The One Where THE 16 TIME CHAMP IS HERE!!! – Smackdown LIVE Recap 1/31/2017

Smackdown LIVE comes to you live tonight from somewhere else in Texas (Corpus Christi), because when the E goes to the Lone Star State they seem to forget the rest of the Union exists for about a month and a half.

If you didn’t watch Royal Rumble Sunday night, what are you waiting for?  If you didn’t at least watch the John Cena vs AJ Styles WWE Heavyweight Championship match, what the hell is wrong with you?

The show kicks off with a recap of John Cena earning his 16th WWE Championship, joining Ric Flair as the most decorated Heavyweight Champion of all time.  Then we pull back on a monitor to show AJ Styles watching the recap, joined by Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan.  They announce the names for the Elimination Chamber match, which will be: AJ, Cena, Bray Wyatt, Miz, Baron Corbin and Dean Ambrose.  Ambrose joins the group but that’s what he was apparently coming to ask about, at which point he trades barbs with AJ so the two are placed in a singles match this evening, per the typical script.

Then the show really kicks off….

Image result for john cena royal rumble


Love him or hate him, the man has elevated the promotion for over a decade.  Ric Flair seems legitimately supportive of sharing the glory of the record with him, everyone who is actually in pro wrestling who discusses John Cena supports what he’s been capable of accomplishing in his time in the WWE.  He is on the top of the pile again.

So how does he celebrate?  With an open challenge to anyone in the back who wants some to come get some!

Queue the fireflies, Maggle.  Bray seems on the path the rumors have indicated towards a big push in early 2017.  Bray and Orton issue their typical cryptic pieces, then move towards the ring.  As they start to get in, the lights go out and Luke Harper is standing along side John Cena in the ring.

Here comes the Money!  Because that match starts….Right Now!

Cena, Harper, Orton, Wyatt

I won’t lie, I’m a little disappointed by the lack of Harper in the Elimination Chamber match, but I guess that gives Orton someone to square off against in two weeks.  Who would you replace anyway, Miz?  Yeah, probably Miz.

Harper clearly wants a piece of Orton, but doesn’t seem compelled to fight Bray Wyatt.  I guess it’ll come into play when it’s eventually Orton vs Wyatt again.  I’m quite high on Harper, have been for a long time and the Wyatt Family was really missing a major piece with Harper on the shelf.  I was hoping he’d have a longer showing in the Rumble match, but the story was about the Big Three, then Roman showed up to get heat, then Orton got the big win, which I was pretty OK with.

Orton seems to have been rejuvenated in this commitment to the ring since being chosen for this big run.  When Orton is on, Orton is probably one of the single greatest true showmen that WWE has ever had.  He’s charisma, he’s a terribly skilled wrestler, he’s just damned good.

Harper finally decides to help Cena fight Bray, attempting a Sister Abigail on Wyatt yet again, but Orton eats a Big Boot instead, Harper takes a SA, then in an AA attempt by Cena, Orton pushes Wyatt off Cena’s shoulders and hits an RKO for the win.

Image result for randy orton bray wyatt pose

Why is James Ellsworth still here?

James Ellsworth comes out in an outfit the likes of that kid you absolutely hated in high school to introduce Carmella.  I still don’t understand why he’s still around now that the Ambrose/Styles angle they had for him ended.

Carmella is in a squash against whatever the blue version of a goth is, and I’m tired of covering squash matches.  There are far too many people on both rosters who would absolutely kill for some TV time, use them.

I don’t know, Joe Maddon, I just don’t know.

Kalisto vs Dolph Ziggler…..yep, again.

I don’t have anything against either of these guys.  In fact, I’m a big Ziggler fan.  I love taunting him on Twitter too, because he tends to respond.  He’s a good performer.  Kalisto is exciting in the ring.  Watching the same guys for the 15th time, not exciting.  I was reading a great article about a week ago that was talking about Raw’s tendency to show the exact same matches for 3 months, every episode (How many times has Roman faced some iteration of team Chris and Kevin in the last fiscal quarter?).  The midcard on Smackdown is falling into those same terrible habits.  There are really talented guys in this tier of the Smackdown roster that could make this exciting.  This could be Ziggler vs Crews, Ziggler vs Rawley, Kalisto vs either member of The Ascension or Vaudevillians.  The roster is deep.  Use it.  Ziggler wins with a big superkick, as you’d expect, decided to keep beating on him, as you’d expect, so of course Apollo Crews had to come to the rescue… again.  Every moment of this has already been done what, three times in four weeks?


Continuing from Sunday, more Women’s Tag action, tonight just a traditional 2 on 2 between Becky Lynch/Naomi and Alexa Bliss/Mickie James.  It’s the same match you saw on the kickoff show without Natalya and Nikki Bella.

The prematch promo that Becky and Naomi cut was great, and while I avoid the majority of the hashtags that Michael Cole tries to convince me it’s all about, I wasn’t going to miss out on #GlowFire.  If there were a women’s tag championship, Team GlowFire forever.

Mickie James is clearly from the Diva era.  If you attempt to Google Image search Mickie James for use in an article like this, just know that there is not a whole lot of clothing in most of the photos.

This was a decent match, and for the second time in three days, the commentary team spent the majority of their time discussing just how athletically gifted Naomi is as she pinned the Women’s Champion yet again.  Naomi will get a title match at Elimination Chamber.

Tag Team Open Challenge

Image result for american alpha

American Alpha issue an open challenge for the tag team championships, to which every team on the Smackdown roster attempts to accept.  Things break down, of course, and by the time the ring is mostly cleared the only two teams left standing were Alpha and Slater/Rhyno, so they’ll get a title match, probably at Elimination Chamber.  That’s two open challenges on this show where we didn’t get any sort of shocking appearance.  I got really excited that this one might be met with The Top Guys.

Another Elimination Chamber match is set for Bella vs Natalya during a backstage segment.  This didn’t need it’s own heading, did it?  I didn’t figure it did.  I probably could have skipped this and you wouldn’t have noticed.

Phenomenal One vs The Lunatic

The Miz is on commentary, oddly enough using the majority of his time with a microphone to talk up both of these guys in the ring.  Another great match between these two, but Baron Corbin makes his way out toward the ring….and they go to commercial.  That was a piss poor time to take a break to advertise some crappy USA Network Original (Colony, new after Smackdown).

Baron Corbin is also now on commentary, so now commentary forgets the match is going on in lieu of Miz and Corbin going back and forth with one another.  I hate that they went this route.  You’ve got two of the company’s top performers, not to mention two of their workhorses, going at each other in the ring, and they’re not getting the attention they deserve.

At least the crowd got to watch what they were chanting was “awesome” because the television audience got more cameras on the commentary desk than the work in the ring.  These two went back and forth in a great television matchup.  Corbin and Miz inevitably started fighting at ringside.  Ambrose hit the flying elbow off the top rope but the referee was distracted and didn’t count the pinfall.  Ambrose took out both men and then dove back in, only to eat a Styles Clash and take a loss.  Wonder if AJ will get an IC match next week.  Would make just as much sense as anything else.

Miz gets in the ring to go after the wounded Ambrose, hitting a Skull Crushing Finale, then Corbin hits End of Days on Miz and Ambrose.  Corbin is in significantly better shape than he was a year ago when he debuted on the main roster.  Significantly.  Show ends with AJ at the top of the ramp taunting an angry Corbin.

Overall:  It was a weak show, which was disappointing for two reasons.  First, they’ve only got one more Smackdown Live to get to Elimination Chamber, and just randomly announcing matches in backstage segments doesn’t really build a story, so it isn’t looking positive for Elimination Chamber, though the main event is going to be pretty damn good just because of the level of talent inside the Chamber.  Second, what little of the Royal Rumble was dedicated to Smackdown Live’s talent stole the show, predominantly the Cena-Styles match, but seriously, Smackdown has consistently been better than this episode.  Hopefully they use next week to really hammer down what they’re going for at EC and how it can lead them down the remainder of the Road to WM.  C-

Since Saturday night, not even counting the Viewer’s Choice Royal Rumble matches I was watching to get ready for Sunday, we’ve had 2 hours of TakeOver, 6 hours of Royal Rumble, 3 hours of Raw and now 2 hours of Smackdown Live.  That’s 13 hours of wrestling in 4 days.  I need some sleep.  I’ll provide you with a compelling recap of both 205 Live and NXT following the usual Wednesday broadcast tomorrow evening.  And if you’re not down with that, we’ve just got two words for ya…