By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from St. Louis, Missouri at Enterprise Center
The show began with Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton launching a video package of Alexa Bliss announcer the Raw Women’s Survivor Series Team, followed by the chaos of the Smackdown attack led by Becky Lynch. The video focus on Becky’s attacks and didn’t spend a lot of time on her injury and bloodied face. Tom Phillips announced that Becky will not be able to compete because of a facial fracture and a concussion. They showed footage of Nia Jax catching her with a right hand, and questioned who would face Ronda Rousey on Sunday.
AJ Styles made his entrance in the arena to a loud reaction. The announce team plugged the match between Lesnar and Styles on Sunday. Styles grabbed a microphone as the crowd chanted at him. Styles said that Sunday at Survivor Series, he would step into the ring with Brock Lesnar for the second year in a row. He spoke about his title reign lasting 371 days, and called himself a workhorse since he has gotten to WWE.
He said he’s had dream opponents that have taken him to his limits, and nightmare opponents that have threatened his family, but he’s beaten them all except for Brock Lesnar. Styles says now he gets a second chance, and this time he plans to do more than just surviving. Paul Heyman was seen entering the time keeper’s area, and AJ told the timekeeper to give him a mic.
Heyman introduced himself and did his usual reigning defending shtick about Lesnar. He told Styles that he came there tonight because last night on Raw he told the WWE Universe that there is no one in WWE that Brock Lesnar wants to fight more than AJ Styles. He asked the crowd to think about the greatest performers of all time like Rick Steamboat, Ric Flair, HBK, and AJ Styles, and called the Daniel Bryan #1. He called Styles the second greatest performer in WWE history, and sort of planted a seed that a Brock Lesnar/Daniel Bryan match would be of interest to Brock.
Heyman attempted to get under Style’s skin by putting him a rung below Bryan, but it didn’t work. Styles reminded Heyman that he tapped out with a victory, and that he almost beat his client Brock Lesnar, who had to limp out of Survivor Series last year. Styles said he has spent the last year getting better at tapping people out, and Brock Lesnar has spent the last year becoming more vulnerable to tapping out. He said he’s got two ways to beat him, pin him in the ring, and tapping him out. He said it won’t be about Daniel Bryan or Brock Lesnar, it will be about the champ that runs the camp AJ Styles.
Daniel Bryan then interrupted and told Styles to keep him name out of his mouth. He said he meant it when he said he respected Styles a few weeks ago, but he also meant it when he said he was looking for an excuse to punch him in the mouth. Bryan told Styles that he would punch him in the mouth the next time he said his name unprovoked. Styles then grabbed the mic and asked Bryan if someone asks him who is one of the best technical Wrestler’s he’s ever been in the ring with, he can’t say Daniel Bryan? Styles used a somewhat snarky delivery for the line, and Bryan hauled off and punched him. They brawled before being separated by Shane and WWE officials.
My Take: WWE didn’t shy away from showing Becky Lynch getting cracked hard by Nia Jax. The path forward for Survivor Series is murky, but this may end up being a blessing in disguise if it avoids the likely outcome of Ronda tapping her out at the hottest point of her career. The Styles and Bryan feud got reignited in big way here, and both guys are coming across a bit belligerent so far. Nobody can claim any moral high ground.
Backstage, Shane was in a shouting match with Bryan. AJ approached and joined the shouting, and was held back by WWE officials. Bryan said he disrespected him. Shane made a title rematch for tonight, after both guys demanded it.
My Take: So, I guess the way to avoid AJ Styles taking two losses in a row is to have Daniel Bryan lose to Brock Lesnar?
In the arena, Andrade Almas made his entrance, followed by Jeff Hardy.
1. Jeff Hardy vs. Andrade Almas: They traded offense back and forth in the early going, and Almas pulled a tranquilo pose to clown on Hardy. A moment later, Hardy tossed Almas to the floor and then into the barricade. Hardy then argued with Zelina Vega, and Almas was able to regroup and take control with a back elbow in the ring. Almas focused on grounding Hardy and working over his left arm.
Hardy broke free of the hold and hit some strikes and a clothesline. Hardy fired up with a double leg drop and a seated dropkick for a two count. Almas recovered and hit a double stomp with Hardy in the tree of woe for a near fall. Almas then hit double knees in the corner, and then Hardy surprised him with a roll up for a two count. Almas took control briefly, but Hardy surprised him with a Twist of Fate and a Swanton for the win.
Jeff Hardy defeated Andrade Almas at 8:11
After the match, Hardy celebrated as the Miz looked on with Paige in the back. Miz then said Daniel Bryan is no longer on Team Smackdown at Survivor Series. Miz plugged his movie, and then added Jeff Hardy to the team at Survivor Series. He then removed Rey from the team, but Paige objected. She made a match between Miz and Rey, and if Miz wins he gets to kick him off the team. She said the match is next…[c]
My Take: Becky Lynch got hurt and the entire Survivor Series card exploded. The Almas and Hardy match was solid, but I would have preferred the other outcome. Almas could have used the spotlight, but I understand the desire to add star power to the match.
Backstage, Dasha Fuentes interviewed Shinsuke Nakamura. She asked him how he would beat Seth Rollins. Nakamura recalled that Rollins revealed that he isn’t thinking about Nakamura, but he’s been eating, drinking, and breathing Seth Rollins. He said Seth broke his heart by saying he wasn’t thinking about him, so at Survivor Series he will break his face. The Miz then made his entrance in the arena, followed by Rey Mysterio.
2. The Miz vs. Rey Mysterio: Rey hit a facebuster early on and covered for a two count. Miz fired back with a clothesline and took over with a chinlock. Mysterio sent Miz to the outside with a head scissors, and then hit a dropkick to send Miz to the floor. He attempted his splash underneath the bottom rope, but Miz got the knees up…[c]
Rey hit a kick to the face of a seated Miz for a near fall. Miz recovered and hit a DDT for a near fall of his own. Both men remained down, but Miz was first to his feet and hit a sit out Powerbomb for another near fall. Rey did some fancy rope work, but got caught by Miz in position for a skull crushing finale. Rey reversed and setup for a 619 and landed it. He then went for a top rope splash, but Miz got the knees up and rolled up Rey for a near fall. Rey then surprised Miz with a crucifix pin for the win.
Rey Mysterio defeated The Miz at 9:43
After the match, Randy Orton tried to sneak up on a celebrating Rey Mysterio, but Rey was able to escape. Randy took the consolation prize and RKO’d Miz. The announce team spoke about extra security on the entrances and exits. Becky Lynch will be out next. She was shown backstage with a nice shiner…[c]
My Take: A good match, but nothing you need to go out of your way to see. Orton’s surprise attack is always a crowd pleaser, but nothing feels at stake with him.
Paige welcomed all of the Women of Smackdown Live to the ring. Charlotte, Lana, Carmella, The Iconics, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Asuka, and Naomi made entrances. Paige said that Becky had suffered a severe concussion and was unable to compete, and would come out and hand pick her replacement to face Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series. Becky got a big ovation and grabbed a mic.
A big Becky chant broke out and she cracked a smile. She said she was angry as hell. She took a good beating last night, but it’s never stopped her before. She said the medical team would not clear her to fight on Sunday, and she beat down doors trying, but she ran out of time. She said she got a taste of Blood on Monday after beating down half the locker room and hearing Ronnie scream in her armbar, and that was only a taste of what she had coming. She said Ronnie’s not the baddest bitch on the planet, she’s the luckiest. But now she needs to pick a replacement.
Becky looked over the roster and chose Charlotte. She told her to tap her out the way she was going to make her tap out. She shook Charlotte’s hand and gave her a hug. Becky walked up the ramp and held up her Title. The announce team plugged Styles vs. Bryan for later, and the New Day vs. The Bar and Big Show for next…[c]
My Take: Not sure how I feel about that segment. It seems to contradict a lot of what they had done with Charlotte and Becky, given the hug and handshake business. The promo was good as we’ve come to expect, but they took some of the edge off of Becky Lynch with that moment.
Backstage, Charlotte said she spent half of her career fighting Becky Lynch, last night fighting with Becky Lynch, and at Survivor Series she’ll fight for Becky Lynch. She said it would be her honor to prove to the world that Smackdown in the surperior brand by beating Ronda Rousey on Sunday. In the arena, The Bar and Big Show made their entrance, followed by New Day.
My Take: They really missed the mark on Charlotte and Becky. They could have made this a really productive storytelling moment, and they just dropped the ball.
3. New Day vs. The Bar and Big Show: New Day went on a triple team run early on with kicks, splashes and a leg drop on Sheamus. He retreated to tag in Cesaro, but grabbed Xavier Woods and backed him into the heel corner. Big Show then tagged in and gave some chops to Woods, and then used his hips to crush him in the corner…[c]
The heels kept Woods cut off during the break, which forced Big E to break up a pinning attempt. Woods fired up and hit a forearm to Sheamus on the apron, but couldn’t capitalize. Sheamus ended up tagging in and placing Woods on the top rope, but Woods fought him off and sent him crashing to the mat. Woods made a hot tag to Kingston, who hit a flying crossbody on Cesaro. Sheamus broke up the pinfall. Big E jumped up on the apron, but Sheamus hit a brogue kick. Big Show threw Big E into the announce desk on the outside.
Kofi went for Trouble in Paradise on Cesaro, but he avoided it and tagged Big Show. Kofi tried a springboard at the Big Show, but he got caught with a KO punch and pinned for the victory.
Big Show and The Bar defeated New Day at 9:21
Backstage, The Usos approached The Colons, Good Brothers, and Sanity to give them Smackdown T-Shirts for the tag team match on Sunday. They all took the shirts, and cut a unity promo, and said welcome to the Smackdown Penitentiary. The announce team then went over the events from earlier in the show with Bryan and Styles. Styles vs. Bryan is next…[c]
My Take: I have zero interest in the Tag Team Survivor Series elimination match. Hopefully we get a banger out of The Bar and AOP.
The announce team went over the Survivor Series card. Daniel Bryan made his entrance for the main event, followed by AJ Styles.
4. Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship: They both started out the match aggressively trading strikes. AJ hit a back body drop that sent Bryan to the floor. He then followed up with a springboard forearm smash…[c]
Styles attacked the knee of Bryan, continuing the story they told in their first match a few weeks ago. Styles went for a springboard move from the apron, but Styles shoved him out to the floor. He followed and went after the left shoulder and arm of Styles by tossing him twice into the ringposts. They traded shots in the ring, and Styles got the better of it. He then hit a stinger splash. AJ tossed Bryan into the opposite corner, but Bryan vaulted out and hit the ropes. They collided mid ring and both men were down as Bryan continued to sell the leg…[c]
Bryan hit a top rope huracarrana and then climbed up top in the opposite corner. AJ pursued and hit Bryan with a pele kick. AJ climbed up the ropes, but Bryan slipped out and crotched him. He then set him up in the tree of woe and hit a baseball slide. Bryan then placed Styles back on top rope and hit a back suplex. He made a cover, but only got 2 and a half.
Bryan lined up for kicks, but Styles reacted quickly and pulled Bryan up for a Styles clash. Bryan broke free and avoided it. Styles went for the top rope, but Bryan placed him on his shoulders. Styles rolled into a Victory Roll, but Bryan kicked out at two. Styles went for a Sprinboard 450, but Styles got the knees up and pulled him into a Yes Lock. Styles was close to the ropes and reached.
AJ pulled Bryan into a calf crusher, but Bryan reversed into an armbar and a Yes Lock. AJ escaped and hit a slingshot into the corner. AJ then went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Bryan moved and AJ hit the ref. Bryan then ran up and hit Styles with a low blow. He then hit the running knee and covered. The ref stirred and made the count and Bryan is your new WWE Champion.
Daniel Bryan defeated AJ Styles at 20:19 to win the WWE Championship
After the match, Bryan grabbed both of AJ’s arms and stomped on his face repeatedly. He paused for a moment to take in the crowd reaction, and then did it again. Bryan the smiled and grabbed the WWE Championship to close the show.
My Take: Well, I can’t say I didn’t have an inkling of what was going to happen. Bryan being so belligerent and fired up to start the show was the first indication something had changed. It also sets up Styles for some interference in the match at Survivor Series, getting them out of a clean finish if they feel they need to protect both Bryan and Lesnar. The heel turn came quickly, but I’m not as negative on it as I expect many will be. Bryan has been a bit stale since his return, and this gives him something to get motivated about. Years and Years of Yes Chanting could probably make a guy a bit complacent, or stir crazy, or both.