Smackdown Thoughts- Don't Fuck With John Cena, He's A Bad, Bad Man
-A happy Australia Day to everyone out there! Not getting involved with the politics of calling it any other name, just enjoy the public holiday and have a few drinks, you'll be right.
-As is becoming standard, coming to you via tape delay is my blog post on this week's Smackdown Live, the go-home show for the Royal Rumble PPV. I watched it yesterday, but it was a manic day with various things to do to get organised for the start back at work, and even this post is coming to you during my break from the study and lesson planning.
-We start off hot with a match that has been promoted for the past week, the battle of Wyatt Family members Randy Orton and Luke Harper. A quick little video reminds the viewers how we got to this point, right from Orton throwing up his hands and saying, "If you can't beat them, join them."
-The match is extremely well worked. Harper hits a devastating looking big boot on Orton in a great highlight. Harper has a great ability to make his offence look like it hurts like hell, but is actually safe (notwithstanding the suplex on a very fragile Daniel Bryan which was his last ever match).
-Orton's had more spectacular RKOs, but damn, you have to be impressed with the man's fluidity and timing. hitting the RKO perfectly off Harper's discus clothesline attempt. I don't want to read too much into the post-match Sister Abigail just yet- the Wyatt Family has a weird relationship. Luke Harper could very well be doing Bray's bidding in the Rumble match.
-Mickie James is back! With her old music! I know she had it as a heel before, but I still don't think it suits this vicious bitter veteran persona she's going for. Anyway, as all great heels should have, Mickie's complaints actually have a decent basis in reality. WWE have acted like it was all bra and panties and pudding matches until the Four Horsewomen came along, but I fondly remember Trish, Lita, Mickie, Melina, Victoria, Beth Phoenix, among others, putting on highly athletic and entertaining matches. And if you think Melina is an odd inclusion in that list, go watch her match with Mickie at Backlash 2007. Thank me later.
-Mickie is really overacting in this segment, and it's dragging on a bit too long... but then Becky came out and things got a lot more interesting. I like that they had Mickie and Alexa stand tall for the second week in a row. Part of WWE's 50/50 booking philosophy means that the babyface usually stands tall the week after they're down, and it hurts the drama of the feud. Becky's got an uphill battle to climb if she wants to stop Mickie and Alexa. And look at that, I'm interested in seeing her overcome her struggle. Brilliant.
-I have to admit, I laughed at the idea that James Ellsworth's only clothes are his wrestling attire, as well as Ellsworth Presley. Sue me.
-Again, I like the idea of qualifying matches, but it's a bit of "too little, too late" with this battle royal. I do like the idea that it's Titus O'Neil level scrubs in the match, because Titus was the only one who couldn't just declare himself part of the Rumble in the clusterfuck segment on Raw. So at least that's some consistency. Mojo shows a serious side and gets a Rumble spot. He'll probably get dumped out by Goldberg or Lesnar, but good for him! Also, it continues to make me sad that Tyler Breeze is positioned on Smackdown as a Titus level scrub. I watched him for years in NXT, he deserves so much better.
-Nikki and Nattie brawl again in a quick segment. Keeps the feud alive and spotlighted, but I'm ready for the match now. Not in a "I can't wait to see it" way, more in a "let's get this over with" way.
-I like AJ Styles attacking the system, complaining about the Rumble poster and Cena's Today Show segment where the hosts didn't know who AJ was. Slight issue that they seem to be building towards AJ vs. Shane for Mania, which was hammered home further later on Talking Smack, but they're the type of things that AJ, as the WWE champ, should be pissed about.
-Cena with the strong rebuttal! It seems like WWE are just kind of rolling with the crowd preferring AJ over Cena (for the most part), as Johnny Boy is showing an edge in his promos that we haven't seen for a long time. This is probably as close as we're ever getting to a heel Cena, folks. His line of "I wasn't built for the indies" carried an undertone of arrogance that is sure to piss a segment of the audience off.
-Ziggler beats Kalisto in record time, and it's one of those moments where Mauro Ranallo missed his shot. He should have put over that springboard into the super kick as a big moment, "Mama Mia"s and everything, but it was called like a regular superkick. Just a little touch that would have made Ziggler look more dangerous, and somewhat protected Kalisto by emphasising the overt impact of that particular counter, rather than just "Superkick! Ziggler beats Kalisto!"
-On that note, I feel bad for Mauro. He started his WWE run with Jerry Lawler, and Lawler actually seemed rejuvenated, they had good chemistry. Then, Mauro called the CWC with Daniel Bryan and did very well. Now, he's saddled with the shit stain Otunga and the barely tolerable JBL. Sure, he has Graves and Aries on 205 Live, and that's a great team, but 205 Live isn't seen by half the audience that Smackdown is.
-Nice integration of the Nikki vs. Nattie storyline into Naomi's return, and Alexa coming out to diss Naomi. Then you add the Mickie vs. Becky feud that's heating up. and we have six Smackdown women with issues. Makes sense that a six women tag is now booked for the Rumble, but hang on, Smackdown are hosting the Elimination Chamber in a couple of weeks, and aren't there six people in those matches too?
-Ambrose and Miz delivered a decent main event for Smackdown, nothing mind blowing, but it was alright. I may be unfairly comparing it to Ambrose vs. Rollins from Summerslam, which was easily the best incarnation of the Lumberjack match I've ever seen. Anyway, it was a creative means to get the obligatory show closing brawl before the Royal Rumble. Can anyone explain why the match wasn't thrown out once we had 15 or so lumberjacks brawling in the ring?
Clear highlight of this show was the Cena vs. Styles verbal showdown. Despite being a match we saw several times in 2016, it still carries the gravitas of a massive match for the Royal Rumble PPV, which is quite a feat. I'm expecting Cena to tie the record to get his 16th world title, but I would love to be proven wrong and would love to see AJ Styles walk into Mania as WWE Champion. Wishful thinking though.
Stay with me over the weekend as I cover 205 Live, NXT, NXT Takeover San Antonio, and UFC Fight Night in Denver. Also, I hope to write a blog covering the new ownership of the UFC, and the effect it has had on the product.
Until next time, take care.