- Last week on Smackdown Live, it was the go-home show for TLC... Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt defeated American Alpha for the #1 Contenders spot to the Tag Team Championship... A.J. Styles finally had enough of James Ellsworth and gave him a Styles Clash from the ring steps to the arena floor... Carmella promised to knock Nikki Bella’s "Bella Twins" so hard with a chair that they’ll pop out of her back... Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss did a contract signing and a table was broken... Dolph Ziggler and Kalisto battled the Miz and Baron Corbin and nothing was settled with TLC 5 days away... Luke Harper failed to send Kane back to hell, but did get a decent match out of him...
- Smackdown Episode #903 is presented live from the Toyota Center in Houston, TX, with Mauro Ranallo, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, David Otunga, and Tom Phillips hanging around ringside for various duties that revolve around telling stories and pushing social media on everyone. We’re 48 hours removed from TLC, and the only thing advertised ahead of time is a World Championship Match between A.J. Styles and James Ellsworth.
- A.J. Styles comes out to open the show, sporting a walking cast on his left ankle (there was legit concern of a minor injury that happened during the TLC Match). Styles wants to address the elephant in the room... the torn tights, and the exposing of his buttocks. "Don’t it look good?" He calls people a bunch of gullible geeks for thinking he was referring to his walking cast. Styles announces he is not medically cleared to defend the WWE Title tonight. James Ellsworth comes out to a mixed response, ready to dispute the announcement. Ellsworth basically calls him a coward for trying to avoid defending the title, rubbing in that he has 3 victories over Styles. Delusional Ellsworth is a great idea. Styles says if he believes any of what he says, he must be drinking his own "chin-and-tonic." Styles warns him that Ambrose, unlike himself, will not stop beating on him until his face is caved in like his chin. Dean Ambrose comes out now. He makes a casual approach to the ring, hits Ellsworth with Dirty Deeds, and casually walks away, with Styles laughing his ass off at ringside. Indeed JBL, that was awesome.
- Dasha Fuentes interviews Kalisto about his upcoming rematch against Baron Corbin. Her delivery was as poor as you can get. Kalisto issues a warning to Corbin: Speed kills. Good to know.
- The next scheduled match is Natalya vs. Carmella, all based on Carmella throwing the accusation that Nattie was behind the attack of Nikki Bella at Survivor Series. Much like most segments involving Carmella, the match never actually starts, but does involve some physicality. I guess she has a punch-able face when it comes to the other women. Carmella makes a Tonya Harding reference to describe Natalya’s alleged gloating. Is that seriously still a relevant excuse for the modern audience? Natalya finally has enough of Carmella’s trash-talking and chases her backstage after a brief flurry of offense. She runs into Nikki Bella, who looks a bit... I don’t know. Is she going for angry? Disappointed? Constipated? Nattie pleads her case, but Nikki doesn’t want to hear any of it and storms off. They’re making it obvious that Natalya really didn’t do it, otherwise they wouldn’t constantly slap us in the face saying it was her. Maybe Eva Marie makes a triumphant return?
- Dasha Fuentes interviews Baron Corbin and my GOD, someone please fire her. Is her awkward dialogue intended, or is she really this bad? If she’s really this bad, why do they insist on putting her on television (and don’t bother answering "her looks", it was rhetorical).
- The Miz and Maryse are standing by for the latest edition of Miz-TV. He gloats about putting Dolph Ziggler in his rear-view mirror and introduces his guest, Dean Ambrose. Had Ambrose come out, give Miz Dirty Deeds, and casually leave again, it would’ve been the greatest follow up to the segment earlier, but instead, he sits down for an actual interview. Ambrose tries to play it cool when it comes to the James Ellsworth situation. Ambrose quickly starts losing his cool at the constant antagonizing from the Miz, so Miz hides behind his wife’s back to offer Ambrose the 1st-ever Miz Participation Award... and the crowd chants "You Deserve It." "You may not have won, but you tried." Daniel Bryan comes out to calm things down... and announce Miz vs. Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Title. Tonight. Miz is furious.
- John Cena hosts SNL this Saturday Night!
- Alexa Bliss comes out for her Championship Celebration. I can’t believe I didn’t point this out before, but all the Championships on the Smackdown "Brand" are held by heels (Styles, Wyatt and Orton, Bliss, and the Miz). "Ding dong, the witch is champ." Enough with the Fairy Tale quotes. "This little bitch runs the Smackdown Women’s Division." That’s better. Becky quickly interrupts and continues to insist on calling her "Lexi." Becky wants her rematch now, but that isn’t going to happen.
We return from commercial break with Miz doing his impersonation of Daniel Bryan. He hits a pair of running dropkicks in the corner, followed by the Awesome Clothesline. Miz sets up for the double axe-handle, but Ambrose greets him with a boot to the chest. Whip to the ropes and Ambrose with a diving clothesline. He charges into the corner with a forearm and takes Miz down with a bulldog. La Magistral cradle for two. Ambrose counters the Skull Crushing Finale, and Miz counters Dirty Deeds. Miz wraps the leg in the ropes and hits a running dropkick to the knee. Miz works the knee, but Ambrose avoids a Figure-Four. Miz with the shin breaker and smashes both knees into the canvas. Ambrose gets an elbow up on a charge. Miz counters a missile dropkick and slaps on the Figure-Four, but Ambrose is close enough to the ropes to force a break. Ambrose pulls the ropes down on a charge and follows with a limp version of tope suicida. Back inside, a series of counters leads to a roll-up from Ambrose for two. Miz with a DDT for two. Miz with the Yes-Kicks. Ambrose ducks the roundhouse and rolls him up for two. Lunatic Lariat turns Miz inside out. Maryse straddles Ambrose across the top rope and Miz hits the Busaiku Knee for a near fall. James Ellsworth decides to wander down to ringside and dispute what happened. The referee misses Ambrose having Miz locked in a cradle. Ambrose sees Ellsworth, and the distraction allows Miz to hit the Skull Crushing Finale to retain at 10:00 (shown). *** Good match, and perfectly acceptable TV Main Event. I don’t find it too logical for Ambrose to casually accept an IC Title shot, but they have 7 or 8 weeks until the Royal Rumble, so we need to stretch for time.
- This week’s Talking Smack featured segment was what appears to be the breakup of "Beauty and the Man-Beast." Slater talks about their loss to the Wyatt Family and trying to regain their standing in the tag team division. Rhyno wasn’t aware he was going to be the only one in the ring tonight. Slater says he won the titles, but Rhyno reminds everyone he hit the Gore to set him up for the cover. Slater says he didn’t know they were keeping score, and actually points out Rhyno lost the titles for them, if you want to go there.
Final Thoughts: Mostly a filler episode, with so much time between big shows. The Wyatt Family seem poised for a long run with the belts (or at least long enough to get to WrestleMania), and they teased the Hype Bros might be the next challengers. The Styles-Ambrose-Ellsworth saga is still unresolved, although it feels like they’re shifting the focus on Ambrose eventually doing what Styles suggested and that’s pummel Ellsworth until he’s dust. They continue to protect Baron Corbin, and Daniel Bryan still has it out for the Miz. Not a heck of a lot moved in new directions, but again, every segment served a purpose and there wasn’t worthless filler like "The Tussle for Texas" or whatever the heck was happening on Raw.