Date: January 23, 2018
Location: Capitol One Arena, Washington DC
Commentators: Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, Tom Phillips
It’s the night after the Monday Night Raw 25th Anniversary so now we need to bring things back down to earth a bit. This time around though it’s also the go home show for the Royal Rumble and we need to get things ready. There’s also the issue of Enzo Amore, who Daniel Bryan will address for some reason. Let’s get to it.
Here are Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to open things up. They introduce each other as the future co-WWE Champions before Owens talks about being in a handicap match a few weeks back. There’s no way that AJ can win a 2-1 match because they couldn’t win a 3-2 match because they’re already better than AJ.
This brings out AJ to say there’s no way that’s going to happen and if the two of them could shut their YEP holes for awhile, reality would set in. Sami says he knew that AJ would be out here with his macho act and brings up a clip from a few weeks back. Three weeks ago AJ asked for the handicap match and Owens accuses him of trying to back out of the match.
The next clip is AJ saying he would fight both of them in the same night. Owens suggests that AJ fight the two of them in a row tonight. This brings out Bryan to imply that the matches are about to be made but AJ doesn’t know whose side Bryan is on. AJ makes the matches official instead.
I know we’re coming up on Sunday’s title match, but my goodness they need to get somewhere with this story. You can only tease Bryan being in cahoots with Sami and Owens for so long before you need to actually go somewhere with it. They were nice enough to give AJ and his challengers some actual mic time here but they REALLY need some advancement in this story already. I’m very tired of having Bryan and/or Shane arguing with each other and using these guys as pawns and it needs to change. Oh and what’s up with people working multiple matches a night? This is two weeks in a row now.
Bryan and Shane are in their office with Shane talking down to Bryan about his choice. Daniel asks if Shane believes AJ can take care of himself but Shane says AJ isn’t the one he’s questioning.
Jey Uso vs. Chad Gable
Gable goes for a single leg to start and takes Jey into the corner before putting him on the ground without much effort. Back up and Jey sends him outside and we take an early break. Back with Gable getting two off a northern lights suplex but missing the moonsault. Jey sends him outside and a suicide dive drops Chad again. Gable charges into a Samoan drop but the running Umaga Attack is blocked. Instead Gable Liger Kicks him and grabs Rolling Chaos Theory for the pin at 7:44.
Rating: D+. This didn’t go very far but to be fair it’s not like it was supposed to be anything of note. They were going with the standard singles win to set up a tag match which has worked before and it’ll work again almost any time they try it. I’m not sold on a title change but just having them give us something interesting on Sunday is a good idea.
Shinsuke Nakamura’s strategy for winning the Rumble: knee them all in the face. Baron Corbin comes in to say Nakamura is all hype and nothing to show for it. He doesn’t care about the fans and asks what Nakamura has done. Shinsuke says he’ll do something on Sunday and offers a rumble tonight. I know Nakamura is becoming one of the favorites to win the Rumble but I still don’t buy it. There’s not much to build off of with him and it would seem to come out of nowhere. That’s been the case before but I’m not buying it here.
Tye Dillinger, still using the handheld camera style, enters the Rumble. He can’t do the Perfect Ten because he only has one hand so it’s two fives instead.
Naomi vs. Liv Morgan
They fight over a backslide to start until Naomi kicks her in the face. Liv is right back with a pull into the middle buckle, followed by a cross arm chinlock. Cue Natalya, Carmella and Lana for a distraction, allowing Naomi to grab a sunset flip for the pin at 2:39.
The Riott Squad comes in to beat Naomi down but Becky Lynch makes the save. It turns into the mini Rumble with Naomi and Natalya standing tall. Becky throws Naomi to the apron for a staredown but here’s Charlotte to say good luck to everyone, especially the winner. That’s how a champion should talk to a bunch of challengers.
Miz and Asuka are ready to win the Mixed Match Challenge.
Carmella and Big E. are ready to win as well, but first: pancakes.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin
Nakamura drives him to the ropes for the arm swing into COME ON, with Corbin warning him not to do it. Good Vibrations sends Corbin outside with Nakamura giving chase, only to get posted. Serves him right for not listening to Corbin’s request. Back from a break with Corbin holding a chinlock but Nakamura fights up and starts striking away. A running kick to the head and the running knee in the corner give Nakamura two.
Kinshasa is countered into Deep Six for a pretty hot two and Nakamura is in trouble. Corbin’s slide underneath the ropes into the clothesline turns Nakamura inside out for two more. A cross armbreaker out of nowhere has Corbin in trouble but Nakamura switches to a kick to the head. Kinshasa is loaded up but RKO OUT OF NOWHERE plants Nakamura as Randy Orton runs in for the DQ at 12:26. Well done there as they actually surprised me with the run in.
Rating: B. This was starting to cook and the run-in finish was perfect, especially as a way to keep both guys solid going into Sunday. Having Orton run in for the DQ made perfect sense and reminds us that he’s in there too. It takes some time to warm Nakamura up but once he gets going, he’s as entertaining as anyone on the show. That was starting to be the case here and the match was starting to rock.
Post match Corbin takes an RKO of his own.
We look at the media coverage of last night’s show.
Video on last night’s show.
Here’s New Day for a six man tag but first, they all enter the Royal Rumble. It’s just two of them tonight so they need a partner. That man would be the new United States Champion, with Woods singing the theme into the trombone. Roode says his goal is to be the best US Champion of all time and his reign is going to be……Kofi: “Stupendous!” Woods: “Delicious!” Big E.: “Exuberant!” Actually it’s GLORIOUS!
New Day/Bobby Roode vs. Rusev Day/Jinder Mahal
Big E. is the odd man out here and there’s only one Singh Brother thanks to an ankle injury last week. Joined in progress with Rusev holding Kofi in a bearhug and hitting a running shoulder into the corner. English misses a charge though and it’s Roode coming in to clean house. The Blockbuster drops English and a spinebuster does the same to Jinder. Rusev comes in and kicks Roode into a rollup for two but it’s Kofi diving in to put English on the floor. Kofi’s dive into the trust fall takes the other two down, leaving English to get caught with another spinebuster. Woods’ top rope elbow is good for the pin at 2:38 shown.
Royal Rumble rundown.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens
Non-title but hang on a minute. Shane comes out to say Sami can’t be at ringside, just like Owens can’t be at ringside for the next match. If either of them interfere, they’re out of the title match and fired. The bickering continues into the break and we’re back for the opening bell (thank you). AJ scores with a dropkick but gets his head clotheslined off. That goes nowhere and it’s a Calf Crusher to make Owens tap out immediately at 1:08, likely to save himself for Sunday.
Sami runs in to beat on AJ to break the hold, which doesn’t count as breaking Shane’s rules because we’re between matches. AJ gets beaten down in the corner as Kevin limps off. The stomping continues as we’re still waiting on the opening bell. A whip sends AJ into the steps as the bosses are watching in the back.
Sami Zayn vs. AJ Styles
Non-title again with AJ saying he’s ready to go. Sami charges at him again as Owens is still at ringside due to not being able to walk to the back. The stomping continues and we hit the chinlock for a bit as a stretcher is brought out for Owens. AJ fights back and hits his running seated forearm to get a breather. Sami gets sent outside for a slingshot forearm but AJ goes after Owens instead as we take a break.
Back with Sami hammering away even more and grabbing another chinlock. AJ snaps off a super hurricanrana to get a breather as we see the bosses watching in the back for the third time. The fireman’s carry backbreaker gives AJ two and the Helluva Kick is blocked with a raised boot. The Pele scores on Sami for two but Sami grabs a Michinoku Driver for two. Frustration is setting in as he takes AJ to the top, only to get dropped face first onto the top turnbuckle.
AJ takes him outside where Owens is STILL being loaded onto the stretcher. That’s enough for Styles as he slides into a knee to Sami’s face and turns the stretcher over. Back in and the Helluva Kick connects followed by the Blue Thunder Bomb…..WHICH GETS THE PIN AT 15:44????? I’ve been watching Sami since his WWE run started and I don’t ever remember that getting a pin. I was actually surprised when that worked.
Rating: B-. I’m still trying to get over that finish as the Blue Thunder Bomb winning is so unthinkable. This was similar to Gable vs. Uso earlier in the night where you build some drama with the idea that the underdog has a chance. I don’t think AJ is going to lose the title but it’s nice to try to get something set up.
Owens and Zayn pose over AJ to end the show.
Overall Rating: C+. Bickering bosses aside, it was nice to have Smackdown doing something good for a change. They did a solid job of setting up some stuff for the Rumble and that’s what was needed after last night. They added four more names to the Rumble and made me more interested than I was coming into the show. Good night here, especially with all of the previous weeks of mess.
Chad Gable b. Jey Uso – Rolling Chaos Theory
Naomi b. Liv Morgan – Sunset flip
Shinsuke Nakamura b. Baron Corbin via DQ when Randy Orton interfered
New Day/Bobby Roode b. Rusev Day/Jinder Mahal – Top rope elbow to English
AJ Styles b. Kevin Owens – Calf Crusher
Sami Zayn b. AJ Styles – Blue Thunder Bomb
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