Live from Chicago, Illinois (for the second night in a row) this is Smackdown Live for episode #957. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please check out my WWE News updates Monday to Friday exclusively on TJRWrestling for all the relevant WWE news and my thoughts on everything going on. Thanks Melo Man for the banner up top.
Daniel Bryan, Smackdown’s General Manager, made his entrance to a big ovation. The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton welcomed us to the show noting no commercials in the first hour. Later in the show is AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens.
Bryan received “Daniel Bryan” chants from the crowd with Bryan saying it was great to be there. Bryan said that as 2017 comes to a close, one of the most shocking moments of the year came from an unexpected place. It was a clip of Dolph Ziggler last week saying he was too good for us and he left the US Title in the ring while he walked away.
Bryan said he’s been trying to call Ziggler all week, but Ziggler has not responded to his calls or text messages. Bryan said it looks like Ziggler has relinquished the US Title. Bryan said he had to personally acknowledge that Ziggler is one of the all-time greats. Bryan talked about how they are proud to have the history and prestige of the US Title. Bryan said they will have a tournament to crown a new US Champion with that tournament starting tonight.
Bryan announced one of the first-round matches: Baron Corbin vs. Bobby Roode and in another match…here comes Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable.
Gable and Benjamin said they were wondering what Bryan was going to do about the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Bryan pointed out they just got a title opportunity at Clash of Champions. Benjamin said that they never got their one on one match with The Usos while wondering why New Day and English/Rusev were in the title match at COC. Fans chanted “Rusev Day.” Gable and Benjamin said they have earned their opportunity as they entered the ring.
Aiden English interrupted by humming into the microphone. Fans chanted “Rusev Day” for them. English sang about why they deserve to face The Usos. English pointed out they beat the champs two weeks ago, they didn’t lose at Clash of Champions and the third reason was we all know what day comes after Christmas…loud “Rusev Day” chants. Gable said it’s Boxing Day, which drew boos. Rusev: “No you fool, it’s Rusev Day!” The crowd said it with him.
Analysis: The Rusev Day gimmick is over huge. Great to see that. I’m happy for Rusev and English.
The New Day joined the festivities to let us know it’s a new day, yes it is. New Day tossed some pancakes to fans at ringside. Xavier Woods said those teams are wasting Bryan’s time. Fans did the “who” chant before Woods even cued it up. Big E asked if the team of Chad Gable and “old Jason Jordan” or Shelton Benjamin (that drew laughs) got pinned at Clash of Champions, which Kofi Kingston said was true. Big E pointed out that the Rusev Day team got pinned by New Day, which Kingston said was true. New Day entered the ring to say they are the rightful number one contenders to the Smackdown WWE World Tag Team Champions and Bryan even did the hip shaking with them.
Rusev said nobody wants to see their spinning hips. Fans chanted “Rusev Day” again. Rusev wondered if Bryan would make up his mind or if he has to ask his “mommy,” Shane McMahon.
Bryan set up the obvious thing where he announced a triple threat match with all three teams where the winners face The Usos for the Tag Team Championships. Bryan said the match happens right now and called for a referee to get out there.
Analysis: It was a typical opening segment to set up a match right away, which is exactly what they did on Raw too. It’s one of the common uses of the opening segment for both WWE shows. Since the crowd was hot for all the teams and Bryan, it made for a good opening segment.
The Usos, Smackdown’s Tag Team Champions, made their entrance and joined the commentary team.
The New Day’s Big E & Xavier Woods (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. Rusev & Aiden English vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
Three guys were in the ring while the three partners stood on the apron. There are no countouts and disqualifications in the match, yet guys are going to tag in and out.
Fans were chanting for Rusev. English tossed Gable to the outside, which led to everybody fighting on the floor. Woods hit a somersault splash over the top to take out all his opponents. Woods with a knee to the face of English. Big E tagged in and did a Powerbomb to Woods on English for a two count. Gable got in the ring for a double German Suplex spot with Gable slamming Big E and Big E slammed English at the same time. That was a great spot that got two counts for Gable. Benjamin with a suplex on Big E. Rusev tagged in to a big ovation from the crowd. Gable and Benjamin tossed Rusev to the floor. Double knee by Benjamin and Gable on Big E got a two count. I think some fans were chanting for “CM Punk” and other fans booed that. Big E nailed a running double clothesline to take down English and Gable. Woods got the tag with a dropkick to the back of English against the ropes. Gable’s corner charge didn’t work on Woods, who came back with the Honor Roll clothesline and Woods with a rolling elbow on English for two as Gable made the save. Benjamin whipped English into Rusev while he was on the apron and Woods nailed an enziguri on Benjamin. Gable tagged in with an overhead suplex on Woods. English nailed a running kick on Gable. Rusev got the hot tag with clotheslines, kicks to the head and a running splash on Gable and Woods on opposite corners. Spinning kick by Rusev on Big E and a Matchka Kick on Benjamin. Fans chanted “Rusev Day” for Rusev. Gable stopped Rusev with a forearm, English tagged in and Gable hit a rolling German Suplex on Rusev. Woods with a missile dropkick off the top on English for a two count. Big E with a blind tag and he hit a uranage into a Woods backstabber for a two count. That would be an impressive finisher.
Woods jumped off the top for a move on Gable, who moved and Benjamin was there with a knee to the face. Gable nailed a moonsault on Woods for a two count. Gable went for a German Suplex, but English held onto Woods’ hair. English kicked Woods and Woods came back with a leaping DDT on Gable. English with a slam off the shoulders for a two count with Benjamin breaking up the pin. Fans were chanting “Rusev Day” as Benjamin battled English on the ropes. Rusev broke up the double superplex attempt and did a double Powerbomb on Gable and Benjamin. English did a Frog Splash off the top for a two count. Rusev yelled “Rusev Day” and he tagged in. Woods got a rollup on Rusev for a two count. Rusev nailed a kick to the head of Woods. Rusev put Woods on top of Gable and Rusev slapped on the Accolade submission on both guys on the same time. The Usos were saying that he better not do that to them. Benjamin broke that up with a kick to the head. Benjamin tagged in against Big E leading to Big E hitting his shoulder tackle that sent Benjamin to the floor. Big E went for the Big Ending, Benjamin fought out of it and Benjamin nailed a knee lift while Big E was on the apron. Benjamin held Big E up in the air in a Powerbomb position and Gable nailed a clothesline off the top into the pin for the victory after 15 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
Analysis: **** Outstanding match! That was a lot of fun to watch and write about. Four stars out of five. Tremendous action from start to finish. It was tough to write about it because I was so entrenched in everything they were doing it, I found myself saying “wow” a few times and just marveling at how good the timing was for everything. The timing point is important because they made everything look perfect by always being in the right place at the right time. It’s not an easy match to do with six guys involved, trying to make the tags in smart spots and giving everybody a chance to shine. It was wild action with a lot of believable nearfalls for all three teams. I thought Rusev Day were going to win. They were the most popular team in the match. I don’t have a problem with Gable/Benjamin winning because they are a good heel team that has great matches all the time and they have done well against The Usos in the past. It might be best to get the gold onto Gable/Benjamin and have Rusev/English win it from them in the near future.
It was announced that The Usos vs. Benjamin & Gable for the SD Tag Team Titles will take place next week on Smackdown in Orlando. There may be a title change there.
Daniel Bryan was shown watching on the TV backstage. Shane McMahon was there. Bryan asked him how was Christmas. Shane said he had a great Christmas with his family. Shane said last week, Bryan said that Shane was turning into Mr. McMahon aka Vince. Shane pointed that Vince can be ruthless, cold, calculating and a mean S.O.B. Shane said give the man his due because Vince has built this empire brick by brick by himself. Shane talked about how Vince has changed sports entertainment into what it is today, and he redefined this business. Bryan said he’s not trying to undermine what Vince accomplished, but Shane throwing his weight around is kinda like what Vince would do. Shane pointed out that Bryan is making some unique decisions for the US Title. Shane wondered why Bryan didn’t just give a US Title match to former champion Baron Corbin. Bryan said it’s the land of opportunity. Shane wondered what Bryan was thinking in making AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens. Shane pointed out that Sami Zayn could interfere. Shane didn’t want people to think Bryan was showing favoritism to Owens and Zayn, but that’s what people think. Bryan said that Styles vs. Owens was one of the most heated rivalries of 2017, so Bryan thought why not end the year with one more match? Shane took a long pause, said “okay” and that led to a staredown.
Analysis: The tension continued between these two with something big due to happen at some point soon. It was almost like a Curb Your Enthusiasm “okay” moment at the end there because Larry David always does that on that show that I love.
Still to come: Naomi vs. Ruby Riott and Bobby Roode vs. Baron Corbin in the first round of the US Title tourney.
A commercial aired for the Royal Rumble on January 28.
The Breezango duo of Fandango and Tyler Breeze made their entrance. A clip aired showing The Ascension telling their friends Breezango they got a rematch with the Bludgeon Brothers. You can go to WWE.com/FashionFiles to watch that episode or WWE’s Youtube channel.
The Bludgeon Brothers duo of Harper and Rowan made their entrance.
Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) vs. The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper & Rowan)
Double dropkick by Breezango early on. Rowan sent Breeze to the floor. Harper hit a spinning slam on Fandango. Harper dumped Fandango to the floor. Rowan sent Breeze face first into the ring apron. Harper tagged in, slap to Rowan leading to a Rowan corner splash and a boot to the face by Harper. Rowan hoisted Breeze up and Harper hit a sitout Powerbomb for two because Rowan picked up Breeze. Harper knocked Fandango off the apron. Rowan sent Fandango into the steps and the barricade. The Ascension ran out for the save. Konnor and Viktor went into the ring, hit Harper with a shoulder tackle and the ref called for the bell. Konnor and Viktor got their Breezango buddies out of there. It ended in about three minutes.
Winners by disqualification: The Bludgeon Brothers
Analysis: * It was the usual from Harper and Rowan dominating the match. At least there was some storyline progression there with The Ascension getting involved to save their buddies.
Naomi was shown walking backstage because she’s up next.
There was a shot of The Ascension and Breezango backstage. Dasha Fuentes tried to do an interview, so Konnor said that what the Bludgeon Brothers did crossed the line. Viktor said their best friends Breezango are challenging Bludgeon Brothers to another match next week. Breezango wasn’t thrilled about that.
Video aired about the women’s Royal Rumble match. Same video that was on Smackdown last week and Raw this week. WWE loves repeating things. They’re making history. We know.
Ruby Riott entered with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan. Riott did a pre-match inset promo saying the Royal Rumble is like the Royal Riott because a rumble is like a riot.
Analysis: Get better writers, WWE.
Naomi made her glow entrance to a big ovation.
Naomi vs. Ruby Riott (w/Sara Logan and Live Morgan)
They started by throwing punches. Naomi nailed a springboard kick. Morgan on the apron, so Naomi decked her. Logan on the apron and Naomi knocked her down. Riott kicked Naomi in the back of the leg. Riott nailed a leaping kick to the head of Naomi for the pinfall win. It went about two minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Ruby Riott
Analysis: 1/2* Quick match to put over the numbers game advantage of The Riott Squad. It felt like a rushed match. This made Naomi look bad as a former champion, but it’s done to try to establish the new heels.
The Riott Squad attacked Naomi together. They dumped her out of the ring. Charlotte Flair made the save. She nailed a Spear, but that didn’t go well for her. The Riott Squad dumped Charlotte out of the ring.
The foursome of Natalya, Carmella, Lana and Tamina entered the ring against the Riott squad. Ruby led her friends out of the ring to avoid the confrontation. However, the four women didn’t let them leave and they attacked the Riott Squad on the floor with punches. That led to the Riott Squad trio running away to end the segment.
Analysis: It was just a decent segment. This Riott Squad group is not nearly as good as Raw’s Absolution group. Part of the reason is that Paige has more credibility than any of the other women in the two groups. Part of it has been the booking so far too. It’s just not working as well here. Also, the thought of Lana working with Liv sounds terrible, so please never do that.
AJ Styles, the WWE Champion, was interviewed by Renee Young. Styles talked about getting to face Kevin Owens again with the fans chanting “AJ Styles” for him. Styles said when he steps in the ring he is the favorite and his opponents are the underdogs. Styles said he started the year as the WWE Champion and he’s ending the year as WWE Champion. Styles said things won’t be handed to a guy like Kevin Owens. Styles said if Owens is going to beat him, he has to outwork, outsmart and outhustle him while noting that Owens couldn’t do it before. Styles said 2018 will be no different because Smackdown Live will still be the house that AJ Styles built.
There was a graphic reminding us that WWE’s Youtube channel has 20 million subscribers.
Bobby Roode made his entrance to a big ovation.
Baron Corbin made his entrance with Graves pointing out that Corbin should get his US Title rematch as the former champion.
US Title Tournament: Bobby Roode vs. Baron Corbin
Roode stomped away on Corbin early. The US Title was on display at ringside. Roode hit a neckbreaker and Corbin bailed to the floor. Corbin whipped Roode into the barricade. Corbin broke the ref’s count, hung Roode upside down against the ropes and Corbin punched Roode in the ribs. Corbin with a running shoulder tackle and a punch to the face. Corbin hit a sidewalk slam for a two count. Corbin grabbed Roode around the waist. Corbin dumped Roode to the floor. With Roode on the apron, Corbin hit a forearm to knock Roode down. Corbin slid outside the ring and nailed a clothesline. Corbin charged at Roode, who ducked and pulled down the top rope. Roode with a running forearm followed by a clothesline that sent Corbin over the top to the floor. Roode hit a clothesline off the apron on Corbin on the floor. Back in the ring, boot to the face by Roode followed by a blockbuster off the ropes for two. Corbin came back by hitting Roode in the ribs and then sending Roode shoulder first into the ring post. Roode slipped out of the End of Days attempt, Corbin did his slide out of the ring and back in right into a spinebuster from Roode. Corbin nailed his Deep Six slam that he never wins with for a two count. Good nearfall every time. They battled on the turnbuckle. Corbin wanted a superplex, but Roode fought out of it with headbutts. Roode tried an attack off the middle turnbuckle. Corbin caught Roode with one hand going for his backbreaker, but couldn’t get it. Roode got a sunset flip into a cover for the pinfall win after nine minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Bobby Roode
Analysis: **1/2 A back and forth match that could have gone either way. It’s not the usual ROLLUP OF DEATH~! that I hate so much because Roode did more of a sunset flip, which is fine. Corbin came close to the win with the Deep Six, but Roode managed to kick out and they set up the finish from there. Crowd was into most of the match, which was good to see. Roode could be the winner of this tournament because putting some gold on him makes sense.
Roode advances to the semi-finals in the US Title tournament. Corbin looked on angrily from inside the ring while Roode celebrated on the ramp.
Tye Dillinger vs. Jinder Mahal in the US Title tournament is up next.
A commercial aired for Raw 25 on January 22. That’s going to be huge.
FYI: I will be posting my 9th Annual WWE Johnny Awards for 2017 on Thursday, December 28. It’s usually around 8,000 words and there are some fun awards in there. Check out my Johnny Awards archives to check out the winners from past years.
The Singh Brothers introduced Jinder Mahal while saying he would be the next US Champion.
Tye Dillinger made his entrance. He hasn’t been on Smackdown in several weeks, but the crowd still loves chanting “ten” for him.
US Title Tournament: Jinder Mahal (w/Samir & Sunil Singh) vs. Tye Dillinger
Dillinger with a back elbow followed by a backslide into a two count. Mahal bailed to the floor as the show went to break here in Canada where these two men are from, but it looked like it continued in the US.
They returned with Mahal applying an armbar. Mahal with a chop to the throat. Dillinger created space with a boot to the face followed by a running forearm. Dillinger elbow to the face. Stomp to the face by Dillinger followed by kicks to the chest while Mahal was against the turnbuckle. Dillinger up top, he jumped off with a cross body block and Mahal rolled through for a two count. Mahal with a gutbuster for a two count. That’s a great move for him that I’m glad he’s using in his arsenal. Dillinger came back with a DDT for a two count. Dillinger went for corner punches, so Mahal punched Dillinger in the knee. Mahal hit The Khallas slam for the pinfall win after six minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Jinder Mahal
Analysis: ** Solid match to put over Mahal in impressive fashion. Finish was clever. It was surprising that it went that long because if Mahal won in three minutes it would have made sense. I don’t mind Mahal in the US Title picture. He’s got credibility now. I just don’t want him in the WWE Title picture again.
With the win, Mahal moves on to the semi-finals of the US Title tournament.
Still to come is Styles vs. Owens.
This week on 205 Live is Hideo Itami vs. Jack Gallagher.
The duo of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens were interviewed by Dasha Fuentes backstage. Owens had champagne in his hands saying it was the bottle they almost had with Daniel Bryan. Owens pointed out that the last time he faced AJ Styles, he said the referee was a guy that shuffles his feet a lot and is Vince McMahon’s son. Owens said that was then and this is now because now he’s got the guardian angel in Sami Zayn by his side. Owens told Dasha she’s not invited to the celebration and nobody in Chicago is invited. Owens said the only guests to the private party are Owens and Zayn with Zayn ending the promo by saying “yep.”
Analysis: Solid heel promo by the best heels on this show and maybe the entire company right now.
Randy Orton was interviewed by Renee Young backstage. Orton said there’s not much to say right now other than the fact that he’s been dealing with everybody else’s issues except his own. Orton said he has himself to worry about. Orton said that he’s looking forward to the future. Orton talked about how the only thing he’s concerned with right now is entering the Royal Rumble match. Orton mentioned for the third time in his career and Shinsuke Nakamura walked in to say “that’s a good idea, let’s Rumble.” That ended it. The announcers got excited about Nakamura being in the Royal Rumble.
Analysis: Orton won the Royal Rumble last year and also in 2009. It’s not going to happen again. Nakamura is a favorite in the Royal Rumble match. He might be my pick to win. I have a month to figure it out.
AJ Styles, the WWE Champion, made his entrance for the main event.
Next Monday on Raw: Brock Lesnar is back on the New Year’s Day edition of Raw.
Kevin Owens made his entrance with the awkward, yet hilarious dancing of Sami Zayn.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens (w/Sami Zayn)
This is not for Styles’ WWE Championship.
Styles started with a dropkick as soon as the bell rang. Knee drop by Styles. Owens sent Styles face first into the middle turnbuckle. Styles slapped on the Calf Crusher submission, but Owens got to the ropes to break the hold. Styles went after Owens on the floor with a kick to the back of the leg. They went back into the ring with Owens kicking Styles away leading to a hard bump to the floor by Styles. Owens with a running forearm to the chest of Styles. Owens hit a running senton splash on Styles in the ring leading to a two count. Owens nailed an elbow to the chest of Styles into a slam for a two count. The show went to break there.
Back from break, Owens took him to chinlock city. Owens with a stiff boot to Styles to slow him down. Styles fought out of it with a suplex into a face first slam. Styles missed a corner splash because Owens moved. Styles went for an attack off the middle ropes, but Owens moved, and Owens nailed a clothesline. Owens with a neckbreaker with Styles’ head onto the back of the knee of Owens. Styles came back with the ushigoroshi (fireman’s carry into a neckbreaker) as both guys were down on the mat selling the pain. They exchanged punches. Styles won that battle with strikes to the face and a hard clothesline. Running forearm by Styles. Running forearm by Styles in the corner. Owens powered out of a Styles Clash attempt from Styles, but Styles came back with a leaping kick to the head. Forearm to the head by Styles. When Styles went for a springboard attack, Owens caught him and hit a gut buster. Owens jumped off the ropes with an elbow drop for a two count. Styles did an incredible move where he put Owens on his shoulders and spun around in the air into a slam for a two count. The crowd thought that was it. Owens went to the floor. Styles did a leap over the top onto Zayn on the floor. Styles sent Owens into the steel ring post. Back in the ring, Zayn was on the apron complaining, so Owens capitalized with a superkick for two as Styles got his shoulder up. Shane McMahon went down to ringside to tell the referee to eject Zayn, so the ref told Zayn to leave. Styles had an inside cradle for two that could have been more, but the ref was busy dealing with Zayn. Owens did the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! on Styles, the ref was right there and that was enough for the pinfall win after 16 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Kevin Owens
Analysis: ***1/2 Good match as usual from two of the best wrestlers on this show. These guys work well together with Owens showing off his power for much of the match while Styles showed what he could do with some impressive power moves too. Part of it is Owens being fine with taking any bump because he knows Styles brings out the best in everybody he’s in the ring with. The outcome didn’t surprise me that much since champions lose non-title in WWE so often. I’m not a fan of the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! finish because they do it too often, but that’s because they want to protect Styles by having him lose a move that wasn’t KO’s finisher.
Post match, Owens and Zayn celebrated the win. Styles left the ring looking upset as he walked by Shane in the aisle. Shane said he was sorry to Styles. Owens and Zayn continued the celebration as the show ended right at 10pm.
Analysis: Owens beating Styles non-title should lead to a match down the road possibly a WWE Title match at Royal Rumble. I think Owens being in the Rumble with Zayn would provide some fun moments, but Styles vs. Owens for the WWE Title at Royal Rumble makes a lot of sense after that ending. There aren’t many other credible heels for Styles to feud with on Smackdown right now.
The last main event on a main roster show ended with the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! What a nice way to go out with a bang, I guess.
Three Stars of the Show
- New Day
It feels weird not putting Styles or Owens here, but the tag opener was better.
7.5 out of 10
Last week: 6
2017 Average: 6.64
Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.57 – Raw is at 5.89
Last 5 Weeks: 6, 4.5, 5.5, 6, 5.5
2017 High: 8.5 (April 11, August 1)
2017 Low: 4 (August 29)
It gets a 7.5 out of 10.
Great show because of the first match and the last match.
The Smackdown tag team division has been on fire most of the year and it is sizzling right now. The first hour was dominated by those teams. It’s an awesome mix of talent that produces quality matches every week.
Styles vs. Owens was pretty good with a big angle at the end of the match due to Owens winning in cheap fashion.
Roode vs. Corbin was a competitive match that set the US Title tournament off on the right track from the beginning.
I don’t think the women’s segment was that interesting. Riott beating Naomi easily does help Riott, but also makes Naomi look like a fool with how easily she was beaten.
It was a weak show in terms of promos because it really just the opening segment that set up the tag match. The in-ring action carried it this week.
The next WWE PPV is the Royal Rumble on January 28 in Philadelphia. Here’s what we know so far.
Men’s 30-man Royal Rumble Match
Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
That’s all for now. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs.
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