By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Baltimore, Maryland at Royal Farms Arena
The show opened with the announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton billboarding a few items. They said we’d relive the segment between Rousey, Lynch, and Flair from last night, and hyped the Kofi and Bryan contract signing. They then threw to the Kevin Owens show in the ring.
Owens said WrestleMania is in 5 days, and his respective guests are both trying to continue their legacies on that show. He introduced Randy Orton first, followed by AJ Styles. While Styles made his entrance, footage was shown of AJ’s match with Kurt Angle last week that ended with an RKO. Orton was seated as Styles entered the ring. They both eventually sat at a table that will likely be used in the contract negotiation later if it survives this segment.
Owens said everyone was looking forward to Kurt Angle’s last match on Smackdown, but he didn’t allow that to happen. Owens asked him if he was proud, and he said hell yeah. He saved a broken down old former Olympian beat a guy that still thinks he’s at the top of his game. He also saved everyone from having to watch the match. Styles said that was rich coming from a guy who has spent 20 years in the company and learned one move.
Orton retorted that he only needed one when it was that deadly. He said that while Styles was rushing from high school gym to bingo halls for 50 bucks a shot in front of a dozen people, he was wrestling at WrestleMania. Styles said Orton was in WWE, but he was failing drug tests. Owens shot a look of surprise.
Orton then replied that if Styles was as good as he thinks he is, he would have been in WWE a long time ago. And since John Cena left for Hollywood, all he’s done is assume the role of corporate bitch. Owens bailed out of the ring at this point, and both men brawled. Styles ended up on the apron going for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Orton caught him with an RKO.
Backstage, Kofi Kingston was overlooking his WWE Championship contract with Woods and Big E. In the arena, Aleister Black made his entrance. An 8-man tag match is next featured Black and Ricochet teaming with the Usos against The Bar, Nakamura and Rusev…[c]
My Take: Another very enjoyable promo segment between Styles and Orton. I like the continuation of plausible arguments between the two, and some sharp insults. I have to believe Orton picks up the win on Sunday, as he’s be a perfect first title defense for one Kofi Kingston.
1. Ricochet, Black and The Usos vs. The Bar, Nakamura and Rusev: Ricochet and Cesaro started the match. Ricochet attempted an early roll up pin for a two count. Cesaro shut him down with an uppercut, and tagged out to Sheamus. Ricochet escaped a press slam attempt and tagged to Black. After a few kicks, both Usos took quick turns in the ring before Jey got isolated in the heel corner. Rusev made a blind tag and then Jey got dumped to the outside over the ropes. Rusev then tossed him into the ring steps and the barricade.
Nakamura tagged back in and hit a body block. Sheamus then entered and prevented Jey from tagging by throwing him under the bottom rope on the hard camera side of the ring…[c]
Sheamus worked over Jey with holds after he got back into the ring. Jey nearly made a tag at several moments, only to be shut down by the heel team making key tags. He also sold exhaustion. Rusev took a kick from Jey and he was able to make a tag to Jimmy. Things began to break down quickly. Ricochet got a huge uppercut form Cesaro, and Black took out Cesaro with a kick. He also took Sheamus with him to the outside. The Usos quickly took advantage and sent Nakamura to the floor, and hit a double superkick on Rusev. They pinned him for the victory.
The Usos, Black and Ricochet defeated The Bar, Nakamura and Rusev at 12:11
After the match, Alexa Bliss made her entrance and walked out on stage. She said that Becky, Ronda, and Charlotte are out of jail, and will main event WrestleMania. Kofi Kingston will challenge Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship, and the show has seriously slid downhill. She mentioned the Usos forfeiting last week, and it was noble, but deserving of reprecussions. She then announced they would defend their championships against….all the teams they just faced in the ring. A brawl then ensued with no clear winner.
The announce team then threw to a video that recapped the police segment form Raw with Ronda, Charlotte, and Becky. The Iconics then made their entrance in the arena with a message for their WrestleMania opponents…[c]
My Take: Gotta love last minute additions to WrestleMania. The tag match screams pre-show to me. If the 8-man tag is any indication, it will be good but not great. There just wasn’t a whole lot of chemistry on display in that match.
Footage was shown of the Iconics defeating Sasha and Bayley on Smackdown last week. The Iconics shrieked about the state of the Smackdown Tag Teams at WrestleMania. Now The Usos must defend their championships in a Fatal Four Way, just like them. They ran down the various scenarios in which they can win by pinning various opponent, and said it was certain they would become the Women’s Tag Team Champions and make WrestleMania Iconic. The announce team then showed more footage of the police involved brawl from Raw, reminding us that the first ever Women’s Main Event will happen on Sunday.
The Miz then made his entrance in the arena. He was dressed to compete. He’s up next in a handicap match against Sanity.
My Take: I feel like the Iconics had so much more personality in NXT. Did I hallucinate it? They have improved over the past few months, but it just seems like the material doesn’t quite click.
Miz said WrestleMania means different things to different people. For Ronda, Becky, and Charlotte, it means making history. For Kofi, it means finally breaking through. For him, it means retribution. He said he’s recently been able to step back and take stock of who he is as a father, husband, and son. He said if people want proof, they can tune in to Miz and Mrs later on tonight. He said he doesn’t see that as a cheap plug, he sees it as something they did as a family and he was proud of.
He said I love you to his wife and daughter, and said he was proud of them. He then said what he wanted to do to Shane at WrestleMania couldn’t be contained in the ring, and that he would beat him anywhere and everywhere in the arena. He said he used to fight for his Dad’s approval, but now he fights for his honor. He said Shane has a dad too, but that just makes him a son of a bitch. Sanity then made their entrance, followed by Shane McMahon.
Shane said he wanted to watch it up close and personal. First he demanded Greg Hamilton introduce him. Then he called for the match to start.
2. The Miz vs. Sanity: Sanity jumped on The Miz early on and took turns pummeling him…[c]
Miz hit a back body drop on Young. He then hit a clothesline in the corner on Killian Dain. Shane stopped the match and made it Falls Count Anywhere, and threw up a photo of him roughing up Miz’s Dad. The match then immediately became a walking brawl. Miz put Alexander Wolf through a table near the equipment. Eric Young broke up a pin attempt. The action spilled backstage, where Miz threw Young into a steel door. He then threw Dain into an electrical box. Miz tossed Young into some containers on the loading dock, and ran his knee into him. He then ran a plastic dumpster into Young, and covered for the win.
The Miz defeated Sanity at 11:32
After the match Shane McMahon jawed at The Miz from a car. A cop car then pulled up with sirens blaring, and Becky Lynch got out. Are we supposed to think the DC Police ran her over or….?
My Take: Well, if Sanity wasn’t rolled under a bus before, they sure are now. Miz looked strong in his victory, and he cut a good promo, but the crowd was more excited to see Lynch pull up than anything the Miz had said or done.
We got another full recap of the Ronda, Becky, and Charlotte segment. Becky Lynch made her entrance and stood on top of the announce table. She talked about what a difference a year made. She said the stars were aligned for Charlotte and Ronda to meet at this year’s WrestleMania, until she smacked the smugness off of Charlotte Flair’s face at SummerSlam. She said it was that moment she became determined to push her way to WrestleMania. She reminded the crowd that the first ever Women’s WrestleMania Main Event would take place on Sunday. She remarked that The Queen, The Baddest Woman on the Planet, and The Man would go face to face to face. Becky then said she would put them both in their place, and the next time we saw her she’d be what she’s always been, the Double Champ. She then dropped the microphone.
Backstage, a bunch of superstars posed while the announce team said we’d have an 18 person mixed gender tag match involving participants in the Andre the Giant and Women’s Battle Royal matches at WrestleMania…[c]
My Take: A rather pedestrian promo from Becky. The crowd was with her, and her delivery wasn’t bad, but it’s hard to articulate how much different she is no than she was prior to The Royal Rumble. They’ve really taken the edge off of her character.
3. 18-Person Mixed Tag Team Match: Nikki Cross and Zelina Vega started the match, but they were interrupted by a Lacey Evans appearance. The match resumed and Cross got an advantage until Vega tagged EC3. Jeff Hardy stepped in for his team, and applied an arm bar before tagging in Matt. EC3 walked into a side effect, and then ate some turnbuckles before Otis from Heavy Machinery tagged in. Heavy Machinery hit a double team splash in the corner, followed by a Caterpillar Elbow…[c]
Naomi and Mandy Rose tagged out to R-Truth and Andrade. Truth splashed Andrade in the corner, and then he and Carmella had a dance break. Karl Anderson and Zelina broke it up. The match then devolved into a brawl where everybody tried to throw each other over the top rope. Nikki Cross was the last woman in the ring, and she attacked Shelton Benjamin. They both ended up on the floor. EC3 took a Twist of Fate from Jeff Hardy, and a kick in the face from Asuka. Jeff Hardy and Asuka were the last two in the ring, and Asuka tossed Jeff over the top after giving him a hug.
The match ended at 8:56, but the segment carried on for another 6 minutes.
After the match, we got a video package for the match between Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar. The announce team then ran down the WrestleMania Card. Backstage, New Day were preparing for the contract signing. In the arena, Samoa Joe made his entrance. He will face Ali next…[c]
My Take: That match was a huge cluster. Asuka getting the visual victory was a fun touch after last week, but I can’t say this ratcheted up my excitement for either battle royal match.
Ali made his entrance during the break.
4. Ali vs. Samoa Joe: Ali sent Joe to the floor early on. He then hit a kick and a DDT for a near fall. Joe came back with a chop, but Ali fired back with a wheelbarrow kick. He climbed up top for a 450, but Joe avoided it and applied the Coquina Clutch for the win.
Joe defeated Ali at 3:55
After the match, Daniel Bryan made his ring entrance for the contract signing.
My Take: Joe needed a win, and Ali is in a place where he’ll probably get a reboot after WrestleMania if they are serious about putting him back into a place of prominence.
Michael Cole was in the ring and introduced the Champion Daniel Bryan. He then brought out Kofi Kingston. Cole said Kofi has requested time to talk about the event on Sunday. Bryan shushed the crowd and told Cole he can take it from there. The crowd went crazy with a Kofi chant. Bryan signed the contract. He tried to talk about teaching the crowd an important life lesson, but he was drowned out by the crowd chants of Kofimania. He called out the crowd for being ignorant.
Bryan said the lesson was not to be complacent. He said that Kofi thought a little bit of success was good enough for 11 years. He said Kofi had been willing to be complacent and rest on a tiny bit of success. He screamed at the crowd to not be complacent. Bryan said another life lesson is not to be a bystander in your own life. Don’t sit on the sidelines and wait for other people to push you to the top. Don’t waste your life on the sidelines waiting while Xavier Woods and Big E push you through to the top.
Bryan then told him not to mistake a fad for reality. He told him he has been in his position before, and he doesn’t feed up off the crowd, they feed off of him. He told him the crowd are parasites, and they will consume all of his positivity for leaving him in the dust. Kofi grabbed the contract and the microphone and said he was tired of being educated by Bryan, and now he wanted to educate him. He said he doesn’t understand him, because he’s never been in his shoes. He told Bryan that he became Champion in his first two years in WWE, and Kofi has never had a singles match for the WWE Championship match.
He then told Bryan that he doesn’t know him, but Bryan knows well that he’s ready. He sees it in his eyes when he’s in the ring with him. He said Bryan wants him to believe that he knows what’s next because he’s been there before, but what comes next is that he beats him, and becomes WWE Champion. Kofi signed the contract and stared down Bryan to close the show.
My Take: A hot segment with the most crowd involvement of the night. Kofi cut a strong promo, as did Bryan, and people are red hot for this match come Sunday. I wish we could have gotten a few more weeks of promos between these two, because it feels like we’ve just scratched the surface on what could have been a much more personal and in depth conflict heading into WrestleMania.