By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Seattle, Washington at KeyArena
Daniel Bryan opened the show and made his way to the ring. He got a hometown welcome in Seattle. Michael Cole joined the commentary team in place of Tom Phillips, who is apparently “on assignment”. Bryan got some big chants and had a big smile on his face. He soaked it for a bit before saying it was great to be home. The crowd chanted Welcome Home, and he laughed a bit. He announced a six woman tag team match between Natalya, Tamina, and Lana vs. Naomi, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte. He also plugged a special announcement from Jinder Mahal, and a rematch from Hell in a Cell between Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode.
Bryan began to address Sami Zayn. Before he could get out much of anything, Sami Zayn made his entrance and danced to the ring. Bryan looked at him in disgust. Bryan asked him if it was the Sami Zayn he’s known for 13 years, dancing a smiling after what he did. Sami said he’s still the same Sami, and called himself a great guy, and told Bryan he was just taking back control of his career that took 15 years to build. Bryan started to say he’s been in his shoes, but Sami cut him off. He said they’re both skilled performers, or at least he still is. Management never believed in either of them, but the difference is Bryan had them (he pointed to the crowd).
He said they never upheld their end of the bargain, and never got behind him in way that made him impossible to ignore like they did for Bryan. He told Bryan that he doesn’t care about them anymore, and it feels amazing. He told Bryan that if he had done what Sami did, and worked smarter instead of harder, and dropped martyr complex, Bryan wouldn’t have been forced to retire in this very building. He told Bryan that he was the performer of their generation, and he was always two steps ahead, and as hard as he tried he could never catch up. Now, though, he’s the last person he would ever want to be. He would never break his body or waste his talent for the adulation of the crowd.
Kevin Owens came down and called Bryan a hypocrite. He said that he had spent his entire career fighting for the underdog, and now he was on the other side. Bryan said he knows he tries to infect everyone with his poisoned thinking, but he was just trying to do his best for the fans. He said Owens only cares about himself and he’s proved it his entire career. Owens said that’s not true, he just does what’s best for business. After all he went through, he’s just part of the Authority now. Zayn said he was right. There’s only one word for what Bryan is, and that’s a sellout. He said that could have been him, and Owens had saved him from it. Owens laughed as Bryan left the ring. Owen said that it was all Bryan could do these days. Bryan said he was going to the back to find a couple of guys to punch them in the face.
The announce team showed some footage from Hell in a Cell between Charlotte and Natalya, and the backstage brawl between multiple women last week. Charlotte then made her entrance in the building…[c]
My Take: What a roller coaster for Bryan. Got the amazing home town reaction, and then got the belittling from Zayn and Owens. It was effective in getting Zayn and Owens over a heels, but it’s easy to see Bryan still has the fire to compete and wishes he could. His face told a pretty good story during that segment. Bryan is right though. Owens is going to turn on Sami as soon as it’s convenient.
Natalya made her entrance. The rest of the women entered during the break.
1. Natalya, Tamina and Lana vs. Charlotte, Becky and Naomi: Carmella joined on commentary. Naomi started the match with Natalya, and quickly dumped her out to the floor. Naomi controlled the action before making a tag out to Becky. Natalya whipped Becky into the corner, but she put the brakes on and hopped over her for a jump kick. Natalya retreated out to the floor to regain composure…[c]
Lana suplexed Naomi and covered for a two count. Lana hit a kick and then knocked both Charlotte and Becky off the apron. Charlotte charged in and argued with the ref, which allowed the heel team to work Naomi over. After a desperation kick, Naomi tagged in Charlotte to clean house. She dropped a knee and hit a T-Bone Suplex. Lana then ran directly into a big boot. She then went for the Figure Eight, but Natalya interrupted and threw her into the second turnbuckle. Becky then suplexed Natalya out of the ring. Tamina hit Becky with a superkick, but turned around into a Naomi Splash. Charlotte then submitted Lana with the Figure Eight.
Charlotte, Becky and Naomi defeated Natalya, Tamina and Lana at 6:22.
Backstage, Bryan walked up to Zayn and Owens, who cracked that he couldn’t find two guys who wanted to challenge them. He said not one person, literally every single person wanted to punch them in the face. He decided to give them an opportunity, and made a match between them and the team of Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura…[c]
My Take: Not much excitement from the ladies. They tried hard, but the result never seemed in question. I like the idea of Orton and Nakamura vs. Owens and Zayn. It should be a great main event, and give Owens and Zayn a chance to show off their heel dynamic as a team with two talented wrestlers.
Pulp Fashion (Fashion Files) aired, which included Fandango as Travolta and Breeze as Uma Thurman. The Ascension were there, and they did a bit where Breeze had to be revived after eating a gluten free bun and finding it disgusting. The Ascension said it was ridiculous that they hadn’t solved the case of 2B being the Bludgeon Brothers. Fandango promised to be friends with the Ascension if they helped him save Breeze. They replicated the OD Scene from Pulp fiction, and just as Fandango was about to stab Breeze with some kind of BBQ injector, he woke up. They noticed the briefcase was gone, and The Ascension wanted to assemble the “Fashion 4”. Breeze and Fandango just walked out.
Baron Corbin made his way to the ring…[c]
My Take: We got a Bludgeon Brothers tease again here, so I guess that wasn’t just a dream. I like the Ascension in this role, but they should just hit the reset button with their gimmick. They made Harper and Rowan into Southpaw characters, might as well embrace The Ascension taking on goofy characters too. Maybe they just figure The Ascension gimmick is ridiculous enough in it’s own way.
Sin Cara’s entrance was in progress as the show returned. Corbin grabbed a mic and teased giving Sin Cara a US Championship shot with a US Open Challenge, but said it wasn’t going to happen. He only cares about his own opportunities.
2. Sin Cara vs. Baron Corbin: Sin Cara came out hot and hit a headscissors that sent Corbin to the floor. He then hit a suicide dive in the ring, and followed it up with a flying shoulder block from the top of the ring post out to the floor. Sin Cara ran into the ring, and Corbin was eventually counted out.
Sin Cara defeated Baron Corbin at 1:32 by Count-Out.
Backstage, Renee Young interviewed the Usos, who started a verse about how good the felt and how they had the tag division locked down. They were interrupted by Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, who rhymed back to them about how they were coming to take their titles, and it would be soon. They then offered a handshake to the Usos, who accepted, only to have Benjamin and Gable pull it away and walk off…[c]
My Take: They just put Corbin over Styles clean last week, and now he’s getting blitzed by Sin Cara in 90 seconds? Seems a bit…counterproductive. I guess they need to establish Sin Cara in a hurry, and this seemed like the best option. I liked the backstage interaction over the Tag Championships. I’m hopeful that Gable and Benjamin will be able to keep the division hot.
We got another Bludgeon Brothers Vignette, where they talked about Darkness and Light and then smashed some stuff with Warhammers. They were in the woods and wearing Camo Outfits. It felt like a mix between Deliverance and World of Warcraft.
In the building, The Singh Brothers made their entrance, and then introduced Jinder Mahal. The announce team went over his most recent trip to India. Jinder also spoke about going to India as the first Indian WWE Champion. He said he received a Royal Welcome, 5 Star Hotels and Restaurants, and his every whim catered to. He said a young boy came up to him as he was leaving and asked what was next, as he doesn’t get the same respect in the US and he does in India. Jinder then said he has beaten every worthy opponent on Smackdown live and now must lay down a challenge. He proceeded to lay out a challenge to The Beast Brock Lesnar. Jinder then said he wanted to prove he’s the greatest WWE Champion of all time, and that he wants fans to grovel at his feet when he proves the best can be slain.
AJ Styles then interrupted, and asked if he heard Jinder correctly. Jinder said yes, he did hear him challenge Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. AJ said he didn’t care about that, he just wanted to know if he heard him say he had faced all worthy competition on Smackdown. Jinder said he meant what he said, and called Styles a loser and himself a winner. Styles said if he was a loser, he wouldn’t mind facing him for his WWE Championship. Jinder said in his country they don’t even think he’s worthy of being in the same ring as Mahal. AJ said they aren’t in his country. Mahal postured up and asked Styles if he knew who he was talking to, and puffed out his chest. Styles hit some strikes and quickly dispatched the Singh Brothers. He then hit a pele kick that sent Jinder reeling…[c]
My Take: So I guess Styles will be the next guy in line to be fed to Mahal. I don’t know why you’d mortgage most of the roster on trying to get the guy over, but they’ve certainly committed to it at this point. I can’t even imagine how boring a Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal match is going to be.
Bobby Roode made his entrance, followed by Dolph Ziggler, who entered in total darkness.
3. Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler: The match spilled outside almost immediately, where Ziggler took over with a dropkick out on the floor…[c]
Roode fought out of a headlock, and after a few reversals, used a slingshot to send Ziggler into the corner. He followed up with a flying forearm and a clothesline, and then a uranage for a near fall. Roode went to the second rope, but couldn’t execute as Ziggler ducked. A moment later, Ziggler shoved Roode into the corner, and then rolled him up with the tights and got the win.
Dolph Ziggler defeated Bobby Roode at 6:44.
Ziggler said “I told you so” on the mic after the match. The announce team then plugged TLC and the WWE Network. The main event is next…[c]
My Take: I guess they need this program to last. How long I wonder? I hope not all the way to Clash of Champions.
As luck would have it, Brock Lesnar will be live on Raw to respond to Jinder Mahal’s challenge. I’m sure he’s watching the show in Ghost Town, Saskatchewan and decided to respond immediately.
Aiden English walked backstage while singing, and come upon to guys on their phones. He dressed them down for being on their phones during his epic performance. New Day interrupted him and Big E told him he looked like the Gershwin of Grumpy. They tossed cereal everywhere and made him into a joke. Rusev then walked up and said there would be no more New Day, because it’s Rusev Day. New Day said it must be time to celebrate then, and played Rusev’s old theme on the Trombone. Rusev said Rusev Day isn’t a joke. English started singing again about Rusev Day, but Rusev told it it wasn’t the time.
Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance in the building, followed by Randy Orton. They were followed by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn….[c]
My Take: I like the idea of New Day vs. Rusev and English. They are a good match for each other from a character standpoint. I’m sure Lesnar is just shaking in his boots at home.
4. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton: Nakamura and Sami started the match, and Nakamura got off to a fast start. He hit a kick and a knee to the gut, followed by Good Vibrations. He tagged in Orton, who Sami backed away from initially. Owens tagged in and talked some trash, which Orton replied to with fists. Owens avoided and RKO and got out of the ring, where Zayn distracted Owens for long enough to push Orton into the post and then the barricade…[c]
Zayn pulled Owens off the turnbuckle, which caused Nakamura to drive his knee into the buckle pad. He sold it like Death, and Owens and Zayn began to target his knee. They made frequent tags and focused on the bum leg. Owens hit a running senton, and covered for a near fall. Nakamura fought his way out of a headlock, but Owens grounded him by going back to the knee. Nakamura fired up and managed to hit a knee in the corner, and then had to crawl to the corner to make a hot tag to Orton.
Orton hit an overhead exploder suplex, and then pulled Zayn out to the floor and Suplexed him into the announce table. Orton took the action back into the ring and hit a powerslam, and covered for a near fall. Owens took out Nakamura on the far side of the ring, which distracted the ref. This allowed Zayn to hit a low blow, and then a Heluva Kick, and covered for the win.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens defeated Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton at 15:58
Backstage, Owens and Zayn walked backstage and gloated to Daniel Bryan. They said they had beaten the top two guys on Smackdown, and asked him what was next? Bryan said that isn’t up to him, it’s up to Shane McMahon. Zayn and Owens then walked out on stage again as Orton and Nakamura looked on in disgust. Owens said they were Smackdown Live, and there was nothing any of them could do about it. He then exclaimed that Sami Zayn was his best friend.
My Take: A solid match, and needed win for Sami. This isn’t a one stop shop towards legitimizing him, but it does establish a firm separation from how he had been treated in the past. I don’t think Orton loses anything, and it probably doesn’t have much story significance given how far Smackdown is from having it’s own PPV again. We’ll see how things shape up for Survivor Series next week, as that show’s build will begin post TLC. There are more Raw vs. Smackdown matches rumored, and I’m sure we’ll see some title matches as well. Smackdown could do a lot worse than having Owens and Zayn carry the show during an off cycle period for the brand. They should keep the show entertaining even when the WWE Champion is painfully boring.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Vice TV's "Dark Side of the Ring" executive producers Evan Husney and Jason Eisner discussing the March 24 second season premiere focusing on the Benoit family tragedy, plus their pro wrestling fandom, the show's name and origins, highlights of season two, Chris Jericho becoming the narrator, and much more...