By Jake Barnett
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WWE Smackdown Live on the USA Network
Live from Cleveland, Ohio at Quicken Loans Arena
Footage was shown to setup the main event rematch between AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose. The normal Smackdown introduction then aired. Mauro welcomed us to Cleveland and Randy Orton’s music began to echo through the arena. He walked out to the ring wearing Tapout Sweats and a Viper Hoodie. I’m just glad he wears pants these days. He addresed Bray Wyatt and said he knows why he likes to talk about fear. He said Wyatt thinks his mind games will cause him to lose focus, but also because he is afraid. Randy said people are afraid of many things, like spiders, snakes or heights, but he knows Bray Wyatt is afraid of him.
He then demanded Bray Wyatt get down to the ring to face his fear, if he’s man enough. Orton then dropped the mic. The Wyatt sounder played and we saw Bray in a backstage area. He asked Randy if he’s ever heard of Hansel and Gretel. He summarized the story about Hansel and Gretel leaving breadcrumbs to find their way him, and said he had left some behind for Randy. Bray said they didn’t lead home, but instead through the depths of his mind. He told Randy to follow them if he wants to try and hurt him, but to hurry because the sands of time wait for no man. He then held up a large Sand Timer and sang “he’s got the whole world in his hands”.
The announce team talked about Dean Ambrose getting his hands on AJ Styles later in the first ever WWE Championship defense on Smackdown Live. Backstage, Charlie interviewed Dean Ambrose about the match. He said AJ liked to brag about beating John Cena, but he did last last week, so it’s all old news, just like John Cena. He said he would make AJ Styles cry later on tonight, and regain his Championship. An 8 man tag was plugged for next…[c]
My Take: Did they have Dean Ambrose beat John Cena on TV last week just so he could write off AJ Styles accomplishment as old news? What a waste of John Cena’s reputation. The Orton and Wyatt stuff is completely inane at this point.
The Ascension and Slater & Rhyno were already in the ring. American Alpha made their entrance, followed by The Usos.
1. American Alpha and Rhyno & Slater vs. The Usos and The Ascension: Jordan and Gable used mat wrestling to control Jimmy Uso in the early going. Jimmy was able to back Jason Jordan into his corner and tag in Jey, but Jason escaped and tagged in Gable. Alpha hit double monkey flips, and Gable sent Jey to the outside. As they brawled on the outside, Jimmy hit a chop block to Gable’s bad knee…[c]
Jimmy Uso pummeled Gable in the corner as the show got back, but he was able to get out of the way of a corner hip attack. Viktor and Konnor also tried to attack as well, but he avoided them and they crashed to ringside. The Ascension recovered and pulled Gable off the apron, and Rhyno took them out on the floor at that point. That left Slater for the hot tag, and he cleaned house on the Usos for a moment before hitting a neckbreaker, but Viktor broke up the pinfall.
The Usos went on the attack at this point, hitting a Superkick on Slater, followed by the kick to the back of the knee on Slater. Jimmy the applied a Tequila Sunrise on Slater and he was forced to tap out.
The Usos and The Ascension vs. Rhyno & Slater and American Alpha
Backstage, John Cena was interviewed and asked what he was going to do ringside at the Main Event. He said Styles was on top of his game, and Ambrose had guts, but he would use his time later to observe and prepare to be the man that gets to say the 16 time world champ is here. I another area backstage, Randy Orton walked into a darkened locker room with a crude arrow pointing him in a direction stuck to a wall of lockers. He followed and when the camera panned back the arrow was pointing the other way and Erick Rowan was standing there in his black sheep mask…[c]
My Take: The Usos continue to look strong, as they should. The every two week PPV’s are already starting to wear on me, as they are talking about a PPV next week already and my brain is rejecting it. Cena completely avoided talking about his loss last week, which pretty much dashes any hope I have that it would have some real effect on his character. It was a mistake to have it be treated as just another day at the office.
Bray Wyatt was shown briefly talking about how Orton was never one to take direction, and his hourglass is running out. He said he would find out his actions have consequences later tonight. Natalya and Carmella were already in the ring. A brief promo backstage from Natalya and Carmella was shown, where they said that Nikki couldn’t hang with the real women on Smackdown. Naomi made her entrance in the ring, followed by Nikki. A backstage promo for Nikki and Naomi was shown. Naomi talked about the Glow being about believing in oneself, and Nikki said that Carmella would be fuel to make her legacy burn forever.
2. Carmella & Natalya vs. Naomi & Nikki: Naomi embarrassed Carmella early on by rubbing her ass in her face in the corner. Nikki then tagged in and Carmella wanted none of her, and bailed to ringside with Nattie and regrouped…[c]
Nattie was physically controlling Naomi with mat wrestling, and then tagged in Carmella to do some showboating and add insult to injury. Carmella hit a bronco buster in the corner and then paint brushed her. She only got a two count on a cover. Nattie tagged back in to hit a side suplex, and got a two count of her own. Naomi eventually shook over Nattie and got a hot tag. She made an awkward collision with Nattie, but recovered nicely with a corner enziguri.
Carmella hit Nikki in the back as she came off the ropes, and then Nattie tagged her into the match. Nikki knocked her around after slingshotting her into the ring. Nattie caused a distraction, but force Nikki to turn her attention to her briefly and hit a big forearm shot. Carmella then surprised Nikki with a rollup for the surprise win.
Carmella & Nattie defeated Naomi & Nikki
Backstage, Randy Orton walked by a power junction box with “Only one way out. Choose Wisely written on it. The doors had Predator or Prey written on them. One door had a Randy Orton cardboard stand up behind it. Randy closed that door and was tempted to try the other one. Erick Rowan was behind that door, but Randy didn’t fully open it, and instead turned around and went back the other way. Rowan jiggled the handle after Randy walked away to indicate that he may be locked in there…[c]
My Take: The Women’s match wasn’t much to get excited about. I like that they have programs for all the women, but they had some timing issues here and I think they were trying to give Nikki an out for losing at the end but it failed miserably. She just looked like she took an ordinary pinfall.
The Miz made his entrance with Maryse. She introduced him, and then segued to a video retrospective of his WWE career. After the video, he welcome himself home to Cleveland, and put over the Cavaliers winning the NBA Championship. He said 1.3 million people attended their parade, and this is all he gets? He told the crowd that long before the city opened their arms to a traitor like Lebron James, he was winning the Main Event of WrestleMania at their WWE Champion. He then had his parents stand up, and called them the only two decent people in the building.
He then pointed out Dolph Ziggler’s parents, and said that this must be hard for them, because they created a world class elite level loser. Ziggler then entered and Miz hid behind Maryse as Ziggler got in the ring. Ziggler told him not to talk to his family or his city. He then told Miz if he has anything to say to him, he should say it to his face. Miz said he told him everything that he needed to when he beat him over and over. Ziggler said that he cheated over and over, so he can enjoy his tainted title.
Miz said that the record books would not reflect cheating, they would show his mansion, his hot wife, his championships, and his money. He said Ziggler career is a disaster and he would be ashamed if it was his. He then told Miz that he used to have something but now he’s just a mid level guy or opening the show. He told Ziggler that he has nothing to offer him, and then began to walk away.
Ziggler stopped him as he walked up the ramp and told him he was right. He wasn’t as big of a star as he hoped he would be, and his career wasn’t what he wanted for himself, but he couldn’t stop. He said sometimes you love something so much that it hurts, but it doesn’t love you back. He said it was no secret that wrestling is all he has, 300 days a year, but he didn’t know how to stop. He finally made his offer. He would put his career up against the Intercontinental Championship.
This got Miz’s attention, and he walked back to the ring. He said that in two weeks at No Mercy, he would put Ziggler out of of his misery if he wouldn’t. He then walked to the back holding up his championship.
My Take: This would be a great opportunity for Ziggler to finally snap at the PPV. Miz isn’t an ideal character to turn on since he’ll probably get cheered for bludgeoning him, but cheating to win and making it a pattern would be a welcome change of pace for Ziggler. Sad bastard Ziggler isn’t a character anyone is going to want to see on TV for any longer than is required.
Backstage, Wyatt told Orton that when one door closes, another one opens. He said the door is wide open, and to be careful. He then laughed maniacally. In the arena, Becky Lynch made her entrance. Alexa Bliss attacked her from behind and slammed her into the floor a few times. She then grabbed the championship and told her she didn’t deserve it. Alexa then walked to the back. Styles vs. Ambrose was plugged for later, and then we got another zany Curt Hawkins promo advertising an announcement for next week…[c]
Wyatt was shown backstage, and wondered where Randy Orton was. He said he was disappointed that the great predator hadn’t shown himself. Orton the snuck up behind him wearing the sheep mask and put a beating on him. Wyatt ran away, and Orton put back on the sheep mask. He then did a creepy rendition of “He’s got the whole world in his hands”.
AJ Styles was interviewed by Charlie. He said he’s already beaten Ambrose and Cena, and their words have little meaning to him. He said what we would see later tonight is him beating up Dean Ambrose again, and what we would hear is him being announced as still being the WWE Champion. In the arena, John Cena entered to join on commentary..[c]
My Take: The Orton thing ended on a better note than I expected. I like the idea of Wyatt legitimately experiencing fear and where that would take his character, because he has needed a shake up for a while now. Cena joining on commentary may be a first.
Styles and Ambrose made their ring announcements, and were given full introductions by the ring announcer.
3. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose: The match started fast with Ambrose tackling Styles and hitting multiple strikes. The action spilled out to the floor and pounded AJ Styles on top of the announce table right in front of Cena…[c]
The match was just kind of happening in the background as Cena made the case for No Mercy being when he enters the conversation for being the greatest of all time. Ambrose hit a nice swinging backbreaker and then applied a cloverleaf. Styles managed to escape and hang Ambrose on the top rope, but Ambrose fired back with a forearm that sent Styles to the floor. He then followed up with a tope, and then pursued Styles around the ring. He climbed to the top rope, and wiped out AJ Styles with an elbow…[c]
Styles went after Ambrose’s left leg and isolated it. He reversed a clothesline attempt and rolled into a Calf Crusher on the bad wheel in the middle of the ring. Ambrose slapped himself and shifted his weight enough that he could slam AJ’s head into the mat until he released the hold. AJ got to his feet and went for a Styles Clash, but it was reversed. Styles then went for a strike combination, but Ambrose reversed into a neckbreaker. They traded reversals a few more times until Ambrose hit a facebuster for a near fall. Styles picked Ambrose for a torture rack and hit a spin out powerbomb for another near fall.
Styles slapped around Ambrose, which just appeared to fire him up. Ambrose crotches Styles on the top rope, and then hit a high impact lariat from the top rope for a near fall. As things wore on, it seems like Cena is increasingly irritated by having to answer so many questions on commentary. Styles hit a Pele Kick in the ring, and then crashed and burned on a Springboard 450. Styles them climbed to the top and connected with an elbow for another close near fall.
Ambrose punched Styles near the ropes, and then Ambrose dove over the top rope with nobody home. Styles hit a running knee strike and tossed Ambrose back in the ring. He then took a free shot at Cena, who got angry. Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but didn’t connect. Ambrose went for a roll up, but Cena got on the apron and distracted the ref, who didn’t make the count on time. Dean ran after Cena on the outside and hit him in the back of the head, and then got rolled up with some tights by Styes in the ring for the win.
AJ Styles defeated Dean Ambrose
After the match, Cena hit an Attitude Adjustment on both Ambrose and Styles. He then posed with the belt and make a victorious walk to the back, pointing to the No Mercy advertisement on the tron saying he would be 16 Time Champion.
My Take: A very good match that improved upon their effort at Backlash. Styles retaining was the only outcome that made sense, and outsmarting Ambrose was exactly what his character needed at this point. Cena’s involvement and the quest for the record books seems like the beginning of a much longer story. I’ll be surprised if he wins at No Mercy, because they’ll want to pay that off at a much larger show with a bigger potential audience.
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...