After beating RAW in the ratings last week, SmackDown Live looks to capitalize on its surging momentum.
Two weeks ago on SmackDown Live, Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler battled to a no contest due to interference from AJ Styles. Tonight, they will once again meet inside the squared circle, and both are looking to avenge their loss in the main event last week.
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During the closing moments of last week’s Women’s Championship match, La Luchadora came out to distract Becky Lynch, allowing Alexa Bliss to pick up the win. With the identity of the masked competitor currently up in the air, we will likely receive some clarification tonight.
Out of the three title matches that took place on SmackDown Live last week, only one produced new champions. American Alpha won their first tag team championship since debuting on the main roster, and in doing so have earned the wrath of the Wyatt Family. The former tag champions have a rematch clause, and could cash it in sooner rather than later.
The Miz is set to defend his Intercontinental Championship once again, this time against Dean Ambrose. These two men have been going at for several weeks now, and the potential involvement of both Maryse and Renee Young puts the result up in the air.
WWE Champion AJ Styles and challenger John Cena are set to have their contract signing on tonight’s episode. Contract signings on WWE programming rarely conclude without some sort of altercation taking place, so expect these heated rivals to come to blows.
The first SmackDown Live episode of 2017 begins with The Miz and Maryse coming out to the ring. Before his promo highlights of his recent feud with Dean Ambrose appeared on the screen, hyping their title match later in the night. After hyping up himself and his wife, Miz stated that his New Year’s resolution was to be “more forgiving”. Despite this, he demanded that Renee Young come out and apologize for slapping him two weeks ago. He made a few insults directed at her and Dean Ambrose, which in turn brought out the Lunatic Fringe. Miz left Maryse in the ring along with Ambrose, but she showed no fear and slapped him across the face before leaving. Ambrose closed out the segment by stating that Maryse hits way harder than The Miz.
Although this segment was unnecessary given that these two met later on in the evening, it was still a good start to the show. Miz continues to showcase why he deserves a world title run, while also strengthening his heel character by hiding behind Maryse. As for Ambrose, he didn’t gain much by being part of this segment, but it his involvement made sense given how Miz was insulting both him and his girlfriend.
Early on in the contest, The Lone Wolf displayed his usual aggression and dominance. Taking it to Dolph Ziggler, he systematically wore down the former two-time world champion. Stiff strikes and clotheslines made Corbin look as deadly as ever, and it made fans more invested when Ziggler mounted his comeback. Near falls were exchanged back and forth from there, including a spot where Corbin (rather surprisingly) kicked out of the Zig-Zag. Moments later the Lone Wolf managed to recover and nail the End of Days for the victory. Grabbing a steel chair to assault Ziggler after the match, Corbin was interrupted by Kalisto, who drove the big man away. As Kalisto went to aid a fallen Ziggler, he was met by a jaw-breaking superkick. Angry as can be, Ziggler yelled at Kalisto before storming his way to the back.
Last year, Corbin and Ziggler were facing one another on pay-per-view pre-shows. To see them go from a small spotlight to a much grander one has been a welcome change. The Lone Wolf looks strong following yet another victory, and Ziggler has finally switched over to a heel. Whether he chooses to face Kalisto or anyone else is irrelevant at this point; his career will be going nowhere but up.
Backstage, James Ellsworth approached Carmella, and after messing up his words several times he wished her good luck in her match tonight. Offering his own t-shirt to his newfound crush, he was surprised when she asked him to accompany her to the ring tonight. The segment ended with the two leaving together, and then the cameras shifted to the locker room. A still fuming Dolph Ziggler came to blows with Apollo Crews, which now means these two will face off in the near future.
Our first women’s of the match began shortly thereafter, which involved Becky Lynch and La Luchadora. The action was in Lynch’s favor early on in the contest, which led to La Luchadora retreating under the ring. When she reappeared she was slightly shorter, and quickly tapped out to the Dis-Arm-Her. Lynch used this opportunity to unmask her new opponent, who turned out to be Alexa Bliss. Then the actual La Luchadora came back out from under the ring, and she along with Bliss leveled Lynch, ending the confrontation.
Maybe I watch WWE a little too often, but it was immediately obvious to me that Alexa Bliss made the switch under the ring. Still, this match served as a confirmation that Bliss has made an alliance with the real La Luchadora. When her identity is eventually revealed, it will be quite the discovery.
Supervised by SmackDown GM Daniel Bryan, this contract signing was one of the better ones in recent memory. After introducing both the champion and challenger, Bryan was questioned by AJ Styles. Making comparisons between their two careers, he asked why Cena was allowed to have this title shot after being absent for four months. Bryan’s answered by stating that last week’s ratings victory over RAW was due to Cena’s return. To keep up the momentum, it was time to give fans the match that they want to see. Bryan then left the ring to give the two their own spotlight, and Styles wasted no time and belittled Cena.
Clearly angered that he was referred to as a “has been” by Styles, Cena let the champion know that he lost all respect for him. He hypes then up his passion for the business and how he is still here when others in his position wouldn’t be. Cena continues to lay into Styles, but before long he interrupted by Baron Corbin. Announcing his entry into the Rumble match, the Lone Wolf told both men he will end up facing the winner of their match at WrestleMania. Cena took exception to the comment and was prepared to fight Corbin, however, he was struck from behind by Styles. Instead of attacking his prone prey, Corbin chose to talk trash to close out the segment.
As much as I love AJ Styles, it’s time for Cena to win that elusive sixteenth world title. He certainly deserves it for the amount of time and effort he has put into the company during his tenure.
Before the match took place, Renee Young was approached by Maryse backstage. On behalf of her husband, Maryse took it upon herself to slap Renee straight across the face, which left the young lady on her backside.
Back to the ring, Carmella faced off against Aliyah, who made her SmackDown Live debut on tonight’s episode. Early on the NXT talent displayed her athleticism, however, she was quickly outclassed by Carmella. She did manage to mount a short comeback in the match and at one point even seemed as though she would pull off the upset win. At the end of the day, though, Carmella was able to take advantage of a distraction provided by her “friend” James Ellsworth. Occupying Aliyah’s attention long enough for Carmella to gain the submission win, he was awarded by his crush embracing him with open arms.
I don’t know where this going for either Carmella or Ellsworth, but as long as both of them receive TV time I’m all for it. Ellsworth still has a good amount of fan support, and him being paired with Carmella assures both that creative won’t run out of plans for them (at least for the moment).
A relatively short encounter, this served as a way to continue to build up American Alpha as credible champions. After defeating their competition in just a few short moments, they were addressed by the Wyatt Family on the titantron. Speaking on behalf of his family, Bray Wyatt told the new champions to enjoy their moment while it lasted. He then announced that next wee the champions would be defending their championships against the Wyatts, and that they will be reclaiming the gold.
After the commercial break, Natalya and Nikki Bella were in the ring to address their altercation last week on SmackDown Live. This was a rather quick segment in which the two females traded insults towards one another. Nikki Bella would lay out Natalya during the closing moments, angered by the comment Natalya made that she would “die alone” when her sex appeal faded away with age. Considering that Natalya looked the best she’s looked in quite some time after her segment last week, it was rather disappointing to see her taken care of so easily.
Heading to the ring for the main event, Dean Ambrose was asked how he felt about what transpired between Renee Young and Maryse earlier in the night. He told the interviewer that tonight he is going to take what mattered most to the Miz; the Intercontinental Championship.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match The Miz (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
Result: Dean Ambrose wins via pinfall to become the new WWE Intercontinental Champion.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
As Jack Gallagher hyped up his appearance on 205Live after the commercial break, we learned of three matches that will take place next week on SmackDown Live. The tag title match, Baron Corbin versus John Cena, and Natalya versus Nikki Bella will all take place next week.
Back and forth throughout, this was a great main event start off a new year for SmackDown Live. Both challenger and champion looked great, and it helped to show just how much the Blue Brand has improved. During the closing moments of the match, Maryse attempted to draw the disqualification finish by slapping Ambrose once again. The referee saw this and was about to ring the bell, but he was convinced by Ambrose to eject her instead. This allowed Miz to hit Ambrose in the back with the title belt, which only managed to draw a two count. Moments later, Ambrose managed to hit Dirty Deeds to win his second Intercontinental Championship.
Once again, SmackDown Live delivered a great episode. Each match and segment furthered a rivalry or served to enhance a particular male or female athlete. It’ll be interesting to see what 2017 holds for the Blue Brand, but if tonight is any reflection, the sky is indeed the limit.