SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
MARCH 28, 2017
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, JBL, David Otunga
-Daniel Bryan “Yes chanted” his way to the ring. The crowd cheered along with him. Phillips said, “WrestleMania week is under way and we’re just five nights away from the Ultimate Thrill Ride.”
(Keller’s Analysis: If you thought “Ultimate Thrill Ride” would be among the first dozen words said on Smackdown, your cynicism is way out of control. It wasn’t until the 14th word that Phillips said it.)
No mention of Mauro Ranallo being sick this week. Bryan said it’s time to get the last Smackdown before WrestleMania off to a great start. Instead, he introduced Shane McMahon, who pounded his fist to his chest and danced to the ring in his jeans and shiny new gym shoes. JBL said Shane doesn’t have a lick of sense and he will do anything to out sports entertain his opponent. Well, JBL said “win a fight,” but it’s not the 1980s, and JBL should know better. Next out came A.J. Styles.
A loud “A.J. Styles” chant started as soon as he entered the ring. JBL said the shiner on Shane’s face indicates to Shane the situation he’s stepping into at WrestleMania. He said he might get a second shiner before the night is done. Shane sat opposite of Styles at a contract singing table. Shane talked about he and Bryan having a vision for Smackdown Live to create a land of opportunity where Superstars could reach their highest levels and management wouldn’t push their own agenda. Someone shouted something, and the crowd laughed. Shane said it’s a place here everybody can tune in and families can come to be entertained. He said Styles was always part of that vision. He said whatever happens in five days at WrestleMania, he thinks he is without a question one of the greatest talent to ever step foot between the ropes. Styles smiled and shrugged “aw shucks.” Shane said he truly is phenomenal.
Styles said, “I never thought I’d say this, but we actually agree on something.” Shane said Styles blew the doors off of the place a little over a year ago. He said arenas were chanting his name everywhere. Shane started an “A.J. Styles” chant. Shane said he used that adulation and it catapulted him to winning the WWE Championship, but then he became arrogant. He said that cost him his championship to Cena and the match to Randy Orton. He said his ego is getting in the way of everything, and it couldn’t stand that he wasn’t scheduled for WrestleMania. He said whoever he (Shane) is in the ring with, he makes them reach down and find the grit to be their very best. He said when he put Styles through a table last week, he saw in Styles face that “this is a game-changer” and he’ll have to “give him everything I’ve got.” Shane said if Styles doesn’t give him his A-game, “how phenomenal will you feel when it’s my hand being raised at WrestleMania.”
Shane signed the contract. Styles asked if he’s ever been in a traditional match before. He said when you get in the ring with him, you’ve entered the world of A.J. Styles. He said in the ring between the ropes he is untouchable. He said if he wants to wrestle, they’ll wrestle. If he wants to throw hands, he’ll throw hands. And if he wants to take to the air, do that. “Because I will embarrass you on every level,” Styles said. He said he should have learned something over the past couple years. He said he’s been in the ring with Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock, and last year The Undertaker. He leaned in and said he’s never been in the ring with Styles before. He said he is the best all-around performer to ever step foot inside a WWE ring. He told Shane at WrestleMania, he’ll find out how phenomenal he is.
Styles stood. Shane stood and acted tough. He pushed the table aside. They walked toward each other. Bryan stepped in between them and told them to calm down. He asked them to “steal the deal” with a handshake. Shane held out his hand. Styles stared at it, then turned and left instead. Some boos. As Styles walked away up the ramp backwards, he trash-talked Shane. Shane admired the signed contract inside the ring.
(Keller’s Analysis: In a bubble, that was a decent segment. Given what Styles did to Shane two weeks ago in the parking garage, Shane’s demeanor didn’t seem to take that into account. He offered a handshake to a guy who blind-side attacked him out of the context of any wrestling match. By acting civil and calm, it undercuts the potential rabid fury built up over Styles disrespecting him and potentially injuring him badly with that attack… Despite the list of people Shane has been in the ring with or had matches with, it’s still preposterous that everyone acts like he some sort of pedigree to justify being treated as a potential threat to Styles if Styles doesn’t bring his A-game. Just because it keeps happening doesn’t make it any less silly each time out. As I’ve said on the PWTorch Livecast, unless Shane leaps off the WrestleMania sign in Orlando, he’s letting us all down and not proving to his dad that he belongs in a match at WrestleMania.)
-Phillips hyped Bray Wyatt vs. Luke Harper. JBL said Miz and Maryse have promised an explosive finale to the Total Bellas Finale (spoof). Phillips plugged Becky Lynch vs. Carmella as they showed a split screen of them in the back. [c]
BE AMONG THE FIRST TO GET THE ALL-NEW PWTORCH T-SHIRTS…
(1) CARMELLA (w/James Ellsworth) vs. BECKY LYNCH
Alexa Bliss and Mickie James joined in on commentary, each on opposite sides the three announcers at ringside. When Ellsworth stepped out to introduced Carmella, JBL asked if it was National Geographic Channel. Ellsworth demanded respect from the crowd. Alexa and Mickie bickered. Otunga asked what went wrong between them. Mickie said they had a deal and she was supposed to get an opportunity at WrestleMania. Alexa called her a delirious liar. Carmella gave Ellsworth her gum, and he put it in his mouth. JBL said that was disgusting. He wondered if she expects it back. Mickie and Alexa fought at ringside and then into the ring, disrupting the match. Mickie hit Carmella. The ref called for the bell. Alexa attacked Mickie, but Mickie countered with a Mick Kick. Mickie pointed at the WrestleMania sign. They cut to a break.
WINNER: No contest. [c]
(2) MICKIE JAMES & BECKY LYNCH vs. CARMELLA (w/James Ellsworth) & ALEXA BLISS
Phillips said Bryan made it into a tag match during the break. It was in progress. JBL said Bryan is doing his best Teddy Long impression. After about five minutes, Natalya walked to the ring as her music played. They cut to a break. [c]
Natalya joined the announcers on commentary. She sat next to Phillips and said there is no greater chance for her to win her first championship than at The Greatest Thrill Ride on Sunday. In the end, Natalya jumped onto the ring apron. Becky hit her. Carmella whipped Becky into the ropes. Ellsworth tripped her. Carmella then scored the pin with a victory roll.
WINNERS: Carmella & Bliss.
-Afterward, all five women brawled. Then out came Naomi. She gave a running head scissors to Natalya on the ramp. She beat up the women in the ring including a Rear View to Bliss. She asked for the mic and smiled at a small “Na-o-mi!” chant. “Now I know ya all was wondering if your girl would be back in time for WrestleMania. Well, I’m back, baby.” She said she was officially entering the Smackdown Women’s Title match. She pointed at the WrestleMania sign and said this Sunday in her hometown, everybody is going to feel the glow. The crowd said “feel the glow” along with her.
(Keller’s Analysis: This took up nearly 30 minutes of the show starting with the one-on-one match’s introductions, but overall it gave considerable attention to the Smackdown Women’s Title match and ever just about everyone except Becky a chance to advance their personalities and aspirations headed into Sunday. The payoff with Naomi added some news.)
-Bryan was on the phone with Brie Bella backstage. Tyler Breeze walked up to him, dressed as Nikki Bella once again. Bryan told Brie his sister walked in. Tyler said he was available for the Smackdown Live Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania. (Does the title say “Smackdown LIVE” on it?) Bryan told him no. Breeze tore off his wig. Bryan asked where Tyler Breeze came from. Fandago walked in and told Breeze he needed to wear the wristbands to be believable. Breeze was frustrated with himself. Bryan offered to enter them in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. He said there’d be a ten-man tag match later, but he has two openings. Breezango danced and Bryan joined in. Then they left. Bryan was upset they left him hanging like that.
-The announcers plugged the lost episode of the Miz & Maryse spoof of “Total Bellas.”
-A clip aired of Pete Rose at WrestleMania getting tombstoned by Kane.. [c]
-An anti-smoking ad aired starring A.J. Styles and Natalya.
-The announcers hyped WrestleMania weekend happenings on WWE Network.
-Miz and Maryse made their full ring entrance. Miz threw to the shocking finale of the Total Bellas spoof. They started with highlights of last week’s episodes. Then Miz, imitating Cena, sat at the dinner table and ordered everyone to the table within the next minute or they’d be in violation of the house rules. “Nikki” walked in and “Cena” told her she looks wonderful. The cue card guy messed up what he should be saying to her. Nikki talked about the excitement of having little kids some day with the pitter-patter of little feet all around. Cena said there already will be such pitter-patter. Miz, dressed up as Daniel Bryan, came in on his knees with a lumberjack shirt and fake beard. Brie taunted Nikki with an engagement ring. When Cena announced he prepared steaks, Bryan protested because “it hurts my little stomach.” Brie consoled him with a juice box. Cena said everyone must take equally proportioned bites at the same time, and then 3-4 sips of wine at the same time, then say “ahh” for two seconds. Anyone violating the rules will be banished from Cena’s house. Cena then asked Nikki to make her the happiest man in the world, but didn’t ask her to marry him. She said she’d ask him instead. She got on her knees and asked, “John Cena, will you marry me?”
Back live, Miz and Maryse reacted to the video. Miz acted like it was huge news that Nikki asked. He wondered if Cena will accept her proposal. Maryse said they’d find out after the break. [c]
Back in the ring, Miz said it’s time for the conclusion of “Total Bellas Bull Sh**.” Cena said, “I do… not ever want to marry you because it will damage my brand.” He explained that he “hustles” the fans by pretending to be something he is not, he is “loyal” to himself and the people who do what he tells them, and “respects” one thing – money. He said all he wants Nikki to do is be by his side and make him look like a good person. If he doesn’t, he will throw her into the gutter like everyone else who doesn’t project that he is a good guy. He said “Never Give Up” means he will never give up his spot, no matter how talented they are. He said when Miz & Maryse beat them at WrestleMania, he will have to retreat into obscurity. He said he doesn’t want Nikki around to remind him of his past. He said he isn’t alive, he is a ghost, because you can’t see him because there’s nothing there worth seeing.
Miz took off the Cena hat and looked at the camera. Miz took off his shirt and wristbands. He got serious and said they will make sure WrestleMania is his curtain call and he will make sure he has nothing left. He said he won’t even have a Hollywood career. He said he’s just a circus act, a big dumb animal wondering the street. Maryse said the “Kids Choice Awards” is the closest Nikki will ever get to having kids. Miz will said he can no longer call himself a man and the whole world will see his entire life is total bullsh–. Miz and Maryse kissed and then looked like evil movie villains.
(Keller’s Analysis: The Bryan imitation fell flat. The second week in general lost the shock factor and charm of the first one. That said, it felt heavy by the end and a little uncomfortable to watch, and when Mi and Maryse got serious and broke out of the spoof mode, it felt like they were promoting an actual match.)
Back in the ring live, Miz and Maryse stood and pretended the crowd was cheering them. Cena’s music played. Cena and Nikki came out next. Miz said it was quite the shock. “I’m surprised it took you this long to interrupt us,” he said. Cena said that was all pretty funny. Cena said making fun of his house rules was funny, and Brie and Nikki do have their dumb moments, and he does walk around like a corporate robot. He said it’s true he and Nikki aren’t married, either. He said the spoof one of the few good things Miz done around there. But then they stopped the spoof and became Miz and Nikki again. He said to them, it’s not a joke, but they actually believe what they are saying is true. Cena said Nikki didn’t stop Maryse from coming back to WWE because she’s standing in the ring. Cena said the reason Maryse wasn’t asked back at first was because “they didn’t want you back because when you were here before, you didn’t do jack.” Maryse and Miz laughed. Cena said get on WWE Network and search “Best of Maryse” because nothing comes up.
Cena sarcastic said Miz was right on saying WWE was a 15 year launch pad to leave WWE in the dust and go on to the red carpet. “Man, are you high?” he asked. “I’m as brand loyal as Vince McMahon and I’m not even cool about it.” He said everybody knows he’s loyal to WWE and half the fans hate him for it and want him to go, but they can’t get rid of him. He told “Mike” that he’s doing a movie and then he’s coming back. He said a lot of Superstars have done it. He listed Triple H, Randy Orton, Sheamus, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and even Miz. He said it slipped his mind because the only movies Miz is in are “crappy bootlegs of movies I’ve been already been in.” He said at least Miz does something, but he is still trying to figure out what Maryse is doing there. He said there’s a revolution going on, and women are invited to get in the ring and prove they are as good as the men. Cena called Maryse someone who steals a paycheck and is a waste of space. Cena said the only reason Maryse is back is because Miz begged WWE to hire her back so he could be on Total Divas. “He’s using you to be on Total Divas,” he said. Then Cena asked how many kids Miz and Maryse have, since he’s been making fun of Nikki not having kids. He slapped Miz in the nuts and asked if he was firing blanks. They cut to a guy in the crowd who thought that was hilarious.
Cena said he warned them not to bring a knife to a gun fight, but they don’t listen, even to themselves. He said they are ridiculous, always blaming everyone else everytime they stumble. He called Miz “Mike” once again and said that’s not real, but real is going punch him straight in the mouth on Sunday. He said he had him laughing when he was making fun of him, but when he took all of the merchandise off and got serious, that changed things. Cena did the same. He walked up to Miz and said he stands in front of him a man whom he knows will crush him at WrestleMania. He said normally right about now, he usually says they’re in for the fight of their lives, but instead he’s going to destroy Miz at WrestleMania.
Cena said there is one rule around WWE, which is if you want to talk tough, you better be tough. “And you’re a pussy,” he said, getting bleeped at the end. Cena said they’re not the It Couple, they’re the Shh-It Couple. “Prove me wrong,” he said. He said the fans can feel they are close to WrestleMania and they all want to see something happen. He told Miz to ball up the fist and take a shot. He told him to remember who he’s swinging at, because he’ll swing back. He said Miz is frozen in his tracks. He said if Maryse steps forward, Nikki will knock the Botox out of her cheeks. Cena pointed at his chin. Nikki smiled at Maryse. Miz and Maryse stared back, but then walked out.
Miz and Maryse teased a return. Cena said, “Firing blanks? Maybe there’s nothing to fire with.” Nikki said this Sunday, there is no more running and this Sunday she and her man are coming to kick their asses. Cena then gave Nikki one of those awkward kisses.
(Keller’s Analysis: That got intense, and it got too long by the end. It reminds me of when it seemed The Rock totally got the best of Cena in that first promo on Raw throwing his merch off the pier. Then the next week, Cena’s counter-punch was even stronger. When Cena turns it up like that and gets serious and intense, he’s at his best. It works because he doesn’t go there every week… I still wonder what a heel run for him as a top act would have been like, and who could have countered him at his best on the mic, especially if he channeled the arrogant dickish side of himself which there was more than glimpses of there. Only the fact that Cena and Maryse were so nasty in the spoof videos did Cena not come across as a huge jerk the way he came down uncomfortably harshly on Miz and especially Maryse. It started to feel like a roast that someone started to take too far. It felt real, and that’s good when you tap into that if it’s aimed toward a fight people have to pay to see.) [c]
(3) RHYNO & HEATH SLATER & AMERICAN ALPHA & MOJO RAWLEY vs. BREEZANGO & THE USOS & DOLPH ZIGGLER
The announcers talked about the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. Otunga talked about being in the first one. They cut to a break with Rhyno battling Ziggler. [c]
Back live, the match continued.
(Keller’s Analysis: This would have been a great chance to tell fans the match ended during the break and just show a highlight of it. That should happen every once in a while. I mean, what are the odds matches never end in the 3-4 minutes they’re at commercial break?)
In the end, Ziggler cleared the ring. Rhyno then gave him a Gore. Ziggler takes the Gore maybe better than anyone ever. Rhyno then gave a charging Breeze an uppercut. Breeze then knocked Rhyno off the top rope out of the ring with a kick. Mojo entered and hit Breeze from behind with a clothesline and scored a pin.
WINNERS: Team Mojo.
-They cut to Harper talking to a light bulb backstage. He said he has seen the truth and the truth is he doesn’t need Bray after all. He said he is free. He said if he were Bray, he would suggest he run.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was markedly better. Maybe subtle, but seemed more believably crazed and intense and scary, less scripted and one-dimensional. There wasn’t a lot of time or material to work with, compared to Cena’s 20 minutes, but in that time, it was a step up from his previous similar promo talking to the light bulb in the back.) [c]
-Enzo, Lynch, and Cass were playing Scrabble backstage. Enzo scored with “Haters.” Cass had “SAWFT” but didn’t realize it because he was hungry… for a Snickers.
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Phillips was very excited about 70,000+ saying “SAWFT” and JBL looked even more excited by Phillips saying how excited he was. It was all strange. They talked about the special musical guests at WrestleMania.
-Bray Wyatt’s ring entrance took place. [c]
(4) BRAY WYATT vs. LUKE HARPER
Back and forth, hard-hitting action early. Harper took Bray down with a dropkick. Bray rolled to the floor. Harper chased after him and went aggressively after him with some measured punches and then a running smash against the ringside barrier. He threw Bray into the time keeper’s area, then he played to the crowd and got some cheers as they cut to a break. [c]
Bray was in control after the break. Harper scored some near falls after some big clotheslines. He even teased Sister Abigail against Bray. Bray blocked it and sat up and kneeled down Luke. Luke froze. Bray then charged in and gave him a Sister Abigail for the sudden win.
-As JBL talked about Bray vs. Orton at WrestleMania, Bray celebrated to his music in the ring. He got on his knees and made demonic faces. They couldn’t end like that, though. Orton appeared on the big screen and talked about Sister Abigail. All kinds of special effects and flashes of scary images. He showed that strange tennis racket shaped object with a red X on it. He said he’ll seal his fate at WrestleMania and he’s coming for him and his WWE Championship and nothing will stand in his way.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 3/21: Styles reacts to Shane challenging him to a WrestleMania match, more hype for WrestleMania 33