Taped in Tampa, Florida this is Smackdown for episode #858.

A video aired showing highlights from the Royal Rumble. You can read my full review of that show right here. Then they mixed in some clips from Raw too – my review of Raw is here.

Coming up: Highlight Reel with Ambrose & Reigns as the guests plus Kalisto vs. Neville for the US Title.

The New Day entered to open the show. The announce team of Mauro Ranallo, Byron Saxton and Jerry Lawler welcomed us to the show. There were clips of The Rock’s interaction with The New Day from Raw, which ended with The New Day getting beat up by Rock and The Usos.

The New Day trio of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston & Big E complained about The Rock’s actions and his speech towards them. Big E said that he knew The Rock was cooking “doodoo” due to his foul language. The Miz interrupted them – he was in his ring gear or at least his body cape with the gear underneath.

The Miz said that he was insulted by The Rock on Raw as well. He said that we all know he does not get upstaged. They are piping in crowd noise to try to get a reaction to Miz. He was in the ring with The New Day. He said he deserved respect.

The Usos interrupted on the stage. They made fun of The Miz and said that he was wearing a dress. Woods mocked The Usos for living off The Rock while Big E reminded them they had no gold. The Usos said they had another friend, so here’s Titus O’Neil with more piped in crowd noise. Dolph Ziggler is also on the team – still piped in noise. They went to break with the heels retreating to get away from the faces.

Analysis: It’s typical of Smackdown to start with a promo leading to a match. The New Day were the best of everybody talking in that segment, but they didn’t get to talk that long. I know pointing out the piped in noise is lame because this show has been on the air for over 16 years with piped in noise as a regular thing, but it’s so noticeable when the crowd isn’t reacting at all.

(Commercial)

There were images shown of Titus O’Neil surprising honor roll students and then all those kids got to go to Smackdown.

The Usos, Dolph Ziggler & Titus O’Neil vs. The New Day & The Miz

The faces were in control in the early part of the match. O’Neil nailed some huge chops on Kingston. Heel Lawler was talking about the terrible things Rock said on Raw. Kingston got in an eye poke on Ziggler that the ref didn’t see and then a dropkick. That led to the heels isolating Ziggler from his team for a bit, but then Jimmy tagged in and nailed a Samoan Drop on Big E. Jimmy cleaned house on the others on the apron, but then Big E caught Jimmy with a belly to belly suplex into the turnbuckle.

(Commercial)

The heels were in control as The Miz celebrated with New Day doing a corner clothesline. Jimmy nailed an enziguri kick to create some space. He made the hot tag to O’Neil against Miz. O’Neil cleaned house as he nailed a boot on Miz, a corner charge and a body slam. The New Day made the save, so the Usos nailed double superkicks. The Usos hit top rope dives to take out E and Kingston. Ziggler with the Zig Zag on Woods. Ziggler superkick on Miz right into a Clash of the Titus by O’Neil for the win after 12 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: The Usos, Dolph Ziggler & Titus O’Neil

Post match, O’Neil danced in the crowd with the honor roll kids mentioned earlier.

Analysis: **1/2 A good win for the faces. I’m not sure what else to say except that we see these kinds of tags on Smackdown all the time. Guy gets the hot tag, everybody hits big moves and then a finishing move ends it. The Miz getting pinned for the heels is the best decision because it doesn’t hurt the tag champs. O’Neil getting the win is no surprise since they always seem to want to push him. I’m surprised he wasn’t booked stronger in the Royal Rumble, though.

Kalisto vs. Neville is coming up next.

(Commercial)

United States Title: Kalisto vs. Neville

I like that the title is on the line. More title matches on television is a good thing. Kalisto is announced as being from Mexico City even though he’s from Chicago. Lawler complained about a luchador being the US Champion while saying he wasn’t a fan of Kalisto. They did some awesome stuff on the mat with Kalisto using a headscissors to send Neville to the floor. Kalisto jumped on Neville’s shoulders outside the ring and then Kalisto used his legs to send Neville into the barricade. Both guys were down and they got back into the ring before the count of ten. There was a break two minutes into it.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Kalisto jumped off the top rope and Neville turned him into a Powerbomb for two. Neville put Kalisto on his shoulders while trying to climb to the top rope. Kalisto fought him off, they were both on the top and Kalisto nailed a super Frankensteiner off the top rope for a two count. Neville nailed an enziguri kick to the head. Kalisto countered the German suplex into a forward roll for a two count. Neville nailed a kick. Neville went for another German suplex, but Kalisto hit a modified version of the Salida del Sol to win the match after 9 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Kalisto

Analysis: *** A fast paced match between two of the best high fliers in WWE. It’s too bad they couldn’t even get ten minutes. It still hit the three-star level for me. Why not give them another five minutes? They really could have done something special with a bit more time. Here’s hoping they get more time on Raw or next week on Smackdown because these guys can really put on a classic match if they got more time.

Post match, there was a handshake between Kalisto and Neville since they’re both faces.

The Highlight Reel is up next.

(Commercial)

The Highlight Reel With Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose

Chris Jericho made his entrance. He talked about the Royal Rumble and how he lasted over 50 minutes, but gave credit to Triple H for winning. Then he mentioned his great match with AJ Styles on Raw. He moved on to talking about the main event of Fastlane: Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns. The winner of that gets to face Triple H for the WWE Title at WrestleMania.

Dean Ambrose made his entrance. He had flowers with him. Roman Reigns made his entrance. Jericho pointed to the entranceway, but of course Reigns entered via the crowd. You could hear the piped in crowd noise. He was surprised by Ambrose’s flowers.

Ambrose said he brought Jericho the flowers as a gift because he feels like his set could use it. The only thing on the “set” was the Jeritron TV screen. Jericho noted he used to have a more elaborate set. Reigns brought in a stool for the flowers.

Jericho says he’s spent time with these guys and drank beers with them – he knows they are best friends. He wondered if there would be issues between them. Reigns said they always talked about competing against eachother. Ambrose said friends fight over all kinds of things. They started to argue about what they might do in the match.

Jericho mentioned all the things that Lesnar can do in the ring while pointing out that Reigns knows that since he had a great match with Lesnar at last year’s WrestleMania. Ambrose said Lesnar is destructive, but he’s indestructible. Ambrose said he has no time to be scared of Lesnar. Reigns said that Lesnar’s for real and that Lesnar beat the hell out of him. Reigns put over Lesnar by telling Ambrose that he’s different than anybody you have ever competed against.

Ambrose said that he doesn’t have to beat Lesnar – he just has to beat Reigns. That led to Reigns saying it would be the first time because Ambrose has never done it before. Well played.

The Wyatt Family graphic appeared on the screen. Then the Wyatt Family was on the stage. Bray was standing in front of his three buddies. Bray mentioned how they slayed Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. As Wyatt spoke, Reigns said they don’t understand what he’s talking about. Bray told him that patience is a virtue. Wyatt said that two of his brothers and himself are going to put down Reigns, Ambrose & Jericho. He told them to run.

Analysis: There were a few good lines in the promo. I liked Ambrose saying he wasn’t scared of Lesnar because he’s indestructible. That’s the kind of babyface that the fans want to root for – a guy that will fight against a bigger guy like Lesnar no matter what. Then when Ambrose said all he has to do is beat Reigns it put things into perspective. To add to that, Reigns showed confidence in saying that Ambrose has never beat him. As for the Wyatt Family showing up, nice to them to set up a main event match that took an hour to actually advertise.

The Smackdown debut of AJ Styles is up next.

(Commercial)

The main event is official: Reigns, Ambrose & Jericho versus three Wyatt Family members. That’s the second promo leading to tag match on the same show. How creative! Now that’s sarcasm.

The Social Outcasts foursome of Heath Slater, Adam Rose, Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas were in the ring. They complained about how people were talking about AJ Styles instead of talking about them. They all hugged Axel for his year long run in the Royal Rumble. He called out Styles so that the “Axe Man” can rip him apart.

AJ Styles made his entrance. I love that song. It might be in my top three in WWE already. I’m not sure if it can top Sasha Banks, though. They showed the key highlights of Styles’ Raw debut that was a win over Jericho.

AJ Styles vs. Curtis Axel (w/Bo Dallas, Heath Slater & Adam Rose)

Styles nailed a pretty dropkick as Ranallo mentioned how he called some great Styles matches in New Japan. Yes he did on AXS TV – go check it out. Styles nailed a fist drop. Lawler complained about how Styles has to prove himself by saying if it didn’t happen in WWE then it’s as if it didn’t happen. Axel was able to seize control with a dropkick. Axel missed an elbow drop, so Styles took control with a clothesline, back elbow, spin kick and corner clothesline. Styles nailed a kick out of the corner for two. Styles knocked Rose off the apron and hit a dive to take out Dallas and Slater on the floor. Springboard attack by Styles missed as Axel tried to go on offense. Styles nailed the Pele Kick and hit the Styles Clash for the pinfall win after four minutes.

Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles

Analysis: ** It was just a short match to put over Styles. It’s smart to book him strong in the early going because he’s new in WWE and having him win matches is a simple way of helping him get over with the crowd. A lot of WWE fans have no idea how good he was in TNA (which WWE won’t mention) or New Japan, so he has to prove it to them. Some people online thought the Styles Clash was banned. Nope. They just teased it at the Rumble and Raw, but he used it here. It looked great. I’m excited about Styles being in WWE and look forward to seeing what he might do next.

Charlotte and Ric Flair were shown walking backstage.

(Commercial)

Charlotte (w/Ric Flair) vs. Natalya

This is not for Charlotte’s Divas Title. Prior to the match starting, a pre-match backstage promo by Natalya aired with her saying that the Queen of Harts is back. Natalya was on offense early with her move where she steps on the neck leading to a seated dropkick. Charlotte came back with a boot to the face. Abdominal stretch by Charlotte and then Natalya applied a stretch of her own. Dropkick by Charlotte followed by some chops, but Natalya came back with her Nattie by Nature clothesline and then a German Suplex. Charlotte rolled to the floor. Flair yelled “Woo” at Natalya. That distracted Natalya, so Charlotte did a chop block to the leg of Natalya. Charlotte applied the Figure Eight submission and Natalya tapped out. The match went about four minutes.

Winner by submission: Charlotte

Analysis: *1/2 It was a pretty basic match to put over the heel champion. When I saw this match in the spoilers I was all excited. Then I watched it and saw that they only got a few minutes. What a waste of talent. Their NXT Women’s Title match in May 2014 was one of the best women’s matches ever, yet they aren’t given the same opportunity on the main roster. What a “divas revolution” huh? Flair’s distraction was pretty minor, but it was effective.

Post match, Charlotte applied the Figure Four leglock. Becky Lynch ran out for the save as Charlotte escaped to avoid a confrontation.

Analysis: Good heel move by Charlotte post match and escaping to avoid the attack. I assume the plan is Charlotte vs. Becky vs. Sasha at Fastlane, but it’s not official yet.

Six man tag main event is up later.

(Commercial)

It was mentioned that Nikki Bella had neck surgery on Wednesday. Good luck to her in her recovery. She may return to action in six months at best.

There was a video of R-Truth and Goldust stretching. Goldust was acting all awkward around him. R-Truth said he doesn’t swing like that – he added that he’s married. Goldust said he was talking about them forming a tag team: Golden Truth. Goldust was still stretching and said he’s stuck. R-Truth just walked away without giving an answer.

Analysis: I think they’d make a fun babyface tag team. I like the idea of them teaming up together. Both guys are in their 40s and don’t have that many years left in the ring, so might as well pair them up.

The Wyatt Family made their entrance for the main event.

(Commercial)

Brock Lesnar is on Raw this Monday. There was also another reminder of the Fastlane main event: Lesnar vs. Reigns vs. Ambrose.

As we returned from the break, Ambrose and Jericho were in the ring. The end of Roman’s entrance was shown.

Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan (w/Braun Strowman)

It’s no surprise that Strowman is outside the ring since WWE always wants to protect him by not exposing his limitations in the ring. The faces worked on Rowan as Lawler praised Triple H as the only one that had a good night at the Royal Rumble. Jericho was in there with Harper as he hit a fist attack off the top rope and an enziguri for two. Since it wasn’t a lively crowd, Jericho said “c’mon baby” a few times to fire them up. Harper gave Jericho a suplex for a nearfall as the show went to break.

(Commercial)

Back from break, the heels were in control with Wyatt nailing Jericho with a running splash in the corner. The Wyatt trio made quick tags as they isolated Jericho from his partners. Harper had Jericho trapped in a leg lock. Harper nailed a Michinoku Driver (Ranallo called it right – could also be called a sitout slam) on Jericho and then knocked Reigns off the apron. Jericho nailed a Codebreaker on Harper, who bounced towards his corner. Ambrose tagged in against Rowan. Ambrose nailed a forearm shot followed by a bulldog and flying elbow attack off the top rope for two. A slingshot dive by Ambrose took out Wyatt. He sent Rowan outside the ring and Ambrose took out Rowan with a suicide dive. Rowan came back with a boot to the face on Ambrose. Wyatt nailed a senton splash. Ambrose fought out of Sister Abigail with a clothesline. Reigns tagged in against Harper, Reigns hit three clotheslines and then 10 clotheslines in the corner. He sure loves those clotheslines huh? Boot the face by Reigns gets two as Rowan makes the save. Ambrose took Rowan out of the ring and Jericho dropkicked Wyatt to the floor. Double dives over the top by Jericho and Ambrose. Strowman on the apron eats a punch by Reigns. Reigns hit a Superman Punch on Harper, so Strowman yanked Reigns to the floor and the ref called for the bell for the disqualification. The match went about 14 minutes.

Winners by disqualification: Reigns, Ambrose & Jericho

Analysis: **3/4 It was a good tag match that was similar to the match earlier in the show – just with more star power. I actually thought that the faces might win by pinning Harper or Rowan just because they’re usually the guys that take the pinfalls. That didn’t happen, though. They went the cheap route with the disqualification, which just makes me groan – more on that below. The closing sequence was really good. Most of the rest of the match was boring or maybe I lost interest because they did a multi-man tag match earlier.

Post match, Strowman sent Reigns into the barricade, Strowman hit a clothesline on Ambrose and Strowman tossed Jericho over the announce table. The Wyatt Family went after Reigns in the ring.

Big Show’s music hit as he made his way to the ring for the save. He nailed Rowan with a body slam on the floor. Then a Show clothesline for Harper on the floor. Strowman stepped up to face Show. The others attacked Show as the four Wyatt Family members beat down big show. Reigns went after Strowman, but Strowman choked him and Show dumped Strowman over the top to the floor. Reigns with a Superman Punch on Wyatt. Jericho and Ambrose tossed Rowan to the floor. Show tossed Harper across the ring as Reigns nailed a Spear to take him down. The faces celebrated in the ring while the heels left. That’s the end of Smackdown.

Analysis: It looks like they just set up a big eight-man tag on Raw or maybe next week’s Smackdown with Show teaming with the faces against the four Wyatt Family guys. Show recently turned face a few weeks ago because in his 20-year career it feels like nobody has turned as much as him. Maybe Kane has. Anyway, the rumor is that Big Show will put over Strowman at Fastlane, which could lead to Undertaker vs. Strowman at WrestleMania. Neither match excites me, but we know how much Vince McMahon loves big guys. He’ll do what he wants despite all the other talent on the roster.

What about that disqualification finish? Check this out. I’ve reviewed the first four weeks of Smackdown on USA Network. There hasn’t been a week where the main event ended in a clean finish.

January 8 was an Owens vs. Ambrose match that ended in a countout.

January 14 saw Neville/Ambrose beat Sheamus/Owens by disqualification.

January 21 Reigns beat four League of Nations guys by disqualification.

January 28 (this week), it was the six-man tag ending in a disqualification.

Is WWE doing this on purpose where they intentionally end shows this way or is it just a coincidence? I’m not sure why they are so set on going without decisive wins in main events. It makes the matches feel so repetitive and boring week after week.

 

Three Stars of the Show

1. Dean Ambrose

2. Kalisto

3. AJ Styles

 

The Scoreboard

5.5 out of 10

Last week: 4

 

Final Thoughts

– Thanks to some quality matches that were all around the three star (out of five) level, so it gets a 5.5 out of 10. Is it a must see show that you should absolutely go out of your way to see? Absolutely not. It was fine for what it is. I just wish Smackdown was better and mattered more.

– The problem with Smackdown (or at least one of the problems) is that the way Raw is booked doesn’t apply to this show at all. On Raw, the key thing about the main event storyline is that The Authority is in control. We get told all the time that they run things. Meanwhile on Smackdown, they are nowhere to be found and matches get made randomly based on in-ring confrontations. Two tag matches were set up that way on this show. They should think about having a Smackdown only GM. Make it a guy like Damien Sandow. Whether he’s a heel or face, the guy knows how to talk and it would make it seem different instead of setting up tag matches nearly the same way every time.

– My favorite match was Kalisto vs. Neville. It’s just a shame that they only got about nine minutes with only six minutes that actually aired on the show due to a commercial. Both tag matches could have been shorter and it would have helped tremendously.

– I still like watching Smackdown and I’ll keep reviewing it, but this show could be so much better. Like I said earlier, this show feels so repetitive week after week. That’s a shame.

Thanks for reading. Go Toronto Raptors.

John Canton – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook