Smackdown – January 9, 2018

Smackdown
Date: January 9, 2018
Location: Legacy Arena, Birmingham, Alabama
Commentators: Corey Graves, Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton

Things are getting a little dicey around here as the battle of the bosses continues. The big story is Daniel Bryan making a handicap match for the Royal Rumble where AJ Styles will defend the Smackdown World Title against the combined forces of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. This seems to hint at a Bryan heel turn, which would seem to hint at WWE being really stupid. Let’s get to it.

We open with a recap of the end of last week’s show with Bryan making the handicap match. Again: if they’re trying to make Bryan a heel as we go into Philadelphia and ultimately New Orleans, they’re dumber than I thought they were.

Renee Young brings out Styles for an interview. AJ kind of regrets saying make it a handicap match but he’ll live with the consequences. He’s looking forward to the Rumble where he can hit them so hard and so fast that he’ll walk out as champion. AJ knows what he’s up against because they can tag in and out but this is the house that he built.

Cue Sami and Kevin with Owens getting right to the point: AJ has no chance of walking out with the title. Sami: “YEP!” Kevin promises to walk out as the first co-WWE Champions. This brings out Shane McMahon to say he’s confused about Bryan’s decision but he’ll support it. As for tonight though, we’ll have another handicap match with Owens and Zayn facing Styles, Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura. You can see the screwy finish coming but it’s a nice idea and makes sense with this story.

Shane and Bryan shake hands in the back.

Becky Lynch/Charlotte/Naomi vs. Riott Squad

Becky takes Ruby down to start but Morgan offers a leg trip. That just gets Riott knocked to the floor and we take an early break. Back with Riott holding a bodyscissors and driving knees into the ribs. Becky comes back with some forearms but Ruby kicks her in the ribs again. Not that it matters as the Disarm-Her makes Ruby tap at 8:10.

Rating: C-. Just a nice win for Becky to get back in the swing of things. That makes sense, but why in the world did they have Riott lose here? Like, you have Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan RIGHT THERE and you pick the leader and the most important member of the team to take the loss? That’s the short sighted/lack of thinking that gets on fans’ nerves and seems like something that could be solved by simple common sense.

Earlier today, Sami Zayn surprised Becky Lynch when she was signing autographs to be her Mixed Match Challenge partner.

Bludgeon Brothers vs. Ascension

Breezango isn’t here due to having a match later against Rusev Day. An assisted sitout powerbomb ends Viktor at 34 seconds. I think they’re ready for the Usos already.

US Title Tournament First Round: Zack Ryder vs. Mojo Rawley

The winner faces Bobby Roode, at ringside, in the second round. Rawley charges straight into a pair of knees in the corner but easily takes Ryder down to ram his face into the mat. Zack is right back up for some right hands in the corner, only to eat the running punch in the corner to give Mojo the win at 3:34

Rating: D-. This wasn’t the biggest shock and amazingly enough, the battle of the former Hype Bros isn’t very interesting. Rawley winning was the only logical conclusion here as Ryder continues his descent down the WWE ladder. There’s some potential for Rawley, though there’s no reason to believe he’s getting by Roode in the next round. Nothing match, as expected.

Jinder Mahal is ready to win the United States Champion to get 2018 off to a good start. Xavier Woods better know how to play Taps on his trombone.

Classic Raw clip: Austin and the zamboni.

Earlier today, Natalya was showcasing her selfie taking skills when Shinsuke Nakamura popped up. They’ll be Mixed Match Challenge partners.

Here are Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable to demand justice for not winning the Tag Team Titles last week. Chad asks the fans if they know what it takes to be a winner. They’ve given up everything to succeed but no one here in Birmingham would understand that. Shelton brings up the University of Alabama winning the National Championship last night but the people here had nothing to do with it. The University of Georgia was robbed because of a bad referee call, just like they were last week.

After the required ROLL TIDE chant, Shelton talks about the referee interfering last week when it wasn’t even his match. The other referee came in due to jealousy because he doesn’t know what it takes to be a champion. Chad says they lost to instant referee last week. Chad: “So generic referee #2, get out here right now.” Instead they get Daniel Bryan who says no, because the referee’s decision is final. AS IN THE RULING THAT WAS OVERTURNED???

Benjamin calls him out on that but Bryan just says they didn’t win because they pinned the wrong Uso. Chad asks if this is Dr. Phil and thinks Bryan is taking out his Shane frustrations on them. The ranting continues until Chad asks if they have to beat the Usos twice in one night. Bryan: “THAT’S IT!” There’s going to be a 2/3 falls match for the titles at the Rumble. Is the Rumble going to be another six hour show? There are two Rumbles (that’s two hours) and five more matches, one of which is 2/3 falls. That’s quite the lengthy night.

AJ and Orton talk strategy with Orton saying he wants the title. Nakamura comes in and gives the belt a Too Sweet. Nakamura: “Good talk.”

Rusev Day vs. Breezango

English and Rusev are both in the Rumble (the Rusev Rumble on Rusev Day that is). Fandango suplexes Aiden to start and brings in Breeze for a double kick to the head. We take an early break and come back with Breeze getting superkicked in the ribs but avoiding a Swanton. The hot tag brings in Fandango for some chops but Rusev comes in for the kicks to the chest. A spinwheel kick puts Fandango down and a kick to the head drops Breeze. The distraction lets Fandango roll Rusev up for the pin at 5:20. Not enough shown to rate but do we need more proof of the “get over when we tell you to” theory?

Shane tells Bryan that his matchmaking of late has been off the way and unfair. He asks if Bryan is ok but Bryan points out that Shane is one to talk about being crazy with his decisions, especially given his family history. Shane leaves without arguing that much. They’re really going to try to turn Bryan aren’t they?

Pay per view rundown. That’s looking like a long show.

AJ Styles/Shinsuke Nakamura/Randy Orton vs. Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn

The threat of an RKO sends Owens bailing to the floor before coming back in for some right hands. It’s off to Sami vs. Nakamura as the announcers talk about the Freebird Rule for the potential of co-WWE Champions. A kick to the face sends Sami outside and an attempt at the Styles Clash sends the villains walking up the ramp.

Cue Shane, because we haven’t seen him enough tonight. The match is restarted (it never stopped) with no countouts. Back from a break with AJ fighting Owens off and hitting the fireman’s carry backbreaker. The hot tag brings in Orton for the snap powerslam on Zayn, followed by the hanging DDT. Orton loads up the RKO but Owens chairs him in the ribs for the DQ at….oh of course Shane comes out to say restart it with No DQ.

AJ knocks Owens up the ramp and into the back with a chair, leaving Sami trapped. The chase is on but Sami can’t quite make it over the barricade. Orton loads up the steps and then drops Sami back first onto the announcers’ table. Kinshasa drops Zayn and the RKO is good for the pin at 14:54.

Rating: D+. What do you want me to say here? The good guys had a big advantage and used that advantage to win, including a pair of restarts in the process. This was everything you would have guessed the match would be and really didn’t deviate from that premise. There’s not much these guys can do when EVERYTHING in this story has been about Shane vs. Bryan, which at the moment can’t be an actual match. I’m still begging for the big swerve where it’s Shane as the heel, but that’s getting more and more unlikely with each passing week for reasons I don’t want to understand.

Overall Rating: D. I don’t remember the last time I saw a show that had so much illogical booking or instances of just going completely against whatever fans seemed to want. The big focus was on the Shane vs. Bryan feud, Ruby lost clean, Rusev took the pin in the tag match and Bryan’s “referee’s decisions are final, even when they’re overturned decisions” line actually brought pain to my head.

I have no idea what’s been up with the writing lately but between this and “Asuka can’t speak English”, I’m having a really hard time accepting that there’s any kind of quality control is going on in WWE as of late. It’s like they’re going out of their way to say stupid stuff and go completely against the logical stories they could be telling, especially with Shane vs. Bryan. If WWE really thinks that pushing Shane as the top face AGAIN is the right call, especially over Bryan, good for them on officially losing their minds.

This show felt like several cases of one dumb idea after another with very little that actually made me want to watch another week. It’s a rare instance of Raw being flat out better than Smackdown, which says a lot when Raw wasn’t all that good this week. The booking is going in a very questionable direction and the little things they’re choosing to do and say go in the face of anyone who has watched for more than a few weeks. Hopefully this is just a funk and they snap out of it, because this was really tough to sit through at times.

Results

Becky Lynch b. Ruby Riott – Disarm-Her

Bludgeon Brothers b. Ascension – Assisted sitout powerbomb to Viktor

Mojo Rawley b. Zack Ryder – Running punch

Breezango b. Rusev Day – Rollup to Rusev

AJ Styles/Randy Orton/Shinsuke Nakamura b. Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens – Kinshasa to Zayn

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