This week’s Smackdown Live started with an AWESOME promo. After viewing a recap of the feud involving The Miz, Dean Ambrose, Renee Young and Maryse, Miz talked about being more forgiving in the new year and “invited” Renee Young to come down to the ring and apologize for slapping him two weeks prior. When she did not come down to the ring he continued, as only The Miz can, to provoke Renee. However, it was the comment regarding how she “sacrificed her journalistic integrity to perform dirty deeds with Dean Ambrose”. This did not produce the desired response as Dean Ambrose came to the ring instead of Renee. As soon as Dean entered the ring, Miz exited leaving his wife alone in the ring with Ambrose. After multiple failed attempts to get to Miz, Maryse tied the slap score by hitting Dean in the middle of the ring, before joining her husband outside the ring. It was Dean that would have the last word, saying that Maryse hit harder than Miz. I’m enjoying this storyline quite a bit. Both superstars compliment each other in both ring work and mic skills. It’s also nice to see a feud that is playing off of real world situations.
The first match of the night gave Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin a chance to continue a rivalry that I hope doesn’t fade into writing oblivion. I don’t understand the hate that a lot of the WWE universe has for Corbin. I really think they don’t give him enough credit because he hasn’t had the chance to work a program with someone who can bring out his best. Dolph Ziggler could be that opponent for him. Dolph has the ability to sell with the best of them, and for someone who is as big and fast as Corbin, that is a necessity. I’m not talking about just being ragdolled either. He needs someone who can take the shots he dishes out, but also someone with world championship history that can believably hurt him so that he can show his all around talent, and not just offense. This match was great, doing all these things previously mentioned. Baron was able to pick up the win with End of Days. After the match Baron went to go get a chair to inflict more damage on Dolph, but was stopped short by Calisto who is obviously still not done with Corbin. Calisto was successful in halting the Lone Wolf, but as Ziggler got up from the mat he thanked Calisto with a super kick. He then screamed at Calisto saying that he never needed his, or anyone’s help. I hope this is what we can expect from Ziggler in the future. We need to see a version of him who has finally snapped from the frustration of constantly coming up short, and not reaching World Title status in a long time. He gave me even more hope of a more aggressive Ziggler when he attacked Apollo Crews in the locker room, after Crews took issue with Dolph tearing up the locker room and attacking his friend Calisto just minutes prior.
We next got a quick match between Becky Lynch, and a real world version of the persona she adopted to play mind games with Alexa Bliss, La Luchadora. Nothing spectacular in terms of the match, and Becky won after La Luchadora failed at hitting a Twisted Bliss. No surprise that La Luchadora was actually revealed to be Alexa Bliss after Becky removed the mask. The surprise was that another La Luchadora, the “real” La Luchadora, entered the ring after this allowing Alexa to hit a DDT on Becky. It’s not a really engaging storyline, but I’m starting to get more and more into trying to guess who this woman really is under the mask. Please be Paige, please be Paige, please be Paige……
Next was the contract signing for the WWE World Championship match at the Royal Rumble between John Cena and AJ Styles. The first sentence out of AJ’s mouth represented how I usually feel about contract signing segments when he asked Daniel Bryan “Daniel….why are we doing this?”. Bryan responded to this question stating that Smackdown had to continue to ride the wave of success. How Smackdown for the first time beat RAW in the ratings last week, attributing that milestone to both superstars being on the show. Bryan continued with the fact that this was the big match they needed to continue to beat RAW. I’m normally tuned out at these moments, but both superstars were on point with their promos. AJ called Cena out for not being around, that Cena was becoming what he hated in The Rock when Cena called the Rock out for being too Hollywood. How Smackdown didn’t need him to succeed. Cena fired back with a speech about passion. How Cena competed because he wanted too, while AJ was in the WWE because he HAD to be. This segment held my interest because both superstars made me believe that these comments were coming from a real place with real emotion. After both had signed the contract, Baron Corbin came to the ring. He made the announcement that he would be entering, and winning the Royal Rumble. Cena, still riding the adrenaline from his emotional speech to AJ, tried to talk Corbin into throwing down with him right there and now. Before that could happen, AJ took a cheap shot with a kick to the back of Cena’s head. He rolled out of the ring leaving Cena helpless in the ring with Corbin. However, Corbin would not take this opportunity to attack Cena, he would simply tell him that his time in the WWE was coming to an end. I don’t know how I feel about Corbin being spread thin in terms of serious feuds. The writers need to pick one really good person to pair him up with, and let him develop into a better overall talent.
A short backstage interaction between Renee Young and Maryse continued “Slapdown Live” when Maryse smacked Renee in the face, telling her to never touch her husband again. This was preceded with a segment Carm-Ellsworth. James nervously thanked Carmella for sticking up for him, offering her the shirt he was wearing (blech), and Carmella telling James to accompany her to the ring for her match that night. Carmella and Ellsworth did in fact come down to the ring together for her match against Aliyah who was making her Smackdown debut. Sub par match, ending with Ellsworth interfering in the match to help Carmella secure the win.
Next was a “match” between American Alpha and Breezango which really turned out to just be a reason for The Wyatt family to have a promo on the Titantron. The short video promo had Bray telling the new tag champs that they would be returning next week to reclaim the titles and that their family ties were stronger than ever. Someone should tell Randy though, I’m sure Luke Harper didn’t appreciate Randy taking his “Run” catchphrase just before the screen cut to black.
Rounding out the filler prior to the main event was Natalya and Nikki Bella having words in the ring. Natalya accusing Nikki on just getting by because of her looks, Nikki telling Natalya she was using her family name to get relevant. Natalya responded by showing a picture from Twitter of Nikki and Bret Hart, taking issue with the fact that Bret said that he admired Nikki’s determination and that she was always one of his favorites. She continued by telling Nikki that when her looks fade, her boyfried John Cena would leave her and that she would die alone. Nikki responded with a solid punch that dropped Natalya and left her face first in the ring. I get that the WWE is trying to incorporate more real world drama in their storylines, but these two women are really dropping the ball trying to get me to care about any of this.
After 30 minutes of boredom it was finally time for the main event between Dean Ambrose and Miz for the Intercontinental Championship. These two were made to feud with each other. The Miz is the best in the WWE in getting under people’s skin, and it doesn’t take much to get Dean fired up. So basically you have one of the best heels in the game against an anti-hero that is even more aggressive than normal. Miz’s running away game is only enhanced by someone who REEEEALLLLLLYY looks like he wants to kill him. I love this feud. Their two persona’s compliment each other perfectly. Not too many high spots in the match, and it was typical in flow. Maryse interfered multiple times, and the final slap of the night on Ambrose’s face was the last straw for the referee. Just before the ref could DQ Miz, Dean convinced the referee to not ring the bell, which led to Maryse being ejected from ringside. As Maryse walked to the back, Miz hit Ambrose from behind with the belt which the ref did not see. This would not work out for Miz in the long run, as Dean is notorious for not staying down. After Ambrose kicked out at the last minute, Miz attempted to hit the Skull Crushing Finale but Ambrose reversed it and hit Dirty Deeds on the champion. One, Two, Three! We have a new Intercontinental Champion!
All in all the show this week was a sandwich with really great bread, but rotten meat. I like the fact that they are trying to incorporate real world situations into their programs. Both the World Title and IC level roster is hitting it out of the park as far as I’m concerned. I do continue to feel that the WWE is like a kid who has too many toys, and will never be able to play with all of them. If this company wants to really flourish, they need to understand the limits of their writing team. If that team cannot support a certain size roster with engaging storylines, perhaps they either need to find a team that can, or not bring so many people into the main shows so fast. Quality over quantity guys and gals.