SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan Made an Impromptu Fatal 4-Way Match
It was a wise decision to kick off SmackDown Live with one of its authority figures, the hometown hero, Daniel Bryan. I don't think I have ever been in favor of an authority figure starting the show, but it made sense here, the crowd was hot for him. Miz, Baron Corbin, Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles all held their own on the mic and hyped the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match nicely. The lead-in to the subsequent Fatal 4-Way match was also well done.
Baron Corbin def. AJ Styles, The Miz and Intercontinental Champion dean Ambrose in a Fatal 4-Way Match (Non-title)
I was not at all expecting them to go all out an deliver a fantastic Fatal 4-Way days ahead of the pay-per-view, but they did just that. They were allotted a ton of time and they more than made the most of it with there never being a dull moment. The in-ring action was excellent and each of the four competitors were able to shine at one point or another. Corbin pinning Styles for the victory was a pleasant surprise and while I realize he isn't winning on Sunday, I hope management have big plans for him for the future.
Nikki Bella and Natalya Engaged in a War of Words
The different approaches they have taken with this feud, from brawling around the arena to now going back and forth in an interview setting, has definitely added to my interest in it. Natalya targeting Nikki's relationship with John Cena got old weeks ago, and Natalya still comes off awkwardly with her delivery, but I thought Nikki did a really good job with what she had to say here. I'm sure the match will be a dud, but at least the build-up has been decent.
Apollo Crews def. Dolph Ziggler
I was thrilled when Ziggler finally turned heel last month, but hardly anything has changed with him in the five weeks that have passed. He still has the awful entrance music and atrocious attire, and none of his matches last longer than two or three minutes. It's such a shame because I do honestly believe he and Crews could have a hell of a match if they weren't relegated to working throwaway matches. Kalisto coming out to Crews' aid felt like a repeat of what we've been seeing for weeks now.
Becky Lynch, Naomi, SmackDown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss and Mickie James Signed the Contracts For Their Elimination Chamber Matches
SmackDown's women's division is on such a roll right now that we will have three women's matches at Elimination Chamber, which has to be a new record for most amount of women's matches on one pay-per-view win WWE. That's incredible. The mic work from everyone involved in this segment was exceptional, including Naomi who left viewers with a feeling she could capture the title on Sunday once she mentioned she aspires to walk into WrestleMania in her home state of Florida as champion.
The Ascension, The Usos and The Vaudevillians def. SmackDown Tag Team Champions American Alpha, Breezango, and Heath Slater & Rhyno
We've seen so many of these meaningless multi-team tag matches in recent months that I've grown numb to them. I know there's a gauntlet match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship taking place at Elimination Chamber, but I couldn't care less for the most part considering a majority of these tandems lack credibility. It was a well-wrestled match, but it's too late to make The Ascension a threat despite how they scored the victory for their team here.
WWE Champion John Cena def. Randy Orton (Non-title)
It blows my mind it has been a full two years since these two last went one-on-one if only because it feels like just yesterday they did battle. In other words, not enough have time has gone by. And of every match they ever had against each other, very few of them were actually excellent. Yes, they kicked out of each other's finishers in this bout, but that's done in every major match these days that it wasn't anything special when they did it here. That said, it was still a solid main event and the interference from Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper furthered those feuds effectively.
As a go-home show, this edition of SmackDown Live was certainly successful in getting me amped up for the Elimination Chamber event. There wasn't any filler whatsoever, and even though the Ziggler/Crews and tag team matches were forgettable, they served a purpose in building toward something on Sunday, so on the whole, this was a strong show. The pay-per-view has plenty of potential on paper and I expect the blue brand to deliver as always.