Taped in Manchester, New Hampshire this is Smackdown for episode #871.
A video package aired showing the highlights from Raw with Roman Reigns and AJ Styles attacking eachother due to the havoc caused by Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. Read all about it here in my Raw Deal review column.
The WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns entered the arena to start the show. It sure sounds like some piped in cheers. The announce team of Mauro Ranallo, Jerry Lawler and Byron Saxton welcomed us to the show.
Reigns said he nailed AJ Styles with a Superman Punch on Raw and he’s going to do it at Payback as well. Reigns told Styles he’s not fooling anybody because we know that he’s together with Gallows and Anderson. Reigns wanted Styles to come out there to tell the truth. Instead, The Miz walked out with Maryse.
The Miz entered the ring with the IC Title and Maryse joined him. Miz laughed at Reigns for thinking Styles would come out while Miz introduced his beautiful wife. Miz claimed he was the first to publicly state Styles was working with Gallows and Anderson. Miz referenced The Shawshank Redemption saying Reigns will be like the warden while Styles will be the WWE Champion. That’s a great film. Miz wanted recognition for that.
Reigns nailed Miz with a Superman Punch and a clothesline. Reigns handed Maryse back the IC Title while Reigns held up the WWE Title.
Analysis: It was about six minutes long, so it was fine for an opening segment in terms of length. Typical of Smackdown to use a promo to set up a match for later in the show. Miz was right in saying he publicly called out Styles and Gallows/Anderson in the past, but Reigns had no interest in talking to him.
Later on Smackdown: Dean Ambrose hosts the Ambrose Asylum talk show segment with Natalya and Charlotte as guests while The League of Nations is in action.
Announced for later via fancy graphic is Roman Reigns vs. The Miz.
Analysis: They don’t say who announced it because on Smackdown it doesn’t matter who is in charge yet on Raw they push that story all the time. What a company. This is why I doubt there’s a brand extension – they just don’t care about Smackdown as much as they should.
The League of Nations trio of Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio & Rusev were interviewed and said they were stronger than ever. Rusev said you might as well call them the United Nations. It was a quick promo.
Alberto Del Rio, Rusev & Sheamus vs. Sami Zayn, Kalisto & Cesaro
The heel trio couldn’t decide who should start the match until it was Sheamus against Kalisto. Guys on the League of Nations kept tagging themselves in from the apron. They replayed Rusev hitting an elbow drop on Kalisto. Really? An elbow drop? It was pretty basic. Zayn tagged in against Rusev with a headscissors takedown and a boot to the face, but Sheamus distracted Zayn leading to Rusev nailing a roundhouse kick for a two count.
Back from break, Sheamus nailed Zayn with a boot as the heels continued on offense. Del Rio with a DDT gets two on Zayn. Del Rio hit a Backstabber. Del Rio was setting up for a big kick, but Rusev tagged himself in. Del Rio argued with Rusev. Sheamus went to the other side of the ring to prevent a Zayn tag. A shoving match ensued. Del Rio walked to the back. Sheamus went for a top rope strike while Rusev held Zayn, but Zayn move and Sheamus hit Rusev with a forearm. Sheamus and Rusev argued about it by shoving eachother. Rusev walked out on the match. Kalisto got the tag against Sheamus with a hurricanrana and a corkscrew cross body block. Cesaro tagged in, hit an uppercut outside the ring and hit a cross body block for two on Sheamus. Cesaro with forearm shots followed by a dropkick. Cesaro went for the Cesaro Swing, but Sheamus got to the ropes and went up the ramp. The ref counted him out, so that’s it after 11 minutes.
Winners by countout: Sami Zayn, Kalisto & Cesaro
Analysis: ** The match was okay although it was really about pushing the problems in the League of Nations trio. It was a clash of egos because they couldn’t agree who should be in the ring at different times. I actually liked how it was booked because the crowd cheered their problems. We got to see them disintegrate before our eyes. The face team really didn’t even get to hit signature spots in the match. They were just the beneficiaries of the LON problems.
The Ambrose Asylum segment is coming up later.
The LON trio was shown arguing backstage. Rusev yelled at Del Rio for walking out. Sheamus shoved Del Rio into a door. Sheamus said that the League is finished and Rusev said forget the League of Nations.
Analysis: The group lasted about four months. They weren’t booked that strongly despite being given a win over The New Day at WrestleMania and JBL saying they were like the Four Horsemen, which is pretty comical. I know heel announcers are supposed to lie, but it was ridiculous. The group is over and I doubt anybody is going to miss it.
A video package aired about the Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens match at Payback. It was the same video package that was on Raw. I’m really looking forward to this match. Check out our Payback preview for my prediction on their match as well as the other matches on the show.
Baron Corbin made his entrance.
Sandow was in the ring as the show returned from break. They showed a highlight of Dolph Ziggler attacking Corbin on Raw leading to their Payback match.
Baron Corbin vs. Damien Sandow
Corbin dumped Sandow to the floor and drove him back first into the barricade at ringside. Some fans were chanting for Sandow. Too bad he’s not used more. Sandow tried some offense, but Corbin used the top rope to stop him and then Corbin did a move where he catapulted the throat of Sandow into the bottom rope. Corbin hit the End of Days for the win after two minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Baron Corbin
Analysis: ½* It was a short match to put over Corbin. No surprise that he would easily win over Sandow, who sadly hasn’t been on TV much in the last year despite being really popular last year. Corbin’s likely going to beat Ziggler on Sunday. I’d be surprised if he lost.
AJ Styles was walking backstage as Renee Young interviewed him. Styles said he didn’t care what Roman Reigns thinks. He said he’ll take the WWE Title from him and then Reigns can call him the WWE Champion. Styles said he doesn’t answer to Reigns. Then he said he’ll be out there for Roman’s match.
Analysis: There’s the brief explanation for why he wasn’t there when Reigns called him out earlier. Nothing wrong with that.
Ambrose Asylum talk show is up next.
Ambrose Asylum With Charlotte & Natalya
Dean Ambrose made his entrance for his “talk show” segment in the ring. A clip aired of Chris Jericho winning their altercation on Raw by putting Ambrose in the Walls of Jericho on the announce table. The “win on TV, lose on PPV” theory in effect here because Ambrose should win their Payback match on Sunday. Ambrose said Jericho made a mistake because he never should have let go on Raw. Ambrose said nothing will stop Ambrose this Sunday from beating Jericho. Ambrose gave credit Jericho for being one of the greatest of all time, but this Sunday he’s going to “turn Bon Jovi into Meatloaf.” That was clever. Ambrose had some Tic Tacs as he officially welcomed us to the Ambrose Asylum.
Ambrose brought out Natalya first, who congratulated Ambrose on his great set. Ambrose set up a clip from three weeks ago when Natalya had Charlotte beat on Raw when Ric Flair got Charlotte disqualified. That’s why Natalya gets a title shot at Payback. Ambrose wondered how things might be different this Sunday as Natalya answered that she has somebody in her corner – Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
The WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte entered with her father Ric Flair, who had quite the interesting week last week. It was funny because Ambrose was dancing to the theme song of Charlotte as she walked down to the ring.
Charlotte said it was disturbing that Bret would be there because of everything he’s been through. Natalya noted that Charlotte parades her father around. Charlotte noted that her dad is legendary that is a two time WWE Hall of Famer, the 16 time World Champion and her coach. Natalya called Flair a lying, creepy old man who knows that he has to cheat to help his daughter win because she’s not good enough to do it on her own. Natalya said that Bret will stop Ric at Payback and Charlotte will tap again.
Flair: “Stop me!? Woo!” He said he beat Bret Hart in WWE, he beat him in WCW and if they sent him to the moon then he would have beat him on the moon too.
Natalya said it’s time for a new era and time to give these people – the WWE Universe – a champion that hey deserve. The women had a staredown to end it.
Analysis: They were dressed in their street clothes, so they didn’t do anything physical. The dialogue by both ladies was fine. Natalya put over Bret being there as a way to prevent Flair from cheating and Charlotte was confident that Bret won’t be a factor. This was where Flair said the “kill yourself” line, but it was edited out for obvious reasons. Ambrose getting promo time is great to see. He’s able to go from funny to crazy easily. One of the best talkers in WWE.
Reigns vs. Miz later in a champion vs. champion feud that doesn’t seem like a big deal.
The New Day trio of Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods made their way down to ringside. They kicked out the three announcers and put on the headsets. Big E told Saxton to sit on the floor, so Saxton did.
Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady made their entrance with the crowd chanting along for all of it. The New Day guys were celebrating with them. Cass didn’t say the “SAWFT” line. They just got to the match.
Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady vs. Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel (w/Heath Slater)
Dallas started for his team. He nailed a back elbow and brought in Axel, who hit a clothesline to the back of Enzo. The Vaudevillains showed up on the ramp to check out the match. The New Day guys were pretty funny on commentary with Big E doing a generic announcer voice. Enzo was able to break free momentarily as he sent Dallas outside the ring. Hot tag to Cass against Axel. Cass with a shoulder tackle, body slam, elbow drop, splash in the corner, boot to Slater on the apron and a Bossman Slam on Axel. Enzo nailed the Rocket Launcher splash off the top onto Axel for the win after about three minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady
Analysis: 3/4* A quick tag match to put over Enzo & Cass leading up to their Payback match against The Vaudevillains. No surprise that they would win over the Social Outcasts, who pretty much never win. The Enzo/Cass team has a lot of energy out there. They do basic stuff, but it works. I like them a lot.
Post match, Cass said this Sunday there’s only one word to describe The Vaudevillains: “S-A-W-F-T!” Then they looked at New Day and The New Day were excited about it.
Analysis: I guess that’s why he didn’t say the SAWFT line earlier. I’ve got nothing else to add.
There was a backstage segment with R-Truth and Goldust with Goldust saying that he had fun dancing with him. Truth brought in Tyler Breeze and said they were The Gorgeous Truth. Truth had a a selfie stick with actual sticks. Fandango walked in to dance with Goldust. As Fandango sat down, he kept on shaking his hips.
Analysis: Is this Goldust/Truth team going to have the longest build in wrestling history? I think it’s been four months of segments with them.
Apollo Crews made his entrance.
A vignette aired showing us Puerto Rico with Primo and Epico telling us about how great Puerto Rico is. Are there any Matadores there? What about little people dressed like bulls? Too soon.
Apollo Crews vs. Stardust
This is a rematch from Raw because having Stardust lose once in a week isn’t enough apparently. Stardust wrenched the left leg of Crews against the middle rope to slow him down. Stardust applied a leg submission as he yanked on the leg of Crews. It didn’t last long as Crews mounted a comeback with a clothesline and a pumphandle into a powerslam for two. Stardust with a dropkick to the knee. Crews with a couple of leaping kicks to the head and then the Spinning Sitout Powerbomb for the win after three minutes. Cue the fake noise after the pin. I’m not saying that to rip the guy. Just saying those cheers were very fake to the point that it was bad.
Winner by pinfall: Apollo Crews
Analysis: * It’s been one month of Crews beating guys in three minute matches. At least they tried some psychology with Stardust working on the knee a bit. Here’s hoping Crews is put in a meaningful feud soon.
Up next is a recap of Shane McMahon arguing with Stephanie.
They showed clips of Shane McMahon and Stephanie on Raw with Stephanie saying that Vince McMahon will make some decision at Payback about who is running Raw. I think this story will continue to play out and they won’t make a decision at Payback. It’s going to last a few months most likely.
AJ Styles made his entrance to watch the main event. Good reaction for him. One of the few times on this show where they probably didn’t have to add in fake cheers.
The Miz made his entrance first with wife Maryse. Roman Reigns entered last and he stared at Styles when he got into the ring.
Roman Reigns vs. The Miz (w/Maryse)
Neither title is on the line, of course. Poor Ranallo said this was a “dream match” here on Smackdown because it’s Champion vs. Champion. Nice way to try to sell it as a big deal, but it sure doesn’t feel that way. Reigns hit the Drive By dropkick on Miz early on. Reigns stared at Styles at ringside. That allowed Miz to attack Reigns from behind by slamming his head into the announce table.
Back from break, Miz had Reigns in a chinlock. Miz nailed a corner clothesline followed by a double axehandle off the top for a two count. Miz continued on offense with a knee strike followed by his backbreaker. Reigns shoved him off and nailed a Samoan Drop. Reigns nailed some uppercut punches, clotheslines and a leaping clothesline. Corner clothesline time by Reigns. Maryse pulled Miz out of the ring, Reigns followed after him and Miz dropkicked the stairs into the knee of Reigns. Back in the ring, Miz nailed a DDT for two. Reigns hit some back elbows on Miz and then hit the Spear to win. It went 11 minutes
Winner by pinfall: Roman Reigns
Analysis: **1/2 It was a solid main event match. It wasn’t great, but nothing wrong with it. While it didn’t live up to the “dream match” hype that Ranallo tried to sell us on, they told a good story with Miz on offense for the majority of it until Reigns was able to slow him down and finish him with the Spear for the win. No surprise that Reigns got the win.
Post match, Reigns held up the WWE Title while Styles got in the ring with him.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson made their way down to ringside. Reigns went after them, but he wasn’t successful as they beat him down. Gallows sent Reigns shoulder first into the steel steps at ringside. In the ring, Gallows nailed Reigns with a boot to the face. The Usos ran down to the ring to brawl with Gallows and Anderson while Styles just watched it. Jimmy nailed a superkick on Anderson, Styles tried to talk to him, Jimmy punched Styles and Styles nailed a Pele Kick to Jimmy’s head. Gallows gave Jimmy a clothesline over the top to the floor. Reigns ran in for a Spear, Styles moved and Reigns hit Gallows with it. Styles went for Styles Clash on Reigns, but Reigns gave him a back body drop with Styles landing on the apron and then going to the floor.
Smackdown ended with Reigns in the ring holding the WWE Title while Styles yelled at him from ringside.
Analysis: There was a lot of action in that sequence to end the show. I thought it was booked well with the seeds of doubt planted again as fans are left to wonder if Styles is working with Gallows and Anderson or if they are doing it on their own. I think it’s going to be something where those two guys end up trying to help Styles, he refuses it and then they attack him at Payback to cost him the match. I also think we’ll see Finn Balor on Sunday or Monday, but that’s just a guess. I just think Reigns leaves Payback as WWE Champion.
Three Stars of the Show
1. The Miz
2. Roman Reigns
3. Dean Ambrose
4.5 out of 10
Last week: 6
2016 Average: 5.75
Last 5 Weeks: 6, 6, 5.5, 5, 5
2016 High: 7.5 (March 3)
2016 Low: 4 (January 21)
It gets a 4.5 out of 10 from me.
A very forgettable episode of Smackdown this week. It was the last day on a two week tour that saw the crew head to Europe, so everybody was likely very tired.
There were five matches on this show with three of them being really short, one of them ending in a countout due to guys walking away and then the “dream match” that was an easy win for the WWE Champion over the IC Champion.
Check out our Payback preview where we offer up detailed predictions for all the matches.
That’s all for this week. Go Raptors.
John Canton – firstname.lastname@example.org
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