By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Birmingham, Alabama at Legacy Arena
Backstage, Becky Lynch arrived in an SUV while Becky chants were heard in the arena. She was asked if she was ready for Asuka, and said she thinks everyone knows the answer, but she’d deliver one in the ring. New Day were standing with Heavy Machinery as Otis mixed up a protein shake with a bunch of Raw eggs. Becky walked up and they offered her a sip. New Day was revolted as she drank it, and remarked it was a little week. Otis called her The Man and she walked towards Gorilla. She then made her entrance in the arena. The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton plugged Miz’s birthday bash with Shane later on in the show.
Becky opened and said she gets an opportunity in two weeks to take back her Smackdown Women’s Championship. She asked where the title is now, and now the whole roster thinks what she’s doing is a fluke. She remarked that everyone says being the man is easy until they try it, and both the Raw and Smackdown rosters have been following her trying to be a badass since she broke through. Becky then said Asuka claimed she was all hype, but look at what happened at last year’s WrestleMania. Asuka entered with all the hype in the world going in undefeated, but still lost to the woman that Becky’s been beating all around the world for 5 months. Becky said that Asuka was the one who had all the hype, which then brought her out to interrupt.
Asuka grabbed a mic as the crowd chanted for Becky. Asuka said Becky was all hype. She was like a little bee, lots of buzzing but no Sting. She claimed that after Royal Rumble, she won’t be in Charlotte’s shadow, she will be in Asuka’s. The Iconics then walked out and told Asuka that was no way for a Champion to behave. They called Becky out for being bossy, and said they would show them both what class is when they win the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships. They then said they would go on to make WrestleMania Iconic. Becky then turned to Asuka and told her she would show her what the hype was all about. She then asked the Iconics which one of them wanted to get in the ring and be made into an example…[c]
My Take: Becky is as confident as she’s ever been, and she’s throwing out all kinds of challenges and calling people out. I’m interested to see if they intend to let this ride, or if they are setting her up to be humbled. Both are viable options depending on their long term plans.
1. Peyton Royce vs. Becky Lynch: Becky dominated the early offense. She nearly applied a Disarmher right out of the gate, but Peyton made it to the ropes. Lacey Evans was shown observing the match backstage, and Asuka was at ringside. Peyton was tossed to the floor, and Becky hesitated tossing her back in the ring because of Billie, and that gave Peyton an opening. Peyton took over from that point, working over Becky with ground holds and strikes…[c]
Peyton continued to control the action with a rear chin lock. There was little or no crowd reaction during Peyton’s offense. Becky fired up and hit a suplex. She then climbed to the top rope, but Peyton caught her with a kick. She pulled her down and covered for a two count. Peyton grabbed her for a suplex, but Becky pulled her down into a Disarmher and got the quick tap out victory.
Becky Lynch defeated Peyton Royce in 7:45
After the match, Asuka got in the match and screamed in Japanese. Apparently she wanted a match with Billie Kay. She ran after Billie and pulled her into the ring. The bell rang with no official acceptance of any challenge.
2. Asuka vs. Billie Kay: Asuka quickly pulled Billie into a weak version of the Disarmher, but it looked bad because Billie bent her arm and it had no leverage. She then quickly pulled her into an Asuka lock and Billie submitted.
Asuka defeated Billie Kay at 1:14
After the match, Asuka and Becky went face to face again, but were interrupted by AJ Styles music. He wandered around the ring, and then left the ring area through the crowd up to the concourse…[c]
My Take: Peyton got in way too much offense for Becky to look as strong as she did verbally and backstage earlier in the segment. Peyton was also out of position and didn’t sell Becky’s offense in a way that made her look particularly strong either. If the point of the segment was to make Becky look like she has a hard time backing up her attitude, then it worked, but I don’t think that was the point. Asuka looked much more like a badass in her quick dismissal of Billie Kay.
Backstage, AJ Styles was with the fans in the concourse. He played up that he’s a man of the people, and said they paid their hard earned money to eat and do whatever they want. He said the crowd was exactly like the people in Phoenix that will watch him kick Daniel Bryan’s ass. Bryan emerged from the crowd in street clothes and attacked AJ, but AJ quickly turned it around and put him through a snack table.
Elsewhere backstage, The Usos were taking photos when Jimmy was presented with a gift. It was a rose from Mandy with a hotel key, with a note telling him she wanted to be locked up in the Uso penitentiary. Jey asked him what he was going to do, and he said I don’t know, because apparently his loyalty to his wife is easily shaken by hamfisted attempts to come on to him. In yet another backstage location, Samoa Joe walked towards the arena, passing by EC3.
My Take: The Usos story just jumped the shark. I could understand Mandy writing him a note pretending to be his wife, and tricking him into going to a hotel, but she wasn’t even clever about it. She basically said “Come sleep with me”, and he was like “Hmmm, that’s a pretty compelling argument”. He’s shown nothing but loyalty to his wife up until this point, so this is bizarrely out of character.
Zelina and Andrade were interviewed by Kayla backstage. He said Rey was his idol growing up, but last week he’s showed him that times have changed. Zelina said after he beats Rey tonight, he will go onto win the Royal Rumble and the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.
In the arena, Samoa Joe made his entrance, followed by Mustafa Ali. Joe attacked Mustafa and sent him to the floor before the match. He sent him hard into the post on the outside, and he appeared to be out. The ref called for help. The refs tried to get Joe to leave, but he ran back down and continued to unload with punches and headbutts. He threw him hard into the post again, and took another nasty looking bump. Joe looked to be leaving on his own a second time, but he returned again and first looked to powerbomb Ali off the announce table, but eventually just tossed him into the barricade.
Backstage, Sonya asked Mandy if she was serious about this. She said what she was doing was scandalous. Mandy said she knew, and she was willing to do whatever it took to make her life miserable, and the easiest way to do that was to break up their marriage. She then left, telling Sonya she had a date. Backstage, Rey Mysterio walked by a fenced off area, and Nikki Cross rattled the fence and asked Rey if he wanted to play, and that she’d play with him. I have no idea how I was supposed to take that.
My Take: This show is all over the place tonight. Joe’s attack was effective. Mandy’s motivation is ridiculous and petty, so it works, but I think Naomi just shows up at the hotel to redeem this story. Nikki Cross is a gold mine for out of context quoting.
In the arena, Rey Mysterio made his entrance, followed by Andrade Almas with Zelina Vega.
3. Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade Almas: They worked a much more deliberate pace to start the match, trading the advantage with holds. Almas worked over Mysterio’s left arm and shoulder, applying holds and throwing him into the turnbuckle shoulder first. Rey fired back with two head scissors. He then set up for a 619, but Almas ducked and went for a Hammerlock DDT. Rey avoided it and they both scrambled to their feet.
Mysterio avoided a dropkick and hit a kick of his own to the face of a seated Andrade. Rey then took Andrade over the ropes to the outside, but he held on and kept Rey on his shoulders. Andrade then stood up and hit a sit out powerbomb on the floor…[c]
Almas missed double knees on the bottom turnbuckle, and then Rey hit a springboard plancha. Rey then attempted another springboard, but Almas caught him. Rey was able to turn it into a spike DDT and covered for a two count. Rey missed a charge into the corner, which let Almas connect with double knees for a near fall. Rey recovered and sent Almas into the middle turnbuckle with a head scissors. He then climbed up top, but Almas grabbed his legs and pulled them through the middle rope. Rey held onto the top rope, and Almas climbed up for a double stomp. Rey escaped and shoved Almas into onto the apron. Rey then hit a top rope huracanrana that sent Almas from the apron to the floor. Rey then went back up top and hit a seated senton from the turnbuckle out to Almas on the floor….[c]
During the break, Rey jumped off the top rope into a dropkick from Almas. Rey fired back a minute later with a Code Red for a near fall. Almas hit a nasty back elbow and a double jump moonsault for a near fall of his own. Rey hit another Canadian Destroyer, and got a close near fall that popped the crowd. Rey went for a 619, and Andrade caught him, but Rey pulled him into a Crucifix Bomb for another near fall. Rey then hit another kick, and followed up with a 619 that finally connected.
Zelina jumped the apron and caused Rey to get crotched on the top rope. He then hit a Hammerlock DDT from the top rope and got the win.
Andrade defeated Rey Mysterio at 18:11
A recap was shown of the Usos/Mandy Saga. Jimmy Uso was shown approaching a hotel room and nervously looking at his key card…[c]
My Take: The ring announcer and announce team just called the former Andrade Cien Almas “Andrade”, so I think he’s become a victim of the singular name obsession in WWE. Rey gets an out with the interference, but that was a fantastic match and even with a clean finish nobody would have taken anything away from him. They eased into the match pacing beautifully, had exciting near falls and counters, and made and excellent meld of the Lucha and WWE styles to deliver a very exciting match. Easily the best match for both men since Andrade’s main roster debut, and Rey’s return.
Jimmy walked into the hotel room and Mandy was sitting on the chair in a robe. She asked him to come closer, and revealed herself to be wearing….pretty much the same as her normal ringwear. Some idiot ran in and took a bunch of photos, and then ran into the bathroom? Mandy then said this was never about him, it was about his wife, and how she wanted to destroy her self confidence. She’ll never be as hot as Mandy, and she knows it. Jimmy said “My Wife?” and then walked out a door.
Naomi emerged and brawled with Mandy. They rolled on and off the bed, and then Mandy tossed Naomi over a chair and ran away. They appeared very careful not to damage anything in the room.
The announce team went over the Royal Rumble card as it is. The Miz then made his entrance for the bestie Birthday Bash…[c]
My Take: Well, at least Mandy had a better plan that it first appeared. It still backfired, but she was shown to be manipulative rather than depraved. She also didn’t get her comeuppance in any real way, so I guess this continues. The fact that her lingerie wasn’t any more revealing than her normal ring gear was the most unintentionally funny part of the segment.
The Miz gave Shane a birthday introduction, and he made his way to the ring. There are tables with cake and gifts, so undoubtedly someone is going through them. Miz said Happy Birthday on behalf of all the people whose lives Shane has touched. There were Happy Birthday chants, and Shane said he was generally uncomfortable with Birthday Celebrations. Miz said this wasn’t an ordinary Birthday celebration. Does this look like a Chuck E Cheese? He showed caked his two specialty cakes from his favorite Bakery. One had an image of Shane and Miz holding the Best in the World Trophy. He then had Shane open a gift of some Jordan 33’s, which Shane seemed legitimately excited about.
Miz then showed a video package of Shane’s in ring exploits and their relationship. Shane thanked him for the touching video, and for opening up about his relationship with his Dad a few weeks ago. Shane opened up and said he’d always wanted to be a Tag Team Champion since he was a kid. His first partner was supposed to be Andre the Giant, but he was proud to be Miz’s partner at the Royal Rumble. Miz then began singing Happy Birthday with the crowd, but they were interrupted like The Bar. Sheamus called them a joke, and said it was odd they didn’t invite Vince McMahon. Cesaro chimed in and said they didn’t invite them, but he doesn’t give a crap about Shane or his birthday.
Shane called out Sheamus for Brogue Kicking Miz last weak while his back was turned, and said he should test himself against the Miz one on one tonight. Miz tried to say he wasn’t ready, but Shane said it was his birthday wish, and gave Miz a pep talk, and he agreed to it for next…[c]
My Take: Shane and Miz both seem like they are playing along with each other, waiting for the right moment to stick a knife in each other’s backs. Which one cracks first is the most interesting part of their story.
4. The Miz vs. Sheamus: Miz avoided a charging Sheamus and sent him to the floor. They brawled on the outside, with Sheamus hitting a lariat and tossing Miz back into the ring. Sheamus worked over Miz in the corner, and then dumped him back to the floor. Miz gathered himself and answered the ten count at nine. Back in the ring, Miz got on a roll, but Sheamus shut him down with a lariat. Cesaro jumped on the apron to distract Miz as he turned the offensive tables again, but Shaned jumped on the apron and tossed Cesaro through a cake table at ringside. This allowed Miz to roll up Sheamus for the win.
The Miz defeated Sheamus at 5:48
After the match, Shane ran in the ring to help the Miz fend of Sheamus. Miz hit him with a Skull Crushing Finale. Shane then hit a Coast to Coast, as Miz placed some cake in front of his face. Miz smeared Cake on Sheamus for extra insult. Shane and Miz celebrated with their Saudi Blood Money trophy as the show ended.
My Take: Shane and Miz are on the same page for now. We’ll see if that lasts, but it’s been entertaining for now. Overall, this show was a bit of a mixed bag. I enjoyed the Rey and Almas match very much, but the Usos drama and the odd opening match with Peyton and Becky were a bit off for my taste. Hopefully they are able to put things together in a more entertaining way for next week’s go home show for the Rumble.