Sometimes going into SmackDown, you’re a bit less excited than before, and now more than ever in recent times, I’m a little bit hesitant going into this week’s episode of the blue branded show. Last week saw another consistent episode with a classic main event, yet this week Ranello has the flu and won’t be on commentary; plus as it’s the last show before Fast Lane, Brock Lesnar appears — but in what way will he be used? Also, the workhorse of the brand isn’t actually wrestling tonight. None the less, SmackDown for 2/18/16 still has a chance to be better than this week’s fairly atrocious RAW. Let’s get into it. Fun fact: Dean Ambrose doesn’t have the Intercontinental Championship anymore and this is his first SmackDown show of 2016 without it. Kevin Owens is the new title holder, and we’ll see what he does tonight to solidify that dominance.
I didn’t have to wait long for that last sentence. The new IC Champ is out to kickoff the show, in more casual attire than we’re used to seeing him in. Kevin is such a dick, I love it. He’s actually out for commentary, and bragged/shoved the title in Cole & Lawler’s faces.
“You know what got Mauro sick? He heard your commentary on Monday night.” -Kevin Owens
I can kinda sorta dig this. The match was solid, got fairly good length, and until the finish was COMPLETELY overshadowed by Kevin Owens on commentary. This was some of the best heel commentary I’ve ever heard in my life. The man was on a roll and was an integral part of the commentary, alongside Michael Cole calling some moves; he was the focal point, and boy did that ever come through. Everything felt so planned out and pre-meditated like an in-ring KO moveset, and he covered so many topics in such a short time as well as evoking so much emotion by laughing, making fun of the faces, etc. It was top level commentary and something that made the match what it was. The in-ring didn’t matter much, but everyone played their roles and the match got awesome for the finish. They teased a Ziggler roll-up like in his matches vs. Owens, but Sheamus evaded; we got a fame-asser but Sheamus kicked out of that! Del Rio was hit off the apron, Rusev got superkicked off the apron, but Kevin Owens distracted Ziggler which allowed Sheamus to hit the Brogue Kick on second try for the win. Epic finish with a man coming off of a hot streak on commentary. This is the Kevin Owens I need in my life on a consistent basis. Everything feels much more natural via him and a title by his side.
We get a ‘special’ type of video package hyping up Brock Lesnar’s return to SmackDown.
We find out that Ambrose & Reigns vs. The Dudley Boyz is sponsored by Geico. OK then. How many sponsors they running through?!
A video from WWE’s Facebook page is played from pre-RAW on Monday. Becky faces off with Team B.A.D. in the parking lot, and Becky gets SMACKED from a Tamina superkick. My lord, the sound on that was unreal. Very underground mean mugging which added to the vibe.
Short and simple match. Tamina worked over Banks, mocking the “Let’s Go Sasha” chants until Banks hit three double knees in the corner to build momentum back up. Naomi tried to interfere but Sasha knocked her off the apron, and Tamina attempted to strike. Sasha hit a bulldog after a little bit of struggle and immediately transitioned the impact into the Bank Statement for the win.
Naomi pounced on Sasha post-match, stealing her taunts. Becky saved the day for Sasha this time. Sasha pushed Becky when Becky went to help her up, as Sasha explained she didn’t need Becky. Poor Ms. Lynch. Passable build for this Sunday.
Becky is backstage as she confronts Sasha. She explains that it’s not a good idea to go into Sunday at each others’ throats. Becky wants her WrestleMania moment, and so does Sasha. They need each other, Becky says, speechless in some ways; and desperately pleas. She was about to walkout, complaining about Sasha’s ego, when Sasha tugged her back into the frame and reached her hand out. They’re going to kick some lass, like a boss.
Styles & Jericho face-off on THEIR show
This is an important segment headed into Fast Lane. This will be the match I’m most looking forward to on the card, and practically all the build for it has been done on my preferred show in SD. This is their show, as they’re both workhorses, AJ more-so, in senses of the word that compliment each other. Jericho is going to give his answer, but he wants to tell it to AJ’s face, so he invites him to the ring. Out comes The Miz to steal the ‘redneck rookies” spotlight. Everybody is sick of watching Styles & Jericho play footsy, apparently. Jericho roasts Miz by retorting to his announcement tease that he should quit the ‘business’. YES! chants break out. He is not…quitting! If Miz were to quit, he wouldn’t be doing it here. Amazing heel work for heat. His announcement is that not only was he the ‘guest of honor’ at the post-RAW Grammy Afterparty at the Playboy Mansion, but Chris Jericho doesn’t need to worry about AJ Styles; because Jericho has a scheduled match with the A-lister right now. Miz gets dumped over the top rope like a Rumble.
The two biggest AJ rivals going at it because Miz had to interrupt the answer to Styles’ challenge. I dig the heck out of this. The Miz is #1 on my Most Underrated list for 2016 thus far. He’s had nothing but good showings and has had a helping hand in literally making AJ Styles in the WWE, plus has had nothing but good output on the mic and in the ring. These cases were both proved again tonight. Yet another WWE TV MOTYC coming from the SmackDown brand, and from The Miz. This was absolutely fantastic and the match played every card right. The heel/face dynamic was just right, the momentum shifted a lot of times, and it didn’t feel too long or short. The Miz played the cocky little douchebag who wants to get to Styles next, before Jericho again, but also wants to stay away from the people he thinks are twats (Styles & Jericho). Jericho worked as a fired up babyface because the crowd had no choice but to cheer for him. My favorite thing about this match was the fact that Miz managed to play the avoid tactic to the point where Jericho had no choice but to turn his ‘usual working’ offense into a desperation mode type of offense; eerily similar to the dynamic of such when he faced AJ Styles last week. After all the trials and tribulations of Miz counters, offense delivered in unique instances via MIZ!, and the constant taunts + avoidance; Jericho caught Miz in mid-route to the corner turnbuckle and finally got him in the Walls of Jericho permanently for the quick tap. The quick tap was the cherry on top. Everything about this match was great. Watch this when you can.
That was an amazing addition to all this build. Now to the actual point of this segment. Jericho puts over The Miz on the mic but puts himself over for coming out on top, sweaty and all. AJ gets to come out now, unless if Shinsuke Nakamura sneak attacks. AJ chants from the crowd before the two could get anywhere. Jericho explains that there’s a saying that they have here in the WWE: you’re only as good as your last match. In their last match, Jericho beat Styles. Styles wants to make a name for himself, but apparently he’s going to have to do so against someone else other than Y2J. Jericho touts Styles as one of the best in the world; as this isn’t just about respect. Jericho doesn’t like Styles. Jericho doesn’t want to do Styles any favors; as he declines the challenge. Styles acting was excellent as he tried to get over it, but he didn’t, instead of continuing the plea in verbal form, he did it in physical. A quick charge of offense sent Jericho out of the ring and allowed for AJ to get on the mic. But wait! AJ slings the mic to Jericho and Jericho catches, explaining that Jericho vs. Styles III is on for WWE Fastlane this Sunday. The intensity Jericho brought to the eventual acceptance was also excellent. This whole build has been A+. Or, for a lack of a better term, and opportunity at a pun, phenomenal. Apparently Styles is going to regret it.
Roman & Dean are backstage. Dean had a rough night on Monday, and Roman accepts the fact Dean had a long week. Dean wants to focus on the match as per usual, and Roman will see him out there. Roman says not to pull that Dirty Deeds stuff again. Roman apparently can’t take a joke, but Roman says he can take a good joke. Zing! Dean thought it was funny. Dean comes across Heyman on his way down the hall. The awkward tension between the two came across well on screen, with Heyman tensing up and being thrown off his game by the presence of Ambrose. Heyman says “to Roman’s little brother” that his client Brock Lesnar is here tonight. Brock’s in a really bad mood, and is looking for Dean. Dean over-exaggerates and freaks out about The Dudley Boyz & Brock are with Heyman, and asks for advice. Dean guesses that he just has to figure it out on his own. He tells Heyman to tell Brock to not keep Dean waiting this time. He confirms Brock is here, says he’s waiting for him, makes it more awkward then leaves.
Jojo is with The New Day. They aren’t preparing or practicing for Sunday’s confrontation with Edge & Christian. They do a rib on Allen Iverson’s practice blowup, and they continue to have fun, teasing their newest music, calling it super hot fire, but then backing off and saying they’re saving it for Sunday. New Day say Edge & Christian have gone out of style, which is actually true, and 2016 is the year of the GIF and not the JIP (assuming JPEG)? We get some New Day booty to end things off.
We get a GEICO vignette with Charlotte. Alrighty then. It makes more sense though, now that she’s out for her match vs. Natalya.
This definitely won’t be their NXT TakeOver match, but it could still be good. We need Bret Hart in Nattie’s corner to make this the exact same element. This was really, really good. One of my favorite divas matches since the revolution started. Even though it was short, Charlotte botched nothing and looked exceptional because of Nattie. Natalya is the most underutilized talent in WWE female talent history and that’s blatantly obvious at this point. The offense was literally 80/20 in favor of Natalya, with all the chain moves, run across your necks, and suplexes you’ve wanted to see from her but haven’t gotten a chance to until now. After a boot to the face on the outside momentum started to swing Charlotte’s way. After making Natalya slip on the apron, with one leg going into the actual space, Charlotte brought Natalya back into the ring and locked-in the Figure 8 for the win. Awesome stuff. I can’t believe SmackDown is doing so good recently. Charlotte had one of the better divas/short matches this year on the main roster here, unless if I forgot about something.
Post-match Brie ran-in and attacked Charlotte. YES! chants occurred with the downed kicks, yet Charlotte evaded and fell into Ric. As the pair look-on, more YES! chants occur and Brie Bella holds up the Divas Championship to cheers, with the third time the YES! chants happening when Brie held the title up to them. Effective because of the crowd’s reaction, which isn’t surprising however, 99% fueled by Daniel Bryan’s retirement.
Another Golden Truth segment, except this time Goldust won’t shoot on a waitress. Take that how you will if you didn’t see what I’m talking about from RAW. Goldust is dressed as a gangster. Dust’o Rhymes is here to ask R-Truth if he can dig-it. With some flames, Goldust even takes a dig at R-Truth’s recent exposed scared of cats gimmick on Total Divas. R-Truth comes back with fire of his own, dissing Goldust more than a plea to him, admitting Goldy’s ‘shagging’ his wife. What’s up’s were thrown out in-between. Weird. Hopefully we get some acceptance soon as WrestleMania is almost a month away.
We get the Bray Wyatt ‘Evil Ways’ vignette again. It wasn’t placed immediately after an AJ segment this time.
This screams: “BROCK IS GOING TO INTERFERE YOU KNOW!” Why would they position things like this? It’s conventional as hell, but ah well. This was a well worked, fairly mellow tag that was interrupted by Brock. Until then, it was conveniently worked too for what was to come, weakening the pair in the process. Most of the match saw limited Roman engagement, with The Dudley Boyz doing a great job of working over Ambrose, as well as his neck with brutal double teams and a deadly Bubba snap neckbreaker with Ambrose upside down hung over the turnbuckle. When it came for Roman to make the hot tag, he damn sure did to a solid response, but just as the fist was about to smack the mat, and a roar was about to be had, Brock Lesnar’s music echo’d the whole arena.
Post-interference, The Dudleys attacked. Reigns finally got D-Von but Bubba took him out which led to Ambrose hitting his flying elbow drop to a standing fresh off the attack Bubba. Ambrose then dove on D-Von but Lesnar’s time to shine is now. An early look at the triple threat broke out as Ambrose & Reigns pounced on Lesnar but Lesnar German Suplexed both of them. Brock was hit with a superman punch out of nowhere, but as he ran-up for the spear Roman collided with Ambrose, which led to him attempting the Dirty Deeds like he did on RAW, to the same effect, with Roman giving Ambrose a Samoan Drop as the counter this time. Brock then capitilized by giving Roman the F5. Brock Lesnar stands tall vs. the so-called brothers — BUT WAIT. WHAT THE HELL. Triple H is out!!!!
Triple H stands there, with the neutral, slightly smug look on his face, nodding at Lesnar and the chaos he just caused.
WWE continues to pull off the unthinkable with SmackDown. Now’s about the time you stop making witty SmackDown jokes and remarks, and actually switch gears in your head to a gear in which SmackDown is the faster speed — in which it is more exciting than RAW’s slow, drawn out process that gets you to your destination at a slower pace. Even without its prized position, Maruo Ranello; SmackDown managed to stay relevant, and deliver a better show than most of WWE TV this year, and other shows with Mauro on it though. In no way am I thanking commentary for this one, but Kevin Owens and his commentary is to be especially thanked for providing another unique thing to watch SmackDown for. Hell, the workhorse didn’t even wrestle this week, yet the show built around Jericho himself up to the point that Styles appeared was on par with all the elite level things coming out of their feud. Combine some of the best heel commentary work in the last decade with a WWE TV MOTYC, ongoing exclusive branding build of one of the best midcard feuds in forever, Charlotte vs. Natalya being unique and great compared to other divas matches this year, and other easy to get through segments/matches, plus Brock Lesnar and Triple H appearances; and you’ve got the best week-to-week show that’s affiliated with WWE’s main roster. I’m glad I watch SmackDown over RAW in 2016. You should too.