Smackdown – January 2, 2018

Date: January 2, 2018
Location: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida
Commentators: Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, Tom Phillips

It’s a new year on the blue show and that means it’s time to get ready for the Royal Rumble. There are a handful of names already announced and there’s a good chance that we’re going to get more of those set up tonight. At the same time, AJ Styles needs an opponent and will be having his second non-title match tonight, this week against Sami Zayn. Let’s get to it.

We open with a recap of last week’s ending with Zayn costing Styles a win over Kevin Owens.

Opening sequence.

Here’s AJ to get things going by wishing us a happy new year. AJ talks about how it’s a new year and a lot of people are making new year’s resolutions, including people wanting to win the Royal Rumble. He has his own resolutions though, like taking this title to Wrestlemania and walking out as champion. His other resolution is to beat Sami Zayn tonight, but AJ wants to know if Kevin will be in Sami’s corner tonight.

This brings out Daniel Bryan but Shane McMahon is out before anything can be said. Shane and Bryan both get some nice chants from the crowd before Shane says there are people accusing him of taking sides in these stories. It seems to Shane though that Bryan is the one with a genuine kinship with both Sami and Kevin. Shane is going to be at ringside and if that’s the case, Bryan thinks Kevin should be out here as well. If those two are going to be out here, Bryan might as well be too!

Tag Team Titles: Usos vs. Shelton Benjamin/Chad Gable

Benjamin and Gable are defending. Before the match, the Usos say they’ve got this place on lock because Benjamin and Gable are in the Uso Penitentiary. Jimmy has to fight out of the corner early but Shelton runs the corner to superplex him down. Gable immediately follows with a moonsault for two and we take an early break.

Back with Jimmy enziguring Gable (clearly didn’t make contact) and a double tag bringing in Jey and Benjamin. Everything breaks down and we hit the dives, only to have Jey get taken back inside for the powerbomb/top rope clothesline for the pin and the titles at 5:33. Hang on a second actually as the other Uso pleads his case, saying Gable pinned the wrong one. Another referee comes out to confirm things and a replay (which confirms that the legal Uso had wrist tape but the one pinned didn’t have tape) means we get a restart.

Back with the Usos starting a brawl before the bell, followed by a Samoan drop to Shelton. The running Umaga Attack misses though and the second powerbomb is loaded up. This time Jey ducks and Chad dives into a superkick. Shelton takes one as well, followed by the Superfly Splash to retain the titles at 13:30 (from opening bell to closing bell).

Rating: C. Kind of a mess with the middle but at least they did get the call right and had some proof in the form of the wrist tape. That being said, it’s never really mattered a lot of the time and suddenly it does here because the script calls for it, which is one of the biggest crutches WWE has to use these days. The Usos are on the roll of a lifetime at this point and outside of the Bludgeon Brothers, I have no idea who is supposed to take the titles from them. It’s not like they have any real competition at this point and I don’t see that changing in the near future.

Renee Young asks Owens and Zayn if tonight is going to be different. Owens talks about having a different breakfast yesterday and being in a different city this week. Tonight though, the outcome is the same: AJ loses. They talk about this being the Sami and Kevin Show (which Sami calls the Seven Show by mistake, though it’s not a bad name) before saying tonight, they prove its their show. These two are still great and you can pretty much guess what’s coming for the Rumble but at least we’re getting some outstandingly heelish promos from these two. Sami adding YEP after anything Owens says is great too.

Bludgeon Brothers vs. Breezango

Rematch from last week where Breezango got destroyed until Ascension came in for the save. Breezango gets jumped before the bell and the beating is on in a hurry. Ascension comes out as well and takes a beating of their own. Again, the lesson learned here: stop putting effort into angles and segments because WWE is going to grind you into dust no matter what you do. No match.

A blindfolded Xavier Woods is swinging a kendo stick in the back when Kofi and Big E. come in. They have a surprise for him, which he can’t guess at first….until he guesses perfectly. Big E: “You can see through that mask can’t you?”. Woods: “I did have Lasik a few years back.”. Woods goes to blow out the candles but Aiden English and Rusev cut him off. English wishes that every single day was RUSEV DAY.

Mojo Rawley is going to beat Zack Ryder in their tournament match next week. Probably so, though Mojo is no Rusev.

US Title Tournament First Round: Xavier Woods vs. Aiden English

Before the match, Rusev sings about how great of a champion English is going to be. English jumps him from behind but gets sent to the floor for a superkick. Back in and English hits him with an elbow, followed by a singing chinlock. Woods fights up and hits something like a torture rack into a Lumbar Check. English takes him up and tries what looks like a super piledriver, only to get backdropped down. The top rope elbow sends Woods on at 5:49.

Rating: D+. Nothing to see here but Woods winning is an interesting choice. Unfortunately it looks like he’s going to lose to Jinder Mahal in the second round, which isn’t the biggest surprise. Also, Rusev isn’t going anywhere in the tournament at all because, much like the Fashion Files, WWE doesn’t seem interested in someone who gets over against their schedule.

Post match Kofi throws a pancake and apparently hits one of the commentators in the head.

The Welcoming Committee (which apparently is still a thing that you’re supposed to remember) is ready to take care of the Riott Squad tonight.

Karl Malone (former WCW main eventer) is here. No mention is made of his wrestling career.

Natalya/Carmella/Tamina vs. Riott Squad

Morgan nips out of Natalya’s headlock to start and has to bail from the threat of a Sharpshooter. Back from a break with Carmella fighting out of Logan’s chinlock and bringing Tamina in for a hard clothesline. Riott breaks up the Superfly Splash though and Logan cartwheels into a knee to the back of the head for the pin at 5:29. Not enough shown to rate but this was just a quick win for the Squad. I can appreciate them trying to build the team up before the Rumble but it’s not like any of these three have a chance at winning.

Post match Riott says everyone here believes in magic (local basketball team name) but everyone here is really miserable. Logan and Morgan are officially in the Rumble. Cue Charlotte to say there’s a woman who wants to teach the Squad a lesson. This brings out Naomi, followed by the returning Becky Lynch to clean house.

We run down the Rumble card.

Baron Corbin says he’s entering the Rumble and going to Wrestlemania. He’s right. It’s just probably going to be in the battle royal.

AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn

Non-title. Shane, Owens and Bryan are at ringside. Sami takes AJ down early to start and gets two off a backdrop. A dropkick gets two more and we take an early break. Back with Sami holding a chinlock to keep AJ grounded. AJ fights back up, only to get his throat snapped across the top rope. Sami gets caught on top but punches his way to freedom, followed by the Blue Thunder Bomb for the same near fall that the move always gets.

Styles is right back up and grabs the Calf Crusher, only to have Sami make it to the ropes in fairly long order. The Phenomenal Forearm doesn’t work but the referee gets knocked to the floor. As expected, AJ grabs a rollup for two as the referee dives in after being held up by Owens. Shane shoves Kevin down and Owens is ejected, followed by Bryan saying Shane should go with him. The distraction lets Sami hit the Helluva Kick for the pin at 13:44.

Rating: C+. I don’t think the ending was any kind of a surprise and that’s all well and good. What worries me is the battle of the bosses, as I could easily see this turning into some kind of a mess where the wrestlers are overshadowed for the sake of a story that a lot of people aren’t interested in seeing. The wrestlers are talented so just let them do their thing. We don’t need to see Shane get this kind of focus and it’s been going on for MONTHS now.

Post match AJ tells Owens and Zayn to stop acting like children. He’s tired of everyone else getting involved so let’s just make it a handicap match for the title at the Rumble. A smiling Bryan makes the match to end the show.

Overall Rating: C-. I let out a heavy sign on that ending. Unless that Bryan stuff is a red herring (and I have a feeling it is), they’re actually pushing the idea of Bryan as the heel in this whole mess. I don’t need the focus on Bryan vs. Shane when there is so much talent in the title scene at the moment already. Why we need to sit through those two getting all the attention is beyond me, but it does make me wonder how much WWE cares about the effort those wrestlers are putting in.

As for the rest of the show….eh. Like really, just eh. It’s a show that existed with some watchable matches but everything is kind of on hold while we wait on the big pay per view. The lack of Orton and Nakamura (Where were they anyway?) was odd tonight and left us with more time to focus on the younger guys, which doesn’t always mean the best results. Like I said, what is the point in people like Rusev and Breezango getting over if they’re just going to be used as either cannon fodder or background noise?


Usos b. Chad Gable/Shelton Benjamin – Superfly Splash to Benjamin

Xavier Woods b. Aiden English – Top rope elbow

Riott Squad b. Natalya/Carmella/Tamina – Cartwheel knee to Tamina’s head

Sami Zayn b. AJ Styles – Helluva Kick

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