Smackdown Live comes to us from Corpus Christi, Texas and the American Bank Center, just 48 hours since the Royal Rumble. And while Raw got more matches on the card, it was Smackdown Live that stole many of the headlines, as John Cena tied ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair with his 16th World title, defeating AJ Styles, and Randy Orton last eliminated Raw‘s Roman Reigns to emerge the 2017 Royal Rumble winner, heading for a showdown at Wrestlemania 33. Raw pulled off the first post-Rumble shocker with the debut of Samoa Joe attacking Seth Rollins on Triple H‘s behalf to close out the show…will Smackdown Live pull off any surprises of their own, now that we’re only two weeks away from Smackdown‘s next brand exclusive PPV, Elimination Chamber ’17? Let’s see what we’ve got in store!
Backstage, Smackdown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon announces that the six mean in the Elimination Chamber itself will be AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, The Miz, Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin, facing WWE Champion John Cena.
Opening Segment: John Cena Returns as WWE Champion
John Cena comes out talking about returning with the WWE Championship, but he says let’s get this going and announces “IF YOU WANT SOME, COME GET SOME!”. Looks like he’s defending the title like he did when he was US Champion?
Bray Wyatt’s music hits and he and Randy Orton come out, where Bray Wyatt banters about “the more things change, the more they stay the same” and that when the dust clears at Elimination Chamber, we will enter “the Era of the Wyatts”. Orton and Bray circle Cena into the ring.
The lights go out and when they return, Luke Harper is standing there. Bray smiles, but Harper turns and sides with John Cena!
Shane McMahon comes out and says that tonight it’s going to be Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton facing the team of John Cena and Luke Harper. And that match is next.
1st Match: Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton vs. WWE Champion John Cena & Luke Harper
John Cena and Bray Wyatt start off, but after a few feel out moves, Wyatt tags in Orton. Orton and Cena stare off, but Cena tags in Harper, who immediately takes down Orton.
Harper gains an early advantage, beating Orton down and then out to ringside. Harper continues his assault, smashing Orton into the announce table, off the ring apron, then back into the ring. Orton tags Wyatt who confronts Harper in the ring. Harper stares at Wyatt, half in fear, then returns slowly and tags back in Cena.
Wyatt gets the upper hand, grounding Cena and working him into his corner, tagging in Orton, who continues to beat down Cena in the corner, kicking him out the COMMERCIAL.
During the break, Orton threw Cena off the announce table, and we return to Orton landing his Draping DDT on Cena. He stands up and gloats to Luke Harper, before dropping and banging his fists on the mat.
He goes for an RKO, but Cena counters and both lariat each other, knocking each other down. Orton recovers first and tags in Wyatt, who walks over Cena and goes over to stare at Harper in the corner, who again, appears fearful.
Wyatt turns and continues to work on Cena. Bray misses a swanton and quickly tags back in Orton, who catches Cena in a quick powerslam. Orton is distracted by Harper, and Cena fights back, but Orton eventually gets Cena back down. Harper comes in to break things up, and Wyatt comes back in to break the two up. Harper kicks Orton, but is put in a Sister Abigail by Bray Wyatt.
Harper counters in and attempts to Sister Abigail Wyatt instead. Orton slams him off, and Wyatt connects on a second Sister Abigail attempt, leaving Harper on the ground. He turns into John Cena who lifts him up for the Attitude Adjustment.
Orton pulls Wyatt down and Cena walks into an RKO and the 1-2-3.
Your Winner: Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt, following an RKO, pinning John Cena.
SmackBack: What a great match. Weird dynamic but it worked. Cena was actually an afterthought to the dynamic and stunning storytelling involving Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton and Luke Harper. The fear in Harper’s eyes was powerful – Bray and Luke are both masters of their characters now. Orton fits in like an awkward glove – it’s great stuff, but you just know it’s going to fall apart. Harper got a very receptive reaction from the Corpus Christi crowd, which is encouraging. After last week’s singles match between Orton and Harper, a PPV rematch at Elimination Chamber would be a nice little chapter in the Saga before Randy Orton goes on to main event Wrestlemania.
2nd Match: Carmella (w/ James Ellsworth) vs. Delilah Dawson
James Ellsworth comes down to the ring, with Delilah Dawson already in the ring, dressed in his new bling and outfit that Carmella picked out for him last week shopping. He gives a big introduction and then out comes Carmella to the ring.
Much like last time, the indie talent gets a pretty good match in before Ellsworth trips Dawson and Carmella takes over and pulls off the win.
Your Winner: Carmella, by submission.
SmackBack: I like Smackdown’s approach with using these indie wrestlers as enhancement. Unlike the squash matches of Nia Jax and Braun Strowman on Raw, these ladies are getting solid two minute showcases in then Ellsworth cheats so Carmella can win. For those keeping score, Delilah Dawson was portrayed by indie wrestler Delilah Doom (RISE, WrestleCircus), a protegee of WWE Superstar Sho Funaki (although it was nice to see her get some offence this time around, as she previously one of those Nia Jax squashes last year).
3rd Match: Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
Kalisto comes out first, looking for a little payback for the way Ziggler attacked him a few weeks back when he’d come out to help Dolph. Ziggler comes out next, with a new (old?) swagger in his step.
Ziggler goes on the attack quickly, grounding Kalisto early and landing a big elbow. Kalisto lands a few kicks and gets to his feet, then hits Ziggler with a springboard crossbody for the first attempt but no luck. Ziggler kicks out and takes over, as Apollo Crews watches on from backstage.
Ziggler grounds Kalisto again, yelling “WHY DO YOU MAKE ME DO THIS?” to Kalisto. Kalisto lands a quick kick and pushes Ziggler back, but Ziggler lands a quick superkick and gets the 1-2-3 on a knockout boot.
Your Winner: Dolph Ziggler, by pinfall, following a Superkick
Following the match, Ziggler tries to unmask Kalisto, but Crews comes out and chases Ziggler away.
SmackBack: The final straw of the Kalisto and Ziggler feud, which was just setting up the upcoming Ziggler vs. Crews feud. Kalisto did his part, but he could use something with some more meat again. He actually had an underrated feud with Ryback just before the Big Guy left to become a Twitter star.
4th Match: Naomi & Becky Lynch vs. Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss & Mickie James
Solid opening match-up for the Royal Rumble Pre-Show, the match was an oddity – a 6-person tag match that actually meant something. It advanced and grounded three different storylines in the women’s division on Smackdown Live – Mickie vs Becky, Nikki vs Natalya and Alexa vs Naomi. This time, we pair down to pairs, with Naomi joining Becky against Bliss and her new ally, Mickie James.
Naomi comes to the ring first, followed by her tag partner, Becky Lynch (a duo that Naomi dubbed Glow Fire). James comes out first for her team but waits at the top until Bliss comes out, and they come down together.
Becky and Mickie James start off in the ring, but Mickie blows Becky a kiss and tags in Alexa Bliss instead. Lynch takes over early, backing Bliss into her corner and tagging in Naomi.
Naomi works on Bliss early, landing a few leg drops and kicks, but a long distance kick ends up badly and she hits the ropes hard. Bliss tags in James, who quickly attacks Naomi and goes for the first pin attempt, but Naomi kicks out at two.
James tags back in Alexa who continues to beat down on Naomi, stopping her from tagging in Lynch. Alexa seemingly hurts herself on a flip, and both go and hot tag their respective partners.
Lynch gets the upperhand with James, landing her in the corner, landing several kicks then landing a Bexploder Suplex. Lynch climbs up to the top turnbuckle, but Bliss knocks her off and James kicks Lynch in the face and goes for the pin. Naomi makes it at two to break up the count and COMMERCIAL
We come back from commercial, and Mickie is working over Becky Lynch in their corner, with help from Alexa Bliss. Mickie drags her to the middle of the ring and Becky fights back briefly, before James regains control, landing a hurricanrana from the top rope on Becky, but only gets a two count.
Bliss and Naomi end up tagged in and Bliss pummels on Naomi, with help from Mickie. Becky comes in and takes out Mickie James to the ringside.
Naomi flattens Bliss and lands a springboard split legged moonsault for the 1-2-3.
Your Winner: Naomi and Becky Lynch, after Naomi pinned Alexa Bliss, following a springboard split leg moonsault
SmackBack: A fun match that saw all four get in some offence. Naomi got the big win to continue to build her up, and it appears she’s using a new finisher. Impressively done, highlighting the athleticism Naomi truly possesses.
Backstage, American Alpha is being interviewed and Chad Gable is complaining that the Tag Team Champions aren’t getting any display on Smackdown and they have no challengers. So they’re going to go down to the ring and issue an open challenge. To any one.
SmackBack: I smell a Revival debut for Smackdown Live’s big post-Rumble shocker. Although just my luck it’s the returning Usos. Or the Ascension with their new masks.
5th Match: Tag Team Open Challenge: Smackdown Tag Team Champions American Alpha (Chad Gable & Jason Jordan) vs. ???
American Alpha enters the ring first and there’s a quiet pause as we wait to find outAAAAAAHHHCRAPITSTHEUSOS.
Okay, to be fair, I don’t mind the new heel Usos. I was just hoping for the RevivWHHHA? The Ascension IS coming out now and wait, now the Vaudevillains?
Breezango comes out next, followed quickly by Heath Slater and Rhyno.
So apparently, this Open Challenge has turned into a Royal Rumble, as everyone just starts to fight everyone. At least it’s easier to figure out than the Impact Grand Championship. Seriously, does anyone know how to score that?
They literally just beat the hell out of each other and at the end of the scrum, it’s American Alpha standing nose to nose to Heath Slater and Rhyno. And…that’s it.
Was that even a thing?
SmackBack: The problem with Smackdown Live is that they’ve devalued all the tag teams not named American Alpha or the Usos, that no one feels important enough to care. Which is sad, because the Ascension, Breezango and Vaudevillains are all solid performers and just need some tweaking and a little more opportunity. This just feel like fluff.
Natalya and Nikki are both called into Daniel Bryan’s office where, after breaking them up from arguing, he tells them both that they will be facing each other at Elimination Chamber.
6th Match: WWE Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles (Non-Title Match)
Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose enters first, followed by AJ Styles. The Miz and Maryse come down and join the commentary team.
The two start off slowly, trading holds and locks. Smackdown Live has made a history of late with slow starts to matches, but they’ve always cranked it up once they found their pace.
The match only lasts about five minutes, before Baron Corbin’s music hits and he comes down to also join the commentary.
Average match between the two, as the focus goes on Miz and Baron battling on commentary, before Ambrose takes control by launching Styles out the ring. He goes for a running dive, but eats a Styles forearm from the ground. AJ then slowly rolls in while Ambrose recovers his senses.
Styles goes for a Phenomenal Forearm but is caught into a Dirty Deeds. Styles counters that and the two trade moves, until Ambrose turns a vertical suplex into a backslam for a 2.9999 count.
The intensity starts to pick up and Styles goes for a Styles Clash but Ambrose scampers out of it and lands a Lunatic Lariat, but both men are down and out for the count.
Styles ends up on the floor, but Ambrose lands a top rope Macho Man elbow, but the action is distracted as Corbin decks the Miz. The two start fighting, just as Ambrose goes for the pin. Ambrose turns and dives on Miz and Corbin, taking them out.
Ambrose climbs back in but is caught by Styles in the Styles Clash, and takes the loss.
Your Winner: AJ Styles, by pinfall, following a Styles Clash.
After AJ leaves, The Miz comes in and lands a Skull Crushing Finale on Ambrose. He turns into Corbin and an End of Days, who then picks up Ambrose for an End of Days. He stares up at Styles to end the show.
SmackBack: The match itself was wholly unimpressive, but the narrative was advanced slightly and necessity for the Elimination Chamber match. Sometimes Smackdown’s follow up show to a Big Four falls a little flat as it has to rush to it’s next PPV event. Some good matches tonight, but the tag team open challenge was a dud and exposed the lack of viable contenders in the tag team division (storyline wise), and the main event lacked the spark of past contests. Following the hangover from last night’s Samoa Joe debut probably didn’t help either.
ELIMINATION CHAMBER CARD (as of tonight’s episode)
WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match:
John Cena (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz
Singles Match: Natalya vs. Nikki Bella