Suffice to say, the Blue Brand ended 2016 on a high note. The last two weeks were perhaps the finest efforts from SmackDown all year, which is saying something. We have a set table for 2017 with John Cena back, leading to a WWE Title Match for the Royal Rumble. New Tag Team Champions have been crowned. A bevy of feuds needs to be decided. So, unlike RAW, there’s plenty of optimism on Tuesday nights. Let’s see if the “A-show” can continue to live up to that moniker in the new year.
Here are five reasons to watch SmackDown LIVE tonight.
1. Styles-Cena Contract Signing
The WWE Title Match for the Royal Rumble will be AJ Styles defending against John Cena. Considering how these two have worked together in the past, SummerSlam in particular, the match should be very good. Cena returned last week and cut a very strong promo. If you don’t think SmackDown is better when Cena is on it, well, then you’re just wrong. His chase of an admittedly fictitious “tie” of Ric Flair’s World Title record figures to be the focus now. Commentary is pushing that Styles had the best first year of any superstar in WWE history, which also may not be true. But it was really good and he was the best all-around performer in the company.
The Styles-Cena match in San Antonio will set the path for the WWE Title picture towards WrestleMania 33. Reportedly, Vince McMahon is not yet 100% on doing Cena vs. The Undertaker in Orlando. The two were supposed to wrestle last year in Dallas. It’s a match that doesn’t need the WWE Title to get over, but the pairing probably makes the WWE Title seem more important. Interestingly, if it does happen, it now seems like it would be Cena defending against Taker. That’s a reversal of what I had envisioned.
As for tonight’s contract signing, we know how these go. All I can guarantee is the segment won’t end with the two men simply signing and walking away.
2. Miz Defends The Intercontinental Title Against Ambrose
Every program The Miz touches turns to gold. Dean Ambrose is a character I’d grown tired of. But pairing the two together has led to at least a temporary invigoration of “The Lunatic Fringe.” The inclusion of the real life relationship between Ambrose and Renee Young gives the program a natural heat you don’t always get on WWE television. Last week’s segment where Ambrose beat down the IC Champ was fun. Now there will be a title match. How logical!
I don’t envision a title change taking place here, but I’ve certainly been wrong before! What I do anticipate is a continuation of the feud and I can foresee a mixed tag (Miz/Maryse vs. Ambrose/Young) in the future. (Rumble?)
3. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
Please let this be a vehicle to put Corbin over.
These two worked together a lot when Corbin first came to the main roster. Truth be told, the feud went way too long for what needed to be done. What needed to be done was put the new guy over strong. For whatever reason, that didn’t really take place. But past mistakes can still be atoned for in the present. In last week’s triple threat, Ziggler proved he can still be a solid in-ring performer. But this company isn’t exactly short on those right now and the bottom line is that Ziggler doesn’t have a ton of value, even on a depth-shy brand.
4. Long Reign For Alpha?
On the most recent edition of Top Rope Nation, I argued that it was actually a mistake to take the SmackDown Tag Titles off The Wyatt Family. They are simply a “higher ceiling” act than American Alpha right now. That being said, I understand that if you’re the creative team, you probably didn’t want to beat Alpha again and run the risk of potentially cooling them off two much. The result of last week’s Four Corners Match came across as a bit of “shock booking” though. Remember it was originally supposed to be the Hype Bros challenging The Wyatts in that spot before Zack Ryder hurt his knee. Something tells me the title change was not something originally on the books, given how strong the Wyatts had been put over on commentary. I would not be surprised if the belts went back to the Wyatts despite the tension that was teased (between Randy Orton and Luke Harper) after last week’s loss. Four months ago, had you asked me if American Alpha would be Tag Champs in January, I would have answered you affirmatively. But that was before we all got a chance to watch The New Wyatt Family, an act that got hot in a hurry.
Sorry, Fireflies, but Bray is a dead end act as a solo heel. The current role for Orton has him as over as he’s been in some time. It would do Harper no favors to be in a singles program against Orton as he almost certainly would lose regularly. As a collective, the three can be way more over than they would be individually. Hey, sounds like The Shield to me!
5. Who Is La Luchadora?
La Luchadora is a gimmick we first saw two weeks ago with Becky Lynch surprising Alexa Bliss in a non-title match. But then the tables got turned on Lynch last week as La Luchadora again appeared, but it was someone else reprising the gimmick. Who was it? Mickie James (rumored to be starting on this brand soon), Naomi (who has been MIA of late) and Eva Marie (not seen since being suspended in August) were the three names my Twitter feed threw out there. It will be interesting to see how long they drag the mystery of the identity out.
Make sure to check back with us immediately following WWE SmackDown Live for our full analysis and results.