- Last week on Smackdown Live... A.J. Styles’ ankle injury prevented him from defending the WWE Championship against James Ellsworth... The Miz taunted Dean Ambrose on Miz-TV with a Participation Award (You might not have won, but you tried!) and then successfully defended the Intercontinental Title when Ellsworth "accidentally" cost Ambrose the match... Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton successfully defended the Tag Titles against former Champions Heath Slater and Rhyno, complete with the most casual cover in WWE history... Natalya’s scheduled match with Carmella never took place thanks to accusations of being Nikki Bella’s attacker at Survivor Series... Baron Corbin defeated Kalisto in a rematch from TLC... Alexa Bliss had her Championship Celebration and blew off Becky Lynch’s request for a rematch... Chad Gable defeated Tyler Breeze in a match set-up by receiving a fashion police ticket... The Hype Bros continued to win meaningless matches with another victory over the Ascension... On Talking Smack, Rhyno and Heath Slater appear to be heading towards splits-ville.
- Episode #903 is TAPED (only by an hour or so) on December 13th, from Washington D.C., with Mauro Ranallo, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and David Otunga calling the action, with Tom Phillips also at ringside to add whatever the heck he adds to the team between matches. Advertised ahead of time: the long-waited rematch between A.J. Styles and James Ellsworth, and a Tag Team Battle Royal to determine a new #1 Contender to the (New) Wyatt Family.
- We start the show with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan watching a replay of last week’s Main Event and reprimanding a "sick" James Ellsworth. He’s clearly in no condition to compete for the WWE Championship tonight, so he’s being sent home for being disgustingly sick. In the meantime, there must be another #1 contender crowned. Wait... were they actually LABELING Ellsworth as a #1 contender?!
- The live portion of the show begins with the Miz and Maryse in the ring for the latest edition of Miz-TV. It’s day 28 of the Miz’s Intercontinental Championship Reunion Tour™. His guest this week is the WWE Champion, A.J. Styles. So they’ve stopped calling it the WWE World Title, at least for this week. Styles says it looks like Ellsworth has come down with a case of "chinfluenza." When the time finally comes, he’s going to destroy him. Miz says Styles’ hair is way nicer than a Soccer Mom’s, and Styles responds he’s looking for a shampoo commercial. Styles brags about beating everyone. Miz disagrees, offering himself as a worthy contender to elevate the WWE Championship. They get in each other’s face, but here comes Dean Ambrose to throw furniture around. Then Dolph Ziggler shows up to indifference. He whines about Miz being a cheater. They get into a short skirmish until Miz rakes the eyes and hits the Skull Crushing Finale (what a geek). Ambrose with Dirty Deeds to the Miz, then Dirty Deeds to Ziggler because he’s a geek. The lights flicker and Luke Harper shows up to lay out Ambrose with a Discus Clothesline.
- We return from commercial and we have a Fatal Four-Way tonight between Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, and Luke Harper, to earn a shot at the title on December 27th, the last Smackdown Live of 2016. If anyone interferes, and that means Maryse, Wyatt and Orton, or anyone else, then whoever they’re associated with will be Disqualified. Judging by how poor he looked in the last segment, you have to give Dolph Ziggler the odds to win the match and earn the right to do another job in a big match.
- John Cena guest starred on Saturday Night Live and will make his return to Smackdown Live on December 27th. Sounds like it’s shaping up to be a big episode, since there’s not another PPV to build to until the Royal Rumble.
- Apollo Crews and Gabriel Iglesias are having a conversation when Maryse and Miz interrupt them for being loud and obnoxious (as well as the shirt Iglesias is wearing). They make a "Uranus" joke that Miz guffaws at in one of the better genuine "funny" moments in recent weeks. Miz says he doesn’t have time for potty humor or "Creed" and bids farewell.
- Alexa Bliss is scheduled for a match against Deonna Purrazzo, otherwise known as "enhancement talent" that has made several appearances on NXT in the same role. Bliss refuses to wrestle "Jane Ellsworth" and says she doesn’t do charity. She attacks Purrazzo because she can, so here’s Becky Lynch to pick a fight. Bliss says she can have her title match, but not tonight. Shane McMahon decides to show up for the live crowd and makes the match official, and it will take place right now.
We return from commercial break with Ambrose taking Ziggler over with a Fisherman Suplex for two. Whip to the ropes, Ambrose catches a body press and turns it into a swinging back breaker for another two count. Ambrose with the Regal Stretch, but Ziggler won’t give up. Snap suplex for two. Ziggler hits Harper with the Zig-Zag, and Ambrose hits Ziggler with the diving elbow for two. Ziggler with a sunset flip, and they go through a pair of counters until a "malfunction at the junction" leaves them both laying, with Harper still down in the corner. Harper with a Super-Kick to Ziggler and swinging sidewalk slam to Ambrose for two. Liger-Bomb to Ziggler gets two. Ziggler surprises Harper with a Super-Kick and Ambrose with Dirty Deeds for three at 11:36 to eliminate Harper. BOO! Ziggler ties for something on the apron, but Ambrose sends him into the post via slingshot. Ambrose goes to the top, but Ziggler meets him with a flying face-buster. Ambrose tries to cradle Ziggler like he did Miz, but it only gets two. A double clothesline lays both men out again. Miz shows up at ringside for the sake of being a pest. Ambrose nails him with tope suicida and Ziggler adds a Super-Kick. Miz hangs onto the foot of Ambrose, preventing him from getting back in the ring. When he finally does, Ziggler nails him with the Super-Kick and falls on top for three at 15:37 (shown) to earn a shot at the WWE Championship. ***1/4 Honestly, not just basing this by the performance of the match, which was a great showing, but pushing Harper for a Non-PPV Championship Match elevates him and gives us a fresh match on a special edition of Smackdown Live. Ziggler is clearly in the spot for the sake of doing a job.
Final Thoughts: If not for the unfortunate injury to Zack Ryder, this episode set the table for the December 27th episode with two title matches and the return of John Cena. There wasn’t a lot of the little things Smackdown Live is known for, but with them also taping the Tribute to the Troops the same night, they spread things a bit thin and really focused on a few storylines without going overboard. I can’t say I’m excited to see Ziggler as the next challenger, but they’ve already had a 4-star match on Smackdown shortly after Summerslam, so it will at least be a good match, even if the outcome is obvious (Ziggler doing the job).