Smackdown – March 17, 2016

Smackdown
Date: March 17, 2016
Location: US Bank Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio
Commentators: Jerry Lawler, Mauro Ranallo, Byron Saxton

This is one of the three final episodes before Wrestlemania XXXII in April and things are….interesting. This past Monday saw the return of Roman Reigns, who showed some of the fire that made him a success near the end of the year. The question now though is how much of that will stick around and how much will be a return to his not so successful form. Let’s get to it.

We open with a recap of Reign returning to attack HHH, resulting in the champ needing six staples to close the gash in his head.

Here’s Reigns, again down the ramp which seems to be his new norm, to open things up. The fans aren’t sure what to think of him to start but says that footage shows what HHH gets for running his mouth. Reigns believes in the big fight, which is what knocked HHH into next week. It’s a good thing that HHH isn’t in the building tonight because Reigns would beat him again just as badly. Not because he wants to you see, but because he can. At Wrestlemania in Dallas, Reigns is going to hold the title over HHH’s body because he can and HHH needs to believe that.

This wasn’t a great promo but above all else it was short. That’s been Roman’s big downfall: they leave him out there for so long that Reigns gets lost because he’s just not that great of a talker. However, showing how strong of a fighter he is on Monday and then having him talk about it here in a three minute speech is the best path they can go with. If they can just avoid him being booed out of the building (remember that the next two Raw’s are in Philadelphia and New York) before Wrestlemania, things will be as good as they can be.

We look back at Chris Jericho splitting up the partnership with AJ Styles and then getting laid out by Styles on Monday (in what was apparently an improvised segment due to the Neville injury).

Styles says the fans can chant for whoever they want because this is WWE. This Monday felt so good….and here’s Kevin Owens. Kevin thinks AJ sounds just like Sami Zayn with all this whining. Maybe they can have their own show on the WWE Network where they hold each other and cry. AJ talks about how Owens is just like Jericho with their insecurity. Owens says the easiest answer would be they’re both from Canada but that’s not what matters. It’s the Intercontinental Title that really matters but AJ thinks it’s more important that they’re having a match tonight (BIG pop for that).

The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler

Ranallo brings up the horribly tired Battle of Ohio idea for this match. Ziggler takes it to the mat for an early front facelock but Miz reverses into a small package. They fight over headlocks because there’s almost nothing left for these two to fight over these days. Ranallo keeps up the lame references by bringing up Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell. Of all the people Trump is associated with and feuding with these days, the best he’s got it Rosie O’Donnell?

Ziggler pulls Miz to the mat again and drops some elbows but gets sent chest first into the buckle as we take a break. Back with Miz getting two off a top rope ax handle and slapping on a body scissors. Ziggler fights up again with his running clotheslines and a neckbreaker, followed by a sunset flip for two. He takes too much time getting up though and it’s time for the Figure Four. Ziggler is quickly in the ropes though and a superkick puts Miz away at 10:40.

Rating: C. These guys are on that dreaded list of people I do not need to see fight ever again. If the Battle of Ohio is really the best thing they can come up with for a quick story then it’s clear that they need to move on with both guys. Hopefully the two of them are in the battle royal instead of squeezed into the Intercontinental Title match as has been rumored as neither is interesting enough for that spot at the moment.

We look at Ryback challenging Kalisto for a US Title match at Wrestlemania.

Kalisto accepted the challenge.

We look back at Mick Foley giving Dean Ambrose the barbed wire baseball bat.

Earlier today, Dean was here in his hometown of Cincinnati and loves every bit of it. Brock Lesnar may have been trained to fight in the UFC but on the streets of this city, every day is Wrestlemania because you fight every day and night. Pressure like that makes diamonds and Brock better be ready because nothing hurts like an education. I love these on location promos as they give things such a sense of importance and realism.

Jackie Moore Hall of Fame video.

Bubba Ray Dudley vs. Goldust

D-Von gets a table out just a few seconds after the bell, drawing a very nice reaction from the crowd. The distraction lets Bubba send Goldust into the buckle a few times, all while calling Goldust a freak. After Bubba shouts about Goldust having face paint just like the Usos, Goldust starts a comeback with right hands, only to run into an elbow to the jaw. Goldust hammers away in the corner and scores with the bulldog for two. A quick D-Von distraction pays off though and Bubba kicks Goldust in the face for the pin at 3:23.

Rating: D. What are you expecting from a match that seems designed to just set up the Usos vs. Dudley Boyz match? Goldust and Bubba Ray Dudley being around in 2016 is some combination of amazing and sad, though the fact that they certainly didn’t embarrass themselves out there is a good sign.

Post match R-Truth comes out for the save but gets beaten down as well. The Usos come out for the real save.

Here’s Charlotte (dressing more like Nikki Bella every day) for a face to face to face meeting with Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks. Charlotte gets right to the point by saying she’s known the two of them (not out here yet) for most of her adult life. They’ve done it all together but she wouldn’t be standing here today if not for the two of them. Becky comes out on her own and Charlotte isn’t sure what to think of it, so here’s Sasha a few seconds later. Well that was kind of pointless. Charlotte: “You finally showed up.” Sasha: “Child please, I am not on your schedule.”

Charlotte brings up their past in NXT and tells a story about calling her dad when she met the two of them. Ric thought they sounded like the Horsemen but Charlotte thought they were the Horsewomen. Over time she started to accept the idea but now she owes Ric an apology because these two could NEVER be the Horsewomen.

That’s enough for Becky, who goes on a rant about how you can call her whatever she wants but at Wrestlemania she’s going to be the one ripping Charlotte’s arm off and becoming Divas Champion. Sasha says sorry boo boos (yes boo boos) but she’s the one who took the NXT Women’s Title from Charlotte and the only one who hasn’t been beaten in WWE. Charlotte watches as Becky and Sasha argue over jewelry but they quickly go after the champ, sending her running off. Another good segment here as I want to see the match more than I did coming in.

Here’s New Day for Kofi Kingston’s match but they’re swinging trash bags. After looking at a video of their beatdown, Woods says they’re fine after that beatdown because they’ve been eating their Bootyo’s. Now some people might think that they couldn’t do anything after a beating like that, which sends Big E. into a perfect 1980s style over the top promo that you see when someone is pretending to be pretending to be a wrestler.

That brings them to the trash bags, which represent a member of the League of Nations each. Each one is punted out of the ring, accompanied by a good imitation of each member. The challenge for a three on two Tag Team Title match is accepted for Wrestlemania, which certainly should be interesting to see.

Kofi Kingston vs. King Barrett

Kofi takes him straight into the corner for a one man Unicorn Stampede, meaning it’s time for a seven man staredown as we take a way too early break. Back with Kofi firing off the kicks to the legs but getting distracted by the League, allowing Barrett to kick him in the face to take over.

We get some clubbing (yes clubbing I say) forearms to the back for two, only to have Kofi come back with a spinning cross body for the same. Winds of Change is countered with a backflip into a DDT (sweet move) but Woods and Del Rio get on the apron. Everything breaks down on the floor and it’s Kofi grabbing a rollup (and trunks) for the pin on Barrett at 7:51.

Rating: C. Another simple match here and it’s amazing to see how easily New Day is slipping into their face role. They haven’t officially turned yet but you know it’s going to come the night after Wrestlemania at the very latest. Kofi is so smooth in the ring and I’d love to see him get a strong singles run after New Day breaks up one day.

Dean is in a bar and talks how much you grow up here. You start thinking about the fights you’ve won and the fights you’ve lost, but above all else you start thinking about fighting for pride. At Wrestlemania, he’s bringing Cincinnati with him and Lesnar better be ready.

Long recap of Vince, Shane and Undertaker from Raw.

The Social Outcasts are sitting on the apron and promise to be the first team to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal together. That idea lasts all of three seconds (the amount of time between Dallas saying it and Slater starting to talk) before they argue over who will be winning.

Cue Dean with a kendo stick to hammer all four of them (drawing your required Cincinnati Reds reference), sending the Outcasts running. Dean has heard that Brock is going to be in Boston next week for Smackdown because everyone knew he wasn’t coming to Cincinnati. If Brock is going to be here next week, Dean will be right there with him for the fight that Brock walked away from on Raw. More good stuff here.

AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens

Non-title. We start fast with AJ’s drop down into the dropkick as Lawler makes fun of Ranallo calling everything AJ does phenomenal. The springboard forearm is countered into a gutbuster and the backsplash crushes Styles. We take a break and come back with fighting out of Chinlock City and blocking another backsplash with raised knees. Owens: “Ranallo shut up! I can hear you from here you idiot!”

AJ gets in the running forearm to a seated Owens and sends him outside for a slingshot forearm. Back in and Owens’ package piledriver slam (called a Blue Thunder Bomb by Ranallo, which isn’t exactly what I would call the move) gets two but AJ kicks him in the head. They slug it out with AJ getting the best of it until he misses a spinning backfist and eats a superkick.

The Pop Up Powerbomb is countered and AJ actually torture racks him into a spinning powerbomb for two. I always love seeing a surprise move like that as it keeps you from getting bored with the same stuff over and over. AJ heads up but has to knock Owens off the top, only to have Jericho come out to break up the Phenomenal Forearm. Styles takes WAY too long getting back inside and it’s the Pop Up Powerbomb for the pin at 11:43.

Rating: B. This was getting really good until the ending but that worked well too. Styles losing is fine here as Jericho cost him the fall to make sure it wasn’t clean. They’ve done a very good job of making AJ look like a big deal and it’s even better when Owens gets a nice win as well. Really nice main event here and I’d love to see them get more time in a big match later.

Post match Jericho gives AJ a Codebreaker and mocks the AJ STYLES chants to end the show. Jericho continues to nail this heel run like he hasn’t in years.

Overall Rating: B-. YES. This is the kind of show that WWE has been needing for a long time now as it actually felt like they were setting up something special at Wrestlemania. You had nearly every match get a strong build (save for the Cell and they’re messing that enough up on Raw every single week) and now I want to see more of the matches than I did coming in. This might not have been the highest quality show but it was an important one given how horrible the build has been to this point.

Results

Dolph Ziggler b. The Miz – Superkick

Bubba Ray Dudley b. Goldust – Big boot

Kofi Kingston b. King Barrett – Rollup with a handful of trunks

Kevin Owens b. AJ Styles – Pop Up Powerbomb

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