Live from Richmond, Virginia this is Smackdown Live for episode #919. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.
The show began with Smackdown’s General Manager Daniel Bryan making his entrance. Loud ovation for him with “yes’ chants.
The announce team is Tom Phillips, John Bradshaw Layfield and David Otunga. No Mauro Ranallo for the third straight week and no reason given for his absence. He is apparently dealing with some depression issues, but we don't know more than that.
Contract Signing for Styles/McMahon
Daniel Bryan asked the crowd if they were ready for WrestleMania, which led to plenty of “yes” chants of course. The ring had a carpet on it along with a table and two leather chairs for the contract signing.
Shane McMahon made his entrance first and he received a lot of cheers like usual. AJ Styles also had a lot of support from the crowd even as the heel in the scenario.
Shane and AJ sat down in chairs while Bryan stood in the corner. Shane said that no matter what’s going to happen at WrestleMania, he thinks that AJ is one of the greatest talents to ever step foot through these ropes and in that respect, AJ is phenomenal. Styles said he agreed that he is phenomenal.
Shane talked about how AJ blew the doors off this place as arenas were chanting his name: “AJ Styles.” The crowd chanted his name right on cue. Shane said that AJ used the adulation all the way to winning the WWE Championship. Shane told AJ that it was his arrogance cost him the WWE Title to John Cena. It also cost him his match with Randy Orton. Shane noted that it was ego that hurt AJ. Shane said that no matter who he has been in the ring with, he finds a way to bring out their very best. Shane told AJ that if he doesn’t give him his A game, how phenomenal will you feel when it’s Shane’s hand being raised at WrestleMania? Shane signed the contract.
Styles said that if Shane uses some kind of object then he’ll get disqualified. Styles noted this is a traditional match and if you get in the ring with him then you’ve entered the world of AJ Styles. AJ said that in those ropes he’s untouchable. Styles bragged about how he’s going to embarrass Shane on every level. Styles talked about how Shane’s been in the ring with the likes of Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock and last year with The Undertaker. That’s an impressive list of talent. Styles told him that he has never been in the ring with somebody like Styles, who said he’s the best performer to ever step foot in a WWE ring. He told Shane that at WrestleMania he’ll find out how phenomenal AJ really is. AJ signed the contract.
The table was shoved to the side. Bryan got in between them before they could start fighting. Bryan suggested they seal the deal with a handshake. Fans chanted “no” to that idea. Shane extended his hand, but Styles just walked out of the ring like the heel that he is. Styles left to end it.
Analysis: Good promo from both guys. Styles is the cocky heel that doesn’t know what it’s like to have humility or to take a compliment without sounding like a jerk. His character has been like that for many months. Shane had a good line about bringing out the best in his opponents because he has had a lot of entertaining matches over the years. I’m surprised they didn’t add a stipulation to Styles/Shane just because it probably would lead to a better match. It will be harder for Shane to do well in a regular match. He’s better when he can brawl outside the ring. I’ll be surprised if Styles doesn’t win their match.
Coming up: Wyatt vs. Harper and more of Total Bellas scenes from Miz and Maryse.
Carmella and Becky Lynch were shown walking in separate areas backstage for a match up next.
The announcers mentioned Pitbull, Flo Rida, Lunchmoney Lewis and Stephen Marley performing “Greenlight” at WrestleMania.
The lovely Mickie James and Smackdown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss are on commentary for this match. The SD Live women’s match at WrestleMania is now on the Kickoff Show.
Analysis: It’s a shame that it got moved to the Kickoff show. Don’t tell us there’s a “women’s revolution” all the time and then not have room for more than one women’s match on the main card at WrestleMania. It’s disappointing.
Becky Lynch entered first. James Ellsworth did a special intro for his friend Carmella. JBL noted that it is Mickie’s hometown.
Becky Lynch vs. Carmella (w/James Ellsworth)
Carmella put her gum in Ellsworth’s mouth to start the match, which is…unique. Carmella got in a kick to the ribs and slammed her down by the hair. Mickie said it’s a dream to come back for a WrestleMania while saying she can prove she’s the greatest women’s of all time. Bliss argued with her. Back in the ring, Lynch nailed a kick to the head. The women at the announce table dropped their headsets. Mickie shoved down Alexa and Alexa hit a forearm to the head. James sent her into the apron. James tackled Bliss in the ring. That led to a disqualification. It went about two minutes.
Match Result: Disqualification
Analysis: 1/2* Quick match to further the story that the women’s division situation on SD Live is pretty crazy right now. I’m not surprised that the match was so short with a James and Bliss getting involved.
The women kept brawling in the ring. Lynch with a suplex on Carmella. James hit a Mick Kick to knock down Bliss. James and Lynch had a staredown as the show went to break. The crowd was supportive of hometown girl James.
Analysis: Good to see James looking strong because she hasn't been booked that well. Last week it was Bliss standing tall, so it made sense to have her getting knocked down there.
A tag match started after the break with JBL saying that Bryan pulled a Teddy Long by making a tag match. That’s true.
Mickie James & Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss & Carmella (w/James Ellsworth)
James is on the face side, so I guess her split with Bliss turned her. It wasn’t booked that well. James nailed Carmella with some kicks. After Bliss distracted James leading to a James kick, so Carmella hit a forearm to knock her down. The heels worked over James a bit with Bliss grounding her with a headlock. Rollup by James got a two count, but Bliss pulled her down by the hair. It was noted by JBL that if Mickie wins on Sunday she’ll have seven titles in WWE tying Trish Stratus’ record. Bliss nailed James with a punch. Natalya’s music played as she made her way down to the ring. The show went to break five minutes into this match.
Natalya sat in on commentary as Bliss worked over James. Back elbow by James out of the corner followed by a headscissors takedown and a neckbreaker. The crowd came alive as Lynch got the tag against Carmella. Leaping kick by Lynch, kick to the gut and an overhead suplex. Lynch hit her forearm in the corner, kick to the chest and Natalya stood on the apron. Lynch hit Natalya before she could hit her. Ellsworth tripped up Lynch, so Carmella flipped over Lynch and pinned her for the win after 10 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Carmella & Alexa Bliss
Analysis: ** It was just an average match. The distraction from Natalya and the trip from Ellsworth made it a cheap win for Carmella. There was a weird dynamic there with James and Lynch teaming up after they were rivals for a few months and now Lynch has no problem teaming up with her? It’s confusing to the viewers at home I think.
Naomi’s music played as she ran down to the ring with a headscissors on Natalya on the ramp. That was impressive. Naomi into the ring with hard kicks on Carmella and the Rear End flying ass attack on Bliss.
Naomi did a promo saying she’s going to be a part of the SD Live Women’s Title match at WrestleMania in her hometown of Orlando. Crowd was cheering for her a lot. She did a dance routine after the match to show that her knee injury is healed up.
Analysis: Great job by Naomi showing she’s healthy again. The headscissors on the ramp was awesome. The crowd was firmly behind her.
Daniel Bryan was in his office and Tyler Breeze showed up dressed as Nikki Bella again wanting to be in the women’s match. He complained about how the most gorgeous team won’t have a match at WrestleMania. Fandango showed up. Bryan offered them some spot in a match for the battle royal at WrestleMania.
Miz TV presents Total Bellas footage up next.
There was a Pete Rose WrestleMania clip where they made a mistake with the year. I covered it in this tweet.
The announcers plugged all the content coming up for WrestleMania weekend. I’m not going to summarize it all. I will have recaps of most of the events, of course.
The Miz and his lovely wife Maryse made their entrance for another edition of Miz TV. Miz talked about how last week we got a glimpse into the lives of John Cena and Nikki Bella. This week, here’s the “shocking conclusion.”
A recap aired of the Miz/Maryse parody of John & Nikki from last week.
There was a scene of Miz as Cena and Maryse as Nikki having dinner. A guy was holding cards with Cena getting mad at him for not getting the cards right. Daniel Bryan showed up with Miz dressed as Bryan and Maryse was dressed as Brie. It featured a moment where Brie bragged about how she was married leading to Bryan doing the “yes” thing when his “wife” Brie gave him a juice box. Cena ordered them to all eat at the same time as well as drink at the same time and do an “ahhh” after they drink. Nikki wondered if John wanted to ask her something. John asked her if she wanted to take his rules seriously. Nikki got down on her knees and asked John if he wanted to get married. A “to be continued” graphic ended it.
Analysis: That was awesome just like last week. I hate sitting here trying to recap it because I’m laughing as I watch and it’s hard to describe everything. They do a great job of making it over the top. Plus, Maryse is ridiculously hot dressed as Nikki. It was really well done.
The crowd gave them an ovation. Miz teased more and Maryse said we’ll find out after a commercial.
A commercial aired for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony this Friday on WWE Network. I like the switch to Friday while moving NXT to Saturday.
More Miz TV Total Bellas
Miz said here’s the conclusion to Total Bellas.
Nikki said she asked her to marry him. John said he’ll never marry her because it would be bad for his brand. John said he respects money and all he wants her to do is make him look like a good person. Miz said that the day is coming at WrestleMania because Miz and Maryse will humiliate them in front of millions of people. Cena told her he won’t marry her because he only loves him. Cena said that “you can’t see me because there’s nothing here worth seeing.” That was it.
Miz took off the hat and Maryse took off her wig. They both stared into the camera saying that they will make sure WrestleMania is John and Nikki’s curtain call. Miz talked about how John is a circus act that is done without WWE. Maryse said she hoped they enjoyed the Kids Choice Awards because it will be the closest she’ll get to having kids with John Cena. Miz said that Cena’s life is Total Bulls**t and they bleeped “bulls**t” there.
Analysis: Good job once again. I liked the serious tone to end it.
Back to the arena, John Cena’s music hit. Mixed reaction as usual, but a lot of cheers as well. Cena walked out to the ring with Nikki Bella.
Cena said it was entertaining for a while, but then they spoke serious. Cena told Maryse that she thinks Nikki kept her out of WWE for a few years yet here is Maryse back on the show. Cena said what kept Maryse out is because they didn’t want her because when she was there before she didn’t do much.
Cena ripped on Miz while noting that everybody knows Cena is loyal to WWE. Cena said he’s doing a movie, then he’s coming back and he pointed out all the superstars that have done that such as Triple H, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose and even The Miz. Cena said that the only movies The Miz are in are “crappy bootlegs” of ones Cena already made. Cena mentioned the Women’s Revolution going on in WWE and mentioned Nicole slamming around a dude last week (Tyler Breeze). Cena called Maryse a waste of space. Cena told Maryse that she’s only back because Miz begged WWE so that he can be on Total Divas. Cena noted that Miz/Maryse have been married and they don’t have any kids. Cena asked Miz if he was firing blanks and hit a “gentle” low blow on him. Loud “Cena” chants.
Cena said he told Miz not to bring a knife to a gun fight. Cena complained about how Miz always blames somebody else. Cena told Miz that his complaints aren’t real and that real is going to punch him in the mouth this Sunday. Cena pointed out when Miz got serious to end his skit earlier. Cena took off all his gear. Cena said that he stands in front of Miz as a man that is going to crush him at WrestleMania. Normally he would talk about how they would be in the fight of their lives, but they are not because Cena thinks they will destroy Miz and Maryse. He told Miz if you want to talk tough, you better be tough and you a “pu**y” – yep he said it. It was bleeped out. Cena called Miz and Maryse the “Sh…it” couple. Cena told them to prove them wrong.
Cena told Miz he’s ready for a fight. He noted that Miz is frozen in his tracks and said that if Maryse steps up then Nikki will knock the botox out of Maryse’s cheeks. Cena dared them to fight. Miz and Maryse left the ring like the heels that they are. When Miz teased going into the ring, Maryse told him to leave.
Nikki told them they are fake ass, see through, jealous haters. Nikki said that come this Sunday there’s no more running because Nikki and John are coming to kick their ass. John kissed Nikki in ring while Miz and Maryse were on the ramp.
Analysis: That was an epic promo from Cena. I’m talking one of the best promos I’ve heard in a very long time. It was a mix of making things very personal, doing some comedy in there and just ripping on a dude for being inferior to him. He delivered it with a lot of confidence, the crowd was loving every bit of it and it was easy to see where he was coming from after he was mocked by Miz and Maryse for the last two weeks. This is one of those promos where you have to watch the whole thing in case you missed it because it was amazing. I don’t know if my recap did it justice or if this analysis is enough because it really was special. Great job by Cena there. Smackdown has been consistently great in terms of doing more of these promos that feel more real than the typical pro wrestling promo that can sometimes be cheesy.
There’s a ten man tag match up next.
It’s time for a ten man tag. All of these guys are in the battle royal on Sunday. It's too bad Usos vs. American Alpha is not a WrestleMania match because they had a great match a few weeks back. Gotta give time to f'n Pitbull.
Jason Jordan, Chad Gable, Rhyno, Heath Slater & Mojo Rawley vs. Dolph Ziggler, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, Tyler Breeze & Fandango
Ziggler was in there for heels early on. Jordan worked him over a for a bit and Gable got his shit. Slater tagged in with a punch off the top rope. Rhyno tagged with a clothesline and back elbow on Ziggler. Belly to belly suplex by Rhyno on Ziggler. Breeze and Fandango pulled Ziggler out of the ring as the show went to break.
Back from break, the heels isolated Gable from his team. Fandango whipped Gable hard into the corner with Gable taking the bump sternum first like Bret Hart. Jimmy Uso missed a corner attack and hit the ring post. Jey tagged in, but Gable dropped him with a back suplex. Rawley got the hot tag against Breeze. Shoulder tackles by Rawley and he knocked all heels out of the ring. Corner splash by Rawley on Breeze. Rawley picked up Breeze on his shoulder and slammed him down with Jimmy making the save. It led to a sequence where guys were in the ring and somebody else was there to knock him out. Rhyno hit a huge Gore on Ziggler and back body drop by Rhyno on Fandango onto the guys on the floor. Rawley back in the ring and he hit a running forearm on Breeze for the win after 10 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Jason Jordan, Chad Gable, Rhyno, Heath Slater & Mojo Rawley
Analysis: **1/2 It was an average tag match. The ending sequence is what they always do in matches like this where there are a lot of guys involved and everybody gets sent out of the ring while hitting signature moves. Rawley is just a midcard face that WWE wants to try to push once in a while because they like his energy. I don’t think he’s going to win the battle royal or anything like that. That’s probably a win for Strowman.
Luke Harper did a promo in a darkened room. He said he doesn’t need Bray anymore and he’s free now. Harper told Bray that if he were him he would run.
Harper vs. Wyatt up next.
A commercial aired for NXT Takeover this Saturday. I wish the build for Roode/Nakamura was better, but it will still be a good match. Could be the end of Nakamura in NXT. Hope so because he should be on Raw or Smackdown.
There was a Snickers commercial with Becky Lynch, Enzo & Cass. Poor Cass couldn’t come up with a word even though “SAWFT” was there. Good comedy? I guess so.
The announce team ran through the entire WrestleMania card, which his 13 matches. They noted the Smackdown Women’s Title match is now a Six Pack Challenge with Naomi involved. I have the entire lineup at the bottom of this post.
Bray Wyatt, the WWE Champion, made his entrance. A replay aired from last week when Wyatt told Randy Orton that Sister Abigail’s spirit lives inside of him now. As Wyatt entered the ring, the show went to break.
Wyatt stood in the ring with the WWE Title in his hands. A graphic reminded us he’s defending the gold against Randy Orton at WrestleMania on Sunday.
Luke Harper made his entrance wearing a black tank top instead of the white tank top he used to wear. Congrats on the wardrobe change.
Bray Wyatt vs. Luke Harper
This is not for Wyatt’s WWE Title.
The match began at 9:49pmET. Harper was aggressive early on as they left the ring. Harper hit a running forearm on Wyatt against the barricade. Harper dumped Wyatt over the barricade and Harper stood on the announce table as the show went to break two minutes into it.
Back from break, there was a clip of Wyatt hitting a superplex. Harper came back with a slam. Wyatt nailed a uranage slam followed by a senton splash. Wyatt hit another back senton splash. Harper teased the Sister Abigail move, but Wyatt got out of the ring. Harper hit a suicide dive by the announce table. Harper went back in the ring and hit another suicide dive that sent Wyatt over the announce table. Very impressive when Harper does moves like that so easily. Back in the ring, senton by Harper and a boot to the face for a two count. Harper charged in with a back elbow. Harper with a kick to the face and discus spinning clothesline for a two count as Wyatt got his hand on the bottom rope. Good nearfall. There was a moment where Harper looked at Wyatt in the eyes, Harper hesitated and Wyatt hit Sister Abigail for the pinfall win after nine minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Bray Wyatt
Analysis: *** It was a good match that left me wanting more because I like both guys a lot and it was clear they had good chemistry. When the show came back from break they got into the power moves with some good nearfalls. The two count after the clothesline was great. Harper’s suicide dives are very impressive especially for a bigger guy like him. Wyatt getting the win made sense since he’s in the WWE Title match at WrestleMania and it gives him momentum. Easy booking in terms of who goes over.
Post match, Wyatt held the WWE Title in his hands and posed in the ring as a spotlight was on him in the ring.
Randy Orton appeared on the video screen. He said he was kneeling on hallowed ground where he burned down Wyatt’s house. Clips aired of their history. Orton said there is no salvation. Orton drove some stick into the ground and said he’s coming for the WWE Title at WrestleMania. That’s how the show ended right at 10pmET.
Analysis: It’s hard to describe something like that. It was cheesy a bit as they inserted the graphics during Orton’s promo on the dirt. More mind games heading into WrestleMania.
Three Stars of the Show
1. John Cena – That was one of the best Cena promos ever.
2. Bray Wyatt
3. Luke Harper
7 out of 10
Last week: 7
2017 Average: 7.12
Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.68 - Raw is at 5.69
Last 5 Weeks: 7, 6.5, 7, 8, 6
2017 High: 8 (Jan. 3, Jan. 24, Feb. 28)
2017 Low: 6 (Jan. 10, Feb. 21)
It gets a 7 out of 10.
Same score as last week. That seems to be a standard for Smackdown.
The highlight of the show was John Cena’s promo. It was an all time great promo from him. He really made it feel personal by ripping on Miz’s career, attacking Maryse by saying she didn’t accomplish much in WWE and even took a shot at their marriage. Calling Miz a pu**y took it to another level. I thought it really stood out as the best promo of this WrestleMania season.
The matches on this show were solid. None of them really stood out because Wyatt/Harper didn’t get enough time to be the show stealer that it could be. I did like it, though.
Good to see the women getting three segments even though I’m mad that they are pushed to the Kickoff Show at WrestleMania. Naomi’s return was booked well.
Here’s the lineup for WrestleMania 33 on April 2 in Orlando.
Universal Championship: Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar
WWE Championship: Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton
The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
United States Championship: Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Triple H vs. Seth Rollins in a Non-Sanctioned Match
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
Raw Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax
Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin
Raw Tag Team Championships Ladder Match: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo & Big Cass vs. Sheamus & Cesaro
Smackdown Women’s Championship Six Pack Challenge: Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James vs. Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Carmella vs. Becky Lynch (Kickoff Match)
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries (Kickoff Match)
Andre the Giant Battle Royal – Participants announced include Braun Strowman, Sami Zayn, Big Show, Mojo Rawley, Apollo Crews and many others. (Kickoff Match)
No Smackdown Tag Team Title match on the show.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back on Friday with an in-depth preview of WrestleMania. Go Toronto Raptors. Go Toronto Maple Leafs. Go Toronto Blue Jays too.
John Canton – email@example.com