Ah yes, my favorite time of the week. It’s time for more action from WWE’s A show, SmackDown. Already confirmed for this week is Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles in a non-title match. Last week could only be described as an outre of wrestling because it was so wacky. Will Jerry Lawler call out Kalisto once again for being undefeated on WWE 2K16? Will #TheLads be heavily promoted? WILL CHRIS JERICHO TELL YOU TO GO TO HELL?! I have no idea, but let’s get into my favorite weekly WWE programming.
A recap of Roman Reigns’ return to RAW leads us into this week’s edition of SmackDown from Cincinnati, OH. Roman Reigns immediately kicked off the show, coming down the ramp, as it looks like he will no longer be entering through the crowd. Side note: I’ve made changes to my review style. Not only is everything past-tense now, but there’s no way I should have been transcribing complete promos in the first place. Make it three changes based on the fact I’ve recently gone back to star rating matches. Reigns didn’t slip up at all which is a win in itself. The whole promo was geared towards Triple H and the fact that Reigns is still standing in his arena, and will be beating him for the title; as well as holding the belt over his limp body because he can and he will. If Triple H is smart enough, he’ll believe that. Alright mic work as he didn’t slip up, and production seemingly covered up for boos reigning down (no pun intended). The tough demeanor doesn’t really feel natural, more so just as part of his character right now. We’ll see where it goes.
We got combined recaps of Jericho’s past few weeks, culminating in the match vs. Neville, where Neville hurt himself, and Jericho on the fly caused a DQ pushing confused Charles Robinson. Jericho cut a promo post-match where he lured AJ Styles out, and Styles hit a Springboard Flying Forearm on Jericho.
AJ Styles joined Renee Young backstage. AJ Styles only got his words in for a short while, recapping the events with Jericho as well as saying how good it felt to drop him with an elbow on RAW. That was as long as he got, as Kevin Owens ran-in to the set, causing havoc with his banter towards AJ. Not only was AJ compared to Sami Zayn, but Kevin said they should both get a show on WWE Network where they hold each other and cry. I mean, in kayfabe, they have very similar situations! More tension built as the interview set up the twos’ match tonight. Owens was compared to Jericho aka insert RAW tag match, or a tag match at some other time here. Resort to the pull quote for the final ‘blow’ in the segment, aside from the fact that Owens explained Styles and Renee have the same haircut.
WWE will never not book Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz on an Ohio show. This was a brilliant short match out of nowhere. I didn’t expect these guys to get a lot of time, and they got a solid chunk of time spanning two segments. They’ve had gimmick matches, they’ve had 1 minute long matches, literally, but this was one of their better matches together. Everything felt so crisp and it felt like a workhorse match. The refs count was slightly faster which bridged the gap as the two traded between really fast paced work and technically sound work — with Miz working over Dolph’s mid-section and eventually locking in the Figure 4. After Ziggler kicked out of everything and managed to grab the ropes, he superkicked Miz out of nowhere for the win. Really good work, I suggest you check this out if you want to see a fun few minute sprint filled with really good edge of the seat work and submissions.
We get clips of the Kalisto and Ryback feud, and Kalisto accepting the match vs. Ryback at WrestleMania on the WWE.com weekly interview (which has bizarrely been removed from YouTube).
We get a recap of Dean Ambrose acquiring the Barbed Wire Bat from Mick Foley as well as a vignette of Dean in his hometown of Cincinnati! “Nothing hurts like an education,” Dean explained, talking up the surrounding areas of Ohio and giving an underground training vibe as to how his backstory goes. Nothing much else of note, besides furthering of the feud vs. Brock. Not a bad call to so something like that, especially in home territory for Ambrose.
Mauro touted this as a first time ever matchup in WWE, which seems impossible, yet I guess is true. This all ties into the multi-team landscape at WrestleMania, who’s names aren’t New Day and League of Nations. Nothing offensive happened here, the story of the match saw D-Von always in the way of Goldust when he tried to capitilize on his momentum. Some solid near falls and nothing much else besides ultra-heel Bubba stealing Dusty’s windups only to be sacked after holding his package out as a taunt. Not only was a table brought out in the beginning of the match for a distraction, but D-Von played into the end of the match, as Bubba simply kicked Goldust and brought him into the ring for a pin. The Dudley’s beat down on Goldust for a short while until R-Truth made the save to a Roman Reigns inserted crowd pop. However Bubba laid out Truth with a big boot as the heels stood tall…only until The Usos cleared the ring. Looks like Golden Truth will be added into the WrestleMania match; nice for a pre-show.
Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch come face to face to face
This was really, really well done. This also so happened to be the best Divas segment in a long time. Everybody played their role perfectly, and things heated up at the right times, with storytelling from everyone involved that now has me a helluva lot more invested in the match than I just am at the thought of it. Charlotte was the middle-woman, bringing up the time she called Ric and told him she met the most amazing ladies she’s worked with, explaining that she thought Flair would be disgusted at her labeling them as the Horsewomen, but he endorsed it. Charlotte, in a demanding voice, playing an actually solid heel character the entire segment through, made fun of not only the other two, but the fans explaining that they never should have thought they were the caliber of Horsewomen. Becky was in the midst of running down Charlotte when The Boss came out. Then it got, as Dustin from the site likes to say, really real. The comebacks were unreal, with shots coming with all directions. Becky kept telling Charlotte that she was going to take the title off of his at WrestleMania and snap her arm, as the only reason she still has the belt is because of her dad. with Sasha explaining that she’s undefeated on the main roster and hasn’t been pinned. The closing of the segment saw Becky tell Sasha she isn’t as boss as she thinks she is with her dollar store jewelery. As Charlotte looked on, the two geared up to fight, but instead attacked her as a Bexplex and a backstabber sent her out of the ring. Awesome stuff.
The New Day and League of Nations feud rolls-on through SmackDown. New Day cut their ritual pre-match promo. They reiterated that they accept their challenge for WrestleMania, and showed “Exhibits” of garbage bags, chucking them out of the ring with Big E impressions. Fantastic work that kept things refreshing when it comes to New Day promos. A funny slip up saw Xavier botch the kick, although he still made up for it with good improv.
Solid TV match, ain’t nothing more or less. It also served as build to WrestleMania obviously, with a fun balance of the numbers game that’ll be in question in Texas on a TV match like this. We even got some funky spots such as Kofi flipping out of the Winds of Change to deliver a DDT. Rusev superkicked Kofi as Xavier got chucked off the apron by Del Rio and beat down by the rest of the stable. The end of the match saw Big E and Xavier coming back to take Rusev and Del Rio off of the apron, allowing Kofi to superkick Sheamus and roll-up Barrett for the 3 count. Well done match, which was mostly funky in a good way, giving a preview of what’s to come in future weeks and at WrestleMania. Huge pop for the 1 man unicorn stampede.
Another Dean Ambrose vignette, but this time in a bar that’s gimmicked for St. Patrick’s Day. He broke the fourth wall, and was shown (hitting?) on a girl. This one was all about fighting for pride, where you come from. When he fights Brock at WrestleMania he’s bringing the entire city of Cincinnati with him. This was shot well, as it was close to home for the viewer and Ambrose. Once again a very underground-ish feeling, with city favorite Ambrose going over everything in his mind and tying it into the WrestleMania match in different locations.
We got a recap of the closing segment to RAW, as primer for Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania.
In a pretty unique and unexpected cut (I thought the main event would have been now), the Social Outcasts are all of a sudden on the edge of the apron with mics in their hands. They explained that they would be the first team in history to win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal together. Except, they all bicker about who would win out of them, as Axel’s case was my favorite because of the ‘never eliminated’ shtick. Dean Ambrose was out with a kendo stick! He cleaned house, hitting everyone with the kendo stick which was awesome and one of the best things WWE has done during his singles run. He is literally morphing into a hardcore God. He then transitioned into a promo whilst SWINGING THE FRICKING KENDO STICK. He called out Brock Lesnar for SmackDown next week, as the rumor is (yes, it’s true), Brock Lesnar will be on the true A show next week.
I love when we get side by side walk outs to Gorilla as a precursor to a main event. It makes it feel that much more big of a deal.
“Mauro shut up, I can hear you from here idiot!” -Kevin Owens
A really solid main event. Highly enjoyable, and memorable for many reasons. My favorite parts of the match didn’t even involve the in-ring aspects that delivered at a high quality. There was a girl that screamed “you look like you’re pregnant” to Kevin Owens on the outside. Also, Mauro Ranallo literally explained AJ Styles’ first NJPW match which of course was his IWGP Heavyweight Championship win. Also, when Lawler attested the name of ‘Ushigoroshi,’ Mauro took it to Lawler explaining that Styles picked it up from Hirooki Goto. That shut Lawler up. Back to the in-ring, as it was exciting for the most part, even with AJ being worked over fun because it didn’t last long. We got tons of variations and tons of kickouts, and when Owens hit his inverted Package bomb, Mauro brought up the fact he bit on the piledriver potentially being hit! The finish of the match was near-perfect, with Styles countering the Pop Up Powerbomb with a Pele Kick, and delivering an Argentine backbreaker clutch bomb for a convincing near fall. The two battled on the top rope, with AJ avoiding Owens at all costs, but just as he was about to leap off the ropes for a springboard forearm, Chris Jericho’s pyro and music hit, allowing for Owens to kick Styles in the face and deliver a Pop Up Powerbomb for the win. Fantastic booking.
After the match AJ was hit with a Codebreaker and Jericho mocked the AJ Styles chants in the most annoying way possible to get heat. It was like a Fozzy chorus. One arm held high in the air with AJ limp as that’s it for SmackDown this week.
This was possibly the best television WWE has produced this year. We got a short but sweet Roman promo with no mistakes, AJ Styles and Kevin Owens backstage going at it, Dolph Ziggler and The Miz delivering one of the best TV sprints this year, Dean Ambrose vigenttes in which built him up as the character we’ve wanted him to be more like, harmless multi-team buildup for WrestleMania, one of the best Divas segments in the past while with the triple threat confrontation, New Day and League of Nations build featuring a fun Kofi/Barrett match and one of the best New Day promos ever, more Ambrose build including the hardcore weaponry coming out vs. Social Outcasts, and a great main event with smart booking and ultra heel Chris Jericho. Watch this show.
There is no possible way you can tell me this isn’t the ‘A’ show. The dominance continues.