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WWE Smackdown LIVE!- January 31, 2017

by Scrooge McSuck

Smackdown Live

- Smackdown Live Episode #911 is coming from the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, TX. Mauro Ranallo, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and David Otunga are calling all the action, with Tom Phillips adding whatever voodoo it is that he does for the non-matches. We’re just days removed from the Royal Rumble, and yet only 12 days away from the Elimination Chamber. You know, maybe they might have too many Network Specials these days. Back to the Rumble, Smackdown’s highlights were John Cena winning his record-tying 16th World Title from A.J. Styles and Randy Orton winning his 2nd Royal Rumble Match (last time was in 2009).

- A.J. Styles is backstage watching the highlights of the Royal Rumble, looking unhappy. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan are there to announce Styles gets his rematch... but for now, he will be in the Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship. Along with him and Cena, it will be Bray Wyatt, Baron Corbin, The Miz, and Dean Ambrose competing inside the structure. Ambrose shows up to bring up ancient history (James Ellsworth costing him the title at TLC) and wants to settle things one-on-one. Shane and Daniel agree and book Ambrose vs. Styles for tonight.

- John Cena comes out to celebrate his Championship victory. We get the obligatory dueling chants. He says he was wrong about A.J. Styles. He’s not just a guy from Atlanta, he’s an elite level WWE Superstar who brought out the best in him. Cena says Smackdown is the place to be, and he’s the man to beat, so if you want some, come get some. Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton interrupt. Wyatt mocks Cena’s "The Champ is here" line. The more things chance, the more they stay the same. Wyatt predicts victory in the Elimination Chamber. Is this the first true (singles) Championship opportunity for Bray Wyatt, not counting the Rumble in 2016? I can’t recall any others. Orton says if Cena somehow survives the Chamber, Orton will be there at WrestleMania to end the vicious cycle. They approach the ring, but Cena has an unlikely ally in LUKE HARPER, standing by his side to keep Orton and Wyatt at bay, causing Wyatt and Orton to retreat. Shane McMahon comes out to announce a Tag Team Match... NEXT.

John Cena & Luke Harper vs. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton:

If Vince Russo were booking this, Luke Harper would turn on Cena in about 30-seconds. Cena and Wyatt start. Cena grabs a side headlock and comes off the ropes with a shoulder tackle. Wyatt slips off Cena’s back and quickly tags out. Cena responds by pointing at the WrestleMania sign. Harper tags himself in, nails Orton with a forearm, and somersaults into the ring with a senton. Whip to the corner, Orton gets an elbow up. He bounces off the ropes and is met with a dropkick. Harper with a catapult between the middle and bottom ropes. They take it to the floor, with Wyatt standing in Harper’s path. He takes Route B and back suplexes Orton across the commentators table. Wyatt tags in, and after a lengthy stare-down, Harper tags out. I guess we need to forget the Rumble where Harper had no problems beating up on Wyatt. Wyatt takes control and pounds away with rights. Orton picks up where Wyatt left off as we take a break.

We come back from commercial with Wyatt coming off the ropes with a senton for two. Orton with the draping DDT. He sets up for the RKO, but Cena blocks and lays him out with a diving clothesline. Wyatt tags in and bypasses Cena to get in Harper’s face, again. Cena rolls away from another senton, but gets caught by Orton with a snap Power-Slam for two. Cena comes back with shoulder tackles and a back suplex. Five-Knuckle Shuffle. Orton escapes the AA and hits a back breaker. Harper comes in and lays into Orton. Wyatt goes for Sister Abigail, but Harper counters. Harper goes for it, but intercepts Orton with a big boot. Wyatt hits Harper with Sister Abigail, and Orton saves Wyatt, hitting Cena with an RKO for the three count at 8:11 (shown). ** More about moving the angle between Harper, Wyatt, and Orton than putting on a great match, but still entertaining.

Carmella vs. Delilah Dawson:

James Ellsworth comes out, dressed as a complete goof courtesy of Carmella’s makeover, to give her a "big" introduction. Delilah Dawson has blue hair and a ridiculous attire, so we can expect JBL to bury her just like he did "CJ Lunde" a couple of weeks ago. Dawson grabs a headlock, but Carmella escapes with a hair pull. Carmella throws her across the ring with handfuls of hair. Dawson with a surprise inside cradle for only a one count. Ellsworth trips her up, allowing Carmella to take her down and apply the Code of Silence for the tap out at 1:27. Match served as a background noise for JBL to make as many dumb puns and belittle the enhancement talent as possible.

Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler:

Wow, what is with the rapid succession of matches? This is only their third match in the last month. Kalisto won the 1st time in underdog style, and Ziggler won the 2nd meeting in under a minute. THIS. IS... THE RUBBER MATCH! Ziggler with a forearm at the bell, followed by clubbing blows. Jumping elbow drop to the chest. Kalisto with kicks to the leg and a roundhouse from the apron. Springboard body press gets two. Apollo Crews is watching backstage. Ziggler with a hangman’s neck-breaker for two. Kalisto with spinning roundhouse kick. Ziggler hides in the corner and surprises him with a Super-Kick for three at 2:01. Can’t they find someone else to bury to further a midcard storyline between Dolph Ziggler and Apollo Crews? Ziggler goes for the mask, but Crews music plays to make the save. Ziggler makes the quickest exit into the crowd I’ve seen in years.

- Dasha Fuentes is backstage with Becky Lynch and Naomi. They’re scheduled to face Alexa Bliss and Mickie James later in the night. It’s basically a rematch from the Rumble Kick-Off Show, except Nikki Bella and Natalya aren’t involved.

Becky Lynch & Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James:

This is Mickie James’ 1st match on WWE television (Raw/Smackdown) in about 7-years. Alexa Bliss is the Women’s Champion, and already took one loss to Naomi at the Royal Rumble. Becky and Mickie start... or so we thought. Alexa starts, instead. Becky with a waist-lock and takedown. Naomi comes in with a sunset flip for two. Leaping leg drop for two. Naomi misses a body press, hitting the ropes instead. James with a snap mare and basement dropkick for two. Bliss with trash talking, and she takes a kick to the face for it. She cuts off Naomi’s tags with a hair-assisted slam for two. Insult-to-Injury, but Bliss sells her knee instead of going for the cover. Becky in with clotheslines and a jumping heel kick to Mickie. Diving forearm into the corner, followed by a springboard side kick and Exploder Suplex for two. Becky goes to the top, but Bliss creates enough time for a distraction for James to snap her off the ropes and "hit" a kick to the face for two.

We return from commercial, with Becky fighting out of a chin-lock, but Bliss throws her down by the hair. James with choking in the corner. Becky rallies with rights, but Mickie remains in control. She takes Becky over with the spinning head scissors for two. Lynch fights out of another chin-lock, but her has is just too fun to pull, I guess. Naomi finally gets the hot tag and hits a springboard body press. She knocks James off the apron and hits a somersault clothesline on Bliss. Naomi with the jumping in place kicks and short-rana for two. Becky tackles James out of the ring, and Naomi nails Bliss with an enzuigiri. Split-legged moonsault gets three at 7:59 (shown). **1/2 There was a little too much resting, and a few spots looked bad with the camera angles used. To no surprise, later in the night on Talking Smack, it was announced that Naomi would challenge Alexa Bliss for the Women’s Title at Elimination Chamber.

- Dasha Fuentes is with American Alpha. Would’ve been nice to see them at the Royal Rumble, but what’s next for American Alpha? They say nobody is stepping up and accuse the Smackdown Tag Team Division of being scared. They’re coming out to the ring to issue an open challenge.

American Alpha come out to issue their Open Challenge. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since they just mentioned it in the last segment. The crowd doesn’t seem to know who they are, barely responding. That’s never a good sign. Jimmy and Jey Uso come out to accept the challenge, and did we even get a blow-off to that angle?! Wait, they’re not the only team to want to answer the challenge. The Ascension, The Vaudevillains (they’d job in 30-seconds), Breezango, and Heath Slater and Rhyno come out to accept it as well. You know what this means... TAG TEAM TURMOIL AT ELIMINATION CHAMBER. When the entire division is JTTS, I guess you have to do what you have to do to make a match that means something, especially when the division has grown cold over the last month with it barely being featured on television in the build to the Royal Rumble.

- Natalya, accompanied by two hired goons, is backstage to have a chat with Daniel Bryan. Nikki Bella shows up, too. They bicker back and forth, drowning out Daniel Bryan, and it’s (eventually) announced that they’ll have a match at the Elimination Chamber. Natalya seems upset about that ruling. All she wanted was new merchandise!

- Next week, John Cena faces Randy Orton. 1,000 Times in a Lifetime!

Dean Ambrose vs. A.J. Styles:

The Main Event of the night. Dean Ambrose is the reigning Intercontinental Champion, but this is a Non-Title Match. The Miz and Maryse join the commentators for this match, having had zero presence on the show thus far and already announced for the big Main Event in 12 days. Lockup and Ambrose quickly grabs a front face-lock. They go through a series of counters and Ambrose comes off the ropes with a shoulder tackle. They trade wrist-locks until Ambrose takes Styles over with a headlock. Whip to the ropes and Styles with a shoulder tackle. Ambrose with arm drags and a slam before going back to the headlock. Ambrose sweeps the leg and turns Styles over with a Cloverleaf. He goes for the ropes, so Ambrose transitions into a crucifix cross-face. They take it to the floor, with the poor announcers table being abused further. Styles with a diving forearm for two. David Otunga’s job seems to be trolling Miz on commentary. It almost makes the match seem unimportant. Whip to the corner, Ambrose misses a charge and meets the post. Whip to the ropes and Ambrose comes back with a diving clothesline. He takes Styles over with a back drop and clotheslines him over the top rope. He climbs the ropes, and suddenly Baron Corbin makes his way to ringside, joining commentary, and now we have SEVEN PEOPLE sitting at the table.

We return from commercial, with Ambrose climbing the ropes. Styles straddles him across the turnbuckle and connects with a pump-handle into a back breaker for two. Styles with a slam and jumping knee drop for two. Styles with a jumping clothesline in the corner. MVP of this match has to be the Miz. His commentary is not just stealing the spotlight, but it’s doing a great job of promoting the upcoming Elimination Chamber better than anyone else could. Ambrose avoids another clothesline. Styles blocks Dirty Deeds, but not a swinging neck-breaker. Ambrose with forearms and a big clothesline. He sets Styles up across the top turnbuckle. Styles slips between his legs, Ambrose slips off the shoulders of Styles, and rolls him up for two. Ambrose blocks the Phenomenal Forearm, knocking Styles to the floor. Styles interrupts a tope suicida with a forearm. They go through a ridiculous number of counters to each other’s signature spots until Ambrose plants Styles with a modified suplex into a slam for a near fall. Ambrose catches Styles and goes for a side-winding slam, but Styles cradles him for two. Styles with the Ushigoroshi for two. They do another sequence of counters with pin attempts. Styles with the Pele and Ambrose bounces off the ropes with the Lunatic Lariat. Styles rolls to the floor, and Ambrose follows with the top rope elbow. Corbin and Miz start brawling at ringside, distracting the referee, so Ambrose knocks Corbin over the table with a tope suicida and wipes out the Miz. Styles catches him back in the ring with a boot, and the Styles Clash finishes at 15:08 (shown). ***1/4 Good match, but the commentary definitely took away from it for the sake of selling the network special next Sunday. Things started slow, but the last 5-minutes took an average match and made it pretty good (for television).

Final Thoughts: With the Royal Rumble in the rear-view mirror, it’s time that the focus is more about showcasing the entire roster instead of the select few deemed important enough for a cross-brand PPV. The Elimination Chamber is a short-term solution to reshuffle the big players, but the undercard is where all the focus was on this week. The Tag Team Division is desperately in need of revival (no pun intended). The women clearly have direction, with the short-term being Lynch/James and Bliss/Naomi. Who knows where things go for Natalya and Nikki after Elimination Chamber. Apollo Crews and Dolph Ziggler continue to tease having a match down the line, but it’s a matter of when and will the crowd care. With so much happening, there’s a lot to be unsure about since all the low-key players haven’t been featured well since TLC. The quality of the show is there, but crowd responses could lead to poor decisions in the not-so-distant future.

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