By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Live from Denver, Colorado at Pepsi Center
The show opened with video of James Ellsworth defeating AJ Styles with a heaping of help from Dean Ambrose on last week’s show. It then cut to a clip from Talking Smack, where Daniel Bryan announced the rematch on tonight’s show for the WWE Championship. Backstage, Ellsworth was taping up his arms, and managed to drop the tape. Dean Ambrose walked up and showed Ellsworth his new T-Shirt, and Ambrose said he pulled some strings to get it up on WWE Shop. In the arena, Randy Orton made his entrance while the announcers questioned where Kane went last week. For those wondering, he went under the ring and everybody pretended he dematerialized into thin air.
Orton said he has to give credit where it’s due. Escaping from Bray Wyatt’s world is more difficult than he imagined, and described it like sinking in quicksand. Orton said he felt like he was losing his mind, and that’s not good, but it’s especially bad for Bray Wyatt. Orton called himself wrath and vengeance, and told Wyatt that he was coming for him. On the tron, Bray Wyatt was shown on screen in a coffin surrounded by Black Sheep masks. Wyatt said that he doesn’t have to come for him, because he’s already coming for him. He then told Orton that if he thinks he’s suffocating now, he should await the journey he’s going to put him on. Wyatt then told Orton “He’s Here”, and then things went black. Luke Harper then made his entrance in the arena.
1. Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper: They traded blows early, and Harper got in the first shot with a single leg dropkick that sent Orton to the floor. Harper charged at Orton, but ate an elbow to the face. Orton climbed back into the ring and interrupted Harper on the top rope, and after a brief battle hit a superplex. Things went black at this point and the Wyatt sounder played, and we saw Bray make his entrance into the arena being rolled down the ramp in his coffin…[c]
My Take: This program just lacks steam for me. Wyatt stealing Undertaker’s casket gimmick just makes this feud feel even more like they are treading over well worn ground. I am enjoying James Ellsworth though. He’s just ridiculous enough to make you laugh, and this program is a nice distraction while they bide time to build towards Summerslam.
Orton barely answered a ten count and then walked into Michinoku Driver from Luke Harper for a two count. Orton nearly tossed Harper into the casket, and then hit a powerslam while staring down Bray Wyatt. Orton went to set up for his hanging DDT, but Wyatt ran in and used the numbers game with Harper to put a beating on Orton.
Randy Orton defeated Luke Harper via DQ
They went to put Orton in the casket, but it suddenly snapped open on it’s own and Kane was inside. He and Orton turned the tables on Wyatt briefly, but then the Wyatt sounder hit and they were gone. Kane set off his pyro and stood tall with Orton in the ring. Backstage, AJ Styles was interviewed. He was asked his thoughts about tonight’s World title match. Styles said it was surreal what has happened recently. He said he clawed his way into being called the face that runs the place, and he has to step into the ring with a no talent skinny fat hack that doesn’t deserve to be there.
He said he knows Dean Ambrose is going to try and interfere and embarrass him, and if that happens tonight it would be the most ridiculous upset since David Arquette won the WCW World Title. He promised if that happened that he would hunt down Ambrose, even at his home or in a coffee shop and tear him apart. A six man tag is next between Dolph Ziggler, Rhyno and Slater vs. The Miz and The Spirit Squad…[c]
My Take: Styles was a little off there for some reason. I don’t know if he forgot a line early on and was rattled for the rest of the promo, but something was off and he seemed a bit thrown. I’m still looking forward to that match later. The Spirit Squad being around for more than a one off in 2016 is insane to me.
Alexa Bliss made her entrance in the arena, followed by Naomi.
2. Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss: They tied up to start, and then had a shoving match after the ref separated them. Naomi took control with her rapid fire kicks, and followed them up with a dropkick. She then hit a springboard crossbody, and covered for a two count. Naomi hit a basement clothesline, followed by a leg drop for a near fall. Bliss used a hair pull to free herself from a headlock, but Naomi countered with a drop toe hold into the bottom turnbuckle. Bliss rolled to the outside to try and recover…[c]
Bliss hit a nasty elbow strike after an eye rake on the outside that turned the tables on the match. She took control in the ring with a cravat, but Naomi was able to break free after some elbows and hit a backbreaker. Naomi continued the offense with a leg lariat and a sitout jawbreaker, and then followed up with a split legged moonsault for a near fall. She climbed to the top again, but got dropped with strikes. Bliss followed up with Twisted Bliss for the win.
Alexa Bliss defeated Naomi.
Renee Young stepped in for an interview, and Bliss said that the fairytale would be over for Becky Lynch in Scotland in 3 weeks, and the fairest of them all would be the new Champion. The announce team brought up Dolph Ziggler, and tossed to some footage from the Handicap match between him and the Spirit Squad last week. The 6 man tag was hyped for later. Curt Hawkins “very first match” will be up next, and I’m suddenly thinking he’s just going to light a match.
My Take: This was a much better match between Bliss and Naomi. I think it bodes well for the division that they were able to bounce back and put together a good match just a few weeks after a clunker. Whether that’s because of working together on the road or just a bad night at No Mercy, they worked it out.
Apollo Crews made his entrance, followed by Curt Hawkins. He recorded a voice over that was essentially a series of quips, and it played over his entrance. He grabbed a mic as he got in the ring, and told Crews that he signed up for a beating, and would have to change his name to Apollo Lose. Crews popped him in the mouth, and Hawkins walked away up the ramp. Carmella was shown backstage, and the announce team said she would present the truth about Nikki Bella next…[c]
My Take: Maybe I’m dense, but I’m still not getting the appeal of this Hawkins character. Do people want to see Hawkins bad enough that depriving the audience of his matches is some big heat magnet? The crowd just kind of shrugged him off, so they may need to take a different approach.
Carmella made her entrance as footage of her attack on Nikki Bella from last week was shown on the tron, followed by Nikki interfering in her match later on that night. Carmella had a microphone and said that two months ago she was basking in the glow of her first Summerslam Match, and then she heard Nikki Bella’s music. She said she doesn’t get why the fans cheer for her, and they’re in luck because she’s there to spill the tea. Nikki Bella’s music hit and she came down to the ring and told her to say whatever she had to say to her face.
Carmella told her that the only reason she’s fearless is because she goes home every night with Mr. Hustle, Loyalty and Respect. Nikki told her that she was just like every other hater and bully that she has faced in her life. She compared her to internet trolls and said she should be ashamed of herself as a woman for taking away her accomplishments just because of who she’s with.
Carmella called her needy and said she was a gold digger, and then introduced some footage from Total Divas/Bellas that portrayed her poorly. Nikki responded and congratulated her on her ability to edit footage. Nikki said that she pays her own bills and wears the pants in her relationship. She said she doesn’t need a man, and she’s fearless because she’s had to fight through doctors telling her she’d never get in the ring again. Carmella asked her if John helped her come up with her fearless slogan. She then said that she used her looks to get in the door, used her sister to get into the ring, and used her boyfriend to become a celebrity. Carmella then walked away.
Backstage, James Ellsworth was asked about his WWE Championship match by Renee Young. He said he was excited for the opportunity, and would be able to tell his grandkids that he competed on Smackdown Live for the WWE World Championship. The six man tag is next…[c]
My Take: I’ve never seen Nikki Bella wear pants, but she apparently wears the pants in her relationship. I didn’t hate the angle, but I think they might have given Carmell a bit too much ammo here. These segments are better when you take a few isolated incidents and try to blow them up out of context. There were enough moments in the clips from the reality shows to make Carmell’s points look credible.
The Miz made his entrance with The Spirit Squad and Maryse. They were followed by Dolph Ziggler and Beauty and the Man Beast. Rhyno and Slater had a picture in picture promo where Rhyno declared he just doesn’t like male cheerleaders.
3. Dolph Ziggler & Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Miz and The Spirit Squad: Rhyno got the better of both Kenny and Mikey at the outset. He hit some strikes on Mikey and hit a belly to belly on Kenny. Slater then tagged in and work an arm hold and strikes on Kenny, and he then tagged in Ziggler. Kenny dropped Ziggler with a kick and The Miz wanted into the match. Ziggler popped to his feet and nearly hit Miz with superkick, but he rolled out to the floor to avoid it…[c]
There as a “We Want Slater” chant as Miz continued to work on Dolph Ziggler. Kenny tagged in and hit a double axe handle from the top. They worked some rapid tags to isolate Ziggler and cut off the ring. Ziggler got back into the match with a vertical suplex on Mikey, but Miz quickly tagged in and shut down the tag. Ziggler hit a desperation superkick on Miz and tagged in Slater, who cleaned house and hit a hangman neckbreaker for a near fall on Kenny.
Rhyno entered the ring and hit a gore on Mikey, and then got shoved out of the ring by Slater. Miz hit a cheapshot on Slater from the floor, who then got rolled up by Kenny for the win.
The Spirit Squad and The Miz defeated Slater & Rhyno and Dolph Ziggler
Backstage, Daniel Bryan was talking to Shane McMahon about the Survivor Series matches between Raw and Smackdown when Natalya walked up. She said she wanted to be the first to volunteer to be on the Smackdown women’s team, and Bryan asked her why she should be considered. She read an inspirational quote from her phone, and Bryan asked her if she was quoting Whitney Houston? She denied it and then said she just wanted to dance with somebody, confirming his suspicions. Bryan thanked her for volunteering, and she then decided to show him some pictures of her cat on Instagram…[c]
My Take: They are really deescalating the Miz and Ziggler feud. I hope they know what they are doing heading into Survivor Series, because they hit a crescendo with that feud at No Mercy and it will be difficult to reach that level of interest again. Hopefully the feud doesn’t just end with a whimper.
Baron Corbin made his way to the ring. Jack Swagger was already in the ring. A picture in picture promo aired and Corbin said Swagger’s entire existence is a bad joke. He said the people don’t care about him, they just liked having fun at his expense. He said he likes to have fun as well, and it will also be at Swagger’s expense.
4. Baron Corbin vs. Jack Swagger: Early on, Corbin hit a shoulder block that sent Swagger from the apron to the floor. Corbin followed up with rapid fire forearms and then tossed Swagger back into the ring. Corbin hit a big knee in the ring, and followed up with End of Days for the win.
Baron Corbin defeated Jack Swagger
Backstage, Natalya was boring Daniel Bryan to death with cat pictures when Dean Ambrose walked up in his ref uniform. Bryan thanked Ambrose for saving him from the cat pictures. Ambrose said he was excited to be sheriff tonight, and said he would call it down the middle. Bryan told him he couldn’t be referee for the World Championship Match, but said he could be whatever else he wanted. He offered up commentator, timekeeper, announcer, whatever. Ambrose said he would do that, and walked away. Bryan wasn’t sure which one he accepted…[c]
My Take: Corbin squashing Swagger must mean the dream of his big babyface resurgence is dead. After the results of his promos, I can understand why. The WWE Championship match should be a riot, based on that Ambrose segment.
Dean Ambrose made his ring entrance. AJ Styles was next, and James Ellsworth entered last. Dean Ambrose entered the ring for the announcements as the crowd chanted for Ellsworth. Ambrose introduced him like he was Muhammad Ali, and then ripped on AJ Styles.
5. AJ Styles vs. James Ellsworth: Ambrose ran the bell continuously for about 30 seconds to start the match. Ellsworth went for an Irish Whip and an arm drag, but Styles reversed into an Abdominal Stretch. Styles jawed with Ambrose at ringside…[c]
While the match was going on, Ambrose told the crowd about the limited edition James Ellsworth shirts. Styles then threw him down and told Ellsworth that nobody wants his stupid shirts. Styles dominated the action in the ring and then jawed with Ambrose at ringside. Styles placed Ellsworth on the top rope for a superplex, but Ambrose interrupted the match and sold some concessions and reminded the crowd that the show was sponsored by Verizon.
Styles jawed at Ambrose from the turnbuckle, but Ellsworth pulled him down. Ellsworth then hit a superkick, and Styles sold it like he got hit by lightning. Ellsworth covered and got a near fall that nearly caused the crowd to stroke out. Styles attacked Ellsworth in the corner, and Ambrose egged him on and called him a soccer mom. Styles refused to stop the assault when prompted by the ref, and as a result was disqualified.
James Ellsworth defeated AJ Styles by DQ
After the match, Ambrose announced Styles as the loser and got in the ring. Styles attacked, and ate a Dirty Deeds for his trouble. Ambrose then announced Ellsworth as the winner, and said he had more wins over Styles than John Cena. Ambrose celebrated with an unconscious Ellsworth as the show ended.
My Take: They’ve officially run right up against the expiration date of this angle. The superkick spot was great, and it really shows you how valuable surprise is in Pro Wrestling, but I’m not sure how effective it’s been at making either Ambrose or Styles feel important or impressive. They need to get back to basics next week. As odd as it sounds, AJ Styles needs a win, and an impressive one at that.