- Episode #905 is coming to us from Chicago, IL, with Mauro Ranallo, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and David Otunga calling the action, Tom Phillips keeping a 4th seat warm, and it's the FINAL EPISODE of the year, so that means I'm going to have to work on my 2016 Year End Awards. Should be an interesting trek down memory lane. This is a loaded show titled "Wild Card Finals" (odd choice for a name), with three Championship matches and the return of John Cena advertised. Any wonders why this episode did a better rating than Raw's pile of crap this week?
- The show opens with the return of John Cena (a return from a several month sabbatical to do projects outside the WWE bubble). The crowd greets him with a mild "John Cena Sucks" sing-a-long with his entrance music. The crowd decides to start a CM Punk chant, but Cena asks them if they're chanting "Cena Sucks." That was a cleaner comeback than the Stephanie Smackdown on Raw. Cena is surprised they aren't chanting "Go, Cubs, Go", and that gets mostly boos, so maybe it's a White Sox crowd tonight. Cena's coming across like he's auditioning for the Rock's non-wrestling role of hyping things on the show and just saying whatever to get the crowd going. Cena addresses his lackluster 2016 and being considered a part-timer. He's here to set the record straight. He's sick of the New Era B.S., it's the "My Time is Now" Era. He's challenging the winner of tonight's Championship Match for the Royal Rumble.
- Dasha Fuentes is backstage to get an interview with the Miz. He refuses to answer her questions and only will talk with the unprofessional person who slapped him last week, Renee Young.
We return from commercial with Jey in control of a chin-lock on Jason Jordan. Gable tags in and takes Jey over with a T-Bone Suplex for a near fall. Jimmy nails Jordan with an enziguri. The Usos go for synchronized splashes, but Gable and Jordan counter with belly-to-belly suplexes. Gable with a sunset flip off the top, but Jey sits down on him for two. Gable counters into a jackknife cover, and that gets three at 6:21 (shown). Jimmy pulls Jordan off the apron while Harper knocks Gable through the ropes. American Alpha are in a compromised position, while Harper and Orton are as fresh as you can get. Orton casually gives Jordan the Garvin Stomp and drops him across the top rope with a suplex. Orton with a hard whip to the corner. Whip to the opposite corner and Orton with the snap Power-Slam for a two count. Jordan reverses a whip to the corner and connects with a dropkick. Harper and Gable with tags. Gable comes off the top with a diving body press, followed by a drop kick and German Suplex for two. Wyatt distracts the referee while Orton nails Gable from the apron with a clothesline. Harper with a running strike for another near fall.
We return from commercial with Harper in control with a chin-lock. Harper with a slingshot guillotine, sending Gable to the floor. Gable beats the count, so Harper throws him back out. Orton signals the fans to move back so he can drop Gable back-first across the barricade. Back inside and Orton covers for two. Orton hangs Gable across the top rope and follows with a slingshot suplex for two. Harper with the Michinoku Driver for two. He slaps on the Gator Roll. Gable teases the tag, but runs into a swinging sidewalk slam for another near fall. Gable fights out of a Powerbomb and counters with a hurricanrana, sending Harper into the turnbuckle. Jordan with the hot tag, running through Orton with forearms. Dropkick to Orton and belly-to-belly suplex to Harper. Tear drop suplex to Orton gets two. Gable nails Harper from the apron with a cannonball and Jordan nails Wyatt attempting to interfere. Orton surprises Jordan with a boot and hits the draping DDT. He sets up for the RKO, but Gable creates a distraction. Orton and Harper have a miscommunication, with Orton knocking Harper off the apron in a questionable way. Gable with a missile dropkick to Orton, and the Grand Amplitude finishes him at 15:56, giving American Alpha the Tag Team Titles! ***1/4 The first two falls was just "whatever", and the real match began when it came down to American Alpha and the Wyatt Family, and it turned out to be a good performance with a surprising title change. Putting the belts on American Alpha was a necessary move to revive their stock after floundering for 5-months, playing second fiddle to the surprisingly hot team of Slater and Rhyno. One has to wonder where they were headed with a healthy Zack Ryder.
- Renee Young is backstage with Dolph Ziggler. She didn't even ask him a question! Ziggler says putting his title opportunity on the line was a questionable decision, but having bad decisions has led to some of his most memorable moments. Is that something to be proud of? Dolph might as well have a neon sign flashing over his head that he's doing the job, and damn it if he doesn't desperately need to turn heel.
- Dasha Fuentes is with James Ellsworth, who seems to be suffering still from last week's mauling at the hands of A.J. Styles. Suddenly, Carmella interrupts and says she finds him "uniquely attractive." This sure isn't going to end well for Ellsworth.
We return from commercial with Bliss in control, choking Becky across the middle rope. Bliss stands on Becky's hair, but misses the double knees. Becky with uppercuts and clotheslines, followed by a running leg lariat. She charges into the corner and meets the buckle. Bliss misses a charge herself. Bliss avoids an Exploder, but Becky hooks the arm and snaps it back. Becky to the top rope, but Bliss slows her progress. Becky boots her away and connects with a missile dropkick for a near fall. Suddenly, some goofy music plays and out comes La Luchadora. Bliss uses the distraction to her advantage, but a roll up only gets two. Becky with a back slide for two. Crucifix for two. Bliss with a hard forearm and the Insult-to-Injury for two. Bliss to the top and Twisted Bliss meets knees. Becky with a roll-up for two. Becky with the Disarm-Her, but Alexa makes it to the ropes. OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ALEXA'S ARM!? She must be double jointed, otherwise that looks gruesome. La Luchadora sends Becky into the post while the referee is checking on Bliss. Alexa recovers from her broken arm as if nothing happened, and the DDT finishes Becky at 10:31 (shown). ** That was a unique spot, assuming it was planned and my theory is correct. I'd say having Becky unmask last week ruined the chance of "playing stupid" here, but since we knew Becky was La Luchadora last week, they couldn't play it up as "well, maybe it wasn't her after all." We all know it was probably Deonna Purrazzo under the mask, but this might be a way to introduce Mickie James to the Smackdown Roster, assuming she passes her physical.
- In case you missed it last week, Miz called out Renee Young for her personal relationship with Dean Ambrose and got slapped for it. Back to live footage (assuming it's not taped), and Renee Young is there for an interview with the Miz. Maryse threatens her physical harm before Miz dismisses her back into the dressing room. Miz then dismisses the four security guards, so you know something will happen. Dean Ambrose shows up from behind, and Miz knows somethings up. Ambrose tackles him against the wall and pounds away until security interrupts, and does a poor job of it, getting knocked out within seconds.
- Dasha Fuentes interviews Nikki Bella about the revelation last week that Natalya was the one behind Nikki's attack at Survivor Series. God, you'd think after all these years, she'd be able to deliver her lines a bit more convincingly.
- Speaking of delivering lines poorly, here's Baron Corbin. He might as well hold his script in the shot, because it's clearly not coming across naturally from him.
- Confirmed for next week on the 1st episode of Smackdown Live in 2017: The Miz defends the Intercontinental Championship against Dean Ambrose.
We come back from commercial with Corbin in control of the action. He rolls to the floor to send Ziggler back-first into the side of the ring. To the opposite side of the ring and he does it to Styles, too. Styles with strikes and a crucifix, assisted by Dolph, to take Corbin over for a near fall. Styles counters a suplex with a knee to the face. Dolph does the same to Styles and they trade blows until Corbin runs them both over with a double clothesline. What the hell is rare about the combination of strength and power?! JBL needs to lay off the drinking at the table. Corbin sends Ziggler to the corner for a chest-first bump. Ziggler goes for a DDT, but Corbin throws him off with ease. He goes for End of Days, but Styles makes the save and unloads with rights. Corbin bull rushes Styles into the corner, throws Ziggler into him, and charges, only to meet an elbow from Ziggler and boot from Styles. He slides out and runs back in for a big lariat to Ziggler, followed by an STO to Styles for two.
Back from the last commercial interruption of the night, and Corbin is still in control, putting the boots to Ziggler in the corner. Ziggler and Styles take turns throwing rights at Corbin and knock him to the floor with a double clothesline. They decide to continue their efforts working on Corbin, but he's not going down without a fight. He throws both around and undresses the announcers table. He charges at Styles and meets nothing but the barricade. Styles with a Phenomenal Forearm and Ziggler with a Super-Kick. They lay Corbin across the table and hit a double team elbow drop and leg drop to put Corbin through it. Back in the ring, Ziggler hits Styles with the high angle DDT for a near fall. Styles blocks the Zig-Zag and hits the fireman's carry into a back breaker. He signals for the Styles Clash, but Ziggler escapes with boots to the face. Ziggler counters the Phenomenal Forearm, but gets caught with a school boy for two. Super-Kick to Styles gets two and it seems like Corbin mistimed the spot to break the cover himself. Ziggler with a swinging neck breaker and elbow drop to Corbin for two. Corbin comes back with Deep Six, but Styles breaks the count. Styles with a flurry of strikes, but Corbin blocks, and they hit a combination of the End of Days to Styles and the Zig-Zag to Corbin, but Dolph's cover of Corbin only gets two. They couldn't have hit that spot better than they did. Corbin with End of Days to Dolph, and here's Styles to hit the Phenomenal Forearm to Corbin, and steals the cover on Ziggler to retain at 14:25 (shown). ***1/2 The commercial interruptions always hurt, but this was better than I expected. Corbin doesn't do much, but what he does he does well enough to not feel like he doesn't belong in the ring, and the match they mapped out did a lot to raise Corbin's stock as a future threat at the top of the card. Styles and Ziggler bumped like crazy, and had a few good sequences in there as well.
- John Cena's music cuts off Styles celebration and here's Mr. Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect himself to confront A.J. Styles... or just offer a handshake as a sign of sportsmanship and respect. Styles lays the belt out in front of him and accepts the handshake, and we'll see what happens at the Royal Rumble. Will John Cena become a 16-time World Champion, "tying" Ric Flair's record?
Final Thoughts: Three Championship matches, a big announcement for the Royal Rumble, and very little filler. We got a surprisingly good Main Event that featured a so-so talent like Baron Corbin, a surprising title switch by putting the Tag Titles on American Alpha in a really good match that was mostly them and the Wyatt Family, and then you had a decent Women's Title Match that was all about a disgusting visual of Alexa Bliss' arm hanging awkwardly and the mystery of who is the new La Luchadora. We also touched up on the Ambrose/Miz feud, and that storyline with Natalya and Nikki Bella is still a thing, I suppose. Overall, a strong show with good matches and a great way to end 2016.