A New Champion, But No New #1 Contender

Elizabeth Williams
February 23, 2017

WWE SmackDown Live began with General Manager Daniel Bryan coming out to announce that WWE SmackDown Women's champ Naomi would have to relinquish her title due to injury and miss WrestleMania, which she did.

The WWE Universe will have to wait until next week to find out whether it will be Styles or Harper after both men's feet hit the floor at the same time to see the Battle Royal end in a draw.

The battle royal main event for SmackDown to determine the number one contender for Bray Wyatt's WWE championship at WrestleMania. It was rather a flat night but 10-man Royal Rumble to decide Bray Wyatt's challenger after Randy Orton backed off from facing the champion was an entertaining prospect. These included Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, AJ Styles, The Miz, John Cena, Dean Ambrose, Baron Corbin, Kalisto, Apollo Crews and Mojo Rawley. C'mon, Rhyno is more over than 40% of those guys! Initially, she was to win Women's Championship from Charlotte Flair in Orlando. However, while fighting Bliss, Naomi suffered a knee injury. Bryan did a great job here in getting the storyline over by bringing up 2014 when he was stripped of the World Title.

There's no word yet on whether Naomi will ever regain her title - or if she's up for another rematch once she recovers.

I always like when they cite the old 30-day rule to strip a champion, although that was totally ignored when Brock Lesnar was a champion and might be again if he wins the Universal Title at Mania. If they can keep up promos like this, they may just be able to overcome their booking so far to make for compelling rivals to American Alpha. She, of course, demanded the title back. Nia Jax dominated a local wrestler in a squash match, and later on the night, Bayley was being persuaded to relinquish her Raw Women's Championship. Sure, you can say that it attempts to get the crowd behind Namoi more by making her vacate the title, but it appears the crowd is already behind her. Styles became champion at one point, but even the 19-year veteran was relieved of the belt. Who was tonight's standout star? This shows you how much faith they have in Luke Harper, because AJ Styles is very good.

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