SmackDown Live began “The Era of Wyatt” last night (Feb. 14, 2017) in Anaheim. The new champion was tasked with defending his title against former champion John Cena. For full results and the live blog from the exceptional Reverend Kain, click here.
Keys to the Kingdom
Well, well, well.
The Era of Wyatt began only two days ago when Bray Wyatt walked out of Elimination Chamber as the new WWE Champion, and already it faced a stern test—and then received an ostensible, most curious reprieve.
John Cena decided to immediately invoke his rematch clause for last night, but Wyatt opened the show in celebration. He noted that Sister Abigail spoke the truth, as did he, and that he now had “the whole damn world in his hands.” He couldn’t enjoy his moment for very long, though, as the former champion interrupted. Cena suggested that Wyatt had brainwashed the crowd (who had earlier loudly chanted “You deserve it”—and if there’s any one character most ill-suited to receive that chant, it surely must be Wyatt), and then went into a quintessential Cena spiel:
No man deserves anything around here, they earn every single inch they get. And you think you got the whole world in your hands, man—the entire world is looking at that target around your shoulder. And seeing as we got a match tonight for that WWE Championship, and everyone seems really excited about, I say we cut the chit chat and we get to earn it right here, right now.
But there was another man with a rematch clause hanging, and at that moment he decided to make his desires known. AJ Styles came out and told Cena that there was “no way” he would get his rematch before Styles, and demanded he instead receive a 1-on-1 title match.
General Manager Daniel Bryan, clearly seeing the obvious solution, announced to the trio that Anaheim was promised a WWE Championship match, and they would get one indeed: a triple threat between Wyatt, Cena, and Styles.
In an absolutely bonkers main event—which was given an enormous 20-25 minutes—Wyatt proved his mettle once more, eventually pinning Cena after Sister Abigail. Remarkably enough, before the match Wyatt was attacked by a vengeful Luke Harper—and yet he still managed to beat the two best in the world.
In two days, Wyatt has pinned John Cena—twice—and AJ Styles once, won an Elimination Chamber match, and won a triple threat in which he was brutally attacked by a third party before the bell even rang. The Eater of Worlds has been booked pretty poorly for years now, but it’s remarkable how a monster push in two days can make one look, well, a world eater. (Sorry not sorry for the pun.)
But after successfully retaining his title, Wyatt would receive the biggest surprise of the night. Royal Rumble winner and Wyatt Family member Randy Orton made his way to the ring, and delivered a bombshell:
I won the Royal Rumble and all the privileges that come with it, but you are the WWE Champion. However, as you are the master, and I am the servant, I refuse to face you at WrestleMania. I pledge my undying allegiance to you, Bray Wyatt.
He then bent the knee to his leader, as Wyatt cackled in delight. The show closed with the two striking their iconic poses.
Whoa! Of all the ways to heighten interest for the SmackDown main event program, the blue brand creative team might have picked the absolute best. This is a thoroughly fascinating twist and promises to draw a ton of interest in the next two months.
After conferring off-screen with Commissioner Shane McMahon, Bryan announced on Talking Smack that there would be a Battle Royal next week to crown a new number one contender. When Styles later appeared on Talking Smack, he incessantly berated Bryan for not being given a 1-on-1 rematch, very deliberately noting that he was promised one by Shane. Though Styles was placed in the Battle Royal by Bryan, he was far from satiated.
There are still seven more weeks until WrestleMania. By then, this Wyatt-Orton angle will have been built for nearly eight months—and if it keeps up this sort of quality, could go down as one of the greatest long-form stories in WWE history.
New SmackDown Women’s Champion Naomi celebrated her victory in the ring. Unfortunately, she suffered a slight injury to her knee during the match, but noted—again with an impressive babyface fire—that nothing would stop her from carrying the title into WrestleMania in her hometown of Orlando.
Not even former champion Alexa Bliss, who came out in short order to harass the new champ. In particular irony, Bliss suggested that Naomi was faking her injury so as to avoid giving Alexa her rematch—which is something Alexa actually did do after she originally took the title from Becky Lynch:
Oh, I’m sorry, did the Glow Worm get a boo boo? You know, and I know, and they all know, that you just lucked out when you beat me. And then you woke up the next morning and realized the pressure of being a champion and you looked at yourself in the mirror and you thought, “I’m no Alexa Bliss.” Newsflash, no one is. You dreamt up this injury in your head because you knew that when we faced each for our rematch that you wouldn’t be walking out with the SmackDown Women’s title.
Bliss then pitched a 30 for 30 episode, titled “Lights Out—The Failure of Naomi.” In turn, Naomi called her a flea—which prompted Alexa to suggest she was going to give the new champion one week, after which she would want her rematch:
Expert use of air quotes by @AlexaBliss_WWE. pic.twitter.com/T4AkNdjwk2— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) February 15, 2017
It was yet another sterling night for Bliss on the microphone ... until she arrived on the set of Talking Smack, that is. Clearly still overtired, or maybe still dehydrated from the Phoenix sun, she let slip that she was also upset that the New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl.
Only problem is that the Patriots ... well, won the Super Bowl. Daniel Bryan immediately seized upon this rare Blisstep, prompting her to eventually call him “so rude.” Literally seconds after she left Talking Smack, she tweeted:
what I tried to say was the patriots lost on their way to the Super Bowl but Daniel Bryan cut me off. #rude— Alexa Bliss (@AlexaBliss_WWE) February 15, 2017
Poor Lexi. She’s having a rough go of it lately.
Drag ‘em Banter
One of the beauties of SmackDown Live is how lived in the show’s universe comes across—virtually anyone can interact with anyone else on the show (well, except the tag team division...).
Dean Ambrose was searching for Baron Corbin backstage when he stumbled upon Carmella and James Ellsworth. Ambrose, always the straight shooter, bluntly told his former friend: “Let me give you a nickel’s worth of advice, all right? She’s using you, and she’s no good. You should try online dating.”
The only thing disappointing about this line is that it would have been so much better for Ambrose to merely say Tinder. Could have even offered to help him write his profile.
Anyways, Carmella took offense, and told Ellsworth to defend her against this “gas station attendant.” Poor Jimmy reluctantly stepped to Ambrose, which is when General Manager Daniel Bryan showed up.
Ambrose begged Bryan to let him beat up Ellsworth, and Bryan concurred, suggesting that Dean needed to “get his aggression out” and that Ambrose and Ellsworth still had unfinished business from TLC. Carmella smiled, but ol’ Hogsworth was none too excited.
Shortly thereafter, we found Ellsworth and Carmella in the ring, with The Big Hog berating the crowd:
Don’t boo her! Carmella’s only boo is me! And I’m so lucky to have her accompany me to the ring because she makes my mind race and my heart sing...
Thankfully, Ambrose’s music hit, prompting even JBL to utter a vocal sigh of relief. And then his music kept playing. And kept playing. And kept playing.
Finally, Ambrose emerged—but not of his own volition. Baron Corbin dragged a beaten Ambrose out onto the ramp, whereupon he continued his assault. He attempted an End of Days by the entryway, but Ambrose countered and got in a brief flurry of offense. Then, however, he ran right into a Deep Six—but Corbin, not content with merely smashing him into the gathered electrical equipment, instead tossed him into the mix—prompting a small explosion. (Dean really needs to avoid this sort of equipment, yeah?)
Ellsworth was saved from a certain beating—and Corbin made his statement.
Apparently Big Banter has had enough of people asking stupid questions with obvious answers, because when Dasha Fuentes prompted The Lone Wolf why he assaulted Ambrose, he merely noted:
You really need an explanation? Are people really this stupid? I’m not WWE Champion because of Dean Ambrose. Now Dean Ambrose is on his way to the hospital. Because of Baron. Corbin. Enough Said.
Game respect Game
Mickie James one-upped Becky Lynch in a rematch from Elimination Chamber, but the manner in which she got her win suggests the games have only just begun.
Lynch controlled much of the match, and it seemed to turn for good in her favor when James took a hard bump to the outside and apparently landed wrong on her arm and shoulder. Becky eventually tossed her back into the ring, but was then kept from causing any further damage by referee Danilo Anfibio. A distraught James was overheard saying that she thought she “separated her shoulder.”
And Becky let her guard down. Come on, girl. One Mick Kick later, and Anfibio reluctantly—and only at James’ behest, who shouted “COUNT!” at him—recorded the pinfall victory.
Rather than be incensed, Lynch took the act rather playfully, in a manner quite clearly suggesting that she would soon have some of her own tricks up her sleeve.
...And starring @BeckyLynchWWE as the emoji. #SDLive pic.twitter.com/HTF1ZHYKZJ— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) February 15, 2017
Whether Becky, who has had like twelve people turn on her since her debut, should feel confident playing mind games with someone as devious as Mickie James is another question. Judging by her amused reaction, The Lasskicker deems herself up for the challenge.
Poor, innocent Becky. Please be aware of what you’re getting yourself into.
Haha! What you call dirty tactics I call pure Genius. Forever the Professor & @BeckyLynchWWE forever the student! #SchoolsInSession #BowDown— Mickie James~Aldis (@MickieJames) February 15, 2017
Though when combined with Becky’s look of, frankly, mild appreciation, that tweet from James could be very interesting indeed.
As Kate Foray of the Raw Breakdown Project noted, SmackDown Live’s Women’s Division got 21 percent of the show time last night—the first time since at least May 2015 that women have gotten over 20 percent of a show. This is no insignificant thing, and coming only two days after SmackDown Live featured three women’s matches on its main pay-per-view card—and prominently featured a fourth woman on the pre-show and then throughout the show—is a great sign for the division going forward.
All the rest
Nikki Bella and Natalya just can’t stop brawling. Last night, Daniel Bryan was set to make an announcement to Nikki, but Nattie interrupted—and within seconds, the two were at each other’s throats, with Bryan desperately calling for security. He became so frustrated at their inability to restrain themselves that he impromptu made a Falls Count Anywhere match for next week’s SmackDown Live. That should be a blast.
American Alpha continue to be adrift. While they picked up a fine enough win over The Ascension last night, they’re still yet to make a real connection with main roster crowds. These heatless matches are doing them no favors—instead, their camera time should be spent backstage and focus on developing their personalities for fans who didn’t watch their NXT journey.
Dolph Ziggler wants to wipe out all Millennials or something. Cool.
If Ziggler’s recent weeks tell us anything, it’s that The Miz—who, sadly, was not on last night’s show—is an absolute miracle worker.
Damn. Just, damn.
Most of this show was well, well above average. Even the tag team segment—which there remain legitimate gripes with—featured a decent enough TV match. The only real miss was Ziggler’s very brief promo, and that was all of two minutes, maybe.
Meanwhile, the main event program covered nearly 40 minutes of last night’s show. And those 40 minutes were .... well, they were really great. Just really, really, really, great.
Like, really great.
It was always going to be a very hard sell to one up Monday Night Raw this week, but boy did the blue brand give it the old college try.