Wrestling Night in America Reunion: PWTorch columnist Greg Parks is joined by former PWTorch columnist Pat McNeill for a full match-by-match preview of WrestleMania 36
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KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
FEBRUARY 7, 2017
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Mauro Ranallo, JBL, and David Otunga.
-A video feature aired hyping the Randy Orton vs. John Cena match, with the theme being their legacies line up and this is the first time they’ve ever wrestled on Smackdown. Some cool clips of their various looks over the years. Not a lot of variation with them relative to others (such as, say, Daniel Bryan), but enough to remind you of various eras of their career.
-Tom Phillips introduced the show. Mauro didn’t look elated as he sat there and Phillips and JBL set the table for the show.
-Hometown boy (or state) Daniel Bryan came out to a big pop and then a loud “Daniel Bryan!” chant. He said, “Man oh man is it good to be home.” He said last time he was there, he had to come out and make the most difficult decision of his life. He said the last year of his life hasn’t exactly been easy, but he’d like to talk about being grateful. He said he is grateful he’s had the opportunity to be the general manager of Smackdown Live, grateful he gets to come to Seattle and give them the best show possible, and grateful that soon he is going to be a dad. Biggest pop yet. Lots of crowd cutaway shots. Then Miz’s music interrupted.
Out walked Miz and Maryse, his nemesis. Otunga called Miz a jerk. Miz said he’s not sure why Daniel’s in a WWE ring because he can’t wrestle anymore. Bryan replied: “To be fair, not being able to wrestle never stopped you from getting in the ring.” Zing! Miz yelled at the cheering fans, “When my hand goes up, your mouth goes shut!” Miz said he has a microphone and he can be louder than all of them. Bryan said that sounds like a challenge. The crowd, oddly, went quiet briefly, but then erupted into a “Yes!” chant. Miz said it’s not funny. Baron Corbin interrupted.
Mauro said Corbin has bulldozed his way up the rankings. JBL said he has precisely zero sense of humor; he just likes beating people up. Corbin said Miz should learn when to shut up. He said he talked too much last week on commentary and he’s talking too much now. He said he and Corbin can help each other at the Chamber, eliminate everyone together – “my mind, your might” – and at the end let the best man live. Corbin said, “Or I could take you out right now. That way I don’t have to hear your mouth when I become WWE Champion. Bryan sarcastically said, “Oh no, Baron, please don’t punch Miz in the face. That would be terrible.”
Dean Ambrose walked out. He said Miz and Corbin are “so cute together.” He said he can’t take anything Miz is saying seriously when he wears that robe. “You look like a shoe,” he said. He looked at Corbin and said he stole the motorcycle sound from his entrance music. He said Baron has miles to walk before he’s walked half the life he’s lived. He said he’s going to make some bad decisions in that Elimination Chamber and he’s walking out IC Champion and WWE Champion.
A.J. Styles came out. He asked if they suddenly live in a world where facts don’t matter (#AlternativeWWEFacts)? He said suddenly Miz has a brain and Corbin is going to be a champion and Dean is used to being behind bars, “which may or may not be true.” Styles said at one point in time he’s beaten everyone in the ring, so he doesn’t care about their little scheme. The crowd chanted “A.J. Styles!” He told them to shut up because he’s trying to talk. He said the only thing he cares about is being WWE Champion and he’s going to get his title back at Elimination Chamber. Miz said he won’t. Bryan suggested a Fatal Four-way match with everyone in the ring. The crowd erupted into “Yes!” chants. “And by the way…” and you know the rest. [c]
(1) A.J. STYLES vs. BARON CORBIN vs. DEAN AMBROSE vs. THE MIZ – Fatal Four-way match
Lots of action early and Corbin ultimately took control, throwing Dean into the ringside steps and then concentrating on Miz in the ring. Styles tried to springboard in, but Corbin punched him out of mid-air. Dean returned and gave Corbin a bulldog attempt, but Corbin escaped, but then Corbin charged and Dean moved, so Corbin went shouter-first into the ringpost. Miz suddenly gave Styles a snap DDT for a near fall. Miz gloated as Styles and Dean sat up and tried to regain their bearings. Miz threw some Daniel Bryan style roundicks to their chests, but looked like a white belt. They went into a series of around eight two-counts on schoolboys. It could have been corny but kind of worked. They cut to a break with all four down at 4:00. [c]
Miz knocked Dean off balance on the top rope. Mauro inimitably said Miz just “scrambled the eggs of Dean Ambrose.” Corbin and Miz double suplexed Dean, and we knew it was awesome because they cut to a shot of a few fans clapping and smiling afterward. A few minutes later Styles dove at Dean at ringside, but Dean avoided him and took out Styles, Miz, and Baron one after another. Dean leaped onto Baron with a double axe handle. Styles broke up the pin attempt and then scored at two count on Dean a minute later. Miz broke it up. Styles landed a Phenomenal Forearm. Maryse pulled Miz out of the ring. Corbin then gave Styles the End of Days for the three count.
WINNER: Corbin in 13:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That means one thing for sure. Corbin isn’t winning Elimination Chamber, but they felt like making fans think he is in the game. That’s not a burial of Styles. It’s one of those strange endorsements where they believe Styles can rebound that pinball loss better than the others in the match. It also could be a bragging point post-WrestleMasnia for Corbin if they pull the trigger on the seemingly inevitable Styles babyface turn.)
-They went to the four announcers on camera. They hyped the Elimination Chamber and then shifted to plugging Fastlane. Phillips recapped the developments for Fastlane on Raw last night, Goldberg in particular. Then he hyped contract signings coming later for the two women’s matches at Elimination Chamber. [c]
-A solo vignette aired with Luke Harper. Yes, I just wrote that. He said people say a man with nothing to lose is most dangerous, but what about someone who had nothing to begin with. He said Orton stole his family. Wait, so did he have nothing to lose or did he have a family to lose? He said Orton has been a snake in the grass for far too long and he knows how to fix it. He said cutting the head off a viper is too easy, so he wants him to feel some pain. He said at Elimination Chamber, he will be eliminated.
(Keller’s Analysis: I wish that was better. It was just okay in terms of delivery and brought down by some clunky scripting.)
-Phillips introduced Natalya and Nikki Bella for a split screen promo. Phillips said they interviewed them remotely because of how intense things have gotten between them. I know one thing before this starts – it’ll be less fake and cheesy than that Chael Sonnen and Tito Ortiz split screen exchange they had for Bellator hyping their fight. Nikki said the Nattie she knew and loved is dead to her. Natalya said they were never friends because Nikki has no friends, she has followers. She said she has an army of people who work very hard to make her look very good on her reality show, but after Elimination Chamber, they’ll have their work cut out for them because no amount of make-up can cover up what she does to Nikki at EC. She said she plans to expose her for the lousy wrestler she is and the poor human being she is. Nikki said the lies are getting so old. Natalya claimed she never lied. She said Nikki turned her Uncle Bret against her.
Nikki said she is legitimately becoming insane and bitter. “You are, like, this crazy cat lady,” she said. “I don’t understand. You used to have so much respect around here.” Nikki said she’s just coasting on her family’s reputation. Natalya said after she beats her, she’ll be on the shelf sitting with her pregnant sister, moping about what her future is. She said she’ll be bitter because she’ll never have her own baby. Nikki said that was hitting her below the belt. Nikki said the only thing Natalya has ever been good at is wrestling. Natalya said now that John Cena is champ, he won’t be around to nurse her back to health. Natalya said John, in fact, will be moving on to another woman who is better looking than her, smarter, more talented, and better at everything. Natalya said if she wasn’t already married, John would probably end up with her, “and you can’t handle that truth.” Nikki said she’s done. She stood up and took off her mic and left. Natalya said typical Nikki, can’t face the truth.
(Keller’s Analysis: Natalya is going all-in on the heel character. That didn’t hold back much in terms of what fans perceive would be a “too close for comfort” series of insults.)
-The screen said Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews was up next. The announcers didn’t talk over the music, which felt weird. [c]
-They showed Crews saving Kalisto from a post-match unmasking by Ziggler last week.
(2) DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. APOLLO CREWS
Ziggler stomped the mat and went for an early super kick, but Crews blocked it, schoolboy Ziggler, and scored a three count.
WINNER: Crews in 1:00.
-Ziggler attacked Crews afterward. When he grabbed a chair and hit Crews across his back, Kalisto ran out for the save.
-David Otunga introduced the latest Black History Month segment. As a rib, they should have had Mauro begin the introduction, and then Otunga say he’s got it, thanks Mauro. Darren Young, Mark Henry, Alicia Fox, Rich Swann, Naomi, Titus O’Neal, and Jason Jordan all talked about Rosa Parks. Their words magically weaved together into a single sentence. [c]
-Backstage Bryan asked Ziggler what he was doing. Ziggler answered him literally and said he was getting his stuff and leaving. Ziggler said he can beat both Crews and Kalisto at the same time if he wants to, but beating them with a chair is more fun. Bryan took him up on it and told him he’ll face Crews and Kalisto in a two-on-one match at EC. JBL called Bryan a “power hungry farm animal.” [c]
-Mickie James and Alexa Bliss came out one after another and then walked to the ring together. Becky Lynch came out next. And finally Naomi. Mauro compared Naomi to Lady Gaga. Renee Young hosted the segment mid-ring. Mickie cut her off early when she talked about there being four elite-level female athletes. Mickie said there are only two elite female athletes in the ring. The highest heels in the ring shouldn’t be the woman interviewing the wrestlers, by the way. Mickie got serious and told Becky that she’s trying to erase her past and take all the credit for the Women’s Revolution. She said she’s waited for seven long years. She said it’s seven years of rage that has built up inside of her so she could return to the ring and get the credit she deserves. She told Becky that this Sunday she is going to prove she not only created the Women’s Revolution, “but I created you.” She said without her, there’d be no Becky. Mickie closed with: “This Sunday, the Reinvention of Mickie James starts with the Destruction of Becky Lynch.” She signed the contract.
Becky said no one is trying to erase her accomplishments and she respected the hell out of her until she teamed with the troll Alexa Bliss to help her retain the Women’s Championship. She said when it got too tough for her, she walked away, and now she came back and expects everyone to make way for her and the giant chip on her shoulder. She invited her to bring her seven years of rage because she’ll bring a lifetime of straight fire “which is everything that I am and I am going to slap you back into the past.” She signed the contract.
Bliss said Becky has so much class, but all of it is low. She told the crowd, “The champ is talking, so shut up.” She said Mickie beat Trish, so show some respect. She said the only thing that runs through Becky’s veins is “toxic cheap orange hair dye.” Bliss said she can obsess about the origins of the Women’s Revolution, but as long as the title is on her shoulder, it means this is her division. Bliss then laughed and said she totally forgot about Naomi. “It’s totally fine, because I’ll beat you on Sunday.” She signed the contract.
Naomi said she pinned her twice. She said WrestleMania this year is in her hometown of Orlando, Fla. She said she won’t let anyone take away her dream of sliding down that WrestleMania aisle as the Smackdown Women’s Champion She looked up at the WrestleMania sign, of course. She signed the contact and said she better feel ready to feel the glow. Naomi high round kicked Lynch right over the table. Mickie gasped, then Becky and Mickie fought. Naomi leaped over the top rope onto Mickie and Bliss at ringside. Mauro said the contracts are signed and the matches are official for this Sunday.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was a fun segment. Everyone’s personalities shined and built the two matches in play. Mickie and Bliss were in particular good heels here.) [c]
(3) HEATH SLATER & RHYNO & AMERICAN ALPHA & BREEZANGO vs. THE VAUDEVILLIANS & THE USOS & THE ASCENSION – Tag Team Turmoil
JBL said they couldn’t determine the no. 1 contender, so they threw them all out there. JBL wondered if Melissa McCarthy could play Mauro. Early on an Uso and Aiden English argued. Gable and English then battled. When Gable and Jordan rallied, they were distracted by partners Breezango. The crowd chanted “We Want Rhyno!” as they cut to a break a few minutes in. [c]
It was Viktor vs. Slater after the break. The crowd popped when Rhyno tagged in. Shortly thereafter all 12 were brawling in the ring. JBL said teams on the same side aren’t getting along. THe Usos threw some superkicks. Alpha tossed them over the top rope. Alpha then gave the Vaudvillians a pair of Alpha Plexes. Jordan then launched Gable onto a crowd at ringside. Viktor surprised Jordan with an exploding European uppercut. Rhyno gave his Gore to Konnor, but Viktor then blindsided him off the top rope for the win. JBL called it a huge huge win.
WINNERS: The Ascension & Vaudvillians & The Usos in 10:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: As lame as the Smackdown tag team division is, this was a pretty good ten minutes of action, although only seven minutes appeared on TV. Although it felt rushed, realistically they weren’t going to put these wrestlers out there for more than ten total minutes.)
-Otunga plugged his guest appearance on “Criminal Minds” on CBS. [c]
-They showed the Seattle space needle. Then the announcers acknowledged the Rock & Roll Express’s entrance into the WWE Hall of Fame.
-The announcers threw to a video package the Elimination Chamber. [c]
-John Cena made his ring entrance. Then Orton came out to the Orton-Wyatt entrance mix. Meanwhile, Phillips announced breaking news that Orton will face Harper on Sunday at Elimination Challenge, stating that Orton accepted his challenge from earlier in the show. [c]
-They announced Talking Smack would feature Cena, Nikki, and Corbin with hosts Bryan and Renee.
(4) JOHN CENA vs. RANDY ORTON (w/Bray Wyatt)
Bray sat in a rocking chair at ringside. Cena clapped and said, “Here we go!” JBL said this could be the main event of WrestleMania. Mauro said these two debuted in WWE in 2002 just two months apart. Otunga said they trained together in OVW, but that was a very different Orton back then. JBL said he might not be that different as he was known as The Legend Killer and has never been a normal person. Otunga said Orton has always had a dark side to him, but it’s gone to a new darker place with Bray Wyatt.
(Keller’s Analysis: First of all, it’s time to say Otunga is getting better. He’s standing up to JBL. He’s engaged in the storylines. He’s defending babyfaces and decrying heel tactics. He’s citing history and incorporating it into storyline-enhancing commentary. He’s not trying to be a funny or a butt of a joke or outlandish. He’s just a basic straight-man, and good for him for finding his groove in the last couple months and starting to contribute in a positive way to the commentary.)
They began, appropriately enough, with an Orton side headlock. The crowd battle-chanted, “Let’s Go Cena! / Cena sucks!” Mauro said the last time they wrestled a singles match, Cena beat Orton in Hell in a Cell in 2014. Orton then settled into his obligatory mid-match chinlock, followed by a low kick. At ringside, Orton whipped Cena into the ringside steps at 3:00. Bray laughed and they cut to a break. [c]
They fought to the floor a few minutes after the break. Orton dropped Cena on the table. Mauro popped like he had never seen anything like that before. It didn’t look like that big of a deal in context of today’s WWE. Back in the ring Cena made a comeback and hit an AA for a near fall. Orton came back by DDT’ing Cena off the top turnbuckle. Orton confidently played to the crowd and signalled for the RKO. He milked it for a while and then hit the RKO. Cena kicked out. Cena blocked a second RKO attempt and then went for an AA, but the ref got knocked down y Orton’s feet. Cena instead applied an STF. Orton frantically quickly tapped. The ref was down, but Cena let go, thinking he won. Bray then attacked Cena. Cena managed to clothesline Orton, but Bray then hit him with Sister Abigail. Harper then ran out and had a staredown with Bray. Mauro said it appears Bray still has a hold on Harper. Luke got bug-eyed. Bray ordered him to leave. Instead, Harper spun around and clotheslined Bray. Orton entered and went for an RKO out of nowhere, but Cena stopped it with an AA out of nowhere and the ref made the count.
WINNER: Cena in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: The match felt like just a setup for the angles afterward. Pretty mundane until the hot finishing sequence, which had its strengths and weaknesses. Even that hotter parts still felt too familiar to be anything closer to WM-worthy.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: They accomplished a lot in just two episodes to not just hype the top matches, but also the supporting matches, especally the women’s matches. ###