By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
John Cena promo: It started off business as usual with Cena pandering by mentioning the Cubs, the White Sox, labelling Chicago as the City of Champions, and even talking about his own AJ Styles fandom. Things took an interesting turn late in the promo as he developed an edge while saying he is challenging for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble because he’s John Cena and he can do what he wants. The edginess at the end of the promo was an intriguing tease. I’ve given up on a full fledged heel turn and I’d much rather see Roman Reigns turn heel before Cena, but I could see Cena developing a bit of a heelish edge heading into a program with Undertaker. Either way, the promo went from a solid and typical Cena promo into something that viewers were left buzzing about.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Championship: A good main event with a fairly predictable yet perfectly logical outcome. Well, actually, it didn’t feel so predictable when Corbin appeared to be late getting into the ring to break up a pin that nearly resulted in Ziggler getting an unscheduled title reign. Ziggler was the right guy to take the loss, and Corbin was given plenty of offense before not factoring into the finish. The post match angle with Styles and Cena that closed the show was a good reminder of what’s to come at the Royal Rumble.
Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: The fans were coming down from the tag title change and were so quiet during the opening minutes that you would have thought a cruiserweight match was taking place. And while the fans never seemed to rally behind Lynch the way other live crowds have, this was a good women’s match with Lynch carryied the young champion to a solid outing. The La Luchadora interference was unexpected good fun, and I like that they didn’t reveal her identity. My guess is that Eva Marie will ultimately be revealed as the mystery woman even if she wasn’t actually under the hood last night.
The Wyatt Family vs. American Alpha vs. The Usos vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno: A minor Hit in that I have mixed feelings on Alpha winning the title in this manner. Many of the fans who started with them in NXT will say “it’s about time” and move on. However, fans who know them only from Smackdown have seen them spin their wheels since being called up to the main roster and never received proper introductions to their personas. Their win came out of nowhere and lacked the type of build and emotional payoff that it should have had. I was actually hoping the Usos would take the tag titles and then put Alpha in chase mode to set up such a scenario. Apparently, now we have the awkward dynamic of the heels chasing the babyfaces. Alpha winning was a nice surprise and the live crowd embraced it, but you can only win a world title for the first time once, and their first win should have packed more of an emotional punch.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
None: Smackdown continues to be so much better than the tired marathon that is Raw. They spent a couple weeks building up to this show and then delivered a strong two-hour wrestling show. It’s hard to complain about that.