WWE SmackDown Live aired a ... taped ... show from Glasgow, Scotland last night (Nov. 8, 2016), with a show all about building toward Survivor Series in two weeks. For full results and the live blog, click here.
An Unlikely Savior
Shane McMahon will be the fifth and final member of the SmackDown Live men's team at Survivor Series.
The end result is, well ... but the way they got there was the thread of last night's episode. The show began with AJ Styles berating the Glasgow crowd and calling the events of last week a "travesty." But he deeply, truly, wants to shut Raw up. He called out the SmackDown Live men's team, or, rather, was about to begin doing so when Baron Corbin's music interrupted.
Baron Corbin, oddly enough, was the key to the whole show.
After the new Wyatt Family of Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Randy Orton came out, Dean Ambrose appeared last—but with a surprise. Styles had claimed there was no way that SmackDown Live would cough up the money to fly out that "embarrassment to humanity" James Ellsworth. Unfortunately for the WWE World Champion, Ambrose had invited The Man With Two Hands to be his guest in Scotland.
Styles was understandably annoyed, but felt he was still in a confident position as the ring had five heels (including himself) and only two faces present.
Immediately upon saying that, Corbin rolled out of the ring and walked off. Perfect.
Still the numbers didn't look great for the faces. Then Commissioner Shane appeared, tried to rah-rah the collected troops, and then made a six-man tag for later in the show to get some of the collective aggression out of the way—much like the fatal five-way match his sister Stephanie made on Monday.
Oh, and Ellsworth whispered into his ear that he should be the SmackDown Live men's team mascot at Survivor Series, which Shane agreed with. (The look on both Ambrose and Style's faces were delightful.)
They're starting to lay it on a bit thick with Ellsworth, but hopefully he continues to serve as a narrative device.
Orton stood stone-faced, crossing his arms, the whole time.
Backstage, Shane caught up with Corbin, who had no interest in being on a team with Ambrose and Ellsworth versus the Wyatt Family. So instead, Shane put him in a match with the returning Kalisto, who was building a heated rivalry with the Lone Wolf before being laid up with injury.
Instead of Corbin, the commissioner and General Manager Daniel Bryan put Kane into the six-man tag. Kane made it very clear to Ellsworth to stay out of the way, saying "don't tag yourself in."
When Corbin and Kalisto were set to square off later, Corbin jumped the gun, mauling the returning luchador. Unfortunately for the Lone Wolf, he slipped on the apron, damaging his knee (in story), which Kalisto pounced upon—dropkicking it into the ring steps and then continuing his targeted assault with a splash off the top rope onto Corbin's leg.
Corbin's injury meant that he would be forced off the Survivor Series team, leaving Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon in a pickle—with Shane giving Bryan the final say.
The ... main event? ... six-man tag was your standard fare, other than the fact that the Glasgow crowd desperately wanted to see James Ellsworth tagged into the match. (At one point Kane turned to him and did the throat slitting gesture, suggesting that was clearly not going to happen.)
Luke Harper clearly doesn't trust Randy Orton, and they had multiple incidents throughout the match when Orton tagged himself in. Wyatt seems unconcerned with questions about the loyalty of his new pupil, however. Harper was pulled out of the match when he brawled with Kane to the back, leaving the match a two-on-two contest.
Ambrose's hot tag segment earlier in the match was notably impressive: the combination running bulldog / clothesline was a neat touch, and his energy seemed up a notch or two. But the power of Wyatt and Orton was too much, and he found himself in a bad way.
Finally, at long last, Ambrose got the hot tag to Ellsworth (which the crowd had been absolutely baying for), who began tuning up on the band on a prone Bray Wyatt. But The Eater of Worlds was merely setting a trap, easily dodging No Chin Music, hitting Sister Abigail, and pinning Ellsworth 1-2-3.
JBL called the whole thing "beyond stupid" on commentary.
Ambrose went to protect his friend, but the heels quickly surrounded him and looked ready to lay a beating.
But Shane ran out to make the save, noting that they were teammates and couldn't tear each other apart before Survivor Series. The situation was barely under control when "Flight of the Valkyries" hit to an enormous ovation.
Bryan finally came out and announced that of all the available talent to choose, he selected the commissioner to be the final man—who initially demurred but eventually responded in the affirmative with a "YES" gesture, while the crowd exploded in celebration.
(It's more than a little strange that Bryan was publicly mocking using Attitude Era stars in recent weeks on Talking Smack, only to put Shane on the team. Seriously, this show has been really good about not making head-splitting contradictions of this sort.)
And Still ... With a Twist
The "they're calling something the main event that isn't the main event" gripes will certainly be heard, but this was a terrific SmackDown Live Women's Championship match between Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss.
After an early exchange of pinfall attempts, Bliss looked back at her foe with absolute menace in her eyes. She clearly meant business.
Alexa's gameplan was clear once she threw the champion shoulder first into the ringpost, targeting the left shoulder, arm, and fingers (!) of Lynch. Becky managed just to fight through the pain, at one point BARELY pulling Bliss up for a deadlift powerbomb. Despite Bliss' repeated shots to the Lynch's face, the champion was able to hit the move for a close near fall.
But still Becky was battered by the ruthless challenger, who at one point mocked the burgeoning "Let's Go Becky" chants directly into the hard cam.
Alexa Bliss is a serious talent.
The finish came when Lynch attempted a move off the top rope, Lynch countered with knees up and immediately used an O'Connor Roll. She only got two, and Bliss also got two when she rolled through. But once the champion kicked out, she found herself in an advantageous position, and locked Bliss into the Disarmer. The challenger briefly grabbed the bottom rope before being pulled toward the center of the ring, but Bliss clearly managed to put her foot on the bottom rope—which the referee, out of position (and JBL lambasted him for this), failed to recognize. Bliss tapped out, but obviously the controversy here means this story is far from done.
It is a bit odd that she didn't verbally complain to the referee that she had her foot on the rope, but she was selling such extreme pain in her arm that it makes sense that even she didn't realize the false submission.
Twice now Bliss has been involved in extremely impressive women's championship feuds (and obviously this one is not over). Though this one has certainly borrowed many of the same notes as her NXT feud with Bayley, there are enough added wrinkles to her struggle with Becky to keep the story fresh.
Bliss' performance in both feuds, particularly on the mic, has been nothing short of exceptional. When she was first drafted to SmackDown Live, those familiar with her work knew that if given time to talk, she'd excel. When her time as champion finally comes, that skill set will serve her very, very well.
All the rest
Naomi defeated Natalya with a small package while Nikki Bella sat on commentary. Unsurprisingly, Carmella came down the ramp, and Survivor Series team coach Natalya got in the way of the two, including blowing a gym whistle (quite poorly, at that) in Nikki's face. Carmella laughed, but ate a Bellahammer for her hubris. Natalya just beat the count back in, but Naomi was waiting and trapped Natalya in the pinning predicament (which Natalya kicked out of juuuust after the 3-count). This worked well, continuing the Nikki-Carmella feud, and making clear that Naomi belongs on the actual team over Natalya.
Breezango defeated The Vaudevillains in a short match to fill out the SmackDown Live tag team roster for Survivor Series—Heath Slater and Rhyno, American Alpha, The Hype Brothers, The Usos, and Breezango. Breeze and Fandango dressed as fake police handing out "tickets" to those they deemed unfashionable.
The Miz interrupted one of management's discussions backstage, and via Maryse—because he was too angry to speak himself—demanded to know why they were letting Dolph Ziggler put the Intercontinental Championship on the line against a Raw competitor—Sami Zayn. Bryan said that he had faith in Ziggler as a fighting champion (stressing the word fighting), and that The Miz could have his rematch next week on SmackDown Live.
"Take it, or leave it." Maryse quickly accepted, which The Miz looked none too pleased with.
During the discussion, Bryan revealed that as a result of the brand vs. brand match for the Intercontinental Championship, SmackDown Live would get a shot at the Cruiserweight Championship—and the entire division. Kalisto will represent the blue brand at Survivor Series against The Brian Kendrick.
Given that 205 Live will be filming on Tuesday nights after SmackDown Live ... I think we know how that match is going.
Curtis Hawkins defeated Apollo Crews. Yikes.
The Undertaker and Edge will be on the show next week, which is SmackDown's 900th episode.
The women's title match was the standout segment from last night, with the rest of the episode fully committed to advancing the build for Survivor Series. The added wrinkle of Shane McMahon being added to the actual men’s team surely ratchets up the stakes of his appearance—along with Daniel Bryan—on Monday Night Raw next week.
It's shaping up to be, at the very least, an interesting pay per view.