-The most painful detour on the Road to WrestleMania!
-Tonight is WWE Smackdown’s last major show before WrestleMania. Raw will return next month for Fastlane. Jeez they are loading up on these special events now that the have the WWE Network to constantly churn these shows out left and right.
-Due to Smackdown’s shallow roster we only have one match for the pre-show and it was Mojo Rawley versus Curt Hawkins A.K.A. “The Battle of Ryder’s Tag Team Partners.” Mojo win’s a pretty formulaic match because Hawkins is clearly only back to be the job guy.
1. Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James
-This is the first of three women’s matches on tonight’s show! Wow! This is the first time that a major show in WWE has had more than two women’s matches. Good for Smackdown!
-Mickie James, who returned to the WWE in an amazing match with Asuka at TakeOver: Toronto, has spun her return into a spot on the Smackdown roster.
-The veteran James targets the left arm of the former Smackdown Women’s Champion as she uses her experience to get the better of Lynch. Nice touch as it is usually Becky who targets the arm and shoulders of her opponents.
-The crowd sits on their hands as James remains the aggressor in this fairly one sided contest.
-As we hit the home stretch Lynch makes her comeback, but wisely continues to sell the arm. She hits a nice drop kick from the top rope and then locks in an abdominal stretch, but gets hit with the Mick Kick for a two count!
-Lynch goes for the Arm Breaker, but gets rolled up by James, who gets rolled up herself by Lynch for a quick three count! Dang! I was hoping for a bit more and a more decisive finish, but I guess they need to build up Lynch for when she inevitably wins the title back.
-James looked good as the cagey veteran, but I was hoping for much more from these two experienced women.
2. Handicap Match: Apollo Crews & Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
-As Kalisto makes his entrance Ziggler jumps him on the ramp to the anger of Crews who was already in the ring.
-Now it seems this will remain a one-on-one for the time being as a fired up Crews rushes “The Show-Off.” The newbie doesn’t stay in control for long as the former Intercontinental Champion slows it down using neck breakers and submissions.
-Ziggler keeps targeting the neck of Crews as Kalisto returns, limping to the ring; face grimaced.
-Crews hits a solid kick to the head of Ziggler, gets the tag to Kalisto. He hits a beautiful handspring roundhouse kick followed by Crews Spin Out Powerbomb for the victory.
-And angry Ziggler refuses to let them celebrate and cheap shots Kalisto again, and wraps a chair around Crew’s ankle before kicking it repeatedly.
-This was less of a match and more of an angle trying to get over the new attitude of Dolph Ziggler who I hope he just stays heel forever as happy-go-lucky superkicky Dolph Ziggler was the shits.
-Not a memorable segment or match though.
3. Tag Team Turmoil Match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship
-The team of Heath Slater and Rhyno will start this match off with The Fashion Police; Fandango and Tyler Breeze.
-The Police work over Slater for awhile, but a gore from Rhyno marks the first elimination of the match as The Vaudevillians make their way to the ring.
-The Vaudevillians get some great offense in, but Rhyno spears Gotch, as Slater catches English with a nice elevated DDT for the second fall of this match. They didn’t last long.
-The crowd starts a “He’s Got Kids” chant for Slater as The heel version of The Usos enter the fray. Slater and Rhyno put up a good fight, but the fresher Usos land a nice kick on Slater for a three count.
-The champions, American Alpha, are out next and hit the ring like a house of fire until Gable is isolated by the tandem of brothers who slow the pace down, finally.
-Gable finally gets the hot tag to Jordan who gets a big pop for eliminating The Usos. The heels attack the champions after the fall to soften them up for their final challengers, The Ascension.
-The champions look ripe for the picking as Jordan is hit with The Fall of Man, but Gable breaks up the pin at the last moment. Jordan eats a lot of punishment, but finds an opening and hits a belly-to-belly suplex to Konnor.
-Gable gets tagged in and dodges Victor to help Jordan hit a Grand Amplitude to retain their Smackdown Tag Team Championship! Nice finish.
-A lot of fun fast and furious action here. Not a ton to complain about other than the obvious lack of psychology that goes along with huge multi-team matches like this.
4. Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
-This is the second of three matches featuring the Smackdown’s women’s division features the jealous heel Natalya taking on a babyface Nikki Bella? What a twist.
-Bella starts off with a lot of fire at first showing off her desire for vengeance against Natalya who has been mocking her in recent weeks.
-Natalya takes control of the match after the opening moments and plays up the vocal heel antics to almost annoyingly over the top levels. She is a great in-ring talent, but Natalya is not a subtle heel by any means.
-The crowd is noticeably dead for this match.
-Natalya hits a huge superplex on Bella followed up with a nice looking Sharpshooter. but Nikki counters into a STF, but Natalya lifts her up and slams her.
-The girls brawl to the outside and both fail to make it back into the ring to answer the 10 count. Double count out. The two keep going at it to sell the personal issues they have which I appreciate.
-I appreciate the effort here, but the crowd was dead for this as Natalya needs work as an effective and I don’t think the crowd is too eager to cheer for a babyface Nikki Bella who is always showcased as a brat on her reality shows.
5. Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper
-Well the outcome to this match shouldn’t surprise anyone. Does anyone out there believe Harper has any chance at beating the 2017 Royal Rumble match winner?
-Despite the story being a bit of a replay of the Daniel Bryan/Wyatt story from a few years ago, the video package does a nice job of selling me on this match.
-This match starts slowww. Orton always paces his matches like a turtle and the crowd has no interest in what is going on here.
-Harper has some solid offense and looks good against the 12-time world champion, but it still isn’t enough to wake the crowd up. Which is a shame as I’ve always though Harper was underrated and deserved a shot as a singles competitor.
-Orton looks to finish it with his RKO but eats a sick looking kick followed up by another one for a near fall. Harper keeps on the offense as they finally win the crowd over with a light “This Is Awesome” chant.
-The two resort to forearming and punching each other until Harper goes for the Discus Clothesline, but Orton finds his opening in this moment for the RKO. One. Two. Three.
-I was not into this at all at first, but Harper won me over a little in the closing moments by bumping like a boss and having some excellent offense in this. Typical Randy Orton match from Randy Orton though. I was happy to see the commentators work so hard to put over Luke Harper even in his losing efforts.
5. Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi for the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
-This match came about after Naomi scored a few high profile pin-falls over the rookie women’s champion who was still in NXT barely six months ago.
-Naomi knows how to make an entrance, I will give her that. The glow in the dark stuff works well for her attitude and character.
-The champion gives off all the cocky vibes. Spitting gum and flipping her hair in Naomi’s face which almost cost her as the challengers rolls up the champion for a two in the early moments.
-Naomi has come a long way in her years in the WWE and her offense looks really crisp here. I’m into it.
Naomi hits the Rear View! Only a long two count though.
-Bliss takes control but her cockiness gets the better of her and Naomi makes a comeback, but these seems to be some miscommunication in the finish. Bliss goes for her finish, but gets countered. Split-legged moonsault for the win! Naomi is the new Smackdown Women’s Champion! Good for her.
-This match was all Naomi as her offense looked great, but Bliss still needs some work I think. Naomi begins to weep as the crowd gives her a “you deserve it.” She will take the title home to Orlando for WrestleMania. Good for Naomi. A great moment, but not a spectacular match.
Elimination Chamber Match the WWE World Championship
-The champion John Cena. AJ Styles. The Miz. Dean Ambrose. Baron Corbin. and Bray Wyatt. The best of Smackdown are in this match.
-This is also the formal debut of the brand new Elimination Chamber structure. I have to say. I like it. Looks much cleaner, and dangerous.
-Bray Wyatt’s entrance through the chamber – Amazing! I watched it twice.
-To my absolute surprise it will be John Cena and AJ Styles starting off this match! I was for sure they would have been saved for last. I like it though as they will both kill themselves to keep this match engaging.
-The two go through their arsenal of moves until Cena goes for a Five Knuckle Shuffle, but he stops to prepare as the countdown begins for the third entrant. It’s Dean Ambrose.
-These three men have a fun series of triple threat moves in which Ambrose looks like, well, a lunatic before number four enters the match.
-Bray Wyatt comes in next and has his way with all the competitors.
-The four men start showcasing the new structure as Cena and Styles scale the cage and Ambrose and Styles bump on top of one of the pods.
-Corbin comes in at number five. No eliminations yet. He targets Ambrose on the outside with a Deep Six.
-Corbin hits a End of Days to both Styles and Cena, but doesn’t get to go for a pin-fall as Ambrose is back to attack Corbin.
-Everyone, but Corbin, is out on the floor as the final entrant, The Miz, exits his chamber. Wild. Still no eliminations.
-Ambrose rolls up Corbin who gets eliminated in anger as he was distracted! He takes his anger out on Ambrose by tossing him though a plexiglass pod. The Miz finally leaves his pod and pins Ambrose who was left decimated by an eliminated Corbin.
-Four men left. Styles, Cena, Miz, and Wyatt.
-The Miz mocks Daniel Bryan’s “Yes chants” which kicks to Wyatt and Cena. He then takes turns drop kicking all three of his opponents. Cross body to Cena, but he rolls through. Attitude Adjustment. Academic. The Miz is out.
-Wyatt and Styles focus their efforts on the champion, but that alliance is short lived due to the unpredictable Wyatt.
-An Attitude Adjustment to Wyatt. A Styles Clash to Cena. A two count! This is anyone’s ballgame. The crowd is into it.
-Styles misses a flying forearm and gets the Attitude Ajustment! He kicks out at two!
-Cena hits a huge cross body from the chamber pod to both of his challengers, but Wyatt follows up with a Sister Abigail and eliminates John Cena! We will crown a new WWE World Champion! Either Bray Wyatt or AJ Styles will leave tonight as champion!
-The two trade some brutal shots, but Wyatt is the fresher competitor as Styles started the contest. Styles goes for the Flying Forearm, but gets caught in Sister Abigail. Bray Wyatt finally captures WWE gold inside the Elimination Chamber.
-We get a final stare down between The Royal Rumble winner, Randy Orton and the new WWE Champion, Bray Wyatt, to close the show.
-The final three of this match was brilliant. The whole match was a lot of fun, but Styles, Wyatt, and Cena stepped it up and had a great final triple threat encounter that built a lot of tension.
This was such a “One Match Show.” All the “must see” Smackdown superstars were in the main event. This left the other six matches on the show feeling very lacking despite everyone on this show working really hard. However, I will give credit to the writers of Smackdown for using almost every active member of their roster on this card (which is a littler alarming honestly).
JBL kept making vague digs to the fact that there were too many commentators for tonight’s show, which he is absolutely right. Four people in an announcers booth is just ridiculous. Two is the perfect storm. One color commentator. One play-by-play guy. No more. No less.
Also, we got no less than four commercials for WrestleMania. WHAT THE FUCK. Killing time? Beating the horse to death? Either way I could have done without seeing the same commercial every 30 minutes. At least advertise something different to break up the time.
It was ballsy to put on three women’s matches on this event, unfortunately all three under-performed despite all six women trying hard. Good for Naomi and Wyatt for finally winning gold in the WWE after years of hard work!
Definitively not a must see event, I’d give Harper and Orton a light recommendation and would say definitively check out the main event for the new chamber structure and a thrilling finish to put Wyatt over strong.