Taped in Memphis, Tennessee this is Smackdown for episode #859.
The Smackdown intro video aired. Normally there’s a Raw video review in there, but not this week.
The former WWE Champion Roman Reigns made his entrance for a match. Yes, a match begins a WWE show. That’s pretty refreshing. I wish Raw did that once in a while. A clip was shown from the Royal Rumble when Rusev splashed Reigns through the announce table. Then there was a mention of the Fastlane main event with Reigns battling Ambrose and Lesnar.
Rusev entered with Alberto Del Rio and King Barrett. No Sheamus due to an arm injury, but he should be back soon. The announce team of Mauro Ranallo, Jerry Lawler and Byron Saxton welcomed us to the show. Lawler loves calling Saxton “BS” by the way. A man in his 60s finds it hilarious that Saxton’s initials are bullshit. Good for Jerry. The clip was shown from Raw where Ambrose/Reigns got payback on Rusev with a powerbomb through the announce table.
Roman Reigns vs. Rusev (w/King Barrett & Alberto Del Rio)
Rusev was in control early as he sent Reigns into the steel steps at ringside. Rusev missed a corner charge, so he hit the ring post. Reigns came back with the Drive By dropkick on the apron, Rusev missed another charge and Reigns nailed a couple of clotheslines. More clotheslines for Reigns in the corner followed by an uppercut punch. The crowd is into this match and it’s not just piped in crowd noise. Reigns set up for a Superman Punch, but Barrett and Del Rio grabbed him. The ref called for the bell for the disqualification after three minutes of action.
Winner by disqualification: Roman Reigns
Analysis: * Even though I was happy that a match would start Smackdown instead of the usual promo, it was no surprise that it was a short match.
Post match, Barrett and Del Rio tossed Reigns into the barricade at ringside. Dean Ambrose ran out for the save. He took down Rusev in the ring and clotheslined him out of the ring. Ambrose went for a running attack on the other two guys, but they move and Ambrose accidentally hit Reigns with an elbow shot. Barrett held Ambrose while Del Rio nailed a standing side kick. In the ring, Rusev applied the Accolade submission on Ambrose. Reigns got back up, so the heels left.
They replayed Ambrose hitting Reigns with heel Lawler saying it was intentional.
Analysis: Tag match alert. Obviously the Ambrose accidental attack on Reigns is a big talking point from that segment as well.
Later it’s AJ Styles vs. The Miz while Kalisto faces Kevin Owens up next.
The main event is Reigns/Ambrose vs. Rusev/Del Rio. That’s almost how every Smackdown main event is determined. There’s no on camera authority figure, but that opening segment almost always leads to a main event.
Ambrose was interviewed by Renee Young. He said he accidentally hit Reigns because he gets out of control sometimes. He said when he comes after Roman, he (Roman) will know it. Ambrose said that later tonight, he and Reigns will be hitting other people.
Analysis: A fine promo from Ambrose.
The US Champion Kalisto entered. There was an inset promo with him talking about the pride that comes with being the champion. His match at Fastlane is official against Alberto Del Rio for the US Title again. Dolph Ziggler is on commentary. He was happy he could finally beat Owens on Raw.
Kalisto vs. Kevin Owens
This is not for the US Title. Owens was aggressive early on, but Kalisto came back with a kick off the ropes followed by a flip dive over the top that took out Owens. That looked awesome. Back in the ring, Owens shoved Kalisto into the turnbuckle and hit a German Suplex. They went to break one minute into it.
Owens was in control with a senton splash for a two count. Ziggler put over how aggressive is all the time. Owens kept looking at Ziggler. Owens nailed a gutbuster on Kalisto for a two count. Kalisto got in some kicks and nailed a corkscrew splash off the ropes for two. Kalisto hit a hurricanrana into the mat that Owens sold well. When Rusev took the same move on Raw, he did not sell it well. Kalisto countered a power move with a DDT for two. Awesome nearfall right there. Ziggler was marking out for it. Kalisto missed a baseball slide, Owens picked him up on his shoulders and sent him throat first across the barricade. Owens cleared off the announce table. He picked up Kalisto for a Powerbomb, but then he tossed him into Ziggler. Wow! When Ziggler got up to his feet, Owens nailed a Superkick on him. Ziggler slowly tried to get back up, so Kalisto applied the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! on Owens and of course that was enough for the pinfall win after nine minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Kalisto
Post match, Owens nailed Kalisto with a forearm to the back. Ziggler went after Owens, but Owens went up the ramp to avoid a further attack.
Analysis: **3/4 That was damn good for the time given. I wish they had more time because they were building to something special. That Powerbomb spot outside the ring was great. Owens is awesome working with smaller wrestlers. Kalisto continues to impress. I didn’t love the finish, but I get why they did it that way. The previous match ended in a DQ, so they didn’t want back to back DQs most likely. I just don’t like Owens losing on a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! because he was on offense and the pinfall didn’t even look that good. This is actually a scenario where I would have liked the heel to lose by countout because then they can do it again on another show. Anyway, I’m happy that a champion won a non-title match, so that’s a positive. It appears as though Owens vs. Ziggler will lead to a Fastlane match. I assume Owens wins that since he lost to Ambrose three times in a row in PPV matches. They need to give him some momentum again.
Clips were shown from Raw when The Miz was talking trash about AJ Styles in order to lead up to their match on Smackdown. My review of Raw is here if you want to read about that segment and everything else that happened.
The Miz was interviewed by Jojo backstage. He said he would never interrupt anyone as he interrupted Jojo. He called Styles a rookie again while ripping on Styles for not letting Miz mentor him.
Analysis: The rookie thing pisses people off, but he’s a heel and heels lie. Nothing to get worked up over. It just adds heat to the story.
Ryback has new gear. No more singlet for him since he’s just wearing black trunks. It’s almost as if they want to encourage Goldberg chants. He’s in action next.
In honor of Black History Month, a quote from actress Halle Berry was shown. They plugged Ron Simmons on the Legends with JBL show. Saw that and it was really good. I liked hearing about Simmons background prior to wrestling.
Ryback vs. Erick Rowan (w/Braun Strowman)
The fake crowd noise was there early as Ryback nailed a cross body block. Rowan took him down with a running shoulder block. Rowan did his double fist vice to the head of Ryback. Ryback hit a back elbow to get out of the corner and hit a dropkick off the middle ropes. Ryback hit a step up knee (hey CM Punk) in the corner followed by a spinebuster. Strowman was on the apron, so Ryback threw Rowan into him and then Ryback hit a clothesline on Rowan to win the match after about three minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Ryback
Post match, Strowman got in a shot on Ryback, but then Ryback was able to escape before they could do more damage.
Analysis: * I’m glad it was a short match. They aren’t the best in the ring, so there’s no need for them to go much longer than that. It feels like they are building to a big tag match at Fastlane with Big Show, Ryback and perhaps Kane against three Wyatt Family members. That’s just a guess on my part. They may just do Big Show vs. Strowman, which doesn’t excite me at all. At least with a tag you can hide weaknesses easier.
They showed some Memphis Grizzlies NBA players Vince Carter, Matt Barnes and their families at ringside.
Becky Lynch was interviewed by Renee Young backstage. Here’s a video of Lynch helping Sasha Banks on Raw. Lynch tried to explain that she wasn’t friends with Banks, but Banks said let’s turn this into Table for 3. She said she wouldn’t help Lynch, but Lynch said she likes to help. Then it turned into something where they seemed like they wanted to work together against what’s left of Team BAD. Banks walked off angrily. Young asked Lynch if that means they are working together and Lynch said she didn’t know.
Analysis: Good job by the ladies getting over the storyline while also pushing that Banks face turn. She isn’t acting like a face yet, but she’s headed that way.
Chris Jericho made his entrance in his light up jacket. He is joining the announce team for the next match.
Brock Lesnar is on Raw next Monday.
The Miz and AJ Styles made their entrance for the match at the midpoint of the show. Love the theme song and entrance of Styles. Clips were shown of Styles beating Jericho on Raw two weeks ago.
AJ Styles vs. The Miz
Styles nailed a dropkick, snap suplex and the crowd was chanting “AJ Styles” for him. Miz rolled to the floor to an escape an attack. Styles went after him with a springboard forearm smash on Miz. Styles was on the apron, so Miz tripped him up and Miz sent Styles into the barricade. Miz grounded Styles with a chinlock. Jericho was doing a great job of putting over Styles on commentary. Miz hit his backbreaker/neckbreaker combo for a one count. Miz draped Styles over the middle rope and drove his leg into his back. Jericho put over Styles’ speed and how his moves are crisp. Miz with a boot to the face got a two count. Styles came back with forearm shots, but Miz hit a clothesline for two. Styles got a rollup for two. Lawler said that Styles is a rookie in WWE. Styles nailed some kicks, punches and a forearm shot that sent Miz into the turnbuckle. They did a double clothesline spot leading to the break.
Analysis: Having the heel announcer Lawler calling him a rookie and saying Styles has to prove himself is what he should be saying. It’s a way to rile up fans, but also the point of view of some people out there as well.
Back from break, Styles with a clothesline and then a backbreaker for two. They replayed a spinning back first by Styles earlier. Miz nailed his quick DDT for two. Styles nailed a Pele Kick for two. The Miz missed an attack, so Styles came back with a springboard forearm shot again. Styles wanted the Styles Clash, Miz countered into a pin, then Styles got a pin attempt and then Styles rolled through to the Calf Crusher (or Calf Killer) submission. It’s a move that stretches the lower leg of an opponent. Nobody else does it in WWE, so it works well. Miz tapped out after 11 minutes.
Winner by submission: AJ Styles
Analysis: *** If you give Styles over ten minutes, he’ll have a three star (out of five) match every time no doubt about it. This was by no means a carry job. Don’t be silly and think that. A really good, competitive match by two guys that were working with eachother for the first time. I like how The Miz was actually booked like a former WWE Champion instead of a guy that’s been a laughingstock for a while now. This is how they need to book Miz all the time because the guy can talk and he’s useful in a role like this where he’s putting over Styles. Stop booking him like a loser so that he can succeed again. As for Styles, he was selling for much of it, came back with his awesome looking offense and was impressive like usual. They had him win the match with the Calf Killer submission. He’s won a match with a Styles Clash and also a rollup on Jericho, so he’s won three different ways so far. That puts him over as a talented in-ring technician. I like that they went with that as the finish. It makes sense that WWE wouldn’t want to call it the Calf Killer since it’s a PG company not wanting the word “killer” used most likely. It’s no big deal even though people will complain.
Post match, Jericho got on the microphone and went in the ring with Styles. He put over Styles being good because he’s won three matches so far and if he wasn’t good, no way would he have beaten Jericho. That led to Jericho saying they know he’s good, but is he great? He wondered if Styles has what it takes to be a WWE Champion and a legend. He wondered if Styles has what it takes to beat Jericho twice. Jericho proposed they have a rematch “#AJvsY2JII” next week on Smackdown. He wanted Styles to prove he was great. Styles shook his hand to accept the deal. Styles told him he was phenomenal and that Chris is going to find out again. They had a staredown before Jericho left.
Analysis: That’s a match to look forward to next week. It’s nice to see them actually building to a big match on Smackdown next week. Most weeks, they don’t advertise that far in advance, so I’m all for it. There are a lot of ways it can go too. Jericho could turn heel if he loses or is losing late in the match. They could also do a similar match as to what they did on Raw last week where Styles wins a close match again. My feeling is they are going to have another match at Fastlane on February 21, so I think Jericho’s going to turn heel next week to set up the third match. He’s better as a heel and they need heels anyway. Why not? Works for me.
Reigns was interviewed by Jojo backstage. He said that Ambrose is crazy and he digs that about him because they’ve got their own style. He said Fastlane is different, but on Smackdown they’ll fight together and win together. Believe that.
Analysis: Just a short promo for Reigns as they continue to push that possibility of Ambrose turning.
Feel the power of The New Day because they’re up next. Time for a break.
The New Day did their pre-match promo. Xavier Woods said that they have something that everyone wants, but only a select few have: gold. The tag titles. They are bronze. Kofi Kingston mentioned Booty-O’s cereal that makes sure you aren’t booty. They turned it into talking about caterpillars. Big E said that this gold is not like a participation you give to little leaguers. “If you ain’t first, you last. Shake and bake.” Good Ricky Bobby reference as Big E mentioned Ricky Bobby famously saying that New Day rocks.
Analysis: It was off a bit with the caterpillars thing, but they ended it on a good note.
The Social Outcasts trio of Heath Slater, Curtis Axel and Adam Rose were there. They mentioned Bo Dallas being away because he’s rapping as Bo Rida. The reality is he’s away because his grandpa Blackjack Mulligan has been ill. Rose said they will touch their wastes and take those titles. Axel laughed at their horns saying that they think they are rhinoceros’ (Axel had trouble saying it) and Woods said they were unicorns. Slater laughed at them. Slater said they’re now trending Social Outcasts.
Analysis: Good to see the Social Outcasts get some promo time.
Heath Slater, Adam Rose & Curtis Axel vs. Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston & Big E
Slater clotheslined Woods out of the ring and they went to break right away.
Kingston avoided a Rose splash, Big E tagged in and hit a belly to belly suplex on Rose. Lawler said that Big E is so strong that he eats steak with a spoon. The New Day did their unicorn stampeded move. Woods dropped to the floor to play the trombone as Kingston hit a corner dropkick. They did their dancing on the apron. Woods with a huge DDT on Rose for two. Rose came back with a spinebuster. Hot tag to Axel against Kingston. He avoided the Trouble of Paradise and nailed a running knee smash. That looked good. Big E broke up the pin. The four guys not in the match ended up bumping out to the floor. Axel rolled up Kingston with his feet on the ropes, but Woods knocked his feet off as Kingston kicked out. Slater forearm on Woods and Big E clotheslined Slater. Kingston did a rollup with his feet on the ropes for the win after eight minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston & Big E
Analysis: ** It was a weird match with all heels out there. When that happens it’s not easy to have a traditional tag, but they made it work. Maybe WWE is turning the Social Outcasts into faces, but I think they work better as heels. Good to see the champs get the win because if they lost it would hurt them a bit.
Main event tag still to come: Reigns/Ambrose vs. Del Rio/Rusev.
Charlotte and Ric Flair were shown walking backstage.
A quote from Shonda Rhimes was shown for Black History month.
Charlotte (w/Ric Flair) vs. Alicia Fox (w/Brie Bella)
The Divas Title is not on the line. Charlotte nailed a neckbreaker off the ropes and then kicked Fox out of the ring. Charlotte rolled her back in as Brie got close to her. Fox hit some forearms and got a sunset flip pinfall attempt for two. Charlotte came back with a clothesline. Leg lock by Charlotte, the back to their feet and they did a double boot to the face to send both women down. Dropkick by Fox followed by a backbreaker for two. Fox with a Northern Lights suplex with a bridge for two. Charlotte sent her into the ropes, chop block and Figure Eight submission time. Fox tapped out quickly as Charlotte won after four minutes.
Winner by submission: Charlotte
Analysis: *3/4 A competitive matchup to put over the Divas Champion. That’s the second match on the show where a champion won a non-title match, which is actually rare in WWE. I like seeing champions booked strong in non-title matches.
Post match, Charlotte celebrated with her father. Fox was screaming about the loss. Remember when throwing tantrums was her gimmick? That was a good source of comedy.
They did an “earlier today” sketch where R-Truth was at his hotel and Goldust was dressed up as a hotel bellboy. Truth said he didn’t want him as his partner. Goldust told him to remove his hands from the bag or he will have him removed from the hotel. Truth told him he didn’t even work there. Truth told him he doesn’t need help with his bags and he doesn’t need him as a partner. Goldust held up some underwear as Truth came back to grab them.
Analysis: That’s the fourth comedy vignette to set them up as a team. Just get on with it already.
Dean Ambrose made his entrance for the main event and then Roman Reigns made his entrance. They plugged Brock Lesnar in action at a house show in San Jose on Saturday the day before the Super Bowl in the same area.
Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose vs. Rusev & Alberto Del Rio (w/King Barrett)
Barrett’s still in his ring gear even though he hasn’t had a match in a couple of months. Ambrose started for his team, but then Reigns got in there and Rusev nailed a huge kick to the head. Lawler was really pushing the idea of Ambrose turning on Reigns at some point. Del Rio got a boot to the face followed by a clothesline for two. The heels kept Reigns isolated in their corner. Rusev punched Ambrose off the apron and gave a suplex to Reigns for two. Reigns came back with a Samoan Drop. Tag to Ambrose against Rusev. Ambrose with a bulldog and then a missile dropkick. Rusev missed a charge, Ambrose lowered the ropes and Rusev went to the floor. Ambrose with a suicide dive took out Rusev. Lawler said there’s enough crazy people in Memphis without Ambrose. Rusev nailed a kick to the head and Ambrose hit his bounce off the ropes clothesline. I liked when Ranallo called that the Lunatic Lariat in the past, but he didn’t say that this time. Reigns tagged in, Drive By dropkick on Rusev and then he knocked Del Rio off the apron. Barrett was on the apron, then dropped down because he’s not able to take bumps right now. Rusev missed an attack, so Reigns nailed a Superman Punch for two as Del Rio broke it up with a kick to the face. Ambrose with a suicide dive, Del Rio moved and Reigns caught him. Reigns was wondering what he was doing. Reigns with a Superman Punch on Rusev. Ambrose sent Del Rio head first onto the announce table. In the ring, Reigns hit a Spear on Rusev to win the match. The match went eight minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose
They showed replays post match where Reigns was upset that Ambrose almost took him out with that dive.
Analysis: **1/2 A basic tag match that was a little shorter than the usual main event. If you thought the heels had a chance to win this, you haven’t watched WWE enough. I guess they could have done the story of Ambrose/Reigns not working well together, but I thought the win was the easy choice for the finish.
Post match, Ambrose and Reigns talked about what happened.
The show ended with a plug for Styles vs. Jericho next week. Back to Ambrose and Reigns talking in the ring. That’s all for this week.
Analysis: Last week I mentioned no clean pinfall or submissions in a Smackdown main event in 2016. This week there finally was one. Good job, WWE. Was that so hard?
Three Stars of the Show
1. AJ Styles
2. Kevin Owens
3. The Miz
7 out of 10
Last week: 5.5
2016 High: 7 (Jan. 7/Feb. 4)
2016 Low: 4 (Jan. 21)
It gets a 7 out of 10 from me.
I enjoyed this show from top to bottom. While there was nothing that you really have to go out of your way to see there were some great matches like Owens vs. Kalisto and Styles vs. Miz. Plus, you can make it through this program in about 90 minutes (I use DVR to go through commercials) and enjoy it as a wrestling show. The problem with Raw is it’s too damn long with several segments that just aren’t that interesting. At least on this show, you can see where they are going with things.
I know that Smackdown isn’t must see for the average WWE fan, but I enjoy writing about it and will keep at it.
Thanks for reading. Go Toronto Raptors.
John Canton –firstname.lastname@example.org