There are two more episodes of Smackdown Live left before WrestleMania. Let’s see what the blue brand has for us this week.
Live from Uncasville (Mohegan Sun Casino), Connecticut this is Smackdown Live for episode #918. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.
The show began with a video package about AJ Styles attacking Shane McMahon last week. It led to Shane setting up their WrestleMania match.
Daniel Bryan, the Smackdown GM, was backstage in his office. Styles showed up and Bryan said if it was up to him then Styles would be fired. Bryan told Styles he has no idea what he’s in for at WrestleMania. Styles asked about Shane and Bryan told him that Shane is on his way. Styles said that he’s going to tell the world how it feels to beat up Shane McMahon. Styles left.
Analysis: Styles showed a lot of cockiness about what he did while Bryan addressed him in a serious tone as he should have.
The announce team of Tom Phillips, John Bradshaw Layfield and David Otunga welcomed us to the show. They said Mauro Ranallo was sick. Last week they said travel problems for Ranallo.
Analysis: There’s probably more to the story. I’m not sure what that is, but Ranallo is usually very active on Twitter and has been silent on there for over a week now. I know in the past he's talked openly about being bipolar. I hope he's okay.
AJ Styles Has Things To Say
Styles walked out to the ring to a mixed reaction like usual. He’s rocking a WrestleMania 33 shirt and hat.
Styles said he’s not sorry for anything he did last week. He said that after everything Shane has put him through, he’s glad he got to put Shane through something – a car window. Styles said after all that, Shane has the audacity to say he has a match at WrestleMania now. Styles laughed off the idea of fighting Shane at WrestleMania and said that he accepted the challenge. Styles said that without him, Smackdown plummets and their social media would crash just like Shane going through a car window. Styles claimed that he was untouchable and said that he can do what he wants because he’s going to WrestleMania. He said he was going to meet Shane in the parking lot and if you thought last week was bad, he said it’s going to go from bad to phenomenally worse.
Analysis: It was about a five minute promo from Styles hyping up another confrontation with Shane later in the night. There are always rumors of Styles going face at some point soon, but it’s not happening until after WrestleMania at the earliest. He was very cocky in that promo saying he’s untouchable in terms of his value to Smackdown.
Later on Smackdown: Miz and Maryse show something from Total Bellas about Cena and Nikki. Also, American Alpha vs. Usos up next.
There was a Snickers commercial with Miz and Maryse in a limo picking a bum up off the street. Miz was friendly with him, so that’s the comedy.
Bryan was shown in the office talking on the phone. It sounds like he was talking to Shane and he told him he supports him 100%. Baron Corbin walked into the office wondering where Dean Ambrose is and Bryan said that he hasn’t seen Ambrose since Corbin took him out. Corbin thought he had the night off, but Bryan told him he’s against Randy Orton later.
Analysis: That’s a big match for later in the show that’s also fresh. Sounds good to me.
There was a shot of Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots at ringside. He’s a wild man that would make a great WWE superstar one day when he retires from the NFL.
The tag teams made their entrance for a tag title match.
Smackdown Tag Team Titles: American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) vs. The Usos (Jimmy & Jey)
This is a title match after the Usos won non-title last week. As the match began, JBL said they were thinking of Jim Ross, whose wife is in hospital after getting hit by a car yesterday. Ross tweeted about it last night. Otunga also congratulated Jason Jordan for getting married over the weekend. Two minutes into the match, American Alpha cleared the ring with dropkicks on both Usos and the show went to break.
The Usos were in control after the break, which is normal for a tag match with heels having the advantage. Jey sent Gable into the turnbuckle leading to Gable taking a hard sternum bump. Jey missed a corner splash. Jimmy tagged in and prevented a tag by Gable. Jey back in, Gable tried to tag and Jimmy pulled Jordan off the apron. Perfect timing there for the false tag spot. Gable was sent out of the ring, so Jimmy nailed him with a clothesline. Jimmy battled Gable on the turnbuckle and sent Gable face first into the top of the turnbuckle, which had a steel sound. Jimmy missed a corner attack, hit the ring post and the crowd rallied behind Gable. Hot tag to Jordan against Jey with a belly to belly suplex. Jordan with a shoulder tackle and belly to belly on Jimmy as well. Jordan hit an Olympic Slam for a two count. Gable got the tag and hit a top rope clothesline. Jey rollup on Gable for two, then a superkick, tag to Jimmy and a Superfly Splash earned a two count. Usos both went to the top. Jordan knocked Jimmy off the top. Jey was on the top rope and Gable brought him down with a belly to belly suplex. Top rope double team bulldog by Gable on Jey for a two count as Jimmy pulled Jordan out of the ring on the cover attempt. The action spilled to the floor with Gable hitting a moonsault onto Jimmy on the floor. Fans were chanting “this is awesome” for them. Jordan went after Jimmy on the floor. Jimmy held the leg of Jordan, did a low blow to Jordan and Jey hit a superkick on Jordan for the pinfall win. Usos won the title at 14 minutes.
Winners by pinfall and New SD Live Tag Team Champions: The Usos
Analysis: ***3/4 That was an awesome tag match. I might have missed some of the big spots at the end because it was such a fast pace. The stuff before the break was average, but they really cranked it up in those last even minutes or so. I loved some of the nearfalls. The Steiner-like bulldog spot was great. The Superfly Splash was also nailed perfectly leading to a believable nearfall. I liked the ending with the low blow cheap shot leading to the superkick ending. That’s how heels should win. As for the title change, I’m not a huge fan of doing a title switch two weeks before WrestleMania. However, it’s a better story to have the heel Usos carrying the titles with American Alpha chasing them now. These teams are awesome and I want to see more. It's also possible that The Usos won the titles because the Hardys are coming back to WWE (I believe they are), so it's smart to put the titles on heels in case the Hardys join Smackdown after WrestleMania.
AJ Styles was shown in the parking lot.
Orton vs. Corbin is coming up and John Cena vs. Fandango.
Miz and Maryse have footage from Total Bellas up next.
Luke Harper was in a room talking about how he could see what Sister Abigail could do. Harper said that Randy Orton eviscerated Abigail and Harper claimed new evil roams the Earth in Wyatt. Harper said he’ll face Wyatt next week.
Analysis: Harper vs. Wyatt next week sounds good to me.
Total Bellas Parody by Miz and Maryse
It said they were at John Cena’s house, which is something from Total Bellas. There was a parody video of Maryse playing the role of both Nikki and Brie. Her boobs were showing more as Nikki, just in case you were wondering. The Miz showed up dressed as John Cena in full Cena gear. Cena told both Brie and Nikki that they broke rules that he made for the house. Cena tapped Nikki on the head saying very good. “Cena” said he’d pop the question, which was a balloon that said “question” on it. It led to “Nikki” crying. It’s “to be continued” apparently.
Analysis: It was funny – the Maryse parts as the sisters was pretty good. I didn’t watch more than five minutes of Total Bellas, so I have no idea what they are referencing although I remember the stuff about Cena having a lot of rules at his house. My favorite part was Maryse dressed as Nikki. She’s tremendous. Since I know people will be curious, here's a clip.
Baron Corbin made his entrance for the match against Randy Orton.
A replay aired of Corbin’s attack on Dean Ambrose two weeks ago using the forklift. Ambrose was off last week’s show.
Randy Orton made his entrance to a good ovation. He’s challenging Bray Wyatt for the WWE Title at WrestleMania.
Baron Corbin vs. Randy Orton
Orton went for a RKO early, but Corbin slipped out of it and went to the floor. Phillips said they haven’t seen Ambrose for weeks. Actually, he just missed last week and was on the show before that. One week is not weeks. Orton slammed Corbin down by the head and stomped away on him. Orton punched Corbin in the corner as the crowd counted along with him followed by a back elbow. Corbin went to the floor, Orton reached for him and Corbin sent Orton face first into the ring post as the show went to break.
Back from break, Corbin was still in control as he left the ring, went back in and hit a clothesline for a two count. Corbin decked Orton with a punch as the crowd chanted for Orton. Comeback by Orton with boots to the face, two clotheslines and a powerslam didn’t work because Corbin held onto the ropes leading to a kick to the gut. Orton sent him out of the ring, Corbin back in and Orton hit a powerslam. Orton hit a Full Nelson Slam for a two count. I like that Orton has added that move to his arsenal. Orton was on the floor, so Orton followed and sent him face first into the steps at ringside. Back in the ring, Orton hit the Draping DDT off the ropes as the crowd cheered for him. Orton set up for the RKO, Corbin shoved him off and hit the Deep Six slam for two. That’s not his finish, but it’s always good for a believable nearfall. Orton left the ring, Corbin charged, Orton back into the ring and Corbin went shoulder first into the steel steps. Both guys were down in the ring. The crowd cheered about something in the crowd. It was IC Champion Dean Ambrose standing on a forklift. Corbin stared at him, Orton turned him around and hit a RKO, plus a nod to Ambrose for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Randy Orton
Analysis: **3/4 It was a solid match. Some slow parts to it, but the crowd was into it. The cheap ending hurt it a bit although it was done to further a story, so easy to see why it was done. Orton going over makes sense since he’s challenging for the WWE Title at WrestleMania. They don’t want to book Corbin to lose clean, so having Ambrose cause it fits the way Corbin is booked in a strong manner every week. The RKO by Orton drew a big ovation like usual.
Post match, Ambrose went into the ring with the IC Title. He told Corbin he’s got his IC Title match at WrestleMania and dropped him with a DDT.
Analysis: That was no surprise. Corbin will probably win the IC Title at WrestleMania. Ambrose doesn’t really need it and it would help Corbin.
Still to come: Becky Lynch vs. Carmella.
AJ Styles was shown in the parking lot still waiting for Shane McMahon.
A graphic told us it’s official now: Ambrose defends the IC Title against Corbin.
John Cena faces Fandango later in the show.
Orton was interviewed by Renee Young backstage. Orton said he doesn’t know what to think about what Bray Wyatt did last week when he bathed himself in ashes. The lights flickered backstage and Renee left. Orton yelled for Wyatt to show his face. The lights came back on Orton was surrounded by many men wearing sheep masks. Orton tried to fight them, but they punched him repeatedly to knock him down. The men in sheep masks held Orton against the wall. Wyatt, the WWE Champion, showed up. Wyatt said some sort of hymn to Orton. Wyatt told Orton that he changed him and exposed his one flaw, Abigail. Wyatt said what Orton didn’t know is that one flaw would become his greatest strength because her power lives inside Wyatt. Wyatt claimed that he is stronger than he could ever imagine: “Thank you Randy.” Wyatt sang “he’s got the whole world in his hands” for Orton, who just stared at him. The Wyatt Family graphic appeared on screen to end it.
Analysis: The mind games continue. What I like about Wyatt/Orton a lot is they haven’t really had a brawl or anything like that. It’s going to feel fresh when they have the match at WrestleMania. That’s a good thing.
A commercial aired for Raw plugging Goldberg and Lesnar face to face plus Rollins may sign contract to face Triple H at WrestleMania.
Fandango entered with Tyler Breeze, who is dressed like Nikki Bella for some reason. That’s not a pretty sight. Tyler Breeze Bella is top heavy like Nikki is.
John Cena made his entrance to a mixed reaction like he usually does.
Fandango told Breeze to give Cena a fashion police ticket. They gave him two tickets. Fandango said he’ll expose Cena for being a lousy wrestler that they are. Fandango said Breeze is his muscle…Breezy Bella. Cena called out Nikki Bella.
Analysis: It’s nice to see Fandango and Breeze on the show even though Breeze looks ridiculous. Good Southpaw Championship Wrestling match here with Cena as Lance Catamaran and Fandango as Chett Chetterman. It’s on Youtube check it out.
John Cena (w/Nikki Bella) vs. Fandango (w/Breezy Bella)
Cena hit two shoulderblocks, the spinning suplex, dropped a ticket on Fandango and hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Breeze went into the ring, so Nikki hit him with a Spear. Cena picked up Fandango and hit the AA. Nikki hit her finisher and her submission. Cena applied the STF to win after one minute.
Winner by submission: John Cena
After the match, Cena tossed the fake boobs onto the heels on the floor. There’s a sentence I didn’t expect to write tonight.
Analysis: 1/4* A quick match for Cena hitting his usual offense. Poor Breeze having to sell for Nikki as if she was a super-heavyweight or something.
Styles is still in the parking lot waiting for Shane.
Lynch vs. Carmella up next.
There was a plug for Talking Smack advertising The Usos and Dean Ambrose as guests.
Natalya joined the commentary team as Beck Lynch made her entrance. She’s against Carmella, who has James Ellsworth with her.
The Smackdown Women’s Title match is Alexa Bliss defending against all available SD women like Lynch, Carmella, Natalya and Mickie James.
Becky Lynch vs. Carmella (w/James Ellsworth)
Lynch with a back elbow leading to Carmella bailing to the floor. Ellsworth distracted Lynch and grabbed her leg as she went into the ring. Carmella hit Lynch with a superkick. Natalya into the ring with a discus clothesline. Disqualification finish one minute into it.
Winner by disqualification: Carmella
Analysis: DUD It was an angle more than a match. It never got going.
Mickie James ran in to the ring. Alexa Bliss also ran into the ring. Becky Lynch hit a missile dropkick on Ellsworth. James hit Lynch with a Mick Kick to knock her down. Carmella and Natalya were down. Bliss nailed James with a forearm to the face. Bliss held up the title to end it.
Analysis: There are some weeks where the SD Live women get a lot of time. This was not that week. That’s okay since tag match was long and great. Bliss standing tall gives her momentum for WrestleMania. We still don’t know what kind of match they are having at WrestleMania. This felt like the kind of segment where it was rushed.
More of “Total Bellas” parody footage up next.
There was a promo from Neville plugging 205 Live. He’s facing Mustafa Ali.
Next week on Smackdown Live: Luke Harper vs. Bray Wyatt. It’s not for Wyatt’s WWE Title.
Total Bellas Parody Part 2
It’s Miz as Cena and Maryse as Nikki again.
The scene took us back to the house with Cena telling Nikki he loved her and sounding robotic. Cena: “Are we rolling?” There was a guy holding a sign saying that he loved her. Nikki said her and Brie plan to ruin the careers of other women. Cena said a rule is to use coasters, but they don’t have any friends. Nikki claimed that Miz is a better actor. Cena gave her a gift that was merchandise. Cena claimed he bought her a ring, but it was a WWE toy ring. They continued in the bedroom with Cena getting mad at Nikki for asking her to advance his career while the cameras were rolling. Cena dropped to a knee and tied his shoe while Nikki cried in comedic way. It said “To Be Continued” as well.
Analysis: There were some funny moments in there, but I think the first part was better. Plenty of cheap jokes and teases of a proposal from Cena. I’ll give them credit for being creative with it and trying something different by doing a parody.
Cena and Nikki are on Talking Smack on WWE Network as well.
Styles is still in the parking lot. Renee Young sowed up to interview him. That’s when a car showed up. Styles hid behind a truck. The door opened and it was Rhyno and Heath Slater. Styles let them go while looking frustrated.
Shane McMahon, the Smackdown Commissioner, made his entrance. He received a huge ovation. He had a black eye around his right eye.
Renee went up to AJ in the parking lot and told him Shane was waiting for him in the ring. Break time.
Shane McMahon and AJ Styles Confrontation
Shane was in the ring with a microphone. He said AJ acts like a tough guy when he’s not there or his back is turned, so he’s calling out Styles to prove how tough he is. Shane said they could have handled it another way, but Styles chose to sneak attack him. Shane told him that his issue just got worse. Fans chanted “AJ Styles” as Shane said that either AJ comes to him or Shane is going back there.
Styles was shown walking backstage. He made his way towards the entrance area. He took his time walking out there. Styles grabbed a microphone and walked onto the stage.
Styles slowly walked down to the ring. He admitted that he went off the deep end, he made a mistake and said he’s sorry. The crowd booed him.
Styles walked into the ring to thank him for giving him a WrestleMania. He said he’ll go into the ring, look Shane in the eyes, say he’s sorry and shake his hand.
Shane attacked Styles with punches. The Shane punches rarely look good. Styles fought back, but Shane punched him and knocked him out of the ring. Styles drove him back first into side of the ring followed by a suplex into the barricade. Styles cleared off the announce table. Shane took him down with a suplex on the floor. Shane hit him with a television monitor. Shane put Styles onto the announce table.
Shane climbed to the top rope, he jumped off with an elbow and drove Styles through the table! Huge ovation from the crowd and a “Holy Shit” chant. Both guys were down. Replays aired of the spot. Shane didn’t connect perfectly with the elbow, but he got enough of it. Shane got to his feet and pointed at the WrestleMania sign. More replays aired of the elbow spot as Shane limped away to end Smackdown right at 10pmET as usual.
Analysis: Good ending segment to fire up the crowd and generate those rare “Holy Shit” chants for a big move. Fans like AJ Styles a lot, but Shane has their support since he’s a daredevil babyface willing to put his body on the line. The big elbow spot by Shane to show that he’s ready for WrestleMania is similar to what they did last year with Shane and The Undertaker on Raw. Since Styles is already credible as a top performer on the show, it was important to show that Shane is ready for a fight with him. I liked ending the show on that note.
If there was a problem with the ending it's that Shane didn't connect that well with Styles. His hand may have grazed him. Shane is in his mid-40s, so not as easy to make that leap as it was 15 years ago for him. It got the job done, though.
Three Stars of the Show
1. The Usos
2. American Alpha
3. Randy Orton
I cheated and went with more than three people. Have to credit the tag wrestlers!
7 out of 10
Last week: 6.5
2017 Average: 7.13
Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.67 - Raw is at 5.7
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 7 out of 10.
The 7/10 means it was around the average for the year, which shows that Smackdown has been consistently good in 2016 if the average is that high.
The tag match was the highlight of the show this week. I’ve been harping about giving the tag division some time for several weeks now. I’m glad they were finally given a chance with a meaningful match. Listen how the crowd got behind him. That’s the best TV match in several weeks on either main roster WWE show. Great job by The Usos and American Alpha.
There was a lot of angle development for Shane/Styles especially. No surprise that Shane got the upper hand this week. Wyatt/Orton only had a bit of interaction with Wyatt telling him he’s getting stronger. Miz/Maryse was comedy stuff doing the parody of Cena/Nikki to get heat.
Hour two was hurting in terms of in-ring action. I hope that's not a trend that continues.
Here’s what we know for WrestleMania 33 on April 2 in Orlando.
Universal Championship: Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar
WWE Championship: Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton
The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
United States Championship: Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Triple H vs. Seth Rollins – Rollins has to sign the contract on Raw next week.
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
Raw Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax
Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin
Smackdown Women’s Championship Match: Alexa Bliss to defend against all Smackdown women who are available to compete including Mickie James, Becky Lynch, Natalya & Carmella.
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries
Raw Tag Team Championship: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo & Big Cass vs. Sheamus & Cesaro
Andre the Giant Battle Royal – Participants announced so far are Big Show, Mojo Rawley, Apollo Crews and Curt Hawkins.
A Smackdown Tag Team Title match could be added as well.
That’s all for now. Go Toronto Raptors. Go Toronto Maple Leafs.
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