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MIZ AND ZIGGLER STEAL THE SHOW, JOHN CENA RETURNS TO ACTION: 12/26 WWE IN MADISON SQUARE GARDEN LIVE REPORT

By Mike Johnson on 2016-12-27 01:30:00

WWE returned to Madison Square Garden for their annual post-Christmas event on Monday 12/26 with their first live event in the venue since this past summer's brand split, a Smackdown Live event taking place at the same time as Monday's Raw broadcast in Chicago.   The show drew well, not a sellout but certainly a healthy crowd that was at times contradictory in how their responded to the current Smackdown talent roster.  Some newer talents were over while others were met with apathetic reactions.  There was a feeling that families who were there came to see the wrestling for the holiday but didn't know the storylines or characters, especially those who have come up from NXT in the last half-year.  That led to what was a weird show in many ways.  The first half of the show, for the most part, was a swing and a miss in terms of reactions with very few highlights.    There was some OK work, but a lot of lulls where the crowd wasn't reacting in a major way.  The show didn't feel like a major show at all, which is a rarity for MSG events and especially for the December event, a tradition that has dated back decades.

*WWE Smackdown Tag Team champions The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton with Luke Harper) won a Tag Team Turmoil (Gauntlet Match), last defeating American Alpha.  The crowd was really into this early on, but as it continued, obviously lost interest as by the time Alpha hit the ring as the final team, there was hardly any real reaction.  It started with Rhyno and Heath Slater (huge reaction) defeating The Ascension with Rhyno scoring the pin following a gore on Viktor.  Next out was Breezango, dressed as police, who came out throwing out tickets to the crowd.  For the record, the tickets have "CALL ME!  867-5309!" scrawled across them.  They were immediately killed by Rhyno and Slater and pinned, which the crowd liked.  Next out were the Usos.  The crowd seemed completely baffled as to why the Usos were villains.  There was some OK work before Slater and Rhyno were out.  The Wyatts were out next with a big reaction for the Firefly entrance.  Orton got a nice reaction when he started wrestling and later took off his sweatshirt.  The Usos were suddenly babyfaces against the Wyatts were taken out.  Alpha vs. The Wyatts was technically good but by this point, the crowd had completely checked out.  Gable was finally pinned with a RKO.    This went well over 25 minutes and felt way too long.  This was the MSG debut for Alpha.

*WWE Smackdown Women's champion Alexa Bliss pinned Becky Lynch in a solid match.  Nice reaction for Lynch.  This was Bliss' MSG debut and she was great interacting with the audience as a heel.  I didn't feel like the audience knew who she was when she came out.  Some decent near falls until Bliss rolled up Lynch and hooked the tights.   Lynch ran off Bliss after and held up the championship belt.  Bliss' facial expressions are really great.  Lynch is a hell of a babyface.

*They aired a great Ziggler promo from backstage where he promised to kick the hell out of Miz inside a steel cage tonight.

*In a six man tag, Apollo Crews & Jack Swagger (wrestling in a t-shirt) & Mojo Rawley (MSG debut) defeated Curt Hawkins & The Vaudevillains.  Hawkins' ring entrance with all the Facts were the highlight early on.   Another match where there weren't a lot of big reactions.  Crews got the pin with the Apollo Bomb on Hawkins.

*Hawkins took the mic after and said that while he's from NYC and everyone thinks he must be happy to be here, the reality is that he's a WWE star and everyone watching him is a loser.  He said his lost was a fluke,FACT.  He then said that the FACT is that he's not leaving until he has another match and FACT, he doesn't care who it is.  Out comes James Ellsworth in a neck brace, which gets a nice reaction.  Ellsworth, in his MSG debut, says that he's in NY and in NY when people run their mouths, they fight.  Hawkins blows him off as a threat and calls for a referee to ring the bell.  He charges at Ellsworth but is hit with a superkick and pinned.  Ellsworth acted like he was shocked he nailed the superkick.  The kids in the crowd really liked the segment.

*Next up was, by far, The best match on the show - Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz in a steel cage that saw MSG reacted loudly to every near fall and every near-escape from the cage, even after the Miz announced that his Intercontinental championship wasn't going to be on the line.  That was despite the match being advertised as a championship match for months and being one of the only matches on the lineup that didn't change over time.  Miz was great on the mic before the bout, saying that NYC is used to great champions like Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin, but all of them wish they could be half the champion that Miz was.  Austin got the biggest reaction of the three.  Miz said that his contract states he doesn't have to defend the IC title in Podunk towns like NYC and when the crowd jeered him for that, he started naming and ripping on all the local sports teams.  He was on fire on the mic and even offering Ziggler the Participation Award.  They did all the usual cage spots that you would expect including Maryse slamming the cage door on Ziggler as he tried to crawl out and lots of going to the top and nearly getting over before being pulled back in.  In the end, Miz was catapulted into the cage door and bounced back in and then superkicked for the pin.  MSG exploded as if they were getting a title change.  That's how good this was.  They tore the house down here.  After the match, Ziggler did a big celebration, including superkicking an inflatable penguin that was on the stage as part of a holiday themed set-up, which got a big pop.

*After intermission, Nikki Bella pinned Natalya in a decent match.  Carmella (MSG debut) came out during the end to try and distract Bella but ended up being knocked off the apron when Natalya was tossed into her.   Big reaction for Bella.  Natalya did the John Cena "You Can't See Me" mannerism to mock Bella at the bell.

*In his MSG debut, Baron Corbin pinned Kalisto in a solid back and forth match that the audience didn't really react to.  Corbin scored the pin with the End of Days.   Kalisto teased a 619 at one point and the audience reacted favorably to that.

*In the main event, WWE champion (announced as that, not the WWE World champion) AJ Styles defeated Dean Ambrose and the returning John Cena in a Triple Threat match.  Styles got a nice reaction coming out and there was a big "AJ Styles" chant before the other entrances.  Ambrose got a respectful reaction.  Cena got the biggest pop of anyone coming out, although that soon turned into his usual back and forth reaction from the live crowd.  Cena looked really happy during his entrance, his first appearance in several months as he had been out in Oregon filming "American Grit" season two for FOX.  The basic story of the match was that one of the talents were tossed to the outside as the other two battled.  Ambrose seemed to be a little off when it came to timing tonight.  In the end, Styles brought a steel chair in and drilled Cena across the back with it, then lowblowed Dean and small packaged him for the pin.  The crowd seemed confused as to why Styles did all that in front of the referee.  Obviously, it was no DQ due to the Triple Threat bout.  Second best match of the night.  Styles did a promo after putting himself over and went to attack Cena with the championship belt.  Ambrose grabbed it and had a tug of war, before grabbing AJ and nailing Dirty Deeds before storming off.  Cena closed the show with an AA and walked out, leaving Styles to recover and go to the back.

Notes: There was a big crowd tonight with 90% of it made up of family with young children....With Raw taping TV at the same time as the MSG show, no McMahons backstage....Mike Rotunda (IRS) was the head producer and ran the show based on directives from Michael Hayes, who puts the live event together....Betty Skaaland, the longtime wife of late WWE Hall of Famer Arnold Skaaland, was visiting at the show and watched from the front row.....The crew rushed after the show to a charter flight to take them to Chicago for the Smackdown taping....Daniel Bryan appeared in a taped video to open the show riling up the crowd and leading a "Yes!" chant that got a big reaction from the live audience....WWE announced a 3/12 return to MSG for what, based on the advertising, appeared to be a Smackdown live event with Brock Lesnar appearing....Interesting to see a lot of merchandise for Raw talents, including Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins being sold....WWE was also selling signed photos of AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, John Cena and Randy Orton....There were also a TON of bootleggers selling t-shirts outside of MSG and even in the MSG lobby after the show.  There were at least 50-10 people selling the same shirt within a two block walk of the venue after the show.  It was by far the most I've seen of that kind of activity since Wrestlemania 29 in New Jersey.

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