Welcome to SmackDown Live! We open the show this week with a quick revisit to the events of last week with AJ Styles and James Ellsworth, the man with more wins over AJ Styles than John Cena. AJ told Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack that he wanted to go head to head with Dean Ambrose, and Daniel agreed on the condition that if Dean wins, he becomes number one contender.
Backstage somewhere, Dean is ranting to an intern or something about ‘reckless driving’, when James Ellsworth wanders in to have a chat with Dean. Dean crushes Ellsworth’s dreams a little bit as he reminds him that absolutely no one would have expected him to beat World Champion AJ Styles. Ellsworth asks if he can be in Dean’s corner tonight, and Dean suggests that perhaps there’s something else that he can do, like chill in the locker room staring at the wall, and reminds Ellsworth that he already has two hands and a fighting chance, so he doesn’t need help.
MATCH: Bray Wyatt vs. Kane – No Disqualification Match
The arena goes dark and it’s Wyatt time! Bray walks in slowly with his lantern as the arena fills with fireflies. We get a quick reminder of last week, with Bray appearing in the casket and then Kane climbing out of it.
- As soon as the bell rings, they trade strikes back and forth, then Bray goes down to an uppercut, followed by a dropkick.
- Bray back on his feet for more strikes, then a running lariat for a quick cover. Kane kicks out easily.
- Strikes in the corner from Bray to Kane, who then collapses on his knees in the middle of the ring.
- Flying nothing from Bray, as he gets knocked out of the air by a strike, then eats a sidewalk slam.
- Bray rolls out of the ring as Kane climbs up on the turnbuckle. Kane climbs down to join him as Bray picks up a chair, throwing him into the steel steps.
- Kane clears the announce table, then picks up Bray for a chokeslam as the arena goes dark again. When the lights come back up, Luke Harper is standing on the announce table and kicks Kane down.
- When we’re back from commercial, Bray has Kane in a headlock in the ring. Sidepress for a two count.
- Kane with a jumping DDT, then up on the top rope, levelling Bray with a flying lariat.
- Bray is thrown out of the ring again and as Luke Harper grabs a hold of Kane from behind I’ve lost count of the number of times commentary has reminded us that this is a no-disqualification match.
- It’s Bray with the chokeslam, then he swings himself upside down on the ropes, before grabbing Kane for the Sister Abigail. Kane breaks free and both men go down just as Randy Orton’s music hits.
- Orton runs to the ring, and he and Luke Harper square off. Harper slowly climbs out of the ring as Kane gets to his feet, and Randy pounds the mat for an RKO — on Kane!
- Bray Wyatt looks stunned as Randy slinks out of the ring, then crawls across the mat to pin Kane. It’s a three-count, and Bray Wyatt wins the match!
Bray still doesn’t know what to do with this development as Randy Orton makes his way backstage again.
Backstage, Charly Caruso is so startled by this development that she stumbles over her words. She rallies quickly, though, for an interview with AJ Styles. AJ compares Ellsworth to an action figure that someone microwaved, before he storms away.
Up next, though, we have a very exciting return – it’s Becky Lynch! She’s in the ring with Renee Young, and everyone – Renee, Becky, the crowd, and me! – are all very excited to have her back. Before we can finish celebrating, Alexa Bliss makes her way down to the ring and her cute little ‘Sorry not sorry’ shirt just makes me smile. She shoos Renee Young out of the ring to talk about the fact that Becky postponed their match because of some kind of medical issue, and despite Becky’s claim that she wants to defend the title and just wasn’t cleared to wrestle, next time she’s going to have some other excuse.
Alexa Bliss finishes her speech by trying to suckerpunch Becky, and the two women brawl, with Becky going into the barricade before Alexa throws her back into the ring for a DDT. Alexa looks for a moment like she might actually just skip away, but then she’s all business as she finds a can of spray paint in the timekeeper’s area and sprays a yellow line down Becky’s back.
MATCH: The Ascension vs. The Hype Bros – Survivor Series Qualifier Match
The Ascension are in the ring as the Hype Bros make their way down to the ramp. Each team has a little video explaining how they want to be in the 10 vs. 10 match at Survivor Series, and all I can think is that I know I’m going to have to recap a 10 vs. 10 elimination match at Survivor Series. Also, that I need to stop recapping and grab myself a double espresso immediately, because I can’t deal with Mojo Rawley without a certain amount of caffeine coursing through my system.
- Viktor and Ryder start in the ring together. Commentary tells us that Slater and Rhyno are automatically included in the 10 vs 10 match, leaving four spots for the other teams in the division to fight over.
- Shoulder block tags Ryder to the mat, then an Irish Whip into the corner but Ryder blocks the splash with double knees.
- Viktor sends Ryder to the outside, then tags in Konnor.
- Ryder is thrown into the Ascension’s corner, and Konnor tags Viktor back in.
- A high knee to the jaw for a two-count, then Viktor locks in a chinlock on Ryder. Ryder breaks the hold then kicks Viktor away.
- Konnor back in, stomping on Ryder’s hand, then turning to yell at Mojo Rawley who is just too hyped for him.
- Jawbreaker from Ryder, but Konnor hits a spinebuster in turn.
- Konnor on the second rope for an elbow drop, but Ryder rolls out of the way and moves to make the tag to Rawley.
- Viktor tags in at the same time, but Rawley is on the offensive, and slams Viktor, but Konnor disrupts the pin.
- Konnor thrown shoulder-first into the ringpost, and the Hype Bros hit the Hype Ryder on Viktor!
Survivor Series just got hyped! The Hype Bros will be participating in the 10 vs 10 match against the RAW tagteams, and demonstrate their hype by slapping each other’s chests in an excited fashion before posing with the crowd.
Backstage somewhere, Randy Orton is staring into the camera. Charly Caruso tries to ask him to explain himself, but Randy continues to stare quietly before ominously announcing, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
Natalya and Daniel Bryan are having a nice chat backstage. Natalya is concerned about RAW, with their ‘triple main event’ and their first women’s Hell in a Cell match, and wants SmackDown Live to have a proper chance to prove themselves, which means that she wants to be team captain to bring the attention back where it belongs. Daniel tells her that in her match against Nikki Bella, the winner will be the captain of the women’s team, and the loser does not make the team.
MATCH: Nikki Bella vs. Natalya – Survivor Series Qualifier Match
Nikki makes her way out to the ring immediately following that promo. Natalya follows, and both women look intense. There’s a lot at stake in this match.
The two women circle one another, the two trade pin attempts with a roll-up and a crucifix, but none for a three count.
- Natalya tumbles out of the ring, and Nikki follows with a basement dropkick.
- Natalya levels Nikki with a clothesline, then throws her back in the ring for a two-count backpress.
- Looking for the Sharpshooter, but it’s too early in the match – Nikki kicks her away. Natalya tries another backpress, but is unsuccessful.
- Natalya locks in an abdominal stretch, but Nikki reverses into a rollup.
- More back and forth from the two women, until Natalya goes for another cover and Nikki kicks out, and Natalya moves straight into a chinlock.
- Nikki powers to her feet, but Natalya throws her back down to the mat and stomps her, before going for the Sharpshooter again. Nikki scrambles to make the rope break, and Natalya throws her leg down in something like disgust before hitting a snap suplex.
- A leaping leg drop misses as Nikki rolls away, catching Natalya’s arm and hitting a facebuster, then a springboard enzuigiri for a two-count.
- Nikki attempts to get Natalya up in the fireman’s carry, but Natalya slips out and hits a Michinoku Driver instead.
- Surfboard stretch from Natalya, but Nikki reverses into… well, Mauro Ranallo calls it an STF “right out of John Cena’s playbook”, but it looks different to me, and I am reliably informed that it’s actually a Fearless Lock, which is somewhat similar to an STF, however one arm is around Natalya in a chinlock rather than both arms latched under her chin as Cena would do.
- Natalya taps out, and Nikki is our team captain at Survivor Series!
As David Otunga tells us “someone has been studying up with their boyfriend”, Carmella jumps Nikki from behind for an assault. I’m sort of disgusted with commentary for making this so much about John Cena. Were they not listening last week when Nikki dismantled that argument from Carmella? Maybe we need to see THAT on a replay.
Carmella hits a Bella Buster on Nikki, and stands tall with her arms up as her theme starts to play. We watch Nikki’s Fearless Lock on replay again as commentary continues to tell us about how it’s an STF she borrowed from Cena.
It’s Dean turn for a chat with Charly Caruso. He tells her that while the last couple of weeks have been a very funny lark, it’s time for seriousness, because he wants that number one contendership. Mind you, he’ll still find a way to have fun, but it won’t be funny for AJ this time.
The Spirit Squad are still around. I suppose this means I’m going to have to learn to tell them apart. They make their way down to the ring alongside Miz and Maryse, who are still in mourning for the death of Miz’s 188 day Intercontinental Championship reign. It’s Day 16 of the Dolph Ziggler Intercontinental Championship Burial Tour, and The Miz feels sad for all the legends who now have to live in a world where Ziggler is running the title into the ground again.
Ziggler storms out and offers Miz a rematch, because he’s a fighting champion. The Miz, however, is not willing to be goaded into a rematch on Ziggler’s terms, but he’s more than happy to beat the hell out of Ziggler three-on-one. Beauty and the Manbeast make their way out to the ring, and Miz and the Spirit Squad retreat behind Maryse. Slater claims this proves they don’t really want to fight, putting a woman in front of them, and that apparently the Miz is banking on the ‘three gentleman’ not starting anything with Maryse standing around looking faintly unimpressed with the fact that she has to stand anywhere near Ziggler, Slater and Rhyno.
Slater tries to claim that he’s a better champion than the Miz, because at least he doesn’t turn and run from a fight, and Miz reminds him that Kenny of the Spirit Squad actually pinned him last week. Somehow this segment gets even more awkward than it already was, when Slater tries to talk his way out of a championship match against the Spirit Squad and the Miz tauntingly asks him if he’s scared of defending his title against a couple of male cheerleaders.
I’m just frankly exasperated with this segment, and I’ve been a huge proponent of both Miz vs. Ziggler and Slater winning our hearts alongside the tag titles. So two weeks ago, we had face Dolph Ziggler teasing Miz for crying like he’s in a schoolyard, and now we have face Slater complaining about Miz hiding behind a woman, and the phrase ‘male cheerleader’ is still apparently Rhyno’s hidden rage button. There’s just a lot of sexism and toxic masculinity bleeding through this storyline over the last few weeks and I’m getting tired of it.
Rhyno can’t bear the idea of men doing something like cheerleading, so he accepts the challenge on him and Slater’s behalf.
MATCH: Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Spirit Squad – SmackDown Tag Team Titles Match
We cut to commercial, and when we’re back, the match is already underway. Dolph Ziggler, Miz and Maryse are all on commentary for this match.
- Slater and Mikey are in the ring together, when we come back in, before Kenny tags in.
- Mikey back in mere moments later, with a two-count cover on Slater.
- Ziggler on commentary talking about how he and Mikey used to be roommates back in the day, and Miz asks why he doesn’t have any friends anymore, as though he’s one to talk.
- Kenny back in, jumping off the second rope with a strike. Slater takes him to the mat, and Mikey tags back in for a tag-team assault on Slater.
- Mikey with a chinlock on Slater, but Slater attempts to power out, getting to his feet and striking at Mikey to break the hold.
- Running high knee from Slater, then he tries to make the tag, but Mikey grabs him by the foot.
- Mikey frantically tags in Kenny, who goes to drag Slater back further, but Slater just makes it to Rhyno, who floors Kenny with a clothesline.
- “He hates male cheerleaders!” “Does that mean he hates me too?!” “Everyone hates you, Dolph.” – This actually made me laugh, despite my major issues with ‘Rhyno hates male cheerleaders’ passing as a plot point in this feud.
- Kenny hits a big boot to Rhyno’s face, then stumbles back and collapses in front of the ref complaining about his knee. Mikey uses this opportunity to kick Rhyno in the face.
- Rollup from Kenny on Rhyno, for a two-count. Mikey tags back in, and the two attempt to pick up Rhyno together for a suplex, but Slater enters the ring to kick Kenny away.
- The camera cuts to ringside as Rhyno hits a belly-to-belly suplex on Mikey for a two-count, and Dolph is screaming at the Miz – “do you know how much you sicken me, wearing your tie and suit and having your wife stand in front of you, you want to go?!”
- Anything further Dolph says is inaudible, as he throws away his headset and Miz starts to take off his jacket to prepare for a fight. Maryse is standing idly by watching her husband get undressed for Dolph.
- Slater throws Kenny out of the ring, knocking the Miz to the ground, and Rhyno hits Gore on Mikey for a three-count.
Slater and Rhyno embrace, and celebrate that they have retained their titles! Ziggler joins them for a little celebration, before we prepare for the main event.
Somewhere backstage, Dean has a few words for James Ellsworth. Words like “did I tell you to sulk”, and “what’s this face you’re making?”. Ellsworth’s face just looks like that, Dean. Especially after you crush his dreams by telling him he’s not allowed in your corner for the main event. He asks again if he can possibly accompany Dean to ringside tonight, and Dean finally relents, but warns him to be careful.
MATCH: AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose (with James Ellsworth)
JBL mumbles something about how Ellsworth belongs in a sideshow with a bearded lady, because SmackDown hasn’t been gross enough tonight, I guess. The crowd takes up in an Ellsworth chant as the bell rings.
- Dean takes the offensive as the match begins, with strikes on AJ and backing him into the corner.
- AJ counters Dean’s plainly telegraphed back body drop with a kick, but Dean sends him over the to the outside anyway.
- Because he just can’t help himself, AJ uses this opportunity to attack Ellsworth. Dean goes to check on his little buddy, as AJ rolls back into the ring, before hitting Dean with a springboard forearm.
- When we’re back from commercial, Dean is trying to put up a good fight but is levelled with a dropkick from AJ.
- More back and forth, and Dean hits a bridging fisherman suplex. A chain of submissions follows, ending with AJ making a rope break from Dean’s cloverleaf.
- A suplex from AJ from the apron onto the mat leaves both men stunned, as we cut to another commercial.
- Dean setting up on the top rope, but AJ sets up for the superplex. Dean fights him off, and there’s strikes back and forth.
- Dean sets AJ up on the top rope for his own attempt at a superplex, but AJ fights him off and slips out under his legs, before hitting a springboard moonsault inverted DDT.
- Two attempts at the Styles Clash are both blocked, and Dean sets AJ up again this time for a successful superplex.
- It’s AJ with the upper hand after that, though, locking in the Calf Crusher. Dean tries to break the hold by slamming AJ’s head, but AJ is relentless and Dean finally makes a rope break. The damage is done, though, as Dean is having trouble putting weight on that leg.
- AJ to the outside with a dropkick to Ellsworth, then goes for the Phenomenal Forearm. Dean kicks him out of the air and tries to reverse into Dirty Deeds, but AJ counters.
- Dean takes a Pele Kick, then AJ goes for the Styles Clash again. Dean reverses into a back body drop to the outside.
- Ellsworth takes his moment and hits No Chin Music on AJ. His celebration is cut short, however, as Dean looks horrified at what he’s done, then begs the referee not to do it, but it’s too late – Dean is disqualified!
Ellsworth seems only to realise the gravity of what he’s done when AJ is announced as the winner by disqualification, and Dean looks more disappointed in Ellsworth than angry, which only makes things worse. This is how SmackDown Live leaves us for this week – AJ is smug, Dean doesn’t know what to do, and Ellsworth is crying at ringside as he realizes what his moment has brought us.
We’ll see you Sunday for Hell in a Cell!