1/7 Barnett’s WWE Smackdown Live Review: Mauro Ranallo joins the announce team for the first episode of Smackdown on USA Network

By Jake Barnett

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WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Taped on Tuesday in Laredo, Texas

[Q1] A video of the conclusion of Raw was shown where Vince McMahon announced the stipulation for the Royal Rumble, plus some other highlights. Mauro Ranallo welcomed everyone to the show and he and the King plugged Owens vs. Ambrose and Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch for later in the show. Lawler then introduced Mauro Ranallo, who in turn introduced Byron Saxton, just in time for John Cena to make his way out to the ring.

John Cena welcomed everyone to the first Smackdown of 2016. He said this show has made history, because Smackdown has officially moved to the USA Network. He got a cheap pop for mentioning Laredo, and started a USA chant for the new network for some reason. He played hype man and plugged the Divas Championship and Intercontinental Championship matches, and then pivoted to the US Championship. Cena said because it was New Years and a fresh start, he would invite Alberto Del Rio out to the ring.

Del Rio walked to the ring with a stern look on his face, while Cena applauded mockingly. Del Rio said he can save his blah blah USA speech for later, because he known what he’s doing. He wants another US Championship opportunity, but he doesn’t deserve it. He had to give him credit, because it worked once, but not tonight. Cena said they were on the USA Network, and he was the USA Champion, and then hyped the crowd for a United States Championship match right here right now.

The crowd chanted “Si”, but Del Rio told him to shut up after called him a dog in spanish. He said he wasn’t going to give him his match. He said he would fight anyone, right here and now, except for him. Cena said if that’s the case, he knows a guy who spent 2015 shocking the world, and that was Kalisto. He made his entrance, and Del Rio said that Cena must be kidding him. Del Rio asked the “little man” if he thought he could beat him, and Kalisto responded that he would do it right now.

1. Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto: Del Rio started out on offense with some punches, but Kaliso responded with a roundhouse kick and a leg scissors DDT…[c]

My Take: Cena was more carnival barker than anything here. He did a good job of getting the crowd pumped up, and he did his best to add some credibility to Kalisto prior to the bell. It’s a shame Cena is hurt and won’t be able to compete for a while. He had perhaps the best 2015 out of anyone in WWE.

[Q2] Del Rio took over as the show came back and hit some signature offense and a sick looking DDT that planted Kalisto. He rolled to the floor to recover, but Del Rio followed. Cena tried to distract Del Rio by talking trash and taking his shirt off, but Del Rio carried on and threw Kalisto into the barricade. Del Rio spent a long time taunting the crowd and Cena in the ring, and failed to capitalize on what he had done to Kalisto out on the floor. Kalisto ended up hitting a hurricanrana for the surprise pin and victory.

Kalisto defeated Alberto Del Rio at 6:54.

The announce team gave a plug to the WWE network and the Divas Championship match before going to Becky being interviewed by Jojo backstage. She was asked if she had gotten an explanation as to why her former friend beat her so brutally on Monday. Charlotte said she didn’t need an explanation, because she knows what it means to be stabbed in the back. She said when she beat Charlotte on Monday, it was in the spirit of friendly competition, but when she takes the Championship from her later tonight, it would be anything but….[c]

My Take: I liked the Kalisto and Del Rio match. It didn’t overstay it’s welcome, and it sets up an interesting feud for Del Rio. Kalisto has the potential to be a big deal if they let him really show off what he can do. The direction of Becky vs. Charlotte is also promising. It’s about time Becky wasn’t written to act like she had no experience in human interaction.

[Q3] Miz welcomed everyone to MizTV. He said on Monday Vince McMahon had shocked the world and made it known that the WWE World Heavyweight Championship would be on the line in the Royal Rumble match. New Day interrupted during his sentence. Woods said they needed to discuss all the horrible things Chris Jericho said about them. Big E said despite all the gifs people sent them, they were not rooty tooty booty. They trashed Jericho a bit, until they were interrupted by Dolph Ziggler. He walked to the ring and told them to shut up, until he was interrupted by Goldust.

Goldust said MizTV had gotten bizarre, just in time to be interrupted by Neville. He told the Miz he has to promise to shut up and cancel his stupid show.. R-Truth then interrupted and told everyone to step aside. He said if anyone was going to answer Alberto Del Rio’s US Open Challenge, it would be him. Miz then told him there was no US Open Challenge. Truth asked what they were talking about, and Miz told him the Royal Rumble match. Miz then told him to buy a clue, which led to things breaking down and a few brawls breaking out. Xavier Woods was dumped to ringside, and he regrouped with the rest of New Day…[c]

My Take: More wacky mid card comedy from MizTV. I don’t mind the variety, but this didn’t do anyone any favors.

3. Dolph Ziggler, Goldust, Neville and R-Truth vs. New Day and Miz: The match was joined in progress. Kofi remained in the ring for the New Day, and got worked over by various members of the babyface team. R-Truth worked a long rest hold before he tagged out to Neville. Neville hit a standing Shooting Star Press for a near fall, and the transitioned to work on Kofi’s arm. Both men got back to their feet and Neville hit some kicks and a catapult out of the corner. Big E caused a distraction, which allowed Kofi to land some shots and sent Neville out to the floor…[c]

[Q4] New Day continued the offense on Neville, who was trapped for the revolving door stomps. Miz danced and celebrated, which New Day was initially horrified at, but then joined in. Xavier Woods got sent out to the floor by a back body drop from Neville, who finally made a hot tag to Vince Neil Ziggler. Miz also tagged in for the heels, and Ziggler hit him with a fameasser. Kofi made the save on the pin. The match broke down at this point, and New Day all ended up out on the floor. Neville hit them with a splash, and Ziggler hit Miz with a superkick for the win.

Dolph Ziggler, Goldust, Neville and R-Truth defeated Miz and New Day at 12:13.

After the match, Ziggler superkicked R-Truth and threw Goldust to the outside. He leaned throught the ropes told Goldust it was every man for himself at the Royal Rumble. One one would go to Mania, and it would be him, apparently forgetting that the Championship was on the line. The announce team plugged Owens vs. Ambrose for later. Backstage, Charlotte was shown walking with Ric Flair. Jojo asked her if she was ready for Becky Lynch. Charlotte said Becky had leeched off of her, and had no place to say how she should act as champion. She said her Dad had acted like a champion for his entire life, and now she would too…[c]

My Take: The eight man was filler. Nothing was at stake. I still know nothing about Charlotte’s character aside from that she wants to become like her father’s wrestling persona. She has the part about being an asshole down, but the charisma is a bit fleeting.

Charlotte made her entrance before the previous commercial. Becky Lynch made her entrance.

[Q5] 4. Charlotte vs Becky Lynch: Mauro tried to give some history of calling Becky Lynch’s matches in British Columbia when she was 18, but Lawler gave the stupid ass boiler plate answer of “this is the WWE, that doesnt’ matter”. Charlotte and Becky went back and forth in the ring without anyone stringing together any offense. The got into a sequence of pinfall reversals, and Becky settled in. She hit a dropkick and an arm drag, and then worked the arm. Charlotte went over the rope onto the apron in the corner, and Becky hit a springboard side kick and sent her to the floor.

Becky brought Charlotte back into the ring, but she quickly bailed again. Flair got in between Becky and Charlotte, which allowed Charlotte to hit a big boot. King continued to work as a the heel announcer, which was a nice change of pace. Charlotte kneeled over Becky and landed repeated punches, followed by a snap suplex…[c]

Charlotte held onto a head scissors and slammed Becky into the mat. Becky then picked her up on her shoulders and dropped her on the top turnbuckle snake eyes style. Becky fired up and hit a series of clotheslines and a leg lariat. She then hit an exploder suplex and covered for a two count. Ric Flair looked concerned on the outside. Charlotte reversed the momentum with a neckbreaker, but Charlotte couldn’t put her away after multiple covers.

Charlotte hit some strong chops, but Becky ducked one and hit a pumphandle exploder suplex. Becky went for the disarmer, but Charlotte escaped and hit a big spear. She followed up with a figure eight attempt, but Becky rolled her up for near fall. Becky then turned it into a cross armbreaker, but Charlotte escaped. Becky eventually applied the disarmer, but Ric put her foot on the ropes as she tapped out. As Becky argued with the ref, she got rolled up and Charlotte used the ropes to get the pin.

Charlotte defeated Becky Lynch at 15:39.

[Q6] The announce team showed some footage of Kevin Owens as he defeated Neville from Monday, and the brawl between Owens and Ambrose. Kevin Owens was shown backstage with Renee Young. She asked him if he was feeling the effects of going through the table on Monday Night. He said he was fine because he was a world class athlete. He said not even the cockroach Dean Ambrose could stop him from taking back his title tonight. The Raw Rebound was plugged for next…[c]

My Take: This might be my favorite women’s match since these two have been called up from NXT. Very good psychology down the stretch and it sets up a legitimate rematch opportunity for Becky at the Royal Rumble. This feud is making some good progress lately, and I’m happy to see Becky finally start to make a connection with the crowd since coming out of the shadow of Team PCB.

The announce team threw to the Raw Rebound, which focused on the Roman Reigns storyline from Monday. After the video, they showed a WWE.com video interview with Roman Reigns and Renee Young. Reigns said the McMahon family was trying to burn him down, but he will be the last man standing with the Championship. Believe that…[c]

[Q7] Dean Ambrose was interviewed backstage by Renee Young. Ambrose said Owens talks a big game about being a prize fighter. Well, he’s got the prize and he’s ready, so let’s fight Owens fight. Kevin Owens made his ring entrance to a chorus of boos. Dean Ambrose made his entrance and the crowd fired up.

5. Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship: Ambrose grabbed a headlock to start and went for Dirty Deeds early, but Owens regrouped on the outside.

My Take: They managed to burn 15 minutes with entrances, ring announcements and a few video packages. That’s real dedication.

Owens chopped away at Ambrose, who turn the tables in the corner and teed off on Owens with kicks. Both men traded punches until Ambrose hit a snapmare and a seated clothesline. Ambrose got dumped to the outside, and Owens followed. KO hit a kick to the face. He then attempted to toss Ambrose into the barricade, but got reversed. Ambrose then hit a lariat off the apron and tossed Owens back in the ring. As Ambrose got back in the ring, Owens hit him with a DDT…[c]

Owens held onto a chin lock, but Ambrose quickly broke free. Ambrose hit a clothesline followed by a running bulldog. Ambrose went for Dirty Deeds, but Owens backed him up into the corner. Owens hit a German Suplex, but couldn’t follow up. Ambrose grabbed him as he ran towards the corner and hit a Tornado DDT. Ambrose then went up top, but Owens crotched him on the top turnbuckle and hit a cannonball in the corner for a near fall.

Owens went for a pop up powerbomb, but Ambrose reversed into a head scissors. He then hit a rebound lariat and both men were down. They traded blows as they got to their feet until Owens hit a clothesline. He went for a another one, but Ambrose slipped him and sent him to the outside. He then followed up with a dive that sent Owens over the announce table. Ambrose climbed on top of the announce table, but Owens recovered before he could do anything. Owens sent him into the stairs, and then Ambrose sent him into the crowd over the barricade. The ref reached the count and both men were counted out as they fought through the crowd.

Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose ended in a double count out.

They ended up on the stage and Owens got tossed into the big WWE symbol on the top of the stage. Ambrose then dove on him as he attempted to get away. They then brawled over to a set of road cases and got up on top of them. Owens went for a power bomb, but Ambrose reversed into a back body drop. Ambrose then dove at Owens, and they both ended up crashing through some tables set up adjacent to the road cases as the show went off the air.

My Take: A hot finish to the show capped a much improved episode of Smackdown over last week. Owens vs. Ambrose was very enjoyable and both men looked doubly tough for taking the abuse that they did throughout the match. The Divas Championship match was very good, and Mauro Ranallo was a major improvement on day one over Rich Brennan. He has a great voice for the announce team and adds a level of enthusiasm for the product that just didn’t exist for big moments on other editions of the show. I would definitely catch the final two matches of the show on DVR if you don’t want to sit down and watch the entire show. Aside from a couple of segments clearly meant to kill time, this show was a lot of fun to watch.


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