By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio. This is final live show before the Royal Rumble which means only one thing…The Road to WrestleMania is officially upon us. The Mania sign will be displayed prominently inside the Alamo Dome as a Raw, SmackDown, or NXT star points at said sign as fans are treated to a pyro show. It’s the pageantry that makes this time of year so special. Did the blue brand make fans feel warm and fuzzy heading into the Rumble or were they treated to a giant pile of suck instead? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of SD Live in no particular order.
· The Miz will face Dean Ambrose in a Lumberjack Match for the Intercontinental Championship later tonight. Miz tried to make the title bout No Disqualification, but Daniel Bryan realized that the loophole would allow Maryse to interfere on her husband’s behalf and immediately shot down that idea.
· Randy Orton and Luke Harper had a good match that was hard hitting and physical throughout. The best moment of the match came when Harper attempted to hit Orton with a Discus Clothesline only for Orton to nail him with an RKO instead. Harper acted like he got dropped with a Stone Cold Stunner as he bumped like a champ. Orton picked up the win as Bray Wyatt watched the match from his rocking chair at ringside.
· After the match was over, Wyatt helped Harper to his feet before laying him out with Sister Abigail. It’s unclear if Wyatt gave his brother tough love or excommunicated him from the group. The Rumble match should be very interesting since the whole family is vying for the main event spot at WrestleMania. Let the mind games continue…
· Mickie James’ explanation as to why she attacked Becky Lynch made sense, but her message was lost in translation due to the delivery of her promo. James put a little too much hot sauce on her promo. The material was so-so and the annoying “What?” chant hindered her performance as well. She acted like a caricature of a Disney Villainess instead of being her naturally, crazy self that got her over as a heel in 2006. If James dials it back a bit, she will find her footing in no time.
· Things got better when Becky Lynch came out to attack James. Alexa Bliss blindsided Lynch when James jumped over the barricade to avoid getting her ass kicked. However, it was all a setup as James and Bliss laid out Lynch with the Mick Kick followed by Twisted Bliss to wrap up the segment.
· Bliss being appreciative of James’ legacy plays into their role as outsiders when it comes to the Women’s Evolution in WWE. Once the wrinkles are ironed out, The Reinvention of Mickie James will be good to go.
· Mojo Rawley earned an entry into the Royal Rumble match by winning a mini battle royal featuring Rhyno, Heath Slater, Breezango, The Ascension, The Vaudevillians, and Curt Hawkins. This was a very shallow field, but the match was quick and harmless for the most part.
· AJ Styles and John Cena had a hell of a verbal confrontation leading up to their WWE Championship Match at the Royal Rumble. Styles talked about a lack of respect when it comes to his placement on the Rumble poster and Cena shading him on the Today Show by saying that Styles was just “A Guy From Atlanta.” Styles went on a tirade as he called Cena a lousy wrestler and vowed to beat him at the Rumble to prove that he was the Face that Runs the Place.
· Cena had quite the rebuttal that almost sounded like a spoken word freestyle rap. He destroyed Styles on the mic as he explained why Styles was just a guy holding the WWE Title until he was ready to take it from him.
· Cena discussed that he never whined about not getting any respect when 10,000 fans tell him that he sucks on a nightly basis. He talked about how he wasn’t built for the Indies because he was built to be in WWE headlining PPVs while Styles was trying to work his way up the ranks. Cena went even further by saying that he accomplishes more in one day than Styles will in his entire career.
· Cena completely annihilated The Phenomenal One. He was borderline unlikeable and actually made me want to root for Styles to kick his ass on Sunday.
· Cena talked a very big game, but he might have to eat a slice of humble pie with a side order of crow if he can’t get the job done. In any event, their match should be outstanding.
· Dolph Ziggler made quick work of Kalisto when he nailed the Luchador with a Superkick from midair to pick up the win.
· Ziggler tried to finish Kalisto off with a steel chair, but JBL intervened. The distraction allowed Apollo Crews to attack Ziggler from behind. Crews slammed Ziggler’s head against the ring post and was about to nail him with a chair shot to the back until The Showoff moved out of the way and ran to the back.
· This was a decent segment to continue Ziggler’s heel turn, but it’s lacking that needed spark to push things over the top. As I mentioned last week, he can’t take the City of Memphis with him every week in order to generate heat. The road towards heeldom remains a long and arduous one for Mr. Ziggler.
· Nikki Bella and Natalya continued their brawling ways while Naomi inserted herself in the SmackDown Women’s Title picture by challenging Alexa Bliss. Bliss declined the invitation because Naomi was not on her level. One can only assume that will change soon enough.
· A six-woman tag team match featuring Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Nikki Bella vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya will take place at the Rumble. If they are given enough time to shine, this could be a good match due to all of the combustible elements involved.
· Dean Ambrose successfully defended the Intercontinental Championship when he nailed The Miz with Dirty Deeds for the win. The Lumberjacks kept things interesting as the heels attacked Ambrose while the babyfaces went after Miz. Baron Corbin decided to single out Ambrose which caused a melee in the ring as the annual Royal Rumble mini brawl took place. Things got even crazier when Ambrose wiped out everyone at ringside with a cross body from the top turnbuckle.
· Miz’s knee strikes are weak as hell, but his flying knee is pretty damn cool. However, it wasn’t enough as Ambrose came out on top.
· It appears that the Miz-Ambrose feud is over because Corbin was the main guy targeting Ambrose throughout the match. We shall see how the IC Title picture shakes out as WrestleMania season approaches.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was solid. The show was bookended by two good matches along with the great Styles-Cena segment to kick off the second hour. Secondary storylines were forwarded in a meaningful way as the focus will quickly switch to the Elimination Chamber PPV which takes place two weeks after the Royal Rumble.
· The SD Live roster is not brimming with people who could win the Rumble match on Sunday. Unless there is a surprise entrant who plans to shake things up during the match, it appears that a Raw Superstar is going to punch his Golden Ticket to Mania. Plans can change, but it’s highly unlikely because no one from the blue brand has been positioned as a legit threat to take the crown.
· On the Brightside, the WWE Championship match between Cena and Styles should be fantastic. Both men’s in-ring reputation is on the line and the atmosphere should be electric. If everything goes according to plan, this could be an all-time classic. 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 a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!