By Jason Powell
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at PPG Paints Arena
[Q1] Smackdown opened with footage of the AJ Styles and Shane McMahon confrontation that was filmed after last week’s show… Backstage at Smackdown, Daniel Bryan was on the phone telling someone about Miz TV and a Randy Orton promo.
AJ Styles entered the area searching for Shane McMahon. Styles told Bryan to get off the phone. Bryan complied. Styles said he was going to slap Shane across the face. Bryan said Shane would be there later. Styles said he was going to the ring. Bryan told Styles that he has his career to thinking about. Styles said that’s exactly what he was thinking about…
The broadcast team was Tom Phillips and JBL. JBL spoke about how Styles is the best performer of his generation and has every right to be upset…
Styles headed to the ring for a promo. Styles breathed heavily into the mic for a bit. The fans chanted his name. Styles said he is sick and tired of being messed with by Bryan and Shane. Styles said the greatest superstar in WWE should have the red carpet rolled out so he could walk to the main event of WrestleMania. Instead, he said he had to jump through hoops like a circus monkey.
Styles complained about John Cena asking for a title shot against him and getting it. Styles said he lost to Cena and he’s accepted it. Styles said he expected a rematch, but he was given a Triple Threat match. He said they put him in an Elimination Chamber match next with five other wrestlers. Styles said they put him in a battle royal that ended in controversy, then he had to beat Luke Harper.
Styles said Randy Orton burned down Bray Wyatt’s house and he wasn’t arrested, he instead goes to the main event of WrestleMania. Styles said anyone who knows the business knows that he had the best year in 2016. Styles said he put Smackdown Live on the map and the reason why the fans are in the seats. Styles even took credit for all of the WWE Network subscribers.
“And what do I get,” Styles asked. “I don’t even have a match at WrestleMania.” Styles said he could have slapped the taste out of Bryan’s mouth, but he’s nothing more than a puppet. Styles said he was going to have a conversation with Shane about his career. “That is if I even have one,” Styles said before slamming the mic down…
Phillips and JBL noted that David Otunga was off shooting a movie, and Mauro Ranallo was unable to make it due to the blizzard. They hyped Randy Orton addressing Bray Wyatt, and Becky Lynch vs. Natalya for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good promo. As much as Styles taking credit for the WWE Network subscriber count may seem silly, there was more of a serious tone rather than the over the top approach he has taken with most of his heel promos. I can’t say the idea of Styles vs. Shane does much for me, but the promo sold me on their confrontation later in the show.
[Q2] 1. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya. JBL vented to “Face Love” Phillips that Alexa Bliss doesn’t even know what type of match they will be having at WrestleMania. Fair point. Natalya was heelish during her entrance and offered an early handshake, which Lynch responded to with a slap to the face. Natalya rolled to ringside heading into a break. [C]
Late in the match, Natalya caught Lynch charging and placed her on the top turnbuckle. Lynch took her down from the top rope and applied the Disarmer for the win. After the match, Carmella popped up and kicked Lynch in the face, then did the same to Natalya. James Ellsworth entered the ring holding his neck and then left with Carmella…
Becky Lynch beat Natalya in 8:25.
Powell’s POV: Expect to see more of this as they add women to the Smackdown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania.
Styles was shown pacing backstage while the broadcast team pondered what his conversation with Shane would be like. They set up footage of John Cena hosting the Kids’ Choice Awards, which also included an appearance by Nikki Bella… The hosts hyped Miz TV for after the break…
[Q3] [C] Backstage, Carmella indicated to the backstage interviewer that she is in the women’s championship match at WrestleMania…
The Miz and Maryse stood in the ring for Miz TV. Miz said they haven’t even hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to showing that Cena and Nikki are frauds. He set up recap footage of their comments about the couple, including Maryse saying Nikki is jealous because she has a wedding ring. Back live, Miz said Nikki will never get a wedding ring.
Miz had Maryse tell the story of Nikki stabbing her in the back. She said she was offered a contract to return to be on the first season of Total Divas. She said Nikki told her not to sign the contract, which Maryse had in hand. Maryse said she trusted her best friend, only to have WWE tell her there was no deal. Maryse said Nikki told her she would take care of it because she was dating Cena and was untouchable.
Maryse said the next text she received was from Nikki telling her that she and Brie Bella would be on the first season of Total Bellas. Maryse said Nikki took two and a half years away from her that she could have been with her husband. Maryse spoke about getting her revenge.
John Cena and Nikki Bella made their entrance, causing Miz and Mayrse to head to ringside. Nikki took the mic and said she was going to talk. Nikki said that if she had so much power, why was Maryse in the company. She said they didn’t steal her money and they made up a story. Nikki invited her to enter the ring so she could kick her ass.
Miz told Nikki that she couldn’t make up matches. “What do you think you are, John Cena?” Miz asked. Miz said Maryse has nothing to prove in the ring. Miz told them that their time was up for Miz TV and told them to continue being bad people.
Daniel Bryan walked onto the stage and asked Miz who he thinks he is. Bryan said the time wasn’t up. Bryan said Miz promised him something special on Miz TV and he just ran his mouth. Bryan said that makes him want to punch Miz in the face. He said Miz mocking him for not being able to wrestle makes him want to punch him in the face. Same goes for Miz impersonating his moves poorly.
Bryan said the fact that Miz knows Bryan can’t punch him in the face and he takes advantage of it makes him want to punch him in the face even more. Bryan said he knows two people who can punch him in the face. Bryan announced Cena and Nikki vs. Miz and Maryse for WrestleMania.
[Q4] Cena and Nikki celebrated in the ring while Miz and Maryse threw a fit at ringside. Nikki and Cena kissed… A shot aired of Styles waiting backstage for Shane to arrive… JBL hyped Orton’s promo on Wyatt, and Phillips hyped Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Nikki is totally getting a ring at WrestleMania. Anyway, it was nice to see Cena actually act happy about this match. He’s made it clear in mainstream interviews that it’s not his idea, and he even said on Smackdown that he’d rather be facing Undertaker. The verbal exchanges between the two sides have been entertaining enough that while it still feels like a step down for Cena (minus the engagement part), I am looking forward to it. Bryan did a good job of transferring his frustration with Miz to Cena and Nikki getting revenge for him. Meanwhile, the simple shots of AJ waiting for Shane are a nice hook in terms of keeping viewers watching to see what happens next.
2. Smackdown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James in a non-title match. The fans didn’t seem to know whether they should cheer or boo James, so they did neither. JBL continued to point out that Bliss deserves better than not knowing what type of match she will have at WrestleMania. [C]
[Q5] The crowd was nearly silent as Bliss got the better of James. Bliss went for a DDT, but James held onto the ropes. James screamed while setting up for a move and some fans reacted, but Bliss rolled her up for a two count. Bliss did her knee slam bit and James avoided the second part of it. James delivered the Mick Kick and scored the clean pin…
Mickie James defeated Alexa Bliss in a non-title match in 8:50.
Powell’s POV: I feel bad for both women. Pittsburgh has been known for having some quiet crowds over the years, but you can’t blame then or the wrestlers for this one. The fans haven’t been given any reason to cheer for Mickie, who may or may not have turned babyface. Pick a direction with James. She’s more than capable of being a strong heel or a strong babyface, but it’s on creative to choose the course.
Backstage, Renee Young interviewed AJ Styles, who said WrestleMania is the ultimate thrill ride, so he’s getting his thrills where he can. Styles snuck up on Shane’s car when it arrived and then ambushed him as he was thanking the driver. Styles roughed up Shane and then slammed his head through a car window. Finlay showed up and asked Styles what the hell was a matter with him. Finlay called for help as Shane sold his the beatdown with some blood on top of his head… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good beatdown angle. Try as the might, I still don’t believe they will be able to turn the WrestleMania crowd against Styles. The question is whether they will cheer both guys or boo Shane. My guess is it’s a rough day for Shane’s ego.
Footage of Styles attacking Shane aired after the break… Backstage, Finlay stood by as a trainer and two EMTs tended to Shane… JBL said at the desk that Shane is an officer of the company and this wasn’t the way for AJ to go about getting a WrestleMania match…
AJ was shown inside a locker room being scolded by Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, and Curt Hawkins. They told him it was nuts and he can’t be doing stuff like that. Shane left the room and Daniel Bryan approached him. Bryan said it was the act of a coward. He said he doesn’t care how good or valuable he is, he is not untouchable. Styles mockingly asked if he was going to fire him. “Damn right I’m going to fire you,” Bryan replied. “Get the hell out of here.” Bryan had security remove Styles from the building… [C]
Powell’s POV: The Usos?!? Really, the badass Usos were bothered by the action of Styles? Come on. I get the idea was to show that AJ’s actions were so heinous that even his fellow heels were shocked, but they should have picked heels whose recent gimmick wasn’t intentionally injuring their opponents. Anyway, I really dig the serious tone of the Styles character, which was the only thing missing from his championship reign. Bryan did a good job of being firm with Styles.
[Q6] The broadcast team spoke at ringside about the Styles and Shane angle. Phillips pointed out that what Styles did was premeditated. JBL said the greatest performer of the generation is now fired and it’s shocking…
3. Mojo Rawley vs. Dolph Ziggler. Footage aired of Rawley and Ziggler’s backstage confrontation last week. Rawley tossed Ziggler over the top rope twice. JBL pointed out that Ziggler would have been eliminated if this had been the battle royal. Mojo tossed Ziggler over the top rope for a third time. Ziggler could have returned to the ring, but he turned around and left instead…
Mojo Rawley defeated Dolph Ziggler by count-out in 2:30.
The broadcast team spoke about the Shane angle. They showed new footage from inside the car of Shane’s head going through the glass…
Powell’s POV: WWE just killed the realism of the angle for me by showing the footage from inside the car. You know, like they just happened to have a camera inside that car. It was a cool shot, but it’s just not worth taking viewers out of the moment.
The Warrior Award being issued to Eric LeGrand was touted… In a backstage promo for 205 Live, Neville spoke about the five-way elimination match to determine his number one contender. He said the winner will be broken and humiliated “at the ultimate thrill ride” WrestleMania…
[Q7] Randy Orton made his entrance for a promo while the broadcast team spoke about him burning down the Wyatt Compound.
Powell’s POV: Let the record show that beating up Shane McMahon is a fireable offense, yet burning down a home and desecrating a grave is acceptable behavior in WWE.
Orton spoke about how he could have hit an RKO on Bray Wyatt whenever he wanted, but he wanted to hit him where it hurts. “If you can’t be ’em, join ’em,” Orton said. He said he earned Wyatt’s trust and the longer he waited the more the venom ran deeper in his veins. He repeated the “if you can’t beat ’em” line again only this time he added, “and at the right time screw ’em.”
Orton said he had to hit Wyatt where it hurt, explaining why he destroyed Sister Abigail’s spirit. Orton said Wyatt is alone. Orton looked at the WrestleMania sign and said the job isn’t done and he has one more thing left to do. “I swear to God that I will take everything from Bray Wyatt,” Orton said.
The Wyatt video flashed and then Bray Wyatt appeared on the big screen. Wyatt said he thought he lost his power until he returned to what’s left of his home. Wyatt said he should have known better. Wyatt said Orton thought he burned the soul of Abigail, but she is the spawn of satan and was forged in hell itself. Wyatt said her heart still beats in the black heart of her apostles.
Wyatt said he now has Abigail’s powers and he has no boundaries. He said he is the all seeing and the all knowing, and it’s his duty to purge all of the infidels in this life. Wyatt said he is starting with Orton. Wyatt said he consumed Abigail’s wickedness and is now born again. Wyatt baptized himself using Abigail’s aches by smearing them on his body and face. Wyatt held out his arms in a crucifix pose and said, “Follow the buzzards” before letting out a primal scream…
Powell’s POV: So we haven’t seen the last of hocus pocus Bray Wyatt? Ugh. The actual match should be entertaining, but the build to this is way too campy for my taste.
A WrestleMania flashback video featuring The Rock aired… The broadcast team spoke at their desk and set up footage of the Baron Corbin and Dean Ambrose forklift angle from last week…
Backstage, Dasha Fuentes asked Baron Corbin what he says about people feeling he crossed the line. He said there are no lines in his world. He said Ambrose came looking for him and he put him in a hospital. Corbin said he’s going to take everything from Ambrose, including the Intercontinental Championship, and then he’ll put him down for good…
Powell’s POV: Let the record show that beating up Shane McMahon is a fireable offense in WWE, but placing a forklift over the chest of an opponent is acceptable behavior in WWE. There sure is a lot of talk about wrestlers taking everything from their opponents all of a sudden.
[Q8] 4. Smackdown Tag Champions American Alpha vs. The Usos in a non-title match. Jason Jordan threw a nice dropkick at Jay Uso for an early two count. They cut to a split shot of Shane McMahon being escorted by Finlay and Jamie Noble. Finlay was trying to talk Shane into going to the hospital. Alpha sent the Usos to ringside. The broadcast team hyped an update on Shane after the break. [C]
Jimmy Uso applied the Orton chinlock of doom on Jordan, which silenced the crowd to the point that blind viewers may have thought Alexa Bliss and Mickie James were wrestling again. They cut to the split screen shot to show Shane walking out the exit door, then stopping and turning around. Finlay told him he needs to rethink this. Phillips said he was told that Shane was on his way out.
In the ring, Chad Gable performed a couple of good suplexes and got a two count. Jey rolled up Gable and held the tights for two. Jordan tagged in and Alpha set up for their finisher, but Jimmy broke it up and then superkicked Jordan. Jey pinned Jordan…
The Usos defeated American Alpha in a non-title match in 10:50.
Shane McMahon entered the same backstage area where Styles confronted him last week. Shane walked onto the stage while tapping a microphone. Shane said that Styles didn’t have an opponent at WrestleMania, but he does now. The show abruptly ended after that line…
Powell’s POV: The right team won the non-title match and hopefully it leads to a straight up match between these teams at WrestleMania. If we’re really lucky, their WrestleMania match won’t be interrupted by shots of Shane McMahon walking backstage. As for Shane’s announcement, it’s obviously no surprise, but it was interesting that they cut away without even getting the crowd’s reaction. I don’t know if they were running long or simply thought it would add to the realism. If it’s the latter, it’s hilarious considering everything on this show that felt completely unrealistic. I will have more to say about this episode in my All Access audio review late tonight. Check out Jake Barnett’s WWE Smackdown Hit List on Wednesday. Join Zack Zimmerman for live coverage of 205 Live right now on the main page.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Jim Ross on his role in AEW, Tony Khan as a leader, whether Ross knew Shawn Spears was going to hit Cody with a chair shot to the head, working with Excalibur and Alex Marvez, his new book and speaking engagement deal, and much more... Search "Pro Wrestling Boom" in Apple Podcasts or any podcast app to subscribe.