The Road to Wrestlemania, Episode Twelve

This is the twelfth episode in a series, retelling the Road to Wrestlemania 2016. This episode covers Thursday Night Smackdown, originally televised on February 25th, 2016.

Match #1: Erick Rowan vs Xavier Woods

Setting in place more building blocks in this ongoing rivalry, and further establishing the Wyatt Family’s dominance over the WWE, the first match of the episode pits Erick Rowan against the mouthpiece of The New Day, Xavier Woods.

A brief offensive burst from Woods ends Rowan’s early dominance, but a mistimed distraction from Kofi Kingston is thwarted by Luke Harper, and Rowan puts Woods away with a running Splash.

The New Day rush to Woods’ side, preparing for a post-match attack, but the Wyatts simply walk away, without looking back…

Building individual dominance into the rise of a stable is just as important, particularly as this storyline begins to offset some of the shortcomings in previous Wyatt Family runs. In addition, this starts to define clearer roles within the group that can be worked into stories later - Rowan and Braun Strowman take on the role of enforcers, while Luke Harper acts as Bray Wyatt’s lieutenant. On the other side of the coin, the rivalry between the two teams is further built up, the presence of the other team members at ring side allows both an opportunity to work the crowd, and the lack of a post-match beating hints that now may not be The New Day’s time…

Match #2: Alberto Del Rio vs Neville

The League of Nations, a little frustrated by their defeats of late, find themselves responding to the crowd more, getting in the faces of fans and taunting people. This only adds to their problems, as Rusev, King Barrett, and Sheamus remain unaware when Neville knocks Alberto Del Rio from the top rope, and hits the Red Arrow for the victory.

He rolls quickly out of the ring, escaping up the ramp; the League left to ruse another loss.

Defeating Del Rio pushes Neville further into the title discussion for the US Championship heading towards Wrestlemania, and further separates the two mid-card titles. Meanwhile, the League’s turmoil continues to take hold, with a few questions raised as to who the weak link in the group might be.

Match #3: Fandango vs Sheamus

Frustrated by Alberto Del Rio’s loss to Neville, the League of Nations doesn’t wait long to find some level of retribution. Fandango puts on a clinic, out-wrestling Sheamus and flying high. But when he climbs to the top rope to hit his Leg Drop finisher, a timely distraction from Rusev causes him to slip, falling straight into a Brogue Kick and a three count.

Fandango is put back on the radar here, with a strong performance against a former world champion, and beaten only by the numbers the League can employ. It gives him a chance to build up the crowd to his side, while showing a glimpse of the League’s former cohesiveness.

After the attack from Brock Lesnar and Triple H in Episode 11, Dean Ambrose comes to Smackdown with a street fight sized chip on his shoulder. Talking about how its time he dealt with both of them, he declares his match with Lesnar at Roadblock will be a Street Fight, so they can settle things once and for all. He also mocks the Beast for not having anything to do in Texas, and suggests that “maybe they’ll need someone to carry bags”.

Dean Ambrose starts to goad Paul Heyman and Lesnar, much as he did throughout their run to Wrestlemania in the televised version. While there will be subtle changes based on other storylines, Ambrose vs Lesnar from the televised run to Wrestlemania essentially shifts to the earlier part of the plan.

Match #4: The Lucha Dragons vs The Social Outcasts

Sin Cara carries his team to victory, tagging Kalisto only for brief moments of rest, almost as if he has something to prove. A pin break up from Bo Dallas leads to interference from Kalisto, who takes out three members of the Social Outcasts with a leaping dive over the ropes. That leaves Heath Slater alone in the ring, and Sin Cara connects with a Hurricanrama for the pinfall victory.

After the match, the referee brings Kalisto’s belt to him, and raises the hands of both men; though Sin Cara’s eyes drift towards the belt…

While you don’t want to make it too obvious, astute viewers would see the starting threads of friction in the Lucha Dragons revolving around Kalisto’s US championship, as Sin Cara is not feeling appreciated or respected. Which is an accurate assessment, as most of the crowd probably doesn’t appreciate or respect or care about Sin Cara’s championship desires.

Match #5: Becky Lynch vs Paige

After a highly technical match, that never leaves the ring and at one stage includes a reversal of both a PTO and a Dis-Arm-Her, a distraction from the arrival of Naomi and Tamina costs Lynch the match; Paige takes advantage and hits her with a Rampaige.

Despite taking advantage of the distraction though, Paige is not left out of the post-match beatdown, as both women are left slumped in the centre of the ring. The attack only ends when Sasha Banks paces to the ring, as neither Naomi nor Tamina are interested in tangling with her.

As Lynch gets to her feet and briefly thanks Banks, Charlotte and Ric Flair arrive, announcing from the top of the ramp that Lynch and Banks would face each other to be #1 contender.

This match is all about the Wrestlemania setup for the women’s division. Firstly, it establishes more of Naomi and Tamina’s characters, delivering a statement assault to two of the top superstars in the division: they are less interested in winning matches and more interested in hurting people. Secondly, it reinforces the tentative Lynch/Banks alliance, while also bringing it to an abrupt end, with the #1 contender announcement. And finally, it brings Paige firmly into position for the pay-per-view, with a victory over a top contender, while bringing her into a rivalry (red herring as it may be…)

Match #6: The Dudley Boyz vs The Wyatt Family

Luke Harper almost single-handedly ruins the Dudley Boyz, and then feeds them to Braun Strowman to finish D-Von Dudley off with a Bear Hug. This match is a pure assault from start to finish, and continues after the bell as each Dudley is hit with multiple finishers and finally a Sister Abigail each.

Wyatt then preaches once more, talking of the rise of the red dawn, the new sun, and that the people would learn to fear what was to come.

Borrowing from some of his older monologues, Wyatt’s speech to end the show continues to lay the groundwork and hints for where the story is going, with subtle references to other speeches and story threads. Meanwhile, the match itself simply acts to further the narrative that the Wyatts have returned to their dominant form, and are destroying everyone in their path within the tag team division.

Summary

Wyatt Family dominance and a street fight, a #1 contender announcement, and more threads pulling wrestlers towards Wrestlemania. With so many storylines taking steps forward, Smackdown continues to build towards having a legitimate presence within the WWE storytelling world…

In the next episode, Brock Lesnar goes looking for a new challenger for Wrestlemania…

Let me know what you think in the comments down below.

Episode Card
Original Schedule Revised Schedule
Triple H WWE Championship Promo Erick Rowan def. Xavier Woods
The League of Nations def. Dolph Ziggler, Neville & The Lucha Dragons Alberto Del Rio def. Neville
D-Von Dudley def. Jimmy Uso Sheamus def. Fandango
Kevin Owens def. Big Show by Count-Out Dean Ambrose Promo
Natalya def. Becky Lynch The Lucha Dragons def. The Social Outcasts
R-Truth def. Heath Slater Paige def. Becky Lynch
Chris Jericho, AJ Styles & Mark Henry def. The New Day The Wyatt Family def. The Dudley Boyz