WWE Smackdown airs live tonight from the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio. It’s the go-home show for the Royal Rumble, but there’s plenty happening on the show as it is.
Luke Harper and Randy Orton have been at odds with each other for weeks. Tonight, at the request of Bray Wyatt, the two look to settle their differences in the ring. Will it make The Wyatt Family stronger, or push them further apart?
Plus, La Luchadora unmasked last week, revealing herself to be Mickie James. After a long absence from WWE, James is back on the main roster. But what provoked her to attack Becky Lynch? Renee Young will find out in a sit-down interview.
Also announced, AJ Styles to call out John Cena, plus Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler. Join us starting at 8pm Eastern live here, or on Twitter @RingRap!
Our show opens with Daniel Bryan backstage, trying to eat an apple, until The Miz and Maryse interrupt him, complaining about a lack of a private dressing room. He says the other wrestlers refused to clear the joint locker room too. He wants to know what Bryan is going to do to make it right. Bryan offers to block off a stall in a public restroom. Miz and Maryse have a heck of a laugh at that. Bryan makes a rematch instead – Miz vs. Dean Ambrose for the IC Title. Miz wants it to be a no-disqualification match. Bryan shuts that down, and makes it a lumberjack match instead.
We go ringside to the announcers, Mauro Ranallo, JBL, Tom Phillips and David Otunga. They set the scene for Randy Orton and Luke Harper. That match is now.
Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper, Bray Wyatt at ringside
The Winner: Randy Orton
The Action: All three men come out to Wyatt’s music, all at once. Wyatt sits in his rocking chair as the bell rings. The two go at it right away. Early on, Orton connects with an elbow and Harper bails out to the floor. The two fight outside the ring briefly, Harper getting the better of the exchange. Orton goes for a powerslam, but Harper had it scouted. He connects with a draping DDT however.
The fight spills outside again, with Orton dropping Harper onto the barricade and then the announcer’s table. Harper catches Orton with a boot out of nowhere and both men are laid out. Wyatt rolls Orton in, then Harper, as we go to break.
Obligatory headlock out of the break, Harper in control. He hits a body slam. Orton meets him on the top rope and hits a superplex. Two-count. Both men trade blows. Orton hits his powerslam for a near fall. Harper hits a Michinoku Driver for two. Harper counters an RKO with a roll-up. He connects with a side kick for two. Harper sets Orton up, but plays to Wyatt. It’s enough for Orton to counter. He ducks a discus clothesline and hits an RKO for the win.
Post match, Wyatt wakes Harper up and offers him a hand. He helps him stand up, then drops him with Sister Abigail.
A decent match for TV, nothing special. I’m not reading into Wyatt hitting Harper with Sister Abigail too much, as it could easily just be “tough love” as the announcers put it. And, if Harper does split off, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.
The announcers recap last week’s main event, with Alexa Bliss defending the Smackdown Women’s Championship against Becky Lynch inside a steel cage. Bliss picked up the win, with a little help from
La Luchadora Mickie James. After the video, James makes her way to the ring, up next.
The announcers plug AJ Styles calling out John Cena later tonight. We go to the ring, and Renee Young introduces the newest member of the Smackdown roster, Mickie James.
James needs to get rid of her old theme song ASAP.
Young says it’s been nearly seven years since she’s been in a WWE ring, so people were shocked to see her as La Luchadora. James says she won her first WWE Championship when she beat WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus at Wrestlemania. She calls herself a former 5-time WWE Women’s Champ and a former Divas champ. Young acknowledges her credentials, but says she didn’t answer the question. James says “I believe I did.” She says she may not have been around for a little minute, but she never stopped watching. Becky Lynch and the women of the Revolution want to pretend they were the first real athletes of WWE, as if everything she accomplished meant nothing. She credits Alexa Bliss for keeping them from getting away with it. She says Bliss has been fighting the self-righteousness of the revolution since day one. She says Bliss is the only one that remembers everything about her, and says she has a lot of respect for Alexa. Young asks her if she had a problem helping Bliss cheat. James says Lynch is always bragging about being the first Smackdown pick, but it’s not about her or the Revolution – it’s about the reinvention of Mickie James.
Becky Lynch’s music hits and she immediately takes James down. James leaps over the barricade to retreat, and Alexa Bliss comes out, stopping Lynch from getting further. It was a setup! Both ladies attack Lynch and roll her into the ring, and James hits a Mick Kick. Bliss hits Twisted Bliss off the top. James grabs the mic and tells her she should’ve learned this lesson from Alexa a long time ago – always be one step ahead.
Strong mic-work from James, who seemed convincing out there. She looks amazing, and clearly can still go, as was apparent during her match with Asuka in November. I’m looking forward to Lynch vs. James in the near future.
After the break, the announcers plug the various happenings over the weekend, and then go to a video package of James Ellsworth and Carmella shopping for new clothes. She says he’ll be “G’d up from the feet up.” Ellsworth is literally in the store in his wrestling gear. Ellsworth wants to pick out clothes for himself, and reluctantly she agrees. He wants to look at pajama bottoms.
The video continues as he tries on various combinations of terrible outfits, including a lumberjack, Elvis, and pimp outfit. She has had enough, and picks for him. She sets him up with a gold shirt, a necklace, and an overall terrible outfit. But hey, I’m not fashionable.
Baron Corbin comes out for a match as we go to break.
10-man Over the Top Rope Challenge: Rhyno, Heath Slater, Aiden English, Simon Gotch, Curt Hawkins, Konnor, Viktor, Fandango, Tyler Breeze, Mojo Rawley (The Winner gets an entry into the Royal Rumble)
Winner: Mojo Rawley
Baron Corbin is not in the match, but is sitting in on commentary.
Almost immediately, both Vaudevillains are out. Mojo Rawley knocks out Curt Hawkins. Heath Slater eliminates Viktor, but Viktor holds Heath’s leg, giving Konnor an easy elimination. Mojo dumps out Rhyno and Konnor practically by himself. It’s Mojo vs. Fandano and Tyler Breeze. Breeze gets both Fandango and Mojo on the apron, accidentally kicks Fandango, and Mojo eliminates Breeze.
The entire thing was less than five minutes, so that should tell you what I think of it.
Dasha Fuentes approached Nikki Bella earlier today and asked her about her relationship with John Cena. She reiterates that Cena had nothing to do with her success. Natalya comes up, complaining that Bella’s face is on the truck behind her but Nattie’s isn’t. She attacks Bella and walks away.
AJ Styles heads out to the ring. He wants to get something off his chest before he calls out John Cena. He cues up a poster for the Royal Rumble. He’s upset because he can’t find himself in the picture. Cena is front and center, Styles is way in the back. He feels slighted about it, and starts up another story, but calls out John Cena first.
Cena comes out, full entrance. Mixed reaction for Cena, as expected. Styles cuts him off before he can speak, and says he’s heard enough from Cena – he saw him on the Today Show on Monday morning. He cues up a video, where the hosts downplay AJ Styles. Cena is confident he’s gonna win. They keep calling Styles the “guy from Atlanta.”
Back in the arena, Styles looks at Cena with disgust. “I’m just a guy from Atlanta.” Styles says he is the Phenomenal AJ Styles. He says he is unbeatable, unstoppable, and holding down Smackdown since Cena has been gone. “Guess what? Nobody missed you. Nobody.”
A small Cena chant breaks out, and AJ calls them morons that apparently did miss him. He then says he didn’t just take Cena’s place – he became “The face that replaced you.” Styles says Cena always has an excuse. Styles then offers up an excuse – Cena himself. “You are a sorry excuse for a wrestler.” He addresses Cena’s new shirt, which says “Respect. Earn it.” He wonders what he has to do to earn his respect. Styles has fought for every inch in WWE, and at the Royal Rumble, he’s not setting for an inch – he’s taking a foot, and he’s putting it in his ass.
Cena says he’s complaining because the world doesn’t know how good he is, but how many times has Cena come to the ring with tens of thousands telling him he sucks. Cena says AJ will complain that Cena will bury him if he doesn’t make it. Cena says he’s been in WWE holding it down for 10 years, and he wasn’t built for the indy scene – he was built for WWE and moments like this. He says Styles isn’t on his level, or a level below him. He says he gets more done in a day than Styles gets done in a career. He tells Styles to Photoshop the poster if it bothers him, and says he’s “Not a guy from Atlanta, you’re just a guy.” He says Styles has the championship because Cena let him. Cena says Styles is like everyone else that complains about him – complaining about Cena but doing everything they can do to be John Cena. Cena says Styles time is up, Cena’s time is now, and leaves the ring.
As expected, good work from these two. The match is where the money is, however. I gotta admit, I’m a bit peeved for Styles that they didn’t even know his name on the TV show either!
Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
The Winner: Dolph Ziggler
The Action: Still no music change for Ziggler. The announcers cue up a video recapping Jerry Lawler’s interview with Ziggler last week, including the superkick to Lawler’s chest.
The bell rings, and Kalisto goes for the legs. Shortly after, Ziggler hits a superkick and gets the win. Afterwards, he gets a chair, but JBL stands up and yells at him. Apollo Crews attacks Ziggler from behind and runs Ziggler into the ring post. He swings the chair at the post, and Ziggler ducks and takes off.
Ziggler needs wins to put over this new attitude, but I wish Kalisto was not mishandled like this. I’m glad Crews is getting something out of this at least.
Out of the break, Naomi makes her return to Smackdown television after a brief absence.
Naomi vs. Natalya
The Action: Naomi makes her entrance first, but Nattie never makes it to the ring. We get a camera backstage to see Nikki Bella attacking Natalya, slamming her into a garage door repeatedly. A pair of referees separate the two.
Naomi grabs a mic and says she came back to the land of opportunity to land her opportunity. She challenges someone – anyone from the back. So, the women’s champ obliges.
Alexa Bliss walks out, and says she’s not out there to answer a challenge from a nobody. She says Naomi hasn’t been on TV for three months, and questions who she even is – or who she thinks she is. Naomi tells her to step into the ring, and says she’s the next Smackdown Women’s champ. Bliss steps up to the apron, then hops back down, saying Naomi isn’t worth her time. She raises the belt and walks away.
Bliss has become very comfortable in her role, and each week she comes off looking more and more confident. She is starting to feel like the star that Charlotte feels like when she comes out on Raw. This is a good thing. As far as Naomi, I’m glad to see her toss her name into the hat for challenging for the title. If you’re not on the show to compete for a title, why are you there? Anyhow, a feud between the two could be very entertaining.
Dean Ambrose is backstage when he’s approached by Dasha. He says anything can happen with all those lumberjacks out there. He’s going to trust his instincts, and his instincts tell him to break the Miz’s nose, smash his head into the canvas and retain the Championship.
Miz comes out first, lumberjacks second. We go to break. When we return, the announcers plug a six-women tag match for the Royal Rumble – Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Nikki Bella vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya.
And then, Dean Ambrose comes out.
Dean Ambrose (c) vs The Miz (w/ Maryse) in a Lumberjack Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Winner: Dean Ambrose to retain the Intercontinental Championship
The Action: The Miz tosses Ambrose out to the floor early on, and the heel lumberjacks are eager to toss him back in. Back in the ring, Ambrose misses a dive and once more, tumbles out of the ring. He fights his way clear but Miz catches him and attacks. He shouts orders to the lumberjacks. Ambrose goes for a roll-up and clothesline’s The Miz over the top to the other side, where the faces attack. The heels break it up and we go to break.
We come back and the lumberjacks are a bit… aggressive on pulling Ambrose out of the ring. Miz lays into Ambrose with Yes Kicks. Ambrose fires back with chops, and dives through the ropes, fighting his way out of the lumberjacks. He tosses Baron Corbin into the ring post face first. Leaping elbow of the top for two.
Ambrose knocks Miz out of the ring on the heel side, then dives through the ropes to attack. They toss Miz in, but as Ambrose heads back in, Maryse holds his leg. Miz hits a running knee for a believable near fall. Miz hits a set of corner dropkicks. Miz ends up outside the ring and Ambrose leaps off the top onto a pile of bodies at ringside.
Back in the ring, Miz goes for a roll-up, but Ambrose counters. Ambrose hits a Lunatic Lariat, but Baron Corbin runs in and attacks Ambrose. The rest of the lumberjacks run in and start brawling, and all hell breaks loose. Ultimately, Ambrose yanks the rope on a rushing Baron Corbin. Miz goes for the sneaky roll-up, but Ambrose kicks out, hits Dirty Deeds, and ends it.
The lumberjack aspect was unnecessary, but it provided a good way to get some chaos going leading into the Royal Rumble. Plus, it was nice to once again see the IC Title in the main event of Smackdown. This belt has meaning, you better believe it.
Another good episode of Smackdown, from top to bottom. I would’ve liked to seen a little more action, but they have stories they need to advance and I get that. The tag division seems to have disappeared again, but otherwise, not much to complain about.
And now, please join me in my 205 Live coverage, starting now…