WWE Smackdown rolls into Richmond, VA this evening for the final live show before Wrestlemania. It’s already looking like a packed show, too, with Bray Wyatt taking on his former disciple Luke Harper. Plus, Shane McMahon and AJ Styles put ink to paper and sign the contract for their match at Wrestlemania, The Miz and Maryse air the final “lost episode” of Total Bellas, and more!
Join us starting at 8pm Eastern for live coverage of the show, plus on Twitter @RingRap!
Smackdown opens up with Daniel Bryan leaping his way to the ring. JBL, Tom Phillips, and David Otunga welcome us to the show. In the ring, a table and chairs. It’s time for a contract signing!
Bryan asks the fans if they are ready for Wrestlemania, and boy they sure are. Bryan gets things started, and welcomes Shane McMahon out first. After Shane’s cheers, the fans chant for AJ Styles, and sure enough, Daniel Bryan introduces him. Both men take a seat in the ring.
Shane talks about when Daniel Bryan and he took over Smackdown Live 8 months ago, they decided they wanted to make Smackdown a place where management doesn’t push their own agendas, and the land of opportunity. He says Styles was always part of that vision, and no matter what, he thinks Styles is one of the greatest talents to ever step through the ropes and be in the ring, and in that respect, he’s phenomenal.
AJ agrees with him – he IS phenomenal. Shane says when he came to WWE last year, he blew the doors off the place. People chanted his name everywhere. He says he used that energy to win the WWE Championship, but somewhere along the line, his ego grew. He became arrogant, and his ego got in the way of his title run, and how he couldn’t win it back. He says AJ’s ego couldn’t handle that he didn’t have a match at Wrestlemania, so he made his own opportunity.
Shane says whoever he faces at Wrestlemania, he forces them to dig down deep and bring out their very best. He says he looked at Styles after putting him through the table last week – and says AJ realized it was a game changer. He says if AJ doesn’t bring his A-game, how phenomenal will he feel when it’s Shane’s hand raised instead?
Shane signs the contract and slides it over to Styles, who sneers a bit. He asks Shane if he knows what kind of match he’s having. “It’s not a Hell in a Cell match. It’s not a falls count anywhere match. It’s a match where if you’re outside the ring for more than 10 seconds, you lose!” He says there are no tables or ladders, and if he uses one of those items he loses. He calls the match a “traditional match” and doesn’t know if Shane has ever been in one before. “But here’s the thing – when you get in the ring with me, you’ve now entered the world of AJ Styles.” He calls the ring his home. “I am untouchable.” Styles says he can wrestle, throw hands, and he begs him to take it to the air. “I will embarrass you on every level.” Styles says he thought Shane would have learned something by now, because he’s been in the ring with Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, and others, but he has never been in the ring with AJ Styles before. He says he is the all around best performer to step in a WWE ring – and Shane will find out just how phenomenal he is.
AJ signs the paper and the two stand up, going nose to nose. Bryan breaks it up and asks them to calm down. He asks them to seal the deal with a handshake. Shane extends a hand, and AJ walks away, leaving the ring.
A simple, effective build. No physical contact, but both names are on the line, and AJ addressed the audacity of the situation that Shane McMahon – a stunt wrestler at best – is in the ring with the best wrestler in the world.
Up next, Becky Lynch vs. Carmella!
Becky Lynch vs. Carmella (w/ James Ellsworth)
The Winner: Carmella via DQ (?)
The Action: Mickie James and Smackdown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss are at ringside on commentary here.
Ellsworth walks out in advance of Carmella, and calls himself a Handsome Physical Specimen, demanding our silence, before he introduces Carmella. The bell rings, and Carmella backs into the ropes immediately. Ellsworth gets on the apron as Carmella gives Ellsworth her gum. Gross. Carmella kicks Lynch in the gut off a springboard in the corner. During the match, Bliss and James start bickering back and forth. It’s not long before they start shoving each other at ringside. James flapjacks Bliss into the ring and the two start brawling. James hits Carmella and the ref calls for the bell.
All hell breaks loose and there’s a brawl, but it’s James and Lynch left standing in the ring. James points at the Wrestlemania sign as we go to break. I’m not entirely sure if the segment is about to mutate into something else.
Sure enough, after the break, it’s now a tag match.
Becky Lynch & Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss & Carmella
The Action: James starts out the match and maintains control for the most part. A distraction from Alexa gives Carmella a chance to gain control. James tries to make the hot tag, but Bliss tags in and keeps her isolated. As Bliss connects with a stiff right, Natalya’s music hits, and she heads out to the ring. We go to break. Again.
When we return, Natalya is on commentary, and it’s still James and Bliss in the ring. James hits a hurricarana and a swinging neckbreaker. She makes the hot tag to Becky Lynch. Lynch takes out Carmella, also legal, with a series of kicks and an underhook suplex. Flying Firearm in the corner, and a jump kick, but Natalya distracts Lynch on the apron. It’s enough to give Ellsworth a chance to trip up Lynch, and Carmella gets the win.
And then, all hell breaks loose, again. With the heels gaining the advantage, until Naomi’s music hits. The place explodes, and Naomi hits a hurricarana on the ramp on Natalya. She hits rear view on Alexa and sends Carmella packing as well.
Naomi grabs the mic, smiling ear to ear, and says everyone was wondering if she’d be back in time for Wrestlemania – and she is. She’s officially entering the Smackdown Women’s Title match. She says Sunday everyone will Feel the Glow.
Naomi got a strong pop, and the fans even finished her “Feel the glow” sentence for her. She’s the leading favorite for Sunday, by far.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan is on the phone, when he’s interrupted by “Breezy Bella.” Tyler Breeze, dressed up as Nikki Bella, declares herself available for the Smackdown Women’s Championship match. Breeze takes off the wig and Bryan sells it. “Tyler Breeze?! Where’d you come from?!” Fandango walks in and tells him he should’ve worn a bracelet or something. Breeze is disappointed they’re not on Wrestlemania, and Bryan suggests they wrestle in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Fandango tells him to buckle up, because the Ultimate Thrill Ride begins with Breezango. Breeze starts chanting “Buckle up” while jumping up and down, fake breasts jiggling everywhere. Fandango calms him down and they leave, and Bryan feels left hanging.
After the break, The Miz and Maryse head down to the ring. Miz welcomes us to MizTV. He says last week we got to see a glimpse of the never before seen lives of John Cena and Nikki Bella, and he introduces another episode of “Total Bellas Bullshit.” I didn’t cover last week’s, and I won’t cover this week’s, but it’s well done and funny. Miz portrays Daniel Bryan in this week too.
At the end of the segment, in-video, Miz and Maryse break their Cena/Bella characters and tell them they’re going to make sure Wrestlemania is their curtain call. They’re going to make sure they have no career outside of WWE. “After Wrestlemania, you’re no longer going to be able to call yourself a man, and the whole world is going to know your entire life is total bullshit.”
We go the arena, and Miz poses with a shit-eating grin. But then, John Cena’s music hits, and both he and Nikki Bella walk out. Cena says he was backstage laughing with everyone else. He credits Miz for getting the house rules right, and not being able to tell Nikki and Brie apart, and how he walks around all robotic. And, they really got the “not married” part right, because they’re not married. He says they can take a joke, but then The Miz stopped telling jokes. He says they have a problem with Miz and Maryse because they believe what they’re saying is true. Cena accuses Maryse of believing Nikki kept her from WWE, but she’s there now. Cena says WWE didn’t want her before because she didn’t do anything. And Cena says he’s not using WWE as a launching pad for greater things. He’s the most brand loyal – more than maybe even Vince McMahon. He runs down the stars that have left for movies and come back to WWE and guess what? Miz is on that list.
Cena talks about Maryse still doesn’t do anything around there. Bella at least wrestles, and Cena accuses Miz of getting WWE to hire Maryse so he could be on Total Divas. He asks them how many kids Miz and Maryse have since they’re always talking about Nikki and Cena not having kids. Cena accuses them of being married for years and having no children, and wonders if Miz is firing blanks. Cena says the two of them don’t listen – they talk and talk and talk. He accuses them of always having an excuse for everything. Cena says he laughed when Miz was imitating him, but then he took everything off and he got serious. Cena takes off his shirt and arm bands, and says at Wrestlemania they are going to destroy them. He says Miz memorized all of Cena’s house rules, but he hasn’t learned the one rule that sets Cena apart – “You want to talk tough, you better be tough – and you’re a pussy!” He says they’re not the It-Couple, they’re the Shit-Couple. He begs Miz to ball up his fist and take a shot, but reminds him that he’ll swing back. The gauntlet is thrown down, and Miz and Maryse walk away. Miz turns around and takes off his jacket and heads back to the ring, but Maryse talks him out of it, and he leaves.
Bella calls them fake-ass, see through, jealous haters. She says on Sunday they’re coming to kick their ass.
A strong promo from Cena, who did what he does best. The video from Miz and Maryse was good as well too, but it was the promo after that nailed it. I’m looking forward to seeing this match come Sunday.
10-Man Tag Team Match: Dolph Ziggler & Breezango & The Usos vs. Mojo Rawley & Heath Slater & Rhyno & American Alpha
The Winners: Mojo Rawley & Heath Slater & Rhyno & American Alpha
The Action: Apparently, all of these participants are in the Andre Memorial. Ziggler and Jason Jordan start it out. Jordan tags to Gable, and who keeps Ziggler under control. Tag to Heath Slater, who hypes up the crowd before tagging in Rhyno. He sends Ziggler out of the ring as we go to break.
Out of the break, Chad Gable is wrenching the arm of Jey Uso. He’s blindsided by Breezango. Rapid tags here, keeping Gable grounded. Jey Uso breaks up a hot tag attempt, but Gable counters and makes the tag to Mojo Rawley. Mojo hits shoulderblocks on Breeze, and sends Ziggler over the top. Craziness ensures, and ultimately, Rhyno hits a Gore on Ziggler, but Breeze sends Rhyno over the top. Mojo hits a running elbow out of nowhere for the win.
A fun tag match, but ultimately pointless. It’s a longshot that any of these men will win the Andre Memorial.
A Luke Harper vignette airs – he says Wyatt cast him out like a piece of trash. He says he doesn’t need Wyatt – he’s free. “If I were you, Bray, I would run.”
After a commercial break and a plug for every match on Wrestlemania, we go to the arena.
Bray Wyatt vs. Luke Harper
The Winner: Bray Wyatt
The Action: Early on, Wyatt takes Harper out with a running forearm. Harper fires back with a dropkick, and follows Bray to ringside, brawling near the barricade. Harper connects with a running clothesline and tosses Wyatt into the time-keeper’s area, and stands tall on the announcer’s table as we go to break.
After the break, Wyatt has control of Harper, but Harper quickly hits a swinging sidewalk slam. Wyatt recovers and teases a crab walk, but Harper nearly hits him with Sister Abigail. Harper dives through the ropes twice, sending Wyatt over the announcer’s table. Harper hits a boot to the face for two. Wyatt goes for Sister Abigail, but Harper counters and hits a superkick followed by a Discus Clothesline. Wyatt grabs the bottom rope.
Harper attacks Wyatt, but out of nowhere, Wyatt hits Sister Abigail for the sudden victory.
Wyatt sits in the middle of the ring, smiling and laughing, until Randy Orton appears on the screen. He calls to Bray, and says he’s at the same place he burned to the ground, the same place Wyatt bathed in Sister Abigail’s ashes. Orton says there is no salvation for Wyatt. He takes a stick with a circle and a red X on it and drives it into the ground, supposedly further killing Sister Abigail as the show goes off the air.
Well, that was anticlimactic. Really, a disappointing level of hype for the title match. Based on what we’ve seen here, this match is definitely not closing the show and I’ll be surprised if it’s in the third hour, let alone 4th.
Smackdown really feels like an afterthought this year. No Ambrose/Corbin hype, no tag team title match, the women got bumped to the preshow. The only matches that feel important are Miz/Maryse vs. Cena/Bella and AJ vs. Shane. Smackdown should not be treated as the “B” show and it is.
I’ll have lots to say about this and more tomorrow on Ring Rap Audio. Be sure to tune in, and in the meantime I’m heading over to cover 205 Live!