By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Chicago, Illinois at Allstate Arena
Mauro Ranallo welcomed everyone to Chicago, and then John Cena’s music hit and he made his ring entrance. Cena grabbed a mic and got a chorus of boos, which he encouraged. The boos shifted to a more mixed reaction, so Cena just said thank you. Cena put over the excitement of the WWE Universe, and said there were few places that compete with the excitement of the Allstate Arena. Cena soaked up some more chants, some Cena Sucks, and some CM Punk. He then bantered with the crowd about the Cubs, and got boos because it was mostly White Sox fans.
He said whether you’re from Wrigley or the South Side, Chicago is a city of Champions. He mentioned all the Championships will be defended tonight, including the Tag Team, Intercontinental, and WWE Championships. Cena polled the crowd about who they thought would be the WWE Champion when the show ended, an AJ Styles got the most support. Cena called himself an AJ Styles fan as well, and said he spent the whole year proving that they don’t want none. He asked what the hell he was doing there, and the crowd broke out in Undertaker chants.
Cena said a lot of people have been speculating about his future. He said 2016 hasn’t been so super for super Cena. He said people have called him a part timer, said he was washed up, and said he was off to Hollywood never to return. He said he was there to set the record straight that he was back, that he was tired of the New Era BS, and called it the “My Time is Now Era” to some boos. He challenged the winner of the WWE Championship match at The Royal Rumble. He said he knows that you’re thinking, he can’t just do that, but he did. He’s John Cena, and people have to recognize…
The Wyatt Family made their entrance for the Four Corners Tag Team Championship match. JBL clarified that it was an elimination match….[c]
My Take: Meh. An ok promo from Cena, but nothing really groundbreaking. It sounded like a regression from him honestly. He played the crowd well, but we’ve heard much better from him hitting similar notes. He even came across a bit heelish towards the end, but you could easily arm wave it away by saying he’s just confident.
Backstage, Dasha attempted to interview The Miz, but was rejected, saying that he was only going to be interviewed by Renee Young. American Alpha made their entrance in the building. The Usos and Slater & Rhyno made their entrance during the break.
1. The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family vs. American Alpha vs. Rhyno & Slater: Gable and Rhyno started, and Rhyno grabbed the early advantage with some knees. Gable turned things around with an impressive Northern Lights Suplex, but only got a two count. Gable wandered towards a corner and Jey Uso tagged himself in and went to work on Rhyno. We got some rapid tags in and out by the Usos as they controlled Rhyno in their corner. Rhyno broke free with a short arm clothesline, and tagged in Slater, who went in hot after Jimmy Uso. He hit a flurry of punches and clotheslines, and then a neckbreaker for a near fall. Slater knocked Jey Uso off the apron and climbed up top, but fell off the top rope in a botch. They covered it well and Jimmy Uso hit a big Superkick and covered him for the first elimination…[c]
Rhyno and Slater were eliminated at 3:48.
Jey Uso worked a chin lock on Jason Jordan in the middle of the ring. Jordan escaped and Chad Cable entered to hit a big Alphaplex on Jey. We ended up with the Usos and Alpha in the ring, and the Usos put them down with strikes. They both went up top for double splashes, but ended up in double overhead belly to belly suplexes instead. Jordan cleared Jimmy Uso from the ring, and Gable ended up getting a rollup on Jey for a surprise pin.
The Usos’ were eliminated at 9:13.
Randy Orton entered the match and took control on Jason Jordan. He hit a snap powerslam for a near fall, followed by two uppercuts. Jordan popped out of the corner and hit a standing dropkick, and both men slowly made their way over for tags. Gabe hit a German Suplex on Harper, but Harper kicked out late. Harper hit a big boot on Gable and the Wyatt’s took back over…[c]
Harper continued to grind down Gable with a chin lock and a catapult in between the ropes that sent Gable out to the floor. Gable beat the count, but Harper tossed him back outside. Orton tagged and dropped off the apron, where he gave Gable to back suplexes onto the barricade. He then tossed Gable back in the ring for a near fall. Orton followed up by dropping Gable onto the tope rope, and then hitting a vertical suplex for another near fall. Harper tagged back in and hit a Michinoku Driver for a near fall. He then hit a spinning side slam, and set up for his sit out Powerbomb finisher.
He lifted Gable up for the move, but Gable escaped with a head scissors. He made a hot tag to Jordan, who hit an overhead belly to belly on Harper, and a Saito Suplex to Orton. Harper pulled Jordan to the outside so Orton could recover. Gable took out Harper, and Jordan took out Bray Wyatt, but Jordan got pulled into a hanging DDT from Orton. Gable climbed the top rope and went to dive on Orton, but Orton met him on top. There was some confusion between Harper and Orton, and they collided in the corner when Harper came up to assist Orton. Jordan then speared Orton and took a Grand Amplitude, and Orton was pinned by Chad Gable.
American Alpha defeated The Wyatt Family at 19:33.
Alpha celebrated on the ramp as Harper and Orton had to be separated by Bray Wyatt in the ring. Lynch vs. Bliss was advertised for next…[c]
My Take: A fun match with a crowd pleasing finish. It had gotten to the point where you wondered if WWE had missed the boat on American Alpha, but they delivered a great final 10 minutes with the Wyatt Family here, and have a lot of potential heading into the future with at least one rematch and a feud with The Usos on the horizon.
A video package detailed how Baron Corbin got added to the WWE Championship Match last week. Dolph Ziggler was interviewed backstage by Renee Young. He chalked up last week to some of the best nights of his life being the result of bad decisions, and said tonight tonight was a different animal. Ziggler claimed he had watched too many opportunities slip through his grasp, and called himself the wildcard. He said sometimes the wildcard ends up folding at the end of the night, but once in awhile it changes the whole game.
In another area backstage, Dasha interviewed James Ellsworth about his recovery. He admitted sometimes it gets him down when people make fun of him for being scrawny and chinless. Carmella walked up and said that she finds him uniquely attracted, and told Dasha that by asking those kinds of questions, she encourages people to pick on him. Carmella led Ellsworth off screen. Alexa Bliss made her entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: The clock is ticking very rapidly on the Carmella and James Ellsworth gag. They have to get to the point quickly.
Alexa caught Becky’s attempt at a baseball slide and then hit her with clubbing forearms. Becky recovered and picked up Bliss to send her into the post, but she reversed and sent Lynch into the stairs instead….[c]
Bliss hit double knees to the back of Becky while she was draped on the ropes, and made a cover for a near fall. Becky missed a double knee drop, and Becky fired up with lariats. She missed a running forearm, but was able to hit some kicks in return. She then trapped Alexa’s arm and wrenched the other one back, in a dramatic looking spot. Becky climbed to the top, but was met up there by Bliss and interrupted briefly. She was able to fight off bliss and hit a double leg dropkick, but only got a nearfall.
La Luchadora made an entrance and offered a distraction, but Alexa wasn’t able to capitalize. Alexa hit a forearm shot and some double knees, but only got a two count. She went up to for Twisted Bliss, but Becky got the knees up. She went for a rollup, but got a two count. Becky was then able to sink in the Disarmer, but Alexa reached the ropes. Alexa hyperextended her arm joint, but it wasn’t made clear whether it happened during the hold or whether she just has the ability to do it herself. La Luchadora then ran Becky Lynch into the post head first, and then Alexa hit a DDT and covered for the win .
Alexa Bliss defeated Becky Lynch at 12:38.
Alexa Bliss was interviewed about who the masked woman was, and she said maybe Sasha Banks….or Nia Jax. The announcers left the question open, but made it sound like Alexa Bliss as horribly injured and gutted out a tough victory, which seemed like the opposite of what happened. Backstage, The Miz was interviewed backstage by Renee Young, and she asked him a half hearted question about how he plans to follow up his 2016 next year, and Dean Ambrose approached from behind during his non-answer. Miz turned around into an assault from Ambrose, who rained down strikes until security broke it up. Ambrose took down the security guards as the Miz bailed…[c]
My Take: Lame finish to another match that had some bright spots, but generally lacked chemistry. It felt like Lynch was working extra hard to try and get a better match out of Bliss, but it just didn’t click. The presentation of the finish didn’t help either woman, and so this will get extended until the Royal Rumble or perhaps beyond.
Video was shown of Natalya’s promo from last week. Nikki Bella was interviewed backstage, and she said she’s proud of her accomplishments in the ring, her reality show, and her relationship with the man of her dreams. She said she would say what she needed to say to Natalya to her face. Baron Corbin was then interviewed by Renee Young, and said two men are about to meet their end of days. He then made his entrance in the arena, followed by Dolph Ziggler…[c]
My Take: Looks like we are getting an extended main event, which could be a double edged sword depending on how well these three gel in the ring. I suppose they could save a few moments for a stare down between Styles and Cena.
AJ Styles made his ring entrance. We got full ring introductions for the main event.
3. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler: Things went in circles to start, with no one getting a clear advantage. There were quite a few reversals. The first major strike was landed by Corbin, who sent Styles from the apron out to the floor. Ziggler then tried yanked Corbin’s arm over the top rope and jumped out to the floor. All three men had a stand off…[c]
Corbin tossed Dolph Ziggler into the barricade on the outside, and then Styles into the ring apron. Styles went for a Crucifix on Corbin, which set him up for a standing dropkick from Ziggler. Styles and Ziggler both attempted suplexes to a stalemate, and Corbin clotheslined them both down. Corbin worked on Ziggler, and had him in position for the End of Days, but Styles blocked it. He then hit a huge lariat on Ziggler and a modified STO on Styles. He covered Styles for a near fall…[c]
Corbin continued to control the pace of the match, but it didn’t last. Styles and Ziggler teamed up on him and hit a barrage of strikes and clotheslined him over the top rope. They followed to the outside, where Corbin recovered and sent Styles into the barricade and clotheslined Ziggler. He then tore off the top of the announce table. Styles fired back with a flying forearm and Ziggler superkicked Corbin on top of the announce table. They then both jumped off the barricade and put him through the table.
Styles tried to backstab Ziggler, but he reversed out of it and hit a uranage into the ring apron. He then hit a huge DDT in the ring, and covered for a near fall. Ziggler then went for a ZigZag, but Styles prevented it and hit an Ushigoroshi. Styles went for a Styles Clash, but Ziggler fought out. Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Ziggler countered with a Superkick to knock him down ugly from the ropes. He then hit a superkick again once Styles go to his feet, and Styles kicked out, seemingly because Corbin was late to break it up.
Ziggler then turned his attention to Corbin, but was quickly put down with a deep six. Styles broke up the cover. Corbin went for End of Days on Styles, but Ziggler jumped on his back and it turned into an EOD/ZigZag Combo. Styles covered Corbin for another near fall. Corbin placed Ziggler on the top rope, and they both brawled until Ziggler broke free. Ziggler climbed to his feet on the top rope, but Ziggler knocked him down again. Corbin hit Ziggler with End of Days, and AJ Styles hit a Phenomenal Forearm on Corbin to clear him from the ring. He then covered Ziggler for the win.
AJ Styles defeated Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler to retain his WWE Championship at 23:32.
After the match, John Cena made another run down to the ring and took off his shirt for a stare down. Styles held up the WWE Championship, and Cena stuck out his hand. Styles pointed to the Championship, and Cena asked him to show some respect and shake his hand. Styles laid the title down in front of Cena and shook his hand. Cena told Styles that he knows he’s taking that from him, and Styles said it wasn’t going anywhere. Neville cut a brief promo backstage, claiming that he was the man WWE forgot. He said he would show his inferior competition that he was the King of Cruiserweights on 205 Live.
My Take: Even though I wasn’t terribly thrilled with the Women’s Match, this was still a very solid edition of Smackdown, and a worthy closeout to 2016. It’s bewildering how different Raw and Smackdown are. Completely missing from this show were authority figures, and instead we got two hours of good to great wrestling, and some angles that setup the show for next week. It’s a night and day difference right now, and I hope WWE doesn’t throw away what AJ Styles has built on Smackdown in order to add unnecessary prestige to the Undertaker and Cena match that seems inevitable. That match doesn’t need a Championship. AJ Styles has earned the opportunity to take his Championship to WrestleMania, in my opinion.