SmackDown Live Commisioner Shane McMahon and SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan Addressed Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles
SmackDown Live has done a decent job by and large since the Brand Split of not having their authority figures take center stage on the show, but this was completely unnecessary? They talked about the night's main event that had been confirmed days ago, and we didn't learn anything here we didn't already know. It was a harmless segment, but it came across as filler.
John Cena and Nikki Bella def. James Ellsworth and Carmella
I've never been the biggest fan of Ellsworth, but I will say he did well with his pre-match promo. He's incredibly annoying, but he's a heel, so he's doing his job. The match was exactly what you would expect it to be with Nikki and Carmella doing most of in-ring work and then Cena subsequently squashing Ellsworth. Does a double Five Knuckle Snuffle sound dirty to anyone else? Okay, I'll get my mind out of the gutter. Meanwhile, The Miz saved this segment with his awesome (no pun intended) mic work afterward, criticizing Cena and Nikki's romantic relationship.
Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose Attacked Curt Hawkins
I honestly thought I was re-watching last week's edition of SmackDown during this segment. From Ambrose laying out Hawkins with ease to him and Baron Corbin engaging in another verbal exchange, virtually nothing was different. Thankfully, they took it a step further this week with Ambrose searching for Corbin backstage. Granted, Ambrose getting "crushed" by a forklift looked silly, but at least Corbin was ruthless yet again in his ambush on the Intercontinental Champion. It should be only a matter of time before their WrestleMania match is officially announced.
SmackDown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss and Mickie James def. Becky Lynch and Natalya
I normally like Bliss' mic work, but this was not a good promo from her whatsoever. In fact, no one involved in this segment came across well except for Bryan. I can't say I'm excited about a SmackDown Women's Championship match at WrestleMania featuring every active woman on the blue brand because that's lazy booking in my opinion. The tag team match was given a ton of time and was solid, but Natalya turning on Carmella could be seen coming from a mile away. I wouldn't call James a face just yet because it's every woman for themselves at WrestleMania.
Randy Orton def. AJ Styles in a WWE Championship No. 1 Contender's Match
Originally, I was shocked when it was announced last Friday that these two would be meeting for the first time ever on a random episode of SmackDown, but at least the implications were huge with the winner going to WrestleMania for the WWE Championship. Sure enough, they did not disappoint and delivered an excellent matchup. They told a solid story throughout with Styles targeting Orton's knee and the final few minutes were fantastic. They were wise to hold off on that Phenomenal Forearm into the RKO spot we were all waiting for, and I know they could produce an even better bout down the road on pay-per-view. The ending outcome was never in doubt, but this was far and away the best thing on the entire show.
This is a rare week where I actually thought Raw was superior to SmackDown. While this wasn't an awful episode by any stretch, it wasn't nearly as strong as last week's installment and only the main event was worth watching in my opinion along with Miz's promo. The other two matches were mediocre at best, the build for Ambrose vs. Corbin was forgettable, and the opening segment was pointless. The lack of Luke Harper, Bray Wyatt and American Alpha was also odd. Here's hoping the blue brand can get back on track next week.