This is the first episode of the new year, and it’s on a new network (now USA). Tonight, we are in Laredo, TX, and Dean Ambrose will defend the IC title against Kevin Owens, while Charlotte will defend the Divas title against Becky Lynch.
As a bonus, we have a new lead play-by-play man, former Strikeforce and NJPW commentator Mauro Ranallo. If you are unfamiliar with Ranallo, he is a fantastic commentator who brings a ton of energy and humor to the job. I am very much looking forward to him being a part of the show.
After Ranallo’s introduction by the Jerry Lawler, we go to John Cena, who makes his way down to the ring in a rare SD appearance. Cena welcomes the crowd to the new year, then says we’re making history tonight. SD has officially moved to USA, and the first episode on the network is from here in Laredo. No sh*t, Cena. He does a bunch of patriotic pandering. The crowd is fired up, and they should be. The Divas and IC titles will be on the line, and on a SD so big, the one thing we’re missing is our US Champion. He knows the fans don’t like the champ, but it’s a new year and a new network, so let’s try a fresh start. So, let’s bring him out.
Cena does an exaggerated introduction before ADR makes his way down to the ring. ADR tells Cena he can save his speech for later. Cena doesn’t fool him. It won’t work. Just like any other gringo, Cena is trying to weasel his way into another title shot that he doesn’t deserve. Of course, he has to give Cena credit because it worked once. But it’s not going to work tonight, “Juan”. Cena says he’s not looking for that. The fans are fired up and they want a US title match, right here, right now. a “Si” chant breaks out. ADR yells at Cena in Spanish, then translates it: he tells Cena to shut up and says there’s no way he puts the title on the line tonight. But, he will fight anyone right now, except Cena. Cena says tonight should be about the USA, the “land of opportunity”. ADR should give someone an opportunity, and he has just the guy. He spent 2015 shocking the world, and he can do the same tonight. Ladies and gentlement, Kalisto!
Kalisto hits the ring, and ADR is laughing at him. ADR asks if Cena is out of his mind. This has to be a joke. ADR turns to Kalisto and calls him “little man”. Kalisto snatches the mic and says he’ll beat ADR right now. ADR pie-faces Kalisto, and Kalisto responds by kicking him in the leg and hitting a spinning headscissors, sending ADR to the floor. A referee hits the ring, and we’re onto our first match.
MATCH 1: WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPION ALBERTO DEL RIO VS. KALISTO (W/JOHN CENA) (NON-TITLE)
Kalisto sidesteps a charge and hits a kick before ADR comes back with a corner assault. Kalisto does a handspring Tidal Crush off an Irish whip, then hits a spike ‘rana. ADR bails to the floor off an uppercut attempt as we go to commercials.
Back from the break, ADR is back in control, hitting a snapmare and a basement dropkick to the back for 2. ADR hits a horrible-looking back suplex for 2, then sends him into the ropes. Kalisto gets hung up by his legs, and ADR drops to the floor for a big boot to the side of the head. Kalisto crashes to the floor, only to have ADR immediately roll him back in. ADR heads back in and lands a clothesline out of the corner. He stomps Kalisto down, then sets him up in a tree of woe for some strikes. ADR hits a running shoulder to the gut, but misses on the second attempt when Kalisto pulls himself up. ADR crashes into the post, and now Kalisto is up top, where he hits a sit-down splash. Kalisto hits a corkscrew cross-body and a thrust kick before trying a hurricanrana. ADR blocks it and hits a sit-out powerbomb for 2. ADR clubs Kalisto some more, then sets him up in the corner for a trio of clotheslines. ADR plants Kalisto with a DDT, and Kalisto rolls to the floor. ADR heads out and mocks Cena. Cena takes shirt off like he’s going to fight, but then just stands back as ADR throws Kalisto into the barricade. ADR rolls Kalisto back in and calls for the jujigatame. He takes way too long, however, and Kalisto snaps off a surprise hurricanrana for 3.
Jojo approaches Becky Lynch, who is warming up in the back. She asks if Lynch knows why her former best friend attacked her on RAW. Lynch says she doesn’t need an explanation; she needs vindication. She already had one friend stab her in the back last year, but she doesn’t need reasons or explanations. When she beat Charlotte on RAW, it was friendly competition. Tonight, it will be anything but friendly.
“MizTV” returns tonight, and it will feature a Royal Rumble special. Miz in the ring, and he says Mr. McMahon shocked the world on RAW when he announced the WWE World title will be up for grabs in the Royal Rumble. And, in a city he chooses to ignore…
Miz is cut off by the New Day. Xavier Woods says they need to talk about the horrible things Chris Jericho said about them on RAW. Big E says they are not “rooty-tooty booty”. Woods says as far as the Rumble goes, he can take his Lite-Brite jacket, which he stole from Woods, and go home. They’re going to party like it’s 2016, not 1999. Kofi Kingston says 2016 will be the “year of the unicorn”.
They’re cut off by Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler says before they waste any more time, let’s get down to business. Miz should go back to doing whatever it is he does best, and if Miz can’t think of anything, he can go back to hosting his stupid show.
Now Goldust comes out. He says “MizTV” has gotten a little bizarre. Only one superstar can win the Rumble, but Goldust will be glad to give them all a set of Golden Globes. Miz says none of them are scheduled guests here.
Neville’s out next. He has a promise for Miz. He promises Miz can borrow whatever he wants from Neville, as long as he promises to cancel this ridiculous show and never, ever, ever, ever, talk again, please. The Rumble, however…Miz cuts him off and yells at the audience.
That lasts for about a second, as R-Truth is out now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many microphones used at once. Truth tells everyone to step aside, then says if anyone is going to answer Alberto Del Rio’s US open challenge, it will be him. Miz says that challenge doesn’t exist. Truth says “my bad” and asks what they’re talking about. Miz tells him, and Truth asks how he can get into the match. Is there an entry fee? Because the way his accounting is set up…Miz cuts him off and yells at him. He tells Truth he’ll give him a dollar if he buys a clue. Truth says he won’t do that, but he will buy [a mic shot to the head for Miz]. The faces dump Miz, E and Kofi, leaving Woods, who is eating popcorn in the ring. Goldust scares him, and he falls on his ass.
After some commercials, we’re in the midst of a match.
MATCH 2: THE MIZ AND THE NEW DAY (WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS BIG E, KOFI KINGSTON AND XAVIER WOODS) VS. DOLPH ZIGGLER, GOLDUST, NEVILLE AND R-TRUTH
The match has already started, with Truth and Miz being legal. Truth avoids a corner whip, dances, ducks a clothesline and nails an uppercut. Truth tags in Goldust, and the two hit a double hiptoss for 2. Miz comes back with a jawbreaker and tags in Kofi, who runs into an armdrag. Goldust boots him and hits the drop-down uppercut before tagging in Ziggler. Ziggler backs Kofi to the corner for a whip, then pops up with a dropkick off the rebound for 2. Ziggler applies an arm wringer and tags in Truth, who continues to work over the arm. Truth turns it into a modified hammerlock, then combines that with an armbar before needlessly releasing it and going back to a wringer. Neville tags in and continues the attack on the arm before hitting a bodyslam. He mocks E’s dancing and hits a standing SSP for 2. Neville goes back to the arm before Kofi backs him into the ropes for a shot. Neville ducks under the legs off a whip, hits a few kicks, misses a moonsault, lands on his feet and hits a back-body drop. Neville mounts the buckles for some punches before E distracts the ref, allowing Woods to knock Neville off the ropes. Kofi pins him for 2 as he grabs the ropes. Kofi then kicks Neville to the floor as we go to commercials.
Back from the break, the New Day are in the midst of the Unicorn Stampede. E and Kofi do the whip into the corner dropkick as Miz tries dancing to Woods’ trombone-playing. E and Woods both look confused, then go with it as Kofi hits a field goal kick on Neville for 2. Kofi applies rear chinlock/armbar combo, then whips Neville down by the hair. Woods tags in and drops a DiBiase fist for 2 before applying a cobra clutch. Neville snaps out of it, then backdrops Woods to the floor. E and Kofi roll Woods in for the tag to Miz as Ziggler tags in on his side. He hits two clotheslines, a corner splash and a neckbreaker. He knocks E off the apron, then hits the Shot to the Heart for 2. He misses the rocker dropper and gets rolled up for 2 before hitting on the second try for 2. Kofi breaks up the pin, then runs into a snap powerslam by Goldust. E comes in and misses a clothesline before getting blasted by a jumping kick by Truth. Neville then comes in and hits a corkscrew suicide dive on the New Day. Back in the ring, Miz is alone with Ziggler, Truth and Goldust. Goldust and Truth taunt him, then whip him into a Ziggler superkick for 3.
WINNERS: GOLDUST, NEVILLE, R-TRUTH AND DOLPH ZIGGLER.
Ziggler then blasts Truth with a superkick before throwing Goldust over the top and to the floor. He tells Goldust it’s every man for himself at the Rumble, no offense.
We see Charlotte and Ric Flair in the back. Jojo approaches Charlotte and brings up what happened on RAW. Flair starts to talk for her, but Charlotte steps in and calls Becky Lynch a leech. Who is she to say Charlotte isn’t a champion? Lynch has never been a champion. Her dad has been a champion his whole life. He’s how a champion acts. Charlotte is how a champion acts. Flair then does a “Woooo!”
MATCH 3-WWE DIVAS CHAMPIONSHIP: CHARLOTTE (W/RIC FLAIR, CHAMPION) VS. BECKY LYNCH
Lawler seems to be reverting to his heel commentary persona a bit tonight. The two lock up, with Charlotte backing Lynch to the corner. Lynch shoves her, and Charlotte responds in kind. Charlotte hits a waistlock takedown. Lynch get an armdrag blocked, gets hit with one, then comes back with two of her own before going into an armbar. Charlotte counters with a schoolgirl for 2. Lynch gets in a waistlock and turns it into a sunset flip for 2. Charlotte rolls through and applies a leg grapevine. Lynch turns it into a pin for 2, which Charlotte counters into a 2-count. They trade pins several more times before Lynch goes for a hammerlock, adding in a bridge for good measure. Charlotte rolls to her feet, where Lynch applies a top wristlock. Charlotte pulls her down by the hair and goes for a pin, but Lynch bridges out of it and hits a basement dropkick. She follows up with yet another armdrag and goes into an armbar. Charlotte gets to her feet and breaks the hold with a forearm. Lynch reverses a corner whip, blocks a headscissors and tosses Charlotte to the apron. Charlotte lands on her feet, only to have Lynch kick her to the floor. Lynch heads out and rolls Charlotte back in. Charlotte rolls to the floor, and Lynch tries to cut her off from leaving, only to have Flair stand between them. He moves aside, allowing Charlotte to nail a big boot. Back in, Charlotte hits some mounted punches before slamming Lynch’s head into the mat. Charlotte hits an exploder suplex, then stomps Lynch down before hitting some more mounted punches. Charlotte hits another exploder, then covers for 2. More mounted punches by Charlotte, followed by another 2-count. Charlotte hits a knee off an Irish whip, then another exploder. Commercials.
Back from the break, Charlotte hits Lynch with a Taco Twister, then turns it into a headscissors submission. Lynch bridges into a pin for 2, but Charlotte holds on and it turns the hold into a series of rolling slams before applying more pressure to the hold. Lynch gets to her feet and muscles Charlotte up onto her shoulders before dropping her face-first onto the top buckle. Ranallo is killing it on commentary tonight, BTW. Lynch blocks some punches, hits a couple of European uppercuts, a pair of clotheslines and a leg lariat. Lynch hits a corner forearm and an exploder for 2. Charlotte reverses a corner whip, blocks a pair of boots, spins Lynch through the ropes and hits a hanging neckbreaker for 2. Charlotte tries for a pin twice more, getting two more 2-counts. Charlotte pie-faces Lynch, then lays in some knife-edge chops. Lynch ducks one and goes for a backslide. Charlotte reverses, but Lynch rolls over her. She ducks a kick and hits a pumphandle suplex for 2. Lynch looks for the Disarmer, but Charlotte gets to the ropes before hitting a spear. Charlotte signals for the Figure-8, but Lynch counters into a small package for 2 before applying a jujigatame. Charlotte gets her head through Lynch’s legs and muscles her up while getting to her feet, only to have Lynch escape and turn it into a victory roll for 2. She goes for the Disarmer again and locks it in tight this time, but Flair grabs Charlotte’s foot and puts it on the bottom rope. The ref sees it and breaks the hold. Lynch screams at Flair, and the distraction allows Charlotte to stack Lynch up with her feet on the ropes for 3.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: CHARLOTTE.
Aside from the shmozz ending, THAT was exactly what a divas match in WWE should be.
We see Kevin Owens in the back, and he’s stopped by Renee Young, who asks for a minute of his time. He looks at her watch and tells her she has one minute. Young talks about his match tonight, then asks if he’s feeling any effects from Dean Ambrose putting him through a table tonight. Owens says he’s fine. He’s a world-class athlete, and nothing will stop him from taking back his title. He’s said before that Ambrose is a cockroach, and they say cockroaches can survive anything. Throughout his career, he’s stayed in terrible places and had to kill several cockroaches. They can’t survive him, and neither can Ambrose. Time’s up.
Renee Young is standing by with Dean Ambrose. She brings up the main event tonight, then asks what we can expect from Ambrose tonight. Owens said he’d drive Ambrose to an actual asylum to get back the IC title. Owens has put him through tables, bounced steel off his back and hit him in places he didn’t know he had places. Look at this face. Doesn’t it look well-adjusted? Owens says he’s a prize fighter. Tonight, the IC title is the prize. Let’s fight, Owens, fight.
MATCH 4-INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP: KEVIN OWENS VS. DEAN AMBROSE (CHAMPION)
The two lock up, and Owens backs Ambrose into the corner. Ambrose reverses, and now the two jockey for position. Owens gives a clean break in the adjacent corner, then shoves him. Ambrose responds with a shove of his own, then applies an arm wringer, into a side headlock, into a hip throw. Owens gets back to his feet, backs Ambrose to the corner, knees him and whips him across. Ambrose avoids contact and looks for Dirty Deeds, but Owens slides to the floor. Commercials.
Back from the break, Owens lights Ambrose up in the corner with chops. Ambrose begs for more, then stomps Owens down in the corner. Owens reverses a whip, misses a clothesline and gets hit with one by Ambrose for 1. Ambrose hits another hip throw, then gets back to a standing headlock, which he turns into an arm wringer, which he then turns into a half-straightjacket before kicking Owens in the spine. Ambrose nails a chop to the chest. Owens comes back with his own before the two start trading punches in the corner. Ambrose hits a kneelift, then follows up with a snapmare and a basement clothesline. Ambrose hits a power-drive elbow for 2. Ambrose goes for a neckbreaker, but Owens spins through and knocks Ambrose into the ropes. Ambrose gets hung up for the Lunatic Lariat, but Owens grabs his feet and shoves him to the floor. Owens then mocks Ambrose in the ring before heading outside. He nails a big boot, then a chop against the barricade. Ambrose is then whipped into the barricade, but then he reverses and sends Owens in. Ambrose breaks the count, heads right back outside and launches Owens into the barricade once more. Ambrose hits a side-Russian legsweep into the barricade, then breaks the count again before coming off the apron with a flying clothesline. Ambrose rolls Owens back in, and as he comes in himself, Owens catches him with a quick hanging DDT. Commercials.
Back from the break, Owens has Ambrose in a rear chinlock. Ambrose gets to his feet and throws some weak punches before Owens yanks Ambrose down by the hair. He then misses a running senton before Ambrose comes back with strikes. Owens sends him into the ropes, only to eat a pair of forearms. Ambrose connects with another in the corner and follows up with a running bulldog for 2. Ambrose heads up top, dives over Owens, rolls through, boots Owens and looks for Dirty Deeds. Owens backs him to the corner, then eats a boot. Ambrose tries for a tornado DDT, but gets thrown off. He lands on his feet, where Owens catches him with a release German suplex. Ambrose ends up in the opposite corner, and he recovers enough to boot an incoming Owens, then plants him with a tornado DDT for 2. Ambrose heads up top once more, but gets crotched by Owens and collapse in the corner. Owens nails the cannonball, but only gets 2. Owens sets up the pop-up powerbomb, but Ambrose counters with a hurricanrana. Owens rolls through and lands a superkick, sending Ambrose into the ropes, where he rebounds with the Lunatic Lariat for 2. The two get back up and trade jabs before Ambrose starts to light Owens up. Owens responds with a running clothesline, then goes for the pop-up again. Ambrose holds onto the ropes, Owens charges, Ambrose sidesteps and sends Owens to the floor. He then hits a suicide dive, sending Owens over the announce desk. Ambrose climbs on top of the desk, then decks Ambrose. Owens grabs Ambrose and throws him into the steps. He tries to send Ambrose into the barricade, but Ambrose reverses and sends Owens into the crowd. Ambrose climbs on the barricade and hits a double axe handle. The ref has been counting the entire time, and he gets to 10 as both men are in the crowd.
WINNER: NO CONTEST, DOUBLE COUNT-OUT.
The brawl continues through the crowd and up by the stage. Owens throws Ambrose up onto the stage, then climbs up and kicks Ambrose in the gut. He goes to launch Ambrose into the WWE logo, but Ambrose reverses once more. Owens collides and hits the floor as Ranallo pulls off the line of the night with, “This has been brought to you by the letter ‘W’, as in ‘WWE!” Ambrose then flies off with another shot before throwing Owens into a guardrail. He grabs the railing before Owens cracks him twice with a laptop. Owens then grabs a small equipment box and slams it onto Ambrose. He throws Ambrose up onto a big equipment box for a powerbomb, but Ambrose reverses yet again into a back-body drop. Ambrose punches Owens a few more times. Owens rakes the eyes. Ambrose then tackles him, and the two fly off into a collection of tables.
END OF SHOW.
Much better show than Smackdown has been in a long time. And Mauro Ranallo is already an excellent fit for WWE in terms of announcers. He was on point the entire show, calling every move in the ring, focusing mostly on the matches and very little on outside stories and being genuinely into the show, something highly lacking in Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and Rip Thomas.