SmackDown Live Commissioner Announced a WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match
While all eyes should be on the Royal Rumble event, I was thrilled to hear an official announcement made in regards to the returning Elimination Chamber being a SmackDown Live-exclusive event next month. It will occur only two weeks after the Rumble, so at least they won't be rushing into that Chamber match for the title, which opens up several new possibilities for what might happen at the Rumble. Everyone came off well here, and the bad blood between Miz and Styles led nicely into their subsequent match.
The Miz def. WWE Champion AJ Styles (Non-title)
Heel vs. heel matches don't typically work, but Miz and Styles have been at odds for so long that this worked wonderfully. Both men are at the top of their game right now and I honestly wouldn't mind them facing off at WrestleMania 33 for the WWE Championship with Styles possibly turning face beforehand. Sure, we saw the match here, and although it was enjoyable while it lasted, a majority of their match was consumed by commercials and it ended on a disqualification, so there's no reason they can't do a rematch on the grand stage. Let the speculation begin that John Cena being made to look strong afterward means he isn't winning the title so soon.
Nikki Bella and Natalya Brawled
For a feud I couldn't have cared less about when it was initially teased a month and a half ago, Nikki vs. Natalya has been surprisingly well-booked thus far. I may not be highly anticipating their eventual match (which I assume will take place at the Royal Rumble), and Natalya's mic work is still shaky, but I commend them for holding my interest in segments such as this one. Taking their fight to another part of the arena helped as well because it was a refreshing change of scenery.
Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose def. Randy Orton (Non-title)
I was shocked when Mauro Ranallo noted that it had been over two years since Orton and Ambrose last did battle one-on-one. I always thought they would be remarkable rivals and it's a feud I'd love to see down the line once Orton is done with The Wyatt Family. Although this match was slightly slow early on, they picked up the pace nicely down the stretch and it was a better bout on the whole than Miz vs. Styles I thought. Additionally, they further teased tension within The Wyatt Family and set up next week's Orton vs. Luke Harper match effectively.
Jerry Lawler Hosted The King's Court with Dolph Ziggler
Has it really been over two decades since The King's Court was last held in WWE? That's unbelievable. It was great to see Lawler back on WWE TV for the first time in ages, and although I wasn't high on him as a commentator in recent years, he thrived as a heel and I would love nothing more than to see him replace David Otunga or JBL behind the booth on the blue brand. While I would have held off on Ziggler finally speaking for a little longer, I loved how they acknowledged his history in technically giving Lawler a heart attack five years ago on Raw, in his hometown of Nashville, no less. I wish the crowd had reacted more to that, but Ziggler superkicking Lawler in the chest was a very nice touch.
SmackDown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss def. Becky Lynch in a Steel Cage Match
The last few matches these two have had in the past month haven't been anything above average, but I thought this bout was the best of the bunch. Sure, they weren't given a ton of time, but they worked well against each other and made excellent use of the environment. The cage was virtually pointless once La Luchdora got involved, but everything prior to that point was entertaining, and Bliss retaining her title was the right outcome. Not to mention they proved they deserved that main event slot and didn't feel out of place in the slightest. Mickie James has been rumored to be under the mask for weeks, but it was still cool to see her revealed as Lynch's attacker. James vs. Lynch should be a stellar feud in a women's division that is already loaded with talent.
I was honestly shocked by the end of the evening when I realized this edition of SmackDown Live had a mere three matches. However, I tend to love the "less is more" approach, and each of the three matches were meaningful. There wasn't too much talking, either, so there was a healthy balance between the two. There was plenty of hype for the Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, and next week's show, so once again, SmackDown delivered an exceptional episode and I'm excited for how they might try to top themselves going forward.