I took in the Smackdown house show on Sunday night at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. As tends to be the case, a lot of the arena was empty but given the six of the place (with a seating capacity of 23,500), even an only somewhat full arena is a rather nice turnout. A few more fans came in after the show started so it could have been worse. Let’s get to it.
The fans chose to see the 1992 Royal Rumble before the shot got going. At least they have taste.
The show started a few minutes after its 7pm start time but it was nothing too bad.
Byron Saxton was the host for the evening and is really good in the role. He has a good speaking voice and a lot of energy, which is exactly what you want in a spot like this.
1. Tag Team Titles: The Bar b. New Day and the Usos – Rollup to Kofi. 12:00. C.
The Bar was defending of course and New Day got a nice reaction, mainly due to the pancakes and their pre-match dancing. The Usos got a bit of a stronger one though, mainly due to them being the Usos, which is quite the status. This was a fun opener with everyone working hard and the Bar beating on Woods for a long time. As usual Big E. was a ball of energy on the floor as a cheerleader. Jimmy tagged himself in to start the big brawl at the end with New Day starting the dives, only to have Cesaro dive in and roll Kofi up for the pin. Fun choice to start things off with the challengers both being very over.
2. Naomi/Lana b. Mandy Rose/Sonya Deville – Split legged moonsault to Deville. 5:40. D.
Before the match, Mandy came out in her towel and said no one here had ever seen a woman like her so they could go back to fantasizing about her, just like Jimmy Uso. Lana took the heat for most of the match and got beaten down for what passed for a long time here. The hot tag brings in Naomi to clean house, get in a few shots on Mandy and pin Deville with the split legged moonsault. There was nothing here, though the fans were into Naomi and Lana.
3. US Title: Rusev b. Shinsuke Nakamura and Jeff Hardy – Jumping superkick to Nakamura. 9:21. C-.
This was a big messy, though the fans were very happy to see all three of them. Hardy did some DELETE chants and Nakamura followed later on for a bit of a funny moment. They picked things up later in the match and Hardy loaded up the Swanton on Rusev but Samoa Joe came out for a distraction. With Hardy not paying attention, Nakamura shoved him off the top but walked into the superkick to retain Rusev’s title. Not too bad and the star power helped.
4. WWE Championship: Daniel Bryan b. AJ Styles – Small package. 21:00. B+.
It seemed rather early for this one but it was worth the surprise. This was a rather excellent match and one of the better house show matches I can remember seeing. Before the match, Bryan posed on the top rope for well over a minute, with his song finishing and then starting up again. Bryan got frustrated for most of the early part of the match as he bragged about being the best wrestler in the world (especially the best one that these Kentucky losers had ever seen) but not being able to do much with Styles.
Eventually it was off to Styles’ arm with the LeBell Lock having him in trouble more than once. They traded a few near falls with Styles never being able to hit the Styles Clash. Near the end, AJ tried it again but got reversed into the best small package in the business to retain Bryan’s title. Post match Bryan called AJ a dog walking away with his tail between his legs, drawing Styles back in for the beatdown.
5. Good Brothers/Shelton Benjamin b. Colons/Aiden English – Paydirt to English. 8:41. D+.
Well this is the biggest bag of random ever. The match wasn’t terrible by any stretch but it was just there, which isn’t the most interesting thing in the world. I had almost forgotten that Benjamin and English even worked here. Sidebar: remember when the Good Brothers and Sanity looked to be getting into the Tag Team Title scene a few weeks back? Did anything ever come of that, or can we just add it to the list of things that never went anywhere?
Post match English said he didn’t come to this half horse town to lose like that so he wanted fresh competition.
6. Rey Mysterio b. Aiden English – Frog splash. 5:19.
This was exactly what you would have expected it to be, though the majority was spent on English offering a handshake and Rey threatening to give him a Kentucky whipping, hence the lack of a rating. English got in a few shots but took the 619 into the frog splash (Low Down variety) for the pin. The fans loved Rey.
Next up was MizTV with Mustafa Ali as the guest. Miz got to the point and asked Ali if he believed he could pin Miz like he did Daniel Bryan. After listing off his resume, Miz wanted the bell rung.
7. Mustafa Ali b. The Miz – Rollup. 8:20. C-.
There wasn’t much high flying to this one as you would have expected. What there was though was Miz doing a Rick Rude inspired promo, calling us Lexington sweathogs and telling us to keep the noise down while he took his robe off and showed us what a real man looked like. Ali kept the pace up as well as he could have here and got some good near falls. Eventually he went up top and tweaked his knee, only to reverse the Skull Crushing Finale into a rollup for the pin. Ali has a bright future ahead of him as he’s easy to get behind and can make fans care about him in a Sami Zayn style.
8. Women’s Title: Asuka b. Becky Lynch and Carmella – Asuka Lock to Carmella. 13:42. B-.
It was a very Becky crowd, which shouldn’t be very surprising. This was a lot better than I was expecting with a few comedy spots thrown in. Becky and Carmella had a very long rolling small package duel as they went around the ring about ten times for about half a dozen one counts. Later, Asuka missile dropkicked Becky to put them both down. Carmella covered them both several times each, screaming in frustration louder and louder each time. Of course Carmella was just there to take the submission but she was trying, which is all you can ask her to do.
Overall it was a very nice show with some good matches to go with the usual house show fare. It was far better than the previous house show in the same arena, which was a complete wreck with one of the worst cards I’ve ever seen. The Bryan vs. Styles match was very good and there was enough to keep the crowd going all night. As a bonus, I liked the wrestlers signing autographs on the way up the ramp all night long as it doesn’t take long and is a nice touch. That’s the kind of thing that makes these shows feel more fun and that’s very cool. Fun night overall, with good action and energy. C+.
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