WWE Smackdown goes LIVE tonight with the first episode post-draft. airing from Buffalo, NY. Dean Ambrose walked away from Battleground as the WWE Champion. With no apparent contender lined up for Summerslam, what will General Manager Daniel Bryan and Commissioner Shane McMahon have planned?
All this starts tonight at 8pm Eastern. We will have live, “stream of consciousness” coverage. Join in the fun here and on Twitter, @RingRap!
Here we go!
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon stand backstage. Shane welcomes everyone to Smackdown Live. Bryan says the show isn’t about them, but it’s about the amazing superstars. They walk through the curtains, and head out to the entrance ramp, and say it’s all about “you” (being the fans).
The entire roster is in the ring, and the fans chant Yes! as the new Smackdown intro kicks in. It’s a pretty high octane song too. Back in the arena, Mauro Ranallo welcomes us. The roster is on the apron, and Shane addresses Buffalo, New York. He says Smackdown is about opportunity, and seizing that opportunity. He announces that on September 11th, they will hold their first Smackdown-only pay-per-view, called Backlash.
But first, Summerslam. Daniel Bryan says since Smackdown is the home for the WWE Champi0n, they need to find an opponent for the champion. They welcome Dean to the ring, and he gets a full intro. Ambrose says it sounds like a plan to him. He says he’s ready for a new challenge, and he’s got the Smackdown Live fever! He asks who’s stepping up to challenge him first.
Daniel Bryan says he loves this about Ambrose – he’ll fight any one at any time. He’s got a plan for Summerslam – they’re going to have a six-pack challenge #1 Contender’s match. Six men will have the opportunity to compete for the #1 Contendership for Dean Ambrose’s title. The first entrant is John Cena. Cena steps into the ring next to Ambrose. Shane announces Bray Wyatt as #2, and he steps in. #3 is Dolph Ziggler. #4, Baron Corbin. #5 is AJ Styles. Bryan says yes, there’s only five spots. The sixth spot is open to anyone – and it’s going to the winner of a Battle Royal, which is up next! Bryan leads the fans in a Yes chant as Smackdown’s new theme kicks in.
A pretty solid way to open the show. So far, nothing totally different. The stage is on the ground, rather than a ramp, but otherwise, I haven’t seen anything that drastically sets Smackdown apart from Raw… yet.
Back from break, and our new announce team is at ringside. Mauro Ranallo, JBL and David Otunga hype things up, and then kick it to the ring for the Battle Royal.
Battle Royal to determine the 6th Entrant in the 6-Pack Challenge
So this is an over the top rope Battle Royal. Simon Gotch is eliminated almost immediately. That makes total sense too, since he’s a tag wrestler and all. Anyhow, everyone holds on to the ropes, and they struggle, and it’s not very exciting, but I also don’t find battle royals very exciting for the most part.
Kane eliminates The Ascension (both men) by himself. Worth noting, Zack Ryder is wearing the Hype Bros gear that his buddy Mojo Rawley also wears. Fandango and Tyler Breeze work together to eliminate Jey Uso. We go to another break.
Once more back to the ring, and it’s looking a little more bare. Mojo Rawley gets eliminated by Alberto Del Rio, but he’s gone pretty quickly himself. We’ve got Kane, Zack Ryder, Kalisto, and Apollo Crews in the final four. Interesting mix, for sure. More stalling here, but the crowd is behind Ryder pretty solidly. Things get crazy as both Kalisto and Ryder nearly get eliminated. Ryder slips on the top rope for a El-Bro, but recovers nicely. Kane arises and eliminates Kalisto. He goes on a rampage. Ryder takes out Kane’s knees and hits a Broski Boot, then hits Crews too. Ryder eats a chokeslam over the top rope for his troubles. Kane sets up Crews, and Crews counters, yanking the rope low as Kane charges him.
Winner: Apollo Crews to become entrant #6
Crews is so pumped he does a backflip at ringside. Renee Young approaches him, and he says he’s the happiest man alive, but he’s not gonna start celebrating until he wins the main event later tonight and goes on to Summerslam.
Up next, Becky Lynch vs. Natalya!
But first… a vignette airs announcing that Shelton Benjamin is coming to Smackdown! Holy crap!
We get a promo from Dolph Ziggler talking about losing his way in WWE over the past few years. He says tonight it starts over again, and taking his place at Summerslam. Good promo, but let’s see if it sticks.
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
FYI, this match is presented by Mountain Dew. That’s extremely important, right? Right.
Anyhow, it’s back and forth here. Natalya shows some nice athleticism, Becky shows some great fire. Mountain Dew shows us some great commercials. And when those commercials are over, Becky fights out of a stretch, and hits a sweet top rope legdrop for two. Nattie takes out Lynch and goes for a discus clothesline. Lynch counters with a rollup and goes for her finisher. Nattie counters, hits the clothesline, and gets two. Becky counters into a Disarm-her and Nattie taps.
Winner: Becky Lynch
This was a strong women’s match, and one of the better matches I’ve seen from Natalya in a while.
Renee Young interviews Becky after the match, and as Becky starts to respond, Alexa Bliss interrupts, making her debut. She says Becky might’ve been the first one drafted, but Alexa is the personification of what the new era looks like. Naomi interrupts her and walks out. She says Alexa hasn’t even stepped foot in the ring yet, and… then Carmella interrupts her. She does her thing, says Tuesday nights are gonna get Fab-U-Lous. Then Eva Marie interrupts her to a chorus of boos. The entire arena goes red as a voiceover puts over Eva in as being fascinating, dazzling, entrancing, etc. It’s actually kind of funny. She didn’t even say a word. She just walked around a lot.
And there, that’s Smackdown’s Women’s Division.
Baron Corbin cuts a pretaped promo about winning the 6-Pack Challenge tonight.
And we go into the ring for MizTV. It’s Miz and Maryse. She introduces him to boos. He welcomes us to MizTV. Yay. I’m so happy. He starts to tease it’ll be Randy Orton is his guest, but it ends up being himself. That’s cute. He asks himself a question, then changes seats, answering it. I’m not even going to transcribe it, because you’ve heard it all before. Mercifully, Randy Orton comes out. The fans go nuts.
Miz is not so thrilled to have him there. Orton thought Miz was talking about him, so he came out. He makes a jab about how Miz is an expert at playing with himself. Miz brings up Lesnar, Orton says he’s made a pretty good living in WWE killing legends. It only takes one RKO to send Brock Lesnar to Viperville. Miz pokes at him about being out of the ring for 9-months. Orton says Summerslam won’t be his last match, but it also doesn’t have to be his first back either. He says he’s willing to wrestle The Miz tonight.
Miz ain’t interested, and he says he doesn’t just get a shot at the IC Title. Orton says fine, title’s not on the line. Miz still turns it down. So, Orton asks if he doesn’t want to get his ass beat in front of his wife. He insults their relationship, and Maryse takes the bait, accepting the match on Miz’s behalf. Good job, Maryse. Good job.
So we go to break.
When we come back, that match is happening.
Randy Orton vs. The Miz
Miz bails out of the ring immediately, then kisses his wife. He loves her! Miz tosses Randy out of the ring and, well Randy lands right on his shoulder. He starts clutching the shoulder immediately. Miz sends him into the barricade, starts kicking the shoulder, and throws him into another barricade, shoulder first. Back in the ring, Miz continues to work that shoulder. Orton retreats and tries to shake it off. Miz stays on that shoulder.
Miz rolls Orton back into the ring, and as he comes back in, Orton hits the RKO out of nowhere. Orton sits there for a moment, staring out into space. He scoots to the apron, leaning on the bottom rope. Miz isn’t moving. Orton slowly gets to his feet. He gently nudges Miz with his foot. Orton raises his arms and hypes up the crowd, then starts slamming the mat. Another RKO to Miz. He goes for the cover, and it’s over.
Winner: The Miz
That was a very convincing fall out of the ring, and I bought in immediately, but clearly Orton is fine here, or if not, he shook it off and faked it damn well.
I think it’s time for American Alpha. Are you ready? I am!
A hype video puts over the amazing team of Chad Gable and Jason Jordan. They’re not debuting until next week. Seriously? That’s massively disappointing.
Some dude is in the ring, and out of nowhere, Heath Slater comes out. He never got drafted. He attacks the guy in the ring and says there’s gotta be a mistake – how could he not be drafted to either Raw OR Smackdown? He asks Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon to put him in the main event and make it a 7-pack challenge. He tries to get a “Sign Heath Slater” chant going, and the fines buy in.
Shane comes out and reminds him that they’re on live TV. He tells Slater that he can send in a resume if he needs a job. Slater tells him to fire up the WWE Network and type in his name for his resume. He runs down his accomplishments with Nexus, Corre, 3MB, Social Outcasts, and he says if he gets an opportunity he can be so much more.
Rhyno sneaks in the ring behind him, and Shane says he is looking at the hottest free agent for sure. Slater turns around and eats a Gore in the middle of the ring. Huge pop for Rhyno.
It’s easy to forget that Heath Slater is actually money on the mic, but he was fantastic here.
AJ cuts a pretape promo about the upcoming match. He’s upset he has to qualify, he’s the obvious pick. He says he doesn’t need The Club, he’ll beat up everyone and win.
Bray Wyatt cuts a pretape promo about change being inevitable. He says he is the Eater of Worlds. Tonight, five men will fall, and soon he will have the whole world in his hands. The promo leads into his entrance.
Bray Wyatt vs. Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. AJ Styles vs. John Cena to determine the #1 Contender to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
So that’s the order everyone comes out in, if you were curious. And basically, it’s pinfall or submission, with all six in at once. Chaos.
AJ and Bray Wyatt are working together attacking Apollo Crews. Bray turns on AJ shortly thereafter. Ziggler runs in on the offense. So, basically we’ve got four men lying outside the ring buying time while two are inside working.
Baron Corbin gets involved, and AJ takes him out, then hits a gorgeous springboard 450 Splash on Wyatt for two. AJ and Cena are mixing it up in the ring, and Crews runs in and hits a series of German suplexes, the third sending Styles head over heels. Corbin in, STO on Crews, two-count.
Out of the break, Baron Corbin is getting frustrated. He goes for End of Days, Crews counters, and hits his finisher, but Bray Wyatt yanks the referee out of the ring violently. He heads back in and crab walks. Crews basically says “Screw this!” Wyatt hits Sister Abigail, Ziggler sneaks in with a Zig Zag, but there’s no referee. Cena runs in, AA to Zigler. Styles hits a Pele on Wyatt, AA to Styles and a two-count.
Crews goes up top and hits a Splash on Cena, but Cena rolls through and hits the AA. Another AA to Wyatt. He tries to get Baron Corbin up, but can’t. Well, second time is the charm I suppose. Cena hits it. Out of nowhere, AJ hits a flying forearm. Dolph Ziggler sneaks in and hits a superkick on AJ, goes for the cover, and my god, Dolph Ziggler gets the pin!
Winner: Dolph Ziggler to become the #1 Contender to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Ziggler celebrates with the fans outside the ring, then rolls back in to pose for everyone. Dean Ambrose’s music hits, and the champ saunters out to the ring. Both men stare each other down. Ambrose holds the title up high and smirks. GM Daniel Bryan comes out and raises both of their hands, smiling ear to ear. Shane McMahon heads out as well. He shakes hands all around.
Two months ago, if you told me Summerslam’s title matches would be Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor, and Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we have it. Ziggler is a talented guy, too, and it’s nice to see him getting another opportunity. I’m concerned, however, he’ll say something stupid in a promo and blow it.
So, another good night of wrestling, with focus on the action itself. Nothing crazy or silly. Some surprises, with Rhyno making an appearance, and Shelton Benjamin’s return announced. I’m sad we didn’t get American Alpha, but it does give me something to look forward to.
Smackdown is in an interesting place right now. To me, it doesn’t yet feel like the land of opportunity, and from a production standpoint, it still feels like, well, Smackdown. The true test will be in the coming weeks. And honestly, even if the production doesn’t change, and the show continues to feel like “just Smackdown,” as long as the focus continues to be on the in-ring action, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat, I will continue to tune in.
That said, if we’re going on a freshness scale, Raw was fresher.
Bill and I will have plenty to discuss tomorrow on Ring Rap Audio. See you then!