Tuesday, February 14, 2017
A Kickoff match that I don’t think anyone cared about. Hawkins returned for no reason as he’s done nothing. However, they did better than I expected. Mojo brought a lot of fire and got a solid reaction. Hawkins was kind of just there. Mojo won with a tilt-a-whirl slam. It was worked like something you’d see on a live event, which was fine, but sometimes I want more from the Kickoff show.
The first of three women’s matches on the show. I liked it as the opener because it was the best of those three on paper. The crowd was invested, which was good. Becky started hot, overwhelming the veteran. I liked that Mickie took a powder outside and once back in, she took over by using Becky’s own tactics against her, working the arm. I like that for Mickie’s character. Mickie dominated with that until they abandoned some of the arm work to trade stuff in the closing stretch. Becky won on a jackknife pin, which was a decent finish. It kept Mickie strong, though I would have had Becky get in a bit more offense so it didn’t look like a lucky win. Still, a good opener that was mostly worked in smart fashion.
Originally I noted that a handicap match with the babyfaces having the advantage was a bad idea. I stand by that, which was why I appreciated Dolph Ziggler taking out Kalisto before the match. It allowed he and Apollo Crews to basically work a singles match. It wasn’t great. Lots of slow points. They haven’t given fans enough reason to care for Apollo and Dolph is bland as a heel. Kalisto limped out and hit a handspring kick before tagging Apollo to get the win. Dolph’s heel turn just leads to more losses. He got some heat back by Pillmanizing Apollo.
This started with Breezango against Slater and Rhyno. Breezango had some cool gear. They fell to Slater and Rhyno in a fun start and the Vaudevillains suffered the same fate. I’m pleasantly surprised the Vaudes lasted more than a minute. The Usos joined the fray and eliminated the former champions before the current champs came out. Usos/AA was the highlight of the match. AA eliminated them so the pissed off Usos attacked them. They left them for dead and made it easy pickings for the Ascension. However, the Ascension are a bunch of scrubs. AA weathered the storm and overcame the odds to retain. I liked that their comeback wasn’t too superman like. They only powered up for two spots and everything else was more hopeful. The match was fine but I wasn’t a fan of the booking. If AA was going to prove they were the best team, I’d have had them start and go the distance. Beat everyone to set up a new challenger coming in or pull something similar with the Usos anyway. It was just structured so oddly and the crowd didn’t care much.
Why? This feud has been garbage (the Carmella/Nikki one was miles better) but they’ve played it as heated with lots of attacks. Naturally, they grapple here. They should want to murder each other. This suffered from the same problem all Natalya matches do. She’s incredibly bland. Her heat segment involved her doing boring moves while yelling awkward things at Nikki and the crowd. She did the “you can’t see me” taunt more than she should have. It all just felt weird. I did like the small storytelling piece of Nikki trying to prove she could wrestle thought it was one of the only things to make sense. They did a shitty double countout finish to continue this god awful rivalry. Worst match on the show. At least Nikki showed her STF is better than Cena’s.
Maybe I was more invested in this than most because I love Luke Harper. I dug most of this match. It started a bit slow but picked up on a Harper suicide dive. Harper got in a ton of offense, way more than I expected against Randy Orton. When Orton is motivated, he can flat out go, which felt like the case here. Harper brought some vicious strikes and Orton sold well for him. They had some great back and forth and several close calls that got the crowd into it by the end. Orton survived a sitout powerbomb spot and shortly after, nailed the RKO to win. A potential star making performance for Harper. He looked great in defeat, while Orton gains momentum before Mania. I’d still like to see Harper added to the Mania Title match. More on that in a bit though.
From what I’m seeing around various websites, most people liked this more than I did. It did blow their No Mercy match out of the water at least. Naomi looked better than usual, which she needed to because she’s largely unimpressive. Alexa is slightly better to me in the ring but neither stands out. They brought energy here and benefitted from being the shortest women’s match on the card. It allowed them to avoid dull heat segments and give us no real downtime, which was appreciated. Naomi won with the split legged moonsault in a decision I dislike. I don’t see the appeal in Naomi, while Bliss has done wonderful character work. Second best match of Naomi’s career if memory serves me right.
The new Elimination Chamber had padded mats on the floor, which didn’t look great but allowed for more freedom. Nearly everything about this match worked. Even the entrances, especially Bray’s where he stopped to intimidate each person in the pod, were great. AJ and Cena started and that’s always a great idea. I won’t go into anything near play-by-play but highlight some things. This wasn’t your typical spot fest or car crash Chamber. Sure it had great spots but this was a well told story. They hit on everything they needed to. AJ and Cena reignited their excellent rivalry. Baron Corbin was a monster that even Cena had trouble with. Corbin was first out on a Dean Ambrose rollup and even that was well done because Corbin then attacked Ambrose. It should set up an IC Title feud. Miz, playing the smarmy heel perfectly, got the cheap pin on Dean. He then went into a string of Daniel Bryan based offense before falling to the AA. In a surprising moment, Cena went out next to a Sister Abigail, leaving AJ and Bray in the end. Heel vs. Heel and it was a fresh matchup. I LOVE IT MAGGLE! I was so glad they allowed AJ and Bray to go at it with some great back and forth. AJ came close on the springboard 450 so he went for the Phenomenal Forearm. Bray caught him into the Sister Abigail to capture the title. Like I said, they nailed all of this. The pacing was great and it never felt slow despite the length. They told the stories they had to and each guy in the match did exactly what they needed to. This was neck and neck with the original Chamber match for the best. I could see this score getting bumped up after a re-watch.
Overall: I’d say this was my least favorite Smackdown exclusive PPV since the split. That still doesn’t make it a bad show though. Most of the match were at least somewhat entertaining. Mojo/Hawkins was better than expected and the handicap match was fine. Nikki/Natalya was the shits, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with Alexa/Naomi. The turmoil match was fine despite odd booking, Becky/Mickie was strong and Harper/Orton delivered. The main event honestly feels like an all-time great gimmick match and is must-see.