By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Live from Cincinnati, Ohio at U.S. Bank Arena
A video package switched between footage from last week’s main event segment, and footage from backstage with Daniel Bryan showing his disgust with Shane McMahon’s vendetta with Owens and Zayn. Backstage, Owens and Sami were pamphleting the arena about invading Smackdown, and we wearing “Yep” movement shirts. In the arena, AJ Styles made his entrance. Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton joined on commentary. AJ welcomed everyone to Smackdown. He said he’s normally calm and collected, but he can’t eat or sleep because all he can think about is defending his WWE Championship on Sunday. He said Jinder Mahal will doing anything and everything to get the Championship back, including calling in the Great Khali from India, or relying on the Singh Brothers to cause a distraction.
AJ said he actually agreed with him, because he knows how much he wants to keep his Championship….then the Singh Brothers interrupted. They introduce some footage of Jinder Mahal assaulting them from weeks past. AJ said after that video, he actually feels bad for them, and invited them to the ring to hug it out with ol’ Uncle Al. The Singh Brothers approached the ring hesitantly and AJ actually gave them a brief hug. Samir went in for a second hug, but AJ said that was enough. The Singh Brothers aired their grievances about Jinder, and offered to be in Styles corner at Clash of Champions.
They talked about being forced to ride in the back of planes, being stuck in the car while he was in a hotel, and being forced to kiss his feet, which smelled like cheese and garlic chicken. Styles played dumb, but then showed footage of the Singh Brothers with Jinder in India. They begged off and said they were done and shook Styles hand, and then Jinder entered. Styles told him that he sees how it is, and can’t believe Jinder would send those two out there to try to convince him that they don’t work for him anymore.
Styles said he agreed with them…they would have a singles match. He then beat up the Singh Brothers and tossed them out of the ring in front of Jinder Mahal. Mahal checked on them as Styles baited him to enter the ring. Owens vs. Nakamura was plugged for later…[c]
My Take: That segment was a bit of a dud. Styles played his part well, but I don’t think people bought the sellout for a second, and as a result they were sitting on their hands waiting for the action to pick up. It appears that this arena was mostly in the same boat as me, which is waiting for this program to end so Styles can move on to something more interesting for the Royal Rumble. WWE really seems to have divested quite a bit from Jinder, at least at this main event level.
Charlotte was in the ring, while footage rolled of the Riott Squad’s introduction to Smackdown.The announce team plugged Charlotte vs. Natalya on commentary. Ruby Riot must have made her entrance during the package.
1. Charlotte vs. Ruby Riott: Charlotte went on offense early with a fallaway slam. Ruby then rolled out to the floor….[c]
Ruby controlled the action during the break, but Charlotte got the knees up on a splash in the corner as the TV returned to full screen. Ruby rolled outside, and Charlotte followed. A brawl broke out on the outside, with Charlotte getting the better of the Riott Squad briefly. A disqualification was called for when Natalya attacked Charlotte.
Charlotte defeated Ruby Riott at 4:22.
After the match, the Riott Squad tossed Charlotte into the ring steps. They set up to catapult her into the ring steps, but this brought out Naomi, who extracted a measure of revenge on the Riott Squad and sent them into a retreat. Carmella, Lana, and Naomi then surprised the Riott Squad from behind, and they had to scramble off to the side of the stage. Naomi checked on Charlotte to end the segment. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin is next…[c]
My Take: Infinite meh. I really want to like the influx of talent into the Women’s division, but the execution has been sub par. I like the effort put forth by the women in their physical encounters, but the story has let them down. We know nearly nothing about the Riott Squad’s motivation, and the best babyface and best promo in the division stepped out to go film a movie on their first night. Maybe Becky’s return might breathe some life into this. Moving Charlotte away from Natalya will also help, as their feud is long past its expiration date.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan assured Shane he would be on commentary for the main event, and told him he had everything under control. While he was on the call, Owens and Zayn walked up and dropped off an Occupy Smackdown pamphlet and pointed to their Yep Shirts. In the arena, Bobby Roode joined on commentary. Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin made their entrances.
2. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin: Corbin backed Ziggler into a corner and they had a shoving match. Corbin talked trash and then gave Ziggler a right hand to the face that put him down. Ziggler replied with a dropkick and a Stinger Splash. Corbin took a run at Ziggler, but crashed into the post for trouble. Bobby Roode got up and entered the ring at this point. He hit Ziggler with a Glorious DDT, which caused an immediate DQ.
Dolph Ziggler defeated Baron Corbin by DQ at 2:33.
Roode also gave Baron Corbin a Glorious DDT, and then celebrated with his catchphrase. The Bludgeon Brothers are next…[c]
My Take: More Meh. I’m sure the match on Sunday won’t disappoint with these three, but there was a mostly non-existent build to this match.
A very special edition of Fashion Files clip was shown, which concluded with Breezango challenging the Bludgeon Brothers. WWE.com has the full Fashion Files episode. In the arena, The Bludgeon Brothers made their entrance. Some jobbers were in the ring, but I was distracted and didn’t catch their names.
3. The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Jobbers: As you would imagine, a high impact beating occured. They debuted a new signature move, in which Rowan grabbed a Full Nelson, and picked up an opponent into position for a sit out powerbomb from Harper. The guy actually screamed like a girl, which was hilarious. Rowan tagged in and they hit their tag team Razor’s Edge for the win.
The Bludgeon Brothers defeated Jobbers at 2:29.
They celebrated after the match. More from Occupy Smackdown is next…[c]
My Take: By God those men have families. Honestly though, the scream that guy let out during that sit out powerbomb was outright hilarious. No idea how Harper held it together. I like the Bludgeon Brothers in the ring, but I remain unconvinced of their characters.
Owens and Zayn entered, and told the audience that they were recruiting people to stand with them united against management and for change. Owens would say “yep” like the usual what chants at the end of each sentence. They showed footage of Owens being handcuffed to the ring, and then complained about Shane being a tyrant for put them in a position where they can be fired from WWE. They called him a tyrant on a rage bender because he couldn’t defend the honor of his family.
Owens said it was time for people for show Shane McMahon that the business was bigger than Shane and his vendetta. He invited people to come down to the ring and occupy Smackdown, but nobody showed up. Daniel Bryan eventually appeared, and made his way to the ring. Owens said he was the inspiration from the yep movement. Zayn said they were expecting hundreds or thousands of people, but they did get the one that matters on Smackdown live. Owens then talked about how they wanted to show him that their situation was just like his, and how they were fighting power.
Bryan reminded everyone that the Yes Movement was all about the fans, and not about him. It was about giving fans what they wanted and what they deserved. Zayn said that this is just like that, but more about what they want and deserve. Zayn told Bryan that Shane was a maniac and a tyrant, and he wouldn’t stop until he took all their hard work away from them. All of their years toiling on the independents. Bryan said he and Shane had a deal where they both had each others backs. He said despite all they’ve said, he recognizes their talent, and then inserted himself as a second referee in the tag match on Sunday.
Owens and Zayn celebrated as Bryan headed towards the stage….[c]
My Take: I like the further intrigue of where Bryan’s sensibilities are taking him with this feud. He’s actually one of the most complex characters on this show, and he’s done a great job of showing conflict and stress in his facial expressions. Owens and Zayn did justice to the “Occupy Smackdown” concept, but honestly the most interesting thing about this entire idea is whether or not Daniel Bryan will get physically involved in anything on Sunday, and what that could mean to his future.
The New Day joined on commentary for the next match. English and Rusev were in the ring, and English continued with the 12 Days of Rusev from last week. The last line was a brag about their win over the New Day last week. The New Day had a whole tray of pancakes at ringside. The Usos made their entrance and told English about the presents he needed for Christmas. They said he needed some singing lessons, a new toupee, a better tag partner, and a tan. Gable and Benjamin walked out and cut strange promo where they tried to mimic New Day. It didn’t really work. They did have one kinda funny line, but it was stolen from the movie Training Day…[c]
4. The Usos vs. Aiden English & Rusev: Rusev held a bear hug on Jey Uso. He dropped him and tried to take a shot at Jimmy, but he missed. That gave Jey an opportunity to hit a kick. Jimmy tagged in along with English, and Jimmy cleaned up. English jumped off the second rope into a superkick. Rusev broke up the cover. Jey Uso cleared Rusev from the ring, and then tried to dive at him on the outside, but Rusev hit a clubbin blow to the head.
Jimmy tried to hit Rusev with a baseball slide, but Rusev caught him. He then caught him with a Machka Kick. In the ring, English hit his Director’s Cut for the win.
English & Rusev defeated The Usos at 6:48.
Backstage, Renee Young interviewed AJ Styles. She asked about his anticipation of the Jinder Mahal setup earlier, and he said he would beat the odds on Sunday. Jinder Mahal then assaulted him from out of frame, and told him he wouldn’t. Very clever writing all around. Nakamura and Owens is set for next…[c]
My Take: Man, this show is really limping into Clash of Champions. None of these programs really feel like they have any life, outside of the intrigue of Daniel Bryan being added to the show. That was honestly one of the least impactful backstage beatdowns I can recall. Just no fire to it at all.
The announce team ran down the Clash of Champions card, and announced Mojo Rawley vs. Zack Ryder for the pre-show. Breezango vs. The Bludgeon Brothers was confirmed as well. Randy Orton made his entrance in the arena, followed by Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura looks about half interested in what he’s doing. Renee Young interviewed them both in the ring. She asked about the motivations of Shane and Daniel Bryan. Orton said he could only speak for his own motivations, and that he didn’t like Owens or Zayn, and said they were entitled. He said he and his partner would do everyone a favor and make sure they’re out of a job on Sunday. When Nakamura was asked if he agreed, he said “Yep”….[c]
My Take: Orton and Nakamura are being put in a really awkward position here. They have some motivation to want to get back at Owens and Zayn for costing Team Smackdown at Survivor Series, but that’s tenuous at best, and it seems weird that babyface wrestlers would support the idea of a General Manager putting their opponents jobs on the line, while they have basically nothing at stake.
Kevin Owens made his entrance alongside Sami Zayn. Daniel Bryan joined on commentary.
5. Kevin Owens vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: Owens dominated the early going. The action spilled outside early, but Nakamura was reeling from the get go. Owens ground down Nakamura with strikes and holds. Nakamura got in a knee strike in the corner, but Owens quickly turned the tables and dumped him back out to the floor…[c]
Owens continued to control the pace in the ring. He hit some mounted punches and then took a moment to taunt Orton and the crowd. He then went for a running senton and Nakamura got the knees up. Shinsuke began to build some offensive steam with a one legged dropkick. He then followed up with an elbow and a suplex. He continued with knees in the corner and a choke. He then draped Owens over the top rope and hit a running knee for two count.
Nakamura placed Owens on the top rope. The battled on the top rope and Owens shoved Nakamura off the top. He went for a somersult senton, and Nakamura got the knees up. After some back and forth, the match broke down after a ref took an elbow from Owens. Bryan put on a ref’s shirt, and took his bit of time to get in the ring to make a count what ended up being a near fall for Nakamura. Orton and Zayn got involved, and Orton cleared Sami from the ring. Zayn thumbed Orton in the eyes and distracted Nakamura from hitting Kinshasa. Owens then used the distraction to hit a pop up powerbomb and get the win. Daniel Bryan counted the pinfall.
Kevin Owens defeated Shinsuke Nakamura at 14:33
After the match, Owens and Zayn were asked about their victory on the stage. They said that nobody, not Shane, Shinsuke, or Randy Orton would take this away from them. He said they were the best, not just the best on Smackdown but in all of WWE.
My Take: The big sell as the show went off the air was the Bryan hesitated slightly to jump in the ring after putting on his ref’s shirt, and that may have cost Nakamura the match. Saxton went hard at trying to blame this on Bryan’s bias in favor of Zayn and Owens. The match itself wasn’t anything spectacular, but I liked the last few minutes. The story being told here with Bryan is the most interesting one being told heading into the Clash show, but I don’t think it’s at the point where it’s overshadowed Owens and Zayn. Orton and Nakamura do feel like bit players in a way, but I think this match can be counted on to deliver on Sunday.
The Best of The Boom features Eric Bischoff joining Jason Powell in this March 20, 2019 discussion on whether there are similarities between Verne Gagne's booking during the AWA's dying days and Vince McMahon's WWE booking today, AEW, a Turner network shakeup, and more...