Welcome to this week’s SmackDown Live! Last week, James Ellsworth one hundred percent legitimately and without any sort of help whatsoever defeated WWE World Champion AJ Styles, so tonight the title is on the line. God, I love wrestling. This week’s recap has been done under awkward circumstances, so we’ll be easing back on the play-by-play, but we’ll be sure to enjoy ourselves nonetheless!
First up we have James Ellsworth in a locker room preparing for his title match tonight. Dean Ambrose presents him with a gift to lift his spirits: an official James Ellsworth shirt. This is real, this is happening.
Randy Orton has things to say, however, as much as we maybe wish that he didn’t. Things to say about Bray Wyatt, that is. Bray Wyatt is making him feel like he’s losing his mind, but he’s coming for Bray. As we all expected that he would. The Wyatt Family interrupts, in video form, however. Bray is coming for Randy, not the other way around. Bray had to be in a casket to deliver this news, for important reasons.
MATCH: Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper
Luke gets a singles entrance, which is quite nice to see! Randy looks perturbed as he realizes that he’s jumping straight into it with him. Randy appears to be getting the upper hand in the early portion of the match, however after he superplexes Luke Harper, the arena goes dark and fills with fireflies. Six people in animal masks carry Bray in, still in his casket. Randy doesn’t seem to know how to respond to this, which is fair — I wouldn’t know how to respond to this either.
When we come back from commercial, Randy is out of the ring, but makes it back in just before the ten count. Luke Harper locks in a sleeper hold, which Randy eventually powers out of. Randy kicks out of a Michinoku Driver that follows, and Harper looks at Bray and they appear to exchange some sort of signal. Bray opens the casket, revealing that it is empty, and Harper taunts Randy with it.
Bray climbs into the ring and attacks Randy, the bell ringing for a disqualification. When Bray next opens the casket, however, Kane is inside, climbing out and teaming with Randy to take out Harper and Bray.
Charly Caruso wants to know what AJ thinks about Ellsworth getting a title shot, and AJ is absolutely scathing. AJ knows that he’s amazing and Ellsworth isn’t worthy, but Dean is a wildcard and could interfere in some way to cause some upset.
MATCH: Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi
Alexa Bliss is looking absolutely incredible in a Nightmare on Elm Street inspired outfit tonight. I just love the evil, gorgeous ones, okay? That can’t be a surprise. David Otunga describes Naomi as easily the most athletic on the SmackDown women’s roster, and I cannot argue with him on this point.
Both women get in some beautiful offense in this seven-minute match, but it’s Alexa that comes out on top: Naomi hits a split-legged moonsault, but Alexa hits Twisted Bliss and that’s an easy three-count. She celebrates by kicking Naomi out of the ring, quite literally, then poses triumphantly.
After the match, Renee interviews Alexa about her upcoming match against Becky Lynch, three weeks from now on SmackDown Live. She says the fairy tale is going to be over. The glass slipper doesn’t fit, and the new champion will be “the fairest of them all” – Alexa herself.
We go immediately from this to the other fairytale story we’ve been watching lately: Dolph Ziggler and The Miz. Last week, Ziggler had a handicap match against the Spirit Squad and when the Miz came in for an assault after, Beauty and the Manbeast came in for the save. So tonight, there’s a 6 man tag match – Ziggler, Slater and Rhyno vs. The Miz and the Spirit Squad. I don’t know why this is happening. I don’t know why the Spirit Squad are still on my television. I truly don’t. But I’ll work with it.
MATCH: Curt Hawkins vs. Apollo Crews
The moment we’ve been waiting for is here! By which I mean, we’ve been waiting for the end of these annoying Curt Hawkins segments and now that he’s finally in the ring maybe they’ll stop. Curt tells the WWE Universe his own facts, and Crews does not look impressed. Crews slaps the microphone out of his hand halfway through his taunting, so with shades of “breathe the vowels” Fandango, Hawkins storms out in a huff rather than wrestle the match.
Carmella comes out next to cut a promo in the ring. She’s still bitter about how Nikki Bella stole her hometown thunder, but before she can go too deep on whatever she was about to say, Nikki makes her own entrance. Carmella claims this is just another example of Nikki stealing her thunder, then claims the only reason that Nikki is so ‘fearless’ is because she goes home to ‘Mister Hustle, Loyalty and Respect’ every night. My mouth actually drops open as Nikki counters “Shame on you, as a woman, to take away my accomplishments as a woman, because of a MAN?”.
For some reason, Carmella wants to keep harping on this, with a montage of sections from Total Bellas and Total Divas that make Nikki look extraordinarily needy and dependent. Nikki counters that she’s heard all these before from the internet, but she fights her own battles and pays her own bills, and every time someone tells her she’s riding on her looks, her sister or her boyfriend, she just works even harder to prove them wrong. Carmella just rubs it in even harder, before she rolls out of the ring and makes her exit.
Renee Young is interviewing James Ellsworth! Good on you Ellsworth. He gets a little teary as he tells us that he knows he’s not in AJ’s league, but that he’s still going to be able to tell his grandkids that he had this title shot one day, and that’s what matters.
MATCH: The Miz (with Maryse) & The Spirit Squad vs. Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater & Rhyno
Heath Slater explains to us that he helped Dolph Ziggler because his kids need good role models. Rhyno explains that he did it because he just really hates male cheerleaders.
We start the match with a little huddle in the heels’ corner, before Rhyno and Mikey start things off in the ring together. Commentary tells us that Slater has been unhappy lately because the upcoming winter has meant he can’t make proper use of his new above-ground pool. I feel for him, I really do. The Miz looks very much like he’s taken the whole feud personally, with him after Dolph like he’s out for blood.
The match ends when Rhyno takes out one of the Spirit Squad members with Gore, but the Miz gets in a cheapshot on Slater and the other Spirit Squad member gets the pin. The Miz kisses his wife on the cheek like he couldn’t be happier, while the faces despair.
Natalya and Daniel Bryan are together backstage next up. Natalya wants to pitch to Daniel Bryan that she should be one of the women in the five-on-five women’s tag match at Survivor Series. Despite the fact that she’s a heel, she wants to quote Whitney Houston until Daniel Bryan agrees to think about giving her a shot. Once he’s done that, she rewards him with her cat’s Instagram.
MATCH: Baron Corbin vs. Jack Swagger
I care so little about this feud, honestly, and the match is only a short one. There’s some brutality with Corbin draping Swagger over the barricade for strikes, then brings him back in the ring for End of Days for a successful pin.
Natalya is still showing Daniel Bryan pictures of her cats on Instagram, when Dean Ambrose walks in. Dean Ambrose wants to referee the James Ellsworth/AJ Styles match, but Daniel knows better than that. Dean can do just about anything else he wants – timekeeper, ring announcer, commentary – but cannot referee. Dean chooses to do all of the above.
MATCH: AJ Styles vs. James Ellsworth – WWE World Championship Match
James Ellsworth actually has entrance music! And a Titantron video! Our little boy is all grown up and fighting for the championship, and it’s sort of remarkable just how much he’s won our hearts. SmackDown appears to have become the home of the beloved underdogs, and I’m on board for this every step of the way.
Dean Ambrose is every bit as predictably obnoxious during this match as we all expected; he stops the match for a commercial break as soon as AJ starts to attack Ellsworth, makes announcements about cars in the parking lot with their lights on, and generally makes a nuisance of himself. The crowd is chanting “Ellsworth!” like their collective lives depend on him, which is sort of wonderful.
Ellsworth gets a nearfall on AJ with a kick, and ultimately wins the match! Granted, it’s via disqualification when AJ won’t let up on a beating in the corner, so AJ Styles retains the championship, but a win’s a win! Dean cheekily reminds us that Ellsworth has more wins over AJ Styles than John Cena does, and on that note, SmackDown Live is done for another week.