By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Live from Newark, New Jersey at Prudential Center
Daniel Bryan made his entrance while Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton recapped the controversy from Clash of Champions. Bryan welcomed the crowd to the show, and before diving into the controversy, relayed the plug for the Women’s Royal Rumble from last night. He then said that Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Jinder Mahal would face AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura in the main event. Shane then interrupted before Bryan could say anything else.
Shane said hello to Daniel Bryan and played to the crowd a bit. He plugged the Women’s Royal Rumble, but then turned the subject to Clash of Champions. Shane painted a picture of Randy Orton hitting an RKO on Sunday and Bryan tripping onto Shane to break count. He then explained how he refused to count 3 for Sami Zayn because of the history of brutality between himself, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. He spoke about Daniel Bryan’s fast count, and now that he had explained himself, he’d like Bryan to do the same.
Bryan said that did what he did to protect Shane from himself. Shane said that he didn’t need his protection, with all due respect. Bryan said he does, because Shane’s passion for Smackdown leads him to be a hothead, and it causes him to abandon their shared idea of “the land of opportunity”. Bryan says that Shane would have taken the opportunity away from them that they promised to everyone, and he didn’t believe in just giving opportunity to people he liked. Shane cautioned Bryan, and said that they were playing on his empathetic heartstrings, and when they were done, they’d stab him in the back. He could see why Bryan would have empathy for them from his position, but said that form a business perspective, he would do well not to show them favoritism.
Bryan fired back and asked Shane if he was asking him to do what’s “Best for Business”? Bryan said that he fought against that, and he believed their vision, and he didn’t want to see Shane McMahon become Mr. McMahon. If he had different vision not than he did when they started, that he should fire him if he’s going to fire anybody. Shane stood tall and looked down on Bryan. They stared for a moment before Shane told Bryan that he respected him, and trusted him implicitly, and wished him the best on the rest of the show….[c]
My Take: I liked the intensity of the opening segment. Bryan has yet to really get motivated on the microphone, but he definitely has something to stick his teeth into when it comes to the “best for business shtick. Shane’s points seem pretty hollow, but he delivers them well enough that it’s convincing. I hope they continue to evolve him throughout this process. If he is to turn heel, they need to do enough to differentiate him from his father. They share DNA but they don’t have to share the same character traits on TV.
The Usos made their entrance, followed by Gable and Benjamin.
1. The Usos vs. Gable and Benjamin: Quick tags early on with the Usos getting the advantage on Gable. They dumped Gable and Benjamin out to the floor and played to the crowd…[c]
Benjamin and Gable isolated Jimmy Uso in their corner during the break. Jimmy struggled to break free and made a hot tag to Jey after an enziguri on Benjamin. He hit a superkick and a Samoan Drop on Gable, and then a Rikishi Splash in the corner. Benjamin ran at Jey but was low bridged over the top. Jimmy re-entered and ran to dive through the ropes on Benjamin, but Sheton popped up and hit a big knee lift.
Jey hit a superkick on Gable and went up top for splash, but Benjamin leaped up to stop him. Jey fought him off, but Gable got the knees up for the splash. Gable rolled him up, but Jimmy broke up the tag. Shelton hit a knee on Jimmy that cleared him from the ring. Gable hit a rolling German, and then Shelton and Gable hit their Powerbomb/Doomsday Device for the win.
Benjamin and Gabe defeated The Usos at 8:33.
Ziggler’s US Championship celebration is next. Charlotte is next…[c]
My Take: This was a good showing for Gable and Benjamin. This win probably puts them in position for a future title match on TV, but given how excited people were for Rusev and English, I wonder where they will end up in all this. Either way, the Smackdown Tag Division continues to put out great efforts in the ring.
Charlotte made her entrance. We then got a video package about the Women’s Royal Rumble announcement, that focused heavily on the feels. It’s a cool moment for everyone, but the casting aside of their individual characters for these moments where everyone has to bask in the PR opportunities provided by firsts in the Women’s Division. Charlotte had a microphone in the ring and spoke about how she had goosebumps from the video package and how proud she was to be the Smackdown Women’s champion. She basked in her title win, and said that she would be proud to take on the winner of the Royal Rumble in the main event at WrestleMania.
Naomi made her way down and named herself the first Smackdown entrant in the Women’s Royal Rumble. She got in the ring and told Charlotte that she would be seeing her at WrestleMania. Charlotte was like “Ok”. The Riott squad then made their way down to the ring, and Naomi talked smack to them about the Rumble being every woman for herself, and that they had chicken heads. The crowd chanted chicken head at them, and Naomi had a laugh. Naomi then challenged any two of them to a match with herself and Charlotte…[c]
2. Charlotte and Naomi vs. Sarah Logan and Ruby Riott: The match was joined in progress with Logan hitting a shot to the back of Charlotte’s knee, and both Logan and Riott focusing on her left leg. Logan hit some elbows and torqued the knee in a hold. Charlotte broke free by breaking out of a knee drop attempt and made a tag to Naomi. After some miscommunication between the heels, Logan ran into Liv Morgan, which allowed Naomi to hit rear view for the win.
Charlotte and Naomi defeated The Riott Squadd at 4:11.
After the match, Rusev and English ran into New Day backstage. They said their pancakes are stupid, and showed off the Rusev Day shirt. English regaled everyone in a Rusev Day song about dominating the new Day. Rusev took a bite out of some pancakes and threw them on the floor. Dolph Ziggler is next…[c]
My Take: The Riott squad looking like bums on TV already can’t be a good thing. We’ll see what shakes out as we get closer to the rumble, but I think they had no ideas for them when they were called up, and they have even less now. Rusev and English feuding with New Day is a fun feud away from the Tag Championships.
Dolph Ziggler made his entrance after his music cut out, and told everyone I told you so. He ridiculed people who said he didn’t belong in the title match, and people who thought his win came out of nowhere. He said he doesn’t have the most elaborate entrance, and isn’t worried about being the most charismatic guy, he’s just the best. Dolph then showed some video of his first US Championship win, and his several Intercontinental Championship wins. He then scolded fans and said that he’s sure some of them were there when he cashed in Money in the Bank and became World Heavyweight Champion pretending to be a part of it.
Ziggler called himself one of the most decorated stars in WWE History. He said night after night, year after year he proved to himself and everyone else that he’s the best, yet year after year he goes unappreciated. He told the crowd they are not worthy of his presence, and the crowds don’t deserve him. Dolph asked the crowd if they want something to remember him by, and then set the US Championship down in the middle of the ring and walked away.
Backstage on the phone, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens approached Daniel Bryan and gave him a bottle of champagne. Bryan refused it and said that he did it for all of Smackdown, and not for them and their fans. Owens and Zayn told him that they know the real reason that he did it, and it’s because of Randy Orton. They said he stole his title in 2013 along with The Authority, and tried to break his spirit. They said Bryan got the last laugh on Orton, just like they did on Shane McMahon. Bryan responded that they needed to stop gloating and take the smiles off their faces, or he may fire them himself. He then told them to go get ready for their match…[c]
My Take: Given the rumors that Dolph was making a decision on whether or not to sign on to another deal with WWE, this is an interesting way to directly acknowledge and confront that situation. If he is gone, and this was his farewell, then it resets the US Championship division and allows them to start from a clean slate. Bryan attempting to stay consistent to his own logic in these backstages segments has been something to watch. It’s clear that he knows exactly who his character is even if the writers don’t always give him great ways to express it with dialogue.
New Day made their way to the ring in Christmas outfits. They dumped pancakes out of a cereal box on a kids head on the ramp. Rusev and English then made their way out in Santa and Frosty the Snowman outfits. Big Rusev Day chants after the music stopped.
3. Rusev and English vs. New Day: Snowman English and Gingerbread Man Kofi Kingston started the match. Rusev tagged in and Kofi ran away from him and taunted him. Kofi sent English crashing to the floor from the ring, and did the same to Rusev a few seconds later. They grabbed Santa’s bag of gifts and started throwing Rusev’s stuff out of it. They found a pair of nasty underwear with Happy Rusev Day written on the back…[c]
Rusev held Kofi Kingston by the back of his hood while the crowd chanted “Heyyyyyyy we want some paaaaancaaaakes!” Woods got a hot tag after a tornado DDT from Kofi to Rusev. English also tagged in and took a knee from Woods. He then went for an Honor Roll, but English caught him and hit a big spinebuster. English covered, but Kofi broke up the pin. Rusev then entered and sent Kofi to the floor.
They setup the announce table on the outside to put Woods face into the pancakes on the outside. Rusev and English put whipped cream and cherry on it. The plan backfired and English ended up getting put into the pancakes by both Kofi and Woods. In the ring, Woods hit a top rope elbow on English and got the pin.
New Day defeated Rusev and English at 8:58.
Backstage, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura were shown preparing for their match..[c]
My Take: Typical WWE Holiday Comedy. My daughter got a kick out of the pancake spot. She was definitely the target audience.
Randy Orton made his entrance first, followed by Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles. They were followed by Jinder Mahal and the his bacne, and lastly Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. They milked these entrances to get through a segment…[c]
4. Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, and AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn: Early on in the match things spilled out to the floor with all six men. Orton gave Mahal a backdrop on the announce table and tossed him back in the ring. Orton worked over Jinder and pulled him into his corner to tag in Nakamura. Shinsuke put Jinder in an arm twist, but couldn’t hold him. He quickly backed Nakamura into the heel corner and tagged in Sami Zayn.
Nakamura and Zayn traded holds and reversals. Nakamura the backed him into the ropes, and pulled at his chest hair. Zayn looked surprised, and Shinsuke hit a knee and then pulled Zayn into the corner and tagged in AJ Styles. Styles hit a head scissors and then tagged Orton back in, who quickly picked up Zayn and dropped him on the top rope. Zayn was able to reach for a tag to Jinder Mahal, who entered and got the better of Orton with some strikes. He then tagged in Owens, who continued with strikes…[c]
Owens and Orton brawled, and Owens was sent shoulder first into the post. This allowed AJ Styles to tag in, who tried to hit the ropes, but Jinder Mahal pulled down the second rope and he spilled out to the floor. Owens began targeting Styles ribs with punches and elbows. Zayn then tagged in and hit a running clothesline and covered for a near fall. Jinder Mahal tagged in and dropped a knee on Styles, and then backed him into a corner. Styles reversed out of the corner and hit a tornado DDT, which allowed him to make a tag to Nakamura.
Shinsuke cleaned house and knocked Owens off the apron and hit several high impact knees to Sami Zayn. Nakamura hit good vibrations in the corner, followed by a knee to the ribs, and the covered for two. Shinsuke hit a wheel kick and then covered for a near fall. He then tried for a reverse exploder suplex, but Zayn reached the ropes. The match broke down with Owens breaking and armbar attempt. Rapid fire offense as Nakamura tried to close out Zayn. The Singh Brothers interfered and clubbed Nakamura on the back of the neck. Orton hit an RKO on Jinder Mahal and hit a double DDT on the Singhs.
AJ Styles took out Kevin Owens with a Phenomenal Forearm, and then Nakamura put the finishing touches on Zayn with a Kinshasa.
AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and Jinder Mahal at 16:59.
The babyfaces had a celebration for the fans as the show went off the air.
My Take: A happy ending for fans in attendance, but this was the definition of a holding pattern show heading into the Holidays. Not much story development to be had here aside from the Dolph Ziggler promo and Naomi entering the Women’s Royal Rumble, but WWE will have several weeks of television following the New Year to really develop some new rivalries heading into the Rumble. Hopefully nobody runs over Santa next Monday.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Will Pruett on the Roman Reigns whodunnit angle, WWE heading into SummerSlam, AEW's October 2 premiere on TNT, the New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax Tournament through Day 11, and more (77:45)...