WWE SmackDown Live Results: Highlights, Analysis, and Grades for January 31

With the Royal Rumble event behind them, the men and women of SmackDown Live prepare for the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view which is less than two weeks away.

For the second time in his illustrious career, Randy Orton stood as the winner of the Royal Rumble Match. With a guaranteed WWE Championship match waiting for him at WrestleMania, what will occupy the Viper’s attention on SmackDown Live until then?

The elimination chamber event is quickly approaching, and there still are four open spots in the chamber match. Thus far John Cena and AJ Styles are the only superstars confirmed, but that is likely to change in the coming weeks.

Still, without his Intercontinental Championship, The Miz appears somewhat directionless following his defeats to Dean Ambrose. Announcing his entry into the chamber match is a logical step for the Awesome One, or perhaps a grander scheme is in the works.

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Now in possession of a pinfall victory over SmackDown Live Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss, Naomi has provided herself with quite a bit of momentum. If she decides to declare her intentions of battling for the championship, how will Bliss react to the challenge?

So without further ado, here is the coverage for the January 31st episode of SmackDown Live.

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John Cena Kicks Off SmackDown Live

At the start of the show, a disgruntled AJ Styles is backstage with both Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon. Despite the fact that he is currently entered in the elimination chamber match, Styles wants a one on one title match with John Cena. His request is rejected, and then it’s announced that Cena and Styles will be joined in the chamber by Baron Corbin, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, and The Miz.

For our first in-ring segment of the night, the new WWE Champion John Cena makes his way out with the title in tow. After taking a moment to pay proper respects to the former champion, Cena continues to talk before getting interrupted by Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton. Wyatt is the first one to talk, declaring that he will defeat Cena at Elimination Chamber and win the WWE Championship. Orton is up next, and he states that whether it’s him at WrestleMania or Wyatt at Elimination Chamber, the title will eventually be in their possession. They approach the ring to attempt and assault the champion, but the lights suddenly go out.

Once the lighting is restored, Luke Harper is in the ring to confront his former brethren. Standing beside Cena, his presence is enough to convince Orton and Wyatt to back away. All of a sudden Shane McMahon makes another appearance, and he books a tag team match between the four men right now.

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John Cena & Luke Harper vs. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton

Result: The Wyatt Family win via pinfall.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars

When we return from break, Luke Harper is in the ring and in firm control of the match and Randy Orton. He takes the action to the outside and slams Orton on the announce table, staring down his former mentor Bray Wyatt in the process. The action eventually makes his way back into the ring and Orton tags in Wyatt, which leads to a stare down in the center of the ring. Instead of attacking Wyatt, Harper decides to tag in Cena as we head to another commercial break.

By the time the cameras returned to the in-ring action, Cena was in dire straits. Both Orton and Wyatt would continue to damage the champion, and Cena’s attempts at a comeback were unsuccessful. He tried to tag Harper in several times, but each effort was put down by his opposition. Towards the closing moments of the match chaos ensued, and at one point Harper had entered the ring and attempted Sister Abigail on Wyatt. Orton managed to make the save at the last second, which allowed Wyatt to hit his finisher on Harper. A short time later Orton leveled Cena with an RKO, earning his team the pinfall victory.

A refreshing matchup, this encounter served as a way to both advance the ongoing battle between Harper and the new Wyatt Family, and it also builds towards the upcoming Elimination Chamber match. It was quite surprising to see Cena take the pinfall loss after winning the title less than a week ago, but it does help to further his animosity with Orton. These two probably won’t collide at WrestleMania, however, Orton’s victory tonight certainly foreshadows another encounter between the two.

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Carmella vs. Delilah Dawson

Result: Carmella wins via pinfall.

Dressed in an attire that didn’t fit him in the slightest, James Ellsworth appeared on the entrance ramp to introduce Carmella. Tonight the pair were wearing matching outfits, which either means that they’re dating now or that Ellsworth is permanently in the friend zone. Either way, Ellsworth was out in full force to support his significant other tonight. Carmella’s opponent was Delilah Dawson, who to my knowledge made her debut on SmackDown Live this evening. The match was short yet competitive, but things eventually turned in favor for Carmella. She capitalized off of interference by Ellsworth to achieve another victory on the Blue Brand.

This wasn’t an exciting encounter by any means, and neither Carmella or Dawson looked strong coming out of the match. With that being said, tonight’s win continued the slow but upward trend that Carmella’s achieved on SmackDown Live. Time will tell where this road will take the young woman, but chances are it won’t be anything high-profile. As for Ellsworth, his popularity has severely diminished since his main event spotlight a few months ago. It’s unclear what his role will be once this storyline with Carmella ends, and with a hungry roster of superstars in the back Ellsworth’s star may soon fade.

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Dolph Ziggler vs. Kalisto

Result: Dolph Ziggler wins via pinfall
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

For the second time in as many weeks, Dolph Ziggler and Kalisto competed in singles action. Just like the previous week, Ziggler made short work of the former Lucha Dragon and finished the action with a superkick. Winning the match wasn’t enough for Ziggler though, and yet again he chose to attempt and continue the assault. Apollo Crews came out to make the save and wanted to get it on with the Showoff, but Ziggler decided to live and fight another day. He allowed Crews the opportunity to aid Kalisto as he exited the arena.

If you watched last week’s episode of SmackDown Live, then you’ve already seen this match and the exact same result. While it’s nice to see Ziggler earn some consistent wins on the Blue Brand, achieving them at the expense of a talent like Kalisto is foolhardy. As I’ve said before, Kalisto would find much more purpose and success if he were to switch over to RAW. At this point, it’s apparent that he’s simply a placeholder until Apollo Crews finally challenges the Showoff to a match. Those two will likely put on a great encounter, which will hopefully justify the recent burial that Kalisto has received.

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Alexa Bliss & Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch & Naomi

Result: Becky Lynch and Naomi win via pinfall.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Tonight marked a historic occasion in the career of Mickie James. For the first time since 2010, the former Women’s Champion was in the ring competing in a match on SmackDown Live. Teaming alongside her newfound partner Alexa Bliss, she took on Becky Lynch and Naomi. During the early moments of the match James seemed eager to confront Lynch, but instead, she chose to tag in the champion. She would make her way back into the ring later on in the contest, wearing down Lynch once Bliss had provided the first bit of damage. The onslaught from the heel team wouldn’t last forever, though, as Lynch was able to make the hot tag to Naomi.

Knowing that this was her first match on the Blue Band in quite some time, she put her full effort in defeating the champion. She would go on to do just that, and along with Becky Lynch, she stood tall against both Bliss and James.

Now that she has achieved two victories over Alexa Bliss, Naomi has established herself as the clear number one contender to the title. Their encounter will likely take place at Elimination Chamber, and with both of these women displaying tremendous athletic prowess, it definitely won’t disappoint. Expect Bliss to emerge victorious in what will be competitive and engaging action.

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American Alpha’s Open Challenge

Our next segment of the evening involves the reigning SmackDown Live Tag Team Champions, American Alpha. They call out any tag team which will accept their challenge, and the Ascension, Usos, Breezango, Vaudevillians, and the duo of Heath Slater and Rhyno all come to the ring. It isn’t long before a brawl breaks out between all the teams, and a commercial break interrupts the compelling action.

Once the commercial break is over, the cameras cut to the ring and show that the brawl has basically settled down. The only two teams left in the ring are American Alpha and Heath Slater & Rhyno. This likely foreshadows an upcoming encounter between the two teams, with the tag titles likely being up for grabs. All in all, this was an interesting segment which helps to provide spotlight to SmackDown Live’s tag division. It’s nice to see Slater and Rhyno still working as a unit, as their tag team was one of the Blue Brand’s more compelling stories of 2016.

After the brawl concluded, highlights were shown of the two separate altercations between Natalya and Nikki Bella from last week. The cameras then cut to the backstage area, where Daniel Bryan was shown conversing with Natalya. Fearful for her safety, Natalya had security guards by her side, and they were put on alert as Nikki Bella arrived on the scene. Bryan reveals that he summoned Nikki so that he could make an announcement regarding the two women. He books the two of them in a match for Elimination Chamber, and Natalya storms off in anger.

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AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose

Result: AJ Styles wins via pinfall
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

In our main event for these evening, two main event stars in the form of AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose went one on one. As an added twist, both Baron Corbin and The Miz were on commentary for this match. While the two of them bickered on and off throughout the match, Ambrose and Styles produced a solid encounter inside the squared circle. At this stage of the game Ambrose and Styles are familiar with one another, so the action inside the ring was a mix of hard hitting and back and forth style fighting.

Eventually, the two competitors were distracted by an event at ringside, which involved Corbin and Miz coming to blows over their trash talking. Ambrose (who had the match won at this point), went outside and laid waste to both men. He ran back in the ring to assume control, but the distraction had allowed Styles to recover. The former world champion went on to  hit the Styles Clash to steal the victory. After the match, Corbin would rush the ring and hit both Ambrose and Miz with the End of Days. Meanwhile, a content Styles watched from the entrance ramp as SmackDown Live came to a close.

With the Royal Rumble behind us, the men and women of SmackDown Live wasted little time in creating compelling storylines ahead of Elimination Chamber. The event is shaping up to be quite the spectacle, and the coming weeks will only aid that belief. Yet again, the Blue Brand produced a solid show which continues the superiority its displayed when compared to RAW.

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