Hometown boy Daniel Bryan opened Smackdown Live with four of the six participants in this weekend’s Elimination Chamber main event. The Miz, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, and Baron Corbin. Daniel had started out by recalling the last time he was in Seattle during a WWE show, and how it was the night he announced his retirement. He talked about how he was grateful then, and grateful now. He spoke about being grateful that he was Smackdown Live general manager, as well as being grateful that in the very near future he would be a father. I’ll give you one guess which of the four superstars I mentioned earlier took the opportunity to interrupt such a positive announcement. Need a hint? AWWWEEESOOOOOMMMMEEEE! The Miz entered the ring and the first words out of his mouth were “Boooo Hoooo” Miz mocked Bryan regarding his retirement, and that he should be a stay at home dad, that being the only thing he is qualified to do now that he can’t wrestle. Miz began a struggle of decibel dominance with the crowd, who was none to please with him making fun of their hometown hero. As Miz argued with the crowd, Baron Corbin’s entrance music became the loudest thing in the arena. Baron urged Miz to shut his mouth, while Miz tried to encourage the Lone Wolf to team up with him this weekend. He wanted the team to eliminate the other four competitors in the Elimination Chamber match and then have the best man win. Corbin was having none of that, and threatened to take Miz out right that second. Dean Ambrose was next to join the party, adding his always entertaining comedic promo cutting. AJ was last to the ring and put his own two cents into the conversation. As the four superstars went back and forth, Daniel Bryan took control and announced that there would be a fatal 4-way match between everyone in the ring, and that would be happening…….RIGHT NOW! All we needed was Mick Foley jumping in saying “Right here, in Seattle Washington”! *Thumbs up and a grin*
I’m not always a huge fan of fatal 4-way matches. With so much going on there is a lot of room for error, botched spots, and general confusion. Plus it’s pretty difficult to recap, but that’s just me being lazy. This match had none of the aforementioned negatives, and all the good parts you come to expect from this type of match with this caliber of superstar. There were tons of high spots, as well as a plethora of pinfall attempts. Some highlights were when AJ, Miz and Dean performed what can only be described as a pin wheel of pin attempts. They literally took turns in a circular motion attempting to roll up the next man, I stopped counting at ten. The high spot of the match for me occurred right after a commercial break. Dean had been “crotched” (Mauro Ranallo’s word, not mine) on the top turnbuckle. AJ and Miz were attempting to double superplex Ambrose, but Baron Corbin came over and powerbombed both of them WHILE they superplexed Ambrose. It was honestly one of the more creative moves I’ve seen on Smackdown Live in a while. The match continued with each superstar hitting their finishers and unique highspots, but none were able to turn it into a victory. The victory almost came to AJ Styles after a Phenomenal Forearm to Miz, but the ever-present Maryse saved her husband by pulling him out of the ring. This interference distracted Styles just enough for Corbin to surprise Styles with an End of Days, which allowed him to pick up the victory. This win is just another step towards Corbin solidifying his legitimacy in the WWE Smackdown Live world title picture. I’ve been saying for months that the WWE needed to push Corbin, that he had every bit of the in ring talent to hang with the big boys. It seems that I was right. Congratulations Baron Corbin!
We then had a short video promo of Luke Harper. In a very familiar Wyatt Family style setting Luke Harper, in a dark room with very little light coming from light bulbs hanging from strings, stated “Man is most dangerous when he had nothing to lose. What about a man who never had anything to begin with?” He talked about how he knows Randy Orton is a liar and a snake in the grass. He wants to expose Randy, but instead of cutting the head off the snake, he wants to make this viper suffer. He concluded the promo with him saying he wanted to end Randy’s involvement in the Wyatt family at the Elimination Chamber PPV. Will he get his wish?
Next up Tom Phillips held an interview with both Nikki Bella and Natalya, both of whom were live via satellite. Tom started the interview asking Nikki if the two women could ever be friends again after their match this weekend. Nikki answered by stating that they couldn’t because Natalya isn’t the same woman she was friends with before. Natalya fired back by saying that they were never friends in the first place, and in fact Nikki doesn’t have any real friends. All the people around her are just followers, and people involved with her reality show. The interview continued with refried insults that we have heard from the last few Smackdown Live segments. The only new insults thrown were by Natalya, who said that after Nikki gets beaten by her, she will have nothing to do but sit on the couch next to her pregnant sister. Nikki tried at a comeback but failed. Naty ended the interview with a vicious finishing blow. She told Nikki that now that John Cena is champ again, he wouldn’t have time to nurse her back to health like the last time she had to take time off. John would simply move on to a better, more beautiful woman. In fact, if Natalya wasn’t married, Cena would probably end up with her. This caused Nikki to take off her microphone and exit the interview, saying she couldn’t believe Natalya went there. I’m still not interested in this rivalry at all, but I do have to give credit where it is do. This was the best promo Natalya has cut during this entire rivalry. So hey, WWE creative…..let’s not continue this snorefest after Elimination Chamber OK? That promo was as good as it’s ever going to get between these two.
Following the interview, after weeks of set up, we were finally set to see a match between Apollo Crews and Dolph Ziggler. This match really had my interest. Two very athletic and energetic superstars going at it with weeks of turmoil to fuel them. Crews with his youth, power, and emotion versus a very aggressive and focused ring veteran in Dolph Ziggler. Crews took it to Ziggler early, hitting a beautiful dropkick right off the bat, and then overpowering Ziggler into the corner. However Ziggler was able to stop the momentum of the rookie with a satellite DDT. Dolph went for his super kick, but Crews was able to counter and roll Ziggler up and get the 1,2,3. Crews then did something completely stupid. He turned his back on a man who he didn’t incapacitate when he won, and who also has been known to be less than trustworthy over the past couple of weeks. Like clockwork Ziggler hit Apollo from behind and went to go get a chair. He cracked Crews with a thunderous chair shot, but not as thunderous as the crowd chanting ” ONE MORE TIME!”. As Ziggler obliged and struck Crews a second time, Kalisto ran to the ring to attempt to save his friend. He made a decent go at it, but was ultimately “crotched” (sorry, this word is staying) while attempting Salina Del Sol. Ziggler gave Kalisto his weekly dose of steel chair, sending him to the mat in a crumpled heap. Once again the crowd chanted “ONE MORE TIME!” Ziggler being the people pleaser that he is gave Apollo Crews one chair shot for the road, and then left the ring.
The first ever duel contract signing was held tonight for the two Smackdown Live Women’s Division matches this weekend at Elimination Chamber. Mickie James will be facing Becky Lynch, and Naomi will Challenge Alexa Bliss for the WWE Smackdown Live Women’s Championship. The real highlight of this contract signing was Mickie James, whose mic skills have certainly improved over the past seven years that she has been absent from the WWE. When she speaks to Becky there is real emotion there. It almost has me wondering if some of the feelings she talks about have some place in reality. When she talks about how she was the one who paved the way for the Women’s Revolution. Or how Becky is trying to erase Mickie’s history by making the revolution her own, I feel like she must really had these thoughts. Mickie also mentioned that Becky was going to have to deal with seven years of pent-up rage. Either way, Mickie cut the best promo during the segment. Becky did a good job firing back, telling Mickie that she quit when it got hard, and that no “seven years of rage” could compete with Lynch’s lifetime of straight “FIYAH!” Alexa and Naomi’s back and forth was mediocre, and the only thing of substance that came from that exchange was Naomi roundhouse kicking Alexa in the face after she signed the contract. The four women scrapped for a bit, and it was Becky and Naomi that sent the two heels walking back to the locker room embarrassed.
A twelve man tag match was next on the card, which just so happens to be the exact match that will be happening at the PPV this Sunday. This never makes any sense to me. I suppose it’s not so bad giving it away for free if the value/quality of that match is close to zero. WWE creative is really dropping the ball with American Alpha. Putting them in matches like this does nothing to advance their status in Smackdown Live. The match itself wasn’t very exciting, which is not something you would hear if it was just American Alpha and one other tag team. When you have so many teams in one match no one really has a chance to shine. The only thing of worth to recap is that the inability for the teams to for a cohesive unit on either side was the primary creative focus. After every team was able to show off one or two moves, there was the customary brawl where everyone entered the ring. American Alpha were the last two standing after everyone spilled out onto the floor during the melee. Jason Jordan then launched Chad Gable at the crowd of of opponent, which toppled every one of their opponents. Viktor from The Ascension hit Jordan and sent him to the outside as well. As he had his back turned Rhyno was getting ready for a gore. As Rhyno charged Viktor, Konnor jumped in front of the man-beast and took the full force of the gore. This allowed Viktor to come off the top rope and deliver a vicious knee to Rhyno’s face. Victory goes to The Ascension.
Our main event continued the classic rivalry between Randy Orton and John Cena. Two men that came up in the same developmental program, and have 28 titles between the two of them. This match could very well have been a preview of what we might see in the main event at Wrestlemania. It’s also a very compelling story because Bray Wyatt also has a very storied past with John Cena, Cena being the first major superstar who fell victim to Bray Wyatt’s mind games. I’m sure most fans will remember the scene of a large group of children, dressed in robes and sheep masks, singing “He’s got the whole world in his hands…..” Creepy.
The match itself was pretty decent. Orton had control over most of it, keeping the pace where he wanted it, not letting Cena get any amped up momentum. Cena was finally able to turn the tables on the Viper and hit Orton with the AA about halfway through the match, but Orton kicked out. Feeling the need to kick it up a notch, Cena went to the top rope. Randy had recovered though and was able to meet him in the corner and hit the champ with a draping DDT. Orton, looking the calm the voices in his head, silenced them by hitting the Cena with an RKO. This time it was Cena’s turn to kick out and cause the Viper to feel a bit of frustration. Randy went for a second RKO but it was countered into Cena attempting an AA. Randy was able to grab the top rope, and when Cena pulled Orton away the referee was struck by Orton’s book. The ref is out of the picture at this point. Cena locked Orton in the STFU causing Orton to tap. Thinking that he won, Cena released the hold. This was all the chance Bray Wyatt needed to jump into the ring and start pummeling Cena with the help of Orton. Bray and Randy then attempted their tandem finisher, but as Bray launched Cena out of Sister Abigail Cena was able to clothesline Orton. Cena’s rally was short-lived, as Bray simply delivered Sister Abigail to Cena as he turned around. At this point Luke Harper ran to the ring and stood face to face with his former leader. It still seemed that after all that has happened Bray still had some sort of control over Harper. Until the cheers of the crowd broke Luke out of whatever trance Bray had over him, and Harper clotheslined Bray in the middle of the ring. Randy attempted and ambush but Harper was ready and sent Randy into the direction of a waiting John Cena, who hit Orton with the AA. At this point the referee had regained consciousness, and was able to count to three, giving the victory to Cena.