By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at PPG Paints Arena
[Hour One] The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton threw to a video package recapping Daniel Bryan’s return from last week. After covering his show opening promo, it switched to the main event segment and the assault on Bryan by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The announce team teased the question of whether Daniel Bryan would be able to fight through his injuries and address the WWE Universe. After the video, things shifted to the arena, where Bobby Roode and Randy Orton made their entrances. They were followed by Jinder Mahal, but Sunil was all bandaged and in a sling. Jinder then introduced a new tag partner, Rusev, who made his entrance with Aiden English.
1. Bobby Roode and Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal (w/Sunil Singh) and Rusev (w/Aiden English). Roode and Mahal started the match, and Jinder got the early advantage with some elbows. Roode came back with a hip toss and a blockbuster for a two count. Sunil Singh jumped on the apron, but Orton pulled him off and tossed him into a nearby barricade. Roode was upset and Orton stole Singh out of his grasp, and they jawed back and forth… [C]
My Take: This show hasn’t exactly been a thriller thus far. Let’s hope things look up from here.
Roode hit Mahal with a top rope clothesline and then signaled for his finisher. Mahal avoided the Glorious DDT, but Roode put him down with a spinebuster. Rusev broke up the pin that followed and they cut to break shortly thereafter. [C] They did the split screen commercial break. Rusev dropkicked Roode and danced around. Orton gave him a golf clap in the corner. Late in the match, Mahal pushed Roode into Orton. Roode cleared Mahal from the ring. Orton spun around Roode, who shoved him. Orton responded with an RKO. Rusev hit Orton with a Machka Kick and pinned him…
Jinder Mahal and Rusev defeated Randy Orton and Bobby Roode.
The broadcast team hyped Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Shelton Benjamin, questioned whether Daniel Bryan would fight through his injuries to appear on the show, and hyped New Day vs. Bludgeon Brothers… [C]
Powell’s POV: Hey, what the hell am I doing here? Actually, Jake lost power due to a storm and had to tag me in. I think he’s secretly watching the “Roseanne” reboot with his wife since there are no storms here in Minnesota. Wait, he lives in Texas now. Never mind. As for the match, the finish was well executed. The broadcast team put over Rusev pinning the U.S. Championship. Will they add Rusev to the U.S. Title match at WrestleMania?
Backstage, Mahal and Singh celebrated their win and ran into Rusev and English. Mahal invited Rusev to come to WrestleMania to see him win the U.S. Championship. Mahal said he would get him a front row ticket at WrestleMania. Rusev said he had a better idea. He said he pinned the U.S. Champion and was going to find Daniel Bryan and make the U.S. Title match at WrestleMania a four-way. English said it will be “Rusev Mania”. Mahal wasn’t happy and barked at Singh to take off his stupid neck brace…
Shinsuke Nakamura told AJ Styles that he was worried that Styles lost confidence because he couldn’t save him last week. Nakamura said they both want each other at their best at WrestleMania. Nakamura said he wanted Styles in his corner for his match against Benjamin. Styles said he wouldn’t be out there for Nakamura, he’d be out there because he doesn’t want anything getting in the way of their dream match…
Becky Lynch made her entrance. Riott Squad made their entrance. Phillips hyped Lynch vs. Ruby Riott for after the break… [C]
2. Becky Lynch vs. Ruby Riott (w/Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan). Riott had Lynch pinned with her feet on the ropes, but the referee caught her. Lynch came back and used Riott to knock her sidekicks off the ropes. Moments later, Lynch rolled up Riott and pinned her. After the match, Morgan and Logan attacked Lynch, who cleared them both from the ring…
Becky Lynch defeated Ruby Riott.
Daniel Bryan was shown limping backstage. Phillips said Bryan was hurting but would address the WWE Universe next… [C]
Powell’s POV: Lynch is likely doing double duty tonight since Charlotte was pulled from Smackdown and the Mixed Match Challenge tonight due to an injury. I hope they are also trying to give her a boost going into the women’s battle royal. Of course, her domination came at the expense of Riott Squad. Let me guess, a Riott Squad member beats Lynch next week and the parity booking continues?
Daniel Bryan made his entrance and stopped on the stage. The fans chanted Yes! and then his name. Bryan told the fans he honestly loves being in Pittsburgh. He said last week was one of the greatest moments of his career because get got the news that he was medically cleared and he could continue to do what he has loved to do for 15 years. The fans interrupted with another Daniel Bryan chant.
Bryan interrupted the fans and said he had a job to do as the general manager. He said it’s been said a thousand times that Smackdown is the land of opportunity, and thus he proposed giving Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn “one more opportunity, but just one.” Bryan proposed that Owens and Zayn face him and Shane McMahon at WrestleMania.
[Hour Two] Bryan noted that Shane was hospitalized, but he believes Shane will be good to go. Bryan proposed that if he and Shane win then Owens and Zayn will remain fired, but if Owens and Zayn win then they will be reinstated to Smackdown Live.
Bryan said people have asked why he’s given Owens and Zayn so many opportunities. He spoke about their talent, knowing them for 15 years, and that they’ve given him a bed when he needed a place to stay. He said his job as general manager is to give opportunities. Bryan said he’s also supposed to attend board meetings, fill out paperwork, and wear cardigans or whatever he was wearing.
Bryan said he was sick of all of it and removed his jacket. He said he fought for three years to wrestle, and Owens and Zayn tried to take that away from him. Bryan said it doesn’t matter how many times they kick him in the face or powerbomb him, “Daniel Bryan is back and Daniel Bryan will fight at WrestleMania.”
Bryan said there’s a lot of things he tries to avoid saying because he’s an underdog and there are kids in the audience and because there are things he shouldn’t say as the general manager. He said he was speaking as any of those things when he said he will kick the asses of Owens and Zayn at WrestleMania…
Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable delivered a brief backstage promo and received the stupid word graphic treatment. Benjamin said he would turn it up against Nakamura… [C]
Powell’s POV: Shane is hospitalized with diverticulitis and a hernia and is going to work the match? Granted, he can always stand in the corner and not do much, but is it really worth it? I’m not a Shane hater. That said, would they sell one fewer WrestleMania subscription if he sat this one out and took care of himself? Nope. Meanwhile, Bryan did a good job of selling his frustration with Owens and Zayn to the point that the look on his face when he walked out had me worried for a second that the company pulled the plug on his comeback.
Phillips announced that Orton vs. Roode vs. Mahal vs. Rusev in a four-way match for the U.S. Championship is official for WrestleMania…
New Day made their entrance and cut a promo in which they called The Bludgeon Brothers piece of trash. The Bludgeon Brothers made their entrance for the tag match heading into a break… [C]
3. The Bludgeon Brothers” Luke Harper and Erick Rowan vs. “New Day” Xavier Woods and Big E (w/Kofi Kingston). The match started during the two screen commercial break. Rowan went to the New Day corner and threw Kingston into E, which knocked E off the apron. In the ring, Harper worked over Woods. Rowan rolled E inside the ring. Rowan grabbed the Thor hammers, but the Usos ran out and attacked him from behind for the DQ.
The Bludgeon Brothers beat New Day by DQ.
After the match, the Usos and New Day cleared the ring, then bickered with one another. Harper and Rowan entered the ring with the Thor hammers and scared off both teams…
Powell’s POV: The Thor hammers are still corny, but I like the way they have made the Bludgeon Brothers look so dominant heading into WrestleMania. The Triple Threat tag match has real potential if the teams are given enough time.
Footage aired from Bryan’s promo. A Sami Zayn tweet was shown in which he accepted the challenge on behalf of himself and Owens. Phillips recapped the Shane McMahon medical situation and said he was discharged from the hospital today. The broadcast team ran through the WrestleMania matches and pimped WWE Network. They also hyped Nakamura vs. Benjamin going into a break… [C]
The WrestleMania video aired. We are 12 days away…
Phillips announced the Bryan and Shane vs. Owens and Zayn match for WrestleMania with the previously mentioned stipulations. Phillips said they would keep viewers updated on Shane’s physical status going forward…
A hype video aired on the Charlotte vs. Asuka match for WrestleMania 34…
4. Dolph Ziggler vs. Tyler Breeze (w/Fandango). Breeze and Fandango did not get ring entrances. Unfortunately, Ziggler did. The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was at ringside. Phillips noted that all Ziggler, Breeze, and Fandango had all declared for The Dre. They did a spot with Breeze chasing Ziggler around the ring. Fandango thought Ziggler was chasing him. Back in the ring, Breeze caught Ziggler with a kick to the head and got a two count. Fandango was still running. Breeze was distracted by Fandango and was rolled up for a two count. A short time later, Ziggler hit the Zigzag for the win. Afterward, Ziggler superkicked Fandango…
Dolph Ziggler beat Tyler Breeze.
Powell’s POV: Quick, painless, and seemingly pointless. I guess they just wanted an excuse to have The Dre trophy at ringside. The match brought back memories of when Breeze was a fun singles act in NXT.
The broadcast team hyped Nakamura vs. Benjamin. They also touted the fan vote to replace Charlotte in the Mixed Match Challenge match… [C]
A sponsored WrestleMania flashback focussed on Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania 3…
Phillips said Daniel Bryan had officially announced The Usos vs. New Day vs. Bludgeon Brothers for the Smackdown Tag Titles for WrestleMania… Ring entrances for the main event took place…
5. Shinsuke Nakamura (w/AJ Styles) vs. Shelton Benjamin (w/Chad Gable). Phillips hyped the match as the first meeting between the two. They cut to break roughly a minute into the match. [C]
Powell’s POV: So if Benjamin wins this match, then Bryan has to add him to the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania, right? Okay, I don’t think that will be an issue. Back to the match.
Benjamin performed a nice Northern Lights Suplex into a bridge for a two count. Nakamura came back and hit the Kinshasa and scored the pin…
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Shelton Benjamin.
After the match, Nakamura took a mic and called for Styles to join him in the ring. Nakamura thanked him for being in his corner. He said he never needed his help. He said he only wanted him to see how he will beat him at WrestleMania. Styles took the mic and accused Nakamura of playing mind games. Styles said he won’t be playing any games at WrestleMania. He said it’s not just a dream match for the fans, it’s a dream match for him.
Styles said they will tear the house down because that’s who they are. “We’re gonna put on a clinic,” Styles said. He added that his dream is a little different than Nakamura’s because in it he will beat Nakamura and prove that he is phenomenal and Smackdown is the house that he built. Nakamura said he will beat Styles at WrestleMania because he’s too emotional. Nakamura’s music played and he left the ring.
Suddenly, Gable and Benjamin attacked Styles. Nakamura returned to the ring and quickly disposed of Gable and Benjamin. Nakamura went the corner and teased hitting Styles with a Kinshasa, but he stopped just short. Nakamura patted Styles on the head and then left the ring to end the show…
Powell’s POV: The best hype we’ve seen for Styles vs. Nakamura so far with Nakamura getting to Styles while also looking dominant. Overall, a solid show. I was hoping for more with Bryan, Zayn, and Owens, but I assume we’ll get that on the go-home show. The show also felt newsworthy with the surprise addition of Rusev to the U.S. Title match and with additional matches being confirmed. I will have more to say later tonight in my members’ exclusive audio review. Join me for coverage of the Mixed Match Challenge on the main page right now. Jake will be by tomorrow with the Smackdown Hit List.
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