It’s the last SmackDown Live before the Royal Rumble so let’s see what the blue brand has in store for us!
SmackDown Live kicks off in the office of GM Daniel Bryan who is joined by The Miz and his wife Maryse. Seems like Daniel is looking to play nice with Miz and offers him a rematch against Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship. Miz likes the idea and has one of his own. Why not make it a No Disqualification match? Daniel obviously knows that this is just so Maryse can freely interfere with no repercussions so Daniel kills the idea. He purposed that the match be contested as a Lumberjack Match.
Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton
Match had a slow pace in the beginning that did a great job building up the entire match. It looked like both Orton and Harper were vying for the approval of Bray Wyatt with Harper being less subtle in his attempts. Pretty much the usual performance from Orton but Harper really showed why he is so underrated. For a man his size his movement in the ring is very fluid and he can work at any pace. This is evident towards the closing of this match with a great sequence of back and forth strikes, Harper attempting the Discus Lariat, and Orton countering it with an RKO. Good match.
After the match Bray Wyatt enters the ring to congratulate Orton on his win. He helps Harper to his feet than drops him with Sister Abigail. Bray and Orton leave Harper in the ring and leave together. We could see this situation go away as sort of a burying of the hatchet or we could see Harper leave the Wyatt Family and going it alone, heel or as a face. Either way this is very interesting.
Renee Young conducts an in ring interview with Mickie James who was revealed last week to be La Luchadora, torturing Becky Lynch alongside Alexa Bliss. Renee asks Mickie why she has returned after such a long absence in which Becky replies with her long list of accomplishments. Renee calls her out for avoiding the question. Becky says she felt disrespected by the women of this so called revolution in the WWE. On her association with Alexa Bliss, James states that it’s basically built on Alexa giving Mickie her due for paving the way. Mickie says she’s back because this is her reinvention. Becky Lynch comes storming down to the ring and both women begin to brawl. James escapes and heads into the crowd and when Becky follows she gets blasted with a forearm from a hiding Alexa Bliss. They drag Becky into the ring and beat her down before leaving with a piece of advice, always stay one step ahead.
Back from break with some footage of Carmella taking James Ellsworth to get a little makeover. Obviously this was meant to be a funny segment but to me, fell flat. Just get to the point. What’s Carmella’s deal with Ellsworth.
Baron Corbin joins the commentary team for the next match.
10 Man Battle Royal for a Spot in the Royal Rumble
I guess this was a way to get some of the lesser used talent some TV time and a PPV pay check. Rhyno tried eliminating his partner Heath Slater which was unsuccessful. The Vaudevillians tried to take advantage but both ended up eliminating themselves. Tyler Breeze inadvertently eliminated his Fashion Police partner Fandango allowing Mojo Rawley to eliminate Breeze and win a spot in the Royal Rumble.
Nikki Bella was interviewed outside of the arena regarding her relationship with John Cena. Just as she was going to make her point on how Cena plays no part in her career success, she is jumped by Natalya.
WWE Champion AJ Styles comes down to the ring to confront John Cena before their Championship Match Sunday at Royal Rumble. Styles is out to give some evidence to support the idea he is not respected as the WWE Champion. Exhibit A: The placement of Styles and Cena on the Royal Rumble promotional poster. Cena is up front as a main focus while Styles, the WWE Champion, is all the way in the back tiny. Ouch. He calls out Cena before presenting his next piece of evidence. Exhibit B: Monday morning Cena was a guest host on the Today Show. Cena was asked about his upcoming match in which the other hosts Al Roker and Tamaron Hall referred to Styles as “the guy from Atlanta “. Double ouch. One has to wonder if Styles legit took exception to the condescending tone the conversation took with Cena playing along. Cena didn’t even give him a half hearted “my bad” explanation (not saying he should). AJ takes a hard shot at Cena by saying he is a sorry excuse for a wrestler. What does Styles have to do to earn the respect of Cena? Beat him at the Royal Rumble? Cena completely dismisses Styles lack of respect complaints. Cena says Styles may have been hot for six months but Cena says he’s been hot for 10 years. Cena was not built for the Indy scene like Styles but he was built for the WWE. To Cena, Styles is just the guy who’s holding the title for him. Sunday Styles will learn that John Cena is a bad bad man and his time is now. This one has some bad blood behind it so Sunday should be fun.
Dolph Ziggler defeated Kalisto in a three minute uneventful match. Ziggler went to attack Kalisto with a chair but the attack was thwarted by Apollo Crews.
Naomi was set to have a match with Natalya but the match was called off due to Natalya and Nikki Bella brawling backstage. Naomi was looking forward to her first match back since injury so she’s willing to challenge anyone in the locker room to a match. Alexa Bliss comes out but not to answer the challenge but more to discredit Naomi as a competitor.
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. The Miz (w/ Maryse) in a Lumberjack Match for the Intercontinental Championship
I’m not a huge fan of Lumberjack matches but one involving Dean Ambrose are always fun to watch. Pretty back and forth match in its own right, the real highlight being Ambrose taking out the Lumberjacks and a small bit of chaos that happened toward the end with an all out brawl between all of the Lumberjacks. Baron Corbin cleans house before getting dumped out by Ambrose. Miz attempts the Skull Crushing Finale but Ambrose reverses it into the Dirty Deeds and picks up the win retaining the Intercontinental Championship. Decent match, well exceeded my expectations for a Lumberjack Match. SmackDown Live closes with Ambrose celebrating his victory.
Overall I thought this was a decent “Go Home” show for the SmackDown Live crew. I say decent because although the segments were easy to follow and entertaining (aside from Carmella and James Ellsworth) the suspense level for Sunday’s Royal Rumble did not match that of Raw this past Monday. Either way Cena and Styles are carrying the blue brand’s flag, building to what could be a fantastic battle.
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