WWE Smackdown LIVE review
December 20, 2016
From Detroit, Mich.
Live on USA Network
By Greg Parks, PWTorch Columnist (Twitter: @gregmparks)
– WWE Open.
– Smackdown Open.
– After fireworks, Smackdown was set to kick off with the long-scheduled WWE Championship Match. Champion A.J. Styles came out first for the bout. As he did, Mauro Ranallo, JBL, David Otunga, and Tom Phillips were shown seated at ringside. Ranallo brought up Ivan Koloff, Matt Serra, and Buster Douglas when discussing the upset Ellsworth would have to pull here. There were plenty of jeers for Ellsworth when the official introduction was made.
1 – A.J. STYLES vs. JAMES ELLSWORTH – WWE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Styles blocked an early superkick attempt and used his quick punches and strikes to knock Ellsworth flat on his back. Ellsworth sold it like he was shot. Styles made the easy pin.
WINNER: Styles, at :45. As it should’ve been. Finally, no storyline shenanigans here.
After the match, Styles continued the attack on Ellsworth. He pulled James out of the ring and looked to hit a side slam on top of the table but instead, drove Ellsworth right into the side of the announce desk. That’s an ouch. He dropped Ellsworth face-first on the steel ring steps. Styles pulled up the apron skirt and drove Ellsworth into the metal frame of the ring. “We want tables” from the bloodthirsty Detroit crowd. He catapulted Ellsworth throat-first into the frame. Another referee came out to break up the assault. Styles better watch it or the ref will reverse the decision! He feigned walking to the back, but returned for more, suplexing Ellsworth into the barricade. Another ref came out as Styles celebrated in the ring.
A stretcher came out from the back as Styles grabbed a mic. He said that attack has been a long time coming. He said Ellsworth can now go back to the Island of Misfit Toys where he belongs. Styles said it’s time to move on to 2017 for him. He bragged about being champion and said it’s a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for him. Dolph Ziggler came out. Going from Ellsworth to Ziggler seems like only a marginal step up the ladder for Styles given how those two have been booked lately. Ziggler reminded Styles that he’s next in line for a title shot. Styles said he almost forgot, because it’ll be a cakewalk. Ellsworth was wheeled away from ringside at this point. Styles said next week, he’ll only need one try to beat Ziggler. Ziggler said it wouldn’t be that easy. He told A.J. he recently put his career on the line for the I.C. Title so imagine what he’ll do to win the WWE Title. Baron Corbin’s music hit and he came out.
Styles walked out of the ring as Corbin entered. He said he should be next in line for the title, not Ziggler. He called Dolph “little man,” and asked how many chances Ziggler is going to get. Ziggler insisted that he earned his shot. Corbin said that’s only because he wasn’t around. He told Ziggler that next week, he’ll lose to Styles because that’s what he does. Corbin sucker punched Ziggler, who fired back with rights. Corbin grabbed him and delivered End of Days. “One more time” chant from the fans. The wrestlers constantly referring to Ziggler as a loser…how is that supposed to get him over with the fans? I mean, who wants to support someone who not only is called a loser by the heels, but who genuinely does lose big matches so frequently?
– Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper is tonight.
– Next, Apollo Crews challenges The Miz for the Intercontinental Title.
– Daniel Bryan was backstage trying to calm Ziggler down. Ziggler wanted Corbin tonight, so Bryan granted him that match – but if Corbin wins, he gets Ziggler’s title shot next week.
2 – APOLLO CREWS vs. THE MIZ – INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
No entrance for Crews. They showed the involvement of comedian Gabriel Iglesias at Tribute to the Troops, providing a distraction to help Crews beat Miz in a non-title match. A couple of quick roll-ups by Crews got Miz on the defensive. High dropkick and a beauty from Crews. Apollo’s speed and athleticism helped him get the advantage. The match went outside the ring. Moonsault from the apron onto Miz by Crews. Back in the ring, cross-body off the top by Crews for two. He dominated the first 2:14 of the match, at which point they went to break.
Back at 6:06 with both Miz and Crews struggling to reach a vertical base. Kick to the back of the head by Crews for two. The near-falls continued for Crews. Maryse tried to interfere at one point, but the ref turned around in time to see it. Mike Chioda then sent her to the back. Roll-up by Crews, again for two. Miz flipped out of a suplex and poked Crews in the eye. The ref didn’t see it, and Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the win.
WINNER: Miz, at 8:43. Despite not getting an entrance, Crews was made to look good. His offense was smooth, crisp, and impressive.
Replays were shown of various points of the match. Renee Young interviewed Miz in the ring post-match. She asked him about his obsession with Dean Ambrose. Miz turned the tables, asking about Young’s obsession with Ambrose. “After all, you’re the one sleeping with him,” said Miz. Young slapped Miz and then walked out of the ring. A little Talking Smack coming at you on Smackdown.
– The announcers acted shocked at what just happened. They pivoted to the injury suffered by Zack Ryder during the battle royal last week. WWE.com exclusive footage showed Ryder being helped to the back and worked on. A Twitter post by Ryder showed the stitches from the surgery to repair his ruptured patellar tendon. With the #1 contenders out of the picture, there will be a Four Corners Elimination Tag Team Match for the titles next week, wherein The Wyatt Family will defend against American Alpha, Heath Slater & Rhyno, and The Usos.
– Natalya came to the ring. She grabbed a mic but someone forgot to tell her they were going to take a commercial before she started her promo. She got out a few silent words (the mic may have been off) before they cut to break.
– John Cena returns to Smackdown Live next week.
– Okay Natalya, NOW it’s your turn. She said she’s tired of all the rumors, and asked Nikki Bella to come out. Before Nikki could speak, Carmella skipped out to the ring. From the aisle, she said she just wanted a front-row seat to see how Nattie weasels her way out of it. Nikki didn’t seem sold that Carmella wasn’t involved. Carmella once again brought up Nikki’s relationship with Cena. She called Nattie a liar and asked if Nikki’s silicone has traveled up to Nikki’s brain. Carmella reminded Nattie of how upset she was when Nikki returned, getting all the attention. She also accused Nattie of saying the Bellas only returned to WWE because they failed to make it on their own.
Nattie admitted to saying that in private, and called Carmella a snitch. Nikki point-blank asked if Nattie attacked her. Nattie didn’t answer, instead accusing Carmella of causing all of this. She chased Carmella up the ramp and they briefly brawled by the Christmas trees and gifts at the top of the ramp. Carmella scampered away. Natalya turned her attention to Nikki and said, “I did it, you bitch.” She said she has always despised Nikki and called herself “wrestling royalty.” She said the Bellas have gotten everything because they’re beautiful, but in reality, they’re nothing, just like the people in the crowd. Nattie said she should’ve gotten the Total Divas spinoff. Can you imagine, though? Nattie said her cat has more charisma than Nikki. She called Nikki a “nothing,” and said it’s why Cena will never marry her. Nikki looked…slightly hurt, I guess? Maybe a little angry? It was hard to get a good read on her reaction.
– Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin is tonight.
– Next: Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper.
– Daniel Bryan was just getting off the phone with someone when Alexa Bliss limped in. Bryan put Becky Lynch in a match with Bliss for the Smackdown Women’s Title next week. Bliss questioned why Bryan would put his injured champion in a match. He said he had just gotten off the phone with the trainer, who said Bliss is 100% cleared to compete. And she’ll be in action tonight, or else she’ll be stripped of the title. Bliss said whatever happens to the poor soul Bryan lined up tonight is on him. She hurried out of his office, showing no ill-effects of the supposed “injury.”
3 – DEAN AMBROSE vs. LUKE HARPER
After a bit of back-and-forth, Harper catapulted Ambrose throat-first into the ropes, then kicked him out of the ring. They took a break 40 seconds into the match.
Back at 3:46. Ambrose jumped off the top rope, avoiding Harper, but instead running into a side slam for two. Back-breaker by Harper, followed by a Lex Luger-like flex indicating a Torture Rack was next. And so it was applied. After escaping, Ambrose decked Harper with a clothesline. Harper shot Ambrose face-first into the second turnbuckle, then was superkicked out of the ring. I suppose I should mention that Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton were at ringside for the duration of the match. Ambrose leaped onto both Orton and Wyatt. That led to a sit-out powerbomb by Harper for two. Ambrose surprised Harper with a cradle for a three-count.
WINNER: Ambrose, at 7:42. Pretty solid bout. Harper is so immersed in his character. It’s fun to watch. He’s always got a unique twist on offensive maneuvers as well.
Orton and Wyatt went on the attack right after the match ended. RKO delivered by Orton. The Wyatt Family posed as Harper raised both titles above his head. The lights went out, and when they came back on, they disappeared from the ring, leaving Ambrose gasping for air. As he used the ropes to help him get to his feet, The Miz walked out with Maryse. Miz gave Ambrose a Skull Crushing Finale.
– Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler will take place tonight.
– Alexa Bliss was walking backstage. She’s in action, next.
4 – LA LUCHADORA vs. ALEXA BLISS
No entrance for La Luchadora, wearing a bodysuit and mask. That’s a little suspicious. A couple of forward rolls by Luchadora, helping her avoid a lock-up. Purple mask and blue and red bodysuit for Luchadora, which doesn’t strike me as a great fashion statement. Bilss got frustrated with La Luchadora. The crowd chanted “Si” as La Luchadora got the better of Bliss. Body-scissors by Luchadora. Bliss finally got the better of La Luchadora, and got angry, delivering forearms to her back. Rolling cross arm-breaker, then the Disarm-Her by Luchadora. Tap-out win.
WINNER: La Luchadora, at 3:01. Becky was able to switch up her offense well enough to throw some people off the scent, it seemed.
The winner celebrated at ringside with the fans as if it was her first win ever. She reentered the ring and unmasked as Becky Lynch. She continued celebrating as Bliss looked disgusted heading up the ramp.
– Ryan Phillippe, star of USA Network’s original series, Shooter, was walking backstage. He approached two men and asked if they’d seen Randy Orton. They hadn’t seen him. Mojo Rawley walked up and he and Phillipe exchanged pleasantries. When Phillippe asked about Orton, Rawley said he’s a different dude now. Curt Hawkins showed up, confusing Phillippe with Mark Wahlberg. Rawley and Hawkins cut promos on each other in anticipation of their upcoming match. Hawkins promised to beat Rawley with Cruel Intentions (another Phillippe flick). After Hawkins walked away, Rawley assured Phillippe that Hawkins gets no chicks.
5 – CURT HAWKINS vs. MOJO RAWLEY
Dear god, Mauro Ranallo called Curt “Chad” Hawkins. Hawkins didn’t get an entrance, either. And then JBL stumbled all over himself introducing Ryan Phillippe, who joined the announcers for this one. Rawley Pounced Hawkins, who went outside the ring. Hawkins regained control from the apron as the announcers discussed Phillippe’s show, Shooter. Rawley broke out of a rest-hold and delivered a back-drop. Stinger splashes by Rawley, then another Pounce. Running forearm in the corner from Rawley for the win.
WINNER: Rawley, at 2:30. It’ll be interesting to see where Rawley goes as a singles with Ryder on the shelf.
They replayed a couple of moves from the match. Phillippe joined Rawley to celebrate in the ring.
– Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler is next, with the winner facing A.J. Styles for the WWE Title next week in Chicago.
– Dasha Fuentes was outside the trainer’s room. She said she had just received word that James Ellsworth was taken to a local medical facility. Instead, he was escorted out of the room by two trainers. Strangely, they just walked away as Fuentes tried to get a word with him. He had a foam neck-brace, his arm in a sling, an ice pack on his shoulders, cast on his left wrist, and athletic tape around his head. Ellsworth was in obvious pain, unable to answer any questions. Carmella walked up and shamed Fuentes for trying to get a word with Ellsworth, who was in pain. She helped him off-camera.
– On Talking Smack tonight: Natalya, Becky Lynch, and Baron Corbin will join Renee Young and Daniel Bryan.
– As Dolph Ziggler came to the ring, they showed Corbin dropping Ziggler with a punch earlier in the show. After Corbin came out but just before the match could begin, A.J. Styles walked to the ring to his music. He was set to join the announcers at ringside. The main event is next.
6 – DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. BARON CORBIN – WINNER FACES A.J. STYLES FOR THE WWE TITLE NEXT WEEK
Ziggler went on the attack right away, so Corbin pulled a Kevin Owens and, after creating separation, paced at ringside. It worked, as Corbin pulled Ziggler around in front of Styles and delivered a knee to the gut of Ziggler. Message sent. A Ziggler comeback was stopped cold by Corbin. Hard whip into the turnbuckle, with Ziggler landing sternum-first. Corbin used the ring post to his advantage as his onslaught continued into the break, 5:09 into the match.
Back at 8:42 with Ziggler attempting to get away from the hold of Corbin. Corbin missed a running charge in the corner. Fameasser by Ziggler for two. Another near-fall or two by Ziggler before Corbin put him on the mat with an STO. Corbin soaked in the boos after a right hand to Ziggler. Quick roll-up for two by Ziggler, followed by a hard clothesline from Corbin. Neck-breaker off the middle rope by Ziggler. Zig Zag found the mark for two at 12:22. Styles was somewhat rooting for Ziggler on commentary. Ziggler seated Corbin on the top rope and tried to suplex him off. It didn’t work, as Corbin elbowed his way out of the situation. Deep Six by Corbin for two. At ringside, Corbin tossed Ziggler shoulder-first into the barricade twice. Next, he was sent into Styles at ringside. Corbin got Ziggler up, but Ziggler superkicked him as the ref called for the bell.
WINNER: Double count-out, at 15:38.
After the match, Styles took a steel chair to the backs of both Ziggler and Corbin. Daniel Bryan came out with a minute left in the show. He made Ziggler vs. Corbin vs. Styles for the WWE Title in a Triple-Threat Match. That’ll take place next week. Bryan’s music played as Styles was upset about this announcement.
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Greg Parks has been covering WWE Smackdown for PWTorch.com since January of 2007. He co-hosts the PWTorch Livecast PPV post-shows at least once a month. 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.