By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. After Randy Orton refused to face Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan announced on Talking Smack that a Battle Royal to determine the new number one contender for Wyatt’s WWE Title would take place on tonight’s show. With the table reset, who punched their ticket to Mania? 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.
· SD Live began on a somber note when Naomi relinquished the SmackDown Women’s Championship due to an injury she suffered during her match against Alexa Bliss at Elimination Chamber last Sunday. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon reviewed her medical report and determined that she would not be able to defend her title within the 30-day timeframe.
· Naomi cut a heartfelt promo about giving up the title and vowed to win it back. Hopefully, her injury timeout is not a lengthy one.
· Bliss came out and assumed that Bryan was going to give the Women’s Title back to her. Bryan swerved her by announcing that she had to wrestle Becky Lynch for the championship as the opening segment came to a close.
· This was a good way to start the show. Naomi giving up the Women’s Title sucked, but her strength and resiliency will help get over as a lovable babyface when she returns. The “Feel The Glow” gimmick is cute, but it’s one-note in terms of getting Naomi over as a fully fleshed out character. Her speech was a nice step towards making her more relatable to the audience. It’s unfortunate that it happened due to injury, but this will fuel Naomi to come back better than ever.
· Alexa Bliss became a two-time SmackDown Women’s Champion thanks to a nasty shot to Becky Lynch’s throat followed by a rollup with a fistful of tights for the tainted win. Lynch vs. Bliss was good as Lynch took 90% of the match until Bliss tried to pull a portion of the ring skirt into the squared circle. The referee was busy putting the skirt back in place which led to the aforementioned finish.
· Mickie James came out to celebrate with Bliss and tried to sneak attack Lynch, but Lynch caught her with a kick to the midsection as James scurried up the ramp.
· Bliss regaining the Women’s Title makes sense because she can get easy heat as a heel. Her work rate is solid and it sets up Naomi winning the title back from here whenever she is medically cleared to compete. Also, Lynch continues her feud with James which should lead to one of them vying for the title at some point. James’ allegiance to Bliss has its limits. It should be interesting to see when the other shoe will drop.
· Breezango tried to get an early jump on American Alpha, but their plan backfired when Chad Gable and Jason Jordan regrouped as they defeated Fandango with the Tech Fall.
· After the match was over, The Usos made their way through the crowd to “congratulate” American Alpha and told the SmackDown Tag Team Champions that they were living on borrowed time with the titles. They cut a fiery promo about how Gable and Jordan were suffering from paranoia, but that wasn’t the case because The Usos were breathing down their necks in the literal sense. Jimmy and Jey were amped to the nth degree during their promo, but their passion and conviction were on point. When both teams finally go at it, it should be great because they haven’t fully let loose in the ring despite the handful of matches they’ve had on television over the past few months.
· Natalya defeated Nikki Bella in their Falls Count Anywhere match thanks to an assist from Maryse. Nikki and Natalya brawled backstage as Maryse was minding her business. Natalya shoved Nikki into Maryse which caused the latter to take a bad tumble through the curtains into an assortment of lead pipes.
· Nikki rammed Natalya’s head into a mirror near the makeup counter before taking the fight back to the main stage. Nikki nailed Natalya with a Spear before they brawled down the ramp.
· Natalya was about to put Nikki in the Sharpshooter, but Nikki countered with the Fearless Lock instead. It appeared that Natalya was about to tap out until Maryse attacked Nikki with the fakest lead pipe known to mankind.
· Maryse continued to hit Nikki with some the softest lead pipe shots of all time until The Miz ran down to the ring to intervene. The damage was already done as Natalya picked up the scraps to score the tainted win.
· Natalya and Nikki had a decent match, but it was more about hitting high spots instead of weaving a strong narrative from start to finish. Plus, Natalya earned a few demerits when she broke character to praise Nikki for doing a good job after using one of the production tables as a launching pad for the backflip calf kick. She probably wasn’t aware that there was a live mic in the area, but she totally killed kayfabe for the viewers at home.
· As for Maryse attacking Nikki Bella, this is was a nice way to lay the groundwork for the presumed John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse mixed tag team match at WrestleMania. The first breadcrumb was dropped when Nikki accidently caked Maryse with makeup powder during her backstage brawl with Natalya at Elimination Chamber last Sunday. Tonight’s incident only threw more gasoline on the bonfire.
· It’s a random match that seems beneath Cena, but I’m sure he will find a way to make it work. Miz’s mic work should do the trick in terms of pushing their match over the top as well.
· The Battle Royal featuring John Cena, AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Luke Harper, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Kalisto, Apollo Crews, and Mojo Rawley ended in a draw when Styles and Harper’s feet hit the floor at the same time.
· Daniel Bryan announced that that Styles and Harper will face off with the winner going on to face Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.
· SD Live went off the air with Wyatt cackling at Harper’s misfortune as Orton looked on in the background.
· The ending of the match was weak, but every elimination leading up to the finish made sense in terms of planting seeds for Mania.
· Dolph Ziggler eliminated Kalisto only to get eliminated by Crews moments later when he nailed The Showoff with an Enzuigiri.
· Ziggler didn’t go away quietly as he attacked Kalisto with a steel chair at ringside. This distracted Crews long enough for Corbin to eliminate him from the match. Ziggler tried to nail Crews with a chair shot, Crews moved out of the way and chased Ziggler backstage.
· Ambrose eliminated Corbin only for Corbin to drag Ambrose out of the ring to lay him out with the End of Days onto the floor.
· John Cena eliminated Miz only for The Miz to toss John Cena over the top rope a short time later. Since Battle Royals are contested under no disqualification rules, this was perfectly legal.
· Ambrose recovered long enough to be in the final three alongside Harper and Styles but was eliminated by Harper after a kick in the gut caused him to double over onto the floor.
· The match came down to Style and Harper which led to the aforementioned non-finish. Both men tried to eliminate the other, but it wasn’t a back and forth battle. Based on the outcome, it was clear that Styles and Harper were in cruise control until their match next week to determine the new number one contender for Wyatt’s WWE Title.
· Styles vs. Harper was teased late last year when Styles was still WWE Champion. I expect both men to put on a show next week because a spot in the WrestleMania main event is at stake. It doesn’t completely erase the crappy way the Battle Royal ended, but it softens the blow a bit.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was decent at best. The wrestling action was so-so prior to the main event, but progress was made on the Mania front. John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse is starting to take shape while Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin continue their feud heading into their presumed Intercontinental Championship match at WM. Throw in The Usos putting American Alpha on notice and we have ourselves a pretty decent undercard representing the blue brand at the biggest show of the year.
· The Women’s Division feels a little disjointed due to Naomi’s knee injury. Perhaps she will pull off a miracle and appear at WM in her hometown of Orlando, Florida. It should be noted that WWE has not gone into great detail regarding the extent of her injury. Therefore, the company could be playing things by ear to see if she can heal up in time for the big show. Bliss is a great heel, but the pickings are slim in terms of opponents because Nikki is preoccupied with Maryse while Becky Lynch is busy feuding with Mickie James. Short of Natalya doing an 180 and turning face on a whim, Bliss is stuck in the neutral zone at the moment. Let’s hope the creative team can reshuffle the deck heading into Mania.
· We are five weeks away from the biggest show of the year. The pieces are starting to fall into place, but SD Live is lacking a bit of oomph at the moment. They can afford a couple of blah weeks because the Road to WrestleMania is a long and arduous journey. However, they can’t get too comfortable because Raw is stacked with heavy hitters despite the extra hour dragging things down. The Royal Rumble card was heavy on Raw matches. WM should balance things out a bit, but the blue brand has to hold up their end of the bargain to ensure that most of their matches are not featured on the preshow instead. Fingers crossed!
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 new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!