-We open the show with Bray Wyatt (sans Randy Orton) finally giving a promo that actually means something for the first time in, what, three years? Seriously, it's amazing how much more weight Bray's words have now that he has the WWE title in his hand. I liked that he went back to the prophecies of Sister Abigail, saying she told him it wouldn't be easy but that she knew this day would come and I LOVED the line about how he FINALLY has the whole damn world in his hands as the crowd chants "YOU DESERVE IT." God damn right he does.
-Dean Ambrose is backstage looking for Baron Corbin which is to be expected. Assuming the plan is for Baron Corbin to win the Intercontinental title at WrestleMania, I think that's definitely the right call and just another example of why SmackDown is clearly the better show because they're consistently giving opportunities to people who haven't gotten any yet or at least haven't in a while.
-Our first match of the night is American Alpha v. The Ascension because I'm sure SOMEONE in this world still thinks The Ascension has a snowball's chance in hell of ever winning a match so we definitely need to put a stop to that. After the match, the Usos do a live promo from the Wyatts' creepy back room threatening to take out American Alpha.
-Ambrose runs into James Ellsworth and Carmella. He tells Ellsworth that Carmella is using him. Daniel Bryan shows up and asks if Ambrose has a problem and he says he's angry at Corbin but can't find him so he asks if he can just beat up Ellsworth instead and Bryan agrees because he's the babyface GM so obviously he's always down for letting another babyface beat the shit out of a guy half his size who didn't do anything to him because he's angry at someone else.
-Natty and Nikki continue their highly personal rivalry backstage with a lot of shouting and violence. Daniel Bryan shows up and says they need to stop it already. He makes a falls count anywhere match for next week.
-Also this literally happened verbatim:
Nikki: ...and YOU'RE the reason why Team SmackDown lost at Survivor Series!
Natty: I didn't lose that.
Nikki: Uh, what? No. Yes.
-Dolph Ziggler gives a VERY effective promo that really fleshes out the motivations for his recent change of attitude by simply stating that no one from the New Era is going to take his spot. So not only is Ziggler tired of losing over and over (a frustration the fans seem to share, which could have something to do with why they've been cheering his heel turn) but now it seems he's beginning to feel the fear of losing his spot to one of the many young, talented, rising stars coming out of NXT. If you remember back to when the heel turn first occurred, Ziggler had just lost yet another match to Baron Corbin and was about to be the victim of a post-match beatdown before being saved by Kalisto. So not only did he suffer yet another loss to an NXT talent but he needed ANOTHER NXT talent to save him. Apparently that was the last straw that made Ziggler snap and lash out. He was confronted about it backstage by yet ANOTHER NXT talent (Apollo Crews) which just added to his rage, causing him to lash out again and attack Crews. This is the simplest storytelling and character development in the world and yet it feels so fresh and compelling on WWE TV because of how consistently they fail to tell even the simplest of stories in a straightforward, compelling way.
-Becky Lynch v. Mickie James is another very good match between these two. Mickie can definitely still go. And WOW that was some great selling on that fake injury. I definitely thought she was actually hurt. I love that at Elimination Chamber, Mickie tried to psyche Becky out by attacking her arm, which is Becky's signature and this time she psyches her out by faking an arm injury.
-New Women's Champion Naomi is so important she doesn't even get an entrance. This is why I don't really understand why she's champion. There has been almost no context created whatsoever wherein I would consider her a legitimate contender for the title. That's not to say she isn't talented or deserving. She is definitely both. She just has not been positioned as a main event talent at any point in WWE programming and I think that hurt her big moment.
-Apparently Naomi suffered an injury in Sunday's match and didn't even realize it. But she's still wrestling at WrestleMania? Maybe? So I guess this is a work? Or maybe a worked shoot?
-And now for our MAIN EVENT...
(ALL images courtesy of WWE.com and WWE)