By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. Since last week’s Battle Royal ended in controversy, AJ Styles vs. Luke Harper will meet in a number one contender’s match with the winner going on to face Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. Who officially punched their ticket to WM? The answer to that pressing question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of SD Live in no particular order.
· The longest opening segment in the SmackDown Live era was amazing as The Miz and John Cena had a great back and forth promo exchange to kick off the show.
· The Miz invited Cena on his talk show to air out his grievances over the past ten years. He blamed Cena for derailing his reign as WWE Champion 6 years ago by winning the title two weeks later at Extreme Rules. Miz accused Cena of manipulating his way to the top while holding him down. He claimed that Cena was a part-timer who is Hollywood bound after shaming The Rock for doing the same thing several years ago. Therefore, he eliminated Cena to give him a taste of what it felt like to lose everything heading into WrestleMania.
· Cena had a great rebuttal when he explained that Miz was recycling material from other wrestlers in a poor attempt to rattle his cage. Cena is fully aware that some fans think he is a bad wrestler that has benefitted from backstage politics. If the latter was the case, he would be facing The Undertaker at WrestleMania instead of being a guest on Miz TV.
· Cena stated that he doesn’t try to win over every fan. Those who ride with him know that he’s being authentic. This led to Cena completely trashing Miz’s character by saying he has emulated several WWE Superstars in order to get over. He stole Chris Jericho’s gimmick, took Ric Flair’s Figure Four Leg Lock, ripped off Daniel Bryan’s move set and “Yes” chant, and borrowed AJ Styles’ lines from the past six months.
· Legends such as Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock were themselves with the volume turned up to 100. Miz was playing dress-up instead of being himself. Cena warned The A-Lister not to bring a knife to a gunfight the next time he calls him out. If he continued to press Cena, Miz would end up like The Undertaker: A dead man.
· Cena was about to leave the ring when Maryse pulled Cena aside and told him that he couldn’t leave until she and Miz dismissed him. She claimed that Cena was an egomaniac who must be overcompensating in the package department. She proceeded to slap Cena which was a big mistake because Nikki Bella ran down to the ring. Miz and Maryse escaped into the crowd as Nikki had a great parting shot for Maryse warning her that she would break her if she ever touched Cena again as the segment came to an end.
· This was a great way to start the show. The Miz was on fire and Cena was at his best when he has great material to work with. The allusion of backstage politics could’ve been toned down a bit, but everything else clicked for the most part. The presumed mixed tag team match isn’t eye catching on paper, but the promo work from Miz and Cena should push things over the top. Throw in Maryse and Nikki throwing ample amounts of shade at each other and this could be a hot match come WrestleMania. Tonight’s installment of Miz TV was an excellent starting point.
· Becky Lynch defeated Mickie James in a 2 out of 3 falls match when she made James tap out to the Dis-Arm-Her during the final fall. Lynch and James were having a nice back and forth match until Alexa Bliss made her way to ringside. When Lynch covered James for the pin, Bliss got on the ring apron to distract the referee. Lynch confronted Bliss while James was trying to attack Lynch from behind. However, James accidentally knocked Bliss off the apron. Lynch tried to roll her up for the win, but James shifted her momentum by grabbing Lynch’s shorts. Lynch powered out which led to the win via submission.
· It appears that the Lynch-James feud is over based on the outcome, but never say never because we still have four weeks to go until Mania.
· Natalya put Alexa Bliss on notice by telling her that she was gunning for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Is Natalya a babyface now? I figured someone had to flip after Naomi dropped the title due to injury last week.
· AJ Styles officially punched his ticket to WrestleMania when he pinned Luke Harper with the 450 Splash. Styles and Harper had a good match, but it could’ve been better if it wasn’t overbooked. Styles originally had Harper beat with The Phenomenal Forearm, but Harper’s leg was on the bottom rope as the referee counted 1-2-3.
· Shane McMahon made his way down the ramp and announced that the match would be restarted. Styles got in McMahon’s face at ringside until Harper accidently blindsided McMahon with a big boot which led to the finish.
· Harper had a great showing, but it felt muted because of the outcome. Styles and Harper have the potential to have a better match in the future without McMahon being used as a plot device to forward tension with Styles.
· John Cena and Nikki Bella will face Carmella and James Ellsworth in a mixed tag team match next week. That should be a spectacle.
· Thanks for coming, Curt Hawkins! Dean Ambrose nailed Hawkins with Dirty Deeds before the match got underway. Ambrose called out Baron Corbin after Corbin’s sneak attacks over the past couple of weeks. Corbin cut a promo from backstage and vowed to take everything Ambrose held near and dear to him. This was a fine way to add heat to their burgeoning feud.
· Dolph Ziggler and Apollo Crews had a solid Chairs Match that featured good action throughout. Crews had the upper hand by showing off his agility, but Ziggler’s veteran instincts kicked in when he dropped Crews throat first onto the edge of a steel chair. Crews had a hard time collecting himself after the spot as he coughed profusely. Ziggler took things one step further by slamming Crews’ family jewels between the back side of the chair before pinning him with a jackknife rollup. Crews showed nice aggression while Ziggler heeled it up down the stretch. We are still in the baby steps phase of Ziggler’s heel turn. Pitter Patter…
· Piece of advice to Bray Wyatt: Never give anyone the keys to kingdom ever again. Wyatt learned that lesson the hard way during his invocation ceremony when put AJ Styles on notice heading into their WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. Wyatt said he came from the depths of the earth which contained dirt and molten lava. He claimed that’s where Orton was at the moment because he bowed down to his master.
· Suddenly, Orton appeared on the titantron and revealed that he was no longer under Wyatt’s spell. He was at the Wyatt Compound which also served as Sister Abigail’s final resting place. Orton dug up her remains and told Wyatt that he was going to burn her spirit to the ground. The Eater of Worlds would be weakened by her eternal damnation as Orton doused the compound with gasoline. He went outside and struck a match and set the building ablaze as Wyatt lost it in the ring. Orton did his signature pose as he burned the last vestige of Sister Abigail while Wyatt continued to throw a fit at ringside as SD Live went off the air.
· This was WWE at its campy best. Orton did a great job tormenting Wyatt as he showed his true colors after putting up a convincing ruse over the past few months. The Viper announced that he would face Wyatt for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. This puts AJ Styles’ title shot in limbo because Orton is cashing in his Royal Rumble win. Shane McMahon will probably make an executive decision next week which should finally set up the SD Live Main event at Mania.
· The rumor mill has been hinting at a McMahon vs. Styles match at WM over the past few weeks and McMahon postponing Styles’ title match until a later date would add fuel to the proverbial fire. Styles vs. McMahon is not a sexy match, but it could be a beautiful disaster if it’s booked properly. Styles not being in a high profile match at WM sucks, but the prospect of Styles vs. Orton facing off for the WWE Title leading up to the Dog Days of Summer is a nice consolation prize. It’s all about the journey leading up to the final destination. Yes, I’m an optimist to a fault.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was very good. The show had a clear purpose from start to finish. The opening and closing segments were great as they laid the foundation for the top two SD Live matches at WrestleMania. The in-ring action was solid as several storylines were forwarded leading up to the biggest show of the year as well.
· Natalya appears to be next in line for the Women’s Championship by putting Alexa Bliss on notice. AJ Styles is on a collision course with Shane McMahon despite becoming the number contender for the WWE Championship.
· John Cena, Nikki Bella, The Miz, and Maryse is a deliciously soapy storyline that could be one my guilty pleasures heading into Mania. The promos and physical confrontations should be outstanding as long as Maryse doesn’t use a fake steel pipe to attack Nikki again.
· After last week’s so-so show, SD Live is clicking on all cylinders once again. The Tag Team Division was sidelined once again, but it’s smart not to burn through meaningless matches between American Alpha vs. The Uso because their best stuff should be saved for WM. With four weeks to go until the biggest show of the year, both teams should have enough television time to get their feud over in a meaningful way.
· 33 days and counting until the Road to WM comes to a head in Orlando. The blue brand got in the Fastlane before Raw’s eponymous PPV. Let’s hope their red counterpart kick things into high gear on Sunday. Fingers crossed!
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will back next week with another installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!