This week on Smackdown Live there’s a ten man battle royal advertised to determine who will challenge Bray Wyatt for the WWE Title at WrestleMania. The ten men in the match are: John Cena, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, The Miz, Luke Harper, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Mojo Rawley, Apollo Crews and Kalisto. In addition to that match, Nikki Bella will do battle with her rival Natalya in a Falls Count Anywhere match. It should be another exciting edition of SD Live, so let’s get to it.

Live from Ontario, California this is Smackdown Live for episode #914. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport.

A video recap aired from last week’s show as Bray Wyatt won a triple threat match against John Cena and AJ Styles to retain his WWE Title. After the match was over, Randy Orton told Wyatt that he can’t face him for the WWE Title at WrestleMania. That led to the ten man battle royal announced for Smackdown this week.

We were welcomed to the show by Tom Phillips. Coming up tonight: Ten man battle royal in the main event.

Daniel Bryan, Smackdown’s General Manager, entered for a promo to start the show. The announce team of Mauro Ranallo, John Bradshaw Layfield, David Otunga and Tom “no talking during matches” Phillips welcomed us to the show.

Daniel Bryan Addresses Women’s Title Situation

Bryan welcomed us to Smackdown Live while noting we are just 40 days away from WrestleMania. He noted there are always twists and turns on the road to WrestleMania. Bryan brought out the current Smackdown Women’s Champion Naomi. She had a knee brace on her left knee and walked out in street clothes instead of ring gear. The fans chanted “you deserve it” at Naomi before she could talk.

Bryan said that everybody believes Naomi does deserve it. Bryan told her that she’s worked so hard and other woman got more opportunities, but here she is as the Smackdown Women’s Champion. Bryan said they are so proud of her. Bryan spoke about how what he’s about to do is the hardest thing he’s ever done as a General Manager. Bryan talked about how he can relate to this because he was like her since he was champion and then he got injured. Bryan talked about how he had to relinquish his championship. Bryan spoke about how they went over her records with the medical staff in WWE. The crowd chanted “no” repeatedly. Bryan said that due to her knee injury suffered at Elimination Chamber, she won’t be able to defend her championship in 30 days and he asked her to relinquish the Women’s Championship. The crowd was upset with that.

Naomi thanked Bryan for the kind words because he knows what it’s like. She talked about how it’s so crazy how life can change because last week she was crying tears of joy for accomplishing her dream and now she’s dealing with frustration. Naomi talked about the view at the top of the mountain was so sweet, but now she’s being knocked off of that mountain. She said she feels bad for her fans who have been on this journey with her and she feels like she is letting them down. Naomi said it’s hard because she knows that when she gives him that title, WrestleMania is probably gone too. Naomi handed him the title. The crowd cheered for her. Bryan gave her a big hug.

Naomi said that when she comes back, everybody is going to feel the freakin’ glow. Bryan urged the crowd to cheer for Naomi and they did.

Analysis: It’s always tough to see somebody relinquish a title due to injury. Wrestling is often times silly and stupid, but moments like that come off as real in a lot of ways and you can sympathize with a wrestler. I feel bad for her because she has waited a long time to get the title. The crowd was strongly behind her during the entire segment as well, which was great to see. I don’t know the extent of the injury as of this writing, but I hope she can get back in the ring soon.

Alexa Bliss, the former Smackdown Women’s Champion, walked by Naomi on her way to the ring. Bliss said it was “perfection” when Naomi gave up the title. Bliss talked about how all she wanted was her rematch and Naomi wasn’t able to defend that title. Bliss yelled at some fans chanting something at her. I think they were saying they couldn’t hear her. Bliss said they can figure this out together. Bliss said that her arms and legs work fine…the fans chanted “what” at her. Bliss said that she thinks Bryan should give the Smackdown Women’s Title back to her.

Bryan told her that what he’s about to do next will be even more difficult. He told her that she is the former Smackdown Women’s Champion and it does make sense for him to give her back the championship, but he’s not going to do that. Bryan said that even though Naomi isn’t ready, he knows somebody else who is ready and Bliss is going to fight for the Smackdown Women’s Championship right now.

Bryan called out her opponent…Becky Lynch. Lynch made her entrance as the show went to break.

Analysis: My initial thought would be that they would do some tournament or elimination match for the Women’s Title, but they are just doing a singles match. Lynch is an odd choice because she just lost to Mickie James on Smackdown last week and now she’s getting a title shot. However, the division isn’t that deep and Nikki is against Natalya, so there aren’t a lot of options. Lynch won at Elimination Chamber over James, so at least she has a recent win.

(Commercial)

The match began after the break.

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch

The title was vacated before the match, so the winner becomes the new champion.

Lynch hit an enziguri kick early on. They each went for pinfall attempts with Lynch getting a backslide pin for two. Lynch hit her with armdrags. Bliss came back with a headlock into a trip where she took down her down. The announcers bickered with JBL saying Bliss she didn’t know she was having a match (even though Bliss was standing there in her ring gear) while Lynch probably knew. Bliss hit a splash on the back of Lynch against the ropes. Lynch came back with a Bexploder Suplex for a two count as Bliss bailed to the floor.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Lynch was still in control with a Bexploder Suplex for a two count. Lynch went up top and connected with a missile dropkick for two. Bliss tried to escape the ring. She pulled up the side of the ring apron. The referee fixed the ring, so Bliss did a two handed thrust to the throat and a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! with tights for the pinfall win. Bliss won the Women’s Title at the nine-minute mark.

Winner by pinfall and New Women’s Champion: Alexa Bliss

Analysis: *1/2 It was a cheap win for the former heel champion that is the new champion again. I didn’t like the ending with the thrust to the throat without the ref watching because it’s not like that is some devastating move. I guess it’s better than an eye gouge. The ROLLUP OF DEATH~! being used is annoying. I know it’s even cheaper because she grabbed the tights as well. I’m just tired of seeing that spot to win matches. Having a below average match for a title doesn’t help the value of the title. They need to be put in the position to have a better match in that situation.

After the match was over, Mickie James went into the ring. Lynch fought her off easily. When James went into the ring, Lynch kicked her and James was knocked out of the ring. Lynch’s music played to end the segment.

Analysis: That felt rushed with Lynch easily knocking James out of the ring. It was just a way to make Lynch look strong after she lost the title match.

Dean Ambrose did a promo backstage about the battle royal coming up. He had a picture of Baron Corbin on the wall to show that he’s focused on him.

Kalisto did a promo about being in the battle royal. He spoke about how he wants to headline WrestleMania as thousands of people chant “Lucha Lucha Lucha.”

The Miz did a promo in a makeup chair with Maryse by his side talking about the battle royal. Miz talked about all of his accomplishments in the wrestling business as well as his career by listing his movies. He said on April 2nd he’ll star in the main event of WrestleMania as well.

Analysis: It’s good to hear from the guys in the battle royal. It helps to put it over as a big deal even if they only get less than one minute to talk.

A graphic reminded us of the battle royal still to come.

(Commercial)

PLUG TIME: Here’s my review of this week’s Raw in what I like to call the WWE Raw Deal review. It was a show with a surprisingly good main event match featuring Braun Strowman and Big Show.  In addition to that, I write a weekly WWE Raw reaction piece for The Comeback where I break down the show in a different way and look ahead to the future. Basically, if you read both of those pieces, this Smackdown review and listen to our TJRWrestling Podcast (new episodes usually out on Thursdays) you will know what I think about everything going on in WWE.

Natalya did an interview backstage conducted by Renee Young. She talked about how Nikki Bella is a fraud and she claimed that Nikki was just a cheap Natalya knockoff.

American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) vs. Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango)

This match is not for the Smackdown Tag Titles.

The Breezango duo attacked before the ref rang the bell. After a moment, Breeze attacked Jordan with punches and a headlock. JBL put over the great outfits that Breezango were wearing. Double suplex attempt by Breezango, but Jordan broke free and tagged in Gable. Gable hit a clothesline on Breeze to send him out of the ring. Jordan put Fandango on his shoulders, Gable went up top and hit a bulldog off the top for the pinfall win after two minutes. That was a move the Steiner Brothers used to do.

Winners by pinfall: American Alpha

Analysis: * A quick win for the Tag Team Champions. It’s nice to see champions actually win a non-title since they lose them so often. I liked seeing the top rope bulldog as a finisher because it’s such a cool looking double team move. It’s okay to see AA win without Grand Amplitude once in a while. Breezango could do well if they ever received a push, but that’s not happening.

The Usos approached the ring as they entered through the crowd, but they stood behind the barrier. They talked trash saying they are going to be the next Tag Team Champions. The Usos ranted about how American Alpha knows they can’t go to sleep because they feel like something is creeping behind them, but it’s not paranoia, it’s The Usos. The twin brothers left through the crowd to end the segment.

Analysis: Good promo from the Usos just like last week except this time they were in the arena instead of on the video wall. There was a lot of ranting in there and I didn’t catch all of it, but I got most of it. I like the slow build to a match between American Alpha vs. Usos.

A video package aired about Jackie Robinson for Black History. The black wrestlers in WWE spoke about him as they read the same material.

(Commercial)

AJ Styles was shown walking backstage. He tapped a guy on the shoulder asking if he knew where he was going. The guy said no, so Styles told him he’s going to the main event of WrestleMania.

Dolph Ziggler did a promo in front of a screen to say the new era has been cancelled. He kicked the screen and said that anybody that thinks can replace him can replace that.

Mojo Rawley talked about being in battle royals before and said “WrestleMania” a few times to show what he’s focused on and that was it.

Luke Harper talked about how for years he followed Bray Wyatt, but at the flick of a switch that all changed. Harper noted that he was free and after he’s victorious there will be nowhere left for him (Wyatt) to run.

Analysis: There were a lot of cheers when Harper appeared. His face turn has been really good even though I think there might be a twist at some point.

Nikki Bella was interviewed backstage by Renee Young. She said there’s a reason why they call her Fearless and she’s going to prove why she’s more than just a pretty face. She claimed that after tonight, Nattie will forever be known as the Broken Hart.

Analysis: “They” call her Fearless or she calls herself that? I don’t know. Anyway, it was fine for a promo.

Nikki Bella made her entrance for the Falls Count Anywhere match against Natalya. It starts after the break.

Analysis: That’s the end of the first hour. It wasn’t a strong first hour like we are used to from Smackdown.

(Commercial)

Natalya made her entrance.

Falls Count Anywhere: Nikki Bella vs. Natalya

Nikki nailed a Spear followed by punches to the face. Nikki did a knee to the face followed by some punches. Nikki left the ring to get a table. Natalya stopped her and kicked the table under the ring. Nikki grabbed a kendo stick and hit Natalya in the stomach, back and legs a few times. Nikki sent Natalya into the barricade leading to another two count. Nikki tossed Natalya over the barricade as they brawled into the crowd. Natalya connected with punches and tossed her into over a barricade near the production area. They teased a suplex off the barricade, but Nikki kicked her off and Natalya’s face hit the side of the barricade. Nikki jumped off the barricade with a roundhouse kick to the head for a two count. That looked great. Nikki tossed her over the barricade by the ring. The audio picked up Nikki calling spots. Natalya drove her back first into the barricade and told her she was pathetic. Natalya sent Nikki into the ring post as well as the steel steps at ringside. Natalya cleared off the announce table as the crowd went wild for it. Nikki fought back with forearm shots and they went back into the ring. Natalya grabbed Nikki off the apron and teased a Powerbomb through the table, but Nikki fought her off with punches to break up that attempt at a Powerbomb. Nikki picked up Natalya and hit an Alabama Slam on the announce table, which didn’t break. Ouch. Nikki covered for a two count.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Natalya was in control with a Sharpshooter spot by the ropes. They left the ring. They went up the aisle where Natalya hit a snap suplex on the ramp for a two count. Nikki sent Natalya face first into the railing by the entrance area. Natalya whipped her into a piece of equipment and even got a two count. Natalya shoved her behind the curtain. Nikki sent Natalya into a storage box. Natalya whipped Nikki into Maryse, who happened to be standing there. Maryse went down. Nikki sent Natalya face first into a mirror on a table that happened to be there. Big crash. They went back out to the arena with Nikki in control. Natalya tripped her up on the ramp and teased a Sharpshooter. Nikki applied the Fearless Lock submission on the ramp. Maryse ran down to the ring with a steel pipe. Maryse hit Nikki in the ribs and legs a few times. The pipe shots didn’t look great, but Nikki sold it well. The Miz ran down to ringside and pulled his wife off of Nikki. Natalya covered Nikki on the floor and won after 14 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Natalya

Analysis: *** That was a good match that went how I thought it would with Maryse playing a factor into the finish. I liked the way they used different weapons, fought all over the arena and did some big spots along the way. The table spot was really cool even though it didn’t break the table. It’s harder for women to break the table because they weigh less than men. Common sense, right? I think so. I noticed Maryse as soon as they went behind the curtain and it was no surprise that she played a part in the finish. I liked the timing of it with Nikki applying the Fearless Lock looking like she was going to win and Maryse was there with the steel pipe to cost her the win. The rumored WM match for weeks was Cena/Nikki vs. Miz/Maryse and looks like we’re headed in that direction now. They did that spot at Elimination Chamber where powder was dumped onto Maryse as well as the first tease. They furthered it here. As for Natalya, it was a big win for her. Cheap? Sure, but that’s okay for her as the heel. It’s one of the biggest wins for Natalya, who deserved it because she’s done some good work as a heel and I hope there’s more for her soon.

After the match was over, replays aired of the attack. Nikki was in a lot of pain after the match.

The ten man battle royal is apparently next with a lot of time left in the show.

(Commercial)

PLUG TIME: This week’s WWE retro PPV review was No Mercy 2003. It was the last show where John Cena went into a match as a heel. Yes, it’s really been 14 years. In addition to that, Vince McMahon had a match against his daughter Stephanie McMahon one week before she got married to Triple H. There were some other interesting aspects of the show, so please check it out.

The announcers mentioned Diamond Dallas Page joining the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame class.

It was also announced that Alexa Bliss will be on ESPN Sportscenter on Wednesday at 9pmET.

Baron Corbin did a promo backstage about how he liked destruction and he likes inflicting pain. Corbin said he likes the spotlight. He talked about how the spotlight will be on him as he takes his rightful place in the main event of WrestleMania.

Apollo Crews was shown in the locker room talking about how people mistake his smile as a weakness. He said if anybody wants to step in his way, especially Ziggler, they’re going to get run over, rolled over and tossed over the top real quick.

The WWE Champion Bray Wyatt was in his darkened room with Randy Orton. Wyatt talked about how Orton has earned the keys to the kingdom. He said whoever wins tonight will be nothing more than Wyatt’s sacrificial lamb – a slaughter for the world to see. Wyatt: “Welcome to the Era of Wyatt.” Orton: “Run.”

John Cena made his entrance for the main event. He was greeted by a loud reaction full of cheers and boos as the crowd chanted “John Cena sucks” during his song. Cena was fired up as the show went to break.

Analysis: It was just a bunch of promos to hype up the main event. Nothing really stood out to me.

(Commercial)

A bunch of the other wrestlers made their entrance during the break including Kalisto, Apollo Crews, Dolph Ziggler and Mojo Rawley.

Baron Corbin made his entrance. Luke Harper was up next. The Miz walked out without his wife Maryse by his side. AJ Styles received a lot of cheers for his entrance and Dean Ambrose, the Intercontinental Champion, was up last.

10-Man Battle Royal: John Cena, Kalisto, Apollo Crews, Dolph Ziggler, Mojo Rawley, Baron Corbin, Luke Harper, The Miz, AJ Styles & Dean Ambrose

The winner gets a WWE Title shot against Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania.

Ambrose went right after Corbin as he got into the ring and the bell rang. The crowd chanted for AJ Styles and John Cena as the match began. Ziggler nailed Cena with a superkick. Styles tried to dump Cena and Ziggler, but both guys held on. Ziggler went for a DDT on Ambrose, but Ambrose countered and nearly eliminated. Ziggler fought his way back into the ring. Harper almost dumped Ziggler out, but Ziggler was able to hang on. The show went to break three minutes into the match with all ten guys still in the ring.

(Commercial)

As the show returned from break, Corbin hit a Deep Six while everybody else was down. Rawley nailed Corbin with a corner clothesline. Rawley charged in and Corbin hit a back body drop to eliminate him.

Mojo Rawley eliminated by Baron Corbin

Kalisto hit the Salida del Sol on Ziggler and a spin kick on Harper. Kalisto hit a moonsault on Ambrose that Ambrose partially blocked, so it didn’t look like a good spot. Ziggler tried to suplex Kalisto out, but Kalisto fought him off. Ziggler nailed Kalisto with a superkick while on the apron to eliminate Kalisto.

Kalisto eliminated by Dolph Ziggler

Crews nailed a clothesline on Corbin. Ziggler was still on the apron, so Crews nailed him with a roundhouse kick to eliminate him.

Dolph Ziggler eliminated by Apollo Crews

Ziggler got a chair and hit Kalisto in the back with it. Crews yelled at him, so Corbin dumped Crews out of the ring. Crews chased away Ziggler with the chair.

Apollo Crews eliminated by Baron Corbin

Styles and Cena exchanged punches in the ring. Styles avoided AA, Harper hit a superkick on Cena, a few other moves happened that I missed and Ambrose nailed Corbin with a clothesline. Miz noticed guys in all four corners, so he hit a corner dropkick on Harper, corner dropkick on Ambrose, corner dropkick on Styles and corner dropkick by Miz on Corbin. Miz hit Bryan-like kicks to the chest of Cena in the center of the ring. Cena avoided a final kick and dumped Miz over the top to eliminate him.

The Miz eliminated by John Cena

The show went to break as Miz looked shocked that Cena eliminated him.

Analysis: No surprise that Cena eliminated Miz since they are going to have that mixed tag match at WrestleMania as mentioned before.

(Commercial)

Five men left as they returned from break. Styles and Ambrose teased a suplex, so Cena joined in with a double German Suplex on both guys. Cena hit two shoulder tackles on Styles followed by the spinning slam. Corbin got back into the picture with the End of Days on Cena. Ambrose battled Corbin, Ambrose pulled the ropes down and Corbin went over the top. Corbin was eliminated.

Baron Corbin eliminated by Dean Ambrose

After the elimination, Corbin pulled Ambrose out of the ring. Corbin hit End of Days on the floor on Ambrose.

Miz went into the ring and dumped Cena over the top to the floor. Miz ran away through the crowd as refs told Cena he was eliminated. Cena was mad about it because Miz was already eliminated, but there was nothing he could do. The elimination drew a lot of boos.

John Cena eliminated by The Miz

Analysis: A cheap loss by Cena to protect him while furthering the new storyline with Miz. Good booking.

The final three in the match were Styles, Harper and Ambrose. They had a slug fest on the apron with teases of eliminations. Ambrose nearly got eliminated, but he held on. Ambrose had Styles on his shoulders, Harper kicked Ambrose and Styles went into the ring. Ambrose fell to the floor, so he was eliminated.

Dean Ambrose eliminated by Luke Harper

Last two were Styles and Harper. Harper nearly eliminated Styles, but Styles hung on. Styles jumped on the back of Harper as he applied a sleeper hold. The fans chanted for Styles as they slugged it out a bit. Harper went for a suplex with Styles landing on the apron. Harper nailed Styles with a forearm to the face. They were both on the apron with Styles throwing punches. Harper grabbed him in a suplex like move and dumped Styles out of the ring as both guys hit the floor at around the same time. The referees talked about it. The match went 20 minutes.

The referees told both guys that they hit at the same time. There were four referees discussing it as both wrestlers stood in the ring with them. JBL yelled about how the referees needed to make a decision.

Daniel Bryan, the SD Live GM, ran down to the ring with a microphone.

Bryan said that after conferring with the officials, the official decision for this match is a draw. Therefore, there is no winner. However, they will determine a winner next week. The announcers bickered about how there had to be a winner. No replays were shown.

Match Result: Draw Between AJ Styles and Luke Harper

Analysis: ***1/4 It was a good battle royal that advanced some storylines, but not great. The finish wasn’t done perfectly because it was pretty obvious that Styles hit the floor first. They showed no replays of it because they knew that if they did then it would be obvious that Styles was the loser of the match. By ending it as a draw, it sets up a big match next week that they can promote all week long. I thought the match was well done for the most part with the interaction between Cena and Miz that added to their story involving their ladies as well. The first batch of guys that were out of the match were obvious as soon as the match began. Everybody else was booked well with some moments to shine. The finish was disappointing. I don’t want to blame the wrestlers that much because doing a suplex on the floor isn’t an easy spot, but if you look at the clip you can see it was Styles that hit the floor first.

(Note: There was a GIF posted by WWE’s Twitter account that I posted here initially, but they deleted it about 10 minutes after the show. I expected that to happen lol. Here’s another GIF of the finish.)

Analysis (x2): A possible story that could emerge from this moment is having SD Live Commissioner Shane McMahon make a ruling that Styles touched the floor first. The WrestleMania match that is rumored for Styles is against Shane, so this could be a way to set that up. I would prefer them just to stick with the match on next week’s show as announced. Say the ref’s ruling is final and that you can’t go to replays in WWE.

Styles and Harper argued after the match. Harper hit Styles with a discus clothesline. Harper posed on the turnbuckle as the crowd cheered. They were also chanting “LUUUUKE” for him.

The Wyatt Family duo of Wyatt and Orton appeared on the video wall. Wyatt laughed maniacally while Orton looked at the title, which was interesting. That was how Smackdown ended right at 10pmET.

Analysis: This was one of those weeks where they needed to give SD Live another 15 minutes like Raw gets, but they don’t do that for Smackdown.

On Talking Smack after the show, Daniel Bryan confirmed that it will be AJ Styles vs. Luke Harper next week to determine the #1 Contender for the WWE Title.

 

Three Stars of the Show

1. AJ Styles – Yes the finish wasn’t done perfectly, but he still had a very good match.

2. Luke Harper – Same as above.

3. (tie) Natalya – Physical match given a lot of time. That’s great to see.

3. (tie) Nikki Bella – Nice selling by her for most of the match.

 

The Scoreboard

6 out of 10

Last week: 7

2017 Average: 7.13

Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.61 – Raw is at 5.77

Last 5 Weeks: 7, 7, 7.5, 8, 7.5

2017 High: 8 (Jan. 3 & Jan. 24)

2017 Low: 6 (Jan. 10 & Feb. 21)

 

Final Thoughts

It gets a 6 out of 10.

It was a good show, but a notch below what Smackdown has done most of the year. That’s why the 6/10 score is tied for my low of the year.  That doesn’t mean it was bad because there were plenty of interesting things that happened. I just thought the first hour wasn’t that interesting and it dragged a bit.

The ending to the main event was disappointing a bit just because they didn’t time it right. I doubt it was done on purpose like that. That’s why there were no replays.

I’m glad Natalya and Nikki got a lot of time to settle their score, so to speak. I don’t mind that it was a cheap ending because it ended their story and set Nikki on a new rivalry with Maryse.

Once again, not a bad show. It was just below the high standards that Smackdown has set so far this year.

That’s all for now. Go Toronto Raptors. Go Toronto Maple Leafs.

John Canton – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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