowd was really happy for him.
The WWE Champion Dean Ambrose walked out with the title to face off with Ziggler.
Ambrose and Ziggler went face to face. Ambrose held up the title as they had a staredown. Daniel Bryan walked out there to raise both of their hands. Shane McMahon walked out to congratulate Ziggler on the win.
They aired more replays of the finish with Ziggler nailing the Superkick on Styles.
Ziggler faced off with Ambrose as the show went off the air right at 10pmET.
Analysis: The match ended with about five minutes left in the show, so I’m guessing they wanted to have time for the staredown. It just felt like the staredown went long because they kept showing replays to fill time. Getting in ring post match comments from Ziggler would have been a good idea.
I’m looking forward to Ziggler vs. Ambrose. It would be even better if it led to Ziggler turning heel, but I’m not sure if that’s going to happen. Will be a great match. Do I expect Ziggler to win? Nope, but I was surprised here, so maybe we'll be surprised again.
Three Stars of the Show
1. Dolph Ziggler
2. AJ Styles
3. (Tie) Becky Lynch
3. (Tie) Natalya
5.5 out of 10
Last week: 6
2016 Average: 5.91
Last 5 Weeks: 6, 6.5, 6, 7, 6.5
2016 High: 7.5 (March 3)
2016 Low: 4 (January 21)
It gets a 5.5 out of 10.
The show was okay and started out with a lot of energy, but they lost a lot of steam as it got going. The main event was built up well. I just don’t think it was anything special until the last couple of minutes. Ziggler’s win did surprise me in a positive way, though.
Raw wins weeks one. I gave that show a 9 and I think my 5.5 for this one might be generous. I appreciate the effort by the roster at least.
That’s all for me. Go Toronto Blue Jays.
John Canton – firstname.lastname@example.org