By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from The Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. AJ Styles punched his ticket to WrestleMania in the literal sense when he attacked Shane McMahon in the parking garage last week. However, his hopes and dreams were almost dashed when Daniel Bryan fired him on the spot only for Shane to overturn the decision before the show went off the air. How did the boss-employee dynamic play out as the Road to WM comes to a head? 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.
· AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon is officially set for WrestleMania as Styles cut an entertaining promo about how he had no regrets about attacking McMahon last week. In fact, Styles wanted to do a repeat performance once his boss arrived at the arena. Something tells me that history won’t repeat itself. Just a hunch...
· The Usos defeated American Alpha to become the new SmackDown Tag Team Champions when Jey Uso nailed Jason Jordan with a Superkick thanks to an assist from Jimmy when he pulled Jordan’s leg between the ropes. The Usos and American Alpha had a very good match, but the crowd was solidly behind the heels. I guess name recognition carries some weight along with the fact that Chad Gable and Jason Jordan were ice cold as Tag Team Champs due to a lack of television time which has caused a disconnection with fans who are unfamiliar with their NXT work.
· Despite these minor criticisms, both teams put on a show that featured great action and dramatic near falls. The fans were amped for a title change when Jey Uso delivered the Frog Splash to Chad Gable only for Gable to kick out at 2 and three-quarters.
· The craziness continued when Gable and Jordan dropped Jey with a Bulldog from the top rope. Jordan was about score the victory when Jimmy pulled him out of the ring. Jordan laid out Jimmy with a Belly-to-Belly Suplex on the floor while Gable finished things off with a Moonsault onto the outside.
· Jey threw Gable over the barricade, but Jordan tackled Jey against said barricade moments later. He tossed Jey back in the ring and was about to take care of business when Jimmy grabbed his leg which led to the finish.
· I question the title switch 12 days away from WrestleMania, but The Usos have been on the other side of the coin when they won the Tag Team Titles on an episode of Raw a few weeks before Mania three years ago. The show emanated from Chicago that night which didn’t hurt their pop heading into the big show.
· In this instance, I understand the booking logic because Gable and Jordan have been floundering since become Tag Team Champions last December. Being in chase mode for the Tag Titles will help them get over if they are given a chance to flesh out their characters in a believable way.
· Alpha’s in-ring game is always on point, but they need a spark in order to get over as a babyface team the crowd can fully get behind. This match is a prime example of how great the Tag Team Division can be if it is showcased properly. After weeks of neglect, the Powers That Be woke up and smelled the coffee. It’s about damn time. Let’s hope they can keep the momentum going heading into WM.
· The Total Bellas parody was amazing. From Maryse mocking Nikki and Brie’s Bella Speak to The Miz acting like a robotic John Cena who lays down the law when it comes to abiding by his house rules, everything was pitch perfect. The popping the question gag with Faux Cena popping an actual balloon was the icing on the cake.
· Due to a brief power outage, I missed the second half of Randy Orton vs. Baron Corbin which prevented me from reviewing the match properly. To fill in some of the blanks, Ambrose distracted Baron Corbin when he rolled into the arena on a forklift which allowed Orton to nail Corbin with an RKO for the win.
· After the match was over, Ambrose made his way down to the ring and agreed to face Corbin for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania. He sealed the deal by dropping The Lone Wolf with Dirty Deeds before heading backstage.
· Orton was jumped by a bunch of Bray Wyatt followers wearing sheep masks. Wyatt thanked Orton for making his one flaw his greatest asset as Sister Abigail’s spirit runs through his veins like the world’s greatest energy source. The Wyatt-Orton feud has done the unprecedented by jumping the shark twice. Their WWE Championship match at WrestleMania should be good from a wrestling standpoint, but the storytelling has fallen off a cliff over the past couple of weeks which makes the feud too hokey to take seriously.
· Tyler Breeze dressing up like Nikki Bella is a sight to behold...
· Nikki Bella spearing Tyler Breeze was pretty damn impressive. The referee actually allowed Nikki to stay in the ring as she dropped Breeze with the Rack Attack 2.0 while Cena delivered the AA to Fandango.
· Cena made Fandango tap out to the STF for the win while Nikki made her cosplay doppelganger tap out to the Fearless Lock for good measure.
· Numerous rule violations aside, this was a cute nod to Cena and Fandango’s recent turn as zany 80s-style co-hosts on Southpaw Regional Wrestling which can be found on WWE’s YouTube channel.
· Becky Lynch vs. Carmella ended via disqualification when Natalya got in the ring and laid out Carmella with a clothesline. All hell broke loose as Mickie James and Alexa Bliss joined the melee.
· Lynch delivered a dropkick to James Ellsworth when Carmella shoved him in Lynch’s direction. She couldn’t avoid a Suplex from Lynch, though. James “nailed” Lynch with the Mick Kick, but it appeared that she missed the mark which didn’t create the best visual from both an in-person and television perspective.
· Bliss was the last woman standing when she drilled James with a wicked forearm as she stood over her WrestleMania opponents.
· The Total Bellas “Lost Episode” was outstanding. The DDP Yoga Proposal Fake Out was ingenious. From Miz giving Maryse a toy-sized WWE Wrestling Ring to tying up his tennis shoes in bunny knots to play up the proposal shtick, it was a great way to poke fun at John Cena and Nikki Bella’s relationship. Tremendous work from everyone involved.
· Shane McMahon channeled his inner daredevil when he laid out AJ Styles with an elbow drop from the top rope through the announce table at ringside. McMahon called out Styles as The Phenomenal One tried to apologize to Shane. Styles was about to shake his hand when Shane walloped him with a series of bad punches. Things got better once Styles got back on the attack and suplexed Shane into the barricade.
· Shane recovered and delivered a suplex to Styles onto the floor. The elbow drop soon followed as the crowd erupted in “Holy Shit!” chants as SD Live went off the air with Shane pointing at the WrestleMania sign.
· This was a hot way to end the show. The crowd was lukewarm during Shane’s promo, but they came alive for the physical confrontation. Shane’s punches were ugly, but he held his own against Styles. This was a nice sample of what’s to come at WM. If Shane can keep the shadow boxing to a minimum, he and Styles could have an entertaining match if it’s booked in a smart and safe way.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was solid. The show had a clear sense of purpose that has been missing over the past couple of weeks. The Tag Team Title match between The Usos and American Alpha set the tone for the evening while the rest of the show zipped by with some fluff segments mixed for good measure.
· The Miz and Maryse did a great job mocking John Cena and Nikki Bella’s relationship while the Bray Wyatt-Randy Orton feud continues to run on fumes heading into Mania. Also, Luke Harper will face Wyatt on the go-home show next week. Maybe it’s a red herring, but Harper needs to be a singles star instead of being Wyatt’s henchman. At least he changed his tank top for the first time since WrestleMania XXX.
· Next week’s go-home episode is a rarity for the blue brand because it is not going to be a clip show spectacular with live footage spliced in from WWE Fan Axxess. The show will probably be light on in-ring action and heavy with talking segments hyping the key Mania matches. That’s the norm when it comes to promoting the biggest show of the year. The creative team has to make the SD Live side of the card look strong on paper. Let’s hope they can get the job done as we are 12 days away from the Super Bowl of Professional Wrestling. 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!