Welcome to #SmackdownLive, where being "ugly" is the new thing.
It's a depressing day when Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode and Tye Dillinger are in #NXT, the #WWE's developmental system, while an indy jobber like #JamesEllsworth is wrestling AJ Styles on national television in a ladder match.
The Ellsworth push continued on Tuesday night. Not only is Ellsworth the focal point of the show, he's now a regular Smackdown Live wrestler, and apparently, is going to get a title shot at some point down the road.
AJ Styles Challenges Ellsworth
Shane McMahon opened the show to rousing "Shane O'Mac" chants. The crowd cheered "You Still Got it." When did McMahon have "it" as a pro wrestler? McMahon bored the crowd with a long-winded promo before Dean Ambrose came out.
Ambrose brought out Ellsworth, wearing a neck brace, thanking him for taking out Braun Strowman at the Survivor Series (it didn't actually go down that way). McMahon congratulated Ellsworth for his hard work and announced that he was now a legitimate member of the Smackdown Live roster. AJ Styles came out and said what we are all thinking: "When did Smackdown Live become the land of undeserved opportunity?"
Styles said Ellsworth didn't deserve anything--that he was a charity case. All true. Styles called Ellsworth "ugly" and "pathetic" and challenged Ellsworth to a match on the show. If Ellsworth wins, he gets a contract. Ellsworth raised the stakes and said that if he wins, he wants an eventual title shot. Wow. Don't do it WWE. The match is on for later in the show. Oh, and McMahon gave Ambrose the night off, so of course, he'll be back in disguise later in the show.
Grade: C+ (All because of AJ)
The Miz vs. Kalisto
Kalisto is an incredible performer. Why isn't he the cruiserweight champion? The King of Soft Style, The Miz, is merely the broomstick in this match against the Lucha Dragon. Does Miz realize know how fake his wrestling matches look? Every one of his matches looks like his first match. For as long as Miz has been wrestling, he should be much better.
Kalista performed all his best moves as The Miz sold terribly. Baron Corbin ruined the match by running in, distracting Kalisto, allowing The Miz to get the win. The Smackdown Live camera crew messed up the segment by panning to the audience a few seconds before Corbin was supposed to appear out of nowhere. Corbin destroyed Kalisto after the match, as The Miz celebrated on the ramp. As The Miz turned around, Dolph Ziggler super-kicked him, knocking him out. Thank you, Dolph.
Grade: C+ (At least Miz got nailed)
Tag Team Turmoil Match
The WWE basically threw all of its tag teams together in a tornado match, with the winner getting a title shot against tag team champs, Rhyno and Heath Slater.
Breezango pinned The Hype Bros, but then were pinned by American Alpha. AA then pinned The Vaudevillians, setting up a match between American Alpha and The Usos. All of this took about two minutes.
The Usos as heels doesn't really work. Their strength is their fun personality and strong charisma. AA work well as a tag team, but they lack personality. They should be the heels.
The best part of this match was Mauro Ranallo and JBL acknowledging The Steiner Brothers in the match. AA performed a Steiner-like bulldog from the top rope, that sparked JBL to say "Rick Steiner." Ranallo said "You mentioned Rick Steiner. Jason Jordan grew up idolizing the Steiner Brothers." Considering that Scott Steiner is persona non grata with the WWE, this was interesting. American Alphas won the match, and then were challenged by the Wyatt Family.
Grade: D- (The whole concept was a burial of the Smackdown Live tag teams)
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
Natalya can wrestle, so this match was bearable, but it was just background, however, for Alexa Bliss who was doing color commentary, complaining about why she should get a title shot against Lynch. Bliss plays the sassy, jealous ditz role really well.
"Becky can look good against anyone she wants but against me it's a whole new ball game," Bliss said.
She argued with Otunga throughout the match. And speaking of undeserved opportunities, why does Otunga have a live mic every week? Lynch and Natalya had a good match with near falls. Lynch won with the Disarmer before Bliss ran in and blindsided the champion. Bliss gets a title shot at TLC against Lynch.
Grade: B- (Good match, good Bliss commentary)
Kane vs. Baron Corbin
Finally, Baron Corbin gets to pick on someone his own size. It's just crazy that the WWE treats Kane like he's just another guy. Considering the success of the Undertaker character, Kane must be considered a major failure.
This was a nothing match. Kalisto ran in and drop-kicked Baron, causing Kane to hit the chokeslam for the win. After the match, Kalisto grabbed a steel chair and attempted to attack Corbin, who scurried away. Corbin then ran back into the ring and Kalisto executed a perfect Van-Daminator, throwing the chair and Corbin and then drop-kicking the chair into his face. Corbin was very weak here. A lack of good facials. He looked like he didn't want to be there.
Grade: D+ (Kalisto looked good)
AJ Styles vs. James Ellsworth
I don't care what kind of an angle it is; this kind of booking just hurts wrestling. #AJStyles is one of the best wrestlers in the world, and here he is competing in a ladder match against a guy that is probably worse than Duane Gill. Styles didn't even take his shirt off for this match.
Ellsworth was in a neck brace and wearing tape around his mid-section after the beat down he took from Strowman at the Survivor Series. Fortunately, Styles is way too positive a guy to pull a CM Punk and start complaining about his story lines, but he would have every reason to if he wanted. This match mercifully came to an end when Dean Ambrose, wearing an Ottawa Senators hockey jersey and mask, ran into the ring just as Styles was about to grab Ellsworth's contract hanging above the ring.
Ambrose and Styles battled, but when Styles tried to climbed the ladder again, Ellsworth pushed the ladder down, sending Styles toppling to the floor. Styles, by the way, executed an amazing flip over the top rope as he crashed to the floor. This guy is unreal. The stuff he pulls off every week is amazing. He absolutely doesn't need to take so many risks, but he does, and we love him for it. Styles tried to fight back, but Ellsworth kicked him into the ropes and Styles got tangled and couldn't escape.
Ellsworth then climbed the ladder and grabbed the contract. Boooooooooooooo.
Grade: D- (If it weren't Styles, this would be an F-)
Clearly they are setting up for a match with Ambrose vs. Styles. If, for whatever reason, Ellsworth ever defeats AJ Styles for the title, AJ has every right to quit, cut a scathing podcast promo with Colt Cabana, and then go fight in the UFC. He has my permission.