Welcome to this week’s SmackDown Live! We open this week with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan rewatching the end of the battle royal, still unable to determine who the proper winner was. They’re going ahead with the match between AJ Styles and Luke Harper tonight, which AJ is not thrilled with, complaining that Harper smells like a toenail and looks like the clump of hair you pull out of a shower drain. Of course, Harper is standing right behind him and the two have a staredown before we cut to the opening theme.
The show starts proper with Miz inviting us here for an episode of Miz TV, featuring John Cena. Miz launches into a rant about how John Cena is that guy in the office who smiles at the right time and to the right people while Miz is working harder to be treated with less respect. This causes the arena to take up in a ‘Cena!’ chant, but Miz frantically reminds us of that time that he main evented WrestleMania against Cena. Also remember when Cena yelled at the Rock for being too Hollywood while Cena was working hard? That’s what Cena is doing now, playing John Cena instead of being ‘Super-Cena’.
The atmosphere in the arena shifts, and a ‘You sold out’ chant takes over, which gradually turns into ‘Let’s go Cena!’ vs. ‘Cena sucks!’. Miz acknowledges that there’s about half the arena that still loves Cena and will buy all his merchandise, but at the end of the day it’s galling to a lot of people how Cena can wander off for a minute and then come back and be gifted a championship opportunity at the Royal Rumble and (“woo!” … “that was a bad woo”) a 16th championship reign. And Miz threw Cena out of the battle royal because he wanted Cena to know how it felt to have someone just walk in and take what you want.
Cena gets on the mic and points out that if he was really pulling all the strings in WWE, he wouldn’t be facing off with the Miz in the built to WrestleMania. He’d be facing the Undertaker. Further, as much as Cena may have been dipping into Hollywood lately, the Miz is just some guy named Mike who gave himself a sweet nickname on reality TV, then wandered in and stole Jericho’s personality, Ric Flair’s figure-four, Daniel Bryan’s offense and AJ Styles’ insults. I’ve been politely not mentioning the glaring irony in “the Hollywood A-Lister” the Miz complaining that Cena is “too Hollywood” but now I can’t ignore it. The things he was saying are just the things that AJ Styles was saying, and that Dean Ambrose was saying, in their feuds.
“Cena!” chants overtake again, as Cena caps off with “You’re not the Undertaker, but if you press me again, you’re a dead man.”
Maryse grabs him by the arm as he turns to walk away, and informs him that he’s not to walk away until they’re done and the problem is his huge ego, before slapping him right in the face. Cena is practically giggling to himself as Nikki Bella rushes out to the ring, and Miz and Maryse go and hide in the crowd. Nikki yells out, “Mess with my man, and I’ll break ya, bitch” before she and Cena start kissing. That was a really perplexing segment.
MATCH: Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James – Two out of Three Falls Match
Becky Lynch makes her way down first, then Mickie. There’s little fanfare or interaction between the two; Becky is just eying her as she approaches.
- Waistlock then standing switch by Becky, transitioned into a wristlock, which Mickie escapes and reverses.
- Headscissors from Mickie, but Becky able to throw her over the rope instead onto the apron; Mickie ducks the springboard side kick by dropping to the floor.
- When we’re back from commercial, Mickie has Becky in a headlock in the ring, then throwing her against the ropes. Backpress from Mickie for a two-count.
- Headlock back in, but Becky powers to a vertical base and able to break out with strikes.
- Snapmare from Mickie takes Becky back down to the ground, but Becky dodges Mickie’s kick and takes her down with two lariats and a leg lariat.
- Becky with a forearm, looking like she’s going to transition into the Bex-ploder, but Mickie fights out and hits a Mickie-DT for the first fall of the match!
- Mickie whips Becky into the corner when we come back from commercial, then stomps her going for another quick cover, but Becky able to kick out.
- Strikes from Mickie, but Becky whirls around for a back kick, knocking Mickie off balance. Mickie able to get up to the turnbuckle however Becky rolls out of the way of the move and gets a quick rollup; Becky with the second fall!
- Bex-ploder from Becky, but then Alexa Bliss starts marching down to the ring. Mickie misses with the Mick Kick, but whatever Becky does to her to get a three-count is invisible to the referee; he’s too busy yelling at Alexa.
- Becky goes over to challenge Alexa, and Mickie comes up behind her, ending up sending Alexa off the apron.
- Mickie goes for a roll-up on Becky, but Becky kicks out and rolls through into the Dis-Arm-Her. Mickie taps!
Becky is excited while Alexa cradles her title at ringside and Mickie curls up.
Luke Harper really likes lightbulbs. He has a lot hanging around him as he tells Bray that he’s going to have to learn to be afraid of Harper.
Cut, and we’re at a different creepy backstage area. Bray is telling us that he has a message for all of us and he hopes that the best man wins tonight. What a good creepy cult dad.
Somewhere backstage a very emotional Alexa Bliss is being interviewed. She thanks herself for being a great champion, and Naomi for having a knee injury, until Natalya walks up and tells her that she plans to take the title from her.
Elsewhere, Renee is interviewing AJ Styles. He tells us all that he deserves to main event WrestleMania and we all want to see him there. Which, to be fair, I guess we kind of do.
MATCH: Luke Harper vs. AJ Styles – WWE World ChampionhNumber One Contenders Match
Wait, really? I assumed this was going to be the main event tonight. But no, we’ve got it up next, now. The two men walk down to the ring and face off, before we cut to another commercial.
- Harper knocks AJ off his feet early, then catches AJ’s kick as he recovers and picks him up and places him on the turnbuckle.
- AJ hops off and locks in a headlock on Harper, but Harper simply stands tall and AJ is dangling awkwardly in the air. Rebound, leapfrog – but then Harper knocks AJ down with a dropkick.
- Both men outside the ring, AJ thrown into the barricade, then the steel steps, then the announce table before rolling him back into the ring.
- Roundhouse kick, then a Pele kick from Styles leaves Harper cradling his head, as Styles gets in with a series of kicks. JBL tells us about how AJ Styles is the closest thing he’s ever seen to Shawn Michaels.
- Senton from Harper to Styles, then a big boot for a two-count.
- AJ catapulted into the middle rope by Harper, then as AJ goes to the outside, Harper knocks AJ completely off his feet with a suicide dive.
- Powerbomb from Harper is reversed into a hurricanrana from Styles; series of strikes from AJ, but a dragon suplex from Harper gets another two-count.
- Sitout powerbomb from Harper when we turn, for another two-count. On the apron, AJ Styles hits an enzuigiri on Harper, then the Phenomenal Forearm for a three-count – but Harper’s foot was on the rope! But the ref didn’t call it!
Shane McMahon comes out and yells at the referee that Harper’s foot was clearly on the rope and orders him to restart the match.
- AJ sets up for the Styles Clash, but Harper reverses into a bridging jackknife cover for a two-count.
- AJ rolls out of the ring to confront Shane McMahon, and Harper follows, trying to superkick AJ but hitting Shane instead.
- AJ back in the ring with a springboard 450 splash on Luke Harper, for a 3 count.
I’m honestly astonished, I didn’t expect AJ to just win here, especially after the false finish with the Phenomenal Forearm? I don’t know what’s happening here but I want to know more?!
Renee is trying to interview Nikki Bella and John Cena, when Carmella and James Ellsworth come in to insult them for being trashy and phony. Cena challenges them to a mixed tag match on SmackDown next week.
Something about this episode is just striking me as really oddly paced. I’m not saying it’s bad, just that the timing is confusing me.
Beth Phoenix is being inducted into the Hall of Fame! Go Beth Phoenix!
AJ Styles runs into Daniel backstage, who congratulates him. AJ says he’s going to attend Bray Wyatt’s ‘invocation’.
MATCH: Dean Ambrose vs. Curt Hawkins
- Dirty Deeds.
Dean takes the microphone and lays out a challenge against Baron Corbin. Rather than come out directly, Corbin appears on the Titantron and says he doesn’t just come when called. The two yell at each other for a little bit.
MATCH: Apollo Crews vs. Dolph Ziggler – Chairs Match
Apparently Crews was the one who asked for this match, and follows that up when he interrupts Ziggler’s entrance to attack him from behind.
- Crews drags Ziggler into the ring as the bell rings. Overhead belly to belly suplex, then throws some chairs into the ring.
- Hangman’s neckbreaker from a recovering Ziggler, then Crews reverses Ziggler’s whip and dropkicks him on the rebound.
- Asai moonsault from Crews, as we cut to commercial.
- When we’re back, Ziggler is stumbling to his feet and hits a jawbreaker on Crews, sending him into the corner. Back elbow from Crews, then a superkick knocking a chair out of Ziggler’s hand.
- Crews throws a steel chair into Ziggler’s hand, then an enzuigiri to knock him off his feet, and a standing moonsault onto the chair and Ziggler. Ziggler kicks out at two.
- Crews goes shoulder-first into the ringpost, but kicks out of Ziggler’s pin.
- Back suplex from Crews sends Ziggler back onto that chair, but Ziggler kicks out at two.
- Crews sets up a chair, but Ziggler rakes his eyes and throws him throat-first into the chair before he can capitalize.
- Ziggler crotches Crews on the chair, then a jackknife cover – Ziggler wins!
Ziggler takes his shirt off once the match is over, then kneels down and screams at Crews a little before storming backstage. His hair is large and fluffy and makes him look like an adorable puppy. Except he’s a bad guy now so I’m not supposed to think he’s adorable, am I? Whoops.
The arena fills with fireflies, and often I feel like when I say that I mean a handful of fireflies, but this arena is really full. It’s like everyone is a firefly. I love it. Bray comes out slowly and tells us that he didn’t actually really care if it was Styles or Harper, because either way he was a god and was going to defeat them.
Randy appears on the Titantron and quietly says “no, Bray”, then camera pulls back to reveal that Randy is standing in a compound next to Bray’s rocking chair. Randy says that this is Bray’s world, and not his, and now he’s saying screw Bray. Sister Abigail was put to rest directly under his feet, and then he picks up a pickaxe and holds it threateningly for a moment, asking long the maggots and worms have been eating her, then starts pouring gasoline all over the compound.
“You’re going to hear Sister Abigail scream. Do you remember when you last heard her scream?”
Bray looks genuinely devastated in the ring and screams and begs Randy not to do it as Randy lights a match. Bray screams that he’s going to kill Randy as the compound bursts into flames. Bray rocks back and forth with his head in his hands as the compound burns, and all the can be heard as we fade out is the crackling of the fire and the crowd chanting “Randy”.