By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Uncasville, Connecticut at Mohegan Sun Arena
A video package detailed AJ Styles attack on Shane McMahon and teased the aftermath for tonight’s show. Backstage, AJ Styles walked up to Daniel Bryan and asked where Shane McMahon was. Bryan said if it were up to him he’d still be fired, but Shane saw it as a teachable moment, and didn’t handle things like the rest of the McMahons. He doesn’t want to ruin AJ’s life, he wants to show him how to handle things like a man instead of like a coward. Styles said it felt so good to beat up Shane McMahon, he was going to go tell the world. He left and his music hit in the arena. The announce team tried to make it sound like AJ bit off more than he can chew, which is the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard in my life.
Styles said he had 7 days to think about what he did, and he paused before saying that he’s not sorry for anything that he did last week. He said we had no idea how good it felt to put his hands on Shane McMahon. After all Shane had put him through, he had to put him through something, and that’s a car window. Styles said Shane had the audacity to say he had a match. Against who? Against Shane McMahon? Styles laughed and then accepted the challenge. He questioned why Shane would want to be in the ring with him, being a former WWE Champion and the best in the world, but he relishes at the opportunity to go WrestleMania. He warned Shane that he would meet him in the parking lot later, and things would go from bad to phenomenally worse.
The announce team consisted of Tom Phillips, JBL, and David Otunga. Mauro was absent again this week, which will continue to fuel speculation. They plugged never before seen Total Bellas footage, and a tag championship match between The Usos and American Alpha for later…[c]
My Take: A mediocre follow up promo from last week. I like that Styles sees himself as above Shane McMahon, but if it’s just because they want us to believe that Styles is going to be surprised by Super Shane’s fighting skills then I’m going to vomit on my shoes.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan spoke to Shane McMahon on the phone and told him he’d be waiting for him in the parking lot. Shane told Bryan his plan, but it wasn’t revealed to the audience. Baron Corbin walked up and asked for Ambrose. Bryan didn’t know, and Corbin said he had the night off and would hit the blackjack tables. Bryan booked him in a match with Orton for later, and he walked off pissed. Rob Gronkowski was shown in the crowd. American Alpha then made their entrance, followed by the Usos.
1. American Alpha vs. The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships: Jason Jordan and Jimmy Uso started. JBL gave a shout out to Jim Ross, whose wife was in a serious accident and underwent surgery today. I’ll echo JBL’s thoughts in wishing Jan Ross and JR well. The early portion of the match was all Alpha. They tagged in and out rapidly and controlled the place. They cleared both Usos from the ring with clotheslines and got pumped up mid ring…[c]
The Usos dominated during the break and continued to isolate Chad Gable. They worked quick tags to try and deny him a tag, and used blind tags to confuse him. Gable got dumped to the floor and then clotheslined. He was close to being unable to answer the ten count, and the Usos never went to grab him despite losing a title opportunity on the countout. Jimmy ran into the ring post in the corner and that gave Gabe a window to make a tag. Jordan tagged in and hit an Angle Slam on Jey for a two count. They went for a Doomsday Device, but Jimmy broke it up. He then hit a superkick and a splash on Gable for a near fall. They set up for a double splash, but Jordan broke it up and sent Jimmy to the outside. They then hit a top rope double team bulldog, but Jimmy pulled Jason Jordan to the outside.
Both teams were exhausted and tried to recover on the apron and the floor. Gable hit a moonsault inside to outside, but got sent over the barricade for his trouble. Jey crotched Jordan on the middle rope as he got back in the ring, and Jimmy hit a superkick and pinned him to capture the Championships.
The Usos defeatead American Alpha at 16:33 to capture the Smackdown Tag Team Championships
Miz and Maryse’s never before seen Total Bella’s footage is later. John Cena vs. Fandango and Corbin vs. Orton were plugged for later…[c]
My Take: I’m surprised by the title change so close to Mania, but I don’t hate the move from a character standpoint. The Match itself was a lot of fun, but Alpha is much better in chase mode and they have a nice foil in the Usos to work with. I hope they don’t end up in some multi-team cluster at WrestleMania, though. That would be the worst possible outcome from this.
Luke Harper was shown backstage and spoke about Orton unleashing Sister Abigail’s power in to the world, and how she had seen it turn one man into a mad man. He said Orton have destroyed her, but next week he would destroy him. The announce team then threw to a Total Bellas skit where Maryse played both Bella Twins and Miz played Cena. It was a bunch of bad puns based on catchphrases and Cena teasing proposing to Nikki several times. It was the worst segment of the build by far. Baron Corbin made his entrance in the arena.
My Take: I’m sure that Total Bellas skit was a lot funnier on paper than it ended up being filmed.
They cut to footage of Baron Corbin using a forklift a few weeks ago on Smackdown. It didn’t look any better this time. Randy Orton made his entrance while footage aired of last week’s show where Bray Wyatt said he has super powers.
2. Randy Orton vs. Baron Corbin: Corbin hit a shoulder block early. Orton went for an RKO a moment later, but Corbin broke free. Orton took over with strikes and backed Corbin into the corner for mounted punches. He then hit a back elbow. Corbin turned the tables with a lariat and mocked the fallen Orton…[c]
Corbin held a rear chin lock while he and Orton had a chat. Orton threw Corbin into the corner after fighting out, but ate a lariat when Corbin slid under the ropes and quickly hustled back in the ring to surprise him. Corbin ran into a boot in the corner and fired back with some clotheslines. Corbin went to the well and tried to slide under the ropes and go for another lariat, but Orton snapped him over for a powerslam. He then followed up with a full nelson slam, and Corbin rolled outside. He and Orton brawled, and then Orton rolled back in the ring and hit a hangman’s DDT. He set up for an RKO, but Corbin countered with a deep six for a good near fall. Orton rolled outside to recover, and Corbin charged at him, but hit the ring steps when Orton moved.
Both men were laid out. The crowd stared up the ramp looking for interference, and Dean Ambrose popped up on a forklift. He asked Corbin if he was busy, who turned and looked, and then immediately ate an RKO for the loss.
Randy Orton defeated Baron Corbin at 13:20.
Ambrose then got in the ring and accepted Corbin’s demand for an Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania. He then hit Dirty Deeds before leaving. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella was plugged for later. AJ Styles was shown in the parking lot waiting for Shane McMahon…[c]
My Take: I enjoyed the vast majority of that match, but it did get pretty sluggish at times. The Orton and Wyatt story picks up no steam here, though, and it’s the most high profile feud on the show. Hopefully they have something very memorable planned for later tonight or at least next week’s show. Corbin vs. Ambrose being announced seems like a formality, and the feud just hasn’t clicked yet. It’s shocking how little time there is until WrestleMania, yet so little of the show feels properly built.
Backstage, Randy Orton was interviewed by Renee Young and said he didn’t expect to see Bray Wyatt bathing in Abigail’s ashes last week. The lights then dimmed out, and Orton was surrounded by people in sheep’s masks when they came back up dimly. They grabbed him and held him, and Wyatt appeared. He had some kind of symbol that he handed to Orton. He thanked Orton for purging his one flaw, and said his one weakness has become his greatest source of power. He sang “he’s got the whole world in his hands” while Orton was helpless…[c]
My Take: That wasn’t what I meant by memorable. More lame hocus pocus isn’t making this feud any more interesting.
Fandango made his entrance, followed by Tyler Breeze dressed like Nikki Bella. He did really awkward dance moves, so it wasn’t much different from the real deal. Fandango had his nautical hat and glasses on, and looked ready to go for bachelor party bookings whenever wrestling dries up for him. Fandango grabbed a mic and issued Cena fashion police tickets for being a lousy boyfriend and wearing jorts in 2017. He called Tyler Breeze Breezy Bella. Cena signalled up the ramp and Nikki made her entrance.
3. Lance Catamaran vs. Chet Chetterfield: Fandango threw tickets in Cena’s face as the match started. Cena hit some shoulder blocks and a prototype suplex. He followed up with a five knuckle shuffle. Breeze jumped up into the ring and Nikki too him down with a tackle. They then both did their dueling AA and STF bit. Somehow none of this was a DQ, as Fandango tapped out and Cena was awarded a win.
John Cena defeated Fandango at 2:48.
Backstage, AJ Styles was still waiting for Shane McMahon. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella is next…[c]
My Take: Man, they are really trying to make me hate John Cena and Nikki Bella. This stuff is obnoxious.
Becky Lynch made her entrance, followed by Carmella. Footage was shown of Natalya and Becky Lynch’s match last week, with Carmella’s post match attack. Natalya joined on commentary.
4. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella: Becky hit a big forearm to start, and Carmella bailed to ringside. Becky gave chase, but Ellsworth held her up getting back in the ring. Natalya joined in immediately. Mickie James and Alexa Bliss joined shortly thereafter.
The match ended in no contest after 30 seconds.
All five women brawled. Becky Lynch drilled Ellsworth with a top rope dropkick. Alexa Bliss ended up standing tall when the dust settled. More Total Bellas nonsense from Miz and Maryse is next…[c]
My Take: Really disappointing how WWE is treating the women heading into WrestleMania. They launched one division at WrestleMania last year and they have two creatively underperforming divisions limping into Orlando.
More Total Bellas Bullshit aired. Miz played a very wooden John Cena and they did a tour of his house. In each room, they’d make references to Cena’s absurd house rules, and hint at a proposal that turned into a joke where Maryse would act shocked and disappointed. This one had funnier moments than the first one, but neither was consistently good. Backstage, AJ Styles saw a car pull up, and was ready to pounce until he saw Rhyno and Heath Slater. Shane McMahon made his entrance in the arena, and told Styles he was waiting for him. Renee Young told Styles that Shane was in the ring and called him out, and he looked disappointed…[c]
My Take: Initially, I thought this Cena and Miz mixed tag feud had some promise, but the more I see the more it seems unfocused. They continue recycling jokes and material, and it’s not transgressive or interesting enough to carry it through.
Shane was in the ring and still waiting. He said AJ could have approached him like a man face to face, and even if it would have escalated to violence, they could have dealt with it like men. Instead, AJ chose the blind side, and now it’s going to get much worse for him. AJ Styles was shown walking towards the stage from the back, but looked reticent. Styles begged off initially and apologized. He said he made a mistake. He said Daniel Bryan was right, he’s not like the other McMahons, he would get in the ring and say he’s sorry, and they could move on. Shane assaulted him as soon as he got in the ring.
They spillled to the floor where AJ landed punches and suplexed him into the barricade. Styles started to clear the announce table, but Shane slammed him on top of it and got in the ring. Shane climbed the turnbuckle and hit an elbow onto Styles. Styles was out. The crowd reacted for the splash, but were pretty quiet after the fact. Shane pointed to the WrestleMania sign to close the show. The announcers kept repeating that Styles bit off more than he could chew, which is stupid and patronizing considering he’s probably on everybody’s short list for best wrestler in the world.
My Take: That was pretty much everything I feared. Styles has to work his ass off to make Shane look good, yet it still looks clumsier than it should. Shane has one or two impressive gimmick spots, and they’ve already blown through one of them. The premise behind the match is flimsy and the action is going to be tough to stomach whenever Shane is on offense. I’m sure WWE thinks this is a high profile match for Styles, but he earned better, and they vastly overestimate the mass market appeal of Shane McMahon. People would rather see him get his ass kicked, no matter how much Styles attempts to be an asshole.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...