Live and emanating from the First Niagara Centre, it was the turn of the Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon and the General Manager Daniel Bryan to attempt to gain an advantage in the “ratings war” two weeks in a row, a feat that will prove difficult following an enthralling RAW show just less than 24 hours ago.
From what we know already, we will see the debuts of the NXT call-ups. It’s time for Mojo Rawley to bring the hype to the blue brand, Carmella to moonwalk onto the main roster, American Alpha to prove that the dynamic duo are ready, willing and Gable, and finally, Alexa Bliss to bring the Glitz, Bliss and Glamour. Tonight we will also see a new number one contender for the WWE Championship as Dean Ambrose, following his epic encounter with his former Shield brothers, brought the current top prize in the WWE to Smackdown.
On the Smackdown Pre-Show, It was announced there would be also be an episode of Miz TV, and a Becky Lynch vs Natalya rematch following on from their, some may say, underwhelming match at Battleground this past Sunday.
Battle Royal to determine number 6th entrant in the six pack challenge: Apollo Crews wins.
Natalya vs Becky Lynch (Becky Lynch Def. Natalya via submission)
Randy Orton vs The Miz (Randy Orton Def. The Miz via pinfall)
Six pack challenge to determine number 1 contender: Dolph Ziggler wins via Pinfall.
The show kicked off with the whole roster standing in the ring, Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon proclaimed that Smackdown wasn’t about the General Managers or the Commissioner but that it is infact about the wrestlers, no doubt taking a stab at the totalitarian ruling of Smackdown under Stephanie McMahon.
Dean Ambrose goaded the roster into someone stepping up to be his number 1 contender, to which Daniel Bryan announced a six pack challenge number 1 contenders match. The entrants would be: John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, AJ Styles with the final entrant being the winner of a battle royal, which would be next.
The match began after the ad break and it was your typical WWE Battle Royal, with the smaller entrants targeting the larger wrestlers with the naive ‘strength in numbers’ motto which, as ever, didn’t work. This was where the tag teams went to work, aiding each other in the battle royal whenever eliminations threatened. It was interesting to see that the Hype Bros, Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley, had officially reformed, even if they had implicated it at Battleground. The final four in the Battle Royal would be Apollo Crews, Kane, Kalisto and Zack Ryder.
Immediately the big red machine started cleaning house but the other competitors began using their speed against him. The crowd were fairly split between supporting Crews and Ryder, which made the crowd unanimously behind Crews when Kane eliminated Ryder and Kalisto. Apollo Crews then eliminated Kane to become the 6th entrant in the 6-pack challenge later on this evening.
Apollo Crews, with his usual beaming smile, was beside himself for qualifying as the last contender in the six pack challenge. This was confirmed as Crews was interviewed by Renee Young, giving the normal cliched answer when asked if he was happy.
We then cut to backstage, where the Irish Lasskicker Becky Lynch was gearing up for her rematch from Battleground against her formidable foe, Natalya, who picked up the victory on Sunday. Right before we cut to the ad break, we got a quick vignette where we were informed that Shelton Benjamin would be returning to Smackdown, to which social media erupted at this huge news!
Returning from the ad break, we got a brief promo cut backstage where Dolph Ziggler announced his intentions of winning the six pack challenge. His normal quotes of ‘stealing the show’ were in the promo, however it was nice to see this type of promo, understanding a little more about the superstars before their big match tonight.
Natalya vs Becky Lynch began with a 50-50 melee inside the ring, with the Lasskicker no doubt seeking retribution for her surprising defeat via submission. Natalya, who has been excellent since her heel turn, took charge of the match, working rest holds and talking trash to both the crowd and her opponent. As the ad break approached, the action was fairly mild, not seeming like a vicious rivalry as it had been the case prior to Battleground. What felt important to note was the impressive camera angles used by the Smackdown road crew, more zoomed in and focused, giving the audience a more engaged feel in the action.
Returning to the action, still very 50-50 but a hotly contested strike battle between the two ensured the temperature began to be turned up just a little. After a few good reversals and false finishes, it would be Becky Lynch that won the match with her modified armbar, the Disarm-her.
After the match, Alexa Bliss interrupted Becky Lynch, who was then interrupted by Naomi, who was then interrupted by Carmella. In what was one of the most epic entrances I’ve ever seen, Eva Marie interrupted and silenced the arguing women. Honestly, if you’re reading the notes and haven’t seen it, I beg of you to watch this Eva Marie entrance. In what was an interesting after-match segment, Smackdown set up and showcasesd the depth of the Women’s division, at the very least.
After the ad break, We got a quick promo similar to Ziggler’s, however it was Baron Corbin promising he would win tonight’s main event, and reinforcing that he was only winning it for himself.
We were then treated to another episode of the hottest talk show on WWE Programming, Miz TV. This episode would guest star the most must-see star in the WWE, The Miz. It’s a strange one to type, however The Miz asked himself questions, in what was a brilliant segment, The Miz essentially put himself over. Randy Orton arrived to interrupt another, which further enforced the fact that when The Viper is fully WWE orientated, he can work very well on the mic.
After a back-and-forth segment, Randy Orton challenged The Miz to a match, to which was initially declined by the A-Lister. After Orton questioned ‘who was doing the pitching and the catching’ in the married couple’s relationship, Maryse accepted Orton’s challenge on her husband’s behalf.
It’s safe to say The Miz wasn’t filled with his normal confidence ahead of his match with Orton, but was regained that confidence after a quick discussion of tactics with his wonderful wife, Maryse. Randy Orton, who was competing in his first televised match after 9 months out, was cautious not to give his shoulder too much work. However, the A-Lister had other ideas, intelligently targeting that newly repaired shoulder. Following more intelligent limb work, Randy Orton did what he does best, hitting the RKO outta nowhere! In what was a peculiar moment, The Viper gazed forward, no doubt thinking of tactics instead of immediately covering his opponent. This lead to the former legend killer unleashing another stunning RKO to complete what was a successful return to the ring.
We got a short but sweet video package of American Alpha, where it was announced they would debut next week.
We cut to in ring action where an enhancement talent stood in the ring waiting for his opponent, when suddenly Heath Slater slid into the ring, subduing the local talent and demanding that Smackdown sign the One Man Band. Shane McMahon informed Slater that he could send in a resume, to which Heath Slater retorted that Shane should check the WWE Network, where all of his accolades would be listed. In the background, Rhyno appeared out of nowhere and Gorred the hell out of Slater, no doubt breaking a few ribs in the process. In what was a smart move, Rhyno was also revealed to be a new member of the Smackdown roster.
Prior to the ad break, we got another backstage promo, this time from AJ Styles, where it was AJ Styles turn to stake a claim and justify why he should be number 1 contender for the WWE Championship
Following the ad Break, we got a solid but short promo from Bray Wyatt sending a harrowing message to his other competitors, which got many fans on social media rooting for him. As Wyatt is now on his own, aside from Rowan, maybe it would be time for the Eater of Worlds to fully amount to something. Heading into this match, before a single punch was thrown, Bray Wyatt was my pick to win, as he needed it more than anyone in order to establish himself after a disappointing run as leader of the Wyatt family for the last few years.
A solid opening to the match, with Bray Wyatt and AJ Styles taking out everyone, until Bray suckered The Phenomenal One in and dropped him with a lariat. Everyone had their say in the opening sequence of the match, with most of the combat between AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt. After the ring was cleared, it would be the newest main roster members in the match, Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews that would be fighting it out in the squared circle. There still was animosity between the two, as Baron Corbin was the man to hand Apollo Crews his first loss in NXT. Corbin, partially famous for his ‘go back to Ring of Honour’ line directed at Crews, took control of the match heading into another ad break.
We returned to an awesome sight, with all 6 challengers involved in 2, 3 man top rope suplexes. The action was heating up and just as Crews hit his finisher, Bray Wyatt dragged the referee out of the ring, before delivering an impressive Sister Abigail to an intimidated Crews.
After a series of finishers by each individual, the crowd was hot for this one. John Cena hit an impressive set of Attitude Adjustments to each member, aside from AJ Styles, who subdued the leader of the Cena-tion with a phenomenal forearm. Dolph Ziggler, continuing the outta nowhere trend, punished Styles with a brutal superkick to win the Six pack challenge and become number one contender for Dean Ambrose’s WWE Championship at Summerslam.
This prompted Ambrose to power walk down to the ring and face off against his new number one contender, Dolph Ziggler, who was then joined by Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon who applauded both men and the crowd.
Final Note: A show that felt inferior to RAW in some departments did well overall. It stirred unnecessary controversy on Twitter that American Alpha wouldn’t debut until next week but the Six Pack Challenge among other moments has me eager to tune into next week’s Smackdown. Ambrose vs Ziggler is a fantastic opportunity for Ziggler to reinvent himself as a main event player, a position that had eluded him for years following on from a solid run with the Heavyweight Championship.