Thumbs In Middle.
Mainly because my expectations were so low for this show but I actually found it an enjoyable show. The crowd made it feel much more like a real good SmackDown vs. a PPV show but I thought the wrestling and storyline progressions were solid. Main event and Orton/Harper were both very good. This was a show that should have been over at the 2.5 hour mark rather then 3 plus.
Unlike Jim From Virginia, I was not super excited for three women’s matches but I thought Nikki/Natalya until the lame finish was a really good match. Feel bad for Natalya as she is so talented but just used to get others to look good in the ring and she did. This was best I’ve ever seen Nikki Bella look.
James/Lynch was a solid women’s match.
Naomi/Bliss was a little sloppy in a few spots, including the finish but it was fine.
Tag Team Turmoil match was fun. Actually thought after the Usos beatdown that they may actually go with the Ascension winning so they did a good job. American Alpha are really good but they just aren’t connecting on the main roster like they should. Hooking them up with Kurt Angle would get them there.
Harper/Orton was a really good pro wrestling match. Built nicely and did the job to show Harper should be a main eventer on SmackDown.
Worst Match: Kalisto/Crews vs. Dolph. When it was Dolph and Crews it was fine. Crowd was oddly into this match and into Dolph. However, it really annoyed me when Kalisto came limping down then did all sorts of lucha things fine then half-heartedly would grab his back.
Best Match: Elimination Chamber. Really entertaining match. Looks like Corbin-Ambrose program coming out of it which I like. Corbin has come a long way in ring. Styles-Cena just work incredibly well together. Miz’s facials in the pod was really great. Wyatt pinning Cena clean was surprising. Solid job of rehabbing Bray as a monster. Great transition to the finish.
Glad I did not drink as Kevin Dunn’s camera work gave me the spins.
– Mike Flynn
Best Match: Elim Chamber
Worst Match: Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
For the first couple of hours, this was a glorified SmackDown episode. With American Alpha pretty much beating every team on the roster, either they have to create a new tag team from parts — perhaps Dolph Ziggler teams with Baron Corbin — or they do another sort of gauntlet for WrestleMania.
Luke Harper had a great match, but no matter how the announcers screamed that “win, lose, or draw, he’s proven he can be a main eventer,” he’s still slated in the middle as a guy who can’t win the big match.
– Jeff Cohen
Thumbs up really liked the show overall.
Worst Match: Mojo vs. Hawkins on the pre show. On the main card everything was solid.
Best Match: Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton. Loved the story! I think this is for sure Luke Harper’s best singles match.
Randy is great at putting guys over even with winning the match. This was one of Orton’s best matches.
– Allan Hendrix
Best Match: Elimination Chamber, Harper vs. Orton.
Worst match: Kalisto & Crews vs. Ziggler
This show was far better than I expected it to be, honestly. Everything feels like they at least found their footing or understood the story they needed to tell. Overall, a very solid follow up to the Rumble, which was the best PPV they’ve done in years.
They did everything they could to fix the bad idea of the Ziggler handicap match, I guess, but apparently they just decided they want to have Ziggler lose all the time and look bad doing it. This is the same guy six months ago was in a feud at SummerSlam for the World title. He also supposedly threatened a man’s life on television a month ago and I forgot he was even in the Rumble until he was out there.
All that aside, the show was good, all the women’s matches were solid, if a bit sloppy. Guess is a multi-woman at mania, maybe a ladder or something? Seems weird to have this many moving pieces, but I don’t know what they’d do otherwise.
I’m really hoping they give AJ the big showcase he deserves, too because while Bray won the match, this felt like the AJ Styles and friends show. Elimination Chamber matches are usually fun, but honestly seeing AJ come up with new moves to do in all of WWE’s gimmick matches is one of the best things about the product right now. I love Owens and Cesaro, but AJ has to be the best wrestler WWE’s had at least since Bryan was fully healthy, right?
Speaking of Bray, while it’s been kind of a foregone conclusion since you reported the card, it was nice to see him get a win, especially pinning AJ and Cena. They’ve overlooked Bray it seems from time to time, but just looking at his WrestleMania appearances, he faced Cena his first time, Undertaker his second, verbally sparred with the Rock last year, and this year he’s walking in as champ and feuding with Orton. That’s a tough four-year run to beat.
Seems like they’re setting up Corbin vs. Dean for the IC belt, too. Anyway, the only big question left it seems like is what they wind up doing with AJ, and to a lesser extent with Joe and Zayn, for Mania. I’m going to be disappointed if they take the belt of Kevin and put it on Goldberg, but that seems inevitable at this point. I will say, it feels ridiculously hot shotty that they’ve had the WWE Championship belt change hands two times in a month, we might have it change hands again at Mania, and the Universal title, presumably, is going to shift three times after Mania. Seems silly.
– Jonathan Beckner
Thumbs in the middle
Best: Elimination Chamber
Worst: Ziggler vs. Crews/Kalisto
This show continues the SmackDown exclusive show trend of having a solid yet totally forgettable undercard followed by a great main event involving AJ Styles.
I thought this was the best Elimination Chamber match in years, probably since the 2011 Elimination Chamber PPV. I’m glad Wyatt finally won the title but the timing of it feels out of nowhere and kind of “too little too late.” Unless the writers have an awesome story in mind for Wyatt vs. Orton, I really don’t understand them booking this as the WWE title match, but then again there is a lot I don’t understand about WWE booking.
– Nick Randall
Best Match: Chamber
Worst Match: Mojo vs. Hawkins
SmackDown in my opinion continues to deliver for the most part despite having one hand tied behind their back for the most part with a much smaller roster of stars than Raw. There are certainly some things they can be doing better, but they seem to be trying.
The worst part of the show wasn’t wrestling, it was the Carmella & Ellsworth nonsense. No offense to Mr. Ellsworth, but I don’t find a reason for him to be employed. His short stint has run its course. Now he needs to fade back to the local wrestling he was doing before.
Mojo Rawley vs. Curt Hawkins while nothing special was better than I expected. It wasn’t the quick squash I was assuming they would do. Mojo rightfully wins.
The main show kicked off with Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch. Very solid match here and I do think James should have gone over in her first big match since returning, but it was good. I was quite tired of Otunga trying to say James had ring rust from being out of action for seven years. Finally JBL chimed in and corrected him saying she had been competing elsewhere. Also apparently Otunga doesn’t have the WWE Network cause he would have seen James compete quite well a few months back at NXT Takeover.
Apollo Crews & Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler was pretty basic. Why they even put this match together is beyond me. They essentially buried all three participants in this match. Ziggler is a heel who never wins and Crews is a babyface who is now getting boo’d and can only win on a fluke or with a partner. This feud needs to end now. Rethink what to do with Crews before he ends up with Jack Swagger in the SmackDown basement or wherever they stashed him.
Tag Team Turmoil was pretty good. Although at this point since American Alpha has run through everybody on SmackDown. What can they do next? If they use any of these teams for a title match at Mania it’s going to seem pretty lame. They really need to bring in a new team like the Revival or somebody to freshen things up. Even move the Shining Stars over from Raw where they are doing nothing would be good.
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya had some good action. Wasn’t expecting a double countout finish especially since Nikki has to move onto feuding with Maryse I guess for the WrestleMania mixed tag. Apparently this feud is continuing.
Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper was a good match. Started pretty slow, but really built well.Thought there might be a sliver of hope for Harper to win just to put him in position for a possible triple threat at Mania, but I guess they want to keep Orton strong for the Mania title match.
Naomi wins the Women’s Title from Alexa Bliss in a good match. Again thought it was too soon to take the title from Bliss, not that Naomi doesn’t deserve her chance. Bliss makes a good heel champ and at this point overall it looks like most of the title holders going into Mania will be faces. What happen to the days of having the heel champs defend and the big blow off of feuds where the face wins the title at Mania?
Elimination Chamber was the best match on the show. Always helps to have AJ Styles make whatever match he is in that much better. Bray Wyatt wins as has been predicted and now we have our Wyatt Family showdown for WrestleMania. During the match I feel like Miz was beaten pretty easily and clean by Cena which doesn’t do anything for me wanting to see them against each at WrestleMania. That just feels like a basic TV match.
– Robb Block
Hawkins vs. Rawley **1/2
As pre-show matches go I thought it was alright. Hawkins is a fairly steady hand, Rawley is green & raw, but he has presence, decent showmanship & some decent looking offense, I’m not as down on his gimmick as some are, & I thought he looked decent in places here. Think the timing could’ve been better on some of the kick-outs at the back-end & there were a few minor awkward moments, but again, I thought it was alright & they did more than you see in some pre-show matches.
Becky vs. Mickie ***1/4
Thought it was a good, solid match. Liked the layout. Little different with Becky blowing the beginning of her comeback, then Mickie cutting her off to transition back into the heat, then Becky restarting her comeback. Rhythm could’ve been better & execution of certain spots could’ve been crisper, but I liked it. Thought Mickie looked good, her technique was good for the most part, liked the way she controlled the pace during the heat, liked some of her choices & thought she generally looked very savvy & solid.
You could argue both needed the win, although with Mickie only just coming in the door, I thought it was a little early to beat her, & they’ve only given her one victory in a physical angle & a few promos to help her over, as well as the initial angle to bring her in, of course. Having said that, at least it was only a flash finish.
Worst Match: Crews & Kalisto vs. Ziggler *3/4
The match was what the match was, but as far as the booking I don’t know where to start & could go on about this for an age.
Just such a bizarre situation with this two faces & one heel handicap match. There’s creativity, there’s variety, there’s innovation & then there’s stupidity. I’d class this entire situation as the latter. You can do it a certain way if it’s this dominant monster heel, or I suppose if it’s this guy who you’ve put a ton of heat on over an extended period of time — but it’s Dolph Ziggler.
And just these poor babyfaces. They’ve been battered at every turn & then are given a man advantage against Ziggler, it just kills them, it’s terrible. And this has done little for Ziggler either. I mean, you can do the “I go over, you get over” — but it’s gotta be the right situation & they’ve done it four times now, with it losing impact on each occasion. The guy clearly needs strong momentum right now & these half measures as well as heavily character based booking decisions aren’t helping.
On top of all of that, it’s pretty similar to the situation with Neville & the cruiserweights a while ago, that here’s this guy who is a bigger star & has done more of substance, being positioned against guys who done little to impress the audience, that they have some degree of apathy for, & are bordering on an annoyance to them — so they of course choose the bigger star.
Plus, with the chair, the audience likes weapon use, & as we’ve seen many times, nowadays don’t feel sympathy as much for the characters, & are happy to enjoy weapon shots with little regard for the victim, regardless of who it is. It can still get the person over, but there’s little chance of heat (to be fair to them it is very difficult to get heat on a heel nowadays, but you think they’d notice & change accordingly, but maybe they don’t care, who knows), but even the prior isn’t going happen with such excessiveness. Also I preferred Ziggler’s mannerisms during the Lawler angle where he was this cold, miserable heel.
Quite the rant, but the whole thing is a complete mess.
Tag Team Turmoil ***1/4
Thought lack of pre-planning was definitely a problem here. They really needed to think ahead & build-up some of these teams prior to this, but of course that doesn’t happen with such short-term booking. I thought it was a decent match, thought Slater/Rhyno & American Alpha looked good, liked the layout with the first half focused on Slater & Rhyno, setting the table for an Usos-Alpha feud, & putting the babyface champions in a vulnerable position with them overcoming against the remaining heel team in big fashion.
Ascension would never be your first choice, but if you wanted do what they did with The Usos, Ascension was frankly the best option with the nature of their gimmick & stature, as opposed to the remaining heel teams.
Natalya vs. Nikki ***1/2
Finish was a shame, but I thought it was a strong effort & good match. Was a little thrown by the beginning of the match as it was not you’d expect for such a heated feud, but it made sense with the heel trying to play to her strengths & exploit the face’s weakness, only for the face to match her. I enjoyed the uniqueness with some of the submission work, some interesting hope-spots & an interesting layout overall. Thought Natalya was great as she always is, good presence during the heat & solid as a rock. Nikki was decent, although there were a few awkward moments. Again, good effort & liked it.
Orton vs. Harper ****
Thought it was a very good match. I did think there were some rhythm issues & was a little sluggish at times, but it built great, Orton made Harper look good — although you can see his heel style bumping is restricted as he’s clearly trying to protect his neck, thought the crowd didn’t really know what to make of it initially & perhaps didn’t believe in Harper, who also wasn’t very over & perhaps could’ve done with greater preparation for the occasion, but they got them in the end & I thought the sell for the RKO was superb. Also on the sluggishness, I think it’d be of Orton’s benefit to drop some weight.
Alexa vs. Naomi **1/2
They were in a tough position, but I thought they did some nice & unique stuff, there was good effort, there was some feeble looking offense at times & things fell-apart a bit at the end, also intensity was an issue, but again, I thought it was ok.
Pretty surprised by the finish, but I don’t think Naomi is a bad choice. Her entrance is a big shine, she’s athletic & got lots of flashy offense, she looks good, is endearing & has personality, I’m not against it & think she could get fairly over. You aren’t gonna get a lot of rather good matches out of her, but I think she’s far from the worst option.
Best Match: Elimination Chamber ****1/4
Wild match. Lots of crazy stuff & nice spots, & the crowd was lapping it up. Glad they finally got rid of that grating on the outside (or perhaps just padded it up) & increased the heights so guys weren’t as restricted with stuff from above the Chamber. Styles made everyone look great & the bump from the top of the chamber was nuts. Ambrose worked ever so hard & took a nasty landing off that double German.
In addition, Cena appeared to hurt his leg on that torture rack spinning powerbomb of Styles’. Thought it was laid-out well booking wise, with Corbin looking real good prior to his opening elimination, & frankly there was no real easy option for who should go out first. They set the table nicely for an Corbin-Ambrose feud (which looked likely after the last Miz-Ambrose match) & put Wyatt over pretty huge, who got quite the reaction for his victory. Real good stuff.
– Tom Griffiths
Thumbs up. Surprised how solid the show was.
Best Match: Harper vs Orton
Worst Match: Ziggler vs Kalisto & Crews
Missed the pre-show match. All of the women’s matches were good, which was important to holding this show together. Kept me engaged throughout. Thought everything worked well. The whole show made sense.
Not sure how Ziggler is a heel, losing a 2 on 1 where he did the smart thing to even the odds at the start. Doesn’t help Kalisto and Apollo for sure. One of the great things about SmackDown is everyone seems to have improved their place in the company pecking order. Except those two.
Click Here: Cheap Golf Drivers
Harper looked great. Hard choice between the Chamber match and this, but I prefer a good 1 on 1 battle with a clean finish to the gimmick match any day.
Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss was in a tough spot, but they did a good job. Naomi came off very well in the post-match interview and again on Talking Smack.
Elimination Chamber was really well booked and worked. Again, everyone involved comes out looking good. Could easily see this as best match, too.
The crowd was great and really helped the show come across well.
– Joe Daniel
Thumbs in the Middle
Best Match: John Cena vs. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Baron Corbin
Worst Match: Apollo Crews & Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
Very good main event. I got legit bored watching earlier in the show, though. WWE over-saturation plus a B-show from the lesser-valued brand, along with three women’s matches.
It really annoyed me that the announcers clearly were not allowed to bring up the hypothetical of Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt until after the main event ended. Kind of like how they weren’t allowed to acknowledge Mickie James wrestling Asuka in NXT a few months back.
– Lou Pickney
Best Match: Chamber
Worst Match: Mojo v Curt
Good but not amazing show. Was glad that having three women’s matches in the modern age wasn’t cringeworthy because there were some shows in that past at times that had to have two divas matches on one card and that was just death. The depth of the division still shows a little when you use all.
On the same note the tag division gets really exposed when you keep doing these scrambles and 10 and 12 men matches. I still strongly feel one women’s and one tag champs are the way to go and have them travel between shows. Again though the quality of the women’s matches all solid. May be in the minority but enjoyed the Bliss match the best. Naomi has revived her career starting with the new entrance idea and its a good story to have her defend in her hometown. The scramble had some cool moments but due to format it never gets going.
As has been pointed out; the handicap match concept had so many issues but parts of the actual match were good. Why wasn’t it just a three way where you could have the faces work together at times but still try to beat each other. They have no clue on Ziggler. He’s booked as a failure constantly and not in the “Daniel Bryan” way.
Harper-Orton was a standout performance by Harper back to his original breakout but could tell crowd is confused as it wants to love Orton and Harper has been a heel so long. Also the tough thing with a Harper solo push is he is ALWAYS going to be associated with the Wyatt Family gimmick it feels so will always be a feeling of reforming or inferiority. If they could get Orton over as a true heel I wouldn’t mind a Wyatt face turn as a modern day Undertaker considering how much the fans love the entrance etc.
Timing may not be right but I thought Chamber match was great. Not sure about this new Chamber, guessing due to safety and ease of fitting it around rings was the change. Even though everyone knew the finish I am glad they didn’t have a change of heart. The character needed a title win to advance. Hopefully this is not a case of four WrestleManias in a row where Wyatt loses or gets punked out (no match at 32).
hey have done a great job of making a group of legit title contenders of all the folks who were in the Chamber plus Orton. They could easily include Ziggler in there if they knew how to handle him. Fastlane has a bit more oomph behind it that could have made this a lame duck but the solid content put it in a good place.
– Michael O’Brien