- Smackdown Live Episode #912 is live from Seattle, WA. Mauro Ranallo, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and David Otunga are calling all the action, with Tom Phillips hanging around as a fluffer. Randy Orton vs. John Cena is the advertised Main Event, and even after dozens (and DOZENS!) of matches on PPV, this is their first meeting on Smackdown (Live).
- Daniel Bryan comes out for the home-crowd response. It's been almost a year to the date since he announced his retirement (at least for the remainder of his WWE tenure). He kisses up to the crowd until the Miz interrupts to be a jerk. He tells him to go home and be a stay-at-home Dad, and questions why he's in a WWE ring when he can't wrestle. Daniel Bryan responds with "not being able to wrestle has never stopped you (Miz) from getting in the ring." SAVAGE. The crowd tries drowning the Miz out, and now it's Baron Corbin coming out. He tells Miz he talks too much… how long until that becomes a staple on Botchamania? Miz wants to cut a deal, but Corbin says no dice. Miz complains, so Bryan gives the least enthusiastic warning to Corbin. Dean Ambrose is out next, hyping the Elimination Chamber, and bragging he'll leave with the WWE and Intercontinental Titles. A.J. Styles interrupts to tell everyone about their fantasies mistaken for facts (Miz has a brain, Baron Corbin will be the Champion…) and that he's beaten all three men in the ring. He has to yell at the crowd to stop chanting for him. With all these hot tempers, why not settle it with a preview of Elimination Chamber, in a Fatal-Four Way! NEXT!
We return from commercial, with Corbin on the floor and Ambrose compromised on the top rope. Miz climbs up, as does Styles, and here's Corbin for the standard Tower of Doom. Corbin covers Miz for two, then Styles for two. Miz with kicks to Corbin in the corner, but the running dropkick is countered with a Deep-Six for a near fall. Styles avoids the quick in-and-out with a Pele Kick and diving forearm for two. Miz counters the Styles Clash and hits the Busaiku Knee for two. Ambrose with a swinging neck breaker on Styles, followed by a combo running bulldog and clothesline. Tope suicida knocks Corbin into the announcers table. Styles misses a pescado and gets thrown into the security wall. Corbin meets the post and Ambrose comes off the top with a big elbow for two. Styles ducks the Lunatic Lariat and hits a Springboard Reverse DDT for two. Styles hits Miz with the Phenomenal Forearm, but Maryse pulls him to safety. Corbin sneaks back in, and hits Styles with End of Days for the three count at 9:10 (shown). *** Generally I'm not a fan of multi-opponent matches for the sake of doing it, but this was all action with a hot crowd.
- Luke Harper is standing by in his own broom closet with a few eco-friendly lightbulbs hanging around. Randy Orton has stolen his family, but he can see through him, like the proverbial snake in the grass. He wants to hurt Orton, not just "cut the head off the viper", and at Elimination Chamber, Randy Orton will be the one who's eliminated.
- Natalya and Nikki Bella are standing by from separate studios for an interview with Tom Phillips. I guess the lack of security keeping them both safe has made these measures necessary. It's more of the same cattiness, with Natalya saying Nikki is living vicariously through her sister because John Cena doesn't want to have children, and then insists that if she weren't already married (to Tyson Kidd), then John Cena would want to be with her, causing Nikki to walk off the set in disgust.
- The first ever DUEL Contract Signing on Smackdown Live, hyping Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James, and Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi, for Elimination Chamber. Yes, that means we've got three matches between female Superstars on one PPV, and only one looks like it might be trash. Mickie James is now claiming to be a former 6-Time Champion... I thought it was 5, at least as of last week. She tells of Renee Young and gets up in Becky's face. She accuses Becky of trying to erase her past and taking credit for the Women's Revolution™. She's got 7-years of rage built up inside her, and she's going to take it out on Becky Lynch on Sunday at Elimination Chamber. Becky says she lost respect for Mickie when she came back to help the little troll keep the Women's Title. She's going to bring a lifetime of Straight Fire™ and slap Mickie James back into the past (to play some sh*tty games that suck ass?). Alexa Bliss runs down Becky for always making excuses, and considers Naomi a push-over. Naomi blah blah's about wanting to enter WrestleMania as Champion, because Orlando is her hometown, then takes a cheap shot that leads to a short brawl.
We come back with the Usos working on Slater. They hit a double-team avalanche for a near fall. English with a kick to the midsection and knee to the head. Viktor tags in to cover for two and grabs a chin-lock. Slater fights free but can't quite reach the tag. Konnor with an avalanche and Viktor with a jumping high knee. Viktor and English take turns tagging themselves in, buying Slater time to tease and hot tag Rhyno. He runs through Viktor and comes out of the corner with a big clothesline. Rhyno with a spine-buster for two. All heck breaks loose, with teams clearing each other from the ring. American Alpha hit a big pile on the floor with an assisted somersault plancha. Rhyno with the GORE~! to Konnor. Viktor surprises him with a flying knee from the middle rope, and covers for three at 6:48 (shown). Wow, THE ASCENSION actually won a match. ¾* This was nothing until the big melee at the end.
We return with Cena making a comeback, but Orton counters the Five-Knuckle Shuffle. Cena counters the RKO, Orton counters an AA, and plants Cena with a Full-Nelson Slam for two. Cena counters the draping DDT, dumping Orton over the top rope. Cena with a fireman's carry, but Orton slips off his back and drops Cena back-first across the announcers table. Back inside, they trade blows until Cena hits a back suplex and comes off the ropes with the Five-Knuckle Shuffle. Cena with the AA, but Orton kicks out at two. Cena with a slow climb to the top rope, but Orton traps him and hits the draping DDT. Orton must be hearing voices, because he sets up for the RKO and connects, but Cena kicks out at two. They block each other's finisher and the referee gets wiped out. Cena with the STF, but Orton's tap out means nothing. Wyatt gets in the ring for a 2-on-1, and here's Luke Harper to save and lay out Wyatt with a Discus Clothesline (see also: Royal Rumble). Randy Orton sneaks back in and gets caught with the AA, and Cena covers for three at 10:30 (shown). **1/2 This was the bare minimum, TV version, of Cena vs. Orton.
Final Thoughts: They did a great job of trying to make the Elimination Chamber seem like a big deal, but a few things really stuck out. The lack of depth in the Tag Team Division with no cure on the horizon unless they somehow reheat a team like the Ascension and Vaudevillains, or do something more than comedy with Breezango. Adding a team from NXT won't cure the problem. The other is the nonsense with Dolph Ziggler and his ice-cold program with Kalisto and Crews. The Women carried the show with two great segments, and actually seem likely to be the undercard highlights of Elimination Chamber. Going forward with Luke Harper as a strong upper-card face is something than can work, too, as long as they don't kill him out of the gate with constant jobs to the mid-card heels.