WWE SmackDown 2/14/17 Review: MASTER & SERVENT
This past Tuesday’s episode of SmackDown Live was the first after Elimination Chamber, the last SmackDown branded PPV before WrestleMania 33. Including this episode, the brand had seven shows to bridge the gap leading up to the biggest event of the year. I’m happy to say that they delivered! At the moment, everyone is in agreement that SmackDown is the superior of the two brands, and this week, they continued to show why. (I’d like to add for the record that I don’t find Raw “horrible” like some viewers seem to, but I do agree that SmackDown is the better show in terms of providing entertainment, which is the main point of both.)
The show started off with Bray Wyatt receiving a babyface reaction from the crowd as he delivered a promo declaring the arrival of the “Era of Wyatt”. I must say, oh my, does that belt look at home on him or what? I have been waiting on this moment for a while and hope he keeps that belt until at least Summer Slam. Triple H said on his “Thy Kingdom Come” documentary that the man makes the title, and not the other way around. That feels most true in this situation. Bray having the belt makes the title feel like it has a different prestige than what AJ or Cena brought to it. There’s something unique about Bray (something we obviously all know), but I think that uniqueness has also transferred over to the WWE Championship. Perhaps it’s because, despite the talent that he so obviously had, we saw him get buried for two and a half years straight, only to begin rising out of that in November, when he pinned Roman Reigns clean to win the Survivor Series match. Two weeks later, I was there live in Dallas at TLC when he and Orton won the tag titles. I thought I was proud in that moment. Then a month later, in the Royal Rumble match, he not only made it to the final three, but was a part of one of the most memorable moments of the match, when he, Orton and Luke Harper told that story of their family partially imploding. Now, two weeks after that, he’s won the WWE Championship in a great Elimination Chamber match where he eliminated both John Cena AND AJ Styles, one being the face of the company for the past 12 years and the other being, quite possibly, the best professional wrestler in the world still active. THAT IS HOW YOU BOOK A CLIMB TO THE TOP!!! On Bray Wyatt, the WWE Championship feels like a title that you get not because you look like you could be a model, or just because you’re a big name in the business. It feels like a title you get because you are special, which in turn makes the title special.
Now, back to SmackDown, John Cena came to the ring to congratulate Bray on his victory (of course he did) and to hype up their match later that night for the title, as he was due a rematch. At first glance, I was surprised by this, but then had to remember that SmackDown doesn’t have any PPV’s before Mania to give Cena his rematch on. AJ Styles then came down to the ring to remind everyone that he too was owed a one-on-one rematch with the title, and he wanted his before Cena since he lost the title before Cena. Daniel Bryan’s music hit and he announced a triple threat match later that night for the title. One way this could’ve been done differently to avoid any confusion, which I’ll bring up later, would’ve been to have Bray face and beat Cena clean that night, and have him give AJ his rematch one-on-one vs Bray next week. This could be in part to me being selfish and just wanting to see Bray vs AJ because I think it could be a great match.
Next, our first match of the night saw American Alpha defeating the Ascension. Personally, I love American Alpha and what they can do in the ring, but maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Let me explain. We already know that the Alphas are a great tag team. The crowd already has an investment in them because of not only their talent, but watching them pull off come-from-behind victories and work to get the Tag Team Championships. It’s safe to say that they’re set. However, besides maybe the Usos, they are the only team that is set and over with the crowd. All the other teams do is lose to the Alphas. I’m not saying they have to start losing, but maybe have them wrestle a tad bit less so that other teams can start getting wins and establish themselves.
After the match, the Usos cut a good promo on the from the safety of the titantron. I for one LOVE the Usos as heels and hope they hold the Tag Team Championships at least once with these personas. I want them to win it at WrestleMania, in fact. The promo they cut, as well as the Alphas’ reaction make it clear that this is where they’re going next with the rivalry. I think they should hold off and have the match at WrestleMania, with the Usos going over. However, it they do want to have the match before then, have the Usos go over, and then have the rematch at Mania in a ladder match, where the Usos retain. That way they don’t have to have a third 8-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship in a row, but they can still do a ladder match if they want.
In the next segment, Dean Ambrose, who’d been going around seeking out Baron Corbin, bumped into Carmella and James Ellsworth. After pretty much calling Ellsworth a cuck, Ambrose was granted a match with him by Daniel Bryan. Fast forward past some promotional stuff and the couple is in the ring. When Ambrose music hit, he didn’t come out, and anyone who’d been watching WWE for even a few months knew what this meant. After a few moments, sure enough, a beaten-up Ambrose was dragged from the back to the stage by Baron Corbin, who just dumped him like he was dead weight. After Ambrose put up a bit of a fight, Baron gave him the Deep Six through a table near the tech area that made some sparks shoot up and that was the end of that. I’m excited to see that Corbin is seemingly getting a one-on-one shot at the IC Title at WrestleMania because, whether he wins (I’m currently on the fence about the matter), it is yet another example of what can happen when you book a climb the right way. In his debut, Corbin won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32. Now, a year later, he’s been booked properly and has worked hard to make the booking mean something when he goes out there and acts out the script, and will probably be in the IC Title match at WrestleMania 33 for his efforts.
I do want to comment on James Ellsworth and Carmella, mainly Ellsworth, though. What is he doing? It feels like WWE rushed into signing him because of his initial buzz, but now have nothing for him to do, so they just gave him this. I think the best course of action here would be to put him in NXT and have him come up with a more serious gimmick from scratch. You don’t even have to do it in NXT. He’s already on the main roster, so why not do it there? It just feels like a waste of a contract. And Carmella’s a wrestler, so either have her wrestle, or just take her off TV until someone is available to feud with her.
Next up, Nikki Bella and Natalya started a brawl in Daniel Bryan’s office that resulted in him making a Falls Count Anywhere match for next week between the two. This feud has been built properly and next week’s match should end it. Natalya should go over because Nikki doesn’t need the win and is rumored to be retiring after Mania. Natalya can take the win and propel herself towards a championship feud sometime after Mania if she is kept strong up until then.
Mickie James defeated Becky Lynch in the second match on this week’s card after feigning an injury. I figured she would win, as typical WWE booking logic dictates that if a non-title feud that had a PPV match has a rematch on the very next episode of Raw or SmackDown, then Sunday’s loser will win. Personally, this feud doesn’t really do anything for me and I hope that these two end it with the tie-breaker and then move on to something else. Maybe it’s that I find it hard to buy into Mickie’s motivations, but I find it hard to care about this feud.
The next segment was a talking segment where it was revealed that Naomi injured her left leg or knee in her championship-winning effort against Alexa Bliss on Sunday. From what I understand, the injury isn’t serious and won’t keep her out long, which is why she didn’t have to relinquish the title. Alexa Bliss interrupted the new champ to mock her injury and demand her rematch for next week. I don’t anticipate Naomi dropping the title before or at WrestleMania. So, the fact that they’re getting Bliss’ rematch out of the way before the big show says to me that either it won’t be defended at Mania, or Naomi will defend and probably defeat someone besides the previous champion. I have heard that Tamina Snuka will be debuting on the blue brand soon, so it could be her. If not, I’d put my money on Mickie James or Becky Lynch.
Finally, we got to our main event, the Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship. The action got underway before the match did, as when Bray blew out his lantern to turn the arena lights on, Luke Harper was standing behind him. Harper putting a quick beating on his former brother before being escorted out by referees. We came back from commercial to find Bray still on the floor from the attack, with Styles and Cena having started the match without him. It ended up being a really good match. The WWE still need to work on their kicking-out-of-finishers problem, but it didn’t taint the match too much. It was still PPV quality on free TV. Wyatt ended up retaining by pinning Cena after a Sister Abigail. Remember at the beginning of the article when I mentioned confusion that could be created from this match? Well, here it is. Would it be fair to assume that AJ Styles will get a one-on-one rematch since that’s what he was supposed to get anyway, and he didn’t get pinned in this match. On the other hand, does this count as Cena’s rematch, because I thought it strictly had to be one-on-one to count (example: Randy Orton waiting more than a year to get his one-on-one rematch after WrestleMania 30, but getting two multi-man matches for the title before then)?
Whatever is the case, post-match we saw Randy Orton come out and proclaim that as long as Bray Wyatt was the champion, he would not invoke the WrestleMania main event opportunity he earned at the Royal Rumble. THIS is why SmackDown is the must-see brand. Where the hell are they going with this? I have no idea, but I want to watch it play out as it happens, so I have to watch the show every week. The obvious answer is that Randy will turn on Bray before Mania and that they will indeed have their match, but there are other possibilities. Luke Harper could face Bray for the title at Mania. AJ Styles could turn face and go for it. Nakamura could be called up and make the challenge his first night (highly unlikely). Either way, you have to watch to find out, and that’s what good writing does: it makes you want to find out.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought of the show and where you think these angles are going.