By Jake Barnett
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WWE Smackdown Live on the USA Network
Live from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Wells Fargo Center
The show opened Backlash highlights, and then cut to the arena with AJ Styles making his way out to the ring. AJ said “The Champ is here!” and said that he hated to say “I told you so” quietly, so he yelled it loudly. He said he told the crowd he was going to beat John Cena, and he did it, so he’s the face that runs the place. He then said he told us that he would beat Dean Ambrose and become WWE Champion, and he did it. He then said if he told us the sky was green, don’t bother looking out the window, because it’s green.
He said he was the face the runs the place, and now he was the champ that runs the camp. He then repeated himself several times, until John Cena’s music hit. Cena made his way out and grabbed a microphone. He stood silently for a moment and waited for the crowd chants to pick up. Cena said that Styles has something that belongs to him, and he decided that he wants it back. Styles grabbed Cena’s old armband and threw it at him, and said he didn’t need it because he had the WWE Championship.
Cena said he still had something that belonged to him, and he decided that he wanted it back. He said he needs one more Championship to be in the conversation to be the man, and he had one more goal in the WWE, and that was to be 16 time WWE Champion. Dean Ambrose’s music hit and he ran out to the ring and got in Styles’ face. He said Styles had made him an enemy, and your life changes when you make him your enemy. He said he would take back his title with interest.
Cena spun him around and said Stone Cold was right about him on his podcast. He hasn’t shown the WWE Universe he has any balls. He hasn’t stepped up, he’s fell off. Ambrose then responded that he was confusing him for someone who cares what he thinks. He called Cena a lazy Hollywood part timer. He said he was better doing morning shows and award ceremonies and whatever else he does, because he can’t hang in the ring anymore. He said Cena couldn’t get by that chump at Summerslam, so he’d never ever get through him. Shane McMahon then made his entrance to sort it out.
Shane put over Styles for beating John Cena clean. He said they tore the house down. He said the same about the match at Backlash, except he told AJ he took the easy way out. Shane told Dean he would get his one on one rematch at a later date, but not right away. He proceeded to book a triple threat between all three men in the ring. He then said later tonight, Cena and Ambrose would take on AJ Styles and a partner of his choosing. Shane told AJ that since he was the champ who ran the camp, he wouldn’t have any trouble finding one.
A 5-way match for the Women’s #1 Contendership was announced for later…[c]
My Take: Hot open to the show. Styles seemed a little lost on the mic initially when he was out there by himself, but he got it together quickly and things went smoothly from there. Ambrose showed good fire, and Cena did as well. I’m surprised to see Cena back so soon, but perhaps they decided they needed him with Orton being out for an indeterminant amount of time.
The Usos and Hype Bros were in the ring for the first match.
1. The Hype Bros vs. The Usos: The Usos debuted new white and red gear. The new look included Jimmy wearing a shirt and Jey being shirtless. The Usos started out in control and isolated Ryder briefly. Mojo got a tag and hit a Monty Brown Pounce that sent Jimmy flying. Mojo stayed hyped for about 30 seconds until he got eye raked and superkicked by Jimmy. He then tagged Jey, who hit a top rope splash and got the victory.
The Usos defeated The Hype Bros
The Usos nonchalantly walked up the ramp and shushed the crowd. Heath Slater’s contract signing was plugged for later. The Miz was shown walking towards the ring with Maryse backstage…[c]
My Take: A quick match that showed the Usos using underhanded tactics to get over their new characters. It was pretty much what you’d expect from a dominant heel win.
We saw a goofy Curt Hawkins promo that introduced him as a quirky comedy character. The Miz then made his entrance in the building with Maryse. Miz said that for weeks Daniel Bryan and the WWE Universe have been calling him a cowards. But they can laugh all they want, because he left Backlash with the WWE Intercontinental Championship on his shoulders. Miz said he has held the Championship longer than 132 former champions, and that he has made it more prestigious than it has ever been. Ziggler then interrupted and told Miz that he holds the belt, but he’s out here trying to sell himself as the champion.
Ziggler said he’ll never be thought of as a top guy, because the WWE Universe will always see through him. Miz replied and said he’s the main event on every show he’s on, and if he ever bases his success on what the Universe thinks he should bury himself, just like Ziggler’s career. Dolph admitted he’s in a slump, but he asked Miz if he would ever be able to shake the asterisk next to his name, just like his win at Backlash. He then challenged him to another match, except this time just the two of them, without valets. Maryse began to speak, but the crowd shouted her down and Miz told them to shut up while his wife his talking. Daniel Bryan then interrupted.
Bryan said he couldn’t shut his mouth while his wife was talking. He said Maryse is the only reason Miz is still Champion. Bryan claimed that Ziggler would get a rematch, and Miz refused. Miz said he wanted his contract renegotiated, and that he wouldn’t defend his championship on any show until he gets what he wants. What he wants was never specified.
Backstage, AJ Styles ran into Baron Corbin, and asked him to be his partner. Corbin said he’s rather be his opponent, because he wants that title…[c]
My Take: More of the same from Ziggler, Bryan, and Miz. I really don’t understand how WWE contracts work, if the Miz can trigger a renegotiation shortly after presumably signing a contract after the draft. Are these contracts like 2 months? And what does the Miz want? Is it a public apology from Bryan?
Baron Corbin made his entrance, followed by Apollo Crews for the next match. Corbin knocked Crews off the ropes and hit End of Days out on the floor. Corbin went to celebrate in the ring, and Jack Swagger’s music hit and he headed down to the ring. Swagger said to call him Jumping Jack Flash, because as of 12:01 this morning he was a member of Smackdown Live. He said he has a smoking hot wife, and he came to Smackdown to be a big problem. He said to forget everything that you thought he was capable of, because Smackdown was a land of opportunity. He then did the We the People Chant.
My Take: Swagger tried to show some babyface fire, but it just didn’t quite feel natural. To his credit, the crowd did get into the “We the People” chant, but they really weren’t sure why he was making references to the Rolling Stones and talking about his smoking hot wife. It felt like a really awkward political speech. Maybe that was the point, I’m not sure. It will be interesting to see if he gets some coaching on this character and turns it around.
Becky Lynch was introduced and came out for her first promo as champion. She got a “you deserve it” chant as she was interviewed by Charlie in the ring. She said she that Becky Balboa was excited that her first stop was Philadelphia. She then said that whoever said the journey was better than the destination never traveled her journey and didn’t arrive that her destination, because this feels pretty sweet. She then said that she was a fighting woman, and told the rest of the division to come at her. Naomi then made her entrance, followed by Nikki, Natalya, Alexa Bliss, and Carmella.
2. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Nikki vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Carmella in a Fatal 5-Way for the #1 Contendership: Nikki Bella went straight for Carmella, and sent her to the outside. Alexa and Naomi tangled in the corner. Natalya then threw Nikki into Alexa and Naomi, and then suplexed or slammed pretty much everyone in the match. Nikki and Natalya ended up center ring, and Nikki hit a knee to the head and covered Natalya, which required a breakup form Carmella. Nikki tossed Carmella to the outside and hit her with a clothesline on the floor.
In the ring, Nikki got Naomi into an electric chair position and hit her with a Suplex. Alexa Bliss tried to cover both Naomi and NIkki, but couldn’t get a three count. Naomi then hit Alexa with a step up enziguri and a Bubba Bomb, but Nattie prevented a pinfall. Nattie slammed Naomi into the steps in the outside, and Nikki then threw Nattie into the barricade. Nikki picked up Alexa into a fireman’s carry, but Carmella hit her with a superkick. Alexa then threw Carmella out to the floor, and the covered Nikki for the win.
Alexa Bliss defeated Naomi, Nattie, Nikki, and Carmella to win the #1 Contendership
Backstage, AJ Styles asked Kane to be his tag partner. Kane laughed and walked away. Heath Slater’s contract signing is up next…[c]
My Take: A very good women’s match to crown the #1 Contender. They worked in a light of high impact and signature offense, and managed to keep multiple women involved for most of the match instead of relying on long breaks on the outside with two wrestlers working a match in the ring. Bliss winning is the right call here. Carmella and Nikki have their thing going, Naomi is a poor fit, and Natalya and Becky just had a program.
Shane McMahon made his entrance and talked about a man seizing opportunity. He said when Daniel Bryan came aboard it was all about creating opportunity, and then introduced Heath Slater. There was an ECW chant for Rhyno briefly. Shane McMahon said he was a man of his word, and asked him to sign on the dotted line. Slater thanked his wife, and said they would be movin’ into a double wide. He thanked Rhyno for being his friend, said he wasn’t sure if he could have done it by himself. Rhyno looked at him really confused and just nodded. Slater thanked his kids and a bunch of random people, before being interrupted by The Ascension. They said anytime, anyplace, and anywhere? Why not right now vs. The Ascension. Slater tried to back out, but Shane McMahon made the match…[c]
3. Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. The Ascension: Slater was cut off in the Ascension corner and they went for their finish and botched it. Rhyno broke up the pin anyway, but it wasn’t necessary. Rhyno got a tag and hit some clotheslines and shoulder tackles. He hit Viktor with a spinebuster that got a near fall, which Konnor broke up. Slater jumped on Konnor’s back and got dumped to the outside, but Rhyno knocked Konnor through the middle rope. Rhyno then hit Viktor with a gore and got the win right after.
Slater and Rhyno defeated The Ascension
Backstage, AJ Styles ran into Daniel Bryan, who said he didn’t need a partner. Bryan said he was sorry to hear that, because had appointed one for him. Enter James Ellsworth. AJ looked dejected and walked away. Randy Orton addresses Bray Wyatt next…[c]
My Take: Rhyno continues to carry Slater, and appears to be getting more irritated about it as time goes on. James Ellsworth reappearing has just made Jason Powell and his bad back do a cartwheel in his living room.
Randy Orton walked out wearing pants, so you know this is serious. He posed after a Randy chant. He addressed Bray Wyatt and said that all he does is talk. He said he calls himself the face of fear because he’s afraid. He was afraid of him, because he attacked him from behind and tried to end his career. Orton said he wasn’t the first to try and he won’t be the last. He asked him to come down to the ring and face your fear.
Bray said that a wise man knows when to stay down. Wyatt said he gave him a gift, and all he had to do is stay down, but instead he chose to embarrass him. He said he knows now what he must do, and until death do them part they would be together. Neither bullets or knives would end this, and then told him not to sleep. The lights went out, and Wyatt was at ringside when they came back up. Orton begged him into the ring, and then the lights went out again. Rowan was in the ring when they came back. He assaulted Orton, but ended up eating an RKO. The main event is next…[c]
My Take: Meh. That segment didn’t wow me. A lot of the same, and an RKO. I guess it’s hard for the feud to advance without a match, but it was still pretty lame.
AJ Styles made his entrance for the Main Event looking miserable. James Ellsworth made his entrance, and Miz attacked him from behind and hit a Skull Crushing Finale on the ramp. He then threw Ellsworth at some refs who were approaching from the stage. They were followed by John Cena and Dean Ambrose…[c]
4. Dean Ambrose and John Cena vs. The Miz and AJ Styles: The match was joined in progress, and showed Styles hitting Cena with an Ushigorishi during the break. The Miz and John Cena were in the ring, and Miz was in control. Cena sent Miz crashing into the corner, and both men made tags. Ambrose and Styles entered, and Ambrose hit a swinging backbreaker. He then hit an elbow from the top and covered for a two count. Ambrose then moved to hit mounted punches from the top, but Miz approached from the apron. Ambrose knocked Miz to the floor and sent him into the barricade on the outside. He then entered the ring and went for a clothesline on Styles, but Styles ducked and hit a pele kick…[c]
Styles attacked Cena on the apron with a forearm. Cena tried to enter the ring, and the ref got involved, which let Miz take some free shots in the heel corner. Ambrose turned things around briefly with some chops, but AJ quickly shut him down and hit some punches. Ambrose and Styles continued to trade blows until they were both on the ground. They made tags and Cena came in and immediately set up Miz for his finish. He hit a five knuckle shuffle and picked up Miz for an AA. Styles tried to enter, but Ambrose shut him down and sent him to the floor. Cena hit the AA and got the victory.
Dean Ambrose and John Cena defeated AJ Styles and The Miz
After the match, Ambrose and Cena celebrated briefly, but Ambrose had a sour look on his face. He quickly hit Dirty Deeds on Cena as the crowd booed. Styles walked up the ramp as Ambrose stared down Cena in the ring.
My Take: A pretty pedestrian main event, but it served it’s purpose of forwarding the tension between Cena and Ambrose. They could have an entertaining feud together once they get through the initial match with Styles, who seems destined to take on Randy Orton once he gets through with Bray Wyatt.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...