WWE Smackdown Live began with a recap of the events involving Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton over the last few weeks. The video focused specifically on Randy’s deception and destruction of Bray’s “Hallowed Ground” last week. This video segment was a precursor to both Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan kicking off the show to provide some clarity as to what was next as it related to the main event of Wrestlemania. Both made their arguments as to who they think deserved the opportunity to face the Eater of Worlds at the grandest stage of them all. No big shock that Daniel was advocating for Randy, and Shane for AJ Styles. Daniel argued that it has been tradition for over twenty years that the winner of the Royal Rumble be the one who is granted the opportunity of a title shot at Wrestlemania. Shane on the other hand referenced the fact that Randy abdicated that opportunity three weeks prior. Randy’s actions set in motion a series of events that eventually led to AJ Styles winning the opportunity to face Bray in Randy’s absence. Daniel countered Shane’s point with the fact that Randy executed one of the greatest plans in WWE history and set the WWE’s title match plans ablaze just like Bray’s cabin. Shane and Daniel knew that the answer to their dilemma would not come from debate, but rather a match that they announced earlier that day on social media. For the first time ever, The Viper Randy Orton vs. The Phenomenal AJ Styles. Anything to say good ole JR? ” IT’S GONNA BE A SLOBBER KNOCKER!!
After the announcement both Shane and Daniel were walking backstage discussing what a great match they had just made. Daniel looking to the side and saying “this should be interesting” was the harbinger of the arrival of AJ Styles. AJ started asking where the two had been, that he had been trying to get in touch with them all weekend and keep them from making a huge mistake. He also thought that there is an anti-AJ Styles conspiracy, but that it didn’t matter. He would destroy Randy Orton and that it would be Shane and Daniel’s fault.
This would not be the only first tonight. Our opening match was a “contest” between John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. Carmella and James Ellsworth. This match was made after Carm-Ellsworth interupted an interview with John and Nikki and called them “total phonies”. Prior to the match we were graced by the presence of a Carmella merch clad Ellsworth in the ring. Side note, I’m pretty sure my favorite version of JBL is when he has to call a match involving James Ellsworth. He’s vicious. Ok, back to the match. James compared his record against AJ Styles against John Cena’s. In his mind, him beating AJ the first three times he faced him versus the extended amount of time it took John to beat Styles made it a sure thing that the man who puts the “mack” in Smackdown would beat Mr. Hustle, Loyalty and Respect. He then introduced Carmella how he only can, very awkwardly. After both tag teams were introduced, and the match was about to start, the Miz and Maryse made their way to the ring. They obviously wanted to take a close look at the match, being that the of the interview that Carmella and James interrupted was how Nikki was upset that Maryse slapped Cena after a verbal confrontation between him and Miz. As the self proclaimed “It Couple” walked to the ring, Carmella took full advantage and super kicked Nikki flush on the chin.
*Of course a commercial break*
As we returned Nikki threw Carmella out of the ring and was able to tag John. During the time it took James to man up and try to fight John the Miz had an almost shoot-esque tirade about John. It was essentially about how John was the one who made this match because it was Women’s History Month. The fact that he made the match with his girlfriend so that it would look good for him and further his brand. Then as John and Nikki mirrored each other’s moves, a five knuckle shuffle/AA/STFU, the Miz continued to mock them. I love the Miz for the simple fact that he reminds me a lot of CM Punk in the way that he talks on the mic. It adds some much needed edge to the storyline, and you always wonder how much of the stuff he is saying he actually believes. It’s amazing to listen to him. Oh, John and Nikki won the match. Shocker right? As John and Nikki celebrated with a kiss in the ring, Miz and Maryse grabbed them from outside the ring and dragged them to the floor. Miz sent Cena flying into the steel steps and Maryse pushed Nikki into the ring post. It was now time for the crowd to be blessed with some AWWEESSOOOOMMMMEEE commentary. He called John’s relationship with Nikki is a huge lie. He said that his love for his wife was true love. The shoot continued on as he said that once Miz and Maryse became a popular couple, all of a sudden it was now OK to talk about John and Nikki’s relationship on WWE programming, even though it wasn’t allowed to be spoken about before. See what I mean about whether or not he believes what he says? I’m buying this as a legit gripe hook, line and sinker the entire time. He continued on and on about how John does everything for his brand, including finding a perfect “girlfriend” that would make him even more marketable. Miz’s biggest problem with the relationship itself is that it spits in the face of every other real couple, and it was going to stop. Miz handed the mic to Maryse and she finished off the verbal thrashing with “Hey Nikki….break that bitch!”, obviously mocking Nikki for telling her “I’ll break you bitch” last week. Get ready kids, this is going to be a fun feud, I’m calling it right now.
An announcement video of Ravishing Rick Rude was interrupted by Curt Hawkins in the ring screaming for Dean Ambrose. He accused Dean of starting something he couldn’t finish last week, and that if he was a man he would come out and face him. The Lunatic Fringe never being one to back down from a fight obviously oblidged. As Dean approached the ring, Curt rushed at him. His aggression was rewarded with a brutal clothesline, and Dean left him in a heap as he continued to the ring. He announced that he was going to come out to the ring to challenge Baron Corbin to come out, but he didn’t think that Baron would have the guts to do so. After a minute or two of Dean questioning Corbin’s masculinity, Baron appeared on the big screen. He told Dean that he didn’t come to the ring for anyone unless he was ready. He also didn’t understand why Dean was in such a hurry to get a beating. Dean had heard enough and told Baron that if he wouldn’t come to the ring, Dean would go to him. He exited the ring, hit Dirty Deeds on Curt Hawkins for good measure, and walked backstage in search of the lone wolf. Dean would eventually find Corbin, as Baron would throw a security guard into Dean, and then lay into him with a steel pipe. After hitting Ambrose a few times he screamed “you found me Dean!” The Lone Wolf would start to walk away but a “good talk” from Dean would persuade Corbin to continue the onslaught. He ended it by lowering a forklift onto Dean’s chest and turning it off. Damn Corbin! You SCARY!
We were then treated to a “Blissertation” by Alexa Bliss joined as always by Mickie James. The first ever two time Smackdown Women’s Champion was scheduled to announce her opponent for Wrestlemania, but first she wanted to talk about the women it wouldn’t be. She went down the roster and belittled the likes of Naomi, Nikki Bella, Carmella abd Becky Lynch. The last person on that list would not allow this mockery to go unanswered. Becky Lynch had an announcement of her own, and that would be that she would IN FACT be the one to challenge Alexa at Wrestlemania. This prompted Natalya to come to the ring and tell Becky that Alexa and her had come to an understanding that Becky was not championship caliber. Natalya was about to challenge Alexa herself but Alexa stopped her mid-sentence and asked her if she had gotten into the catnip. She went on to say that there was no way Natalya would get a title shot, and further more she was “The worst there is, the worst there ever was, and the worst there ever will be”. As the three women bickered, Mickie James grabbed the microphone from Alexa. She told Becky and Natalya that they were ruining a very special moment for Alexa, where she was going to announce that her Wrestlemania opponent would be Mickie herself. Alexa quickly called the validity of that statement into question with a very sarcastic “We were?” Mickie seemed to think that they had a deal. The scene in the ring then turned into something out of high school girls bathroom. Daniel Bryan, always willing to insert himself into a squawking squabble of women, came out to address the situation. Since Alexa said she was the best female wrestler on the Smackdown roster, Daniel decided that Alexa’s opponent at Wrestlemania would be every available female on the roster. As an added treat, there would be a tag match with Mickie and Alexa taking on Becky and Natalya, and that match will start…..*say it with me*….RIIGHHHTTT NOOOWWWW!
The match was very familiar, obviously since three out of the four women had competed with each other on multiple occasions. Unfortunately we didn’t see anything new during the match and it seemed very much a filler bout. The most memorable moment of the match for me was the ref loudly saying “stay stay stay” to Alexa as she was about to get up, and what a coincidence, a commercial break followed. Come on now ref (Ok I’ll stop). Now even though this match had a lot of what we have seen before, that isn’t a negative thing. All of the action was high impact and technically sound. These four women are extremely talented any one of them would be a good champion. The match came to a close when Natalya, angry that Becky would not tag her in, hit Becky with a release German suplex. Natalya stood over Becky glaring at her for a moment and then walked out of the ring, leaving Becky to fend for herself. At this point Alexa tagged herself into the match and made the cover for the victory. Mickie looked a tad upset that Alexa took the pinfall from her, and informed her of said frustration with a Mick Kick as Alexa raised her hand in celebration.
Finally…..the Rock *cough* excuse me.
Finally, we come to our amazing main event. AJ came out first. He took the opportunity to voice he frustrations about his situation. He said that Smackdown Live was the house that AJ Styles built. When he was champion the ratings were through the roof, and that he took a B show and made it THE show. He’s not wrong for the record. These comments were met with thunderous “AJ Styles” chants. His final words were that no one would stand in his way to making it to Wrestlemania and making it “Phenomenal”. The man who would beg to differ then made his entrance. As Randy made his way to the ring I started getting the feeling of excitement. Two of the greatest wrestlers of their generation were about to face off for the first time on Smackdown Live. A match for the chance to face someone in the main event at Wrestlemania that could easily BE the main event at Wrestlemania. Would it live up to the hype? An RKO attempt within the first few seconds of the match set the tone for the match, and that tone was that it could end in a flash. AJ attempted to not let Randy use his size from the start. He held onto a head lock through a sling shot off the rope and a back drop. Randy would take over quickly with his aggression and start to lay into Styles. AJ would attempt to slow Orton down with both kicks and locks on the Viper’s legs. Randy’s strength would keep him in the fight. Forgive the terminology but it really was a clash of styles. The match went back and forth, the crowd was totally into it. Randy’s first glimpse of danger was was AJ locked in a calf crusher after sliding out of a draping DDT attempt by Orton. Orton was eventually able to drag himself to the ropes. He was eventually able to hit the DDT after knocking Styles off the ropes while attempting a phenomenal forearm. Randy attempted to end it with an RKO but AJ countered it with a Pele kick. AJ tried for the forearm a second time but Randy was waiting and launched into the air to counter with an RKO. Styles had it scouted however and held onto the ropes as Randy fell to the mat. As the crowd chanted I couldn’t help but audibly agree from the comfort of my home, “this is indeed awesome”. Styles attempted a springboard 450 on the fallen Orton, but Randy rolled out of the way. As AJ charged back at Orton the Viper was coiled, and struck with an RKO. 1.2.3. Orton will face Bray Wyatt at Wrestlemania.
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