Smackdown Live returns live from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, just 48 hours removed from their December PPV, TLC. It featured some shocks, such as the upstart Alexa Bliss taking the Smackdown Women’s title from Becky Lynch, to the beautifully dark chemistry of Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton winning WWE Tag Team gold, to the outstanding physical confrontation between WWE Champion AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose. Tonight the Smackdown Live brand will wind down a few storylines and hopefully start a few new ones.
OPENING SEGMENT: AJ STYLES TAKES THE RING
AJ Styles opens the show, coming to the ring in his street clothes, with a cast on his left foot following the physical brutality of Sunday’s TLC. He says he wants to address the elephant in the room and the great tragedy from Sunday and shows a photo on the Titantron of the rip on his buttocks. He laughs at the crowd’s gullibility. He proceeds to say that unfortunately, he is not medically cleared to have his WWE World Championship match with James Ellsworth tonight.
Ellsworth’s music hits and he comes down with a puzzled look on his face, before he enters the ring and throws up his dukes like a Looney Tunes character. Ellsworth accuses AJ of faking the foot injury to get out of his match. That perhaps AJ was being protected by Daniel Bryan and was afraid because he’s already beaten Styles three times.
AJ responds by saying that Ellsworth should be worried about Dean Ambrose because he’s going to cave in Ellsworth’s face like his chin.
With that Ambrose music hits, he power walks to the ring, Dirty Deeds to Ellsworth, then leaves back up the ramp. AJ sits on the announce booth laughing at Ellsworth, laying out cold in the middle of the ring.
The announcers mention that we’ll be getting a celebration of Alexa Bliss’ win over Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s title, but up next, Rhyno and Heath Slater are invoking their rematch clause and going after Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt for the Smackdown Tag Team titles.
It quickly jumps to Bray with Randy Orton and Luke Harper behind him, grinning. We’re here….COMMERCIAL
SmackBack: Fun opening segment, all in about 10 minutes. Ambrose’s not verbal interaction and short and sweet take out of Ellsworth was great. Ambrose has lost his rematch ability, so AJ gets to move on (possibly) and now Ambrose is the thorn in Ellsworth’s side. This feels like Bugs Bunny hunting Elmer Fudd.
Anyone else find that latest commercial for Total Divas with the girls worried about Paige’s behaviour just a bit of a creepy foreshadowing to what eventually happened? Curse you real life problems. Now I kinda wanna watch Total Divas.
SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton w/ Luke Harper) vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno
Music kicks off, with the Randy Orton “Voices” mashed into the Wyatt’s song, and the Tag Team Champions make their way down to the ring, guided by their fireflies. They make their poses in the ring with a reaction as equal to that of Slater and Rhyno when their music hits. Uh oh, Vince. I think those people who boo who they should cheer and cheer who they should boo are back.
Orton and Slater start off in the ring, with the two exchanging close body locks before opening up. Just as Slater started momentum, a stiff Orton clothesline then a quick tag to Wyatt slowed him down. Slater shakes off a corner splash and tags in Rhyno to face Bray.
Rhyno sets up for the Gore early, but Wyatt rolls out of the ring quickly. Randy and Luke head to regroup with Bray and COMMERCIAL!
SmackBack: Part of me thinks that Luke Harper is grooming Bray Wyatt like chimpanzees in the wild during commercial breaks.
Back to the action and Wyatt and Rhyno are still in the ring, but this time Bray is in control. A couple quick pin attempts, but to no avail from the Wyatt Family. Bray tags in Orton, who takes over on a fallen Rhyno. The fans seem split on who they want to cheer for. As if they feel that Orton has made Wyatt a face rather than Bray turning Orton back into a heel.
Rhyno catches a break by knocking down Orton and tags in Slater, who explodes on a dazed Orton. A high knee to a leg lariat, followed by a neckbreaker, and Slater gets a 2-count on Orton. Orton recovers and catches Slater in his snap powerslam but Rhyno breaks up the count. Rhyno is thrown from the ring and Wyatt is tagged in. Bray quickly takes Slater down, locking him into the Sister Abigail. He teases the move but tags in Orton. He then whips Slater up from his knee into an awaiting RKO from Orton, who pins Slater to retain the titles for the Wyatt Family.
SmackBack: Not a fantastic match by any means – the confusion of the fans who to cheer for made momentum feel stagnant the entire match – but it told a good story in showcasing the unity between the Family right now. The Sister Abigail into an RKO was pretty sick though. These guys could be just the tag team Smackdown Live needed.
Backstage, Kalisto is stretching when he’s approached by backstage interviewer Charly Caruso, who asks him why he would want a rematch against Baron Corbin tonight. Kalisto says that he has one advantage over Corbin and that’s speed. “And speed kills.”
Back from commercial and Carmella comes down to the ring, ready to compete against Natalya. Carmella takes the mic and addresses her confession on Sunday that it was Natalya who attacked Nikki Bella at Survivor Series to take her spot. She says it’s because Nattie is jealous of Nikki and her success, especially since Total Bellas debuted. Natalya’s music hits and Nattie starts down the ramp, first stopping to give Carmella the death ray eyes.
Natalya jumps in attacks Carmella, chasing her from the ring before the match even gets started. The two run backstage and we see Natalya stalking the corridors looking for the Princess of Staten Island. She runs into Nikki and Nattie denies the accusations saying that Carmella can’t be trusted. Nikki just glares at Nattie and walks away.
Annnnnnnd apparently the match isn’t happening anymore. We’re told that MizTV tonight will feature special guest Dean Ambrose and COMMERCIAL!
Back to the show and Baron Corbin is stopped by Charly who asks for a response to Kalisto’s comments earlier in the night. Corbin doesn’t seem too worried.
THE ASCENSION (Viktor & Konnor) vs. THE HYPE BROS (Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley)
The Ascension start off in the ring and the Hype Bros make their way to the ring. As they pose in the ring, the Ascension (sporting slightly altered make-up for the 10th time this year) pay homage to the new Family on the throne of the tag team division and applaud that darkness is taking over.
Viktor and Ryder start off in the ring, with some fast paced action out the gate. Viktor throws Ryder into the corner where Konnor pummels Zack outside the ring. Quick tags by Konnor and Viktor and the two trade some big hits on Zack. Viktor takes down Ryder in the center of the ring, while Mojo tries to hype the crowd.
The Ascension continue to use quick tags, but a tag to Konnor leads to Konnor taking a hangman neckbreaker from Ryder and he tags in Rawley who quickly runs over a newly tagged in Viktor. Rawley tries a full nelson slam on Viktor but the pin is broken up by Konnor.
Viktor is picked up by Rowley and Ryder, via the top rope, lay the Hype Ryder on Viktor for the quick pin.
SmackBack: Poor Ascension. Poor, poor Ascension. COMMERCIAL!
We return to a new edition of the most talked about must see TV on television, MizTV! WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz makes his way to the ring, accompanied by his wife, Maryse. He quickly welcomes his guest for tonight, “The Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose. For the second time tonight, Ambrose’s theme music hits and he comes down to the ring. He takes his seat next to Miz and Maryse.
Miz fires quickly at Ambrose, insisting that Ambrose must be angry at not winning the title, angry because his little protegee James Ellsworth stabbed him in the back. Ambrose says he isn’t angry, but he’s a little surprised that someone who he helped get into the WWE would do that to him.
Miz turns it back on Ambrose, pointing out that Ambrose used Ellsworth to get at AJ Styles and that he just got what he deserved.
Ambrose is starting to get riled up and agitated and the Miz stops him and offers him the first ever MizTV Participation Award. The crowd actually starts a “You deserve it!” to Ambrose. Just as Ambrose is threatening to place his new award in the Miz’ rectum, Daniel Bryan comes out to the top of the ramp.
Bryan announces that tonight’s main event will be an Intercontinental Championship between The Miz and Dean Ambrose, leaving the crowd the loudest it’s been all night, as the Miz looks on in furious anger in a sea of “YES!” chants and a COMMERCIAL!
SmackBack: Well, that kind of came out of nowhere. Many were hoping that The Miz would begin a new Intercontinental title feud after his match with Ziggler this past weekend, but I’m not sure if Ambrose was on everyone’s mind. Now this could be a one-off – it’s most likely got a swerve coming to keep the belt on the Miz and advance the Ellsworth-Styles story – but if not, it wouldn’t be terrible. The Miz is coming off a summer where he’s been arguably one of Smackdown’s most consistent and captivating storytellers and his run with the IC title has been solid. Ziggler was merely a prop to continue to build Miz’ heel persona, despite people wanting the opposite. A run against a main event Superstar like Dean Ambrose could actually go a long way in bringing the Miz back up into that stratosphere. I guess we’ll find out in half an hour or so. Either way, it’s a fresh match that we haven’t seen in a while. Unlike the next contest…
KALISTO vs. BARON CORBIN
Back from commercial break and Kalisto makes his way to the ring as they review highlight stills from the Chairs Match that Kalisto and Corbin had at TLC on Sunday. The lights go out and Baron Corbin makes his way to the ring under his coloured lights.
Corbin shows off his strength early with a devastating shoulder block that sends a running Kalisto spinning into the mat hard. Corbin tosses Kalisto from the ring and stands defiantly in the center of the ring.
Kalisto comes up and kicks Corbin in the head, pulling him outside, and then launching an aerial strike. Corbin reenters the ring where he’s met by a firecracker Kalisto with a quick series of fast moves. Kalisto goes to the top rope but lands on his feet as Corbin gets up and quickly finishes him off with an End of Days. Kalisto may have put up a fight in past ones, but this one was over quickly.
Backstage, we see Nikki Bella backstage walking. She’s mobbed by a small British kid named Sophie Grace. Thankfully, I have no idea who she is, nor do I have any desire to find out.
SmackBack: Sure it was a bit of a squash for Kalisto, but this feud has run it’s course. It was time to end it quick and painlessly. Corbin can move on to someone a little meatier, and Kalisto can perhaps face someone with more similar styles to properly showcase what he can do in the ring.
TYLER BREEZE w/ Fandango vs. CHAD GABLE w/ Jason Jordan
Earlier in the day, American Alpha took exception to Breezango’s fashion critique so now they’re fighting it out in the ring!
Tyler Breeze faces Chad Gable to start the match and after an early bit of offence from Gable, Breeze takes over and grounds him. Gable turns the tables with an exploder on Breeze and starts to show some offence before Breeze throws him out the ring. Fandango runs to attack Gable, but he’s met by a suplex from Jordan.
Back in the ring, Gable catches Breeze in a German suplex pin for the win and COMMERCIAL!
SmackBack: Breezango had a lot of potential initially in their feud with Golden Truth. Hopefully they get another look because there’s some real talent in them hills. They should be a pair of John Morrison’s not Rico’s. The WWE crowd still doesn’t seem as convinced of American Alpha as the Full Sail crowd of NXT was, which may be why the WWE is stalling on putting the belts on them now as they seemed to be heading to when the duo debuted. But they’re too good to be ignored for long. A potential dream pairing of a mentorship from Kurt Angle could be just the push this team needs to get over that hump with the casual fans.
ALEXA BLISS CELEBRATION CEREMONY
New Smackdown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss comes down to the ring to celebrate her victory over Becky Lynch on Sunday, but it’s not long before the former champ comes down to interrupt the party to demand her rematch right now. Bliss laughs it off and Lynch will have to wait for another day, but not before faking like she was about to engage. But she turns her belt to the ring and COMMERCIAL!
INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: The Miz (c) w/ Maryse vs. Dean Ambrose
Back to the ring and Ambrose is already in the ring. The Miz’ music hits and the six time IC champion makes his way to the ring, ready to defend his belt.
The match was solid enough match with some decent back and forth between the two, with The Miz getting in some solid offence on Ambrose, still selling the pain from TLC throughout the match. Ambrose goes up to the top rope but Maryse pushes Ambrose to the mat while the ref is distracted.
Ellsworth comes down to the ring, seemingly to make amends and help Ambrose. But he inadvertently distracts the ref by telling him to watch Maryse from interfering and the ref misses Ambrose’s pin. Ambrose, furious, gets up and confronts Ellsworth only to turn into the Skull Crushing finale and the three count. Ellsworth is left stunned and upset that he has just screwed Ambrose again.
SmackBack: So clearly it was just a pit stop on the Ambrose – Ellsworth storyline, but The Miz looked good against the former WWE World Champion in the process. Ellsworth has definitely won the Golden Ticket for pro wrestlers right now, but it’s going to be curious to see how he gets used once his ties to the main event are severed. Best moment of the night was the Wyatt Family retaining their titles, effectively ending any feud with Slater and Rhyno, which means they will move on to a new chapter – and that Sister Abigail into the RKO was worth the watch. More storytelling than wrestling this time around, but it sets up for an interesting next few weeks of storylines.