Tonight’s WWE Smackdown Live opened with a recap of the events surrounding the triple threat main event last week involving Bray Wyatt, John Cena, and AJ Styles. However, the main focus of the recap was not the match itself, but the shocking actions of Randy Orton after the match. Orton’s refusal to fight Bray for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania caused Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan to create a 10 man Battle Royal with the winner going on to face Wyatt at Wrestlemania.
Before the night’s matches began Daniel Bryan came to the ring to address the crowd regarding Naomi and the injury she sustained at Elimination Chamber. As Daniel called Naomi to the ring, there was still hope that Naomi might be OK in time to participate at Wrestlemania, but as the interview progressed we would learn that this was not the case. This segment had real emotion attached to it. Daniel could relate to Naomi, having been in the same situation as she is at the moment when he was injured and had to give up his title. Even though I’m sure this was somewhat scripted, I doubt Daniel would have needed it. He revealed to the crowd that he had gone over Naomi’s medical reports, and it was clear that she would not be able to defend her title within the 30 day window, which now caused him to ask that she relinquish her championship. You could tell that Daniel was truly and deeply sorry for Naomi’s real world situation, and it showed on his face. Naomi said a few words to the crowd, thanking them for always being there for her. She talked about how great it had felt to win the title, and how obviously crushing it was to be in her current position. Then, with tears in her eyes, she handed the belt over to the Smackdown general manager. In a touching moment the two embraced. This felt incredibly real and authentic, and having Daniel alone handle the title relinquishment was smart writing and paid off big time. Naomi exited the ring surrounded by the crowd’s cheers and applause, and then the wicked witch of WWE Smackdown made her way to the ring. Alexa Bliss passed Naomi on her way to the ring, an dismissive smile stretched across her face. Bliss proceeded to do what she does best, and that is to rival Charlotte Flair for the top female heel spot. She essentially mocked Daniel Bryan and not so subtly hinted that his only choice at this point would be to award her the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Bryan would not be swayed by Alexa’s sarcasm riddled speech, and instead offered her an “opportunity”. This opportunity would be a match between herself and Becky Lynch, the winner becoming the new champion, and so the night’s competition begins…….RIGHT NOW!
The match between Becky and Alexa was pretty much what you would expect from two top competitors that know each other’s style very well. The match was a slow burn at the start, some very technical exchanges coupled with a few stiff shots from Lynch to Alexa. What really stood out to me was that the crowd did not seem very into it at all. I think this comes from the fact that the two have a very generic rivalry, nothing unique or personal is attached and I think that shows in their matches. Alexa was the eventual winner, using the turned back of the ref to her advantage and chopping Becky across the throat. As Becky was stunned from the strike, Alexa easily rolled her up for the three count, grabbing the tights for extra heel measure. Following the match Mickie James came out to congratulate Alexa, and as Becky turned her back in disgust, Mickie rushed to the ring to try to attack the Irish Lass-kicker. Becky at least won a small victory tonight, stopping James in her tracks with a spinning back kick.
We were then informed by the announce team that every superstar that would be competing in the 10 Man Battle Royal would be heard from tonight. Each one would have a short segment making their case as to why they think they would come out victorious in tonight’s main event. The promos were spread out over the show, but I’ll address them as a whole right now. I saw them as unnecessary and quite frankly an easy way out to fill time. This isn’t so much a criticism on the promo delivery by each superstar. Overall they were fine, but the idea of them didn’t get me any more excited for the match, which is the goal of any promo cut by a wrestler.
Up next was American Alpha versus Breezango. For the second week in a row it seemed that, for a few minutes at least, American Alpha had the golden touch. Taking a team that didn’t currently shine in the division, and bring out their best. As I said previously though, this would only last a few minutes, and it then became clear that this was just a precursor to another Uso promo cut on AA. After AA made short work of the WWE’s Fashion Police, the Usos came out from the crowd and made a very passionate speech aimed at Alpha. I don’t know if these promos are having their desired effect on me, or it’s just that these are the only two tag teams on Smackdown that can hold my interest, but I can’t wait until the two teams collide. Both have a terrific combination of aggression and athletic ability, and I feel like with a bit of creative writing it could become even more personal with the Usos being heels now. They play it really well, and there are plenty of situations that the WWE writing team could introduce that would make the upcoming match even more compelling to the WWE Universe.
A falls count anywhere match between Nikki Bella and Natalya was the next to last match of the night. Months of backstage catfights and character attacks finally came to a head as these two women were finally able to meet in a match where there are pretty much no rules. If I am being honest, Nikki was outclassed by Natalya in terms of in-ring ability. You could tell throughout the match that sole female member of the Hart dynasty was held back. The match had the beats that you would expect from this type of match. Weapons were used, they fought in the crowd and backstage, utilizing their surroundings in varied ways. Of particular note was the action when Nikki and Naty went to the backstage area. At one point Natalya did her best Marty Jannetty impression when Nikki threw her face first into a mirror, shattering it in the process. Another WWE Diva became involved in the match when Maryse became a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As Maryse was walking in the backstage area, she was bowled over by Nikki Bella being hurled by Natalya. This would prove to be the defining moment of the match. In the final moments of the bout, Nikki had Natalya in the Fearless Lock outside the ring. Just as Natalya was about to tap, Maryse came running to ringside with a metal pipe, and started to unleash her anger from being knocked over on Nikki. The Miz came down to the ring and pulled his enraged wife off of Nikki, but the damage had already been done, and Natalya easily picked up the win.
10 Man Battle Royal
AJ Styles – John Cena – Baron Corbin – Dean Ambrose – Luke Harper – Dolph Ziggler – Kalisto
Apollo Crews – Mojo Rawley – Miz
In my opinion this type of match does not do any justice to superstars the caliber of an AJ Styles or John Cena. I know we are just 40 days away from Wrestlemania, but I think Smackdown would have benefited more from a bracketed tournament to decide who would face Bray Wyatt for the title. A few of these names aren’t really in the conversation when you are talking World Champions. Having them in the match kind of insults the “smart” fan. We know damn well they aren’t going to have Mojo or Apollo Crews main event Wrestlemania at this point in their career. Those guys don’t have any real chance to show what they are capable of in a battle royal, but could make a case to get pushed in some one on one matches in a tournament. There were some stand out moments. Dolph Ziggler perhaps being inspired by “Natalya Jannetty” earlier in the night, did the Shawn Michaels Royal Rumble dangling from the ropes save more than a few times. Maybe he was a Rockers fan growing up. Both Dean Ambrose and John Cena were eliminated by superstars that had already been eliminated themselves, which kind of cheapens the validity of this match. In the end it was Luke Harper and AJ Styles as the final two superstars vying for Wrestlemania glory. The match came to an end as both Harper and Styles hit the floor at the same time. After a few minutes of confusion as to which superstar was the victor, Daniel Bryan came to the ring and declared the match a draw. This now sets up a match next week between Luke Harper and AJ Styles to decide Bray Wyatt’s Wrestlemania opponent. After the decision Bray and Randy appeared on the Titantron, with Bray simply laughing on the screen as the show came to a close. I can only imagine that Luke Harper wins next week. This would set up a compelling Wrestlemania story, which may see Randy finally turning on Bray. Imagine if this was all a long running chess game Orton has been playing, his checkmate being the fact that he broke up the family that had tried to destroy him last year. Yup. I’m calling it. Thanks for reading everyone! Stay “smart”.
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