Daniel Bryan comes out first to excite the crowd and welcome us all to SmackDown. We’re 40 days away from WrestleMania, and the road to WrestleMania is full of twists and turns, hence why we’re starting the show with our women’s champion, Naomi. A ‘You deserve it’ chant breaks out, and the crowd clearly sees where this is going as soon as Daniel says that he has to do something very difficult. Naomi is being forced to relinquish her championship due to her knee injury making her unable to defend it within the next 30 days.
The crowd isn’t happy about this, and neither are Naomi or Daniel. They embrace as Naomi hands over the championship, and Naomi vows that all the women backstage are going to “feel the freaking glow” when she comes back. Watching her walk backstage sadly while her music plays is heartbreaking enough before Alexa Bliss’s music hits, and the tiny former champion makes her way out to the ring.
Alexa pretends for a moment like she has no idea who the new women’s champion should be, before she tells Daniel that since she was owed a rematch that she never got, she should have the championship returned to her. Daniel acknowledges that makes some sense, but tells Alexa instead that she has to fight for the championship, right here right now.
MATCH: Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss – SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
When we come back from commercial, the bell rings and we’re straight into action.
- Collar and elbow tie-up, then a break and the two shove each other across the ring.
- Becky catches Alexa’s kick, then goes for a roll-up for a two count.
- Series of pin attempts, then Alexa catches Becky’s kick and Becky takes her down with an enzuigiri for a two-count.
- Strikes from Alexa, then a forearm takes Alexa to the ground. Alexa back on her feet attempts to leapfrog over Becky, but Becky knocks her back to the ground.
- Backslide from Becky, but Alexa able to kick out.
- Pair of arm drags from Becky into an armbar; Alexa breaks out, and Becky with a waistlock. Alexa knocks her away, but Becky catches her forearm.
- Alexa knocks Becky to the ground, Becky kicks out of the cover, then Alexa drapes her over the ropes with the knee on her neck, then a running double-knee against the ropes. Becky kicks out at one.
- Alexa steps on Becky’s hair, then drags her to her feet; the two women trade strikes, then a Bex-ploder from Becky for a two-count.
- Alexa rolls out of the ring as we cut to commercial. When we’re back, Alexa is in the corner and takes a flying forearm from Becky, then a springboard side kick. Alexa kicks out at two.
- Becky runs at Alexa in the opposite corner, but Alexa sends her to the apron. Becky up on the turnbuckle for a missile dropkick, but Alexa kicks out again.
- Alexa tries to roll away again, but Becky catches her by the foot and drags her back in.
- Alexa with a rollup and a handful of Becky’s tights – Alexa is our two-time Women’s Champion!
Alexa celebrates on the ramp, and Mickie joins her, then enters the ring to try to attack Becky. Becky throws Mickie James back to the outside as Becky’s music plays; Becky can triumph over Mickie James, even if she doesn’t get the honour of being the two-time champ as Alexa does.
Dean is confirmed as one of the members of the ten-man battle royal; he explains that Baron Corbin could have put him in a mood, but there’s an opportunity on the line so he’s going to keep his head on right. He has a picture of Baron Corbin stuck to the wall behind him, which he slaps. What a sweetheart.
Kalisto up next, telling us he wants to hear a WrestleMania crowd chant ‘Lucha!’. How nice.
Multi-time Slammy Award Winner, multi-time Intercontinental Champion, prior WWE Champion, prior Money in the Bank holder, previous winner of the main event at WrestleMania, star of The Real World, star of Tough Enough, spouse of the most beautiful woman in the world, The Miz, tells us his resume like he’s looking for a job, but actually he just wants to tell us that’s why he’s going to win the battle royal tonight. I buy it.
In preparation for the Falls Count Anywhere match tonight, Natalya is being interviewed by Renee Young. Natalya says that Nikki has been ‘manufactured’ for popularity, which is why so much of the crowd is behind her.
MATCH: Breezango vs. American Alpha
I pop a little bit in my seat as we cut straight from that backstage interview into Breezango’s music. Alpha make their way out to join them, but Tyler and Fandango knock Gable out of the ring and start stomping Jordan before the match actually gets underway. Fandango flings his shirt aside, and the bell rings as Tyler steps out and Fandango makes his way towards Jordan again.
- Fandango with strikes to Jordan, then draping him over the ropes, tagging in Tyler for the double kick.
- Tyler with strikes to Jordan, then a leg drop, getting a two-count.
- Headlock from Tyler, and in the background, Gable climbs back up onto the apron as Jordan powers to his feet. I swear the crowd are chanting something about Tyler but I can’t make it out. Mauro despairs for the fact that Breezango couldn’t be in New York for Fashion Week.
- Knee to Jordan’s midsection keeps him away from Gable, then tag to Fandango for a double suplex.
- Gable able to tag in even as Tyler and Fandango try to drag Jordan away – Gable clotheslines Tyler over the rope, then Fandango is up in the electric chair and American Alpha win!
Breezango make a hasty retreat as the Usos appear as if from nowhere and make a challenge to American Alpha. Not for tonight – American Alpha need to get ready, even though they can’t get ready for the Usos. There’s a weird moment where they speculate on whether Alpha have a two-star hotel room and whether they prefer chocolate or vanilla protein bars, before they get to the point: Alpha won’t be able to sleep knowing that the Usos are out to get them.
David Otunga introduces us to the Black History Month celebration: a selection of WWE superstars talking about Jack Robinson and the influence he had on athletes of colour going forward.
Backstage somewhere, AJ Styles is yelling at an intern about how he’s going to the main event of WrestleMania. He’s so excited, like a puppy.
Dolph Ziggler is cancelling the new era of WWE. Sorry, guys. I liked it to, but Ziggler says no.
Mojo Rawley is surprisingly not hype.
Luke Harper followed Bray Wyatt for years, but now that’s all changed and he is free. And his clothes look a little bit cleaner. Good for you, Harper.
Before we move forward into the Falls Count Anywhere match, Nikki Bella is being interviewed by Renee Young. She’s totally prepared to face Natalya tonight.
MATCH: Natalya vs. Nikki Bella – Falls Count Anywhere Match
Nikki Bella enters the ring before commercial, and we come back in time to see Natalya.
- Nikki runs at Natalya with a spear as soon as the bell rings. Natalya rolls out of the ring.
- Nikki follows, and Natalya rolls back into the ring. Natalya tries some quick offense on Nikki, but Nikki counters with a jawbreaker for a quick pin attempt.
- Nikki immediately under the ring looking for a table, but Natalya with a baseball slide takes her out and pushes the table back under the ring.
- Quick rollup from Nikki on the outside, but Natalya kicks out at two.
- Nikki pulls out a kendo stick, striking Natalya across the back and side several times before dropping it and going for another pin attempt.
- Natalya thrown into the barricade for another two count, then over the barricade into the crowd.
- Stomps from Nikki, then Natalya to her feet with strikes, and throwing Nikki into another barricade.
- Both women on top of the barricade, and Natalya sets up for a superplex onto the floor; Nikki fights out with strikes and kicks Natalya to the floor, then hits a roundhouse kick off the barricade as Natalya gets to her feet. Natalya kicks out at two.
- Natalya thrown over the barricade back to ringside, but Natalya pushes her back into the barricade as she gets close.
- Some trash talk from Natalya, then Nikki thrown into the ringpost, then the steel steps. Nikki kicks out at two.
- Natalya picks up the kendo stick again as though threatening to use it, then throws it aside, clearing the announce table instead.
- Nikki fights Natalya off with strikes, throwing Natalya back into the ring. A shoulderblock from Natalya throws her off balance, then Natalya picks her up in powerbomb position.
- Nikki fights off with strikes, and Natalya drops her to the ground instead of putting her through the announce table.
- Natalya up first, but a kick from Nikki throws her off-balance. Alabama slam from Nikki onto the announce table gets a two-count, as we cut to commercial.
- When we’re back, Natalya has Nikki in the Sharpshooter in the ring, but Nikki breaks out with the ropes.
- Natalya suplexes Nikki on the ramp, but only gets a two count.
- Nikki throws Natalya into the barricade next to the ramp, then tries to pick Natalya up onto her shoulders; Natalya slips out and throws Nikki into some boxes at the top of the ramp. Nikki kicks out at two from a cover on a piece of equipment.
- Nikki thrown through a curtain into a backstage area, but throws Natalya into some more equipment, then into Maryse, who was just standing around minding her own business.
- Nikki able to recover and throws Natalya face-first into a mirror; Natalya kicks out, and Nikki seems to be despairing.
- Nikki drags Natalya back out to the ramp by the hair, then drops her with another spear. Natalya kicks out at two.
- Natalya fights Nikki off with more strikes, and goes for the Sharpshooter on the ramp. Nikki reverses into the Fearless Lock.
- Maryse charges out as it looks like Natalya is about to tap, laying into Nikki with a piece of pipe. Miz runs out, grabbing her around the waist and dragging her away. I mind this a little less than other examples of men manhandling the women, but I’m still not thrilled about it.
- Natalya gets a cover on Nikki, taunting her on the ramp and raising her hands in celebration.
We go swiftly from the end of that match into another promo for the number one contenders battle royal tonight.
Baron Corbin likes destruction and inflicting pain, and most of all, he likes the spotlight.
Apollo Crews is smiley, and identified by being smiley, but he’s going to run over Dolph Ziggler tonight instead.
Bray and Randy appear, and Bray reminds Randy that he’s earned the keys to the kingdom, before going on to explain that whoever wins tonight is going to be his sacrificial lamb at WrestleMania.
MATCH: 10 Man Battle Royal – WWE World Championship Number One Contenders Match
Cena makes his way out before the ad break, and Ziggler, Crews, Rawley and Kalisto have joined him there when we come back. Baron Corbin, then Luke Harper, The Miz, AJ Styles, and finally Dean Ambrose make their way out to the ring.
- As soon as Dean enters, the fighting breaks out. Crews immediately goes for an elimination on Ziggler, while Ambrose and Corbin fight it out in a corner.
- Corbin turns on AJ, then Dolph breaks off to fight Cena and Dean picks up Crews in an attempt to throw him over the top rope.
- Superkick from Ziggler to Cena sends him sprawling; both men end up hanging over the top rope, but both salvage it and hang on.
- Corbin, Dean and Ziggler team up to attempt to take out AJ, but Harper tries to eliminate Corbin, and the whole attempt falls apart.
- Ziggler with a corner mount on Harper, but Harper sends him over and onto the apron. Crowd is chanting “Let’s go Cena!” “AJ Styles!” like there aren’t 8 other men in the ring.
- We cut to commercial with apparently all ten men still standing; someone takes a Deep Six from Corbin, but Rawley goes for a Stinger Splash and is thrown to the outside. Rawley is the first man eliminated.
- Salida del Sol from Kalisto to Ziggler, then a spinning kick to Harper. Moonsault to Dean, but Dean catches him and softens the landing.
- Both Kalisto and Ziggler hanging onto the apron, still brawling, but a superkick from Ziggler eliminates Kalisto.
- Leaping lariat from Crews knocks Corbin down, then a roundhouse kick sends Ziggler to the floor.
- Ziggler comes back with a chair, beating on Kalisto until Corbin throws Crews to the outside.
- The chair is knocked out of Ziggler’s hand and Crews chases him backstage with it. Six men remain in the ring.
- Strikes between Cena and AJ, and Cena goes for the AA but Styles lands on his feet. Harper takes a Pele Kick from Styles. Pendulum lariat from Dean hits Corbin.
- ‘This is awesome’ chant as Miz gets to his feet and leads instead a ‘yes’ chant.
- Corner dropkicks all around from The Miz, as JBL tells me most people have forgotten Daniel Bryan?
- Cena takes some ‘yes’ kicks, but ducks a head kick and throws Miz with ease over the top rope as we cut to commercial again.
- Still five men in the ring as we come back, and Cena double-Germans AJ and Dean.
- AJ and Cena get to their feet together, and Cena sets up for the Five Knuckle Shuffle on AJ, but is caught by Corbin in End of Days before he can.
- Corbin blocks Dirty Deeds, but Dean sends him over the top rope anyway. Corbin drags him out from under the bottom rope and hits him with an End of Days. Dean is laying prone on the outside, but still technically in the match.
- The Miz climbs back in the ring and throws Cena over the top rope. Cena tries to give chase, but referees send him away as Miz hides in the crowd.
- AJ Styles and Luke Harper remaining in the ring; Harper makes the first move, but AJ fights him off.
- Both men furiously try to eliminate each other, when Dean climbs back in and tries to eliminate both men. Strikes back and forth between Dean and AJ on the apron as Dean is dragged over the top rope too.
- Dean loses his footing and just manages to hang on, but a superkick from Harper sends him back to the floor. Dean is eliminated!
- Attempted suplex from Harper, but AJ hangs on. The two men trade strikes, both on the apron next to the turnbuckle.
- Both men back in the ring, and Styles locks in a sleeper hold, then tries to prop him up on the turnbuckle. Harper fights him off.
- Both men on the apron again, and Harper manages to drag AJ to the floor – but he goes with him, and the referees crowd around to see if they can figure out who hit first.
Well, it looked like AJ landing first to me, but the referees insist it was the same time. AJ points to the WrestleMania sign, presumably thinking that will help his case, but the referees are unmoved.
Daniel Bryan comes down to clear this up, listening to the referees, before announcing it has been called as a draw meaning there is no winner. Never fear, though – next week, they will confirm a winner. Both men are upset, but Harper takes AJ out with a discus clothesline, then poses on the turnbuckle to stir the crowd in his favour. However, he did not point at the WrestleMania sign, so AJ does have the stronger claim, there.
Bray and Randy appear again on the Titantron, and Bray simply cackles evilly before we cut away.