Live from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (for the fourth night in a row), this is Smackdown Live for episode #962. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.
The show began with a shot of the WrestleMania sign in the building.
Let’s Hear from Shinsuke Nakamura
The Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura (it feels so good to type that) was introduced to a huge ovation. Nakamura made his exciting entrance looking excited like usual while the announcers put over his incredible performance in the Rumble match. There was a graphic that said “ROCKSTAR” when he did his pose against the ropes, so that’s new for him.
The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton welcomed us to the show.
Nakamura stood in the ring with a microphone as the fans chanted his name. Nakamura talked about Royal Rumble where he hit John Cena with a knee to the face, Roman Reigns with a knee to the face and at WrestleMania, AJ Styles…knee to the face and a new WWE Champion. Nakamura pointed at the WrestleMania sign.
Analysis: Welcome to “point at the WrestleMania sign” season, my friends. If it happened once in a while it would be okay, but it happens too often. At least Nakamura can do it as the Rumble winner.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn interrupted the speech from Nakamura as they slowly walked down to the ring. Owens said that Nakamura can point at that WrestleMania sign, but Owens claimed they were screwed out of their title. Owens said they should be standing there as the very first co-WWE Champions. An image was shown of Zayn not tagging Owens into the match, but the ref allowed it and Owens got beat by Styles.
Zayn whined about how the referee had one job where he had to protect the integrity of the match at all times. Zayn complained how the incompetence of the referee got them in this situation and AJ Styles pinned the wrong man. Owens told Nakamura that at WrestleMania it won’t be AJ Styles who he faces, it will be them. Zayn started the “yep” chants.
Nakamura told them that AJ Styles is a winner while they are losers. Fans chanted “yep” for that too.
AJ Styles, the WWE Champion, made his entrance to a nice ovation.
Analysis: If you don’t see what’s going to be set up here then you have not watched enough WWE programming in your life.
Styles said that Owens and Zayn can cry and complain all they want, but Styles said there will be a dream match at WrestleMania between him and Shinsuke Nakamura. Styles got into the ring and stood beside Nakamura. Styles said that he thinks they should turn this dream match into a dream team against Owens and Zayn right here tonight. Fans chanted “yes” for that.
Owens and Zayn left the ring without saying another word. They stood on the apron. Zayn asked if they really want this match and Zayn/Owens said “nope” together, so Styles and Nakamura punched them off the apron. Nakamura’s music played to end it.
Analysis: It was a typical opening segment to set up the usual tag team match. The only difference here is that there wasn’t an authority figure that showed up to officially announce the match. The Nakamura promo was fine because it was simple. He’s not a great talker since English isn’t his first language, but if you give him simple dialogue he’ll do good enough. Owens and Zayn had a legit gripe as well. Styles supporting Nakamura is fine too.
Up next is a fatal 4-way match for a shot at the US Title.
The Total Divas season finale is on Wednesday.
There were images shown from the Royal Rumble match.
Kofi Kingston of The New Day entered for the 4-Way match with his New Day buddies. Jinder Mahal, Rusev and Zack Ryder were already in the ring.
Daniel Bryan, the Smackdown GM, was in his office when Owens and Zayn showed up. Bryan told them that AJ Styles does not have the power to make matches, so Bryan told them they will face Styles and Nakamura. Bryan told them the referee’s decision is final. Owens complained about how this wasn’t a mistake, this was the WWE Title and history-altering. Owens told Bryan he has to make this right and they deserve better. Bryan said he agreed with them. Bryan said they would have another opportunity at the WWE Championship and Zayn hugged Bryan. That led to Bryan saying he planned a match for next week for a shot at AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at Fastlane: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn. Bryan said it will be fantastic while Owens and Zayn were not happy about it.
Analysis: They got a lot done in that segment with Bryan doing the Teddy Long “holla holla tag team match” special and then setting up the Owens vs. Zayn main event for next week with the winner facing AJ Styles at Fastlane for the WWE Championship. Sounds good to me.
Jinder Mahal (w/Sunil Singh) vs. Zack Ryder vs. Rusev (w/Aiden English) vs. Kofi Kingston (w/Big E & Xavier Woods)
The winner gets a shot at the US Title next week. How is Zack Ryder in this match when he never wins? Oh well. US Champion Bobby Roode is on commentary.
Mahal was in control early with a knee. Rusev worked over Ryder with stomps in the corner. Big E was throwing pancakes at Graves while Roode was talking. Kingston nailed Rusev with a dropkick and Ryder hit a clothesline on Mahal. Kingston kicked Ryder in the gut, but Ryder came back with a neckbreaker for two as Mahal broke up the pin. Ryder came back by nailing Mahal with a clothesline that sent him over the top to the floor followed by a dropkick that sent Mahal into the announce table. Kingston nailed his trust fall dive over the top to take out Mahal and Ryder on the floor. Big E threw more pancakes at the announcers. Rusev teased a dive to the floor, but Sunil grabbed his foot. English shoved Sunil into the pancake plate, so Big E and Woods were mad about it. The ref sent all four guys to the back. The show went to break there.
Back to the action, Mahal sent Kingston into the steel steps. Mahal sent Rusev into the ring post. Back in the ring, Mahal got a two count on Ryder while Roode put over Mahal for being tough. Mahal worked over Ryder with knee drops. Fans chanted “Rusev Day” as he worked over Mahal with punches and two kicks to the chest. Rusev splashed Mahal in the corner. Ryder nailed Rusev with a missile dropkick followed by punches in the corner and a Broski Boot in the corner. No reaction to Ryder. Mahal with a kick to Ryder’s head for a two count. Mahal covered Rusev for two. Kingston got some office in with a chop to Mahal and a boom drop. Kingston hit the SOS on Ryder for a two count since Mahal was there to break it up. Mahal with a clothesline on Kingston. Rusev dumped Mahal out of the ring. Rusev wanted a double Accolade, but Mahal got back with a rollup and high knee to the face of Rusev. Rusev launched Ryder into the air, who nailed a Rough Ryder leg lariat on Mahal to take him out. Rusev kick to the head of Ryder to knock him out of the ring. Rusev slapped on the Accolade submission on Kingston and Kingston tapped out to give Rusev the win on Rusev Day. It went 13 minutes.
Winner by submission: Rusev
Analysis: *** It was a pretty good match with a lot of action. The right guy went over since Rusev has become popular with the “Rusev Day” stuff even though WWE hasn’t fully embraced it by booking him like a heel. There were some good nearfalls in there too. I like 4-Way matches better than triple threat because guys can pair off better in these matches or when one of them is on the floor. The action doesn’t stop and the nearfall spots are more exciting. Rusev vs. Roode should be pretty good.
The win means that Rusev will challenge Bobby Roode for the US Title next week. Rusev went up to Roode, pointed at the title and they had a staredown. Rusev walked away as the winner of the match.
The Usos did a promo about how they are up next.
There was a Fashion Files segment with The Ascension in the room with them taking questions for Breezango from fans on social media. They were asked questions from fans, but Breezango didn’t really answer them (the joke is Breezango are idiots). Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin showed up with Benjamin asking if Fashion Files are still a thing. Gable said they are embarrassing and Breeze pointed out Chad/Shelton lost to The Usos twice. Benjamin challenged Fandango and Breeze to a match. Gable and Benjamin flipped over the table that has the laptops on them. The Ascension told Breezango they’ve got this.
Analysis; A simple segment to set up a tag team match. Breezango haven’t done much in the ring in a while aside from getting beat up by the Bludgeon Brothers.
Let’s Hear from The Usos
The Usos, who are Smackdown’s Tag Team Champions, entered to a nice ovation from the crowd. Jey mentioned they beat Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin 2 to 0, but it’s nothing new since they swept through the Tag Team division on Smackdown division. Jimmy yelled the team names they beat: American Alpha (Jey yelled “Locked Down” and then a jail cell graphic appeared on screen for each one), American Alpha 2, Hype Bros, Breezango, New Day and Sheamus & Cesaro (at Survivor Series).
Jimmy said they represent a lifestyle of being real, being true, being 100 and being you. Jey said this day one represents the struggle because we all struggle to pay our bills, get to work, get good grades, struggle with life period, but remember that every struggle you go through it makes you stronger and Jey said that’s why he goes through it with his Uce (brother) right here. They said they will only get stronger together. Jey said he’s not saying they are the best tag team and Jimmy said they are. “Welcome to the Uso penitentiary” ended it.
Analysis: They are definitely the best tag team in WWE. I liked them more when they were more heelish, but it was still a good promo that fired up the crowd. They have improved a lot in the promos in the last year and the match quality has gone up too.
The Bludgeon Brothers duo of Harper & Rowan made their entrance as The Usos were about to leave. Harper & Rowan didn’t even look at them. They just went into the ring while The Usos walked to the back.
Analysis: It looks like there will be a feud between The Usos and Bludgeon Brothers at some point in the near future. They feuded a few years ago and had some great matches together. There’s good chemistry between them.
The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper & Rowan) vs. Two Dudes With No Chance
Harper with a clothesline in the corner. Rowan with a running cross body block. Harper went over the guy on the apron. Rowan had one guy in his arms, he tagged the guy that was on the apron and Harper kicked the guy that was on the floor. Harper slapped Rowan and sent Rowan into the corner with a splash. Double team Powerbomb by Harper and Rowan on one dude. They picked up the second dude with a double Chokeslam for the pinfall win after about two minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The Bludgeon Brothers
Analysis: 1/2* Easy win for The Bludgeon Brothers as expected. There were no names given for the losers of this match. I could look it up, but it doesn’t matter that much.
A promo aired from Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan saying they are going to have an official Smackdown Top 10 List to determine who deserves an opportunity. Bryan said he won’t have a vote with Shane McMahon and superstars can’t vote for themselves. Bryan said he can’t wait to get started.
Shane McMahon, Commissioner of Smackdown, was on the phone talking about how awesome things were. Tye Dillinger showed up talk to Shane. Dillinger said the Royal Rumble was an opportunity taken from him and Baron Corbin showed up whining about some list for people’s opinions on eachother. Corbin complained about Daniel Bryan giving an opportunity to Kevin and Sami with Shane saying he’ll talk to Daniel about it. Corbin wondered if Shane was still in charge. Corbin asked Dillinger if he’s still there and Dillinger said he’s still there unlike Corbin’s Money in the Bank contract. Shane put them in a match together. Corbin left angrily, Shane said Corbin’s sensitive about the MITB contract and Dillinger told him the truth hurts.
Analysis: There are rumors of Dillinger turning heel, so maybe this will be something to set the wheels in motion for him. I like Dillinger a lot, but he needs some storyline to get him in the right direction. Also, Dillinger said nothing about Zayn and Owens attacking him at the Royal Rumble except that it was taken from him, which makes him look like a loser.
Charlotte Flair, the Smackdown Women’s Champion, made her entrance to a nice ovation. She is not in her ring gear.
A video aired about the Royal Rumble showing Ronda Rousey’s WWE debut after Asuka won the Royal Rumble.
Charlotte was interviewed in the ring by Renee Young. Charlotte said it was incredible to see the women’s Royal Rumble match as they made history. Charlotte said as she sat ringside, it was the first time that she didn’t want to be champion because she wanted to be in the ring seeing if she could hold her own. Charlotte said she wanted to be #3 and outlast everybody like a guy she knows (her dad Ric Flair in 1992).
Charlotte said there was a moment where she was in the ring with Alexa Bliss, Royal Rumble winner Asuka and lastly Ronda Rousey. Charlotte said all she knows is she’s walking into WrestleMania as the Smackdown Women’s Champion, but the question is who will stand across from her in the ring in New Orleans.
Analysis: Solid promo from Charlotte. I think it will be Charlotte vs. Asuka at WrestleMania, for the record. The Raw Women’s Title match is more likely to be a multi-woman match or maybe Bliss vs. Jax.
Ruby Riott and her Riott Squad buddies interrupted. Riott told Charlotte is that her ego is as big as her father’s. Riott said that she has met versions of Charlotte in her life because she’s arrogant, entitled and unoriginal. Riott said there’s only one Ruby Riott because of how she acts, talks and looks. Riott called Charlotte a cheap imitation of her father.
Riott got into the ring with Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan. Riott told Charlotte her time is over and said she won’t even make it to WrestleMania. Charlotte did a “woo” in Riott’s face.
The Riott Squad attacked Charlotte, but Charlotte tried to fight back. Charlotte sent the three women out of the ring. The Riott Squad regrouped on opposite sides of the ring and had more success in their attack as they punched Charlotte repeatedly. Riott nailed a kick, Logan with a knee to the back and Morgan with a double foot stomp to the back. Riott picked up Charlotte and nailed a leaping kick to the face to knock her down.
Analysis: No help for Charlotte even though she talks about Becky Lynch being her best friend all the time and no sign of Naomi either. I know it was done for an angle to put over the heels, but they should have at least had other women try to save because it makes Charlotte look like a loser with no friends. This will probably lead to Riott becoming the next title contender.
Carmella’s music hit as Miss Money in the Bank ran out with the briefcase/contract and a referee. Carmella handed the briefcase to the referee to cash in Money in the Bank. As the ref was handing the briefcase/contract to the announcer, Carmella hit a dropkick that sent the referee out of the ring. No official cash in. Carmella screamed about it telling the ref to get up. While that was going on, Charlotte got back to her feet. Carmella was screaming at the ref to get up. With Charlotte on her feet, Carmella grabbed the briefcase and went to the back.
Analysis: There haven’t been a lot of cash in teases from Carmella, so it was good to see it out of nowhere like that. The dropkick attempt by Carmella didn’t come close to hitting Charlotte, so the timing could have been a bit better if we’re being picky.
Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles were in the locker room. Styles mentioned their tag team match and Nakamura said he’s going to beat Styles at WrestleMania. Nakamura said they’ll be fine. Nakamura told him to listen to him out there and left.
Tye Dillinger made his entrance with fans doing the “ten” gesture for him.
There was a plug for Mixed Match Challenge: Braun Strowman & Alexa Bliss vs. Sami Zayn & Becky Lynch. I will review it on TJRWrestling soon as well as last week because I didn’t review that one yet. I did review the first week, though.
Carmella was interviewed by Renee Young backstage. Carmella claimed she wanted to remind Charlotte how dangerous she was.
Baron Corbin made his entrance while the announcers talked about his failure at the Royal Rumble. I thought he should have been booked better in that match.
Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger
Dillinger kicked Corbin to send him out of the ring followed by a running forearm to the face. Back in the ring, Corbin with a knee to the face followed by punches. Corbin with a running splash in the corner. Corbin sent Dillinger over the top to the floor.
Back from break, Corbin had Dillinger in a chinlock. Dillinger broke free and sent Dillinger shoulder first into the ring post. Running forearm by Dillinger, Corbin went for a knee, Dillinger avoided it and hit a kick to the chest. Dillinger with a clothesline. Corbin came back with a forearm to the back and a Chokeslam into a backbreaker. Corbin hit the End of Days for the pinfall win after 7 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Baron Corbin
Analysis: *1/4 It was a boring match to put over Corbin, who hasn’t had much to do so far this year. Both guys need to be part of an interesting storyline because right now there’s nothing for them to do. Dillinger could use that heel turn. Corbin will likely get a mild midcard push again.
There was a cell phone promo from Rusev and Aiden English with a quick promo about the US Title match next Tuesday with Rusev challenging Bobby Roode, who he called “Bob Roode.” That led to a Roode promo saying he had an appointment next week on Rusev Day and he wrote “GLORIOUS” on the calendar. Well played.
Owens and Zayn were in the locker room. Zayn said at least one of them will get a WWE Title opportunity, but it’s a shame they have to go against eachother. They ended up insulting eachother with Owens talking about Zayn failing, Zayn mentioning Owens getting pinned on Sunday, Owens pointing out Zayn got eliminated from the Royal Rumble in about five minutes and Owens said that Zayn won’t fail…tonight. That’s coming up later.
More images were shown from the Royal Rumble.
The announcers plugged 205 Live’s new GM. It is Rockstar Spud using the name Drake Maverick.
Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable vs. Breezango (Fandango & Tyler Breeze)
Gable hit Fandango with a spinebuster and then he slapped on an armbar as The Ascension were shown watching backstage. Gable tagged in with a knee drop to Fandango’s arm. Fandango with a bulldog on Gable. When Gable went out of the ring, he tripped up Breeze on the apron. Fandango avoided an attack with a knee to the back of Gable. Rolling kick by Gable got a two count. Gable slapped on an armbar. Fandango got a rollup for two and tagged in Breeze, who nailed Gable with a kick followed by a dropkick. Breeze with a jumping kick to Benjamin. Tag by Benjamin against Gable as Gable took out Fandango with a cross body block to the floor. Benjamin set up Breeze in a Powerbomb and Gable went off the top with a clothesline for the double team finish. That was smooth. It went four minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable
Analysis: *3/4 Easy win for Benjamin & Gable to give them some momentum after they lost at the Royal Rumble. It was very noticeable how dead the crowd was when Breeze got the hot tag and was on offense because nobody seemed to care about it.
Main event tag team match is next.
A commercial aired for WrestleMania in New Orleans, which was 68 days away as of Tuesday.
The four men were in the ring for the tag match. No televised entrances since they did their entrances earlier in the night. Owens vs. Zayn next week.
AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens
Owens started with Styles. Nakamura got in there with Styles and Owens said “don’t you do that stupid thing” as Nakamura put his head against Zayn’s chest. Styles tagged in with a dropkick on Zayn. Nakamura tagged in and the heels took control with Zayn getting a cheap shot on Nakamura while Zayn was on the apron. Owens wit a kick to Nakamura, but Nakamura came back with a forearm and knee strikes to the ribs. Zayn into the ring, Nakamura sent him to the floor and Owens capitalized with an elbow. Owens yelled at Zayn for not being in the corner for a tag. Owens hit Nakamura with a clothesline and told Zayn to get back there. Nakamura punched Owens out of the ring. Owens and Zayn argued outside the ring. Zayn backed up the ramp to leave the match. Zayn wondered how Owens would do without his guardian angel. Owens told him to get back there.
Back from break, Owens had Styles in a headlock. Zayn was on the ramp watching the match. Styles nailed Owens with a clothesline and a forearm smash. Styles with a corner clothesline on Owens followed by a sitout slam that put Owens down face first. Zayn went back in the ring for the save. Graves pointed out that Zayn has a match on Mixed Match Challenge right after Smackdown. Zayn with a back body drop on Styles for a two count. Owens wanted a tag and Zayn told him he’s got it. Zayn tagged Owens back in. Owens tagged Zayn back in by slapping him in the chest. Zayn slapped Owens in the chest to bring Owens back in. They argued some more, Styles shoved Owens into Zayn and got a rollup. Owens nailed a clothesline. Zayn left the match and walked to the back. Owens nailed a gutbuster (knee to the ribs) followed by an elbow drop out of the corner. Owens decked Nakamura with a punch. Styles avoided the Popup Powerbomb and hit a Pele Kick. Nakamura got the tag with a running kick to the face followed by more kicks. Nakamura with the rising knee to the ribs in the corner and Owens bailed to the floor. Styles threw Owens back in. Nakamura with a spin kick. Nakamura hit the Kinshasa knee strike on Owens for the pinfall win after 16 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura
Analysis: **3/4 It was a good match that was more about the storyline involving Owens and Zayn having problems. If these teams had a regular tag team match without the story of Owens and Zayn bickering it would be an incredible tag team match. Since the story was pushed so much, it hurt the match quality. I get why did it this way to put over the idea that Zayn and Owens are having problems due to next week’s match, so it’s fine to do it. We will probably get this tag team match again before WrestleMania anyway.
There was a shot of Zayn watching the match on TV backstage. Renee Young asked if this is the end of their friendship. Zayn said nope. Zayn said that this is about the opportunity because Owens has had plenty of opportunities and Zayn is known as Owens’ best friend. Zayn said he’s going to beat Kevin Owens and then he’s going to beat AJ Styles to become WWE Champion at Fastlane.
Styles and Nakamura celebrated the win as the show ended.
Analysis: I think Zayn should beat Owens next week. I want to see Styles vs. Zayn in a long match on a PPV. We have already seen Styles vs. Owens plenty of times in PPV matches. Whoever loses the match will probably face Nakamura at Fastlane. Styles vs. Nakamura seems like a lock for WrestleMania in the WWE Title match and I hope WWE sticks with that. I like Owens and Zayn as much as anybody, but I want Styles vs. Nakamura at WrestleMania.
Three Stars of the Show
- Shinsuke Nakamura
- Kevin Owens
5.5 out of 10
Last week: 7.5
2018 Average: 5.5
Last 5 Weeks: 7.5, 5.5, 4.5, 4.5, 7.5
It gets a 5.5 out of 10.
This was just an average show, which is why it’s 5.5 out of 10 and that’s my average score for Smackdown for the year.
I thought that the US Title match was the best of the night while the main event was solid, but it wasn’t the great match you might expect from the names involved in it.
It was a bit of a surprise that there wasn’t a women’s match at all although they were featured in the top of hour two segment. It just felt weird that they didn’t get a match after the women got to headline Royal Rumble two days earlier.
From a creative standpoint, there was a huge miss on the show by not mentioning Dolph Ziggler at all. The guy gave up the US Title over a month ago, returned atthe Royal Rumble, didn’t do much there and then they didn’t even mention his return during the show. The lack of a meaningful angle for him is pretty sad considering how long he was gone and then they had nothing for him when he came back.
Next week: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn and Bobby Roode vs. Rusev for the US Title.
— WWE (@WWE) January 31, 2018
The next Smackdown PPV is Fastlane on March 11, so there’s plenty of time to build up to it.
That’s all for now. Go Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs.
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