Tonight’s Smackdown Live is coming from the Raising Cane’s River Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, hot off the heels of the news that next year’s Wrestlemania 34 will be hosted just up the road in The Big Easy, New Orleans. Tonight, Baron Corbin gets his first real taste of one-on-one action on the main event level as he takes on John Cena.
IN RING SEGMENT: AMBROSE ASYLUM
Dean Ambrose starts off his first Ambrose Asylum by announcing he was entering the Royal Rumble. He then introduces his new stage prop, a taxidermied alligator head named Maurice. Just as he’s about to announce his guest, The Miz‘ music hits and he makes his way to the ring, alongside Maryse.
The Miz decries Ambrose for disrespecting the Intercontinental championship and now he’s disrespecting the Royal Rumble. So the Miz says to help save it, he is announcing he as well is entering the Royal Rumble. But The Miz threatens legal action if Ambrose doesn’t hand over what he stole.
Ambrose says he does have something for Miz and unveils the Miz’ very own Miz Participation Award. The Miz attacks Ambrose, beating him mercilessly to the ground. He holds Ambrose up for Maryse to slap, but Dean moves and Miz is knocked back into a Dirty Deeds from Ambrose. He hands the Participation Award to Maryse as he walks out the ring.
SmackBack: Fun opening segment. Not too long. It was a little predictable, but it was pulled off nicely from all three involved. The Miz has shown a flawless and fluid ability to slink into feuds with very different personalities without moving his own and he’s come out as the WWE’s best male heel right now. Plus, Ambrose looks more comfortable without the weight of the company on his shoulders, like he’s having fun again. This could be a solid feud, one that will continue the slow rebuild and reclaim of the Intercontinental Championship’s prestige.
Backstage, we see Nikki Bella walking backstage, when suddenly she’s attacked from behind by Natalya and thrown viciously into the wall. Natalya sneered “See you out there, Nikki” and left.
First Match: Natalya vs. Nikki Bella
Natalya comes down to the ring first, followed by a seething Nikki who attacks Natalya straight out of the gate. Nattie fights her off and tries to leave, but gets a brutal spear from Nikki on the ramp. Both women go at each other STIFF before Natalya rolls Nikki in the ring.
They trade punches, kicks and blows before Nattie tries to flee the ring, only to be foiled by an enraged Bella. Finally the refs come down and separate the two, but Nikki bursts threw like Goldberg and hits Natalya hard in the face. Jeeebus. For a second I thought she broke Nattie’s nose.
Natalya fights back and throws Nikki out the ring. This was savage. Nattie retreats up the ring while the refs attend to Nikki. No contest, match thrown out.
Backstage, Charly asks Dolph Ziggler if he had anything to say about his actions last week when he attacked Kalisto after the luchadore came to his aid. Ziggler just stares around before leaving without saying a word.
SmackBack: Wow. Considering her past wrestling history of playing it light, and her recent return from neck surgery, that was the roughest we’ve seen Nikki Bella get. Working with a veteran like Natalya – who can take as much as Nikki can throw – can really let Nikki show more of herself. She’s improved a great deal in the past year or so. I’m far more interested in this feud now.
Second Match: Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
In a retribution match from Ziggler’s attack on Kalisto last week, Kalisto and Ziggler start of quickly, with Kalisto gaining an early advantage. It slows down and the two begin to show some collegiate style grappling, with Ziggler coming out with a slight advantage.
The former Kent State wrestler continues to use more amateur looking style holds, technical style, grounding the luchadore. Every time Kalisto gets any offence in, he’s quickly reversed.
Kalisto finally gets a few kicks in a row in, but Ziggler catches him quickly and throws him out of the ring. Kalisto rolls on the ground in pain and COMMERCIAL
Back from break and Ziggler still has control of the match, still working holds. I wonder if this is the start of the “shooter” Varsity Club style gimmick that was rumoured months ago.
Just as I finished typing that last part, Kalisto reversed a pin attempt and caught Ziggler for the three count. Kalisto steals the win!
Ziggler SNAPS and throws Kalisto the ground, before mounting the fallen wrestler and rifling off some vicious punches. He then goes out and grabs a chair and returns to the ring and brutalizes Kalisto some more. Cue the shocked kids in the crowd. Well, Ziggler is in full heel mode now.
Apollo Crews’ music hits and he runs down to defend his friend. Ziggler hits the ring first and hits Crews with the chair when he enters after him. He beats down Crews in the ring, and then beats down Kalisto again, who was trying to get back up. The crowd was nearly silent for a moment there. Like people were shocked how far he was going. That was savage.
SmackBack: Holy crow, you’d think Extreme Rules was up next, not the Royal Rumble. The first two matches of the night have been incredibly hard hitting. Effective in both cases. Ziggler looked like a broken man, mentally, after the loss and his beat down on Kalisto and Crews with the chairs was savagely realistic. The crowd was general concerned at one point – at first they seemed to forgive him for lashing out, but after the second and third chair shot, they were stunned it was still going. The shot of those kids with their jaws dropped will be on the Network for years. Ziggler gets his much needed heel turn, with two possible opponents. It’s most likely Crews, which is unfortunate. Kalisto has pulled out solid PPV matches working with Ryback and Baron Corbin. It would be nice to get to see him have one with a faster, smaller opponent. Hopefully they have a better opponent in mind.
Backstage Segment: Renee Young Interviews John Cena
John Cena immediately begins calling out Baron Corbin and listing off his accomplishments. He’s completely talking with more of his earlier hip-hop character flow and trash talking rhythm. Calling out the New Era. This reeks of a Cena heel turn. Could it? Could it be?
Third Match: Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: American Alpha (c) vs. The Wyatt Family
Kayfabe wise, Baton Rouge is Wyatt country. And they were received with a rockstar reaction. There were legit Beatlesque squeals from women. The swamp things are loved in the Bayou.
American Alpha come out and the two teams get at. Back and forth action, with Bray taking over on Gable. Gable nearly reverses a Sister Abigail attempt, before Wyatt and catches him and grounds him. He soon tags in Orton, who continues to beat down Gable.
Orton throws Gable out of the ring and beats him on the wall, then rolls him back in the ring. He goes for a pin, but only 2. He tags Bray back in, keeping Gable in the center of the ring away from his partner.
Gable slowly tries to battle to his corner, but Wyatt slams him down and tags Orton back in. Orton lands a gorgeous springboard suplex of the ropes, keeping Gable in the Wyatt corner. Once again, Bray is tagged back in.
Wyatt goes for a lariat, but Gable rolls under it and gets the hot tag on Jason Jordan.
He slams Wyatt, takes out Orton, and rages in the ring, removing his shoulder straps Angle style. He gets distracted by Luke Harper and turns into a lariat from Wyatt, who then tags in Orton. He’s soon thrown from the ring by a seething Viper.
Back from a quick commercial and Orton is still firmly in control of Jordan. He tags back in Wyatt, who lands a HUGE cannonball backdrop on Jordan. Wyatt runs from the corner to hit attack Jordan, who makes a quick surge and clotheslines Wyatt. Jordan tags in Gable, Wyatt on Orton.
Orton and Gable go at it with Gable landing a German Suplex pin attempt on Orton. Wyatt comes in to break up pin, Jordan fights him off.
Orton goes for his ring rope DDT and inadvertently knocks Luke Harper off the ring apron. He continues through and plants the DDT, and goes into his Apex Predator slither and fist bang. Harper gets up on the apron and yells at Orton, ticked off for getting knocked off. Orton turns and Gable rolls him up for the 1-2-3.
Orton and Harper confront in the middle of the ring, and Wyatt separates them from fighting each other. They both break free and Harper throws a Superkick at Orton but misses and hits Wyatt instead.
Wyatt walks around seething, then goes to each man in his face, seemingly saying “HIT ME” to each of them, staring both down. He then leaves the ring, with Harper and Orton both riled up.
SmackBack: Nice win for American Alpha – for a few seconds, it felt like they may pull a Sasha Banks and drop the titles in their first defence. Furthers the tension of a Wyatt Family dismantling of some sorts. Orton is looking to be in the shape of his career. He looks energized again. Gable on Jordan is Smackdown Live’s official “hot tag” counterpart to Enzo on Cass.
Backstage Segment: Becky Lynch, Daniel Bryan and Alexa Bliss
Backstage, Becky Lynch is trying to persuade Bryan that she deserves a title shot because she technically made Alexa Bliss tap out last week, when she unmasked La Luchadora as Bliss. Bliss storms in and says that she was just trying to help smoke out the real La Luchadora. Bryan says that Bliss will face Becky Lynch next Tuesday on Smackdown Live for the Women’s Championship and it will be inside a steel cage.
STEEL CAGE!!!!!! #SDLive
Fourth Match: Carmella (w/ James Ellsworth) vs. CJ Lunde
Carmella faces off against a local wrestler, CJ Lunde. Lunde gets in a remarkable amount of offence, and it takes a slight foot trip by Ellsworth to change the momentum. Carmella gets the win with the Code of Silence.
SmackBack: That was odd. CJ Lunde was a very retro old school character, played by Shimmer and Shine wrestler Thunder Kitty. She did pretty decent and got some solid offence. JBL made a nice Mildred Burke comparison, before going on tirade of late 90’s Jerry Lawler sexism. Felt a little awkward and took away from the match. Curious if her WWE name is a rib on backstage producer Arn Anderson
Backstage, Carmella says she wants to thank Ellsworth for being such a good luck charm, so next week she’s taking him on a shopping spree.
Main Event: John Cena vs. Baron Corbin
AJ Styles comes down to the ring and joins the commentary team. Both combatants get incredibly long intros.
They start off physical and tough, before Corbin takes Cena out to the ring, beating him in front of the announce table.
Cena gets in some offence here and there, but for the most part, the first few months are all Corbin. He’s giving Cena a beating.
Cena finally counters a Corbin attack with a few punches, but Corbin quickly lands a Deep Six to end the momentum. AJ Styles tells JBL that it’s no Deep Six, but actually a Sidewalk Slam. Corbin continues to beat down on Cena, but Cena finally catches Corbin and he enters into his four move Super Cena combo, finishing with the Attitude Adjustment and the three count.
Show ends with Cena pointing at a miserable Styles from the ring.
SmackBack: Apart from the last two minutes, it was another solid edition of Smackdown Live. But Super Cena emerging after the decimation Corbin put on him was frustrating. It definitely didn’t bury Corbin by any means – he put on a solid match – but it definitely seems to cool him off in the main event for now. Could have stood to have Corbin go over with interference so both sides left with something.
Some great storytelling and performances from Ziggler in his long awaited heel return, plus the physicality of the Natalya and Nikki Bella segment. Solid tag match, and nice to see CJ Lunde, the enhancement talent get some room to shine. Her look was unique and she’s a veteran of the ring. She could grow in NXT. No La Luchadora sighting, but stories are moving along nicely heading to Royal Rumble.