By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles to determine the No. 1 contender: A good match that finally put an end to the No. 1 contender saga. The RKO attempt into a Pele Kick from Styles was really cool, but the actual finish was even better and made the overall match. I think we were all prepared for Styles to springboard into an RKO. Orton and Styles were a step ahead of us, as Styles instead faked the springboard and ended up taking an RKO moments later instead. The post show angle with Styles bickering with Shane McMahon backstage sets the stage for the match everyone knew was coming. They even worked really hard to make Shane look like the good guy in this by having him endorse Styles for the title match while Bryan endorsed Orton. It won’t be enough. I’m not sure there’s anything they can do to turn the WrestleMania crowd against Styles. Let’s see if they’re up for the challenge and at least give it a strong effort.
John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. James Ellsworth and Carmella: You had to know this was leading to an angle with The Miz and Maryse. At the same time, the segment meshed well with the fearful Ellsworth character. The big Miss moment was the vomit inducing dual Five Knuckle Shuffles. Has Cena’s STF on Ellsworth ever looked looser? Before you send me an email, yes, perhaps it’s because Ellworth lacks a chin.
Baron Corbin and Dean Ambrose: A solid build to the inevitable WrestleMania match. Perhaps more importantly, I like that they are setting up a singles match for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania rather than a big multi-person train wreck. It will be the biggest moment of Corbin’s career and it will be interesting to see how he performs in this situation. He’ll get a motivated Ambrose, who is surely looking to top what he has admitted was a disappointing outing with a disinterested Brock Lesnar. The forklift angle was decent, but they had the broadcast team lay it on too thick by playing up Ambrose’s injuries and updates on his condition. It just didn’t look impactful enough to warrant the JBL scorn and teases for Ambrose injury updates.
Becky Lynch and Natalya vs. Mickie James and Becky Lynch: A good match that established it will be every woman for herself in the Smackdown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania. Natalya turning on Lynch was no surprise, but the post-match attack by Mickie on Bliss packed a punch. Bliss defending her title against every woman on the roster is clearly WWE’s way of getting all the Smackdown women on the show, but Bryan’s announcement set it up as a positive in terms of putting heel Alexa Bliss in a bad spot.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan opening segment: It was odd watching them play up the mystery of who would get the title shot when their ruling was announced a week earlier and the No. 1 contenders match was advertised on Raw repeatedly. Surely this played better to the casual fans who only watch Smackdown, but it felt a little strange for the rest of us.