By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond was the final stop on the Road to WrestleMania. This is the final hard sell for the biggest show of the year. It’s time to put up or shut up time when it comes to putting the finishing touches on the Mania card. Did WWE leave fans wanting more or did they make the annual wrestling extravaganza feel less must-see? 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.
· Shane McMahon and AJ Styles signed their names on the dotted line to make their match at WrestleMania official. The promo exchange between McMahon and Styles was pretty paint-by-the-numbers, but the segment accomplished its goal by putting over the fact that their bout is a traditional wrestling match. There won’t be any smoke and mirrors to cover up Shane’s shortcomings as an in-ring performer. Styles is the best wrestler on the planet and it should be interesting to see if he can carry his boss to a good match at WM. It’s a tall order, but we shall see how it all plays out.
· Becky Lynch vs. Carmella ended via disqualification when Mickie James’ brawl with Alexa Bliss spilled over into the ring. James attacked Carmella which caused the referee to call for the bell. James nailed Bliss with the Mick Kick while Lynch laid out Carmella with an Exploder Suplex.
· The match between Lynch and Carmella wasn’t very good as it was sloppy in spots. Carmella is still green as a wrestler and that inexperience was on full display tonight.
· Things got better when Lynch and James teamed up against Bliss and Carmella in an impromptu tag team. The action flowed much better, but the match still ended in controversy when Natalya tried to attack Lynch. Lynch cut her off at the pass, but the distraction allowed James Ellsworth to trip her which led to Carmella picking up the win with a roll-up.
· Things got more chaotic when the heels attacked the babyfaces until a returning Naomi ran out to make the save. Naomi took out Natalya with a Hurricanrana on the entrance ramp followed by nailing Bliss with a forearm.
· Naomi delivered a series of running kicks to Carmella before laying out Bliss with The Rearview.
· Naomi announced that she will be a part of the SmackDown Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania as the segment came to a close.
· I’m glad that Naomi has been medically cleared to compete in the Women’s Title match at WM. It was touch and go for a bit, but Naomi will be representing her hometown of Orlando at the biggest show of the year. WWE has a longstanding edict of wrestlers losing high profile matches in their hometown. Let’s hope Naomi doesn’t suffer a similar fate on Sunday.
· Miz TV was another scorcher as The Miz and Maryse continued their Total Bellas parody. It was hysterical as they mocked John Cena’s house rules once again. The dinner scene featuring The Bella Twins, Daniel Bryan, and Cena was outstanding along with “Brie” and “Bryan’s” facial expressions during “Nikki’s” proposal to “Cena”.
· However, things took a serious turn when Cena turned down Nikki’s proposal. He gave her the cold shoulder by saying he was only using her as a prop in order to make himself look good. Cena hustles the people in order to get ahead, he’s only loyal to himself, and he only respects the money his bank account.
· Miz and Maryse ripped off their wigs and got dead serious when they warned John and Nikki that their world would come crashing down at WrestleMania. According to Miz, Cena had Hollywood to fall back on, but he was still a lumbering idiot. Maryse rubbed salt in the wound by saying that Nikki’s appearance at the Kids’ Choice Awards is the closest she’ll ever get to having children of her own.
· John Cena and Nikki Bella made their way to the ring to respond to the Total Bellas “Finale.” Cena enjoyed the skit, but the fun and games came to a halt when he destroyed Miz and Maryse on the mic.
· Cena put Maryse on blast for collecting a paycheck and taking up space while her female counterparts took care of business between the ropes by actually lacing up their boots to compete on a nightly basis.
· He put her career in the proverbial trash heap by saying if fans searched for Maryse’s Greatest Moments on the WWE Network, it would turn up 0 results. Cena twisted the knife even further by stating that the only reason Maryse was back in WWE was because Miz begged the company to let her back in. By doing this, he was able to join the cast of Total Divas as well.
· Cena proceeded to put their marriage on blast by saying that Miz has followed in his footsteps by taking time away from the ring in order to shoot movies. However, Miz is only doing bootleg versions of movies Cena has already starred in.
· Things got even deeper when Cena flipped Maryse’s claim about him and Nikki not having kids on its head. Miz and Maryse have been married for about three years and they still don’t have kids. Cena accused Miz of shooting blanks as the crowd oohed and ahhed after that epic burn.
· Cena warned Miz about bringing a knife to a gunfight and goaded the A-Lister to punch him in the face. He encouraged Maryse to slap the taste out of her mouth but warned her if she made one move that Nikki would knock the Botox from her cheeks. Cena proceeded to call Miz a P**** before as the crowd continued to go off.
· Maryse and Miz walked away as Nikki warned them that they were going to get their asses kicked at WrestleMania as the segment came to a close.
· This was a mind blowing segment from start to finish. The Total Bellas Parody was awesome, but Cena read Miz and Maryse for filth with his promo. He was a surgeon general who carved up his victims from head to toe. It was a masterful performance that had the crowd hyped throughout.
· This was a money WrestleMania segment in every sense of the word. The match is unconventional but it has exceeded expectations in terms of storytelling, heat, and shade. Cena has to propose to Nikki at WM because WWE is laying it on pretty thick with the proposal fake outs as of late. It’s the perfect fairytale ending to kick off season seven of Total Divas. If not, Miz and Maryse might come out of this feud feeling vindicated despite getting ethered by Cena tonight.
· American Alpha, Heath Slayer & Rhyno, and Mojo Rawley defeated The Usos, Breezango, and Dolph Ziggler when Rawley nailed Tyler Breeze with a charging forearm in the corner for the win. The match started off a bit slow, but things picked up down the stretch as both teams did a parade of finishes that popped the crowd.
· Rhyno goring Breeze was pretty sweet while Ziggler nailed Slater with a sick Superkick to keep the nonstop action going. This was a nice way to hype the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania. Sadly, The Usos won’t be defending their SmackDown Tag Team Titles at the PPV. I guess there wasn’t room on the card to accommodate the new Tag Team Champs in a meaningful way. L
· Bray Wyatt defeated Luke Harper in a solid main event match. Harper’s revamped look suits him perfectly as he looks more clean cut and trim as of late. He was rocking the mini man bun like a champ as well. Harper and Wyatt worked hard and had a physical match that had great crowd heat throughout.
· However, Harper lost focus when Wyatt gazed into his eyes for a disturbingly long period of time. Harper broke the stare down and tried to nail his former brother with a Discus Clothesline, but Wyatt countered with Sister Abigail for the win.
· After the match was over, Randy Orton taunted Wyatt on the TitanTron. Orton returned to the burned down shack and drove a staff into Sister Abigail’s burial ground to bring forth the apocalypse at WrestleMania as SD Live went off the air.
· The ending was a bunch of hocus-pocus nonsense, but it's par for the course at this point. As I mentioned last week, the Orton-Wyatt feud has jumped the shark once again and I can’t wait for it come to a head at WM. The match should be good, but the buildup post-arson has been poor. This was a ho-hum way to end the final SD Live before WrestleMania.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was solid. The show had a clear sense of purpose with a few surprises sprinkled in for good measure as the Road to WrestleMania comes to an end.
· Naomi’s return gave a much-needed boost to Women’s Division heading into WM, but the title match is on the preshow which sucks because Naomi’s entrance would have been pretty cool to watch at night. The match stipulation is still a mystery, but we shall see what WWE has up its sleeve on Sunday.
· AJ Styles and Shane McMahon having a traditional wrestling match is an odd call. The hardcore stunts were a clear sign that we were heading towards a demolition derby at Mania. The magic 8 ball was wrong in this case and one can only assume that Styles and McMahon will try their best to make this match work despite being confined to the ring. Considering Shane’s age and history of injuries, that might be for the best.
· The John Cena-Nikki Bella/Miz-Maryse segment was tremendous. Outside of a minor hiccup a few weeks, ago this has been the best feud in WWE outside of Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens. This storyline has been fun to watch and everyone deserves a round of applause for a job well done. The match itself won’t be a barn burner, but it should be entertaining nonetheless.
· Noticeably absent from tonight’s show was Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin hyping their Intercontinental Championship match at WM. I guess their final hard sell took place last week, but it would’ve been nice to hear from both men one last time. The comedy segment featuring Daniel Bryan and Tyler Breeze cosplaying as Nikki Bella should’ve been left on the cutting room floor in order for the IC Title match to get some last-minute shine.
· Despite that small quibble, the rest of the show breezed by as SD Live put the final exclamation point on things heading into the biggest show of the year. The blue brand hit a lull for a bit, but the show has come back with a vengeance over the past couple of weeks. The SD Live side of the Mania card is not perfect with the exception of the mixed tag team match, but I expect the wrestlers to show up and show out on Sunday. Move over Disney World, WrestleMania is about to slay the night away. Hopefully…
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!