By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
AJ Styles vs. Luke Harper: A good match that was helped by seemingly having the high stakes of being for a title shot at WrestleMania. I attended the show in person last night and Harper received a forgettable ovation for his ring entrance, but there were dueling chants for both wrestlers late in the match. The outcome of the match seemed surprising in that if there was going to be a Triple Threat for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, then I would have assumed they would go with The Wyatt Family members. However, it appears more likely that they will go with Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton, and this was all a setup for Styles vs. Shane McMahon.
Miz TV with John Cena: A long, yet entertaining talking segment. Miz and Cena took turns tearing each other down, yet nothing they said felt truly damaging. The mic work was strong and hard hitting and held the interest of the live crowd. Maryse slapping Cena brought out Nikki Bella, which was very well received, and she delivered the strong closing line. You don’t have to like the idea of the mixed tag match at WrestleMania to appreciate the build to it, and this was a good step. I don’t know how well WWE pulls it off on a weekly basis, but the lack of physicality here and the promo exchange between Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin did a really nice job of setting up the dark main event for the live crowd.
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James in a best of three falls match: A minor Hit for a decent match. It was more entertaining in person than it was on television with all of the commercial interruptions, and the live crowd was ready for some in-ring action following the long Miz TV talking segment. The closing minutes were strong and the match was enjoyable, but I still feel like the best of Lynch vs. James is yet to come. By the way, the Bliss interview that followed the match was a riot. I have no idea what they are doing with the Natalya character at this point, but Bliss would benefit from working with her in the ring.
Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin: The television audience missed out on the narrated entrance of Curt Hawkins. You’ll live. Ambrose was one of the few talents who seemed universally loved by the live crowd. As much as I get down on him for getting too cute with his humor at times, he’s still possesses more of a cool factor and a sense of unpredictability than just about anyone on the roster. The Ambrose vs. Corbin feud feels like a quality Intercontinental Championship feud heading into WrestleMania. Here’s hoping it stays a singles match and doesn’t morph into another multi-person match designed to get more wrestlers on the show.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews in a chairs match: A minor Hit for the intensity of the match. The finish with Ziggler crotching Crews on a chair looked much better in person than it did on television. It’s clear that the thing keeping this feud from feeling bigger is the lack of character development for Crews. Who is he? The best job anyone has done of telling his story was in a great video package in NXT. He’s just comes off as a random smiling babyface on the main roster. Meanwhile, I was really hoping for a shakeup for Ziggler to coincide with his heel turn, but he dresses the same and still comes out to the same poppy entrance theme.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
Randy Orton burns down Bray Wyatt’s shed: A comically cheesy video clip with Orton finally explaining that his run with the Wyatt Family was all part of his master plan to destroy them from within. The funniest part is that when you really think about it, Orton propelled the group to new heights. The Wyatt Family never held a title belt before Orton joined them. Once Orton joined, they captured the tag title titles, and now Wyatt has the WWE Championship. Sure, Luke Harper left the group, but Orton made it sound like this was more about getting the keys to the kingdom, giving him a chance to kill the spirit of Sister Abigail. What?!? It’s bad enough that the babyface acted like a pyromaniac and desecrated a gravesite, but the truly irritating part about this is that Orton spoke about Wyatt losing his powers. What powers?!? The Wyatt we’ve seen lately hasn’t been relying on the hocus pocus nonsense, yet now he’s vulnerable because Orton took it away? By the way, just how much gasoline did Orton need to burn down a shed?