Illegal things you can get away with on Smackdown Live. Arson? Give him a Wrestlemania match! Attempted murder? No repercussions! Beating up a McMahon? Whoah – stop right there, pal. We’re going to have to fire you for that one.
Last night’s episode continued the blue brand’s strong build to Wrestlemania, firstly with Daniel Bryan officially making the long-reported mixed gender tag match of John Cena and Nikki Bella vs The Miz and Maryse.
The feud has been using real life material for inspiration, and last night’s Miz TV segment with Maryse was no different:
“A while ago I was offered a contract to come back to WWE and be on the first season of Total Divas…Nikki, you took a contract away from me.”
This is based on a rumour that the Bella Twins played a part in blocking Maryse, Kelly Kelly and Maria Kanellis from coming back to WWE in 2013, which has also been used for material in the later seasons of Total Divas.
Last night also saw Austin Aries win 205 Live’s No 1 contender’s 5-way elimination match to face Neville for the Cruiserweight title, and Shane McMahon challenged AJ Styles for Wrestlemania.
— WWE (@WWE) March 15, 2017
This came after Styles attacked the Smackdown Live commissioner backstage, brutally putting McMahon’s head through a car window. Bryan promptly fired AJ from the show – in storyline, don’t worry – but Shane later hobbled out to steal the main event tag match’s limelight, announcing himself as Styles’ Wrestlemania opponent.
This match-up has been reported for months now, and many are disappointed Styles won’t be facing an actual wrestler at WWE’s biggest show of the year. Raw announcer Corey Graves is one of those people.
On Monday’s very bizarre WWE Network show Bring It To The Table – where WWE attempt to address legitimate fan criticism by…criticising the fans – Graves actually voiced that opinion:
“The prospect of AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon does absolutely nothing for me.”
He went on to effectively say Shane is a character on a show, whereas AJ is a wrestler who can put on – here it comes – phenomenal matches. And not putting Styles with a better worker is akin to missing out on “a full cinematic experience in the ring…art in its highest form.”
This is most definitely a worked shoot on Corey’s part, fitting in with the awkward half-kayfabe/half-real tone of the show. Graves a smart guy, and he wouldn’t have said something like that without clearing it with the higher ups first.
AJ Styles wasn’t always Shane McMahon’s Wrestlemania opponent, though. Remember Summerslam 2016? That show ended with Lesnar giving McMahon an F5 after bloodying up Randy Orton, and was the start of Brock and Shane’s originally planned Wrestlemania 33 match build.
Dave Meltzer recently mentioned on Wrestling Observer Radio that while all this changed when Goldberg returned to WWE – making the FANTASY WARFARE match come true – Lesnar was already working on getting himself out of facing Shane because The Beast “certainly didn’t want to do [it].”