WWE Smackdown Live greeted us with a shot of a steel cage as the show began. The cage would house Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss in the first ever WWE Smackdown Women’s Title match in such a structure . Smackdown Live obviously wanted us to know that this would be the highlight of the night, hoping to match what Monday Night RAW did months earlier for the Women’s Division when they pitted Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks against each other. Did they do it? Would it live up to the hype? More on that later.
The show opened with Shane McMahon addressing the crowd. He spoke a bit about the Royal Rumble, rattled off some of the names competing from both shows. However his focal point for his segment would be that the WWE Champion would have a detour in the road to Wrestlemania, having to defend the title at the Elimination Chamber PPV in four weeks. This announcement signaled the arrival of AJ Styles to the ring. Styles, who was obviously upset over this decision. Shane reminded AJ that he might not even be champion after the Royal Rumble, which didn’t do much to improve AJ’s mood. The two went back and forth until the excuses from Styles caused the horns to blare, and John Cena to enter the conversation. The chants for both superstars were deafening, the crowd seemingly split in support. An increasingly angry AJ Styles would not even let John Cena get a word out, claiming all of Smackdown Live was against him, causing him to wonder who would be next to steal his spotlight. Did someone say “spotlight”? Queue the Miz! As soon as Miz entered the ring he began to detail his plans for 2017, to regain his Intercontinental Championship, win the Royal Rumble, and ultimately win the world title at Wrestlemania. AJ Styles’ focus was now on the Miz. The two taunted each other as John Cena, hilariously instigated both men. Just as tensions were about to explode, Shane McMahon took this opportunity to make the first match of the night between AJ Styles and The Miz. AWWESSSOMMMMEEEE!
The match began with a very old school style. Slow and technical, various locks and leverage moves. The match picked up with both superstars showing that they both belong exactly where they are in the world championship picture. Though as good as the match was, I found myself paying attention to what John Cena was saying a bit more. I don’t know what it is, but lately I have really enjoyed John Cena segments. The climax of the match occurred on the outside of the ring, when Styles threw Miz right into a sitting John Cena, who caught the Miz and redirected him into the barricade. Cena chased AJ into the ring, which AJ immediately exited. As Cena was distracted, Miz tried to hit Cena with a Skull Crushing Finale, but was countered with an Attitude Adjustment. AJ tried to also attack Cena when he had his back turned, but was also the recipient of the AA. Cena stood tall in the ring, raising the World Title above his head before exiting the ring. *cough* “CENA! CENA!” *cough*
Even though we had a great women’s match for the main event, why not take the division down a few notches and have a Nikki Bella and Natalya segment? Sure why not. Ready? Nikki does her famous awkward backstage walk to the ring. Nikki calls out Natalya with all the realistic emotion of Ben Stein doing a table read for a soap opera. Natalya appears in the crowd and has a camera crew follow her to a merchandise stand, where she complains about how she doesn’t have a shirt at the stand. Yup, you heard me right. She takes a bunch of Nikki’s merchandise and starts throwing it in the trash. Nikki jumps Natty, security breaks it up. Highlight of the segment, the crazy emotion one of the security guards with huge sideburns showed. I see you sideburns, respect.
We were then treated to a really amazing promo highlighting some of the greatest moments of the first inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2017, Kurt Angle. This is extremely well deserved, but I am going to reserve comment for a future article I will be writing in the next week, so stay tuned.
Our next match between Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton came about from an earlier backstage conversation between Shane McMahon and Ambrose. Dean wanted payback against Randy and The Wyatt’s for a beating he took last month that ended in him getting RKO’d. When the match started it was very apparent that Dean’s attention was heavily focused on Randy’s family members. Dean wildly swung at Luke Harper standing at ringside as soon as the bell rang, to which Orton tried to roll Ambrose up for a pin. Silly Orton. Ambrose was the early aggressor, eventually causing Orton to retreat to the outside and regroup. When Randy reentered the ring, he was able to slow down the match to a pace where Ambrose couldn’t get any momentum. Both superstars gained the upper hand a few times, showing that they were evenly matched. As the match progressed, Bray Wyatt looked increasingly concerned, calling for Randy to finish Ambrose, only to have Randy do his own thing. A failed draping DDT attempt by Orton had him outside the ring again, where Dean tried to dive onto him from the ring. However, Ambrose missed his intended target and collided with Luke Harper, sending him crashing into the announce table. Both Orton and Ambrose found their way back into the ring, where Orton was able to successfully hit a draping DDT, and getting into position for the RKO. This is when Luke Harper jumped into the ring, trying to get at Ambrose for the earlier attack. The referee was able to get Harper out of the ring, but while Randy’s attention was on Harper, Ambrose performed a roll up of his own and pinned the Viper. As Randy sit dejected in the ring, both Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper stood on the outside of the ring, not moving and looking stunned. Bray said something to Luke which caused Harper to become enraged and enter the ring, mirroring the scene from last week and getting in the face of Orton. This time Bray would be having none of it, actually punching Harper to get him to stop his attempts to get at Orton. As Harper stood stunned Wyatt turned his angered gaze to Randy, and with fist cocked back almost begged Orton to test him. Orton backed off which caused Harper to start yelling at Bray “HE DID THIS!” Harper exited the ring alone obviously blaming Orton for the family’s recent troubles.
Up next was an edition of The King’s Court with Dolph Ziggler as the guest. I thought this was just the WWE doing Jerry Lawler a solid, having him return to TV in his hometown of Memphis. I was surprised that the WWE writing team actually had a very specific reason for doing this. The interview started off with Ziggler ignoring multiple questions from Lawler. The King tried different approaches to get Ziggler to open up. He tried teasing him, highlighting the fact that Ziggler seemed frustrated. Seriously asking in an almost concerned tone as to why Dolph was traveling down such a destructive path. He even showed Dolph a clip of his assault on both Kalisto and Apollo Crews with a chair. Ziggler finally broke his silence, but only to tell Lawler that he knew The King would try to make him look bad, and he had his own footage to show the crowd why. We were then shown footage of a match four years ago, in which Dolph Ziggler dropped multiple hard elbows onto Lawler who was opposing him in a match. Here’s where the writing team did their homework. Dolph revealed to us that the match he just showed us took place just minutes before Lawler suffered an on air heart attack. Dolph said that Lawler blamed him for his heart attack, and if The King didn’t stop with his stupid questions, he would finish what he started four years ago. But The King did have one more question, which was “How does it feel to know that no matter how many times you change your attitude, you’ll always be a loser.” You want to know how to solidify a lukewarm heel turn? Punch Jerry The King Lawler in Memphis Tennessee. Ziggler even put the cherry on top of the heel ice cream sundae by smirking at Lawler as he tried to call Ziggler back into the ring to fight. I have to give the WWE writers their due, this was a great use of the city, some real history and drama to push a heel turn. Big kudos.
This brings us to the very hyped up main event of the night. Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss. You would imagine that having to follow the caliber of match that was Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks would bring out the best of both Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch. You would imagine that they would be willing to put their bodies on the line, trying to one up their RAW counterparts and in doing so, bring even more spotlight and respect to the women’s division. We didn’t get that though. Don’t get me wrong, I respect both these women and think they are both great talents inside the ring. The thing is, a steel cage match should look and feel different. As you watch the match you should always be thinking that there is no way the match you are watching could ever be as good in a regular ring. For me, the match tonight looked like any other match. I felt like the two women I was watching compete were not the same two women I saw at TLC months ago. I will save you the recap and skip to the end, which was the only part worth mentioning. Becky was being held back from escaping an open cage door. As Becky struggled to break free of Alexa, La Luchadora appeared and stood in the doorway, blocking Becky from exiting the cage. Becky kept her focus on Alexa, eventually locking in an arm bar. La Luchadora then entered the ring and hit Becky with a spinning kick to the head. Alexa capitalized on the interference, pinning Becky after performing a snap DDT. After her victory, Bliss screamed at the referee to leave the ring, and both Alexa and La Luchadora began to stomp Becky while she was still down. The Irish Lasskicker fought back though, and was able to unmask La Luchadora who turned out to be Mickie James. A former Divas Champion and Women’s Champion who has a long history in sports entertainment. She has feuded with the likes of Trish Stratus and Lita….. Meh. I wanted Paige. I miss Paige.
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