By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Corpus Christi, Texas at American Bank Center
Footage was shown of the Royal Rumble, with some highlights and WWE bragging up the attendance. It finished with John Cena holding the WWE Championship, and panned back to reveal AJ Styles watching along with Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon. He asked about his rematch, and said he didn’t want it in the Elimination Chamber. Styles asked who was in the Chamber, and Shane responded with Styles, Cena, Ambrose, Wyatt, The Miz, and Ambrose. Ambrose was walking up as his name was said, and noted that’s all he wanted to hear and walked off. Styles jawed at him to beat it, and Shane and Bryan decided they would would have to settle it later.
John Cena made his entrance in the arena, and said the Champ is here. The crowd gave him dueling chants, and he told them they were now with the program. Cena said part of being a man is admitting you’re wrong, and he apologize to AJ Styles for calling him just another guy from Atlanta. He called him an elite WWE Superstar that brings out the best in him. His performance was what the WWE Championship was all about, and no one can question that.
Cena then pivoted to the Elimination Chamber, saying that he had no time to bask in making history at the Royal Rumble, because he had to defend his Championship in two weeks. He finished by saying Smackdown in the place to be, Cena is the man to beat, and if you want some, come get some. The Wyatt sounder hit and both Bray and Randy walked out onto the ramp. Wyatt mocked Cena’s “Champ is here’ chant, and told the children that everything is right with the world. Hooray!
He said the fans may chant and cheer for him, but in two weeks he will be trapped in the Elimination Chamber with him. He said when the time comes and the dust clears, he will leave the Chamber WWE Champion, and the world will enter the era of Wyatt. He then turned over to Orton by saying things are changing, and no one is a better example than him. Orton said if he manages to survive the Elimination Chamber, he would be waiting for him at WrestleMania. The Wyatt’s would set the championship free and end the vicious cycle. Bray then said “We’re here”, and they marched to the ring to surround Cena.
The Wyatt sounder hit as Orton and Bray surrounded the ring, and Luke Harper was in the ring when the lights came on. He joined Cena and stood down Bray and Randy, and they bailed. Shane McMahon walked out and said that since they had so much energy, Harper would tag with Cena against Orton and Wyatt next…[c]
My Take: I was hoping for a better promo from Cena, who didn’t get a chance to say much before being forced to get into business for tonight’s show. Being a 16-time Champion didn’t seen like it was much on the mind of fans either, as he didn’t get an over the top hero’s welcome for his career milestone. Cena’s dorky body language to try and get the crowd excited for the tag match was a bit of a buzzkill as well. I’m interested to see how the Wyatt dynamic plays out in the tag match, and how obvious they are about Orton’s long con.
1. John Cena and Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt: The announce team consisted of Mauro, JBL, Otunga, and Tom Phillips. Cena and Wyatt started. They teased a confrontation between Cena and Orton, but Harper tagged himself in and went to business. He hit a nice dropkick on Orton and then catapulted his throat into the rope. Orton rolled out to the floor, but Harper followed only to get stared down by Bray Wyatt. Harper avoided him and hit a back suplex on Orton onto the announce table. Harper tossed Orton into the ring, but he tagged out quickly to Wyatt. Harper had a staredown with Wyatt again, but backed off and tagged in Cena.
The announce team sold it as a betrayal of Cena and that Wyatt is still under his control. Orton and Wyatt took control quickly and beat down Cena in their corner with strikes and quick tags…[c]
Orton was shown slamming Cena onto the announce table. In the ring, Orton delivered a draping DDT. He fired up for an RKO, but Cena shoved him away and hit a lariat. Orton reached a tag first, which caused Harper to shrink away from the ropes. Wyatt went for a running senton, but Cena got out of the way. He tagged in Orton, who hit a huge powerslam. He then knocked Harper off the ropes, which gave Cena enough time to recover and start up his chain for the five moves of doom.
The match broke down a bit with all four men in the ring at this point. Harper grabbed Wyatt for Sister Abigail, but let go in order to hit Orton with a big boot. Wyatt then delivered Sister Abigail to Wyatt. Cena tried to pick him up for an AA, but Orton spun him around and hit an RKO for the win.
Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt defeated Luke Harper and John Cena at 18:22.
Alexa Bliss and Mickie James vs. Naomi and Becky Lynch is next. AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose is up later…[c]
My Take: I don’t know what that was supposed to make me excited for, but it didn’t work. Cena looked silly for not having any doubts about Harper as a partner, and the best bump he took all match was during the commercial break. Watching it on TV, it’s hard to imagine Cena vs. Orton at WrestleMania. If AJ and Cena bring out the best in each other, those two seem to angle towards mediocrity.
James Ellsworth’s music hit and he headed out onto the ramp wearing his stupid outfit that Carmella picked for him last week. He told the crowd he had something important to say, and then shushed them. He then gave Carmella a tragically stupid ring introduction, and she got no reaction when she came out. Already in the ring was Delilah Dawson.
2. Carmella vs. Delilah Dawson: Carmella grabbed some hair and tossed Delilah across the ring. Dawson started a comeback with some strikes, but was quickly shut down when Ambrose tripped her while the ref checked out Carmella for a fake injury. Carmella then hit a drop toe hold and applied the Code of Silence for the victory.
Carmella defeated Delilah Dawson at 1:48.
The announce team plugged WWE’s latest mobile game. Kalisto then made his entrance for yet another match with Dolph Ziggler next…[c]
My Take: I wonder how much WWE is paying James Ellsworth, and if they thought he’d run out of gas so soon as an act.
Dolph Ziggler made his entrance and Kalisto paced in the ring.
2. Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler: Ziggler struck first as Kalisto had a word with the ref. Kalisto fired back with kicks and then hit a springboard splash for a two count. Ziggler replied with a hangman’s neckbreaker and some trash talk. Kalisto hit a huge roundhouse kick to sway momentum, but the ref separated them in the corner. Ziggler shoved Kalisto away and then hit a Superkick for the win.
Dolph Ziggler defeated Kalisto at 2:09.
After the match, Ziggler tried to remove Kalisto’s mask, but was stopped by Apollo Crews. Backstage, Becky Lynch and Naomi were interviewed by Dasha Fuentes. Becky said that she’s used to being attacked from all angles, but now she’s being attacked from the past. She said she and Naomi had an understanding, and tonight they would take down mutual targets. Naomi said she had snatched Alexa’s termite head bald and pinned her 1-2-3 before, and would do the same tonight. They said they would bring the “Glow-Fire” and danced around manically before they walked out of frame…[c]
My Take: Ziggler must feel like he’s stuck in a nightmare loop where he faces the same three or four people for the rest of his career. They need to move onto Crews right away. Becky and Naomi don’t have much chemistry together, but they did the best they could with the material they had. Maybe they’ll have more energy in the ring.
Naomi made her entrance, followed by Becky Lynch. Footage was shown of last week’s show where Mickie and Alexa put a beating on her. Mickie and Alexa then made their entrances.
3. Naomi and Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James and Alexa Bliss: Becky and Mickie started, and Mickie James backed away to tag in Alexa Bliss. Becky quickly took over with a standing switch and a waist lock take down. She then grabbed a headlock and dragged Alexa over to her corner to tag in Naomi. She flipped into the ring for a sunset flip, and got a two count. Alexa ducked a crossbody attempt and Naomi hit the ropes hard.
Naomi took abuse from both Alexa and Mickie with some frequent tags. Alexa hit her “Insult to Injury” knees, but seemed to hurt herself during the move. Both women made tags and Becky fired up her comeback. She hit several clotheslines and an exploder suplex, and climbed up to the top. Bliss was there to distract her, which allowed James to pull her down with an arm drag and hit a kick. Naomi broke up the cover…[c]
Bliss held onto a headlock and tagged in Mickie James. They continued to assault Becky in the heel corner. She got in a hope spot with some punches, but Mickie shut her down with knees. After more back and forth, Naomi got the hot tag and took down both Alexa and Mickie. She hit a nice headscissors and then a roundhouse kick on Alexa. Becky tackled James out of the ring, which allowed Naomi to hit a split legged Moonsault for the win.
Naomi and Becky Lynch defeated Alexa Bliss and Mickie James at 9:43.
AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose was plugged for later. Backstage, American Alpha were interviewed by Dasha Fuentes. They questioned who was going to step up to the plate, because they’ve had the Tag Team Championships for a month and nobody has come. They said they were going to the ring to issue an open challenge, because someone was bound to show up…[c]
My Take: Naomi is clearly the challenger at Elimination Chamber, and she’s done an admirable job. I can’t imagine she’d be asked to carry a long form WrestleMania match, but she’s very good in short bursts where she can show off her athleticism. Becky and Mickie James appear to be heading towards a big match, but I’m not sure at this point whether the title will be involved when they get around to it.
American Alpha made their entrance in the ring. The Usos then made their entrance, sporting their extra attitude. They were followed by The Ascension, The Vaudevillains, Breezango, and Health Slater & Rhyno. A Battle Royal broke out, with everyone on top of everyone. Things spilled outside and The Usos and Ascension brawled out there…[c]
The brawl continued, and refs were helpless to keep people apart. The Usos seemed the most organized, fighting as a team. The last teams remaining in the ring were Alpha, The Usos, and Slater & Rhyno. Alpha’s music started playing….and that was it. A recap was given of last week’s events between Nikki and Natalya. Backstage, some random security guys walked up and gave an all clear. Natalya then walked in, and asked Daniel Bryan why she was there. Nikki Bella then walked in, and they started bickering. Bryan finally screamed enough and said he was making a match between them at Elimination Chamber.
Back in the arena, Dean Ambrose made his entrance, followed by AJ Styles…[c]
My Take: The tag team thing was brutal. They are really lost with that division. Nikki and Natalya is at least moving forward, but that’s really the best thing you can say about it. I’m over hearing about John Cena making her career. She was successful in WWE long before they started dating.
A 205 Live spot aired that featured Neville. He said that nobody was worthy of stepping in the ring with the King of the Cruiserweights. John Cena vs. Randy Orton was plugged for next week’s Smackdown Live, which should tell us a lot about WrestleMania. Miz joined on commentary.
5. Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles: Ambrose hit a hard shoulder block early in the match, and then grabbed a headlock. Styles reversed, and then hit a shoulder block of his own. Miz ran down Baron Corbin on the microphone, as Ambrose applied a Texas Cloverleaf. He then turned the hold into Rings of Saturn, which is interesting with Neville using it. Ambrose remained in control until Styles avoided a charge into the corner and sent him into the post. Styles couldn’t completely swing the momentum though, as Ambrose hit a back body drop and clotheslined Styles out of the ring.
Baron Corbin interrupted with Styles out on the floor, and he headed towards the announce booth…[c]
Styles hit a pumphandle into a backbreaker and followed up with strikes. Styles missed a splash in the corner, and had to fight his way out of an attempt at Dirty Deeds. Ambrose hit a big lariat, and Styles crawled to the corner. Ambrose mounted him the corner and pulled him up for a superplex. Styles avoided it, but got sent to the floor attempting a Phenomenal Forearm. Ambrose tried to hit a suicide dive, but ate an elbow to the face.
The pace picked up as Ambrose hit a release vertical suplex that got a close near fall. Styles fired back with an Ushigoroshi, and got a near fall of his own. Styles went for a Styles Clash, but Ambrose broke free. He then hit a pele kick, but Ambrose rebounded with a clothesline. I’m sure Jason Powell will be thrilled with that spot. Ambrose went for Dirty Deeds, but Styles bailed to the floor. Ambrose them climbed up top and dove out to the floor with an Elbow Drop.
Corbin had enough of Miz’s trash talk on commentary and brawled with him. Ambrose got distracted by the brawl and hit a suicide dive on Baron Corbin, sending him over the announce table. Ambrose then sent The Miz into the steps. When he got back in the ring. Styles hit him with a Styles Clash and got the pin.
AJ Styles defeated Dean Ambrose at 17:19.
After the match, The Miz entered and hit a Skull Crushing Finale on Ambrose. Corbin hit both Miz and Ambrose with End of Days as Styles watched on from the top of the ramp.
My Take: The Main Event was fine, but I wasn’t in love with it. They are on a short schedule to get pieces in place for Elimination Chamber, and I have a feeling Talking Smack is going to be carrying a lot of water in that regard. Overall, the show wasn’t as newsworthy as Raw, and the feuds feel a lot flatter than they really should just a few weeks away from a PPV. The Smackdown Brand has one more show to sell Elimination Chamber, and they’ll need to empty out the bag of tricks to get it done.