By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Minneapolis, Minnesota at Target Center
The show began with Paige in the ring welcoming the crowd to Smackdown Live. She then brought out Becky Lynch, making her return after a few weeks of recuperation from her injuries. Becky held her title up in a few directions and the grabbed a microphone. She got a great reaction and some chants that caused her to crack a smile.
Becky said when you’re the hottest thing in the industry, any time away is too much time away. She said after she invaded Raw and won, she showed up the next night ready to fight, but was told no. She said she was done watching, and she was putting herself back in the game. She said she had to choose someone to face Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, and she wanted to get it out of the way, so she beckoned Charlotte to come out to the ring. Charlotte then made her way to the ring as screens were shown of her assault on Ronda Rousey from Survivor Series.
The crowd chanted Becky, and then there were some woos. Becky told Charlotte that she told her to give Ronda the beating she would have, and she came close, but if it was her she wouldn’t have been standing the next night. She told Charlotte she wasn’t sure if she knows who she is, because she had to channel her to get it done. Charlotte recollected her accomplishments, and said she was the only one capable of giving Rhonda that beating, because she’s genetically superior.
Becky said that she just went from copying her old man, to copying The Man, and called her a bootleg Becky. Charlotte accused Becky of copying her old man, and looked at the hard camera to tell Ronda that she would be at TLC and she would be ready to go. She then told Becky she would take back her title, and she could do it right now. Paige kept them apart and made a title match for TLC, but said it would be an actual Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. She claimed Charlotte was only one of the Women’s Roster that had the desire to challenge the Champion.
Mandy Rose made her entrance, along with the Iconics, Zelina Vega, and Sonya Deville. She complained that any of them could be a challenger, and questioned Paige’s allegiance to her old Team PCM members. Naomi then walked out with Carmella, Asuka, and Lana, and they actually agreed. Naomi questioned Paige’s motives for claiming they had no desire. Paige backed down, and she made a Battle Royal for later in the show between the rest of the members of the Women’s Division. The Winner will be added to the match at TLC to make it a Triple Threat.
The Usos were shown backstage cutting an Uso Penitentiary promo. They will take on The Bar next…[c]
My Take: This TLC match has a real chance to be excellent. I’m not thrilled with all the muddling they are doing with Becky and Charlotte’s characters, but the end result may end up working out for the better. My guess is Asuka wins the Battle Royal. She may even win the Women’s Championship, since that would free up both Charlotte and Becky to head into the Rumble for an opportunity to face Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania.
The Usos made their ring entrance, followed by The Bar. They showed a promo from earlier today with Big Show punching out Cesaro for criticizing him for being lazy. So I guess that pairing is over? Nothing matters anymore.
1. The Usos vs. The Bar: Sheamus and Jimmy Uso started the match. There were some quick tags for both teams, with neither one really getting a clear advantage. The heels managed to cut off the ring when Cesaro pulled off a ref distraction and Sheamus was able to hang Jimmy on the top rope from the apron. Cesaro then took control in the ring with holds…[c]
Jimmy dumped Sheamus to the outside and made a hot tag. The heels has controlled the action during the break. Jey hit a Samoan Drop and played to the crowd. He then called for a Rikishi Splash in the corner and hit Cesaro. He then covered for a near fall. Sheamus made a blind tag that Jey didn’t see. Jey knocked Cesaro to the floor and tried for a suicide dive, but Cesaro caught him with an uppercut. Sheamus then entered and hit a running kick, and then climbed to the top. Jey avoided a flying clothesline and hit a Superkick on both Cesaro and Sheamus, and covered for a near fall. Jimmy tagged in and they both went to opposite corner.
Jey jumped into an uppercut from Cesaro, and Jimmy onto the knees of Sheamus. The cover from Cesaro only got a two count. Sheamus showed frustration and tagged in Cesaro. He picked up Jey in a fireman’s carry and tagged Cesaro. Jimmy superkicked Sheamus in the back, sent him to the floor. Cesaro was then unable to survive the onslaught from The Usos, and ate a superkick and a splash for the pin.
The Usos defeated The Bar at 10:22
Backstage, The New Day insulted Miz by calling Becky Lynch the star of the Marine 6. Miz called fans of The Marine series “his Mariners”. They also laughed at his match last week, which they were watching on a phone. The Miz argued he was better than all three of them, and none of them could have done any better last week, as he was still fighting off his injuries from Survivor Series. Woods said they won their match at Survivor Series, and Miz reminded them that it was The Usos that won their match, and they got eliminated just like him. Miz said he could beat any one of them, and he would ask his bestie Shane McMahon for a match tonight. Big E then exposed himself as a closet fan of the Marine, trying to explain Miz’s actions through his character from the movie. Kofi and Woods mocked him for being a closet “Mariner”.
AJ Styles is up next…[c]
My Take: The Usos and The Bar put on a good match, but it just feels like the typical Tag Division booking where the Champs have to lose non title television matches to set up future matches, rather than doing an angle to set up a personal feud. It’s one of the most aggravating WWE tropes. The Bar and Big Show splitting up again is almost as laughable as them randomly teaming in the first place. Is he the potential sub for Braun Strowman if he can’t go at TLC?
AJ Styles said he was been without the WWE Title for 14 days, and they’ve seemed a lot longer than the 360+ days he held the championship. He said nobody likes to lose, but it was the way that he lost that bothers him. Video was shown of Daniel Bryan’s championship victory and beatdown of AJ Styles.
Styles said he knew there was a target on his back when he became WWE Champion, but who would have known that the target went somewhere else. Styles look down at his balls. Styles said he was bothered by what happened after the match, with Bryan repeatedly kicked him in the face. He said he wasn’t medically cleared to compete for Survivor Series, or the following Smackdown, so he had to sit at home and watch Bryan give his explanation. He then showed footage of Bryan’s promo last week.
AJ said that all sounded like a load of trash to him, because it looked like the same face to him, and he looked forward to smashing his face in at TLC. He said they could do it right now, but Daniel Bryan wasn’t there, and he wasn’t at the Live Events they had the past week. AJ said he must have been studying Raw and how they do business there, but this isn’t Raw, it’s Smackdown Live. AJ then said he never missed a live event, an appearance, or a Smackdown Live as Champion, because that’s where the Champion belongs. He said whenever Bryan rolls out of his hyperbaric chamber, he can bring his dreams and excuses to TLC with him, but don’t forget the WWE Championship because it belongs to the Phenomenal AJ Styles…[c]
My Take: That was a well done fiery promo from AJ. He desperately needed the motivation, as he was getting repetitive and a bit boring as the long term champion. I’m looking forward to what these two can produce in this feud, and they have great chemistry together, and if they can dial up the tension with some good promo work the feud will be really special.
The announce team threw to a Lars Sullivan promo. Afterwards, Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance. Rusev then made his entrance without Lana. The bell hadn’t rang, and Nakamura hit a running knee from behind, and then a Kinshasa to his face. Rusev got dumped out to the floor, where Shinsuke hit another Kinshasa. Shinsuke then posed with the US Championship on the stage. The Women’s Battle Royal was plugged for later. A celebration of Jeff Hardy’s 20 years in WWE is next…[c]
My Take: I guess Shinsuke is pulling a Dean Ambrose from his Shield Days and not defending the US Title at any cost.
The entire roster was on stage to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Jeff Hardy. Michael Cole was in the ring to conduct the interview. He introduced Jeff Hardy, who came out without any makeup. There was a video that was played when Jeff got in the ring, that encompassed Hardy’s accomplishments, his risk taking, and many of his high flying moments. It was interspersed with some commentary from Hardy about wanting to be remembered.
Hardy said he wasn’t sure what to say after watching that interview, he didn’t know what to say other than thank you. He said the WWE has been a creative outlet for him to express him and who he is. He said he was eternally grateful for those who stuck by his side through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The crowd thanked him, and he soaked it in for a moment before starting a delete chant for giggles. Hardy thanked his family for making this night possible, and said this wasn’t a retirement speech, but he was excited to find out what the future holds together.
After Hardy was done speaking, Samoa Joe made an entrance. He said he was late because he was in the back popping bottles before he realized that it was probably a bad idea to have a drink around him. Shane McMahon intervened, but Jeff said he wanted to allow it to continue. Joe continued and said it was nice of WWE to put together that video for Jeff, because he probably wasn’t coherent enough to remember much of it anyways. He then said he doesn’t believe in rewarding failure, and he doesn’t believe in second chances. Joe then said people like Jeff never change, and the demons are always in the back waiting to take control, because as many times as he’s lifted the crowd up, he’s let them down even more.
Joe continued and said the next time Jeff feels powerless, and there will be a next time, he would offer his hand to put him out of his misery. He said it would be quick and simple, but it would not be painless. Jeff responded that it doesn’t matter what Joe says, he was not going to ruin his celebration tonight. He said he still lives for the moment, and if Joe wanted to make another one, they could do it right now. Joe then turned around and walked to the back, saving it for another day…[c]
My Take: Michael Cole felt a bit superfluous there. Hardy was good here, even if his emotional reactions feel a bit put on at times. Joe had some good material here as well, and his delivery was good. This is another promising feud, but as always it really depends on the long term execution.
Kofi Kingston made his entrace with the New Day. He was followed by The Miz.
2. The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston: After some back and forth action to start, Kofi cleared Miz to the floor with a clothesline. Big E and Xavier offered a distraction, which allowed Kofi to hit a suicide dive…[c]
During the break, Miz took control with a corner Clothesline and climbed to the top. He jumped off with a flying nothing, and Kofi met him with a dropkick to the face. Kofi then hit a boom drop and signaled for Trouble in Paradise. Miz caught the kick and set up for a figure four, but Kofi kicked him away. They worked through a series of reversals until Kofi hit SOS for a near fall.
Miz recovered and took off the top turnbuckle pad. Big E stood in the way of Miz using it, and Kofi rolled him up for a two count. Woods started playing his trombone on the outside, and Miz jumped through the ropes to kick him. Miz grabbed a chair from ringside, but Woods stole it as he tried to get back in the ring with it. Miz ran into Trouble in Paradise, and Kofi covered for the win.
Kofi Kingston defeated The Miz at 7:22.
After the match, New Day celebrated with pancakes and Miz was dejected on the stage. The Smackdown Women’s Battle Royal is up later. Randy Orton stared menacingly at the camera, and he is up next…[c]
My Take: Another match that was entertaining, but ultimately doesn’t matter. New Day is in need of a reboot of sorts, and Miz seemed to be onto something last week as a babyface, but they clearly don’t want to slot him there at the moment.
Randy Orton made his entrance with Rey Mysterio’s mask from last week. Orton said disrespectful, disturbed, and disgusting were words that people used to describe his action last week against Rey Mysterio. Orton said he would use the word euphoric, because he never understood what the deal was with the piece of trash he took off of Rey’s head. He said he never bothered to learn the history because it didn’t matter to him. He said what he did wasn’t an attack on Rey’s culture, it was meant to remind him that he could do whatever he wanted, because the most dangerous letters in WWE are RKO.
Rey Mysterio made his entrance wearing a neckbrace. Orton met him at ringside and assaulted him and pulled off the neck brace. He then sent him into the ring. Rey recovered and hit two 619’s before heading to ringside and grabbing a chair. Orton intercepted him coming back in and hit a draping DDT. Orton then tossed him into the barricade on the outside, and set the chair underneath Rey’s chin before slamming him into the ring steps. WWE officials intervened and pulled Orton away…[c]
My Take: Another heat segment for Orton, and I’m guessing this will be our Chairs match for TLC. Will Shinsuke Nakamura simply be left without a dance partner for TLC? Or will he lose the title beforehand? Both seem plausible to me.
Backstage, Miz asked Shane McMahon where he was earlier. Shane asked what he meant, and said he was right here backstage. Miz said he could have beaten Kofi if he had backup from his partner earlier. Shane said he was flattered, but they weren’t a team and they aren’t friends. Miz was ignoring him while polishing the WWE World Cup trophy. Miz told Shane that he can’t will their team into existence, and he needed him to meet him 1/3rd of the way. Miz said they could be the best in the world together, and he demanded Shane show some commitment before storming off.
In the arena, the Women’s division made their entrances for the Battle Royal. The entrants are Naomi, Asuka, Carmella, Zelina Vega, Lana, The Iconics, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville.
3. Smackdown Women’s Battle Royal: Early on, Zelina Vega was eliminated when Lana pulled her down from the apron. Lana had rolled out under the bottom rope, and Zelina had gone over the top to the apron…[c]
Charlotte and Becky were sitting at ringside at the announce table. Lana attempted to eliminate Billie, but Peyton prevented it and they sent Lana out to the floor. They turned around to find Asuka, who ended up sending both Iconics to the apron. She then eliminated both with a hip attack. Carmella then landed a head kick on Asuka and sent her into the corner. Carmella charged Asuka in the corner, who flipped her out onto the apron and kicked her for another elimination.
Mandy and Sonya then attacked Asuka, and Mandy hit a running knee lift. Naomi rescued Asuka and hit a headscissors on Sonya. Naomi and Mandy then had an awkward exchange where they both ended up on the apron. Naomi ran Mandy into the post and eliminated her, but Sonya ran from behind and eliminated Naomi. Deville then hit a double leg takedown, and sent Asuka out to the apron.
Mandy tried to eliminate Asuka from the apron, but she failed and Asuka kicked her. After another somewhat awkward series, both Sonya and Asuka were on the apron. Asuka eliminated Sonya with a knee to the face.
Asuka was the last woman standing at 9:32
After the match, Becky held up her title and Charlotte looked disgusted at the outcome.
My Take: Pretty much what I expected. Asuka, Charlotte and Becky in a TLC Match has major potential. I think the most logical story is that Charlotte and Becky are so determined to keep the other from winning that they end up taking each other out in the process. It’s a shame Asuka doesn’t mean more due to the way they’ve treated her, but she’s clearly still over with fans and that’s a positive sign. This was a much better two hours of television than we saw on Monday, but that was a hurdle you could have cleared on a mobility scooter.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Vice TV's "Dark Side of the Ring" executive producers Evan Husney and Jason Eisner discussing the March 24 second season premiere focusing on the Benoit family tragedy, plus their pro wrestling fandom, the show's name and origins, highlights of season two, Chris Jericho becoming the narrator, and much more...