Date: December 26, 2017
Location: Allstate Arena, Chicago, Illinois
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
We’re still in Chicago to wrap up the year and the big story seems to be finding AJ Styles’ next challenger for the Smackdown World Title. We also need to find out what’s going on with the United States Title, which was left in the middle of the ring by champion Dolph Ziggler. Let’s get to it.
Here’s Daniel Bryan to open things up. Before he says much though, we see a clip of Ziggler leaving the title in the ring last week. The title is now vacant and we’ll be having a tournament to crown a new champion. Fans: “RUSEV!” Bryan says the first match is tonight with Baron Corbin facing Bobby Roode but here are Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin to ask about the Tag Team Title situation. Fans: “RUSEV DAY!”
Shelton says they never got a one on one rematch with the Usos, which of course brings up Rusev and Aiden English being added to the match. They get in the ring and HERE THEY COME! English and Rusev come out with English singing about why they deserve to face the Usos. English: “Just listen, and we will disclose.”
They didn’t lose at Clash but more importantly, Rusev Day is the day after Christmas! Gable: “It’s Boxing Day!” Rusev: “No you fool. IT’S RUSEV DAY!!!” Now it’s New Day with a True False Challenge. Big E.: “Did the team of Chad Gable and Old Jason Jordan get pinned at Clash of Champions?” New Day gets in the ring to dance with Bryan but Rusev, and the RUSEV DAY chants, cut them off. After mentioning Bryan needs Shane McMahon’s approval, a triple threat #1 contenders match is made for right now.
Rusev Day vs. New Day vs. Chad Gable/Shelton Benjamin
The Usos come out for commentary and it’s Xavier, Chad and English starting things off as we’re in the WCW formula again. Chad gets sent into Rusev but everything breaks down with everyone being sent outside. Xavier hits a big flip dive to take the pile down, followed by Big E. powerbombing him onto English for two. Gable German suplexes English and Big E. at the same time (that’s not normal) and it’s off to Shelton for some stomping.
Rusev comes in for some stomping and more chants in his honor, only to have Big E. run everyone over. A suplex cuts Woods off but English kicks Xavier down. The hot tag brings in Rusev for the house cleaning, including a spinwheel kick to drop Big E. Rolling Chaos Theory takes Rusev down and Woods’ missile dropkick gets two on English.
A Rock Bottom/Backstabber gets two on Gable but Woods jumps into a knee to the head. Gable adds a moonsault for two in a good false finish. English blocks another Rolling Chaos Theory and Woods kicks Gable in the head. A quick reverse AA gets two on Gable with Benjamin making the save. Rusev breaks up a Tower of Doom and powerbombs Gable and Benjamin down, allowing English to add a top rope splash for a VERY close two on Chad.
The second hot tag brings in Rusev for a kick to Woods, setting up a double Accolade for the two of them. Benjamin makes ANOTHER save as the false finishes are strong with this one. Big E. spears Benjamin through the ropes but Shelton escapes the Big Ending. One heck of a running knee staggers Big E. and it’s the powerbomb/top rope clothesline to give Gable the pin at 13:51.
Rating: B. Questionable ending aside, that was a heck of a match with some insane false finishes. Gable/Benjamin vs. the Usos should be a lot of fun but at the same time, the fans want Rusev right now. Maybe he wins the US Title, but my goodness they’re running a risk of blowing what should be a solid opportunity.
The title match is next week.
Shane McMahon comes in to see Daniel and talks about Bryan saying Shane is becoming Vince. Shane defends his father, which certainly doesn’t sound like a speech to make people believe that Vince is a business genius who can totally pull off the XFL II. On top of that, Shane isn’t cool with the US Title Tournament because Corbin should get a one on one singles match.
Bryan likes the idea of giving multiple people chances and Shane can go with that. What he can’t go with is AJ vs. Kevin Owens (non-title) tonight in the main event Bryan has made. There’s been talk of favoritism being shown to Kevin and Sami Zayn, which Shane needs to prevent. Bryan thinks we should finish the year with another entry in a great rivalry. Shane reluctantly agrees.
Breezango vs. Bludgeon Brothers
Ascension got Breezango this match as a present. Breezango goes straight at them, earning Fandango a spinning Boss Man Slam and Breeze a face plant on the apron. Back in and Harper’s big boot drops Breeze, followed by an assisted sitout powerbomb for two with Rowan pulling him up. The beating continues but the Ascension runs in to attack the Brothers for the DQ at 2:06.
The Ascension say Breezango aren’t ready for an interview but they’re ready to challenge the Brothers to a rematch next week. Breezango doesn’t look happy.
Video on the Women’s Royal Rumble, including the Women’s Revolution history.
Ruby Riott vs. Naomi
Naomi goes right at her to start and hits a springboard kick to the face. Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan offer distractions though, allowing Riott to kick Naomi in the leg. The Riott Kick is good for the pin at 57 seconds.
The post match beatdown is on but Charlotte makes the save. The numbers game gets the better of Charlotte as well though, only to have Tamina, Lana, Natalya (So we’re just dropping the turning her back on Smackdown story?) and Carmella make the save. The Squad loses a quick fight and gets chased off. As usual, Carmella shows no interest in cashing in on the downed Charlotte.
AJ Styles talks about challenging himself in 2017. He started the year as WWE Champion and he’s ending it the same way. Owens isn’t outworking him and AJ is ending the year on a high note.
US Title Tournament First Round: Bobby Roode vs. Baron Corbin
Corbin sends him into the corner to start and hammers away, including some forearms to the chest. A spinning side slam gives Corbin two and he follows it up with a hard running clothesline on the floor. Back in and Roode hits some clotheslines followed by the Blockbuster for his first near fall.
End of Days is broken up and Corbin’s slide underneath the ropes only earns him a spinebuster. The Glorious DDT is countered into Deep Six for two more. Corbin takes him up top for a superplex but Roode slips out and shoves him down. He dives right into a chokeslam but counters that into a rollup for the fast pin to put Corbin away at 8:39.
Rating: C+. Nice back and forth match here, though I’m still not completely sold on Ziggler being gone. Roode winning is another interesting call as Corbin, the former champion, seemed to be pretty close to a lock to move on at least to the second round. The near falls were good here and it was an entertaining little match, which is about all you can ask for here.
US Title Tournament First Round: Jinder Mahal vs. Tye Dillinger
Tye sends him outside to start and we take a very early break. Back with Jinder holding him in a chinlock until Tye fights up with the left hands. The Tyebreaker is broken up so Tye goes up, only to have Jinder roll through a high crossbody for two. Jinder grabs a fireman’s carry but tosses him up for a gutbuster and another near fall. Tye gets crotched in the corner though and the Khallas sends Jinder on at 5:58. Not enough shown to rate but this is where Mahal should have been seven months ago and a lot of the damage has been done.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have a bottle of champagne to celebrate tonight’s win. It’s the same bottle that Daniel Bryan wouldn’t accept from them but tonight there’s no cheating guest referee. After tonight, there’s a party which only the two of them are invited to.
Randy Orton officially enters the Royal Rumble. Shinsuke Nakamura comes in to say that sounds like a good idea so he’s in too.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens
Non-title with Sami Zayn at ringside. Owens charges into a dropkick at the bell and Styles hits his jumping knee. An early Calf Crusher sends Owens bailing to the ropes and Owens kicks AJ out to the floor in a heap. Back in and we hit the chinlock, followed by a kick to the back as we take a break.
We come back with AJ fighting out of another chinlock but eating a hard clothesline. A neckbreaker on the knee gives Owens two more but the Cannonball misses. AJ wins a slugout with the Phenomenal Blitz into the seated forearm. The Pele drops Owens again but a springboard is countered into a gutbuster.
Owens goes up for a middle rope Vader Bomb elbow for two more as frustration is setting in. There’s another neckbreaker to send Owens outside but AJ dives onto Zayn this time around. Another distraction lets Owens superkick him down for two so here’s Shane to eject Sami. That means the referee misses Owens getting rolled up, allowing Owens to grab his own rollup for the pin at 16:30.
Rating: B. These two have surprisingly average chemistry together so this was one of their better performances. In theory this sets up Owens as a potential challenger, but odds are the focus is going to be on Shane (again) for reasons that I’m not clear on. You would think AJ Styles and the World Title would be enough but why do that when you can put the focus on the McMahons?
Shane apologizes to AJ, who doesn’t seem pleased to end the show.
Overall Rating: B-. The first hour lacking commercials didn’t do it any favors but this was definitely a solid night with a lot of stuff taking place. You can feel the Ryan Ward influence at times as they knock down so much stuff in a show every now and then. Things should be picking up for the Rumble season and that’s a great thing for everyone. Tone Shane way down and you might even have a great show.
Chad Gable/Shelton Benjamin b. New Day and Rusev Day – Powerbomb/Top rope clothesline combination to Big E.
Bludgeon Brothers b. Breezango via DQ when Ascension interfered
Ruby Riott b. Naomi – Riott Kick
Bobby Roode b. Baron Corbin – Rollup
Jinder Mahal b. Tye Dillinger – Khallas
Kevin Owens b. AJ Styles – Rollup
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