By Jake Barnett
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WWE Smackdown Live on the USA Network
Live from Buffalo, New York at First Niagara Center
The show began with Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon walking through the curtain and explaining that the new Smackdown was about fans and the Superstars in the ring. They started up a Yes Chant on the stage and looked at the wrestlers in the ring. The normal Smackdown introduction then aired.
Back in the ring, they continued the Yes Chant. Wrestlers surrounded the ring as Shane and Daniel Bryan were in it. The first thing Shane announced was that on September 11th, the first Smackdown only PPV will air on the WWE Network and will be called Backlash. He then said they needed to find an opponent for WWE Champion Dean Ambrose for Summerslam, and then called him out to the ring. Dean then made his ring entrance and grabbed the microphone.
He said that he was ready for a new challenge after Battleground, and as he looked around the ring he knows that everyone wants what he has. He then questioned who would step up first. Daniel Bryan piped up and said that what he loves most about Dean Ambrose is that he will fight anyone at any time. He then announce a six pack number one contenders match for the opportunity to face Dean Ambrose at Summerslam. He and Shane then announced the competitors for the six pack challenge: John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, AJ Styles.
Daniel Bryan then said that the sixth spot will go to the winner of a Battle Royal, and it was open to everyone. Shane then told everyone to get ready, because it starts next.
My Take: The weakness of the Smackdown Roster is already apparent watching the Superstars surrounding the ring. They’re going to have people pulling double duty tonight with the Battle Royal and having to fill out the rest of the show. I’d expect a lot of quick eliminations. I appreciate Daniel Bryan’s enthusiasm for the role, and the presentation has generally felt pretty bright and positive thus far.
The announce team, which is still at ringside for this show, welcomed us back to the show. They talked about Smackdown being a meritocracy, and then threw to the Battle Royal.
1. Battle Royal to determine the final entrant in the Six Pack Challenge: Simon Gotch got tossed out quickly, and guys then paired off in the ring. It was a pretty motley crue in there, mostly made up of tag teams and a smattering of mid card guys. Alberto Del Rio and Kane were the guys with the most star power. Both members of The Ascension were eliminated by Kane, and then he went to work on Kalisto. Things slowed down a bit at this point unil Zack Ryder got more aggressive and went after Kane. Breezango eliminated Jey Uso after a model kick from Tyler Breeze…[c]
Aiden English was eliminated during the break, along with Erick Rowan. Del Rio eliminated Mojo Rawley with a clothesline, and then hit a backstabber on Kalisto. Quickly, Del Rio was eliminated by Ryder, and Breezango got bounced by Kane. The Final Four were Kane, Zack Ryder, Apollo Crews, and Kalisto. Zack Ryder hit a missile dropkick on Kane, and then Apollo Crews and Kalisto followed with a moonsault and a frog splash respectively. Ryder botched a dropkick on Kalisto, and then tussled with Crews in the corner.
All three men traded blows for a bit. Ryder slipped coming off the ropes and Kalisto hit a spike rana on him. Kane got to his feet and quickly eliminated Kalisto and Zack Ryder. Apollo Crews then low bridged him and got the victory to be the sixth man in the main event.
Apollo Crews eliminated Kane to win the Battle Royal
Post match, Crews did a backflip at ringside and was interviewed at Renee Young at ringside. Crews told her he can’t start his celebration until he wins the main event tonight and goes on to Summerslam. The announce team plugged the main event for later. Becky Lynch and Natalya were shown heading towards the ring for a Battleground rematch for next. A Shelton Benjamin vignette was shown as the show went to commercial, hyping his return to Smackdown…[c]
My Take: Nice to see Shelton getting another shot. He has improved a great deal since leaving WWE, and the show needs him. The Battle Royal was a stark reminder of how much star power this show lacks in comparison to Raw. If I were Shane and Daniel Bryan, I’d be looking to trade John Cena in one of those Vikings/Cowboys Herschel Walker Trades.
Dolph Ziggler was shown backstage against a dark screen. He said he’s been banging his head against the glass ceiling for years, and somewhere along the way he lost his way. Dolph said he forgot who that 5 year old kid from Cleveland was who dreamed about being the best. He then concluded that opportunity won’t be held from him by the GM or a McMahon anymore, it’s all him, and tonight he would find his way back. In the arena, Becky Lynch made her entrance, followed by Natalya.
2. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya: A Becky chant started early on, as the women worked some basic grappling. Becky hit a single leg dropkick and the crowd fired up. Natty used the hair to toss Becky to the canvas and got admonished by the ref, and then taunted the crowd. Natty kept Becky grounded for a bit, until she was able to break free and hit some clotheslines and kicks.
Becky fired up and went for a running forearm in the corner, but Natalya avoided it. Becky replied with a back elbow as Nattie came in, and started to climb the ropes for a tornado DDT. Nattie quickly broke free and pulled Becky’s legs out from under her, sending her crashing into the ring…[c]
Becky broke free of an abdominal stretch with a hip toss and fired back with a string of forearms. She then hit a running forearm in the corner, but Natty turned away a back kick by grabbing Becky’s hair. Becky hit an enziguri and climbed up top for a top rope Leg Drop and got a near fall. Natalya fired back with a release German Suplex, and got a near fall of her own. Nattie demanded Becky get to her feet. After an awkward exchange, Nattie hit a discus lariat and got another near fall. Nattie went for the Sharpshooter, but Becky reversed into the Disarmer and got the submission victory.
Becky Lynch defeated Natalya via Submission
Renee Young interviewed Becky after the match and asked her if this felt like redemption, and she said to call her Becky Balboa. Alexa Bliss walked out and interrupted and said that she was the personification of what the new era looked like. She was quickly interrupted by Naomi, who said she was opening her mouth before she even got in the ring. Carmella came out and gave her two cents about making Smackdown fabulous, and then Eva Marie made her way out and got announced by a narrator over the PA without saying anything. Miz and Maryse were shown heading towards the ring…[c]
My Take: I enjoyed the match aside from one very awkward exchange, but the post match promo was all kinds of rushed and came off pretty poorly. They aren’t going to get all these women over at once, so they should focus on one or two feuds and stick with it. Alexa gave the best promo of the bunch, and Becky continues to shine in her babyface role. Those two should be the next feud.
Baron Corbin was shown backstage, and said he was winning the six pack challenge for the only person that counts, and that was him. Maryse was in the ring and introduced The Miz for MizTV. Miz hyped up his show as being exclusive to Smackdown Live. He told the crowd they were making history because they were joining the blue team. He told the crowd that his guest was the most must see Superstar in the WWE, and the greatest WWE Intercontinental Champion of all time, The Miz.
He then asked himself questions about how he remained so humble when so many people admired and looked up to him. His answer was that he takes solace in being married to the perfect woman and hopes everyone can be proud of him since they can’t be proud of themselves. He then asked Maryse what it was like to be married to Han Solo and be Princess Leia, and she replied that she felt like her reality was better than other people’s dreams. Randy Orton had enough at this point and interrupted the festivities.
Miz told Randy it was good to see him, and asked him what he was doing there. Orton said he listened to the monologue and thought Miz was talking about him. He then gave Miz a fake compliment and said he must be an expert playing with himself. Miz asked Orton what he planned on doing about the Conqueror Brock Lesnar, and Orton said it would only take one RKO to put him in Viperville. Miz then said it was a shame that he took a match with Brock Lesnar, because it might be his last.
Orton replied and said that it didn’t have to be his first match back, and that he thought he could have a match here tonight in Buffalo against the Intercontinental Champion. Miz said you just don’t show up and get a match with the Intercontinental Champion. Orton said he respects that, and it wouldn’t be for the title. Miz still declined, and which point Orton drew closer and asked if he was afraid of getting his ass whipped in front of his pretty little wife. He then said he was getting mixed vibes, and wasn’t sure which one of them did the pitching and catching in their relationships. Maryse got offended and accepted the match on behalf ot The Miz for next…[c]
My Take: Orton didn’t impress me here as much as he did on Sunday. The last line about pitching and catching lacked creativity and felt like it undid a lot of the work they did with Orton on Sunday being a more positive and upbeat as a babyface character.
3. Randy Orton vs. The Miz: Things spilled outside right away as Miz tossed Orton to ringside and he landed hard on his shoulder. Miz then followed and tossed Orton into the barricade and back into the ring. Miz hit repeated kicks to the shoulder, and Orton bailed out to the floor to regroup. He was able to get a few shots in on Miz on the outside, but got tossed into the steps shoulder first. He then got tossed into the barricade in the entryway.
Miz tossed Orton into the ring, and then immediately walked into an RKO. Orton didn’t cover immediately and then Miz laid out for an extended amount of time. Orton fired up the crowd and hit another RKO for the win.
Randy Orton defeated The Miz
The announce team put over the RKO and Orton’s home run punch and his ace in the hole against Brock Lesnar. The main event was plugged…[c]
My Take: The RKO is getting a big build, which is great. The Miz showed some good intesnity here as well. I’m not sold on Orton’s character, but they did more right than wrong here.
An American Alpha vignette aired that hyped their in ring debut next week. There was a jobber in the ring, and Health Slater showed up and punked him out. He grabbed a microphone and said he knows there must have been a mistake when he wasn’t drafted to either Raw or Smackdown. He asked to be added to the main event to make it a magnificent seven challenge, and then started a chant to sign Heath Slater.
Shane McMahon showed up and said that there were the better ways to get a job, and told Heath that he should turn in his resume. Heath Slater told Shane that he could find him on the WWE Network by typing in his name. He listed off his accomplishments in the Nexus, 3MB, etc and called himself the hottest free agent in WWE. While he was ranting, Rhyno snuck up behind him and speared him. Shane said he was right that he was looking at the hottest free agent.
Backstage, AJ Styles cut a rather confused promo. He asked why Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon have it in for him, and postulated that maybe it was because he was too good. He said he would win the main event later and go on to Summerslam to win his first WWE Championship…[c]
My Take: Slater cut a pretty good promo there. I’ve always enjoyed his work, and I think if he was packaged right he could be a lot more than the comedy act they’ve slotted him in with for years. It will probably never happen, but he’s a well rounded performer and deserves better than his lot.
Bray Wyatt was shown backstage. He called himself the beginning and the end, and said it all revolves around him. Bray claimed that later tonight, five men will fall, and then he will truly have the whole world in his hands. He then made his ring entrance. He was followed by Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles, and finally John Cena.
4. Six Pack Challenge for the Number One Contendership: Things paired off quickly…[c]
Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, and Baron Corbin lay on the floor on the outside. AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt worked over Apollo Crews in the ring. Just when it seemed they had an alliance, Bray hit a lariat on AJ that floored him. Dolph entered the picture and blindsided Bray, hitting a dropkick and a Stinger Splash before getting pulled out to the floor by Baron Corbin. AJ hit a knee strike on Corbin, and then hit a springboard 450 splash on Bray Wyatt for a near fall. He then hit an Ushigoroshi on John Cena.
Apollo Crews entered the ring and hit a trio of suplexes on AJ Styles, but got caught with an STO from Corbin to stop his momentum. Corbin hit some power offense, including a back suplex on Crews, and covered for a two count. [c] Competing tower of doom spots welcomed us back from commercial. Everybody was laid out briefly, until the action switched focus to Crews and Corbin mid ring. Corbin hit a spinning side slam and covered for a near fall.
He then went for End of Days, but Crews escaped and hit a spin out Powerbomb. He covered, but Bray Wyatt pulled the ref from the ring. Wyatt then hit Sister Abigail, but Dolph quickly put him down with a ZigZag. With no ref, Ziggler couldn’t cover. Cena quickly entered and hit an AA on both Ziggler and Styles, and covered Styles for a close near fall. Crews climbed the top rope and jumped at Cena, who rolled through and pulled him up for an AA. He then gave one to Wyatt and Corbin for giggles.
AJ Styles then cleared Cena from the ring with a Phenomenal Forearm, but turned around into a Superkick from Dolph Ziggler, who covered for the win.
Dolph Ziggler won the Six Pack Challenge to become #1 Contender
The announce team talked about Ziggler shattering the Glass Ceiling, apparently forgetting that he’s a former World Champion and numerous opportunities. Dean Ambrose then made his way out to confront Ziggler. They had a brief staredown before Shane and Daniel Bryan ran down to shake their hands as the show winded down.
My Take: I guess we’re headed for a big reset for Dolph Ziggler. I hope they have something more interesting in mind for his character, because he’s been languishing with very little direction and a serious perception problem as a babyface. His character has fallen short in the sincerity department, and the story they created for tonight involving him breaking the glass ceiling doesn’t really jive with the reality of his career. Time will tell with this one but from where I stand this was the least interesting of all their available options.