WWE Smackdown Live is coming at us tonight from Nashville, TN, and it’s the long awaited debut for American Alpha tonight. WWE hyped it pretty hard during Raw last night. How will Chad Gable and Jason Jordan fare on the main roster?
Plus, with Randy Orton hitting an RKO on Brock Lesnar last night, can we expect Lesnar to show up on Smackdown to return the favor?
All this, plus more details on Dolph Ziggler’s #1 Contendership to Dean Ambrose and the WWE World Heavyweight Title, AJ Styles, John Cena, and lots more! We will have live coverage of the show beginning at 8pm tonight!
We start our show with Randy Orton, Shane McMahon, and Daniel Bryan watching a video of the RKO heard ’round the world from Raw. Shane says there are reprecussions for doing what he did, but that said, it was pretty awesome. Randy asks if “this” is necessary – about two-dozen security guards standing watch. Randy says they don’t need security to protect Smackdown from Brock Lesnar – he’s one RKO from being dropped. Shane insists and he and Daniel Bryan direct traffic.
Well, that traffic apparently includes The Miz and Maryse. He’s upset with how he’s been treated since coming to Smackdown. He says Bryan wasn’t even happy to draft him – and Bryan agrees. But, Bryan says he wanted the IC title, and tonight, they will hold a “New Era Triple Threat” match featuring Kalisto, Baron Corbin, and Apollo Creed (not a typo) to determine a #1 Contender for the IC Title at Summerslam. The Miz isn’t happy. Dean Ambrose walks in and says he’s heading out to address the #1 Contender for his title.
Our Smackdown intro kicks in, and we go to the arena as Dean Ambrose’s music hits. He walks down the ramp as BRAND NEW GRAPHICS display on the right hand side of the screen, highlighting Dean as the WWE Champion, his last title defense, and his upcoming title defense. I. Love. This. Lots of sweeping camera angles here as Mauro Ranallo, David Otunga, and JBL hype up the show.
Ambrose reminds us that he’s the WWE World Champion. He says he busted his butt day after day, year after year, and beat both of his Shield brothers to become the best. Now he’s about staying on top, representing the blue brand, and building his legacy. “Dean Ambrose is here to stay.”
He addresses Dolph Ziggler. He says Ziggler beat 5 top stars to become the #1 contender. He asks Ziggler to come to the ring so we can learn a little more about him. Dolph walks out, with a similar graphic for his name too, highlighting his past accomplishments. I really, really like this. Anyhow, Ziggler says he’s a big fan, and the two of them are pretty similar. Ambrose disagrees. “You’re all show, I’m all go.” Ambrose says he’s scratched and clawed to get this, and noone is taking it from him.
Ziggler says Ambrose came in with Reigns and Rollins, and says they didn’t start on level playing fields – he started as a male cheerleader (minor laugh/pop). “You wanna talk about scratching and clawing? You’re looking at him.” Ambrose asks if he’s done feeling sorry for himself. He says Dolph has wasted his time complaining. “When people said I wasn’t championship material, I didn’t care. Still don’t.” He says he stepped over each road block, one after another. At the end of the day he became WWE World Heavyweight Champion. He says Ziggler is too worried about his image – his hair, his tights. He’s too worried about the fans, the office, what people say about him on the internet. “You should be worried about winning. You’re too worried about where you think you should be and who you are.” He says Ziggler is the guy that’s facing him at Summerslam for the championship, and he’s gonna lose. He says he’ll steal the show and have a great match and tear the house down, but Ambrose is a winner. “You’re gonna steal the show, and you’re gonna lose.”
Ziggler says he’s a kid from Cleveland who went to his first WWE event at age 5, and said one day it would be him. He talks about breaking records at Kent State University in wrestling to get a shot. “I’m the guy that for seven years has been disrespected, undervalued, overlooked, told one day that I’m not good enough, and told the next day that I’m too good.” He gets angry and says he’s the man that’s going to walk into Summerslam, burn Brooklyn to the ground and win the championship because he is that damn good.
Ambrose says that’s not going to happen. “You’re going to find out that your real problem is you’re not as good as you think you are.” Ambrose walks off.
Ambrose seems to be leaning heel here in his mannerisms and promos, but it comes off as “That’s just Ambrose.” Ziggler had a good promo, but still seems entitled to me.
As Mauro Ranallo hypes their match, Bray Wyatt’s music hits. The lights go out, come back on, and he nails Ziggler with a Sister Abigail in the middle of the ring. “Look at you, worthless. You don’t deserve the power of calling yourself champion.” He asks the fans if Ziggler is going to be his next WWE Champion. Wyatt says he stole something from him, and he wants it back. He challenges Ziggler to a match tonight. “If you win, you prove to all these people that you are worthy of being the #1 Contender.” If he loses, however, Wyatt takes his place. He begs the “Show Off” to prove he’s that damn good. Wyatt yells “Follow the Buzzards” as we go dark.
Later tonight, AJ Styles has a message for John Cena, plus American Alpha debuts! But next, that IC Title Triple Threat match!
Wyatt was, as always, good here, but I can’t help but feel like sowing the seeds of doubt is not the best way to go with Ziggler.
We come back from break, Ziggler is not happy that Bray made that match, but Shane and Daniel say Bray has issues and tell him not to worry about it. Ziggler says he wants the match. Bryan, the voice of reason, asks why he would want to jeopardize his spot at Summerslam. Ziggler says noone thinks he deserves it, and says he’s going to prove everyone. He demands Shane make the match official. Shane agrees.
Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews to determine the #1 Contender to the Intercontinental Championship
Corbin immediately goes on the offense on Crews, and essentially swats Kalisto away. We’re seeing some different camera angles here, sort of viewing the ring slightly over the ropes. It’s nice. Kalisto dives outside the ring onto both Crews and Corbin as we break.
We return and Corbin has control. He nails a big boot to Crews, and Kalisto sneaks in a head scissors sending Corbin out. Crews counters and gets a near fall on Kalisto. Deep Six to Corbin for two.
It’s pretty intense here, with Kalisto sending Corbin over the top rope to the floor. Crews rolls Kalisto up out of nowhere and gets the win.
Winner: Apollo Crews
After the match, Crews celebrates on the ramp and Corbin attacks Kalisto from behind. Crews runs back out to make the save. The Miz Runs in and hits a Skull Crushing Finale on Crews. Corbin stalks Miz and hits End of Days on Miz, the only one left standing.
With the commercial break, this match felt way too short. Not much here to talk about. Lots of spots. I guess that’s cool?
Becky Lynch vs. Eva Marie
Huge boos for Eva Marie, but her entrance is pretty awesome, with the overdubbed voice announcing how great she is. Let’s see if she can back it up in the ring – she’s had plenty of chances.
Before the match even starts, Eva Marie holds her leg, acting like something is wrong. A trainer comes over to check on her. The referee tells the ring announcer that Eva Marie cannot compete, and there will be no match. Becky looks frustrated. Eva Marie limps her way backstage. Well then.
Winner: No Contest
Renee Young is sitting at a set that looks very much like the pay-per-view pre-show sets. She brings up what just happened, and then kicks it to Carmella, who is sitting with her. She asks Carmella about what happened. She says she can spot a scam from a mile away. Natalya comes in and interrupts. She says Renee Young should be interviewing her, not Carmella. She’s carried the women’s division for years. She name drops her uncle, Bret Hart. She says they need a leader, and she’s wrestling royalty. Carmella says she the Princess of Staten Island and she doesn’t need anyone’s help to get to the top. Nattie says Carmella was drafted last, and she says “First or last, we both ended up in the same place.” She tells her to put her “crazy cat lady outfit” on. Nattie says she’s going to teach her a lesson in humility.
I liked this. Nattie is good in this role, and it gave Carmella a chance to stand up for herself and develop as a character.
After the break, the announcers plug a show on the WWE Network – “Talking Smack” featuring Renee Young and Daniel Bryan.
The Vaudevillains (Simon Gotch & Aiden English) vs. American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable)
Now we’re talking. The crowd is a little quiet for these two, but they’ve got an awesome chance to get over here.
Gotch and Gable start it off. He immediately drops Gotch to the mat and tries to outwrestle him. A “Gable Gable” chant to the tune of Kurt Angle’s theme picks up some steam. Gable easily reverses out of a wristlock. Tag to Jason Jordan, who connects with a nice dropkick. Tag to English, who double-teams Jordan. He makes the tag – barely – to Gable, who leaps off the top turnbuckle. They send the Villains packing.
English keeps control of Gable. Gotch tags, and it’s a double-team. They keep Gable corners, but he evades and makes the hot tag to Jordan. Jordan starts suplexing people left and right. He drops the straps, hits the spear, and tags in Gable. They hit their finisher, Grand Amplitude, for the win.
Winner: American Alpha
A solid debut for the former NXT Tag Champs. The crowd was quiet at first, but they started to get into the offense and popped for the win. Still, these guys have a way to go to get over with the crowd.
A video package hypes up John Cena and how great he is. He’s so great.
AJ Styles’ music hits, and he heads down to the ring at the top of the hour. Styles grabs a mic and tells them to turn off the music. He wants to talk about John Cena, and right on cue, Cena’s music hits. Cena comes out, and says AJ’s been saying he’s got a message for him. “I’m right here. Talk.” Styles says this is “typical John Cena, thinking everything is about you.” AJ says he could do his favorite thing – Beat up John Cena – and Cena advances. Styles says begs him off, says he has a message for the Cenation, but since he’s out there, he needs to hear it. The fans start chanting at AJ about his “Soccer Mom Hair.” AJ says he’s beaten Cena up, in this ring, and here he is in the WWE. “I don’t want you here, John.” Styles says he doesn’t belong in the ring with him, and the only reason he’s here is because he does his song and dance and people think he’s a noble hero. “The truth is, they’re weak minded people.” He says Nashville is the weakest. “Trust me, I know.”
AJ starts tearing into the children in the audience, then rips on the parents for being just as delusional. He says they’re the type of parents that think their kids deserve a trophy for participating in a sport. Who is just as delusional? John Cena. ‘You actually believe what these parents, what these kids think is true about you.” AJ Styles it’s time for hard truth and says you get a trophy for being a winner. “AJ Styles is a winner. AJ Styles beat John Cena. Where’s my trophy? I am the elite, I am the greatest, I am the Phenomenal AJ Styles!”
Cena says AJ has some issues he needs to work out. Cena says he comes out to the ring and they make up their own words to his theme song. They chant “Let’s go Cena” and AJ gets in his face and yells “Cena sucks!” The dueling chant begins. AJ says he’s going to prove he’s a fraud. At Money in the Bank he went through him, so why is he still there? Cena says he’s there to shut his mouth. Cena says AJ needs to be responsible for his words. Cena says he’s still there out of love. He says he doesn’t care what people think if he uses that word, he’s a “grown ass man” and he’s here out of love. Cena points out a child in the audience dressed in his gear. He says he loves when parents pull him aside and thank him for what he does, but he should be thanking them because he can’t do it without them. He talks about how he’s asked at all these awards show when he’s leaving the WWE, and he says never because the WWE is his home. He says when AJ has a day off, Cena doesn’t know what that is because he’s out there promoting the brand every day. “The only reason you’re here is because you’re a really good wrestler, and you’ve proven if it doesn’t work out for you, you’ll pick up shop and go somewhere else.” For Cena, there is nowhere else. He’s there out of love. What is AJ Styles doing there?
AJ starts clapping his hands. He says that’s exactly what he thought Cena would say – the same thing he says week after week. That’s the John that never backs away from a challenge. AJ Styles challenges him to a match at Summerslam. “Me and you.” Cena says he needs to teach his ass a lesson. “You’re on.” AJ says the best part of Summerslam is when he beats him, and on Tuesday when Cena comes out to the ring he says AJ is better than him. “And if you don’t, you’re a liar. And if you do, you’re a loser. Either way, I win.”
Wow. AJ was on fire here. Some of the best mic work I’ve ever seen from Styles. Cena, as always, was great here as well, and although this was an expected match, I’m looking forward to seeing it.
We come back from break to a recap of Orton’s attack on Brock Lesnar last night on Raw.
Randy Orton is in the ring for a match.
Randy Orton vs. Fandango (w/ Tyler Breeze)
Security is surrounding the ring here. Orton starts stomping Fandango’s limbs quickly, and the fans chant RKO. Suplex from Orton. Orton hits a powerslam on Fandango, and as Breeze runs in he nails him with one too. DDT off the ropes, and Orton hpes up for the RKO, but Brock Lesnar comes through the crowd. Orton sees him, hits an RKO on Fandango, and Lesnar leaps over security, nailing Orton with an F5.
Shane McMahon and security run out to the ring. They force Lesnar out of the ring. Lesnar backs out slowly, then walks away to the back.
Completely expected. Not nearly as awesome as Orton’s RKO, to be honest.
After the break, we see Lesnar leaving the arena. He says he was just returning the favor. Paul Heyman runs over and starts talking as they walk out.
Daniel Bryan is in his office on the cell phone talking about Brock Lesnar. He turns to see Heath Slater and asks him how he got there. Slater says Bryan needs to work on his security. Bryan has bigger things, but Slater says there’s nothing bigger than him. Bryan puts him in a match next week for a contract. Slater asks if it’s against Jericho’s made up partner – and then he gets speared by Rhyno. Bryan confirms it’s against Rhyno, and then goes back to the phone, asking for a medic to his office.
Back to Renee Young at the control center thing. She has Dean Ambrose with her, and she asks him about Ziggler’s match tonight. He says anything can happen in this new era. He asks her to stand instead, he feels better that way. He says he doesn’t know who he’s facing at Summerslam – could be Ziggler, could be Bray. He says even he got surprised. He says not by Bray – he has a history with him, and sooner or later. What surprised him that Ziggler put his shot on the line, and usually it takes more than a week for him to self destruct. He takes off the headset and walks away.
We come back from break, and Randy Orton walks out of the trainer’s room. He’s asked what his condition is by a new interviewer. He walks away.
Carmella comes out to her entrance. Out of nowhere, Natalya attacks her from behind, tosses her into the barricade, suplexes her, and slaps on a Sharpshooter. Carmella taps out in pain.
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon approach Dolph Ziggler backstage. They say they believe in him, but he’s potentially losing a shot at the title. Ziggler says they don’t believe in him. “Screw you.” He walks away.
Ziggler heel turn?
Bray Wyatt vs. Dolph Ziggler for Ziggler’s #1 Contendership
Ziggler immediately hits a dropkick and a fameasser for two. Wyatt bails out of the ring. Ziggler goes after him, and Wyatt takes his head off with a clothesline. Back in the ring, and Ziggler goes for a roll-up. We go to break. We come back to Wyatt going for a superplex, which he nails.
Wyatt wrenches in a crevat on Ziggler. Ambrose, who is on commentary, says he wants Ziggler to succeed – he wants everyone to. He appreciates what Ziggler is doing. Ziggler fights free, counters with a European uppercut, and hits a series of clotheslines. Splash in the corner, neckbreaker, elbow, two.
Wyatt suplex-tosses Ziggler, hits a senton and gets two. Wyatt loosens the turnbuckle, and the referee stops him. Ziggler hits a Zig Zag for a believable near fall. Ziggler goes to the corner and finishes off the turnbuckle, tearing it off. He goes to send Bray into it, but Bray counters. Ziggler rolls him up for two. Bray slams Ziggler to the mat for two.
They trade blows, Wyatt getting the advantage. He lays into Ziggler with a series of punches. Bray whips Ziggler into the corner with the exposed turnbuckle, Ziggler ducks Bray, then blatantly sends him face-first into the steel, follows it up with a superkick, and gets the pin.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
The commercial break here also hurt this match, as the flow of Smackdown and missing extra hour really hurt these mid-match breaks. Anyhow, Ziggler and Wyatt had a good match, and it looks like they’re trying to give Ziggler an edge he’s been lacking. I’m not sure who is the heel or the face anymore.
Ziggler and Ambrose stare each other down. Ziggler yells at him, asking if he wanted the real him. Erick Rowan attacks Ziggler from behind. Ambrose jumps into the ring to help out, but Rowan and Wyatt get the advantage. They push Ambrose out, then Wyatt hits Sister Abigail on Ziggler. He and Rowan tower over Ziggler as the show ends.
A better night than last week, in my opinion, and between Smackdown and Raw, I think this week Smackdown had the better show. Smackdown is starting to get the pieces in place. The subtle differences in camera work, the new on-screen graphics, Renee Young’s interview set, all little pieces of the puzzle that seem to be working in Smackdown’s favor. It’s only week two, but I like what they’re doing so far.
I’m glad that Ziggler retained here. There’s no sense in jerking the fans around with his push. Go big or go home. Is it too little, too late? Maybe, but I’m willing to give it a shot first and see where it goes.
Bill and I will have plenty to discuss on tomorrow’s Ring Rap Audio. In the meantime, what did you think of the show? Check out our Reader Poll and let us know!