The Road To Wrestlemania picked up a bit more speed last night as we hit our last Smackdown ppv event before next month’s big event, Elimination Chamber. It was an overall decent show, that showcased some of the blue brand’s strengths as a show, and some of where it’s weaknesses lie. Time to break the show down (break down the show) by matches, and seeing how the individual pieces and stories all lined up as we get ready for the big one next month. I’ll just put this out right now, also I’m not covering the preshow stuff, because a, I didn’t watch it, and b, WWE has yet to make a preshow worth watching to me. You can put all the wrestling fan podcast hosts (sorry, Sam Roberts) that you want in the preshow panel, unless it’s Wrestlemania, I’m not going to be watching additional talk of the show before what already was going to be a long event. I have a life..sort of, so I can’t give up my whole Sunday evening for preshow chatter and a Mojo Rawley match. Not gonna happen.
The main show itself kicked off with our first of three women’s matches of the evening, Becky Lynch vs. the returning Mickie James.
This was a decent opening match, and it’s great seeing Mickie James back where she first made a name for herself in the business. David Otunga was talking about possible ring rust for James since she’s been out of the business for 7 years. Now, I know that WWE is the big game in town, but she’s been working pretty consistently since she’s been gone, TNA, GWF, the indies, she’s been working. But in the WWE’s version of the world, it’s them or nothing it seems. Or, Japan, as is the case for how they packaged AJ Styles.
But back to the match at hand, it was a pretty back and forth match, it ended too quickly for my taste, with a rollup. I hate matches that end in a rollup, it just seems like the quick/easy way out of a story. That’s just lazy writing to me, as a writer. Maybe this story isn’t over yet though, it remains to be seen what will happen on tuesday.
Match Grade- C
Meanwhile, James Ellsworth and Carmella are up in the luxury boxes, watching the show like a douchey Statler and Waldorf. I really think they have no idea what to do with the man. I liked it when he first came in, an American Santino Marella for the New Era kids, but now it seems like they have no idea what to do with him, or Carmella, so they paired them together. I mean, at least they’re getting tv time, but come on guys, this brand split was supposed to flesh out the overall roster, and some people are still getting left in the dust here.
Handicap Match- Apollo Crews and Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
This match kicks off with Ziggler attacking Kalisto mid entrance, in a move that shows that WWE 2K17 is pretty close to how the shows are, and gets him some heel heat to boot, which he really needs. At first I was liking this new turn for Ziggler, but it feels to me like he’s trying too hard to be a bad guy these days. The best heels, or the best characters in anything really just come from not forcing stuff, and that’s all he knows how to do it seems as of late, either force us to try to like him like in his feud with The Miz a few months back when he was still a face, or this stuff now, he’s trying too hard, and as a showoff, that’s not a good look.
Match itself was just filler pretty much, they still have no idea what to do with Apollo Crews on the main roster unfortunately, which sucks because I’ve seen some of his indie stuff and when he was in NXT, the guy can move, and he’s decent on the mic, you just have to give him stuff to work from.
It ends with Kalisto forcing a distraction from Ziggler as he comes hobbling down the entrance way, Crews kicks Ziggy in the head, then Kalisto gets a few revenge kicks in for good measure, before a sneaky tag from Crews hitting Ziggler with a powerbomb and the 1-2-3.
Ziggler gets some heel heat afterwards by attacking Kalisto with a steel chair, and then putting Apollo Crews’ ankles one by one into the same chair and stomping on it. Which enlists chants from the crowd of ‘Thank You Ziggler’. I guess the people aren’t really feeling Apollo Crews.
Match grade- C
Tag Team Turmoil Match For The Smackdown Tag Titles: Heath Slater and Rhyno vs Breezango vs. American Alpha vs. The Ascension vs. The Vaudevillains vs. The Usos.
We start off with Slater and Rhyno vs. Breezango. Slater and Fandango start off the match, then switching it up, their partners take a turn in the ring. Slater hits a quick tag in for a double team attack. Then Fandango comes back in, trying to turn the tables around, which is unsuccessful as Rhyno hits a gore for the win, taking the fashion police of the WWE out of the equation for this match.
Vaudevillains come out next, and I really wish they’d do more with these guys. There was an audience for their brand of old old school wrestling when they were in NXT, it just didn’t translate well to the bigger arena audiences it seems, but I’ve always dug the gimmick of early 20’s style guys. Anyways, they run into the ring, and they take out Rhyno, and things are going their way momentarily, but in the end Slater hits Aiden English with a DDT, and the 1-2-3, and it’s say goodnight to the Vaudevillains.
I’m really impressed with Slater/Rhyno tonight, I thought their run as a tag team was going to end a few months back, but they keep it going, if only for the fact that the tag roster on Smackdown isn’t the deepest it could possibly be, to put it nicely. I do like what they did to The Usos in their heel turn, at first, but they’ve gotten lost in the shuffle too it seems as of late.
They take out Slater/Rhyno in fairly quick fashion, superkicking Slater for the pin, like they’re a less entertaining Young Bucks. And then it’s time for the champs, American Alpha, Chad Gable and Jason Jordan to show the Uso’s how its done.
The Usos meet them out on the ramp and they start fighting from their, this is one rivalry that never really went anywhere from American Alpha’s initial main roster debut. They fight their way back into the ring, and AA hits the double team on the Usos. The Usos hit them back with a double team attack of their own and this goes back and forth for a bit until American Alpha hits them with one more double team and Gable hits the pin, taking out The Usos. Gable turns around after the pin to get a superkick, and The Usos start beating down Jordan and Gable as the refs try to get them out of their. This feud isn’t over yet, not by a long shot. Gable gets Irish whipped into the steel steps outside, and Jordan gets hit with a Superfly splash before all is said and done.
Out comes The Ascension next with the champs still out cold. Could we see new tag champs tonight? And The Ascension of all people? They did win on Smackdown last week so it’s possible now. I’m actually marking out over this possibility. The Ascension grabs Jordan for their double team finisher and they hit it, Gable breaks up the pin just in the nick of time though.
Viktor tags in and they hit another double team, it’s all but over for American Alpha but then Gable hits the double team on Viktor, retaining their titles.
This was a very well put together match with the thin tag roster that the show has. I still hold to my belief that all the tag teams should be on one show, and all the women on another. Both shows have been suffering from thin rosters in both of these specialized divisions, and combining those two would make a unique attraction for whichever show has them. And they could even alternate in years, one year Smackdown gets the women, then Raw next year, and vice versa with the tags. But, I’m just a fan, what do I know about what people want to see?
Match grade- C+
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
Nikki Bella comes out first, getting the home state pop from the crowd, as they were in Arizona last night. Natalya comes out next, and hits Nikki with a ‘You Can’t See Me’ taunt, then slaps her, and we’re in action here. This match was decent, but not the feud culminating match I’d figured it was going to be. The buildup to the match was fantastic, but the match itself was merely okay, and especially the finish, ending in a double countout. If the rumors are true that Nikki Bella will a. retire again after Wrestlemania, and also be in a mixed tag match with her and her boyfriend John Cena against The Miz and Maryse, then they really dropped the ball here with this whole feud. Great buildup, but the match itself didn’t resolve anything.
Match grade- D
Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton
I’ve been loving this whole story with Randy and the Wyatt Family. It’s had a real slow burn to it, which you don’t get a lot in wrestling stories these days, and as we have it now, The Wyatt Family is just consisting of Bray and Randy, with both Harper and Rowan (the original two members) left hanging in the breeze. Well at least we see Harper on tv still. Lord knows what happened to Erick Rowan. Randy still gets the face pops, and even still acts like a face seemingly sometimes, even when he’s supposed to be a heel. But people dig the whole Wyatt Family gimmick, so it makes sense. People are cheering for Harper too, so this match is pretty much good guy vs good guy, something you don’t see too often.
Luke Harper hits a suicide dive on Randy Orton midway through the match, which I was super impressed by. He hit that thing like a 6 1/2 foot tall Dean Ambrose, didn’t know he could do that. Randy took control back in epic fashion though, culminating in hitting Harper with an insane superplex off the top rope. Randy’s readying the RKO at this point, but then Harper hits him with a superkick leaving Orton staggering, and then another superkick (it’s almost like a superkick party tonight, this show) And Orton is down, but not out, as he kicks out at two. Back and forth action now, both men refusing to give up this fight. RKO outta nowhere, in the end though, and Orton picks up the win here keeping his momentum going on his way to the main event of Wrestlemania.
Match grade- A
WWE Smackdown Women’s Title Match- Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi
I’m really hoping that Naomi picks up the win here tonight, it’s a really fast paced match, faster than I could really keep notes on, and watch the match simultaneously, but in the end, Naomi has the title, and I couldn’t be happier. She’s deserved that spot for a long time now, and now I just hope that she keeps it for longer than a month, as the Smackdown Women’s title has had a lot of hot potato action going on with it since they first brought it in to the company.
Match grade- C
WWE Championship Match Elimination Chamber- John Cena vs. The Miz vs. Baron Corbin vs. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt
And now, at last, it’s time for the main event. Six men enter, one man leaves with the WWE title (I guess it’s back to being just the WWE championship again. I really thought it was the WWE World title, and Raw had the Universal title to be one step up from the World title, but whatever)
We start off with John Cena vs. AJ Styles. These two have proven time and again that they can carry a great match, and tonight was no exception. Really split crowd here, they love both of these guys, a lot of back and forth action here, nobody really has an advantage over the other. Up next, Dean Ambrose is released from his pod, making this a triple threat match. Still not sure why he’s in this match, he really should be defending that IC title, but I don’t book the matches, I just write about them.
Ambrose climbs atop the pod, and takes out John Cena with an elbow drop. Well, technically he takes out both himself and Cena. Ambrose and Styles are mixing it up a bit until…Holy Crap, Cena just hit a double German suplex on Styles and Ambrose. The strength on this guy is insane. We’re at 10 seconds to the next entrant….who will it be..?
Bray Wyatt is out next, dominating this thing early on. Cena and Styles climb to the top of the cage, each trying to knock the other one off and down goes Cena. Ambrose..well it’s not quite a suplex but he hurls AJ and Bray off the top rope, and the crowd is just going nuts.
Now enter Baron Corbin, in his first Elimination Chamber match, and he’s dominating here, throwing people around like rag dolls, only to be eliminated by Dean Ambrose with a rollup while being distracted by The Miz, who should be coming out now, but is hiding in his pod still. Corbin takes out his frustration on Ambrose, in a series of brutal attacks, until he’s removed. Miz takes advantage of the situation, and pins the prone Ambrose, 1-2-3, he’s out. Now we’re down to four.
Miz continues to taunt Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan by using his moveset, attacking Wyatt and Cena with a series of kicks, then Miz is taken out next, in an impressive Attitude Adjustment by John Cena. It’s down to AJ, Cena, and Bray now and here’s where I start to get nervous, what if it really is going to be Orton Vs. Cena at Wrestlemania again this year? Cena hits both Styles and Bray with a double 5 Knuckle Shuffle, so a 10 Knuckle Shuffle?
Cena climbs up the pod, jumping on top of both men after they get back up again. All three men are out now, Rocky II style. Who’s getting up first? Of course it’s Cena. Bray hits Cena with a Sister Abigail!! I’m marking out now! Cena is eliminated! Down to AJ vs Bray, and Bray hits Styles with the same move, Bray wins! Bray Wyatt has won the WWE Championship! Hell yes. Randy Orton looks on from the sidelines, knowing that he’ll have to face his ally/friend now to get that title back. This Wrestlemania just got a lot more interesting.
Match grade- A
Overall it was a pretty good ppv with only a few bits of filler matches, and a lot of quality matches. It did what it was supposed to do and helps shake things up as we get closer to Wrestlemania next month. Now to see what happens this week on the shows as we get closer to that big day.