Boxing Day gave us a curiously understated version of WWE Monday Night Raw, but Tuesday gave us fireworks as the WWE SmackDown event rounded out the WWE Chicago double-header. Where Monday Night Raw had the feel of "Groundhog Day" SmackDown gave us three title fights, new champions and the return of 15-time world champion John Cena. What's more, Cena ramped up the rhetoric in advance of a promised title fight, against 2016 sensation AJ Styles at next month's Royal Rumble PPV.
There have been numerous rumors in recent weeks that Cena would crown his return with a Royal Rumble match against AJ Styles, and it didn't take Cena long to throw down the challenge. Cena, the 15-time World Champion, kicked off the Wild Card Finals by having some fun with the huge Chicago crowd.
Cena declared that "wrestling's 'new era' was bulls**t" before declaring that "my time is now." Cena went on to challenge the winner of the WWE Championship Triple Threat Match between AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, and Baron Corbin to a Title Match at the upcoming Royal Rumble. With the challenge laid down it was hardly a surprise to see AJ Styles come through against Corbin and Ziggler. The scene is now set for the Cena vs Styles faceoff, the only question remaining is whether The Undertaker will make that championship fight a triple header.
The Philly Inquirer reflects on the fact that WWE fans in Chicago had experienced two evenings of wrestling that could not have drawn a greater contrast. Monday Night Raw had dragged on for more than three hours and left fans wondering if anything had actually happened. WWE SmackDown Live had three championship matches and more action in Cena's pre-fight announcements that Monday Night Raw managed to produce across the entire show.Cena is clearly itching to get back in the swing and lambasted those who have declared that his time is over. Cena said he is sick and tired of being written off, and of hearing people claim that he is no longer invested in WWE. Cena did admit that people will be surprised that he has walked straight back into a title match at Royal Rumble, but explained it away by saying that he is "John Cena and people better recognize that fact."
Fight fans will be itching to see Cena take on AJ Styles at Royal Rumble. As fans will know Styles has won their last two one-on-one encounters and he pinned Cena at the No Mercy triple threat. In the circumstances, many will expect Cena to gain his revenge in a championship fight.
AJ Styles Just Keeps Winning At WWE SmackDown LiveThere can be no doubt that AJ Styles has been the highlight of the 2016 WWE SmackDown year. Last night's SmackDown was no different as Styles triumphed over Ziggler and Corbin. According to Forbes Corbin was "a monster" who dominated most of the match. The match came to a thrilling finale as Corbin landed an End of Days on Ziggler. Sensing an opportunity, Styles hopped in the ring to land a huge forearm smash, Corbin rolled out of the ring and Styles pinned Ziggler to retain.
Cena showed up at the end of the match to offer a handshake to Styles who accepted in gracefully and the scene was set for a Royal Rumble championship match between the two.
Of course, while the main event of the evening may have been an epic, there were two other championship matches on offer, one of which saw new champions emerge.
Sky Sports report that American Alpha managed to prise the WWE SmackDown tag team title from the Wyatt Family. Excitement was at a premium in the Four Corners Elimination Match. Heath Slater and Rhyno, The Usos, American Alpha and Randy Orton, and Luke Harper all were looking to leave as champions, but it was American Alpha who won out in the always competitive Team Blue Tag Team division.
In the final championship match of the evening Alexa Bliss beat Becky Lynch. It looked like the title was going Lynch's way, but while the referee was tending to an injured Bliss, the new La Luchadora smashed Lynch's head into an exposed turnbuckle. Bliss capitalized with a DDT to retain her title.
[Featured Image by John Palmer/ MediaPunch/IPX/AP Images]