Before he defends the Intercontinental Championship against Dean Ambrose later that night, Intercontinental Champion The Miz, along with his wife Maryse, would kick off the first SmackDown LIVE of 2017. The Miz says that he only has one New Year’s resolution this year and that is to be “more forgiving” before saying that someone owes him an apology and she knows exactly who she is, saying that SmackDown LIVE will not continue until Renee Young comes out there and apologizes to him for slapping him a couple of weeks ago. The Miz then accuses Renee of setting him up, saying that, now, Dean Ambrose has a shot at the Intercontinental Title tonight. The champion continues, saying that it must be nice to be on the good side of the SmackDown General Manager and her Talking Smack co-host Daniel Bryan.
The Miz then says that she doesn’t know how Renee Young can sleep at night knowing that she sacrificed her “journalistic integrity” for “dirty deeds with Dean Ambrose”! Having heard enough from The Miz, Dean Ambrose comes out to confront The Miz, but the Intercontinental Champion is quick to get on the ring apron as Maryse blocks “The Lunatic Fringe” from getting to her husband. Maryse then slaps Ambrose across the face before The Miz and Maryse regroup on the stage. Ambrose then comments that the hard part of his night is over because Maryse hits a lot harder than The Miz does. The Miz and Maryse then back up the stage as Dean Ambrose stands ready for a fight in the ring.
After both men came up short in the Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship last week, the opening match of the night would see “The Show Off” Dolph Ziggler square off with “The Lone Wolf” Baron Corbin. During the match, Dolph Ziggler would struggle to put Baron Corbin away as “The Show Off” would hit the Famouser and the Zig Zag, but Corbin would continue to kick out before “The Lone Wolf” hits the End of Days on Dolph Ziggler, pinning Dolph to pick up the win. After the match, Baron Corbin would grab a steel chair with the intent of dishing out more punishment to Dolph Ziggler, but this is when Kalisto would make the save. Kalisto would kick the chair out of the hands of Baron Corbin before sending “The Lone Wolf” to the outside. Corbin then retreats up the ramp as Kalisto stands tall with chair in hand, helping Dolph Ziggler to his feet, but when Kalisto turns around, Dolph blasts Kalisto with the super kick! Dolph then shouts at Kalisto that he didn’t need Kalisto’s help and he doesn’t need anyone.
Backstage, Apollo Crews, Rhyno, and Mojo Rawley are in the locker room when Dolph Ziggler comes storming in, trashing the place before being confronted by Apollo. Apollo says that Kalisto is his friend so he’s making it his business. Dolph responds to this by hitting Crews with a headbutt with Rhyno and Mojo Rawley quickly stepping in to keep a fight from breaking out.
After the mysterious masked competitor known as La Luchadora cost her the SmackDown Women’s Title against Alexa Bliss last week, Becky Lynch would be looking for revenge as “The Irish Lass Kicker” would go one-on-one with La Luchadora on SmackDown LIVE. During the match, Becky Lynch would knock La Luchadora to the outside and this is when the masked competitor would crawl under the ring with another La Luchadora coming out of the other side! This La Luchadora would then beat Becky down before going for Twisted Bliss. However, Becky moves out of the way before locking in the Dis-Arm-Her, making La Luchadora tap out to pick up the win! After the match, Becky would remove the mask of La Luchadora to reveal that it was SmackDown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss under the mask. This is when the other La Luchadora would get into the ring and, while Becky would try to fight back, Alexa Bliss and La Luchadora would double team Becky before the champion spikes Becky with a DDT. Alexa and La Luchadora then exit the ring, having gotten the better of Becky Lynch.
Four weeks before the Royal Rumble, it was time to make the WWE Championship match for the event official as SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan would make his way to the ring to moderate the official contract signing for the WWE Title match between champion AJ Styles and challenger John Cena at the Royal Rumble. The GM wastes no time in introducing the challenger as fifteen-time former World Champion John Cena makes his way to the ring. After Cena takes his seat, Daniel Bryan introduces WWE Champion AJ Styles, who makes his way to the ring as well. Styles says that he and Daniel Bryan are cut from the same cloth, but John Cena is not like them, saying that Cena was off of television for four months and he comes back and gets a title shot.
The GM explains to the WWE Champion that they beat RAW in the ratings last week, attributing the success of SmackDown LIVE last week to AJ Styles being in the main event and John Cena returning. Bryan then says that they need to keep the momentum going until the Royal Rumble and they do that by having the biggest match possible and that is AJ Styles versus John Cena. The GM then says that this is the match that everyone wants to see and this is the match that they are going to get, commenting that AJ shouldn’t be worried because he’s already beaten Cena three times.
With this, Daniel Bryan leaves the ring to AJ Styles and John Cena as the champion tells Cena that he is the “luckiest man” on the planet because he’s been “gifted” a title match by a guy that is, basically, Cena’s “brother-in-law”. AJ then tells Cena that the tables have turned, recalling a confrontation they had last year when Cena told him that he needed a win to prove that he belonged in WWE or else he was just an “overrated indie guy”. Styles continues, saying that, now, he’s the WWE Champion and he’s telling Cena that, if he don’t get a win, then Cena doesn’t belong in WWE. AJ reminds Cena that he has beaten him three times before and, for the past few months, Cena has been a “ghost” and SmackDown LIVE beat RAW in the ratings because he’s the WWE Champion and not because of John Cena. Styles then tells Cena that they can do it “without” Cena with Cena trying to say that he has a lot of “respect” for AJ Styles, but the champion interrupts. AJ says that Cena recently admitted that he was wrong in what he said about The Rock a few years ago when he said that The Rock was a “phony”, had lost his “passion”, and The Rock had abandoned WWE. The champion then says that Cena was telling the truth about The Rock and the same is true about John Cena!
AJ Styles then says that John Cena “has been great” for WWE, telling Cena to focus on the words “has been” before telling Cena that, when he looks in the mirror, Cena knows that, when it comes to Hollywood, Cena will “never be as good as The Rock”! AJ then says that, when it comes to this ring, Cena will “never be as good as AJ Styles”! The champion then signs the contract before Cena stands up, telling Styles that he just made the “biggest mistake” of his life because he just “pissed off John Cena”. Cena then says that he does need a win to prove he belongs in WWE because of “chumps” like AJ Styles who think that he already left. Cena then says that he’s lost “all respect” for AJ Styles and now he thinks that AJ is nothing but a “punk little bitch”!
Cena continues, saying that everyone is talking about their match at the Royal Rumble because everybody who has ever despised him thinks that AJ Styles is the guy to replace him. Cena then says that he’s made a career out of “shutting people’s mouths” before saying that he’s about to make AJ feel as stupid as he looks. Cena then tells AJ that he injured his shoulder and was supposed to be out for a year, but he came back in four months, saying that’s “passion”. Cena continues, saying that Styles only goes where they tell him to go while Cena goes so hard they tell him to stop.
Cena then says that anyone else in his shoes would have been gone, but he’s still there and “that’s passion”. Cena then tells AJ that they need this match and the fans need this match before saying that many have stepped up to try and prove that they are better, but they can never be him. Cena then tells the champion to bring his “A game” because he’s going to kick AJ’s ass and take the WWE Title, saying that he’s John Cena, “recognize”. Cena then signs the contract to make the WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble official. This is when Baron Corbin inexplicably makes his way to the ring, saying that he won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal in his debut match on the main roster at WrestleMania.
“The Lone Wolf” then makes the bold announcement that he is entering himself into the 30-Man Royal Rumble Match at the Royal Rumble and he is going to win it! Corbin then says that he doesn’t care if it’s AJ Styles or John Cena, he is leaving this year’s WrestleMania as the WWE Champion. Cena responds by saying that he knows that AJ Styles doesn’t want to fight, but he definitely wants the fight the biggest guy in the room. Cena then flips the table over, readying himself for a fight with Baron Corbin, but this is when AJ Styles would blindside Cena with a kick to the back of the head, leaving Cena laid out. The champion then leaves the ring as Baron Corbin tells Cena that his “time is up”. Corbin then stands on the ring apron, staring down AJ Styles on the stage.
Backstage, The Miz’s wife Maryse confronts Renee Young, slapping Renee across the face and telling Renee to never touch her husband again! Maryse then storms off, leaving Renee shocked and on the floor.
The newest odd couple in WWE was on SmackDown LIVE as James Ellsworth would be in Carmella’s corner as Carmella went one-on-one with NXT competitor Aliyah. During the match, James Ellsworth would grab the foot of Aliyah and this would give Carmella the opening to catch Aliyah with a super kick. Carmella then locks in the Code of Silence, making Aliyah tap out to pick up the win.
After taking advantage of some miscommunication between Randy Orton and Luke Harper of The Wyatt Family to become the brand new SmackDown Tag Team Champions to close out 2016, new SmackDown Tag Team Champions American Alpha would face Breezango in a non-title match on SmackDown LIVE. American Alpha would make extremely quick work of Breezango, hitting Tyler Breeze with Grand Amplitude with Chad Gable pinning Breeze to pick up an impressive win. After the match, The Wyatt Family appears on the Tron as Bray Wyatt tells American Alpha that they may think that they have taken the “light” that binds The Wyatt Family but they have only made them “stronger”. Bray then says that, next week, they are going to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Luke Harper then starts to speak, but Randy Orton steps in, telling American Alpha to “run”.
Estranged friends Nikki Bella and Natalya would then have a face-to-face confrontation on SmackDown LIVE. Nikki tells Natalya that she “feels bad” for Natalya, saying that she and her sister have worked their entire lives to make the Bella name mean something while Natalya is just living off of her family’s “legacy”. Natalya says that she’s got “nothing” from her family, but Nikki brings up Natalya’s entrance theme and the fact that she uses her uncle Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter. Nikki then says that Natalya is the “nothing” of the Hart family with Natalya responding that Nikki is “selfish”.
Natalya then brings up a complimentary tweet from Bret Hart, saying that she doesn’t want to know what Nikki did to get Bret to send out a tweet like that. Natalya then claims that she is better than Bret Hart ever was before saying that Nikki uses her “sex appeal” to get what she wants. Natalya continues, saying that “beauty fades” and, when it does, John Cena is going to leave her and Nikki is going to “die alone”. Having heard enough, Nikki Bella would drop Natalya with a stiff right hand, leaving Natalya laid out in the ring!
Then it was time for the main event as Dean Ambrose would be a man on a mission, marching with a purpose to the ring as “The Lunatic Fringe” would challenge The Miz, with Maryse in his corner, for the Intercontinental Championship. Dean Ambrose would quickly set his sights on destroying The Miz, tossing the champion around the ringside area before Maryse gets in Ambrose’s face, which allows The Miz to take the advantage. Later on in the match, Maryse would get on the ring apron, distracting Dean Ambrose again and The Miz would take advantage, hitting Ambrose with the Skull Crushing Finale, but Ambrose would kick out. Shortly after this, Dean Ambrose would dive to the outside to take out The Miz. Maryse would then get in Ambrose’s face again, slapping Dean right in front of the referee!
The referee is then about to ring the bell for the disqualification, but Dean Ambrose stops the referee, suggesting that the referee ejects Maryse from ringside instead! The referee then takes Ambrose’s suggestion, ejecting Maryse from ringside, but while the referee is pre-occupied, The Miz would blast Ambrose with the Intercontinental Title belt, but Ambrose would kick out! The Miz then goes for the Skull Crushing Finale, but Ambrose counters, hitting Dirty Deeds and pinning The Miz to become the brand new Intercontinental Champion! Dean Ambrose then celebrates the title victory, having turned personal turmoil into a second reign as Intercontinental Champion.
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