In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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WWE Smackdown LIVE review
July 26, 2016
From Buffalo, N.Y.
Live on USA Network
By Greg Parks, PWTorch Columnist (Twitter: @gregmparks)
– WWE Open.
– Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were backstage. Both Bryan and McMahon had mics and addressed the camera. They walked from what looked like the Gorilla Position, through the curtain, and into the arena. Shane said it’s all about the fans. Bryan’s music played as the two of them joined the crowd in “Yes!” chants.
– The new Smackdown Open aired.
– In the arena, Bryan’s music was still playing as he and Shane had entered the ring. The Smackdown roster stood on three sides of the apron around them. McMahon said beginning September 11th, there will be Smackdown-only PPVs, and the first one will be Backlash on the WWE Network. But first up is Summerslam. He said WWE Champion Dean Ambrose needs an opponent to challenge him for the title. McMahon introduced Ambrose, who made his entrance. The set looked mostly the same, with no ramp. Ambrose, once in the ring, said he’s ready for a new challenge and that he’s got that Smackdown Live fever. He asked who is first to get a title match. McMahon and Bryan seemed to talk off-mic a little.
Bryan said tonight, there will be a Six-Pack Challenge #1 Contender’s Match, with the winner facing Ambrose at Summerslam. The first entrant? John Cena. Cena entered the ring from the apron, something subsequently announced wrestlers would also do. This is eerily similar to last night’s announcing of the Fatal Four-Way participants. McMahon announced that Bray Wyatt would be the second entrant in the match. Dolph Ziggler is also in it, as is Baron Corbin, and A.J. Styles. But that’s only five. The sixth spot is open to everyone. Bryan talked about opportunity and said the winner of a battle royal would be that sixth participant. And it’s next. None of this related to the women who were forced to stand out there. JBL tried talking over Mauro Ranallo as they went to the first break.
– Ranallo, JBL, and David Otunga were shown at ringside.
1 – 14-MAN BATTLE ROYAL TO DETERMINE SIXTH ENTRANT IN THE WWE WORLD TITLE #1 CONTENDER SIX-PACK CHALLENGE MATCH
This really shows off the lack of depth on the Smackdown roster early on. Simon Gotch was out :23 seconds in, via Kane I believe. They used a new camera angle early on in the match, sort of a roving overhead cam. Kane tossed both Ascension members out at 1:13. A rousing start for the tag division. Kane lifted Kalisto over his head but Kalisto held the ropes to avoid elimination. JBL called him Sin Cara. Aiden English held onto the bottom rope while on the apron as Erick Rowan tried to push him out with his foot. Alberto Del Rio had one of the Usos arm-barred over the top rope. Jey Uso was eliminated by Fandango and Tyler Breeze at 3:46. They went to break at 3:57 of the match.
Back at 7:42 of the match. During the break, Aiden English was eliminated, as was Erick Rowan, by Mojo Rawley. Rawley was then kicked out at about 8:06 by Alberto Del Rio. Back-stabber to Apollo Crews. Crews and Ryder teamed up to clothesline Del Rio out at 8:33. Kane sent Breeze and Fandango packing at 8:36. It was down to four, with Kane, Kalisto, Ryder, and Crews. Kane laid everybody out. Kalisto fought back from the apron and Ryder landed a missile dropkick on Kane. Standing moonsault by Crews on Kane, then a frogsplash from Kalisto. At 9:40, all four men were down. Instead of the three babyfaces teaming up on Kane, Ryder went after Kalisto, then Crews. Crews and Kalisto tried to toss Ryder. “Tried” being the operative word, as Ryder managed to extricate himself. Ryder went to the top but slipped and couldn’t hit his move on Crews. Kane finally sat up and chokeslammed Kalisto out at 11:39. Ryder set Kane up for the Broski Boot, which connected. Kane grabbed Ryder by the throat and tossed him at 12:26. Crews was next, but he back-flipped out of a chokeslam attempt and low-bridged a charging Kane out of the ring.
WINNER: Crews, at 12:42. Not particularly inspired action, especially early on. Despite Crews winning, the faces looked pretty stupid in fighting amongst themselves rather than teaming up to eliminate Kane while he was down. That said, to give the appearance of a new era, Crews was a good pick to win.
The final four eliminations were replayed. Renee Young interviewed Crews ringside post-match, where he said he’s not ready to celebrate yet…he’ll celebrate when he wins the Six-Pack Challenge to earn a shot at Dean Ambrose at Summerslam.
– Becky Lynch and Natalya were walking backstage in a split-screen. They fight next, in a match sponsored by Mountain Dew.
– A vignette aired hyping the return of Shelton Benjamin.
– Dolph Ziggler did an interview to the camera in front of a black backdrop. He said somewhere along the way, he’s gotten lost. He said his fate is no longer in management’s hands, but his own. And his turnaround begins tonight.
2 – BECKY LYNCH vs. NATALYA
The women exchanged counters early on. Lynch dropkicked Nattie, who then rolled to the floor. Back in, Natalya went on the offensive. She settled into a rest-hold as the fans tried to get behind Lynch. JBL told his best Buffalo Bills jokes during the match as Lynch fired back with clotheslines. She missed a corner splash, though. Natalya pulled Lynch off the second rope, and Lynch landed hard. They went to break at 3:25 of the contest.
Back at 6:56 with Natalya holding Lynch in an abdominal stretch. A flurry of forearms by Lynch turned the tide. Enzuigiri by Lynch laid out Natalya. Lynch saw the opening and went to the top rope. Legdrop hit for a near-fall at 8:18. Natalya came back with a released German suplex for two. Lynch fought into a roll-up but Nattie fought out of it as well as a follow-up Disarm-Her attempt. Discus lariat for two by Natalya. Nattie went for the Sharpshooter but Lynch countered into the Disarm-Her for the win.
WINNER: Lynch, at 10:21. The crowd wasn’t engaged at first, but Lynch got a nice reaction for the finish. The match wasn’t actively bad, but Lynch’s booking has cooled off with a number of big losses and Natalya just isn’t an effective heel.
Renee Young interviewed Lynch post-match and Becky told everyone to just call her Becky Balboa. Alexa Bliss interrupted by coming out to her music. She introduced herself and called herself Smackdown Live’s new hottest star. She said she’s the personification of what the new era looks like. She was interrupted by the returning Naomi. Naomi said she’s going to shine on Smackdown and told the others to move to the back of the line. This brought out Carmella, who introduced herself as the Princess of Staten Island. She said Tuesday nights are about to get fabulous. Eva Marie was next to finish off this parade, after an extended Titan-Tron complete with narration. The narration basically cut Eva’s promo for her, since she didn’t say a word. Probably for the best.
– The Six-Pack Challenge match was advertised for later tonight.
– The Miz was walking backstage with Maryse. He’s out next.
– Like Ziggler before him, Baron Corbin cut a promo backstage to the camera. He said he’s not winning the upcoming match for mom, dad, or anyone in the audience. He said he’s winning it for the only person who matters: himself.
– Miz TV. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Maryse introduced Miz. Miz talked up the Smackdown brand and then said his guest on the show is himself. Miz asked the questions in one chair then answered them in another. Miz, the interviewer, even asked Maryse questions. She said her reality is better than everyone else’s dreams because she gets to wake up with Miz. Randy Orton’s music interrupted. As I suggested on the post-Battleground Livecast, I wish they had just saved Randy Orton’s return for Miz TV on Smackdown rather than having him do essentially the same schtick with Chris Jericho on PPV and running the show long.
Orton said he heard Miz’s opening monologue and thought he was talking about him. Orton opined that Miz has a lot of experience playing with himself. Miz made some weird joke about the Blair Witch Project. Orton said he has a lot of experience in WWE killing legends, hinting that could be the fate of Brock Lesnar at Summerslam. He said he may visit Suplex City but it’ll take just one RKO for Brock to go to Viperville. Miz noted how long Orton has been out of the ring and Orton said his first match back doesn’t have to be at Summerslam…it could be tonight. And it could be against The Miz. Miz excitedly asked the crowd if they wanted to see the match, but then declined. Orton even said the Intercontinental Title doesn’t have to be on the line, he just wants to knock off the ring rust. Miz still didn’t take the bait. Orton asked if Miz was afraid of getting his ass whooped in front of his wife. Maryse stood up for Miz and accepted the match on his behalf. It’s up next.
– A graphic for Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar at Summerslam was shown.
– The announcers were shown at ringside discussing the upcoming match.
3 – THE MIZ vs. RANDY ORTON
Orton did not look his usual tanned self here. Miz ended up throwing Orton out of the ring, and he may have bumped wrong because he cursed (which was bleeped) and held his shoulder close to his body. Miz kicked away at it and whipped him into the barricade. Orton was sent back into the ring. Running boot to Orton. Miz then kicked away at Orton in the corner. Orton went back to ringside and continued flexing that right arm and shoulder. Miz ended up whipping him into the steel steps. Miz sent Orton back into the ring where Orton surprised him with an RKO. He didn’t go for a cover, however. Instead, he sat staring at the entranceway as a light chant of “one more time” commenced. Orton slowly got to his feet. Otunga compared Orton to Scar from Lion King. Orton pumped up the crowd as he readied for another RKO. It connected. He went for the pin and collected the win.
WINNER: Orton, at 4:54. They showed some vulnerability in Orton with his surgically-repaired shoulder, and also showed that Orton’s killer instinct is alive and well. Both sensible storylines to discuss heading into his match at Summerslam.
A few replays of the match were shown.
– The #1 Contender Six-Pack Challenge is coming up tonight.
– The exterior of the First Niagara Center in Buffalo was shown.
– A video package hyped the debuting American Alpha. Lots of NXT clips, as one would expect, as well as sit-down interview snippets. They debut next week.
– The announcers at ringside talked up American Alpha.
– A local talent was in the ring ready for a match when Heath Slater jumped the rail and attacked him. He got a mic and cut an intense promo. He said there must be a mistake, because he wasn’t drafted to either Raw or Smackdown. He told Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan that if they want to take Smackdown into the new era, he should be in the main event, turning the Six-Pack into a Magnificent Seven match. He started a “sign Heath Slater” chant. Shane came out with a mic and reminded Slater that they’re live. He said if Slater is looking for a job, there’s a better way to accomplish that. He suggested Slater send in a resume. Slater plugged the WWE Network, an odd corporate thing to do for a guy working against the machine. Anyway, he told Shane to look him up on the Network as the brains behind Nexus, The Corre, 3MB and Social Outcasts. He said he’s a three-time tag champion and with opportunity, he can do so much more. He called himself the hottest free agent in sports entertainment. From behind and through the crowd came Rhyno. Shane said he’s looking at the hottest free agent right now, of course meaning Rhyno. Slater turned around and right into a Gore. Ranallo called him a former ECW and NWA Champion. The Gore was replayed.
– A.J. Styles cut a promo backstage saying the new era sounds like the old era with authority figures in charge trying to settle scores. He was unhappy that Shane didn’t draft The Club, and he was also unhappy that he had to qualify to take on Dean Ambrose at Summerslam. He said he’ll beat up all of those in the match. The Six-Pack Challenge is next.
– Bray Wyatt cut a backstage promo about the main event. He said that change is part of life, but some things stay the same. He said everything revolves around him and tonight, five men will fall. Soon, he’ll truly have the whole world in his hands. This led to his entrance into the arena. Next out was Apollo Crews, followed by Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, A.J. Styles, and John Cena.
4 – BRAY WYATT vs. APOLLO CREWS vs. BARON CORBIN vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. A.J. STYLES vs. JOHN CENA – #1 CONTENDER SIX-PACK CHALLENGE
Everybody paired off and started firing away with fists. They took a break :22 in.
Back at 3:53 with Wyatt holding Crews so Styles could deliver a kick to the chest. The crowd was not exactly buzzing here. Senton from Wyatt to Crews. An alliance seemed to have been established between the heels, until Styles hit the ropes and Wyatt clotheslined him. Ziggler came in to do some damage to Wyatt. A Styles pin on Wyatt, after a springboard 450 splash, was broken up by Cena. Crews threw Styles around with a German suplex, but a Corbin STO stopped him in his tracks. He got to shine against Crews. Corner clothesline by Corbin. Back suplex followed for two. Break time again, at 8:17 of the match.
They returned from the final commercial break at 11:35 of the match, with two simultaneous Tower of Doom spots on opposite turnbuckles. It was back to Corbin and Crews going at it again. Spinning slam by Corbin, who was getting more and more frustrated with every near fall. Wyatt pulled the official out of the ring as Crews powerbombed Corbin. Crews was creeped out by Bray’s spider-walk, allowing Wyatt to hit Sister Abigail. Zig Zag to Wyatt, with the pin, but there was no ref. Attitude Adjustment by Cena on Ziggler. Pele Kick to Wyatt. Attitude Adjustment to Styles. John Cone made it back into the ring for Cena’s pin (of course!) but it was only a two-count. Ranallo called that near-fall “conjoined twin close.” Attitude Adjustment to Crews. And then to Wyatt. Corbin fought out of his, but only momentarily. Ziggler superkicked Styles after Styles took out Cena…and he won.
WINNER: Ziggler, at 16:05.
A replay of the finishing sequence was shown. Ziggler celebrated at ringside, then back in the ring so the ref could raise his hand again. Ziggler’s celebration was interrupted by Dean Ambrose. He went face-to-face with Ziggler in mid-ring, raising the title over his head. Once again, they showed the finishing sequence and part of Ziggler’s celebration. Back live, Daniel Bryan was in the ring as his music played, raising the hands of both Ziggler and Ambrose. Shane McMahon also came out to congratulate the two men. The finish was replayed a THIRD time. The show ended with all four men having a conversation in the ring.
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Greg Parks has been covering WWE Smackdown for PWTorch.com since January of 2007. He is the host of “Moonlighting with Greg Parks,” a PWTorch VIP-exclusive audio show posted each weekend. Follow him on Twitter @gregmparks for live Tweeting during Raw, Impact, and PPVs, as well as other bits of wisdom. Comments, questions and feedback are welcome, and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.