By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Indianapolis, Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The show opened with the announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton welcoming everyone to the show as AJ Styles made his way to the ring. Styles welcomed everyone to the house that he built. He said the odds were against him on Sunday, and after John Cena put him through the commentators table, he started to believe it. He said it looked difficult, but not impossible. Styles recalled his parents telling him to suck it up and get back in the game, and if he wanted things bad enough, he could achieve it. He said on Sunday, he had to suck it up and believe in himself. He called it unbelievable, but not impossible.
He then recalled his long road to WWE, and said now that he’s going into WrestleMania as WWE Champion, he’s earned it. Styles said at WrestleMania, he meets the biggest Japanese Superstar ever in WWE, and he has a lot of respect for Shinsuke and the paths they shared to WWE, but that’s where the comparison ends. Outside the ring, he’s ok with people calling him an everyman, but inside that ring he is phenomenal. This prompted an interruption from Shinsuke, who came out and fired up the crowd.
Shinsuke had a microphone as some competing chants broke out in the crowd. He addressed AJ as champion, and said that everyone liked him. He claimed everyone liked him too. He said he respected him, and at WrestleMania dreams would come true. He said his dream was a knee to the face, and he would become champion. This then prompted an interview from Rusev, who was accompanied by Aiden English. The announce team said Rusev vs. Styles is next…?
My Take: I’m not sure if Shinsuke is truly that limited in his English, but they kept it very elementary for him here. Styles had the crowd for the majority of his promo, and it’s clear that people want to see this match, but I remain unconvinced that anyone buys into Shinsuke’s WrestleMania Dreams. They need to give him a video package treatment and some pre-taped interviews ASAP.
1. AJ Styles vs. Rusev: The match began slowly as both men paced around each other. The first major strike was a short arm clothesline from Rusev. Styles responded with a dropkick, and a lariat out to the floor. Styles followed up with a springboard forearm out to the floor. Back in the ring, Styles followed up with strikes. Rusev used a ref separation to hit a punch to the neck, and then hit a spinebuster…[c]
Rusev controlled the action during the break, using holds and hitting a big back body drop. He then set Styles in the turnbuckle and hit some heavy shots. He then attempted a Superplex, but Styles countered and sent Rusev crashing into the buckle. Styles then hit his signature strike combo and a Stinger Splash. Styles went for an Ushigoroshi, but Rusev reversed and hit a head kick for a near fall.
Rusev stomped on the mat and hot fired up for the Machka Kick, but Styles avoided it and hit a Pele Kick and an Ushigoroshi. Styles set up for a Styles Clash, but Rusev escaped and went for the Accolade. Rusev couldn’t lock it in, and went for a calf crusher. He was able to pry Rusev away from the ropes and apply the hold, but English ran in immediately and caused a DQ.
AJ Styles defeated Rusev by DQ at 13:38.
After the match, Nakamura stood by and let AJ take a bit of abuse, but eventually ran in and made the save. Nakamura left and he and Styles shared a look as he walked towards the back.
Photos were shown of the beating handed out to the Usos and New Day by the Bludgeon Brothers. Big E was shown backstage alone, and Dasha told him that the Bludgeon Brothers challenged whoever was left. Big E said that Woods and Kofi would be back, not to worry, but tonight he would hold it down for his brothers and represent the new day. Jimmy Uso walked up and said he wouldn’t be alone. They agreed to give them some work. Roode vs. Mahal was plugged for later…[c]
My Take: Rusev continues to have solid matches, and it has to be only a matter of time before he’s turned babyface and put in position to really take off. He and Big E both stand out to me as major babyface singles stars once WWE gets through WrestleMania and the shows reset the table a bit.
We got a long Kid Rock video, and I think I passed out for part of it. Styles was shown backstage and walked up to Nakamura and told him he didn’t need his help. Nakamura said it looked like he did, and not to worry, he’d help anytime he was needed until WrestleMania. Then, he would beat him with a knee to the face. Jimmy Uso made his entrance, followed by Big E. They were followed by the Bludgeon Brothers.
Big E and Jey Uso jumped the bell and attacked Harper and Rowan before the bell. They then got chairs and entered the ring, and the brothers grabbed their hammers. The ref bailed from the ring. Jey and Big E were disarmed by the hammers and they bailed out to the floor to regroup…[c]
2. Jey Uso and Big E vs. The Bludgeon Brothers: Big E and Harper started the match. E started the match hot, but got caught in a Bossman Slam by Harper. Rowan tagged in and hit a big splash, followed by a scoop slam. Harper re-entered and hit some strikes, but Big E escaped and made a tag out to Jimmy Uso. Jimmy lit up Harper with a big twisting moonsault, and hit Rowan with a big superkick, but neither had a lasting effect. Harper hit a big boot and Rowan took out Big E out on the floor. They then hit a double team powerbomb for the win.
The Bludgeon Brothers defeated Jimmy Uso and Big E at 4:49.
After the match, Harper went out to the floor and and tossed Big E into a big cross body from Rowan. They then surveyed their destruction and left. The announce crew then shifted direction to show the breakdown of what happened between Shane McMahon, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens on Sunday. Backstage, Sami Zayn was interviewed by Renee Young. She asked who he blamed for his failure on Sunday. He initially blamed Shane McMahon, but ultimately said it was Kevin Owens and Shane’s obession with each other that cost him his title. He said he was milliseconds away when Shane pulled him off the cover, and if Kevin Owens hadn’t been such an egomaniac, Shane never would have been at ringside. He said he would never put himself in a position like that ever again.
My Take: I like the Bludgeon Brothers style and that they are being given a shot to really show off their offensive abilities. They still have a lot of work to do from a personality standpoint, but what they’ve done so far has worked. Big E and Jimmy Uso don’t lose much here taking a loss, and the Bludgeon Brothers gain a lot by beating major Tag Team stars. Sami Zayn’s promo makes me wonder if we aren’t indeed getting a triple threat between himself, Shane McMahon, and Kevin Owens.
Charlotte Flair made her way out to the ring. She said when you’re a champion, there’s always a target on your back, and so when Asuka’s music hit on Sunday she knew what it meant and she was honored. She said she knew Asuka was there tonight, and she wanted to be out to meet her in the middle of the ring, woman to woman. Asuka made her entrance. Charlotte welcomed Asuka to Smackdown Live, and told her to be careful what she wishes for. Asuka said thank you. Charlotte said despite traveling the world and defending her championship, she always gets asked what would happen if the Queen meets the Empress.
Charlotte went on to say that when she sat ringside at the Royal Rumble and saw Asuka win, she wanted her to challenge her because she loves competition and facing the best. She said she’s never faced anyone like Asuka, but then told Asuka that she’s never faced anyone like her. Asuka replied that Charlotte is the Queen and she in the Empress, but she bows to no one. She told Charlotte that she chose her because she likes a challenge, but then told her that no one is ready for Asuka. They were both cut off by Randy Orton, who made his way to sit at ringside for Jinder Mahal vs. Bobby Roode…[c]
My Take: Charlotte did the bulk of the talking, as expected, but Asuka wasn’t bad there. She said “THANK YOU” with an unusual amount of volume and intensity, but I think they are just rolling with that being her default state of being. She’s just at 11 all the time.
Orton stood in the ring to a bit of a mixed reaction, and said he had been called many things throughout the course of his career. He said the one thing he had never been called until now is United States Champion [insert AWOL joke here]. Orton said he’s now on the list of Grand Slam Champions, which is a list he actually cares about. He praised Roode and said he’s one hell of a competitor, but that Championship is his now and he’s taking it to WrestleMania and there’s no one that will stop him. Bobby Roode then made his entrance, and told Orton that he’s entitle to a rematch, and it would be on the grandest stage of them all. He said when he regains his championship, it will be absolutely glorious.
Jinder Mahal made his way out and offered a big fake congratulation to Orton for capturing the US Title. He tried to stir things up between Roode and Orton by mentioning that it took Orton an eternity to hold the US Title, and Roode captured it after a cup of coffee. He said he would beat Roode just like he beat Orton last week.
3. Jinder Mahal vs. Bobby Roode: Roode tried to hit a Glorious DDT early, but Mahal escaped out to the floor…[c]
Mahal controlled the break, and Roode broke free from a hold and they both collided mid ring and had to regroup. Roode fired up with a couple of lariats, and followed up with a neckbreaker. He then climbed up top and hit another lariat on the way down. Roode did his glorious taunt, but couldn’t follow up with a DDT. He was able to fire off a blockbuster from the second rope a few seconds later for a near fall. Mahal recovered and sent Roode out to the floor, and he quickly charged back in and ran into a head kick.
Mahal went for the Khallas, but Roode escaped into a sunset flip for a near fall. He then hit a spinebuster for another near fall. Sunil Singh offered a distraction while Roode climbed up top. Jinder then crotched him on the top rope and hit the Khallas for the win.
Jinder Mahal defeated Bobby Roode at 8:49.
After the match, Randy ran in and hit an RKO on Mahal. He then celebrated with the crowd and his US Championship. A Shane McMahon announcement was promised for later in the show…[c]
My Take: Why not advertise the Shane announcement throughout the show? We’re 90 minutes in and this is the first mention other than social media earlier today. This was a Bobby Roode and Jinder Mahal match. Imagine how that would go in your head and I promise it’s pretty much exactly that.
Backstage, Kevin Owens was interviewed and asked about Sami Zayn. Owens called himself the rightful WWE Champion, and blamed Shane McMahon for not having the Championship right now. He called Sami Zayn a liar and reminded Renee that he tried to trick him into believing he would lay down for him. He questioned why Shane McMahon was even at ringside, and couldn’t believe that Sami was blaming him for his problems instead of Shane. He said Shane was like every McMahon in that he couldn’t handle not having the spotlight and tried to steal it. He said he would personally show Sami Zayn the error of his ways, and how Shane was pulling the strings.
There was then a big video package for the Moolah Battle Royal. Naomi made her entrance in the ring for a match against Carmella…[c]
My Take: The Moolah Battle Royal is a troubling concept given the extremely troubling and credible accusations about Moolah’s abusive relationships female wrestlers over her long career. I know Moolah had earned the respect of Vince McMahon Sr. and the current Chairman of WWE, but in any sane publicly traded organization, they would run away from ideas with optics as poor as this one.
Carmella made her ring entrance.
4. Carmella vs. Naomi: Carmella got the early advantage with a hair pull and a shove into the second turnbuckle. She then continued to pull Naomi’s hair until the ref separated them. Naomi sprung out of the corner and paint brushed Carmella on the mat. She then hit a huge slap and a knee to the face. Naomi went for a springboard, but Carmella caused her to lose her balance and pulled her down by the hair. She then rolled her up for the win.
Carmella defeated Naomi at 4:58.
After the match, the announce team said Shane’s announcement is next…[c]
My Take: I enjoyed the match, but the crowd was very quiet. They have a ways to go to repair the damage done to the division since the Superstar Shake Up last year.
Shane McMahon made his entrance while footage was shown of the controversial moments between Sami Zayn, Shane, and Kevin Owens from Sunday. Shane said hello to the crowd and acknowledged that many incidents have occurred between himself, Owens, and Zayn over the last few months. He retold the story of how his feud started with Kevin Owens, and how his revenge was taken away from him by Sami Zayn. He then stated that he’s made many decisions and taken actions that were unbecoming of a Smackdown Commissioner. He said after tonight’s show, he would take an indefinite leave of absence, but first he made a match at WrestleMania between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
Kevin Owens interrupted and applauded Shane on his decision to leave, and said he could beat up Sami Zayn any time he wanted, and didn’t have to wait for….Sami Zayn then interrupted. Zayn said Shane was just doing this because he heard the crowd’s reaction to screwing them both out of the WWE Championship at Fastlane. Shane then said he doesn’t understand them. They were just given an opportunity to face each other on the grandest stage, and they can’t be bothered to just appreciate it.
Owens got an angry look on his face, and told Shane that he hopes he appreciates this. Zayn then attacked Shane from behind and they proceeded to give him a beating in the ring. Shane got a few hope shots in, but Zayn hit him with a Helluva Kick and Owens hit a popup powerbomb. He was then taken to the outside and run into the post with a chair wrapped around his head. They then dragged him to the back, where they hit another powerbomb onto a piece of equipment. Shane was making painful gurgling noises as the show went off the air.
My Take: A brutal attack and a strong segment to set up a the likely triple threat match at WrestleMania. Owens and Zayn were vicious here and I hope they continue to show this streak heading into WrestleMania. Comedy is their enemy at this point.