By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Ontario, California at Citizen’s Business Bank Arena
The show opened with a video package that covered the main event last week and Orton’s subsequent refusal to compete against Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania. It then showed footage of Daniel Bryan making a Battle Royal for tonight’s show to crown a contender for Bray Wyatt’s championship at WrestleMania with ten competitors. Daniel Bryan then made his way to the ring with Yes Chants. The announce team was Tom Phillips, JBL, Mauro, and David Otunga. Daniel Bryan welcomed everyone to the show and said WrestleMania was 40 days away. He then introduced Naomi, who had a brace on her leg and wasn’t her normal animated self.
She grabbed a microphone and Bryan held a somber look. The crowd chanted “You deserve it” as she fought back tears. Bryan agreed with the crowd, and said that for years she had worked and scratched and clawed her way to the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Bryan said he was proud of her, and that’s why what he had to do was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do as a general manager. Bryan recalled his past with relinquishing championships, and said they had gone over Naomi’s records with the medical staff, and said that they now know conclusively that she won’t be able to defend her Championship in the required 30 days. He then apologized and asked her to relinquish the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
Naomi said she wanted to say a few words before she did anything. She thanked Bryan for his kind words. She said last week she felt like she was on the top of the mountain, but this week she’s filled with sadness. She said the view on the top of the mountain was so sweet, and now she’s in free fall and feels like she has no control over anything. She felt like she’s letting her fans down, and she knows when she lets go of her title, she’s probably letting go of WrestleMania too. She eventually gave up the Championship, and got a hug from Bryan. She then gave a warning to the back that when she comes back, whoever is borrowing that title from her is going to feel the freaking glow.
As Naomi left, Alexa Bliss walked down the ramp and gave her a smirk before heading into the ring. She got in the ring and laughed and said that was amazing. She said she could have done without the sob story, but Naomi giving up the title was perfection. She said all she wanted for the past two weeks was a rematch, but Naomi couldn’t compete, but told Bryan they could work it out together. The crowd gave her the what treatment as she demanded Bryan give her the championship back.
He said she was the former champion, and he supposed it does make sense to give her back the Title, but he wasn’t going to do that. He said he would give her an opportunity, and made a match for right now. He then introduced her opponent, Becky Lynch. She made her ring entrance…[c]
My Take: I liked the opening segment, even if they’re telegraphing some interference from Mickie James booking it the way they have. Naomi hit the right notes with her promo and was the most vulnerable and sincere we’ve seen her to date as far as I can remember. Bliss was very good antagonizing the crowd, and got a great reaction for mocking Naomi.
1. Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: The rolled each other up a few times early one for two counts. Lynch hit an Enziguri that the crowd liked and covered for a near fall. The action slowed down as Bliss took control with some hair pulls and the ropes to choke Lynch and steal her air. Lynch fired back with an Exploder suplex and covered for a near fall. Bliss rolled to the outside to recover…[c]
Becky fired up and hit a flying forearm in the corner, followed by some kicks. She then covered for a two count. Both women got to their feet and Becky charged again, but got sent out to the apron. She then hit a drop kick from the top for another near fall. Bliss escaped and grabbed the ring apron. She then hit Becky with a cheap shot to the throat when the ref was distracted, and rolled her up with the tights to get the win.
Alexa Bliss defeated Becky Lynch to regain the Smackdown Women’s Championship at 12:38.
After the match, Mickie James joined Alexa on the ramp before running down to the ring to try and take on Becky Lynch. Becky was able to run her off fairly quickly. They then threw to Dean Ambrose for a backstage promo. He talked about how he got beat up at the chamber and went through an electrical fire last week. He said he would relish an opportunity at the World Championship, but if he got the chance to break Baron Corbin’s leg, he’d like that too. He then pointed to a picture of Corbin on the wall.
We then heard from Kalisto, who talked about his struggles to get to the WWE. He then said he would finally prove to everyone that he belonged there. The Miz was then shown, and he said he was an A-List Movie Star, and on April 2nd he would take the WWE Championship at WrestleMania…[c]
My Take: The finish on that match made Becky Lynch look like an idiot again. Just awful. The rest of the match wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I get what they see in Alexa Bliss as a character, but she has yet to make much of a statement as a Wrestler. I’m guessing we’re heading towards a Triple Threat now with Bliss, Lynch, and Mickie James at WrestleMania.
They advertised the Falls Count Anywhere match between Nikki Bella and Natalya for alter. Natalya was then interviewed backstage by Renee Young. Renee asked about Nikki Bella’s overwhelming support from the WWE Universe. She then gave a catty promo about how Nikki is full of silicone insincerity and has the WWE Universe, John Cena, and Renee Young fooled. She called her a Natalya knockoff and said she would expose her later in the show. Breezango were already in the ring. American Alpha then made their ring entrance. Breezango assaulted Jordan before the bell and knocked Gable to the floor.
2. The Fashion Police vs. American Alpha: Breeze started the match against Jordan, and they tried and failed to isolate him in their corner. Jordan tagged Gable, who then sent Breeze out to the floor. They then hit Fandango with a Sky High Bulldog for the win.
American Alpha defeated The Fashion Police at 2:11.
The Usos started jawing right after the match. They talked trash from the crowd about how nobody can prepare for two brothers that have nothing to lose, and walked up to the barricade. They talked about Alpha taking the rental car to their hotel later, and climbing into bed being unable to sleep. They’ll be tossing and turning with hairs standing in the backs of their necks, but it won’t be paranoia, it will be The Usos.
My Take: Excellent promo work from the Usos. It probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I liked it and they offer the most personality out of any team in the Tag Division right now. It’s a shame Breeze and Fandango aren’t taken more seriously, though. They both have crazy potential.
AJ Styles walked backstage and asked an extra if he knew where he was going. When the guy didn’t answer, he said the Main Event of WrestleMania and celebrated a bit backstage. Dolph Ziggler was then shown, and said that nobody can replace him, before tearing down a green screen he was standing in front of. Mojo Rawley then got hyped and said he was going to WrestleMania. Luke Harper was the last quick fire promo, and said that after tonight, Orton and Wyatt won’t have anywhere else to run.
Nikki Bella was then interviewed backstage, and said she was going to leave it all in the ring tonight. She said if we thought it was ugly between them before, just wait, because after tonight Nattie would be known as the broken Hart. Nikki then made her entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: The quick fire promos have been too brief to really do much character work, but it’s been a nice effort to get everyone some screen time and at least put over the importance of WrestleMania. Nikki and Natalya should be an entertaining blowoff brawl.
We got some video of the previous brawls between Nikki and Nattie, and then we got Nattie’s ring entrance.
3. Nikki Bella vs. Natalya: Nikki hit spear and rained down punches before Nattie bailed out to the floor. Nikki gave chase and gave her a knee to the face for a two count. Nikki then went out to the floor and started to grab a table from under the ring, but Nattie stopped her and put it back. Nikki was able to get a hold of a kendo stick and worked over Nattie’s back and legs. She then covered for a two count. The brawl spilled into the crowd near the hard camera and production area, where Nattie threw Nikki behind the second barricade that leads into the stands. She tried to suplex Nikki from the barricade to the floor, but Nikki fought it off and dropped Nattie onto the barricade and then the floor. Nikki then hit a jump kick off the barricade and covered for a near fall.
The action moved back towards the ring when Nikki threw Nattie back over the ringside barricade. Nattie then drive Nikki into the barricade and then into the ring steps before grabbing the kendo stick from earlier. She thought better of the stick and took apart the announce table. Nikki recovered, however, and threw Nattie back in the ring, but ended up in position for a powerbomb anyway when Nattie slipped between her legs underneath the ropes. It looked like Nattie would pull off the powerbomb, but Nikki fought out, nearly landing on a nearby TV monitor. Nikki then hit an Alabama Slam on the announce table, but the table didn’t break. She covered on top of the table for a near fall…[c]
Nattie had the Sharpshooter locked in, but decided to take the action outside for a snap suplex on the ramp. They then moved up towards the stage area, and brawled near the crowd barricade to the opposite of the hard camera. Natalya tried for a pin on a piece of equipment behind the stage, but got a two count. They then brawled into the backstage area, where Nikki was thrown into Maryse. Nikki then threw Nattie into a mirror, which shattered. Nikki covered for a near fall. They then made their way towards the stage again, where Nikki hit another spear.
Natalya attempted another Sharpshooter, but Nikki reversed into an STF. Maryse ran down and worked over Nikki with pipe, which broke the hold and took Nikki out. Miz ran down and pulled Maryse off of Nikki, and Natalya covered for the win.
Natalya defeated Nikki Bella at 14:33.
After the match, video footage was shown of Maryse taking a spear backstage, and then attacking Nikki afterwards. The 10-Man Battle Royal was hyped for next…[c]
My Take: A fun, wild brawl. Cena and Nikki vs. Miz and Maryse is coming together nicely. The “pipe” Maryse used was so clearly cardboard that it was hilarious. I can’t say it’s my first choice for a WrestleMania match for John Cena, but it is what it is. We’re in for a long battle royal, by the looks of it.
Backstage, we saw brief promos from Wyatt and Orton, Apollo Crews, and Baron Corbin. It was pretty much the same formula as earlier with the WrestleMania hype. John Cena made his entrance in the arena…[c]
John Cena apparently wasn’t at all bothered that his girlfriend got worked with a lead pipe. Seems happy as ever. Most of the entrants are in the ring. Corbin, Harper, Ambrose, Miz and AJ Styles made ring entrances.
4. 10-Man Battle Royal for the #1 Contendership: Ambrose ran straight at Corbin and the brawl broke out. They all broke off into pairs and hung near the ropes. Cena ate a superkick from Ziggler that looked terrible. Styles and Ziggler went to Eliminate Cena. Both he and Ziggler got dumped over the ropes, but landed on the apron. Both Style and Ziggler ended up on the apron at the same time, but both got back in quickly. Cena went for an Attitude Adjustment on Corbin, but Corbin hit an elbow and Cena fell down face first…[c]
Baron Corbin laid everybody out with deep sixes during the break. He then eliminated Mojo Rawley. Kalisto hit Salida Del Sol on Dolph Ziggler and hit a moonsault on Dean Ambrose. Kalisto sent Ziggler out to the apron, and Dolph pulled him out to the apron as well. Ziggler pulled his mask up and superkicked him, and Kalisto was eliminated. Apollo Crews hit a kick on Ziggler and he was knocked off the apron to the floor.
Ziggler grabbed a chair and worked over Kalisto, which distracted Crews and caused him to be eliminated by Baron Corbin. We got rapid fire offense in the ring as Cena went for an AA on Styles, Harper hit Cena with a superkick and Ambrose hit Harper with a clothesline. Miz did his Daniel Bryan impersonation hit running dropkicks in all four corners. He then went for yes kicks on John Cena, and they looked weak as always. Cena ducked the final kick and tossed Miz out to the floor. Miz stared at Cena in shock…[c]
Cena hit a double german suplex on both Ambrose and Styles. Corbin hit End of Days on Cena, but didn’t eliminate him. Ambrose then eliminated Corbin, but he flipped out and pulled Ambrose to the floor and hit End of Days. As the refs attended to Corbin, Miz ran back in the ring and tossed out Cena. The refs couldn’t do anything about it because there are no disqualifications. Harper and AJ Styles remain, with Ambrose on the floor.
Harper picked up Styles and tried to toss him out, but had no luck at first. Styles reversed fortunes and looked to have Harper eliminated, but Ambrose came up from behind and both Styles and Harper ended up clinging on the apron. All three men ended up fighting on the apron, and Harper ended up kicking Ambrose to the floor. Harper still on the apron tried to suplex Styles out of the ring, but couldn’t get it. They both had an awkward blown spot in the corner, but they aborted it and both ended up back in the ring.
Harper picked up Styles, but AJ swiveled to his back and applied a sleeper. Both men brawled in the corner, and Harper suplexes Styles out ot the apron. Styles pulled Harper out to the other side of the turnbuckle, and they worked back into the previous spot. Harper ended up pulling both of them out to the floor, and there was uncertainty about whose feet had touched first among the refs, but nobody in the stands as it was clear that Styles landed first. The refs couldn’t make a call, and said they hit at the same time. There was a lot of stalling, and eventually Daniel Bryan walked out. He conferred with the officials and they declared the match a draw, and said they would determine a winner next week.
The 10-Man Battle Royal ended in a draw at 24:45
Harper and Styles got angry, and Harper hit Styles with a discus clothesline. Harper then celebrated. Afterward, Wyatt as shown on the Titantron lauching maniacally…[c]
My Take: A muddled and unsatisfying finish to the show. Luke Harper clearly won, and WWE will have to burn all the footage to make you believe differently. Harper and Styles had a hard time executing the finish, and as a result it didn’t come across as well as it should. Corbin vs. Ambrose and Cena/Nikki vs. Miz/Maryse seem to be locks at this point. Overall, I think the Usos promo may have been the highlight of the show for me. There were some other entertaining moments, but nothing felt quite as fresh as them finally showing some personality somewhere else besides Talking Smack. Hopefully next week is a more gratifying show.