By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Memphis, Tennessee at FedEx Forum
A cage hung over the ring as Shane McMahon opened the show with his entrance. He played to the Memphis crowd and and got a strong reaction from the crowd. He plugged the Royal Rumble in two weeks, and mentioned some of the notable names in the match like The Undertaker, Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, Dean Ambrose, etc. He said that all the Superstars in the match would be vying for a shot at a Championship match at WrestleMania, but before they get that opportunity, the WWE Championship would be defended in the Elimination Chamber at the Chamber PPV.
AJ Styles interrupted and made sure he got things straight. After he does what he does best, beat up John Cena, he has to defend his championship in the Elimination Chamber? Shane said yes, he catches on quick. Styles ripped him for not consulting him ahead of time, and called it a flippant and stupid decision. Shane questioned whether he would still be Champion after The Royal Rumble, and said Cena would tie an all time record if became Champion.
Styles complained more about it being unfair, and said that he could just take himself and his title back to Japan and never come back if that’s how he’s going to be treated. He said he’s never been in an elimination Chamber match, and now he has to defend the WWE Championship in one. He called it idiotic, barbaric, and stupid before being interrupted by John Cena.
Styles shut him down and said he doesn’t get to say anything, now that his brother in law gifted him a title shot. He complained again about being put in an Elimination Chamber match two weeks after the Royal Rumble. He then ripped the crowd for pretending to care, and said that Smackdown is against AJ Styles. He questioned who would be next to steal his spotlight, and out came The Miz.
Miz said he should consider his spotlight stolen, and talked about how he was going to win the Intercontinental Championship and the Royal Rumble, and leave WrestleMania as the greatest dual champion of all time. Styles talked trash about Miz hiding behind his wife, and Miz said he was beating John Cena before it was cool while Styles was growing out his hair to look like a Soccer Mom. Cena played instigator, egging MIz and Styles on with comments about how they couldn’t let the other challenge their manhood. After Styles and Miz got heated, Shane made a match between them right then and there…[c]
My Take: Fans are hot to see Styles and Cena again, which is good to see. Smackdown having another PPV so quickly after the Royal Rumble is a bit of a drag, so it’s nice to have the believable angle where the heel champion complains about it. The promos were solid all around, though Styles was pretty repetitive at points. I also didn’t like how quickly he fell for Cena’s game to pit him against the Miz. However, he was mostly good, and I liked that he took the time to go after the fans.
Shane was backstage, and Dean Ambrose ran into him. Ambrose said he wanted in the Elimination Chamber, and Shane said they could talk about it. He then asked about getting a new Championship Belt, because his smells like cocoa butter and spray tan. Shane said he understands, but there’s only one belt. Ambrose then asked for a match with Randy Orton due to the beating he took at the hands of the Wyatt Family, and that match was made for later.
1. The Miz vs. AJ Styles: They worked mat wrestling for the first few minutes so John Cena could put in an extended plug for his movie Surf’s Up 2 and other media appearances. Styles hit a sweet dropkick, but Miz was able to quickly recover. Styles then went for the Calf Crusher, but couldn’t sink it in as Miz reached the ropes. He went out to the apron, but Maryse caused a distraction and Miz sent him off the apron and into the barricade on the outside…[c]
Miz hit a couple of corner dropkicks and his signature corner clothesline. He then climbed up top and jumped at Styles, who caught him and went for the Styles Clash. Miz avoided it by reaching the ropes. Miz gave Styles a thumb to the eye on the break while the ref was distracted, and continued the assault. Styles avoided a figure four, and hit a pele kick. He then hit a knee from the apron and sent Miz out to the floor. He tried to toss Miz into Cena, but he was ready and pushed him aside. Styles then punched Cena, causing a DQ.
The Miz defeated AJ Styles by DQ at 13:11.
After the match AJ ran away from Cena, and initially got away. Miz tried to assault Cena from behind, but failed and got an AA for his trouble. Styles tried to take advantage of Cena being kept busy by Miz, but couldn’t capitalize and got an AA for his trouble as well. Cena held up the Championship to close the segment. The Cage Match main event was plugged, and Nikki Bella was teased for next…[c]
My Take: This match didn’t thrill me. I think it just didn’t have much at stake, and they didn’t really push the pace much. Understandable given the situation that played out, but it didn’t make for an especially exciting TV segment. Cena looking strong heading into the Royal Rumble makes perfect sense to me, but the crowd didn’t react nearly as loudly as I expected at the end of the segment when he held up the Championship.
Footage was shown of last week with Nikki Bella getting assaulted backstage, and getting the worst of a brawl with Natalya in the ring. Nikki had a microphone, and demanded Natalya come down and finish what they started last week. Nikki said she was the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be at stabbing people in the back. Natalya appeared on the concourse and told Nikki to watch the tron because she had something to show her.
Natalya walked to a merch stand and pointed out that she didn’t have any merch there, yet her ex-Uncle did, and Nikki Bella’s merch was prominently displayed next to John Cena’s. She grabbed a bunch of Nikki’s merch and said that was going to put it in the trash where Nikki Bella belonged. Nikki then appeared from behind her and they brawled, breaking a table and spilling all over the floor. They were eventually separated by WWE security staff.
My Take: Natalya wasn’t outright terrible here, but there is just something awkward about her delivery that makes it seem kind of sad and desperate. It would be great if that’s what they were going for, but it comes across more like she’s really struggling with staying in character and remembering her lines simultaneously. The brawl was well done, though, and the fans in the concourse made some noise for them.
The Wyatt Family made their entrance, as footage was shown of their internal conflict over the past few weeks.
2. Randy Orton vs. Dean Ambrose: Orton went for a quick rollup for a two count. Harper and Wyatt stalked the outside of the ring. Bray jumped up on the apron to create an opportunity for Ambrose, but Dean was too clever and avoided the assault. Ambrose sent Orton out to the floor, where he regrouped, and then taunted all three Wyatt Family members from the turnbuckle.
Ambrose continued to take the fight to Orton with strikes and a crossface. Orton fought to his feet and dropped Ambrose gut first in the top rope, and then went into stomps and a rear chinlock. Ambrose fought to his feet and brawled with Orton, getting the better of it and hitting a flying crossbody from the top. Orton rolled to the floor to escape, but Ambrose followed and hit a lunatic lariat. The Wyatt’s provided a quick distraction, which allowed Orton to send him into the ring post. He then hit a back suplex on to the announce table, which didn’t budge….[c]
Both men brawled mid ring. Ambrose went for another lunatic lariat, but got caught with a powerslam. Wyatt called for the RKO from the outside, but Orton placed Ambrose on the top rope instead, and lined up a Superplex. Ambrose fought his way out of it, and jumped over Amborse and quickly got to his feet. They then both tried to hit their finishers, but didn’t execute. Ambrose hit another lunatic lariat for a near fall. Orton caught him in position for a draping DDT, but Ambrose quickly escaped and back body dropped Orton to the floor.
He then went for a suicide dive, but Orton moved and Luke Harper flew onto the announce table. Orton hit a draping DDT as he got back in the ring, and then things broke down. Luke Harper got in the ring to get a measure of revenge on Ambrose, and things broke down. The distraction caused Orton to get rolled up by Ambrose for the win.
Dean Ambrose defeated Randy Orton at 16:11.
After the match, Bray Wyatt tried to separate Orton and Harper, but they came to blows. Bray got them under control, and then punched Harper in the face. Harper left dejected, while Orton smiled. He didn’t let Bray see it, though. Dolph Ziggler on the King’s Court is next…[c]
My Take: I liked this match a lot better than Styles and The Miz, but they didn’t break any new ground. The element of adding Wyatt and Harper added an element of danger for Ambrose to the match, and it made things a little more engaging to watch. The lunatic lariat should be allowed once a match. Ambrose uses it far too often and it looks silly.
The King was in full regalia in the ring, and welcomed the crowd to his hometown of Memphis, TN. He then introduced Dolph Ziggler. King said he’s known Ziggler a long time, and he knew him mostly as a good person, but now it seems that goodness is fading as fast as the bleach in his hair. King said he thinks he’s out there because he’s frustrated, and he thinks adopting a new attitude is going to win him some matches. He said after an upset loss last week to Kalisto, he double down on the wrong path after the match. He then showed some footage of Ziggler working over Kalisto and Apollo Crews with a chair.
King asked him about it, and he refused to break his silence. King said he could have interviewed an oil painting it would have been better than this. Ziggler said he knew King would bring him out here and try to embarrass him in front of his family and friends in his hometown of Memphis. He then said he brought some footage of his own, and showed footage of himself dropping elbows on him on the night he had his heart attack.
After the footage stopped, Ziggler said he knew what that was. He said Lawler always blamed him for what happened, and said he should have. He then told Lawler that if he didn’t stop with the questions, he would finish what he started four years ago. Lawler said that was too bad, because he’s got one last question. He asked him how it felt knowing that no matter how many times he changed his attitude, he would always be a loser. Ziggler then gave him a Superkick to the chest, and walked away. King slowly got to his feet with some help from JBL, and then yelled at Ziggler to get back in the ring if he had any guts. Ziggler just kept on walking to the back. Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss is next…[c]
My Take: Ziggler sucked as a babyface, so I welcome this turn, but I’m not yet sold on this heel character as of yet. I’m still waiting for him to show me something that makes me believe they have a journey in mind for his character, and I haven’t seen it yet.
The Wyatt Sounder hit and Bray said that the Wyatt Family would enter the Royal Rumble. But first, they had a personal matter to attend to, and next week Luke Harper and Randy Orton would compete in a match, and afterwards they would be stronger than ever. The cage lowered in the arena and Becky Lynch made her entrance. She was followed by Alexa Bliss….[c]
3. Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss: They brawled early on, and Bliss tried to make an exit through the door, but was quickly stopped. Alexa went for a catapult, but Becky just vaulted herself to the top rope and started climbing. Bliss pulled her down, but Becky responded with some arm drags. Bliss tripped Lynch into the second turnbuckle, and then ran her across the ring into the opposite corner. Lynch recovered, and attempted a powerbomb, but Bliss grabbed the cage and started climbing. They both climbed and brawled on the cage, and both women ended up taking a hard fall back into the ring that laid them both out…[c]
Bliss hit a dropkick underneath the ropes while Lynch was flush with the cage. She then took a run at her after she stood up, and ran into the cage when Lynch moved. Becky then hit double footed dropkick from the top rope, and began climbing the cage. Bliss climbed and stopped her by grabbing the hair and pulling her back into the match. Becky hit a kick, followed by a exploder suplex from the top rope that woke up the crowd in a big way. Becky attempted to leave through the door, but she was stopped. La Luchadora then appeared in the doorway, but Lynch powered through and applied the disarmer despite the distraction.
La Luchadora entered the cage and kicked Becky in the face. Bliss then hit a snap DDT and covered Lynch for the win .
Alexa Bliss defeated Becky Lynch at 14:22.
After the match, La Luchadora and Alexa Bliss attempted to continue the assault on Becky Lynch, but she was able to turn the tables briefly. She knocked Bliss down with a kick and a clothesline, and then kicked La Luchadora in the gut and pulled her mask off, revealing Mickie James. Lynch stood there shocked, and then Bliss clobbered her from behind. Bliss and James stood over her with the Smackdown Women’s Championship to close the show.
My Take: A satisfying main event match aside from the predictable finish, but the reveal made up for it. It was pretty clear this was a different La Luchadora based on certain…physical attributes…and I’m glad it was revealed to be James. She’s better now than when she last left WWE, and she offers experience and a great track record to the Smackdown Women’s division. It’s a great development for all the women on the show, and for Becky Lynch specifically in the short term. A Smackdown Women’s Elimination Chamber match now seems like it could be a distinct possibility.
Overall, this show was a little light on matches, but what was there was entertaining at least. I liked the opener the least, and even that being said it furthered a feud and didn’t overstay it’s welcome. The Women absolutely felt like they belonged in the Main Event, and they didn’t underperform at all in the spotlight. This was a solid episode of Smackdown and you should catch the main event when you get the chance.