By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to the final installment of The SmackDown Files for 2016. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois. WWE completed their two-night stand in the Windy City as they treated fans to SD Live’s Wild Card Finals. Three Championship Matches were on tap including The Four Corners Elimination Match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship featuring The Wyatt Family vs. The Usos vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. American Alpha; Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch for the SD Women’s Championship, and AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship.
Did we crown new champions or will everything remain the status quo heading into 2017? What role did John Cena play during the Finals extravaganza? The answer to these questions can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of SD Live in no particular order.
· John Cena is the WWE equivalent of Geppetto minus the AARP street cred. The Chicago crowd can be brutal, but he turned those jeers into cheers and even sparked tension between the Cubs and White Sox fans which worked in his favor as well.
· He previewed tonight’s Championship Spectacular and even did an impromptu poll on who will walk out WWE Champion. The fans were unanimously behind AJ Styles which played into Cena’s announcement.
· The winner of the Triple Threat Match will go on to face Cena at the Royal Rumble. The crowd was not pleased with this news, but Cena noted that he can do it because his name is John Cena. And with that, he dropped the mic to wrap up the opening segment.
· This was a hot way to kick off the final SD Live of 2016. With Cena back in the main event fold, business is about to pick up to quote Good Ol’ JR.
· That was a rough spill for Heath Slater as he got dropped with a Superkick by Jimmy Uso as he and Rhyno were eliminated from the Four Corners Elimination Tag Team Championship match.
· In a stunning upset, American Alpha defeated The Wyatt Family to become the new SmackDown Tag Team Champions. The ending caught everyone off guard when Orton accidently knocked Luke Harper off the ring apron which played into the finish.
· Jason Jordan did a running charge into the corner to wear down Orton before setting up Grand Amplitude for the win. Orton and Harper bickered in the ring while American Alpha celebrated on the main stage.
· American Alpha vs. The Wyatt Family was good, but it didn’t feel like it was the right time to for a title change.
· Chad Gable did a great job playing the babyface in peril as Harper and Orton worked over his lower back until he made the hot tag to Jordan. The fans were clamoring for Orton to hit an RKO out of nowhere, but their wish was never granted. This probably explains their somewhat muted response when American Alpha won the Tag Team Titles.
· The reaction was nice, but it wasn’t a cathartic moment like Alpha’s win against The Revival at NXT Takeover: Dallas earlier this year. American Alpha will bring some much-needed credibility to the Tag Team Division, but it will take time as fans are still warming up to their act. Their in-ring prowess will win them over if they are given the right opponents to face.
· It appears that The Usos will fill that spot after The Wyatt Family exercise their rematch clause.
· The tension between Harper and Orton has reared its ugly head after their skirmish. Whether it was intentional or not, Harper is still leery of Orton because he thinks The Viper is wearing sheep’s clothing in his quest to destroy The Wyatt Family from within.
· It’s a plausible theory and it should be interesting to see if Orton plans to smooth things over with his new found brothers. If he does, it might be another ploy to lull them into a false sense of security. This cat and mouse game has done a complete 180 since their jump the shark moment a couple of months ago. It’s a testament to the writers and talent for righting the ship and making this the most intriguing storyline on SD Live.
· Alexa Bliss successfully defended her SmackDown’s Women’s Championship against Becky Lynch thanks to an assist from La Luchadora II. The masked lady came down to the ring and distracted Lynch when Bliss dislocated her shoulder. It was a gnarly visual that allowed La Luchadora to ram Lynch’s head into the second turnbuckle behind the referee’s back. Bliss snapped her shoulder back in place and nailed Lynch with a DDT for the win.
· Prior to the outside interference, Bliss and Lynch had a solid match. However, it lacked fluidity and crispness which disrupted the flow of the match at times. Their feud is not stale yet, but their series of championship bouts have not lived up to expectations. Both ladies need a signature match to push things over the top from a wrestling and storytelling standpoint. Until that happens, they will stay in the neutral zone which is disappointing considering the potential Bliss has shown in recent months.
· Bliss’ best moment came during the Six Pack Challenge at Backlash to crown the first SmackDown Women’s Champion. Here’s hoping that she taps into that well again because she is capable of being a great heel who can back it up on the mic and in the ring.
· As for Lynch, she has to be the ring general who doesn’t overcomplicate things inside the squared circle. She showed nice aggression tonight, but that needs to be on full display if she is going to hold up her end of the bargain. Ultimately, it boils down to how the match is booked which will allow both ladies to shine. It’s not too late, but the clock is ticking.
· The mystery surrounding La Luchadora II is an interesting one. We can safely say that it’s not Sasha Banks or Nia Jax. I guess we shall find who’s under the mask soon enough.
· The Triple Threat WWE Championship Match featuring AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, and Baron Corbin was outstanding. Corbin had a star-making performance which should help his cause heading into 2017. He held his own and the double team spots featuring all three men was awesome. The leg drop/elbow drop combo by Styles and Ziggler as they drove Corbin through the announce table was especially great.
· Ziggler and Styles had a great back and forth exchange that featured sick counters and great near falls as Ziggler almost had Styles beat with a Superkick.
· Corbin made his way back into the ring as he dropped Ziggler with the Deep Six followed by the awesome End of Days/Zig Zag combo with Styles eating the former while Corbin took Ziggler’s finisher for a near fall. That was a tremendous spot.
· Corbin eventually dropped Ziggler with End of Days, but he couldn’t make the pin because Styles drilled him with The Phenomenal Forearm and covered Ziggler for the 1-2-3.
· After the match was over, John Cena ran down to the ring to shake Styles’ hand. Styles was reluctant at first, but he eventually shook Cena’s hand. Both men exchanged words as SD Live went off the air with Styles celebrating in the ring while Cena mouthed a fair warning to his Royal Rumble opponent from the main stage.
· Styles turned in another great performance, but Ziggler and Corbin deserve credit for bringing their A-Game as well. This was an emphatic way to end the year and I tip my cap to all three men for a job well done.
· Styles and Cena will face off for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble. The promos leading up to the title bout should be great and the actual match ought to be spectacular as well. This is a stone cold lock for match of the night if everything goes according to plan.
· The Rumble is shaping up to be stacked show with the blue brand delivering the goods on the main event front. This was a fitting way to end the calendar year for WWE with SD Live firing on all cylinders heading into WrestleMania season. Here’s hoping their red counterpart will get their shit together heading into the New Year as well. Fingers crossed!
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was very good. The Wild Card Finals exceeded expectations as all three championship matches held the show together from start to finish.
· Secondary storylines were forwarded backstage as Carmella continued her romantic pursuit of James Ellsworth (I am not making this up), Dean Ambrose attacked The Miz during his interview with Renee Young, and Nikki Bella defended herself after Natalya showed her true colors last week. These plotlines will continue to unravel as we head into the first week of 2017.
· Plus, Miz and Ambrose will face off for the Intercontinental Championship next week as SD Live emanates from Jacksonville, Florida. Here’s hoping they have a better outing than the one they had a few weeks ago.
· SD Live is staving off the Winter Blues by turning in several good shows in recent weeks. They are keeping things fresh which gives fans a reason to tune in on Tuesday nights. With five weeks to go until the Royal Rumble, expect things to get even hotter as we get closer to the first major PPV of the year. Let the games begin!
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand installment of The Raw Exposé to kick off 2017. Happy New Year, boys and girls!