By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Live from Lexington, Kentucky at Rupp Arena
A video package opened the show that focused on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn’s evolving situation from last week. Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton,and Corey Graves were on commentary. Shane McMahon’s music hit to kick off the show in the arena, and he grabbed a microphone as he entered the ring. Shane got a solid reaction and played to the crowd a bit. He then turned the subject immediately to Owens and Zayn, who he accused again of betraying Smackdown. He said he was in the process of firing them last week, because they admitted they had no respect for anyone on the Smackdown Roster, the Commissioner’s Office, or the fans.
He claimed he was looking forward to firing them, but Daniel Bryan had a better idea. Shane said it looked good on paper, because he expected the roster to get their revenge, and then Daniel Bryan could fire them. Neither of those things happened, and they’ve had multiple conversations about it, but he wanted the fans to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Shane then brought out Daniel Bryan, who got a predictably huge reaction.
The crowd chanted and Bryan just went into his talking points. He said he knows people think that Sami and Kevin should be fired, but as a guy that’s been fired several times before, he thinks people deserve second chances. Bryan then said that Shane’s hot tempered nature can cause lapses in his judgement. Shane made his case for firing them, and listed off their offenses. He mentioned Kevin Owens hitting his father, Sami’s interference at Hell in a Cell, and their betrayal of Smackdown at Survivor Series. Bryan responded that it’s important to understand why they did what they did, and he claimed it was in the spirit of competition and grabbing the brass ring. He told Shane that he can recognize talent, and if those two were fired they’d just end up on Raw.
Shane said they’d be his sister’s problem at that point. Bryan then told Shane that if he wanted a Yes Man, he’s not his guy. If he wants someone that can recognize and bring in ring talent to Smackdown, than he is that guy. He asked Shane to trust him to make decisions when he’s not around. Shane said he did trust him. He told him he liked the Kevin Owens vs. Randy Orton match booked for later, but he made some additions. The match would now be No DQ, and Sami Zayn was banned from ringside. Shane and Bryan then shook hands. The Usos and Gable & Benjamin are next…[c]
My Take: If Bryan is an evil mastermind, he’s clearly playing the long con. I’m curious if this character change for Bryan will be abandoned from last week’s show, or if we’ll see more clandestine development.
Backstage, Sami Zayn complained to Kevin Owens about Shane stacking the deck against them. They ran into Daniel Bryan, who they attempted to get to change back the stipulations of their match. Owens claimed Shane was sending him to the Gallows, and Sami blamed Bryan for it. Bryan told Sami he wasn’t in any position to make demands, and that the answer was Hell No.
In the arena, New Day made their entrance while The Usos joined on commentary. Gable and Benjamin made their entrance for the first match. For some reason, Big E loosened his outfit and produced pancakes and syrup for The Usos on commentary.
1. New Day vs. Gable and Benjamin: Gable and Woods started, with Gable grabbing a headlock takeover. Woods bounced back with a rolling elbow and then played to the crowd. Kofi then tagged in and they hit some rapid fire strikes. Kofi hit a springboard splash and covered for a two count. Woods re-entered and hit the ropes, where Benjamin was able to hit a kick that staggered him. Gable then took him down and the heels took over the match…[c]
Woods was cut off by Gable and Benjamin during the break. They hit a double team elbow and backbreaker combo, and Gable remained in the ring. There was a struggle in the corner with Woods blocking a top rope suplex attempt, and Woods was then able to hit a missile dropkick and make a hot tag to Kofi.
Kofi cleared the ring and hit a kick and a crossbody on Benjamin. He then hit a Boom Drop and fired up for Trouble in Paradise, but Benjamin caught him. Kofi dumped both Benjamin and Gable out to the floor, and made a tag to Woods for a suicide dive. In the ring, Kofi hit a superkick on Benjamin and then he and Woods hit Up Up Down Down for the win.
New Day defeated Gable and Benjamin at 7:14.
After the match, a video package was shown of the arrival of Ruby Riot, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan last week, and the beating they put on Becky and Naomi. It then showed their second appearance later in the show attacking Natalya and Charlotte. Backstage, Naomi and Charlotte spoke about getting their revenge on Ruby, Liv, and Sarah. Natalya walked up and said Charlotte should be thanking those girls for letting her keep her title for one more week. Natalya said she was willing to put their differences aside to show those women they can’t make a living off the women of Smackdown Live. Charlotte said she hoped they enjoyed their 5 minutes of fame, because after tonight no one would remember their names. The Bludgeon Brothers are next…[c]
My Take: New Day vs. Gable and Benjamin was odd. I enjoyed the match even though I don’t really get the finish, given the trajectory Gable and Benjamin were on. Are they going right back to New Day vs. The Usos already? Are the Bludgeon Brothers going to be a factor in that situation? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
The Bludgeon Brothers made their entrance. The Hype Bros were already in the ring.
2. Hype Bros vs. The Bludgeon Brothers: It was all Bludgeon Brothers from the start. Harper knocked Mojo off the apron and then hit Ryder with a swinging side slam. He and Rowan hit their Double Team Powerbomb finisher for the win.
The Bludgeon Brothers defeated Hype Bros at 0:46.
After the match, Dasha interviewed Ryder in the ring about their future. Ryder said the landscape had changed that they needed to change, but Mojo jumped him from behind before he could finish. He laid a beating down a Ryder until referees separated them. The main event and Styles vs. The Singh Brothers were hyped for later…[c]
My Take: I liked everything about this segment. The Bludgeon Brothers looked violent and in top form, and The Hype Bros desperately needed to split. They had been spinning their wheels basically since Ryder’s return brought them back together.
Backstage, Mojo was asked to explain himself. He said he was doing what he had to do. The announce team threw back to video from last week of the Lumberjacks brawling during the main event last week. Dasha then interviewed Bobby Roode backstage. She asked what he thought of Baron Corbin accidentally hitting him last week. Roode said he wasn’t so sure it was accidental. He claimed that Corbin knew deep down that there were superior athletes out there, and feared one of them, was going to take his US Championship, so he lashed out and hit him last week. Corbin is just unlucky that his challenger was….and then Corbin walked up to interrupt the catchphrase.
Corbin told Roode that he wasn’t afraid of him, and that he didn’t see him as competition. Roode said if he wasn’t afraid, he wouldn’t mind putting up his US Championship against him tonight. Corbin said no, and walked away. In the arena. The Singh Brothers walked out and introduced Jinder Mahal. AJ Styles then made his entrance, but Jinder Jumped him before he could get his gear off for the match. They all put the boots to Styles and then tossed him into the ring post in the corner…[c]
3. AJ Styles vs. The Singh Brothers: Styles told the ref he was good to compete. The Singh Brothers jumped him right after the bell. AJ got a few shots in, but the Brothers got in a double snap suplex for a near fall. After a few more shots, AJ fired back with punches and chops, but got cut down by a chop block. The Singh Brothers placed him on the top turnbuckle, and he fought them off. Mahal tried to get on the apron to interfere, and Styles kicked him in the face. One of the Brothers jumped back up with Styles, and ended up taking a second rope Styles Clash for the win.
AJ Styles defeated the Singh Brothers at 5:43.
After the match, Jinder hit a Khallas on Samir Singh. He then yelled at the crowd. Backstage, Ruby Riot, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Morgan were interviewed. They were asked what they thought about Charlotte’s comments from earlier. They reintroduced their names and collectively called themselves the Riot Squad. Liv said that Charlotte’s memory must be foggy after the beating they gave her last week. Ruby said Becky knows who they are, but she’s probably in traction in Houston. Ruby called Liv her firecracker, and Sarah the grittiest Southern Belle she’s ever met. Sara said she comes from a family of hunters. Last week they set a trap, and this week they bag their trophies. Ruby said those three women should prepare for a riot…[c]
My Take: AJ getting the better of The Singhs and Mahal was fun, but it’s pretty clear the crowds have moved on from Mahal at this point. There just isn’t any buzz or excitement about the act, unless he’s the one getting embarrassed. He’d be a much better fit as US Champion. That stuff just writes itself. The Riot Squad was a mess. No cohesion there whatsoever. They were tossed together and it shows.
Natalya and Charlotte made their entrances, followed by Naomi. The Riot Squad made their entrances next.
4. Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan vs. Natalya & Charlotte & Naomi: Riott and Natalya started the match. The heels quickly isolated Nattie, and Sarah Logan took a hard clothesline. Nattie tagged out to Charlotte and then bailed on her team up the ramp. Charlotte started her offense on Liv…[c]
Ruby charged Charlotte, but was sent through the ropes out to the floor. Charlotte retrieved her, but Logan and Morgan interfered and created an opportunity for Riott to take control. Riott isolated Charlotte in the ring and Morgan and Logan took Naomi off the apron and tossed her hard to the mat and into the barricade. They then stood up the bottom portion of the stairs and ran her into it. They then catapulted her into the bottom of the stairs from underneath. The medical staff then checked on Naomi.
Logan tagged in and worked over Charlotte, and then tagged Riott back in. Charlotte got a second wind and briefly took out all three women. She hit a spear on Morgan, but Riott fired back with a knee to the face, followed by her Riot Kick for the win.
The Riott Squad defeated Naomi, Charlotte, and Natalya at 11:44.
After the match, Randy Orton blew off an interview and headed towards the ring…[c]
My Take: I liked the divide and conquer tactics here, but the Riot Kick just doesn’t look like a major league finisher. This was a solid win for this trio, and I hope they continue to find an identity as a team and grow in the microphone. That said, this feels like an experiment right now. Not really cohesive or polished.
After the break, we got a Saw themed episode of Fashion Files. Breezango and The Ascencion were trapped in a room. Someone popped up on an iPad and told them they must destroy the thing they love the most to escape. They had to destroy their stuffed animal Horse Tully in order to get the keys to free themselves. They left the Ascension to die after telling them they aren’t friends and refusing to save them before the timer ran down. After sixty seconds, a gas released into the room, and to be continued played on the monitor. Kevin Owens made his entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: Breezango leaving the Ascension to die was the funniest bit they’ve done on Fashion Files.
Randy Orton made his ring entrance.
5. Randy Orton vs. Kevin Owens: Orton went for an RKO early, but Owens bailed out to the floor. Orton followed him and hit a clothesline, and then rammed Owens into the barricade and into the steps. Orton then picked up the stairs and hit Owens with it. He then grabbed a Kendo stick and worked Owens over with it. It looked like Owens got cut on his arm from a splintering Kendo Stick. Orton suplexed Owens back first on the barricade, and then tossed him back into the ring. Owens rolled out and Orton pursued, but Owens grabbed a Kendo Stick of his own and hit Orton in the hamstring. He then sent him into the post and hit a fallaway slam into the barricade…[c]
Owens wailed on Orton with the kendo stick and covered for a near fall. Orton got back into the match with a thumb to the eye. Owens put down the comeback quickly with a running senton and a cover for two. Owens wound up big with a kendo stick and missed. Orton threw a wild punch and missed, and Owens returned with a DDT and covered for another two count. Owens then went for a cannon ball in the corner, but nobody was home. Orton placed Owens on the top rope and they traded punches. Orton got the better of it and hit a superplex for a near fall.
Orton hit a powerslam and got another two count. He then set up Orton for a draping DDT, but Owens slipped out. Both men ended up back outside and brawled near the barricade. Orton suplexed Owens onto the announce table, which didn’t break. He then tossed him back in the ring and setup for the RKO. Owens knew what was coming and bailed out of the ring and into th crowd. They had a bit of walking brawl, and ended up back on the entrance ramp. Zayn then showed up and hit Orton with a chair multiple times.
Owens tossed Orton back in the ring, but Orton turned the tables and hit a draping DDT. Orton then fired up for an RKO again, but Owens slipped out and hit a chop block to his previously injured knee. Owens then hit a frog splash and covered Owens for the win.
Kevin Owens defeated Randy Orton at 16:49.
Owen celebrated briefly and bailed before Orton could collect himself.
My Take: Owens and Zayn foil Shane McMahon’s beefed up plan again. It’s like the Dukes of Hazzard except the Duke Boys are total assholes. We didn’t see any more from Daniel Bryan, and we didn’t see any of Shinsuke Nakamura or Dolph Ziggler. It’s kind of odd how this show is only a few weeks away from Clash of Champions and it doesn’t seem like very many feuds have been established.