WWE SmackDown Live for October 18, 2016
Watch: USA Network, Hulu, WWE Network on a one month delay
Pepsi Center – Denver, Colorado
A great video package recapping the Ellsworth saga aired leading us into
the intro. But, before that, we got a cheeky backstage segment with Dean Ambrose and Ellsworth. Ellsworth was preparing for the match when Ambrose handed him his shirt saying he’ll need all the cotton to breathe tonight. Scratch the first sentence I’m getting oh so accustomed to. No intro.
It’s a cold open with Randy Orton kicking off the show. It was a fairly quick promo before his match with Luke Harper. It was solid albeit with the downfall of it being Orton’s monotonous voice the whole way through. The jist of it tended to be that Orton lost his mind throughout the years, yet Orton feels like Bray has set him free in a way. He’s wrath, vengeance, and he’s coming for Bray.
Bray retorted right away on the titantron, as he awakened in a coffin talking into the camera. Instead of the typical look at camera with smoke in the background promos, this elevated it into something much more dark, mysterious, creepy. You’ll have to see it for it to do justice. The best way to keep the promos less stale is to get creative with the atmosphere/production like they did here. A solid back and forth between the two to set up the Harper vs. Orton match upcoming.
Randy Orton vs. Luke HarperN/R
This was odd to say the very least. If you want the best of Luke Harper upon his return, you can be a geek like me and check out a Peru fancam match vs. Sami Zayn. With that being said, I dug how this transitioned between a segment and a match. It wasn’t supposed to be a barn burner (although these two could have a very good match). It was wacky plus weird all over the place. Only two minutes into the match came Bray in the coffin down the aisle, as when we were back from the break Orton was being dominated. Orton made his comeback only for the DQ to be called as Bray interfered. The match revolved around the casket being the scary spot for Orton. Kane rose out of it when Bray opened it to put Orton in. It then broke down as The Wyatts dissipated / faces stood tall. I liked the usage of everyone while holding back on physicality for future confrontations. This could be leading to a casket match, which we haven’t seen for a long while.
Randy Orton def. Luke Harper
Andrea D’Marco was with AJ Styles backstage. This took an unexpected comedy twist 180 but it was immensely entertaining and on point. AJ managed to tout himself as the best while coming off vulnerable, eagerly awaiting what Ambrose’s actions could be in the WWE Title match vs. Ellsworth. He not only used skinny but also fat to describe “turd” Ellsworth. He compared to a possible upset as “like WCW all over again” with David Arquette winning the WCW Championship. Incredible.
Alexa Bliss vs. Naomibelow average
I did not dig this at all. My Alexa bias was passed by as these two failed to put on anything good or of note. It felt incredibly disjointed with awkward segments switching back and forth on offense. Alexa got dominated a lot only to have the WWE heel control segment to come back from commercial. Naomi did a few things with misstep which didn’t come off good. Alexa, while generally is awesome, can’t seem to find the right formula in Naomi matches. Both of them now haven’t been good, have been forgetful the second the bell rang, and never seem to tell any sort of story. It’s a huge blank in the mind but then you realize Alexa is still great and is going to be a star. Maybe I should have not pimped for a Naomi push as much. I can’t hate a lot though. I still adore her entrance and there’s always room for improvement. Alexa hit the Sparkle Splash for the win.
Alexa Bliss def. Naomi
Renee Young was with Alexa Bliss in ring. “In three weeks, the fairy tale is over.” She went on a little rant explaining the wicked witch will be dead. I love the Halloween references as well as the legendary resting Bliss face. She also bombarded the referee. It’s the little things that make up a heel.
The ongoing story of Curt Hawkins never being able to fully debut continues as he was out for a match vs. Apollo Crews, spewing abysmal facts and 10-year-old buzz things only to be punched in the mouth by Apollo. This delayed the debut as Hawkins was too insulted to “perform live in action” tonight. Well this fundamentally made sense it just came off so lame. At least it’s better than having Apollo take an L.
Carmella was out for a promo to apparently expose Nikki Bella for who she really is. It didn’t get too far. Carmella did a good job of being over the top, and as she was literally about to spill the tea, Nikki soiled the segment by barging down the ramp coming face to face. These two got a healthy amount of time on the mic, and who knew they could deliver?! Well no crap they did. For over five minutes we got some good ‘ol mic work storytelling with obstacles for Nikki to climb over in the feud. Carmella did all she could, including putting together a humiliating video, to show that Nikki is all of the above: a gold digger, a dependent woman, someone who uses her family to get where she’s gotten to. Fired up Nikki did a fine job rallying back with a motivational speech about returning to the ring when her career looked to be over. Carmella was the one doing almost all the insulting which is a good balance to have in a promo like this. It ended with Carmella putting the cherry on top with a mic drop, with no contact between the two, Nikki assuring everyone The Princess will get what’s coming to her. All in all a successful segment that gets me more excited for the last match between the two. WWE needs to keep using the “expose” videos route for heel vs. face segments (see: Ziggler, Dolph and Mizanin, Miz).
Renee Young was with James Ellsworth backstage. Ellsworth cut an emotional promo, breaking into tears over the fact that he’ll be able to tell his grandchildren one day that he faced AJ Styles for the WWE World Title on SmackDown Live. Aside that we got the typical rally-nervousness feel from it as Ellsworth never even brought up the mention of a “win”, rather the fact he’s going to make the most out of the moment.
In an indent promo Slater explained he ran in vs. Spirit Squad last week because all kids need role models. Rhyno said he did it because he “just hates male cheerleaders”. I LOVE IT.
The Miz & The Spirit Squad vs. Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater & Rhynook
This was executed very well, although it didn’t get an ideal amount of time. I was curious as to how the dynamics of this match would work and I was surprised to see they played it right down my favorite line. The heels isolated Dolph Ziggler as he played face in peril for the majority of the match. This was also a great way to protect the Spirit Squad while still making them look like “legitimate” threats. Ziggler eventually got a hot tag to Slater who cleared house as Rhyno hit a gore on Mikey, who should it like a million bucks nearly doing a backflip. Slater went to roll-up Kenny but got launched between the ropes where Miz hit a punch and Kenny rolled Slater up for the victory. I just had to do play by play on that finish because it was brilliant. The entire match, while still short, did a good job protecting everyone while making The Miz the mastermind architect that has things going his way even if Ziggler is still the champ. I hope the Spirit Squad continue to make an appearance and maybe even challenge Slater/Rhyno for the tag belts in the future because of the pin they got.
Daniel Bryan was backstage in the GM’s office. He was on the phone with Shane talking about the potential Survivor Series teams. Natalya barged in exclaiming she should be entrant one into the women’s team, professing in her bombastic ways that she’s the ideal veteran. It wasn’t the most heelish promo ever. It was a weird gag yet Natalya continued to coincidentally quote Whitney Houston. She then plugged her cat’s Instagram. We have a new nominee for 2016 Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic.
Jack Swagger vs. Baron CorbinN/R
This took a welcomed with open arms turn of events as Corbin decimated Swagger in about a minute. It was a sight to behold as it came off as a worked shoot. Swagger sold at a ridiculous degree going face first into the barricade off the apron. Swagger got DESTROYED with elbows to the back of the head against the barricade multiple times. He was brought back into the ring and hit with End of Days. I don’t want anymore 50/50 booking past this as this is the best Corbin has ever been presented. It’s go big or go home from here on out. If Swagger gets another win it will be ridiculous.
Baron Corbin def. Jack Swagger
Daniel Bryan after looking at 2Pawz’s Instagram was walked in on by Dean Ambrose. Ambrose thought he was the special guest referee for the main event but Bryan explained he can’t be ref this time. Bryan made a list of potential duties for Ambrose including timekeeper, ring announcer and commentator. He said he’d do “that” as Bryan asked him “which one”? Great way to transition into the main event.
It was so cool to see Ellsworth get his full fledged entrance with graphics and music, the whole works. It was a neat touch as he’s finally gotten the full WWE Superstar presentation prior to his WWE Title match. Ambrose ring announced, doing the intros in reverse as to what they should be. He was also, as expected, timekeeper. He rang the bell a hundred times.
WWE World Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. James Ellsworthgood
“We gotta pay the bills, brother,” Ambrose tells Styles as he cuts to a commercial timeout in the match. It just started when he did this, as the distraction of the bell ringing a hundred times led to Ellsworth getting an arm ringer in. This got a lot of time and fulfilled it with a blending of comedy and serious offense. I thought it was done extremely well. Between Ambrose plugging everything, trying to distract AJ on the house mic in any way possible, Ellsworth being a compelling character while firing up or being beat to crap, AJ’s reaction to everything, etc, this was executed as good as I expected it to be. This took the last Ellsworth/Styles match and turned it up to a high degree, actually making it seem like a worthwhile main event. Ellsworth hit one of the best superkicks ever for an insane two and a half count. The guys played toss with Ellsworth only for Ambrose to rile up AJ so much so that AJ beat Ellsworth past the five count, as a DQ was called for. James Ellsworth has more wins over AJ Styles than John Cena, sneaking out with a win yet again, as this played the perfect buffer point in the Styles/Ambrose feud. There’s a middle man that’s untouchable/compelling, and his name is James Ellsworth. He got the win in a championship match yet didn’t end up with the title. This was the textbook definition of perfect booking all about the table. Ambrose looks strong, having Dirty Deeds AJ getting the best of him, Ellsworth remains undefeated against Styles, with more opportunities possibly in the future, plus AJ is on a losing streak having the majority beginning to doubt the amount of time left ticking on his reign. This is why SmackDown kills Raw still. They can make anything work, well, except Curt Hawkins. That’s a fact.
James Ellsworth def. AJ Styles
WWE SMACKDOWN LIVE FOR OCTOBER 18, 2016
Decent - 6.5/10
When looking back at Raw, comparing these two shows, I tend to see it as a neck and neck draw. I couldn't muster to give either show a 6 or 7 this week, both fall in the average-decent range. Raw had much more downfalls while picking it up with three excellent segments. While SmackDown Live didn't provide anything blow away, they continue to tell compelling, ongoing stories, managing to constantly refresh things. SmackDown this week provides must see television in the main event, complemented by building stories through confrontations or rematches launching things to more interesting heights. Corbin shot on Swagger, Carmella spilled the tea and the Boyhood Dream was DQ'd. Can Survivor Series and/or TLC come sooner? I'm much more worried about Hell in a Cell. SmackDown is always in good hands. Good hands have a fighting chance. Raw is still getting knocked out.