It’s the first Smackdown Live episode after the Royal Rumble. I didn’t watch it live this week after three busy nights of WWE related writing. I needed a bit of a break, so I watched it on Wednesday morning. Let’s get to it.
Live from Corpus Christi, Texas this is Smackdown Live for episode #911. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport.
The show began with some images and video from Sunday’s Royal Rumble event with some praise from different critics. They forgot to include praise from me on TJRWrestling as well. I’ll forgive them for now.
AJ Styles was shown backstage watching on a monitor looking mad the sight of Cena holding the WWE Title. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan chatted with Styles in the room. Styles wanted a one on one rematch and not just in Elimination Chamber. Shane said they can do that another time. Bryan hyped up Elimination Chamber. Styles re-iterated that he wants a one on one title rematch. Shane said who is in the Elimination Chamber match: WWE Champion John Cena, AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, Baron Corbin, The Miz and Dean Ambrose. Ambrose showed up in the room. Styles told him to leave and Ambrose mocked his soccer mom hair. Ambrose challenged Styles to a match because they had unfinished business. Shane said it sounds like a good idea, so he set up Ambrose vs. Styles for later on Smackdown.
Analysis: Good choices for the EC match. It should be an outstanding match since most Elimination Chamber matches are great and there’s enough talent there to have a memorable battle. The rumor at this point is that Wyatt will win to set up a match against Randy Orton at WrestleMania. I don’t know if it will happen, but it makes sense. Also, I like the idea of Cena vs. Styles one on one again although if Cena loses the title at EC then that changes things.
John Cena WWE Championship Celebration
The 16-time WWE Champion (also the now defunct World Title) John Cena made his entrance for a celebration. Big ovation for him as usual with some fans singing “John Cena sucks” of course.
The announce team of Mauro Ranallo, John Bradshaw Layfield, David Otunga and Tom “no talking during matches” Phillips welcomed us to the show.
Cena held up the title: “The Champ Is Here.” I had a feeling he would say that. Cena said the championship is a symbol to tell everybody that you’re the man. He said that part about being a man, is the ability to say you’re wrong and say you’re sorry. Cena noted he heard some folks chanting for AJ Styles and he said he’s sorry about Styles. He told Styles that he is not just a guy from Atlanta, he is an elite level WWE superstar that brings out the absolute best in Cena. He said that Styles’ performance at the Royal Rumble is what this championship is all about.
Cena said he’s been asked about how he’s going to celebrate making history, but he said there’s no time to celebrate because in two weeks this title is back on the line in the Elimination Chamber on WWE Network. He said he’ll celebrate by standing in that ring saying Smackdown Live is the place to be, John Cena is the man to beat and if you want some, come get some…here comes the Wyatt Family.
Analysis: Good promo from Cena. I’m glad he praised Styles so much and put him over huge as an elite performer because that’s what Styles is. I think Styles will be a face very soon because it’s going to be hard to keep him as a heel.
The duo of Royal Rumble winner Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt walked out together to the Wyatt song. They stood on the ramp with microphones. The arena was dark with only the light from the “fireflies” in the arena.
Wyatt said the more things change, the more things stay the same. Wyatt spoke about how in two weeks time, Cena will be trapped like a rat inside the Elimination Chamber with him. Wyatt told Cena there will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hid and the kids chanted for Cena. Wyatt promised him that when it’s done, he will be leaving the Chamber as the new WWE Champion and the world will finally enter the era of Wyatts. Wyatt said it’s his destiny. He said things are changing around there and if you don’t believe him, just ask his brother, the Royal Rumble winner Randy Orton.
Orton told Cena that if he makes it out of the Chamber with the WWE Title then Orton will be waiting for him at WrestleMania. Orton said one way or another they are going to end this vicious cycle and the Wyatts are going to set that championship free. Wyatt: “John, we’re here.”
Wyatt and Orton walked towards the ring as the lights came back on. Cena was left alone as the heels surrounded the ring. The Wyatt logo appeared on the screen, the lights went out and when they came back on, Luke Harper was standing in the ring beside Cena. Harper turned to face Orton as the crowd cheered. Orton and Wyatt left the ring while Harper stayed in the ring with Cena.
The Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon showed up with microphone in hand. He set up the predictable tag match: Orton and Wyatt vs. the unlikely duo of Cena and Harper in a tag match right now.
Analysis: As I say every week, the opening segment is usually done to set up a match either right away or later in the show. A lot of times they set up tag matches, so that’s what we got here. Good promos from Wyatt and Orton. They came off as scary dudes there. With Orton winning the Rumble, they had credibility with their words too. Harper siding with Cena is an interesting twist, but it works based on Harper going against the “Family” for a few weeks now.
John Cena & Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton & Bray Wyatt
Harper was aggressive against Orton early on with an impressive dropkick. Harper sent Orton throat first into the middle rope with a catapult like move. Harper went after Orton on the floor with a back suplex on the announce table similar to what Orton usually does. It wasn’t enough to break the table. Wyatt tagged in for a staredown with Harper, so Harper tagged in Cena. It puts over the story that Harper’s problems are with Orton, but not with Harper. Wyatt with a back elbow to knock Cena down. The heels worked on Cena a bit in their corner as the show went to break.
Back from break, Orton hit a draping DDT on Cena. Orton went for a RKO, but Cena fought out of it and hit a clothesline. Wyatt got in Harper’s face to stop him from making a tag. Uppercut punch by Wyatt earned a two count on Cena. Orton with a powerslam on Cena for a two count and Orton knocked Harper off the apron with a punch. Cena nailed two shoulder tackles, the spinning splash and the Five Knuckle Shuffle on Orton. Orton came back with his modified backbreaker to slow down the momentum. Wyatt got in between Harper and Orton until Harper decked Orton with a forearm. Harper teased doing Sister Abigail to Wyatt, but he didn’t do it. Harper with a boot to Orton. Wyatt nailed Sister Abigail on Harper. Cena went after Wyatt, so Orton hit Cena with a RKO leading to a pin on Cena to give Orton the win for his team. It went 13 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Randy Orton & Bray Wyatt
Analysis: *** That was fun. It was a predictable finish because WWE loves booking champions to get pinned in tag matches. We saw it on Raw and we saw it right here. Orton is being built up once again after he got pinned in tag matches against American Alpha a couple of times. The Rumble win plus this win has him on the right track again. The finishing sequence in this match was really well done with the teasing of finishes and Orton capitalizing on the situation with a RKO “outta nowhere” on Cena to win for his team. There was also the interesting story of Harper being reluctant to attack Wyatt.
Coming up later is Naomi and Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss and Mickie James. Ambrose vs. Styles is the main event.
PLUG TIME: I wrote a column on TJRWrestling about the fans angry about the Royal Rumble even though I thought it was a great show. It's also some advice for those that take results from wrestling matches a little too serious. It's just my way of offering some friendly advice to help you enjoy WWE and wrestling more. Click here to check it out.
James Ellsworth entered in his new “cool” wardrobe to introduce the moon walking, trash talking chick that’s always ready to go. He said it’s his “boo” Carmella. JBL yelled about Ellsworth being with a hot chick like Carmella.
Carmella (w/James Ellsworth) vs. Delilah Dawson
Dawson is a local competitor wearing bright blue gear and blue hair with Ranallo noted she was trained by Funaki in San Antonio. Carmella yanked her down by the hair leading to Ellsworth laughing at her. Dawson hit some forearms and a kick. The ref checked on her, so Ellsworth grabbed Dawson’s foot to slow her down. Carmella capitalized with a drop toehold into the Code of Silence leg scissors for the submission win in under two minutes.
Winner by submission: Carmella
Analysis: ¼* The best thing I can say about this is that it was done quickly. A squash win for Carmella to put over the idea that Ellsworth will cheat to help her win matches.
The announcers plugged some WWE game available as an app.
Kalisto made his entrance for a match against Dolph Ziggler.
Dolph Ziggler made his entrance.
Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler attacked with a forearm to the head followed by an elbow drop. Kalisto nailed a jumping kick to the head while on the apron followed by a springboard cross body block. Apollo Crews was shown watching backstage while in his ring gear because when normal people watch TV they are dressed in wrestling gear. Ziggler came back with a neckbreaker. Ziggler trash talked him, so Kalisto came back with a spinning back kick. Kalisto attacked in the corner, Ziggler hid behind the ref, shoved Kalisto away and Ziggler nailed a Superkick to knock him out for the pinfall win after about two minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Dolph Ziggler
Analysis: * A quick win for Ziggler to give him more momentum as a heel. The losses as a face were done to set up the turn and now that he’s in the heel role, he’s able to win matches. Funny how that works, huh? I don’t mind that it was short because they are putting over the Ziggler Superkick as a big deal.
After the match was over, Ziggler tried to take Kalisto’s mask off. Kalisto had his hands there to prevent it from happening. Apollo Crews ran out to the ring (with his music playing) and Ziggler jumped over the barricade to get away.
Analysis: Good guy Crews with the save. There will probably be a Ziggler vs. Crews match at Elimination Chamber.
Becky Lynch and Naomi were interviewed by Dasha Fuentes. The women just talked about how they are ready to send a message to Alexa and Mickie. Naomi dubbed their team as “Glow Fire” since Naomi is “Feel The Glow” girl and Lynch is “Straight Fire” girl.
A commercial aired for WrestleMania 33, which is 61 days away in Orlando as of Tuesday.
Naomi’s entrance is cool. I’d like to see Big Show try it. Becky Lynch made her entrance as replays aired from last week when Mickie and Alexa did a double team attack on Lynch.
Mickie James made her entrance. Ranallo noted that Mickie made her WWE debut in that building in October 2005. The SD Live Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss entered and they walked to the ring together.
Naomi & Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James
James tagged out instead of getting in the ring against Lynch. Naomi tagged in against Bliss, Naomi went for a cross body block, Bliss moved and Naomi hit the ropes with her attack. James nailed a basement dropkick on Naomi for two. JBL mentioned how great it was to have James back in WWE and I have to agree with that. Bliss missed a knee attack and Naomi tagged in Lynch while James also tagged. Leg lariat by Lynch followed by the straight fire clothesline, corner kick, back kick and the Bexploder Suplex for a two count. Lynch up top, Bliss distracted, James knocked Lynch down and James kicked Lynch leading to a two count as Naomi made the save. The show went to break.
The show returned with the heels working over Lynch on their side of the ring. Quick tags from the heel. Lynch tried to fight out of the corner, but James decked her with a punch. James with a headscissors out of the corner for a two count. Lynch kicked Bliss and got a rollup for two. Naomi got the hot tag against Bliss. Naomi with kicks for the heels, somersault clothesline on Bliss and the crowd fired up as Naomi hit her with a bunch of kicks. Naomi sent Bliss face first into mat using her feet. Lynch tackled James out of the ring. Naomi with a standing roundhouse kick followed by a split legged moonsault out of the corner to pin Bliss for the win after 11 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Naomi & Becky Lynch
After the win, the faces celebrated the win
Analysis: **3/4 Good showing by the girls just like at Royal Rumble. It was like that match except this was a regular tag instead of with six women. Both matches had the same ending with Naomi pinning Bliss because WWE wants to build up Naomi as a challenger for Bliss’ title. I like that Naomi is using the split legged moonsault as a finisher because it’s better than the “Rear View” move she used to do. It sucks that Mickie is 0-2 on the main roster at this point, but she wasn’t pinned in either tag match. She’ll probably get a match against Lynch at Elimination Chamber with James probably getting the win. At least I think she should win that match.
Still to come: Styles vs. Ambrose.
American Alpha, the SD Tag Team Champions, were interviewed by Dasha Fuentes. Chad Gable said they wondered what’s next and said that nobody has stepped up to the plate. Jason Jordan wondered if everybody is scared. Gable asked if anybody wants to try to take the titles from them. Gable said they’ll go the ring to issue an open challenge. She wished them luck as the segment ended.
Analysis: The tag division has been forgotten on Smackdown. That’s disappointing, but I hope that’s a situation that WWE’s creative team can rectify in the next couple of months.
American Alpha entered the ring for what was supposed to be a match because there was a referee in the ring.
The Usos made their way down to the ring. They stared down with AA, but that match didn’t happen.
The Ascension made their entrance.
The Vaudevillains entered the ring as well.
The “fashion police” team of Breezango joined the fray as well.
Heath Slater and Rhyno also entered the mix.
The ring was full of tag teams, so they all started fighting in the ring and around ringside. Referees went into the ring to try to break it up.
As the show returned from break, the teams kept fighting in the ring with referees trying to break it up and not having any success. It was just a lot of punching inside the ring as well as outside the ring. There’s not much to recap in terms of actual moves. Double clothesline by American Alpha on Konnor sent him out of the ring. Rhyno and Heath Slater were also in the ring, so that’s how it ended.
Analysis: That was just a random brawl to try to remember that Smackdown had a tag division. It wasn't very well planned or well executed. It was just confusing. Poor segment.
On Talking Smack after Smackdown, it was announced by GM Daniel Bryan that there will a Tag Team Turmoil match at Elimination Chamber on February 12.
There was a recap of Nikki Bella and Natalya brawling last week on Smackdown.
Daniel Bryan, the SD Live GM, was in his office. Two security guys were there with Natalya. Natalya said she had security with her because Nikki Bella is out of control. Nikki showed up as the women started arguing. Bryan let out a loud yell: “ENOUGH!” Bryan said he’s making a match between Nikki and Natalya at Elimination Chamber. Natalya left while Nikki seemed happy with the news.
Analysis: They have don a good job of building up this story for a couple of months without doing a singles match with a definitive ending. I think Nikki will get the win to build her up as a title contender for Bliss heading into WrestleMania.
Dean Ambrose made his entrance. He’s a part of Elimination Chamber with Cena, Miz, Corbin, Styles and Wyatt.
The best in the world (he doesn’t have to say it because I’ll say it) AJ Styles made his entrance.
It was announced that next week it will be John Cena vs. Randy Orton. That is the WrestleMania “main event” if nothing changes at Elimination Chamber, but I expect change there.
The announce team with too many people was joined by The Miz (with Maryse) on commentary.
Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles
Ambrose’s Intercontinental Title is not on the line in this match.
The crowd was chanting for both guys early on. Styles with a shoulder tackle and Ambrose came back with a body slam. Miz talked about his experience of being in one Elimination Chamber match while many of the others in the match don’t have the experience that he does. It’s a valid point to try to sell the match. Ambrose applied a Texas Cloverleaf submission. Styles got to the ropes to break the hold. Styles left the ring, Ambrose went after him and Styles sent him into the announce table. Ranallo noted that Ambrose was the only man in WWE to wrestle over 200 matches last year. Styles hit a running forearm. Miz ranted about Daniel Bryan saying he does his moves better than Bryan ever did. Styles avoided a corner charge and sent Ambrose into the ring post leading to a two count for Styles. Ambrose with a running cross body block and a back body drop. Clothesline by Ambrose sent Styles over the top to the floor. Baron Corbin’s music hit and he made his way down to ringside.
Corbin has joined the commentary team for the match, so there are now seven people there.
Ambrose was on the top rope, but Styles tripped him up and hit a backbreaker for a two count. Corbin called Miz a joke. Corner clothesline by Styles as Corbin and Miz argued about things. Another corner clothesline by Styles. Ambrose came back with a neckbreaker. Ambrose with forearms followed by a running clothesline and he set up Styles on the top for a superplex. Styles slipped out of it and Ambrose avoided a move of his own. Styles went for a springboard attack, but Ambrose decked him with a forearm to the face to knock him down. When Ambrose went for a dive to the floor, Styles crushed him with a forearm. They had an incredible sequence where they each countered familiar moves and Ambrose did a suplex into a slam for a two count. The crowd bought that as a finish. Miz and Corbin continued to talk trash on the floor. Styles jumped off the ropes, Ambrose caught him and Styles got a rollup for two. Styles with the Ushigoroshi (fireman’s carry into the knee) for a two count. Styles nailed a Pele Kick that stunned Ambrose, who bounced off the ropes with the Lunatic Lariat. Both guys were down in the ring. Styles bailed to the floor, so Ambrose went up to with a flying elbow smash that knocked Styles down. Corbin was sick of the talk, so he went after Miz. They exchanged punches. Ambrose with a flying elbow smash in the ring, but the ref was checking on Miz and Corbin. Ambrose dove onto Corbin to knock him over the announce table. Ambrose sent Miz into the barricade. Since neither guy struck Ambrose, there was no disqualification call. Styles regrouped in the ring, Ambrose went back in, Styles with a kick to the gut and the Styles Clash finished Ambrose off giving Styles the win after 19 minutes of intense action.
Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles
Analysis: ***3/4 Awesome match from two guys that have had a lot of outstanding matches together in the last few months. The chemistry is strong between them. Lots of nearfalls that the crowd got into the match. I loved the way they countered their familiar moves because they are so used to working together and it makes sense for them to be able to counter the familiar moves. The win was crafty for the heel Styles because he capitalized on a chaotic situation leading to the Styles Clash. Styles getting the win is a good thing because he just lost the title, so getting the win in his first televised match keeps him strong as a viable threat that can win back his WWE Title. As for a champion losing a non-title match, that’s standard for WWE these days. I complain about it all the time and probably say it too often. We just get used to it as WWE fans. Another thing I complain about is how WWE likes to repeat matches. This is a repeat of a match we’ve seen many times too. I don’t mind it as much when those matches are as good as this one was.
Styles left the ring after the match. Miz went into the ring and gave the Skull Crushing Finale to Ambrose. Corbin went into the ring and dropped Miz with the End of Days slam. Corbin picked up Ambrose and hit End of Days on him as well. Corbin stood over a fallen Ambrose to end the show.
Analysis: Good ending to the show to put over Corbin as a threat to win the Elimination Chamber match in less than two weeks. Will he win? No, but it does make him look strong.
Three Stars of the Show
1. AJ Styles – Two days after a five star match, he had another great match with Ambrose.
2. Dean Ambrose – Another strong main event match with Styles.
3. Randy Orton – The Viper is rolling.
7.5 out of 10
Last week: 8
2017 Average: 7.4
Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.61 - Raw is at 5.77
Last 5 Weeks: 8, 7.5, 6, 8, 9
2017 High: 8 (Jan. 3 & Jan. 24)
2017 Low: 6 (Jan. 10)
It gets a 7.5 out of 10.
Another very good edition of Smackdown. There were three above average matches with the main event standing out the most as an excellent matchup.
I like how they set up several matches for Elimination Chamber, which I’ll mention below. With only a two week gap between Royal Rumble and EC, they had to announce the key matches this week and that’s what they did.
The tag team segment did not come off that well. It was as if WWE was just throwing these guys out there to try to remind the fans that a tag division still exists, but if creative doesn't put more of an effort into it then it looks bad.
Cena vs. Orton is set up for next week. That’s a big match that we’ve seen a lot of times over the last decade, but at least it’s been a few years since they did it.
Here’s the Elimination Chamber lineup. It takes place on February 12.
Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz vs. Baron Corbin
Smackdown Women's Championship Match: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Naomi
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Turmoil Match: American Alpha (c) vs. The Usos vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Ascension vs. Breezango vs. The Vaudevillains
(Two teams start off the match, once one team defeats the other, a new team enters to go up against the winning team. This continues until one team is left the victor.)
Other possible matches based on this week's Smackdown are Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper, Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch and Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews.
That’s all for now. Go Toronto Raptors. Go Toronto Maple Leafs.
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