Commentators: Mauro Ranallo, Jerry Lawler, & Byron Saxton
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
This week’s show opens with a clip of Roman Reigns’ beatdown of Triple H this past Monday on RAW and wouldn’t you know it it’s followed up immediately by a promo from Reigns himself. Reigns once again makes a ‘normal’ entrance from the stage instead of coming through the crowd which I’m all for. Now all he needs to do is ditch the gear and the theme song and maybe he can finally forge his own identity. The crowd supposedly chants for Reigns but the camera cuts to a random guy texting instead of excited fans so I’m pretty sure at least part of that is post-production sweetening. Reigns says that Triple H believes in money, power, and respect while he believes in the ‘big fight’ as he showed on Monday. Reigns goes on to say that he’s going to be hanging out week after week until WrestleMania where he will destroy Triple H and once again become WWE World Heavyweight Champion and if Triple H is smart he’ll ‘believe that’. Weak ass nonsense from a guy who needs all the momentum he can get heading into the main event of the biggest show of the year.
After Ranallo and the gang talk over footage of the A.J. Styles/Chris Jericho feud we cut to Renee Young who’s standing by with The Phenomenal One himself. Styles starts talking about Jericho but is immediately interrupted by his opponent later tonight, Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens. Owens says Styles sounds like Sami Zayn in that they’re both crybabies and Styles retorts by saying Owens reminds him of Jericho and he gets to shut his mouth tonight. Owens concludes by saying Styles and Young both have the same haircut and walks off. Brilliant last line from Owens, nice continued build to his match against Zayn. Styles once again didn’t get to say much. He’s not that bad of a promo.
Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz
Since we’re in Ohio this week these two home state boys are trotted out to face each other for what feels like the millionth time. I don’t really care about this match, I don’t know if it’s obvious. Ziggler is in control until we near the commercial break then Miz takes over with a hammer throw into the corner that looked like it could’ve caved in Ziggler’s chest. Jeeeeesus. Ziggler and Miz trade near-falls, with the latter countering the former’s Fameasser attempt with a roll-up pretty nicely, but eventually Ziggler comes out on top with a weak Superkick that connected more with Miz’s shoulder than the chin. It was fine I guess but my apathy levels with these two are super high.(7:11 shown)
Final Rating: **
Two RAW clips play out; first Ryback challenges Kalisto for the United States Championship at WrestleMania (which Kalisto accepts via WWE.com interview with Michael Cole), then we go to the segment where Mick Foley gifted Dean Ambrose with his barbed-wire baseball bat. A perfect segue into…
Ambrose Comes Home, Part 1
Ambrose is from Cincinatti, where SmackDown takes place this week, so this is a homecoming for him. Standing on the outskirts of the city Ambrose talks about how tough it was growing up on these streets and how he can’t wait to pass on what he learned to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania because ‘nothing hurts like an education’. School system must suck in Cincy.
Goldust vs. Bubba Ray Dudley
Hey, I didn’t expect this match to be a thing. Cool. D-Von Dudley pulls out a table to distract Goldust and allow Bubba to hit him from behind, then Bubba launches into full-on Bully Ray mode by constantly trash talking Goldust as he hammers him. Goldust decks Bubba during the latter’s Dusty Rhodes-style jab combo and mounts a comeback, concluding with a bulldog for a 2-count. Bubba bails to the floor and Goldust chases him, stopping an attempted D-Von attack in the process. Goldust heads back into the ring and Bubba straights punts his head off his shoulders and covers him for the victory. Not a lot of meat to this one but Bubba’s heel work was tremendous here. He could be killing it as a singles competitor right now if the whole Dudley Boys thing wasn’t so important to WWE.(3:24)
Final Rating: **1/2
After the match The Dudley Boys double-team Goldust until Goldust’s would-be partner R-Truth tries to make the save. It’s R-Truth though so it doesn’t last long but luckily out come The Usos to make the big save instead. The Dudleys dodge a double superkick and bail to the floor to continue hype for their upcoming match at WrestleMania.
Face to Face to Face
WWE Divas Champion Charlotte makes her way out to the ring with Ric Flair. Charlotte says she’s known her upcoming WrestleMania opponents, Sasha Banks and Becky, almost her whole adult life and wouldn’t be here without them and asks them to accept her invitation to come to the ring. Becky makes her way out first, smoke entrance and everything. Charlotte says she knew she could count on Becky, Becky retorts by saying Charlotte can count on her taking her arm and the Divas Championship at WrestleMania. Snap. Banks makes her way out next because she’s on her own time and Charlotte doesn’t get to tell her when to show up. Charlotte brings up the ‘Horsewomen’ and their past in NXT and apologizes…for thinking Banks and Becky were ever worth being called Horsewomen! OH NO SHE DID NOT. Becky vows once again to be champ, Banks reminds both ladies that she’s the one who ended Charlotte’s reign as NXT Women’s Champion and has been undefeated since coming to the main roster so Becky should get to the back of line since she’s failed already. Becky tells Banks that it takes more than an ego and dollar store jewellery to be a Boss and Banks posts up by shoving her. Charlotte laughs so they beat her up instead to end the segment. I liked where they were going with this one but the line delivery fell flat in spots and it didn’t have the oomph I think they were going for; still though their triple threat match at WrestleMania has all the potential to be kick and ass.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day make their way out to the ring carrying garbage bags. They plug their Booty-O’s merch then Big E cuts into an faux-angry generic wrestling promo on The League of Nations to hype their WrestleMania match. Kofi Kingston ignores the outburst and says The League of Nations are four bags of ‘hot garbage’. They proceed to kick each bag out of the ring after doing an impression of each LoN member. They try to start a ‘New Day Rocks’ chant but the music of The League of Nations interrupt. Apparently there's a match actually happening.
Kofi Kingston vs. King Barrett
Kingston is all offense, including a one man Unicorn Stampede, until the other LoN members distract him leaving him open to a big boot from Barrett. Soon enough both factions get involved, climbing aprons and brawling and all sorts of shenanigans until Kingston rolls Barrett up with a handful of tights, mirroring Woods’ win on RAW, for the victory. Another perfectly serviceable thing that happened on a serviceable episode of SmackDown. (3:54 shown)
Final Rating: **
Ambrose Comes Home, Part 2
Ambrose is at Madonna’s Bar and Grill, which is decked out in St. Patrick’s Day decorations. Despite being of Irish descent I don’t drink so I totally forgot that was Thursday. Ambrose says that the only reason to fight is for pride and promises to bring his Cincy upbringing with him to WrestleMania where Lesnar will find out what pain truly is. These two segments aren’t really accomplishing anything but I respect Ambrose showing a local Cincinnati establishment some love.
This week’s RAW Rebound focuses on the tiff between Shane McMahon and The Undertaker as they head toward their Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence in 2016. I blame the injury plague WWE has been dealing with.
Cut to the arena where The Social Outcasts are hanging out on the ring apron. Bo Dallas says they’re going to be the first team to win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal together but Heath Slater, Adam Rose, and Curtis Axel all want to win it themselves and they start arguing until Dean Ambrose comes out with a kendo stick to break it up. He belts all four members of the faction then gets on the mic and sarcastically asks if they were done and calls out Lesnar for next week’s SmackDown. Fair enough.
A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens
Ranallo and company go through the Styles/Jericho feud again just in case people forgot already while watching this week’s episode. I’m not into this storyline at all, as I could’ve sworn those two already had their thing and it was nice. Stretching it out to add a match atWrestleMania by making them a team for a cup of coffee was totally unnecessary.
The match starts with Styles on the offensive until his springboard attempt is countered by a fireman’s carry rib breaker and senton. That’s one way to squash someone’s momentum, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down. Owens tries for another senton, eats a pair of knees instead and Owens makes sure to yell at Ranallo for absolutely no reason because he’s the best. Styles hits a splash on the floor then hits a fireman’s carry neckbreaker, which Ranallo names as the Ushigorishi. Lawler can’t say the word and makes fun of Ranallo because he himself is done and Ranallo namedrops the move’s originator, New Japan star Hirooki Goto, to no effect because Lawler only watches WWE and old Memphis tapes. Absolutely amazing moment from Ranallo though, loved him snapping back into his AXS TV New Japan mode. Owens hits a package Blue Thunder Bomb for a two-count next and Ranallo says he thought it was gonna be the Package Piledriver, Owens’ old finisher from the indies. Dude is on aroll with the smark crowd tonight. Styles counters a Pop-Up Powerbomb attempt with a Pele Kick and heads to the top where the two exchange headbutts jockeying for position. Owens falls and Styles moves to the apron to set up the springboard forearm but out comes Chris Jericho to the stage for a distraction. Owens takes advantage and belts Styles with the boot, following up with the Pop-Up Powerbomb for the victory. Kind of a lame finish because I’m not into that particular feud but this was match was great otherwise. Ranallo throwing down his NJPW and non-WWE knowledge to the befuddlement of his commentary team was tremendous. (8:04 shown)
Final Rating: ***
Jericho picks at the carcass of Styles after the match, delivering a Codebreaker and mockingly chanting “A.J. Styles!” at the fallen Phenomenal One as the episode concludes. Side note Colony, the show that follows SmackDown here in the United States, is pretty awesome and I hope enough people watched it for a second season to happen. Burn Notice got like three thousand seasons, Colonydeserves at least two. But I digress.
THE SMACKDOWN RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Mauro Ranallo. Week after week he earns his new spot among WWE’s commentary team by making each match sound important and focusing on the action. His call of the main event was beautiful and elevated a match that was already good into something much…gooder. Wait that isn’t a word.
Least Entertaining: The Miz and Dolph Ziggler wrestling yet another match against one another. Ship has sailed, guys.
Match of the Night: A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens
Summary: Styles/Owens was really good, the rest of it was merely passable to okay. The Styles/Jericho story was the main focus and if you’re into that feud I’m sure it worked but I’m not so I didn’t care. Couple that with some droll matches and it’s most definitely a fast forward to the main event kind-of show.