We’re live tonight from the Keyarena in Seattle, Washington, where nearly a year ago, current Smackdown Live GM Daniel Bryan made his official retirement announcement in one of the WWE’s most emotional episodes in recent years. Will Bryan come out to the crowd? Will we get Hot Garbage 2 starring all the tag teams in this Sunday’s Tag Team Turmoil match? Will Naomi continue her hunt of the Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss? How will the five men slated to compete in the Elimination Chamber itself this Sunday – John Cena, Bray Wyatt, AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Baron Corbin, and The Miz – co-exist one final night without imploding deeper?
After several strong months of storytelling and pacing, last week’s Smackdown Live felt a little flat. Not that it was a bad show particularly, but the disjointed mess of that Tag Team Turmoil announcement last week really threw the vibe off the rest of the night. Like it sucked the excitement out of the room. Which, like I said last week, is through no fault of the performers. Every team is actually made of solid performers. They’ve just all been booked so poorly the past year that no one really cares. The best thing for this division right now would be to have The Revival show up tonight and fight their way into the match, or take someone out pre-show and take their spot on Sunday. Smackdown Live needs some serious heels in the tag division. While The Usos have gotten a little easier on the palate since their heel turn, they’re still trying to be cool heels. We need the Fists Not Flips kind of Brainbusters’ swagger than Revival brings to the table.
Let’s find out, with tonight’s edition of Smackdown Live!
OPENING SEGMENT: Daniel Bryan Returns
One day shy of one year ago today, Daniel Bryan appeared on Monday Night Raw in this very ring to announce his retirement from professional wrestling as an active performer in his hometown. He comes out to a raucous hometown reception worthy of a Hall of Fame career, both in WWE and elsewhere.
— WWE (@WWE) February 8, 2017
As he talks to the Keyarena audience about his past year away from the ring, The Miz‘ music hits and the A-Lister emerges, alongside his wife, Maryse. He enters the ring and stares down Daniel Bryan, finally uttering a lengthy “Booooooooo. Hooooooo.”
The Miz mocks Daniel Bryan’s retirement and continues to call him a coward for walking away for not being able to wrestle. He says that he can’t wrestle so now he can’t step in the ring. Bryan responds that not being able to wrestle never stopped The Miz from entering the ring.
Baron Corbin‘s music hits, and comes down to join the conversation. Corbin goes right to Miz and tells him to shut up. Miz tries to convince Corbin to work with him eliminating the others, then they can face off at the end. Corbin says he wants to take out Miz now so he doesn’t have to hear him talk anymore.
Dean Ambrose comes out to his music and comes down chirping both men out. He says that the “unforgiving steel” of the Elimination Chamber is home for him and this is just the match he thrives in.
AJ Styles comes out next and calls the three of them delusional. He says he only cares about one thing and that’s winning back his WWE Championship.
Daniel Bryan breaks them all up and says that tonight there will be a Fatal Four Way preview match, featuring The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin and AJ Styles…and that match starts right NOW…well, after this COMMERICAL!
SmackBack: Solid opening segment that’s offering a pretty tasty kick off match. These four have shown slow starts lately but they’ve all come through with big finishes. Combined with the emotional energy of Bryan’s homecoming, it really set a great vibe to start the Go-Home show for Elimination Chamber.
1st Match: Fatal Four Way: The Miz (w/ Maryse) vs. WWE Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin vs. AJ Styles (Non-Title Match)
Chaos ensues off the battle, and early on Styles, Ambrose and The Miz get into a series of roll-up near falls, until Corbin re-enters the ring.
They continue to beat on each other, and Styles and Miz team up to Superplex Ambrose, but Corbin powerbombs Styles and Miz from the top ropes, perpetuating the Superplex on Dean. That move sure gets used a lot lately. Styles and Ambrose roll out of the action, but the Miz recuperates and beats on Corbin in the corner.
Miz gets distracted by AJ Styles, but gets caught in a Bossman slam by Corbin but kicks out at 2.7. Styles attacks Corbin, landing a phenomenal forearm, but Corbin rolls out. He tries to Styles Clash the Miz, but Miz reverses then lands a Daniel Bryan knee on Styles.
Ambrose returns to the action, taking out both Styles and Miz. He then runs and does a dive through the ropes and takes out Corbin. Styles launches himself over the ropes, but he misses Ambrose, he then throws him into the barrier. Miz attacks Ambrose, but Dean rams him off the ring post.
He climbs the top rope and attacks Corbin, but Styles comes in and takes out both men. He lands a reverse DDT on Ambrose, but Miz breaks up the count. He then tries a Skull Crushing finale on Styles, but AJ avoids it and lands a Phenomenal Forearm on the Miz, but Maryse pulls him out to avoid the pin.
Corbin catches Styles in an End of Days and gets the 1-2-3.
— WWE (@WWE) February 8, 2017
Your Winner: Baron Corbin, by pinfall over AJ Styles, following an End of Days
SmackBack: Solid opener. Really felt chaotic and so many moves pulled out, that every near fall felt like it could have been the deciding pin. Surprise win for Baron Corbin, but it may be a strong indicator he’s not winning the Elimination Chamber. But a huge win for the Lone Wolf nonetheless. The crowd is electric tonight and the energy infected the match itself. A great start for Smackdown Live, and one that was very much needed after last week fell flat in the second half.
Backstage Segment: Luke Harper
— WWE (@WWE) February 8, 2017
Luke Harper is seen live via satellite from the boiler room, where Harper says that Randy Orton has taken his Family from him and he will pay for that. He will make Orton hurt. He challenges Orton to a fight at Elimination Chamber.
Interview: Natalya & Nikki Bella
— WWE (@WWE) February 8, 2017
In a strange move, commentator Tom Phillips interviews both Natalya and Nikki Bella live via satellite (not from the boiler room) and they both continue to slam each other.
SmackBack: Randy Orton vs Luke Harper is probably the match I’m actually most excited for. The short match they had on Smackdown Live a few weeks ago was a real tease and something I didn’t even realize I wanted to see until then. The promo between Natalya and Nikki was a bit long and awkward, but they’ve been pretty physical the past few weeks and this could be the build to the match that writes Nikki out for a bit (or at least until the rumoured mixed tag with Cena at Wrestlemania 33).
2nd Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews
Crews comes out first, followed by Dolph Ziggler, as Crews defends the honour of his friend Kalisto, who has been brutalized by Ziggler the past few weeks after Kalisto came down to Ziggler’s aid.
Apollo brings the fight early, but Ziggler soon takes over and lands a heavy DDT on Crews. As he sets up a Superkick on a struggling Crews, Apollo feigns weakness and rolls up Ziggler for a quick 1-2-3.
Your Winner: Apollo Crews, by roll-up pinfall
As the ref raises Crews’ hand, Ziggler lands a Superkick on Apollo and then beats him mercilessly with a chair. After several connects, Kalisto runs down to help his friend, but he too is met with chair shots from Ziggler.
The crowd chants “one more time” and Ziggler complies, hitting Crews once more on the mat, before slowing walking out of the ring and up the ramp.
SmackBack: Ziggler continues to look strong, even in his losses, by showing a savagery and cold bloodedness we haven’t seen before. It’s likely we get a Ziggler vs. Crews re-match at Elimination Chamber, most likely on the Pre-Show. It’s not a main event feud, but a Ziggler vs. Crews feud is a solid mid-card match that should feature some great athleticism if they’re given some time.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan encounters Dolph Ziggler and says if he likes to pick on Apollo Crews and Kalisto so much, he’ll face both in a handicap match at Elimination Chamber on Sunday. Well, that could be a spicy little number.
In-Ring Segment: Dual Contract Signing: Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Naomi and Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James
Renee Young is our contract signing host and she introduces the four women down to the ring. Mickie James and Alexa Bliss come down first, followed by Becky then Naomi, to a great reaction.
Mickie James takes the mic and kicks out Renee Young. She berates the entire women’s division, except for Alexa Bliss, for taking credit for the Women’s Revolution that Mickie helped start many years ago. She signs the contract.
Becky takes the mic and says that although she used to respect her, the truth is that when the going got tough seven years ago, Mickie walked away. But this Sunday, Becky will show that when the going gets tough, she’ll be walking right through Mickie James. With that, she signs their contract as well.
Alexa Bliss takes the mic and berates Becky Lynch for being a loser and how she’s just jealous that the Championship is on her. She then laughs off Naomi, as if she didn’t even notice she was here. She then signs her contract.
Naomi grabs the mic and reminds her that Naomi has two pinfalls over Alexa. She also says that we are less than two months away from Wrestlemania and it’s in her hometown of Orlando, Florida. And no one is taking away her dream of coming down that ramp as World Champion, so Bliss better get ready. Naomi signs her contract, then kicks Bliss in the face across the table.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) February 8, 2017
Naomi tackles Bliss, as Lynch and James also square off. Bliss roles out and Becky tosses Mickie out. Naomi then does a springboard dive onto James and Bliss.
Naomi and Becky high five as Bliss and Mickie high tail it up the ramp.
SmackBack: This really feels like Naomi’s moment. Although somehow emphasizing she has two wins and Wrestlemania will be in her hometown is probably foreshadowing she won’t be wearing the gold. Good fire from all four women involved, adding some excitement into two more programs in the Smackdown Women’s Division. Monday Night Raw should pay attention – Smackdown has managed to utilize their women far better than Raw has, with three strong storylines compared to Raw’s barely one.
3rd Match: 12-Man Tag Team Match: American Alpha, Breezango and Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos, The Vaudevillains and The Ascension
Chad Gable starts off for his team, against one of the Usos (didn’t catch which one). Uso quickly tags out to Aidan English of the Vaudevillains, who works over Gable in the corner.
Jordan tags in and they both work on English and his partner, Simon Gotch, who enters the ring. Tyler Breeze tags Jordan, and the Vaudevillains take American Alpha down. Fandango enters and both take out the Vaudevillains with dual dropkicks. A loud “We Want Rhyno!” chant erupts from the Keyarena crowd.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) February 8, 2017
Slater tags in but Viktor tags English and begins to work Heath Slater in the middle of the ring. Heath starts to fight back and tries to tag in Rhyno, but Viktor brings him back to his corner and he and Konnor begin to double team Slater. English tags Viktor, who then tags English back and they begin to bicker.
Slater takes advantage and gets the hot tag on Rhyno he starts taking out everyone. He manhandles Viktor in the corner with a shoulder block, then a slam for a two count, but the entire heel team comes in to break up the pin and chaos ensues with all sides.
At the end, American Alpha is left in the ring and Jason Jordan throws Gable over the ropes at the rest on the crowd. Konnor sneaks in and takes out Jordan, who turns into a gore from Rhyno. Viktor, still the legal man, lands a dropkick from the top rope on Rhyno out of nowhere, and picks up the 1-2-3.
Your Winner: Viktor (The Usos, Ascension, Vaudevillains), by pinfall, over Rhyno (American Alpha, Breezango, Slater & Rhyno), following a top rope dropkick.
SmackBack: Well. Didn’t see THAT one coming. MUCH better performance from all twelve men than last week. Some solid work from all involved, and even the Vaudevillains and Breezango got some nice moves in. Slater’s hot tag to Rhyno is one of the WWE’s biggest right now, but the Ascension picking up the win was a nice surprise. They were fantastic heel champions in NXT and they can impress in the ring. Hopefully this is the start of a reboot of sorts for the Smackdown Tag Team Division and the other teams will get a chance to shine a bit more and gain some credibility. An upset title victory on Sunday by one of the “weaker” teams, like Ascension, Breezango or Vaudevillains, would help catapult at least one team higher on the ladder.
Main Event: WWE Champion John Cena vs. Randy Orton (Non-Title Match)
John Cena comes out first before Randy Orton is lead out to the ring by Bray Wyatt. During the walk, the announcers confirm that Randy Orton has indeed accepted Luke Harper’s challenge for Elimination Chamber.
Some quick facts courtesy of “Cena vs. Orton: The Numbers” from Voices of Wrestling: Cena and Orton have faced off 120 times heading into this match (including PPV, TV and house shows), 20 times on PPV and television, making this their 21st televised encounter (if you include all tag matches or other combinations, the numbers balloon to 315 and 84). John Cena holds a 12-7 edge in the win-loss category (with one no decision).
“Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage happened 92 times while both were with WWE, Ric Flair vs. Sting happened an insane 111 times if we combine NWA and WCW and Bret Hart faced his brother Owen 106 times, surprisingly, the first being their historically great WrestleMania X showdown. What’s more, Cena and Orton did this over a 10-year span. Bret and Owen are only from 1994-1997, Hogan vs. Savage from 1985 to 1991. Of course, Orton and Cena pale in comparison to Flair and Sting who’s match-ups span from 1987 all the way to 2001.” Cena vs. Orton: The Numbers, by rich kraetsch, voices of wrestling
Orton dominates the majority of the opening part of the match, keeping the WWE Champion grounded, while the Viper methodically grinds him down.
Orton goes for an RKO, but Cena counters into an Attitude Adjustment, which Orton wiggles out of and lands a Full Nelson slam on Cena. He tries to set up the draping DDT on Cena, but John powers up and tosses Orton out the ring.
Cena goes after Orton, slamming his forehead off the steel steps, then goes for an Attitude Adjustment on the announce table. Orton gets out again, this time landing a backslam on the table with Cena, then tosses the 16-time Champion Into the ring.
The two stand toe to toe, landing punches, until Cena slams Orton and lands the Five Knuckle Shuffle. He goes for his third AA attempt, this time landing it, but Orton kicks out at two, much to Cena’s dismay.
Cena goes up to the top turnbuckle for his flying leg drop, but Orton intercepts and lands the draping DDT from the top rope. Orton starts seething, hearing the voices in his head, dropping to the mat and slamming his hands.
Cena struggles to his feet and walks into an RKO, but Cena kicks out at two. Bray Wyatt leaves his chair and begins to pace around ringside.
Orton picks up Cena but Cena blocks an RKO into another Attitude Adjustment but Orton wiggles and the ref is knocked out.
Cena throws Orton into the STF and Orton quickly taps, but the ref is still out, so no call made. Wyatt enters the ring and lands a boot on Cena and suddenly Orton and Wyatt both begin to beat down Cena.
Wyatt sets up the Sister Abigail into the RKO but Cena emerges from the set up and clotheslines Orton. Cena turns back into a Sister Abigail, as Wyatt stands alone in the ring.
Suddenly, Luke Harper runs down to the ring and stares down Wyatt. Harper lands a huge discuss lariat on Harper and Wyatt rolls out the ring.
Orton sneaks in and tries to RKO ORton but Harper pushes him right into Cena, who lands the AA and gets the 1-2-3.
— WWE (@WWE) February 8, 2017
Your Winner: John Cena, by pinfall, following the Attitude Adjustment
SmackBack: Make that 13-7 John Cena.
Overall, a solid Smackdown Live. They recovered well from the lacklustre second half of last week (mostly due to the energy drain of the tag team misfire), but everything worked and felt hot going into Elimination Chamber, thanks largely in part to the electricity of the Seattle crowd. Harper is getting huge reactions from the crowd, and now that he’s finally laid his hands on Wyatt is a huge step in his character. Elimination Chamber is here quick, but Smackdown Live did a great job of getting there strongly, with most of the storylines nicely set up in the weeks prior to Royal Rumble.
THIS SUNDAY FEBRUARY 12 at 8pm (7pm Pre-Show)
Final Card (Unless Pre-Show are added prior to broadcast)
WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match:
John Cena (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz
Smackdown Women’s Championship Match: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Naomi
Singles Match: Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Turmoil Match: American Alpha (c) vs. The Usos vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. Tyler Breeze & Fandango vs. The Vaudevillains vs. The Ascension
(Per WWE.com: ‘Begins with two teams. Once one team is eliminated, a new duo enters the match. This continues until one team is left standing tall.’)
Singles Match: Natalya vs. Nikki Bella
Singles Match: Becky James vs. Mickie James
Two On One Handicap Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews & Kalisto