(Almost) Live reactions to WWE SmackDown LIVE

For the first time ever, the women of the WWE took to a steel cage to defend the SmackDown Live Women’s Championship in Memphis, Tennessee, just days after the birthday of SDL Commissioner Shane McMahon.

Opening Segment

To open the show, Shane McMahon entered the ring and listed off the various members of the WWE roster who would be competing in the Royal Rumble, before dropping a bomb shell of an announcement. Four weeks from the time of this article’s posting, for the first time since Elimination Chamber 2012, the WWE Championship will be defended in an elimination chamber match. Following that, WWE Champion AJ Styles made his way to the ring to complain about the circumstances. John Cena entered, as did The Miz. The heels bickered. The Miz brought up his WrestleMania main event win over Cena at the 27th incarnation of that event. An impromptu match was made between Styles and The Miz.

This was an effective opening segment. The elimination chamber match announcement was the highlight, but strong dialog from the players involved didn’t hurt any, either.

AJ Styles vs The Miz

After the commercial break, a new design for the IC title was teased, and a match was made between Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton for later in the night.

The match between Styles and The Miz began as Cena sat in on commentary. Styles and Miz traded some technical grappling to open the match. A big boot to Styles (who was stood on the apron) sent the champ crashing to the floor. After the break, a rake to the eyes and a DDT by The Miz had him firmly in control. Styles’ Pele kick reversed the momentum. Immediately after, Styles struck at Cena, bringing the match to an abrupt end. A brawl broke out between all three, and Cena stood tall.

This was a decent match, although with the two men involved, a better match is certainly possible. Styles is the best active worker in the world, and The Miz has been on fire in the last year. A predictable conclusion and strict time limit hurt the match.

Nikki Bella and Natalya’s rivalry gets more intense

Nikki Bella made her way to the ring, as the events between her an Natalya were recapped. The Canadian heel took to a merchandise stand, and pointed out the lack of merchandise based around her, making a valid point. She lost me when she blamed Nikki for that, though. Bella soon made her way to the same stand, and they brawled through the tables and into the shopping fans. Security pulled them apart.

I enjoyed this segment. The best heels always have a hint of truth to their point, as Natalya did here, and this was the most that Nikki has appeared to be into the feud. A short but solid progression of the secondary feud in the women’s division.

Dean Ambrose vs Randy Orton

According to JBL, this was the first meeting between the two in over two years, which is neat. The Wyatt Family at ringside distracted Ambrose as the match progressed. Orton and Ambrose traded smooth, technical mat wrestling back and forth before Ambrose began to brawl, and Orton responded in kind. Orton slowed the pace to a crawl with his patented stomping and a chinlock. Ambrose rallied back with a big elbow drop. Orton avoided an attempt at Dirty Deeds, and tossed Ambrose on to (but not through) the announcer’s table. After the break, Ambrose bought himself a moment’s respite with a clothesline and a swinging neckbreaker. The two men traded blows before Orton countered a Lunatic Lariat into a powerslam. Orton’s rope-hung DDT was countered, sending The Viper crashing to the arena floor. In the resultant chaos, Luke Harper took an inadvertent blow from Ambrose. Randy’s second attempt at the spike DDT was a success, however. As Orton signaled for an RKO, an irate Harper entered the ring. Orton and Bray Wyatt attempted to calm him. Ambrose rolled up Orton off the distraction for the win. Orton and Harper traded post match blows. When they refused to stop, Wyatt struck at Harper. Harper blamed Orton for the continued implosion of the family.

The match was nothing to scoff at; it probably could have benefited from a quicker pace, but it was fine. The post-match drama is the real story here, though. I’m worried that the team may be breaking up a bit too soon, but it’s a compelling story of family in-fighting, and I’m interested to see where the angle goes. Later in the night, Bray took to the screen to announce that his family would be joining the Royal Rumble. He also mentioned that next week, Wyatt Family members Luke Harper and Randy Orton would compete to take their aggressions out on each other, and promised that afterwards “The Wyatt Family will be stronger than ever”.

The King’s Court with Dolph Ziggler

A shirtless Jerry Lawler hosted this talk show segment, the first of it’s kind of Smackdown Live. He received a good pop from his hometown crowd, and it was nice to see him back after his very sudden departure last year. Dolph Ziggler made his way to the ring. The King asked Ziggler about his new aggressiveness recently. When The Showoff refused to answer, The King took a guess, supposing that it was his recent failure to put together wins. Ziggler still refused to speak. The King showed some recent footage of Ziggler, before the now heel showed some footage of his own, from 2012, in a match against The King, minutes before the infamous on-air heart attack. Ziggler promised to… “Finish what [he] started four years ago” unless The King stopped with the questions. The King called him a loser, and Ziggler superkicked Lawler. JBL flew off the desk and into the ring as Lawler called after Ziggler to return to the ring, to no response.

This was a great segment. Good writing, good performances, and a few really good moments sprinkled in. JBL running to the aid of Lawler, and Lawler yelling after Ziggler were the highlights. The murder threat was a little odd, admittedly. But, overall, this was a stand-out segment on the show.

Becky Lynch vs Alexa Bliss for the SmackDown LIVE Women’s Championship

Alexa Bliss immediately attempted a series of quick escapes, but was prevented from leaving the cage by her opponent. Becky Lynch attempted a roll-up for a two count. Both perched on the cage walls, Lynch sent the defending champion crashing to the mat. After the break, Bliss was firmly in control. Lynch countered a spear attempt, sending Bliss head-first into the cage. A dropkick grounded the champion, and Lynch made it to the top of the cage. Bliss pulled her back in by the hair, allowing the match to continue. Lynch landed an exploder suplex from the turnbuckle for a close two count. Both traded blows and went for the door, but neither made it. La Luchadora appeared, blocking the doorway, preventing the escape of Lynch. The Irish Lass Kicker locked on her Dis-Arm-Her submission hold, but La Luchadora broke it up with a spinning kick. Bliss nailed her Impaler DDT and won the match, retaining her title. The heels locked themselves in the cage with Lynch and continued to beat her down. Lynch fought back valiantly, and unmasked La Luchadora, who turned out to be the returning Mickie James.

A very good match which could have used another few minutes to really excel. The highlight of the match was the constant focus on the cage, and escaping it to attain victory. Too often, that aspect of the cage match is relegated to a secondary position, but it makes sense from a kayfaybe perspective that it would be on the minds of the competitors involved first and foremost. Since the women were focused on the cage rather than each other, the match lacked any big spots, but was solid throughout.

A good show for the blue brand. They continue to have the better storylines. They aren’t doing anything complicated (with the possible exception of the Wyatt Family storyline, if you want to count that),  but they’re doing it well. Even better, they aren’t bogged down with tedious storylines like RAW’s feud between Enzo/Big Cass and Rusev/Mahal. The show spent a bit too much time on non-wrestling segments, though, as all the matches tonight could have used some extra time.

So, that was SmackDown Live for January 17, 2017. What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comment section below, and thanks for reading!

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