John Cena/Nikki Bella beat James Ellsworth/Carmella followed by a blistering Miz promo: As announced last week after a backstage run-in, Cena and Nikki face Ellsworth and Carmella this week. It’s the first major segment of the show, so it’s an easy and early night for everyone involved. The match did its job of being comical as Ellsworth is getting better at playing the sad sack heel against his “female friend” Carmella.
At one point in the match, Cena and Nikki execute a synchronized Five Knuckle Shuffle that Nikki botches because she runs to the wrong rope. The Miz, who is on commentary, angrily points out she can’t even do the move right. They finish off the tandem quickly, this time using synchronized STFs. Surprisingly, Nikki’s STF looks better than Cena’s.
After the match, The Miz and Maryse lay out the couple. The Miz gets on the mic and tells them that Cena and Nikki’s relationship is “the biggest lie” of all of Cena’s lies. Cena is a robot (“He’s RoboCena: ‘Nikki, I love you, Nikki, I love you’”) that doesn’t really care for Nikki, and Nikki seeks only attention so she is willing to ignore it. Their “plastic, fabricated lives spits on every real relationship. And it stops now.” Maryse takes the mic, recalling Nikki’s comments last week: “Hey, Nikki, break that bitch.” They two kiss in the ring to end the segment.
This match is still not an exciting addition for Wrestlemania, but The Miz is still on fire on the microphone. He’s doing his best to make this a fun build regardless of the outcome.
Dean Ambrose gets a serious beat down from Baron Corbin: Much like last week, Ambrose comes to the ring to call out Baron Corbin. He says that maybe Corbin is called “The Lone Wolf” is nobody likes him because he’s a “scumbag.” He quips, “And yeah, that’s me saying that.” Corbin comes on the screen, and he has a shorter promo that he delivers much better this week. He comes to the ring for nobody, and he plans to “take everything away” from Ambrose, including his Intercontinental belt. Ambrose decides if Corbin won’t come to him, he’ll go find Corbin.
After a couple short segments of looking, he finds Corbin who ambushes him with a metal pipe. Dean takes the beating in a typical Dean fashion, making jokes as he’s curled up in pain. Corbin attacks him again, viciously with punches and kicks. Dean ends up under the tine of a forklift. Corbin sees his predicament, starts the forklift, and lowers the forks on top of Ambrose, across his throat and ribs, crushing him. Referees and agents arrive to run Corbin off and try to help Ambrose.
It’s announced later that Ambrose was taken to the hospital and possibly has broken ribs from the attack. The announcers, including JBL, play it up as if it were the most dastardly attack they’ve ever seen, and that is the only part of this whole segment that fell flat. Everything else worked well as this is the type of weekly slow build that has made Smackdown successful is this evenly-paced weekly storytelling.
AJ Styles promo before his match: “Welcome to Smackdown Live, the house that AJ Styles built. You see, when I was WWE Champion, the ratings couldn’t be any higher. I took a B-show and made it into the show. And what do I get from Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan? Nothing but disrespect. Meanwhile, Randy Orton burns down a man’s house and gets rewarded for it. You see, here’s the thing that nobody seems to get. (In a rare moment, the crowd gets engaged for the first time and chants “AJ Styles”) Trust me, I know exactly who I am and what I’m doing here, so let me explain it to you. I was built for the main event of Wrestlemania. And not Shane McMahon, and not Daniel Bryan, and certainly not Randy Orton, is gonna keep me from the grandest stage of them all and making it phenomenal.” Despite him cutting off the crowd’s chants early, this certainly sounds like a tweener promo to me. The face turn is definitely coming.
AJ Styles versus Randy Orton for the right to wrestle for the WWE World Title: The two men were given about fifteen minutes, and delivered a well-paced methodical match. Randy got engaged in the action about halfway through, and when he cares, he can still entertain. The ending really got the crowd going for the first time in the show. Randy won with a pop-up RKO to score the pinfall and get the chance to face Bray at Wrestlemania.
The fact that AJ feels screwed over by management’s decisions and his loss here almost certainly confirms they are going ahead with the rumored Shane McMahon/AJ match at ‘Mania. Hopefully, they pull a swerve, and Shane gifts AJ a match with a big name or has someone wrestle for him (Nakamura, please).
Mojo Rawley announces he’s in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: Mojo makes the announcement and says he’s looking for his own Wrestlemania moment. Dolph Ziggler interrupts the interview with his man-bun. He tells Mojo that he’s just like all the rest of the younger talent who is looking for their Wrestlemania moment and that “they just don’t hand those out.” This is apparently going to be Ziggler’s new feud to build up a lower midcard face character. One can only presume given Mojo’s lack of sustainable charisma and Ziggler’s fall from grace that it won’t work. Beyond that, the future is not looking bright if you have to announce your entry into the Andre Memorial.
The Indianapolis crowd: This crowd was mostly shit tonight. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan could even get decent reactions tonight. They were completely dead during the women’s segment and match, which while no great shakes, was entertaining enough and built a story. These segments could have been heightened a more if the crowd had gotten into the show before the main event.
Alexa Bliss versus the whole Smackdown women’s roster: Alexa Bliss comes out with her new friend, Mickie James, to announce who she’ll be facing at Wrestlemania. She has a good promo where she goes through the potential opponents one-by-one – Naomi, Nikki, Carmella, Becky – and makes fun of each before rejecting them as opponents with Mickie guffawing the whole time.
Becky comes out and claims she is going to face Bliss at Wrestlemania. Then Natalya comes out – she thinks she deserves a crack at the belt. Mickie yells at them for interrupting Alexa who was obviously going to announce that Mickie was her opponent. Alexa looks surprised by this as it wasn’t her intention at all. Now, Mickie is upset with Alexa. Commissioner Daniel Bryan’s music plays. He comes out and announces that Alexa Bliss is going to face every available woman on the roster at Wrestlemania in a match type to be decided. Alexa says he can’t do that. Bryan responds, “I can. I just did. That’s literally my job.” He says he has also learned something from soon-to-be Hall of Famer, Teddy Long, who was the Smackdown GM for a long time and announces a tag team match: Alexa and Mickie versus Becky and Natalya.
The match is solid enough. The talent level is not as a high as the women on RAW, but the effort level is. The match-ups, even if they’ve been done plenty of times, still feel fresh as well. Natalya turns on Becky with a vicious release German suplex. Bliss gets the pin after. Once the match is finished, Mickie gives Bliss a Mick Kick, presumably turning face, and leaves her face down in the ring.
The women’s segments on both shows were a mess. Both were overbooked in service of creating a multi-woman match for each title. Some of these women, no matter what show, deserve a one-on-one match for one of these titles at Wrestlemania soon.
The Final Analysis
Overall, this was a much better show than the last couple weeks. While everyone might not be happy with the booking, the show is telling the ‘Mania stories in a balanced and deliberate way that has made it successful since the split.