By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Live from Kansas City, Missouri at Sprint Center Arena
Shane and Daniel Bryan opened the show in the ring, and Shane reminded everyone that the show is the land of opportunity. He told the crowd they determine the immense amount of things on Smackdown Live, and when fans identify someone that deserves an opportunity, and it’s their job to give the fans what they want. Shane told Daniel that he just doesn’t think he’s listening. Shane played to the crowd and said he thinks they want to see someone else get an opportunity other than Kevin and Sami.
Bryan said he thought he’d love seeing his two least favorite people tear eachother apart in a huge Smackdown Main Event. Bryan said he thought he has earned a huge raise. Shane replied that he doesn’t understand why he continues to give undeserving superstars a shot. He got a bit emotional and said he knows that Sami and Kevin shared a career path with Bryan, but they aren’t him, and he doesn’t want him to let them manipulate them anymore. He called the Yep Movement a cheap imitation of his greatest creation in the Yes Movement, and he knows he wants nothing more than to compete in the ring, but what he’s doing….
Bryan interrupted an asked Shane what he’s doing, and Shane replied that he thinks he’s living vicariously through Kevin and Sami. This prompted an AJ Styles interruption. There was a big AJ Styles chant. AJ said that he’s traveled 10,000 miles since the New Year defending his championship and competing at the highest level. He said he was built for the grind, and he can handle all the travel and pain that comes along with being the man. He said what he can’t stand Smackdown management obsessing over Kevin and Sami, and he’s talking to both of them when he says that.
AJ then asked Shane and Bryan to stay out of things tonight and let him control his own destiny. He will take on the winner of tonight’s Main Event at Fastlane and walk right into WrestleMania as the WWE Champion. He then said that Smackdown would remain the house that AJ Styles built. Charlotte vs. Liv Morgan is next…[c]
My Take: The line about Bryan living vicariously was strong and got a reaction from the crowd. I like the idea of a Shane vs. Bryan feud simmering for WrestleMania, but until WWE comes out and says Bryan’s treatments have worked and he’s cleared to wrestle, this just feels like manipulating a tragedy in someone’s life into a storyline that just doesn’t need to exist for the show to be successful.
Backstage, AJ Styles was approached by Shinsuke Nakamura. He told him he was going to beat him at WrestleMania. Styles looked a bit frustrated but just let it roll off. Liv Morgan made her entrance in the arena, followed by Charlotte Flair. Footage was shown of the beat down handed to Charlotte by the Riott Squad last week.
1. Charlotte vs. Liv Morgan: Charlotte drove Liv into the corner numerous times, followed by some kicks. Liv rolled to the outside, and Charlotte followed…[c]
The match evolved in split screen during the commercial. Liv Morgan used distractions from the Riott Squad to take over on offense and wear down Charlotte with strikes and holds. Liv talked trash and tossed Charlotte into the corner as the show resumed. Charlotte came back with chops and strutted for the crowd before hitting suplex. She followed up with a lunging boot, and then climbed the corner. Liv quickly got to her feet and pulled Charlotte off the ropes and back into the ring.
Liv got a near fall and then applied a hold. Charlotte powered out, but got rolled up for another two count. Charlotte fired back with a spear, but had to contend with Sarah Logan and couldn’t make a cover. Ruby Riott pulled Liv from the ring, which got the rest of the Riott Squad members tossed from ringside. Charlotte gave LIv another big boot, and then applied the Figure 8 for the win.
Charlotte defeated Liv Morgan at 7:54.
Charlotte told the announce team that there was one down, and two to go. The referee tended to Morgan. The announce team threw to a Black History Month video package. After which, the Smackdown Top 10 was plugged for later, as well as the main event…[c]
My Take: Is there a single interesting thing going on in the Smackdown Women’s Division? The Smackdown creative team should take a long hard look at what Raw is currently doing right with multiple cohesive feuds happening simultaneously, and compare it to how they can’t even seem to think of anything besides cramming the entire division into one segment a week. It’s a pathetic creative effort that has nothing to do with the talent, and I wish fans were louder about it.
Backstage, Kevin Owens was interviewed by Renee Young. She asked if their friendship could handle the match later, and he said that was a great question for Sami Zayn. It’s all up to whether or not he can handle losing to him. In the arena, The Bludgeon Brothers made their ring entrance.
2. The Bludgeon Brothers vs Jobbers: Harper ragdolled the first jobber, and the second one jumped off the apron. Harper pursued and chased him into a big body block from Rowan. Harper stacked them up in the corner and tagged in Rowan, who splashed them in the corner. They then hit one guy with a double team powerbomb, and the other with a Double Crucifix Bomb for the win.
The Bludgeon Brothers defeated Jobbers at 2:33.
After the match, The Usos made their way out to the ring, and walked slowly past the Bludgeon Brothers. They will have a promo next…[c]
My Take: If anybody knows who those two independent wrestlers were, send them in to email@example.com and I’ll update my report. They got squashed good, though. The Usos vs. The Bludgeon Brothers is going to be an interesting clash of personalities. It’s another feud without any obvious sympathetic characters.
The Usos were out there to tell us about being locked down means. He said he wasn’t talking about getting booked and printed, sleeping on concrete, or being part of a chain gang. Jimmy said they were talking about a state of mind. He said they run the division, and there’s a lot of teams hungry, but they don’t eat until they say so. They may be thirsty, but they don’t get to drink from their holy grail. They don’t sleep until they say so, and if they come to the kings, they will split them like the red sea. They then did the bit about it not being paranoia, it’s the Usos. There was a lot more here that I just couldn’t catch due to the rapid fire nature of the promo.
Daniel Bryan then announced the Top 10 from backstage.
10. Tye Dillinger
9. Randy Orton
8. Becky Lynch
7. The Usos
6. The New Day
5. Bobby Roode
3. Shinsuke Nakamura
2. Charlotte Flair
1. AJ Styles
The announce team said this was based on a vote by Smackdown Superstars. The New Day were shown backstage crying about being #6. They then threw backstage to Aiden English, who introduced Rusev as he was pushing around weights. English told Bobby Roode to prepare to give up his title, because Rusev was ready for his magnum opus…[c]
My Take: Tye Dillinger at #10? Why give away the bullshit right out of the gate? Also, why are the champions included? I thought this was a list of people who were supposed to be due more opportunity? Don’t the Champion already have enough of that? Maybe I missed the point of this. The Usos promo is worth a watch. I really didn’t do it justice attempting to transcribe it.
Aiden English was introduced, and sang a song heralding Rusev and Rusev Day. Rusev then made his ring entrance. Bobby Roode then made his ring entrance. Once everyone was in the ring, we got full ring introductions for the Title Match.
3. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev: There were some Rusev Day chants to start the match. Rusev backed up Roode into the corner and played to the crowd with a Rusev Day taunt. Roode turned things around and backed up Rusev in order to do his Glorious Chant. Things slowed down as Rusev hit a shoulder block and taunted Roode with another Rusev Day call and response…[c]
Roode hit a blockbuster, but Rusev turned things around with a lariat to shutdown his momentum. Roode then hit a back body drop and applied a chinlock. Roode fought to his feet and landed some punches to create some space. He then hit a forearm smash and a neckbreaker. Roode climbed up to the top rope, and hit a flying clothesline to put Rusev in trouble.
English jumped up on the apron to prevent a DDT, and Rusev caught Roode with a roundhouse kick for a near fall when he turned around…[c]
Rusev and Roode traded strikes mid-ring. Rusev managed to hit a knee lift, but Roode fired back with a spinebuster for a near fall. Roode knocked English from the apron again, which led to rollup for a two count. Rusev then hit a machka kick, but couldn’t capitalize immediately due to exhaustion. Rusev pumped himself up and went in for the Accolade. Roode snuck out and rolled him up for a near fall.
Roode reversed out of a second Accolade and then quickly hit a Glorious DDT and covered for the win.
Bobby Roode defeated Rusev at 14:22.
After the match, Randy Orton appeared from the crowd behind the announce table and hit an RKO on Roode. He then hit one on English when he got involved. Rusev eventually suffered the same fate. Orton the celebrated with the crowd, who had calmed down dramatically from the first RKO on Roode. The Main Event was plugged for later.
Backstage, Benjamin and Gable had a promo segment backstage and mocked Breezango and The Ascension. They said they were there to restore honor to the Tag Division, and get rid of the disgraces in their division. Last week they targeted Breezango, and this week it’s the Ascension. Their match is next…[c]
My Take: Roode and Rusev overstayed its welcome a bit. The slow opening pace, interference, and poorly timed commercial breaks really took away from the match. The last few minutes were very good. I think Orton’s appearance would have been better had he hit the RKO on Roode and bailed out of there. Sticking around for the second and third RKO’s ruined the moment a bit. Benjamin and Gable are just too goofy for this serious gimmick. It’s a bit hard to believe.
Gable and Benjamin made their entrance.
4. The Ascension vs. Gable & Benjamin: Benjamin hit a kick to stagger Konnor. Gable used some well timed interferences to do some damage to Konnor’s knee by racking it over the top rope. Gable then tagged in and targeted the bad leg in the middle of the ring. Konnor eventually made an escape and tagged in Viktor, who hit a flying knee on Gable, forcing Benjamin to break up the pin. The match broke down with Benjamin hitting a spinebuster on Konnor, who had also entered the ring. Gable made a blind tag to Benjamin that Viktor didn’t see. He hit a German Suplex on Viktor, and they followed up with a double team Powerbomb for the win.
Gable & Benjamin defeated The Ascension at 6:33.
After the match, Gable and Benjamin talked trash in the middle of the ring. New Day was shown backstage answering Social Media Questions. They were asked about the Top 10, and which one of them would be highest if they were judged individually. Woods and Big E agreed it would be Kofi, and said he would be WWE Champion in 2018. He said he would take his vote, break it in half, and give a part of it to each of them.
Elsewhere, Sami Zayn was interviewed and asked about whether their friendship would be affected by this match. He said he knows Kevin Owens will stop at nothing for a chance to go to WrestleMania as WWE Champion, and neither will he. He left the question largely unanswered….[c]
My Take: If all Shelton and Gable had to do was wrestle, they’d be a lot better off. They could really use a manager.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin is announced for next week…ugh. AJ Styles joined on commentary for the match. Kevin Owens then made his ring entrance.
5. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn: Both men wrestled to a stalemate early on. Owens reached the ropes and the ref separated them, and then Zayn pie faced owens. Owens slapped him in response, after which Zayn grabbed a double leg and rained down punches. Owens rolled out of the ring for air, and then re-entered just to get taken down and punched repeatedly. He tried the routine a second time, but Sami knocked him off the apron and to the floor…[c]
Owens hit a step up enziguri and a neckbreaker for a near fall. He then lined up for a cannonball in the corner, but Sami avoided it and hit a tornado DDT for a near fall of his own. Zayn placed Owens on the top rope and setup for a superplex, but Owens hit a vertical elbow and sent him back to the canvas. Owens then went for a Senton, but Zayn got the knees up. Owens retreated to the floor, and Sami hit his through the ropes tornado DDT.
Back in the ring, Zayn set up for the Heluva Kick, but Owens hit a superkick of his own in responde and followed up with a big frog splash. Owens covered, but only got a near fall. Owens talked trash and went for a pop up powerbomb, but Zayn reversed into a half and half suplex, and then hit the Blue Thunderbomb for a near fall. Owens rolled out to the floor and things spilled over towards the announce table and AJ Styles.
Zayn talked trash to Styles, and eventually put his hands on him. Styles pushed Zayn into Owens, and then brawled with both men. This caused a DQ.
The match ended in a DQ at 15:33.
AJ continued the beating on both men, and hit a splash on both of them at ringside. Daniel Bryan then interrupted and said that due to Styles interference, and the superlative performance of Owens and Zayn, both of them would face Styles at Fastlane in a Triple Threat Match. Owens and Zayn looked slightly surprised, and Styles was fired up in the ring.
My Take: I really didn’t want them to stretch this out for another 6 weeks, but here we go. The match tonight was very good, and there’s no reason to assume different of the Triple Threat, but this feud is on fumes. Adding more Bryan and Shane drama to the mix doesn’t do much for me either. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if the writing improves now that Owens and Zayn have reason to be skeptical of one another, but I’m not holding my breath.
Jason Powell and Jake Barnett co-host the Dot Net Weekly and Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast combo show and discuss Raw Underground and other WWE concepts, The Rock's group buying the XFL, the Marty Jannetty story, AEW Dynamite and NXT TV, and more...