By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Live from Laredo, Texas at Laredo Energy Arena
New Day opened the show and made their way to ringside. They had a lectern and a stack of pancakes in the ring. Kofi opened up with a comedy bit about the Modern Day Maharaja, where they rolled the last syllable for like 30 seconds. Woods says he would bring the principles of liberty and positivity to the US Champion, and the lesser talked about principle of pancakes. BIg E said that flour, eggs, and milk are strong on their own, but when they come together, they make something magical. Woods says good things come in threes, like red, white and blue. Big E mentioned Home Alone 1, 2, and 3, but no so much 3.
Woods continued and said that his opponent hates every last one of the people in the audience, he hates freedom and pancakes. Woods then polled the crowd and asked for a yay or nay if they wanted Jinder Mahal to be US Champion. Kofi and Woods launched into a long Nay, but the crowd never really got invested in this promo. Woods closed by asking for the crowd’s support to be their next WWE United States Champion, in his musical way.
The Singh Brothers then made their way out, and brought out Jinder Mahal. Jinder made his entrance while the New Day smirked at him from the ring.
1. Xavier Woods vs. Jinder Mahal: Woods and Mahal had a brief standoff, but Mahal clipped Woods straight away with a big boot to rock him. Mahal then continued the assault with knees and strikes. Woods fired back with a dropkick, but Mahal stopped the surge with a back elbow as Woods charged into the corner. He followed up with a running elbow…[c]
My Take: The crowd wasn’t real taken with that promo to start the show, and I’d have to agree. The effort was there, but the content just wasn’t. I was hoping to see Woods fired up at the prospect of grabbing singles gold while playing the underdog, but it was just more pancakes and silliness.
Mahal continued the assault in his methodical manner. He used a knee to choke Woods and then dropped him onto the top rope. More knees and elbows were thrown, and Jinder then used the ring apron to choke Woods until he had to break. The Singh Brothers got a little too close to the action, and Big E and Kofi threw some pancakes at them to run them off. Woods barely beat a ten count back into the ring following the choke, and Mahal continued to suffocate his offense in the ring. Woods went for an Honor Roll, but Jinder broke it up with a flying knee…[c]
Woods and Mahal battled on the top rope, and Woods sent Mahal to the mat. He then hit a missile dropkick, and the crowd cheered him to his feet. Both men traded punches, and Mahal got the better of it. Woods didn’t stay down, though, and hit two flying forearms in response. Woods went for a tornado DDT, but Mahal tossed him off. He then hit an enziguri and a shining wizard, but the Singhs prevented the ref from making a count. New Day chased them off.
Woods took down Jinder with a kick and went up top. He went for his top rope elbow, but Mahal moved. Mahal then tossed Woods into the bottom rope to target the neck. He then hit the Khallas and covered for the win.
Jinder Mahal defeated Xavier Woods at 16:33.
Mahal eyed up the US Championship at BIg E and Kofi checked on Woods. Backstage, a pre-recorded promo from Baron Corbin aired. He said the that all his sees in the Royal Rumble match is 30 victims, and it was his time to Main Event Wrestlemania.
My Take: I like the match length that Mahal and Woods got, but the pace early on was a bit slow for me. The last several minutes were very good though, and Woods got in quite a bit of offense in defeat. I think they could easily pivot back to Big E challenging at some point after Mahal captures the US Championship, but they’ll need to find New Day some better promo material. They tried to make chicken salad from chicken shit earlier, and it didn’t really click.
We got a video package about Goldberg going into the HOF. AJ Styles was then interviewed backstage. Renee Young asked AJ Styles what he thought about Sami and Kevin’s confidence heading into their title match at The Royal Rumble. He said he had three opponents at the Rumble, because he counts Kevin Owens as two people. He the called them deranged muppets because of their Yep Movement, and coined the term ‘Kami’ to name the duo. He said it wasn’t the Kami show, and after the Royal Rumble, Smackdown would continue to be the house that AJ Styles built.
We then got some more pre-tapes from all the Smackdown women, where they each had about 10 seconds to work in their catchphrases about their appearance in the Royal Rumble Match. They all held cameras like they were youtubers taking selfie reaction videos. Honestly, the only person that got any kind of reaction was Becky Lynch, and the nature of the videos meant that no one was particularly memorable. In the arena, Bobby Roode made his entrance….[c]
My Take: I appreciate the effort to give the women some mic time, but their limited time here barely gave enough of a glimpse into their motivation and personality to make it worth it. They really should have started that weeks ago when they announced the match, and had a few women get 30 seconds per week to talk. AJ Styles promo felt a little out of character, to be honest. He just seemed like he was saying someone else’s words more than usual.
Mojo Rawley made his entrance after the break.
2. Bobby Roode vs. Mojo Rawley: Roode grabbed a waistlock and slammed Mojo. He did his Glorious taunt, and Mojo charged right into a headlock. Roode chopped him on the ropes and then hit a running back elbow and covered for two. Roode continued the pressure with a front facelock, but Rawley fought to his feet fought out with an elbow. Mojo hit a pounce and then got in the officials face or not getting out of his way fast enough. He then hit a headbutt and started taunting the crowd.
Mojo worked power and hit a big punch to the ribs that sent Roode out to the floor. Mojo followed and hit a shoulder block that sent Roode into the ringside barricade…[c]
Roode created a small opening for himself with some punches, but Mojo quickly shut him down with a clothesline. He then hit an elbow to the back of Roode’s Ribs, and continued to throw punches in that area. Mojo applied a hold and stretched out Roode’s ribs, and then hit a spear in the corner. He backed up for a second one, and Mojo hit the post when Roode moved.
Roode capitalized with some clotheslines and a neckbreaker. He then hit a blockbuster from the second rope for a two count. Roode grabbed his ribs but setup for a Glorious DDT, but Mojo reversed out into a gutbuster for a near fall. Mojo sold frustration and tossed Roode into the turnbuckles violently multiple times. He then taunted him and setup for his big haymaker, but Roode got a boot up. Roode hit a spinebuster and then hit the Glorious DDT for the win.
Bobby Roode defeated Mojo Rawley at 13:41.
After the match, the Singh Brothers ran down and put the boots to Roode. One of the Singh Brothers seemed to hurt his knee exiting the ring, as he had to be helped up the ramp. Mahal stood on the ramp and told Roode that it would be Glorious next week when he defeats him to become the United States Champion. Roode grabbed a mic and said they didn’t have to wait, they could do it right here tonight. Mahal refused, and said they would do it in on his time, and he wanted Roode to have a week to think about the beating he would give him.
Daniel Bryan walked out and confirmed the United States Championship match for later on tonight. A six woman tax between the Riott Squad and Becky, Charlotte, and Naomi is next…[c]
My Take: Well, the rib targeting by Mojo makes a lot more sense in the context of the Finals happening tonight. Mojo showed some good tenacity and viciousness in this match, but I maintain he needs a new finish and some new gear.
Randy Orton gave a selfie promo from the ring in a darkened arena in a pre-tape. He said some people excel in silence, but he excels in chaos. He said that’s why the Royal Rumble is his match, and that’s why he would win it for a third time and go onto Main Event WrestleMania. In the arena, Charlotte made her entrance, followed by Becky Lynch and Naomi. The Riott Squad entered next.
3. Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Charlotte vs. The Riott Squad: Liv Morgan and Charlotte traded to start the match, with Charlotte hitting a package german suplex. This caused Liv to quickly make an escape and tag in Ruby Riott. Charlotte continued dominance with some front flip slams and a big boot. The baby face team made some quick tags and punished Ruby Riott. She escaped out to the floor, where both teams had a face off…[c]
Logan tossed Becky Lynch into Liv Morgan’s knees in the corner. Liv then hit a facebuster and taunted Becky. Becky attempted an escape to make a tag, but Liv grabbed some hair and cut her off. The heel team continued to cut off Becky in their half of the ring. Becky dumped Logan out to the floor, but Charlotte was knocked off the apron before the tag could be made. Becky then hit a clothesline and made a desperation tag to Naomi, who cleared out the ring. Naomi hit a nasty kick on Liv Morgan, but Logan broke up the pin. Charlotte hit a spear to take Logan out, but the combination of a Ruby Riot Kick and Liv Morgan’s Double Knee Facebuster was enough to pin Naomi. The referee was distracted by the action outside the ring and didn’t see the interference.
The Riott Squad defeated Becky, Naomi, and Charlotte at 8:31.
Backstage, the Usos were interviewed by Dasha Fuentes. They talked some trash about Gable and Benjamin not being able to tell them apart, but were eventually attacked from behind just before cutting their penitentiary catchphrase. After the beating, Gable and Benjamin told them they knew exactly who they were, former Champions. Roode vs. Mahal was plugged for later, and the Singh Brothers are banned from ringside…[c]
My Take: Same even steven booking in the Women’s division. It’s a good thing they get so much mic time to really make their personalities shine…..oh.
We got a long video package about Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and AJ Styles that recapped their feud thus far. We then got a brief video promo from Nakamura, who said a few words that indicated he plans to win the Royal Rumble. Shane McMahon made his way out to ringside for the US Championship Match…[c]
In a WWE.com promo backstage, Breezango accepted a challenge on behalf of The Ascension for a match next week with Rusev Day. The competitors for the US Championship match were already in the ring. Ring Introductions were made before the bell.
4. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal: We got some slow placed brawling in the early going. Roode hit ten punches in a corner, and then low bridged Mahal over the top rope to the outside. Roode followed, but Mahal shoved him into the apron and the steps to target the ribs. He then dropped him on top of the barricade ribs first and taunted the crowd…[c]
Mahal continued the assault with an abdominal stretch in the ring. Roode threw some punches, but a big knee lift and a kick to the spine shut him down. Mahal dropped several knees and dug his knee into Roode’s ribs near the rope. The ref forced a break, and Roode began to trade punches. Mahal put him down again with another high knee, but it was only good for two.
More methodical offense from Jinder ensued, as he grinded away at Roode’s ribs with kicks and holds. Roode bought himself some space by hitting a clothesline that sent Roode to the floor. He followed up with another one from the apron. Roode tossed Mahal into the ring and climbed up top for a cross body, but Jinder rolled through and covered for a near fall. Roode hit another flying cross body, but only got a near fall. Roode went for the Glorious DDT, but Jinder escaped and they collided with a double clothesline.
Roode fired up for a Glorious DDT, but Jinder rolled him up for a near fall. Jinder went for a Khallas, but Roode reversed and hit the Glorious DDT to become the new United States Champion.
Bobby Roode defeated Jinder Mahal at 14:49.
After the match, Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon presented Bobby Roode with the United States Championship. Viewers were then directed to watch the mixed match challenge on Facebook Watch.
My Take: That match was pretty much what I’ve feared it would be. Two guy who need to be pushed into higher gear and never quite got there. It’s not that I hated it, but it was definitely dull and sagged a bit in the middle. I’m a bit surprised at the result, but I think they made some ready made feuds for Roode based on the matches he won tonight to get him started if they so choose. There’s also the nebulous status of Dolph Ziggler that remains unresolved as well.
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