WWE SmackDown Live for January 7, 2017
Where to Watch: USA Network, Hulu, one-month delay on WWE Network
Key Arena – Seattle, Washington
SmackDown Live opens with a video package building to another Cena vs Orton match as we keep moving down the road to WrestleMania. Daniel Bryan walks out to his hometown crowd with loud cheers and a “Yes” chant. He talks to the Seattle crowd about the things he’s been grateful for since retiring a year ago and gets interrupted by Miz and Maryse. Miz questions why Bryan is even in a ring anymore since he can’t wrestle, Bryan retorts that not being able to wrestle never stopped him. Miz tries to talk about Elimination Chamber but the crowd refuses to do so and drown him in “Daniel Bryan” chants before Baron Corbin’s entrance. Corbin quickly tells Miz to shut up and declines Miz’s offer of teaming up this Sunday. Dean Ambrose walks in and makes promises of doling out the pain in the chamber then AJ walks in and asks if they’re done playing tickle butt. AJ brings up how he’s beaten every wrestler in the ring and he only cares about getting the WWE World Championship back. Daniel Bryan announces a Fatal Four Way match is next to give the WWE Universe a preview of Elimination Chamber.
Baron Corbin def. AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, The Miz w/ Maryse
Right off the bat Miz tries to get Corbin to team up with him to eliminate the other two but he declines. Miz rolls out of the ring, quickly followed by AJ, leaving Corbin and Dean to fight. This match is worked with short one vs. one segments with one person rolling out of the ring to be quickly replaced by another participant. The Miz lines up AJ and Dean and hits them with Yes Kicks to some loud boos from the Seattle audience. Second half of the match brings in high spots, a tower of doom, jumping off ropes, and tossing people at ringside. AJ Styles lands a Phenomenal Forearm on Miz but Maryse pulls her husband out of harm’s way, we see Corbin get into the ring behind AJ and he hits the End of Days on the former champ to pick up the win. A great opening match to get the crowd engaged and show some possible dynamics that we could see in the chamber match this Sunday.
Luke Harper is in a smokey room talking about Randy Orton stealing his family and he is a liar and a snake in the grass, but he knows how to fix it. He wants Orton to feel pain and at Elimination Chamber he will be eliminated.
Nikki Bella and Natalya are being interviewed live via satellite in separate rooms and are asked if they can ever reconcile their friendship after how personal their rivalry has gotten. The Natalya that Nikki once knew and loved is now dead to her and Natalya promises to expose Nikki for the lousy wrestler and person she is. Natalya keeps belittling Nikki for John’s unwillingness to marry her and keeps driving home that she’ll end up alone, even saying that if she wasn’t married John would be with her. After that Nikki unclips her mic and leaves the interview, for two superstars that have never been great with live interviews they’ve managed to create a good secondary women’s feud with heat based around personal angles from Total Divas. I’d argue this is the best character and promo work Natalya has done in her career, and Nattie has even shown some improvements in her talking.
Apollo Crews def. Dolph Ziggler
Crews wins via roll-up quickly! Right after the bell Ziggler cheap shots Apollo, making his friend Kalisto run out and defend him. Kalisto and Crews get hit with a steel chair and Ziggler walks out to some boos and cheers.
Dolph is seen moping around backstage when Daniel Bryan walks up and ask him if he’s going to throw a tantrum every time he loses a match. He responds saying that he could beat Apollo and Kalisto at the same time but hitting them with chairs is more fun, this makes Daniel decide that at Elimination Chamber he’ll face Apollo and Kalisto in a two-on-one handicap match.
Mickie James and Alexa Bliss walk to the ring together followed by Becky Lynch and Naomi for the first ever dual contract signing. Before Renee can truly start the contract signing Mickie interrupts her and says her and Alexa are the only elite athletes in the ring and dismisses Renee. Seven years of obsessing about being the best made Mickie the wrestler she is and helped forge this women’s revolution, and without Mickie James there is no Becky Lynch, the reinvention of Mickie James starts with the destruction of Becky Lynch. Becky grabs the mic and said she respected Mickie until she teamed up with the troll Alexa and that when things got tough she just walked away, the difference between the two is that Becky doesn’t walk away when things get tough. Alexa reminds us that her friend has defeated Trish Stratus and disrespects Becky’s dyed hair, despite having colored hair herself. She apologizes to Naomi for forgetting about her and just says that she’ll see her on Sunday. An upset Naomi doesn’t let that slide and reminds Alexa that she has pinned her twice and WrestleMania this year is in her hometown of Orlando. Naomi kicks Alexa across the table and we have our ritual contract signing brawl to end the segment. A double contract signing sounded like a mess but these four were good on mic and were able to successfully and entertainingly advance their feuds and get the crowd excited, something that I still get happy about after being used to women’s segments getting no reaction for years.
The Ascension, The Usos & The Vaudevillains def. American Alpha, Breezango & Heath Slater & Rhyno
Chad Gable starts the match with Jimmy Uso but Aiden English tags himself in and the heel team quickly start to argue. Having all of the SmackDown Live tag teams out at one time really shows how shallow it is, this is something that has affected both brands tag divisions. Rhyno tags into the match to against Viktor and things quickly break down with everyone running into the ring fighting before getting cleared out by American Alpha. Rhyno and Viktor are back in the ring, Konnor runs in and takes the Gore to save his tag partner who soon wins the match with a big knee to Rhyno’s head. I don’t think anyone predicted The Ascension winning this match when it was announced last week and leaves me wondering if this will tell us that The Ascension will play a big part in the Tag Team Turmoil at Elimination Chamber.
A dramatic promo video for the Chamber plays to help tell how dangerous and painful it is to be in that type of match. Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton is announced as an official match while Orton slowly makes his way to the ring.
John Cena def. Randy Orton
The two start out with headlocks and some other basic wrestling maneuvers then Orton starts attacking Cena’s limbs. Cena rolls outside and eats a straight punch and is whipped into the steel steps outside. After the commercial break Cena is back in the ring recovering and starts to dominate the match, he was about to AA Orton into the table but it gets reversed and Cena is backdropped onto the announce table. Back in the ring the two get in a short exchange of punches and kicks before Cena breaks out the Five Knuckle Shuffle and AA but Orton kicks out at two. Cena decides to climb the top rope but Orton grabs his head and hits his hanging DDT to set up for a RKO for only a two count. Bray Wyatt is seen ringside upset at the referee’s count and even Orton is shocked that Cena kicked out, again Cena tries an AA but Orton’s feet knockout the referee causing the match to continue when Orton taps out to the STF. Bray gets in the ring attacking Cena and delivering a Sister Abigail but Luke Harper runs out and has a stare down with his former leader. Defying Bray’s call to leave, Harper throws a discus clothesline to lay out Bray, Orton gets behind Harper to attack him but Harper pushes him to Cena who hits an AA for the win. With his belt raised high, Cena looks back at the man who helped him win the match before celebrating. If you weren’t excited for another Cena vs. Orton match you should watch the ending moments of this match to see story progression between the Wyatt Family and Luke Harper. Honestly, Cena was a backdrop to the drama in the broken family and that served the closing segment well.
SMACKDOWN LIVE - FEBRUARY 7, 2017
Good - 7.5/10
The Elimination Chamber go-home show was the first strong effort from the SmackDown Live crew this calendar year, and the first in a couple weeks. A strong opening match and women's double contract signing were the big highlights of the show with everything else falling not too far behind in quality, if you can watch this episode I recommend doing so.