Over the past several years, the final SmackDown before WrestleMania was a complete throwaway show. It often would have some small matches spliced in with coverage from Axxess. Not this year.
Instead, it was the blue brand's final chance to entice viewers to order and watch “The Ultimate Thrill Ride.” And they decided to go with a segment-heavy show to do that. There were three major nonwrestling segments in the show. The opening segment was a pretty basic contract signing between AJ Styles and Shane McMahon. Interestingly, we found out that the match would be a standard singles match, instead of the No DQ street fight that many expected. After all, this is Shane McMahon we're talking about. What is he going to do if he can't jump off the top of the stadium? Besides that, it was standard, though we didn't get the physical confrontation we normally get at a contract signing, as Daniel Bryan got between the two.
The biggest segment of the night came midway through the show. The Miz and Maryse showed the final episode of “Total Bellas Bullshit.” Once again, this contained shot after shot at John Cena's phoniness, and the relationships he has. The video ended with Miz saying he was going to expose all of that. After the video ran, Cena and Nikki Bella came out, and Cena went on a tirade against The Miz. He ranted about everything The Miz said and did, and eventually Miz and Maryse just had to retreat up the ramp. It was a devastatingly effective promo that truly summed up the whole feud and made people want to see the match. Unfortunately, it might have been too good, as it completely tore down The Miz without letting him get a word in edgewise. However, it got people talking, and you can make the case that Cena and Miz have done more with their short feud than just about any other build towards WrestleMania this year.
Finally, the show ended with a Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt segment. Wyatt beat Luke Harper in a match. After it ended, the screen cut to a bizarre Orton vignette. It's hard to properly explain what happened in it, however. Orton was there with some sort of stake that he drove into the ground at Sister Abigail's site. He made some warnings about how he was going to take the title, and then drove the stake into the ground. We don't know what happened, but it seemed like something mystical happened there. This was an odd way to go. Not so much the supernatural part, which was par for the course in this feud. But there was no explanation for what happened, so for the final shot before WrestleMania to be of that is a weird move. We're now left with more questions than answers when it comes to Orton and Wyatt.
Was this an effective way to get to WrestleMania? Missteps with the final segment aside, I think it was. Sometimes you just need to do the basic things to get to Mania, and if a successful go-home show is simply one that makes you more interested in the show, then this was successful.
The rest of SmackDown:
>> The big in-ring moment happened at the end of a womens' tag match. What started with Becky Lynch vs. Carmella turned into Becky Lynch and Mickie James vs. Carmella and Alexa Bliss. Natalya came down and distracted Becky, which allowed Carmella to get the pin. As they all brawled after, Naomi's music hit, and she came down and cleaned house, announcing that she was going to be in the WrestleMania match. This should be a great moment in Naomi's hometown, though it begs the question: why didn't they just wait for WrestleMania for the surprise pop?
>> Mojo Rawley, American Alpha, Heath Slater and Rhyno beat Dolph Ziggler, The Usos and Breezango in a match that featured the SmackDown competitors in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. Mojo ended up picking up the pin over Tyler Breeze.
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