WWE Smackdown comes at us live from the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Canada, and it’s already slated to be a strong show. We have a 10-Man Battle Royal to determine the #1 Contender to the WWE Championship, with the winner scheduled to face Bray Wyatt for the title at Wrestlemania. Nikki Bella and Natalya will finally settle their feud in a Falls Count Anywhere Match, and the injured Naomi will have to find a way to fend off Alexa Bliss.
We will have live coverage of the show starting at 8pm Eastern. You can follow along with my live thoughts here, or on Twitter @RingRap!
Smackdown opens up with highlights of Bray Wyatt winning the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber, and successful first defense on Smackdown. There’s focus on Luke Harper’s attack on Wyatt prior to the start of the match, and Randy Orton’s proclamation that he will not face Wyatt at Wrestlemania. The video package puts over the Battle Royal to determine the #1 Contender, and we head to the arena.
Daniel Bryan’s music hits to open the show proper. Bryan says there’s only 40 days until Wrestlemania. He says on the Road to Wrestlemania there are unexpected twists and turns – hence the reason he’s out there tonight. He welcomes the current Smackdown Women’s Champion, Naomi.
Naomi walks out to the ring with her belt around her waist, but she’s not dressed to compete. She is wearing a knee brace as well. The fans chant “You deserve it” before she can even speak. Bryan agrees and says everyone there believes she truly does deserve it – because for years she has worked so hard, scratched and clawed, and seen others get more opportunities than she did. But here she is, Smackdown Women’s Champion. He says they are so proud of her, but that’s why what he is about to do is the hardest thing he’s had to do at General Manager. Bryan says he can relate to this – he scratched and clawed, and got to the very top and was Champion, but then he got injured. He had to relinquish the championship – it wasn’t something he wanted to do, but needed to do.
He says he and Shane have gone over her medical records extensively, and that she will be unable to defend the title in the required 30 days. He apologizes, and asks her to relinquish the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
Naomi looks devastated. She thanks Bryan for the kind words, and says it’s crazy how fast live can change. Last week she was crying tears of joy, and today she’s here crying tears of sadness. She talks about making it to the top of the mountain and says the view was so sweet, but now she’s being knocked off the mountain. She feels like she’s letting the fans down. She says it’s hard because she knows when she gives him the title, Wrestlemania is probably gone too. Naomi then hands Bryan the title.
Bryan sets his microphone down and encourages the fans to cheer, and then gives Naomi a hug. Naomi says to whoever is “borrowing” the title, when she comes back everyone is going to feel the freaking glow. Naomi leaves the ring slowly, and as she walks to the back, Alexa Bliss makes her way down the ramp.
Bliss says that was amazing. She says she could’ve gone without the sob story, but the end part when Naomi gave up the title? Perfection. She says for two weeks all she’s wanted is her rematch, and for two weeks Naomi hasn’t been able to defend the title. The fans start chanting “We can’t hear you.” Bliss says the fans can hear her and to shut up.
Bliss says they need a champ going into Wrestlemania. She says her arms and legs work, and Bliss turns on the fans during their “What” chants. She feels Bryan should return the title to her.
Bryan says what he’s about to do next might be more difficult than taking the belt from Naomi. He says she was the former champ and he supposes it makes sense to give her back the title… but he’s not going to do that. He’s going to give her an opportunity instead – and her match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship is right now!
Becky Lynch’s music, and Lynch heads out to face off for the title as we go to break.
Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
The Winner: Alexa Bliss
The Match: The bell rings at 8:22pm. Both ladies trade rollup pin attempts. Lynch hits an enzuigiri for two. She does a single leg takedown off a leapfrog. Bliss and Lynch trade pins and work a backslide sequence. Armdrags into an armbar for Lynch.
Bliss hits an STO for two. Lynch hits a Becksploder suplex for two as we go to break. We return to Lynch firing up. She hits a flying Firearm and a suplex for two. Dropkick off the top for two. Lynch tries to pull Bliss into the ring and she grabs on to the apron. Lynch pulls her free and the referee goes to get the apron out of the ring. While the referee is distracted, Bliss hits a strike to the throat, and gets a roll-up with a handful of tights for the win.
Mickie James greets Bliss on the ramp, congratulating her. Then James runs out to the ring to attack Lynch, but Lynch gets the better of the exchange, sending James packing.
Not a bad match. It felt less epic than their previous matches. I would’ve been surprised if Lynch won it again – Bliss was doing such a good job with the title and being a heel that needed to be shut up that it seems easier to write the chase.
Backstage, Dean Ambrose talks about his previous encounters with Baron Corbin, but says he needs to stay focused because he has a chance to take back his opportunity at Wrestlemania. He says if he has a chance to break Baron Corbin’s leg, however, he will.
A vignette for Kalisto airs, and he says he was never meant to be a WWE Superstar, but all his life he fought and struggled to make it. He says there are no limitations to what he accomplish, including headlining Wrestlemania as thousands chant “Lucha!”
And then, The Miz says he just wants to compare resumes, and he lists all of his accomplishments in and out of the ring. He says coming April 2nd, he’ll be the most must-see star at Wrestlemania.
Tom Phillips hypes up Nikki Bella vs. Natalya in a Falls Count Anywhere Match, for later tonight. Renee Young approaches Natalya backstage, and asks about Bella’s support. Nattie says Bella was manufactured in a lab for Instagram likes. She refers to her fake laugh and “silicone insincerity.” She calls Bella’s wrestling skills poor and says Bella is a cheap Natalya knockoff.
Breezango vs. American Alpha
The Winners: American Alpha
The Action: Breezango immediately attack before American Alpha can even make it into the ring. Jordan is in the ring, and he’s the lucky one to get the brunt of the attack, as Fandango immediately attacks when the bell rings.
David Otunga decries the attack, talking about honor and respect, but JBL supports it Breeze tags in for a near fall.
Gable makes a surprise tag and they hit an Electric Chair Bulldog on Fandango for the win.
After the match, The Usos come walking through the crowd with a mic in hand. They congratulate American Alpha and says they’re “Soon to be ex-champions.” They head out to the ring to fight, but not tonight – they came out to tell them they can’t train for them. The two brothers play off of each other, talking about how AA will go to the hotel tonight and try to sleep but they won’t be able to, because they won’t be able to shake the nagging feeling that someone is watching them. It’s a good promo and effective at establishing The Usos as being slightly unhinged and having nothing to lose.
David Otunga cues up a Black History Month video about Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
After the break, AJ Styles is walking backstage, when he approaches a random worker. He asks them if they know where he’s going, and then he yells “To the main event of Wrestlemania!” He laughs and walks off.
A Dolph Ziggler vignette plays. He says the new era of WWE has been cancelled by him, and if anyone thinks they can replace him… and then he superkicks the backdrop. Ok.
Mojo Rawley is getting ready backstage, and says he’s won two battle royals in the past two months. Tonight is for Wrestlemania. Wrestlemania. Wrestlemania!
Luke Harper says he followed Bray Wyatt for years, listened to him and obeyed him, but now he is free. After he is victorious tonight, there will be nowhere left for him to run.
Renee Young approaches Nikki Bella and asks her for any last minute thoughts. She says she used to feel bad for Nattie, but that’s over now – just like their friendship. She says she is Nikki Bella and was the longest reigning Divas Champion for a reason. After tonight, Nattie will be known as the Broken Hart.
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
The Winner: Natalya
The Action: Bella immediately spears Natalya to the ground. She goes for an early cover. Bella goes under the ring to pull out a table, and Nattie kicks her to the floor. She pushes the table back under the ring, and Bella goes for a roll-up for two. She grabs a kendo stick from under the ring, hitting Natalya repeatedly.
Bella tosses Natalya over the barricade and the fight spills into the audience. Nattie hits a series of punches, and then tosses Bella into the soundboard. Nattie goes for a suplex off the soundboard barricade to the floor. Bella counters it and hits a leaping roundhouse for two.
Bella tosses Nattie back into ringside. Nattie kicks her into the barricade and then into the ringpost, and then the stairs. Cover for two. Natalya tears up the announcer’s table. Bella fires back with a series of elbow strikes. Nattie catches her with a shoulderblock, and then tears Bella off the apron for a powerbomb through the table, but Bella fights free. Bella hits an Alabama Slam across the table (which does not break) and she goes for a cover on top of the table for two. We go to break.
We return and Natalya drags Bella out onto the ramp. She hits a snap suplex on the ramp for two. Bella sends Nattie into the steel barricade. They continue to brawl, heading towards the backstage area. Nattie pins Bella on a storage crate. The two fight through the backstage area, and Natalya throws Bella into Maryse, who just happened to be in the wrong place, again. Bella tosses Natalya into a mirror, and gets a two-count. They head back into the arena, and Bella hits a spear on the ramp for two.
Natalya drops Bella onto the ramp and goes for a sharpshooter, but Bella counters with a Fearless Lock. Out of nowhere, Maryse runs out from backstage, with a pipe in hand. She starts swinging at Bella, hitting her with a pipe repeatedly. The Miz runs out and drags Maryse backstage. Nattie takes advantage and makes the pin for the win.
We’ve been waiting for the angle that sets up the expected Bella Wrestlemania match, and we just got it. All that aside, this was a good brawl for the ladies that fit their feud. This has been a highlight of Smackdown over the past couple of months, and this match was no different. Thumbs up for both ladies, who busted their ass to have a believable Falls Count Anywhere match.
The announcers hype up Diamond Dallas Page’s induction into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Baron Corbin talks about liking destruction, inflicting pain, and the spotlight. He says the spotlight will be on him as he takes his place in the main event of Wrestlemania.
Apollo Crews says people mistake his smile for weakness, but tonight if anyone wants to step in his way they’re going to get tossed over the top real quick.
Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt cut a promo. Wyatt says with such sacrifice comes great reward. He says Orton has earned the keys to the kingdom, but whoever wins tonight will be his sacrifical lamb. “Welcome to the era of Wyatt.”
John Cena makes his way down to the ring. We go to break.
We return, and the ring is half-full. Jack Gallagher then cuts a promo hyping his match against Tony Nese for 205 Live. We go back to the ring and Baron Corbin makes his entrance, followed by Luke Harper, The Miz (without Maryse), AJ Styles, and Dean Ambrose.
John Cena vs. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kalisto vs. Luke Harper vs. Mojo Rawley vs. The Miz vs. Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin in a 10-Man Battle Royal to determine the #1 Contender
The Winner: N/A
The Action: Ambrose immediately attacks Corbin. The fans chant for AJ Styles and John Cena almost exclusively. Ziggler hits Cena with a superkick. Styles tries to push Cena over the top. Ziggler nearly ends up on the floor as well.
There’s a whole lot of posturing and teasing eliminations. Ambrose and Ziggler brawl on the apron, Ambrose hits chops on a number of participants. We go to break with zero eliminations.
We return to Baron Corbin hitting a Deep Six on The MIz, with everyone else laid out on the floor. Corbin makes the first elimination, tossing Mojo Rawley to the floor.
Baron Corbin eliminates Mojo Rawley
Kalisto hits Salida Del Sol to Ziggler. He goes for a moonsault on Ambrose and barely gets it. He and Ziggler brawl on the arpon, and Ziggler hits a superkick, eliminating Kalisto.
Dolph Ziggler eliminates Kalisto
Apollo Crews hits a roundhouse kick on Ziggler, eliminating him.
Apollo Crews eliminates Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler grabs a chair and hits Kalisto. When Crews checks on Kalisto, Corbin pushes him over the top.
Baron Corbin eliminates Apollo Crews
Back in the ring, Styles and Cena trade punches to cheers/boos. Styles flips out of an AA, and hits a Pele Kick on Harper. A nice sequence leads to Ambrose hitting a clothesline on Corbin. Miz starts up the yes chants and hits a series of dropkicks in all four corners. Roundhouses to Cena, in the middle of the ring. Cena ducks the last and tosses Miz over the top.
John Cena eliminates The Miz
We go to break. We return to Cena suplexing both Styles and Ambrose in a cool spot. It’s Cena, Ambrose, Styles, Harper, and Corbin. Cena ramps up on Styles, and goes for Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Baron Corbin catches him with End of Days instead. He charges at Ambrose, who pulls a low bridge on the ropes, eliminating Corbin.
Dean Ambrose eliminates Baron Corbin
Corbin yanks Ambrose to the floor and hits him with End of Days. Ambrose is out. Corbin walks away. Out of nowhere, The Miz runs in and tosses John Cena over the top rope, then high-tails it through the crowd. Cena looks pissed, but the referees send him packing.
The Miz eliminates John Cena
It’s getting interesting now – Luke Harper and AJ Styles are left in the ring, with Ambrose still out at ringside. Harper quickly tries to eliminate Harper, and the two go back and forth. Harper manhandles Styles and tries to flip him over the top. Dean Ambrose sneaks in and tries to eliminate both men, but they land on the apron.
All three on the apron now. Styles and Ambrose trade blows. Harper kicks Ambrose in the gut, and sends Ambrose to the floor.
Luke Harper eliminates Dean Ambrose
Harper still has not entered the ring. He fights Styles on the apron and suplexes Styles onto the turnbuckle, putting him back on the apron. The two trade blows over the turnbuckle. Styles hits Harper and Harper rolls into the ring. Styles rolls in as well.
Either way, I’m happy with this match at Wrestlemania.
Styles tries for a sleeper on Harper. Styles falls through the middle ropes but isn’t in danger of elimination. Harper sets Styles up on the apron again. Styles hits a series of forearms. Harper on the apron now too, both men are fighting through the turnbuckles. Harper grabs Styles with a suplex and both men tumble to the floor, though if I had to guess, AJ hit first.
The referees look confused, and they can’t come to an agreement to who hit first (it’s clear it was AJ). AJ and Harper roll back into the ring. The referees aren’t able to call it. Harper looks pissed, and Daniel Bryan heads down to the ring. Bryan confers with the referees and says officially it’s a draw. He says there’s no winner, and they will determine a winner next week.
AJ starts talking trash, and points at Harper. Harper hits him with a Discus Clothesline and lays him out before posing for the crowd, who gives him a strong pop. Harper starts to leave the ring, and then Bray Wyatt appears on the Titantron, just laughing.
That was a pretty good Battle Royal overall, but I’m a bit disappointed that they’re dragging their feet on the finish. At this rate, it’ll be a Fatal Four Way at Wrestlemania, which I am 100% against.
Either way though, if it’s AJ or Harper, I’ll be happy with the match.
Another strong episode of Smackdown, anchored by a solid Battle Royal and a great brawl between Natalya and Nikki Bella. Cena/Bella vs. Miz/Maryse is clearly being set up for Wrestlemania, and I’m fine with that match as well. I’m disappointed to see Naomi drop the title without an opportunity to prove herself, but Alexa Bliss is a good champion overall, in my opinion.
Time for 205 Live coverage. Join me there, won’t you?