By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Austin, Texas at Frank Erwin Center
[Hour One] Smackdown opened with a recap of the women’s TLC match coming together on last week’s show… The broadcast team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton checked in…
Paige checked in from the ring. The ringside area had tables, ladders, and chairs set up, the Smackdown Women’s Championship was hanging above the ring, and a table was set up inside the ring for the contract signing. Paige introduced Asuka, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch, who made separate entrances.
Lynch took the mic and said they are making history again. She said when you are The Man you make history every single day. Lynch took a shot at Flair’s title shot not being earned. Charlotte told her to sing a new tune because it’s the same every week. She also took a shot at Lynch by saying it took only one punch for Nia Jax to bust her face, so imagine what she’d do with tables, ladders, and chairs.
Asuka chimed in to stop Lynch and Charlotte from squabbling and pointed out that Lynch has never beaten her. She said Lynch chose wrong because she would have beaten Rousey and now she will beat Lynch. Flair took exception and pointed out that she beat Asuka at WrestleMania.
Lynch said neither one of them could beat Rousey or her. Lynch dropped the mic, signed the contract, and left as fans chanted her name. Flair said Lynch should leave since she’s all talk. Charlotte told Asuka she would beat her again. Asuka yelled at her in Japanese. Charlotte said she would finish her at the pay-per-view. Paige stood between them and had them sign the contract. “How about I break you right now?” Asuka asked Charlotte.
Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville made their entrance and mocked the idea of making history with “undeserving women” instead of the women “you personally groomed for stardom.” Deville said Asuka won the battle royal by a fluke. Fans gave her the “What?” treatment. Rose said if they want to see fire and desire then they were looking right at it. She questioned what would happen if Charlotte and Asuka didn’t make it to the pay-per-view. Paige booked an immediate tag match heading into the first commercial break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A decent opening segment. It was a bit repetitive in terms of what was said between Lynch and Charlotte, but Lynch is over enough that the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Rose and Deville getting the “What?” treatment is annoying all these years later, but it’s hard to blame fans since they haven’t been given enough reason to take them seriously. By the way, I’m filling in for Jake Barnett tonight, who is at this show with his family. Jake will write tomorrow’s Smackdown Hit List with his in-person notes on the show.
Shane McMahon was texting while standing next to the World Cup trophy that he apparently brings everywhere. The Miz showed up and asked why he was interviewing Daniel Bryan. Miz said he would do a great job, but they were supposed to be the best team in the world. Shane told him to get some answers out of the new Bryan. Miz said Shane owes him if he does. Shane said he doesn’t owe Miz anything. Miz told him not to say that in front of the trophy…
Powell’s POV: The silliness with Miz wanting to team with Shane has reversed some of the good that was done in terms of building up Miz to feel like a stronger heel. Miz is back in comedy pest heel mode. He plays that part well, but it feels like a step back from the more meaningful path he seemed to be on.
1. Charlotte Flair and Asuka vs. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Flair performed fallaway slams on both opponents, who rolled to ringside. Flair dove onto the and then Becky Lynch walked out and stood on the ramp heading into a break. [C] Lynch was seated at ringside coming out of the break.
Late in the match, Rose punched Flair from the apron. Charlotte turned to sell, then turned around and threw a kick, but Asuka had pulled Rose down and ended up taking the kick. Charlotte had Deville rolled up when Asuka intentionally kicked Flair, which led to Deville pinning Flair…
Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville defeated Charlotte Flair and Asuka.
Phillips hyped the Miz and Bryan segment for later in the show, Graves hyped Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton, and Graves hyped a triple threat for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: It was more about the issues between Asuka and Charlotte than showcasing Rose and Deville. Even so, it’s something they can use to build up Rose and Deville if they choose to. Jake just checked in and said that the crowd didn’t really react to the betrayal spot and the biggest pop was for Lynch coming out again.
Jon Stewart was shown in the crowd and a graphic listed him as starring on the Tribute to the Troops special…
2. Cesaro (w/Sheamus) vs. Xavier Woods (w/Big E, Kofi Kingston) vs. Jey Uso (w/Jimmy Uso) in a Triple Threat. Phillips played up issues with Cesaro and Sheamus because of their recent losses and Big Show’s departure, while Graves accused him of stirring up trouble. Big E and Kingston checked in on commentary from the New Day table. [C]
Footage aired form during the break of Cesaro trashing New Day’s table and dumping a bunch of pancakes on the ground in the process. Uso performed a top rope splash, but Cesaro put his knees up. Woods leapt onto Cesaro and had him pinned, but Uso broke it up.
A short time later, Cesaro put Woods on his shoulders while performing the Swing on Uso for a big pop. Cesaro put Woods in the Sharpshooter, but Uso broke it up. Cesaro dumped Woods to ringside and ate a superkick from Uso, who pinned him…
Jey Uso defeated Cesaro and Xavier Woods in 9:00.
Powell’s POV: A fun triple threat match with good work from everyone involved. Let me guess, the tag partners who didn’t work this match will have a Triple Threat match next week? No complaints if it’s as good as this one.
Backstage, Kayla Braxton interviewed Rusev and Lana. She showed footage of Shinsuke Nakamura attacking Rusev before their scheduled match. Rusev said Nakamura attacked him because he’s jealous of his physique. Rusev said he was hungry for the U.S. Championship. He said the title represents honor and tradition, which Nakamura lacks. Rusev said he would feast on Nakamura on Rusev Day…
Phillips hyped Hardy vs. Orton, and Graves said the Miz and Bryan segment was next… [C]
A graphic noted that Becky Lynch trained at Finn Balor’s school in Ireland when she was 15 years old…
The broadcast team set up the same Lars Sullivan video package that aired on last night’s Raw…
Miz stood in the ring and was introducing his talkshow when he was interrupted by R-Truth and Carmella, who did a dance break and then left.
[Hour Two] Miz introduced “the new” Daniel Bryan, who came out and held up one finger to mess with the fans before heading to the ring. Miz said it seems like Bryan’s eyes have been opened and he’s not listening to people’s opinions. Miz said the only thing that matters is winning and Bryan chose to be a winner. Miz said it looks like he was right all along. Fans chanted yes.
Bryan said people thought the old version of him was smart, but he asked how smart he could have been if catered to “these people.” Bryan said he came to the realization that he doesn’t care about the people and he’s allowed his dreams to take control.
Bryan said he has books he reads books on people like Alexander Hamilton. Some fans chanted what. “Fickle,” Bryan responded. He said the sheep were chanting something from 20 years ago and they couldn’t help themselves.
Powell’s POV: God bless Daniel Bryan.
Bryan said the fans are all sheep. He said the theoretical knowledge of the old Daniel Bryan combined with the practical wisdom and brutality of the new Daniel Bryan is even more dangerous. Miz wondered if that was from Hamilton. Miz said Bryan did what he’s been saying for years by doing whatever it takes to win.
Bryan said Miz dances around the issue and never gets to the point. Bryan said he kicked AJ Styles in the groin. Bryan said he only kicked one man in the groin, while the people harm the earth every day with needless consumption, their plastic water bottles, and eat factory farmed meat that emits methane into the atmosphere and it causes permanent change to the climate.
Bryan said if you want to count sins, he kicked one man in the groin while the people commit countless atrocities against the earth and future generations every day. Miz said Bryan portrayed him as the bad guy for years, but he saw through Bryan and he wants Bryan to answer whether he’s WWE Champion because of what he said. Miz told him to answer yes or no.
“Yes,” Bryan responded. “No. Yes. No. Yes. No… It does not matter. He said the only thing that does matter is that the old Daniel Bryan is dead. Bryan said the yes movement is dead. Bryan said the thing the people and Styles can’t do anything about is that he is the WWE Champion.
AJ Styles made his entrance and entered the ring. Bryan shoved Miz into Styles and fled to ringside. Styles followed and chased Bryan back inside the ring. Miz ended up performing a Skull Crushing Finale on Styles before he could do much damage to Bryan. On the ramp, Bryan tilted his head sideways and smiled while looking at Miz…
Phillips hyped Orton vs. Hardy as coming up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: Bryan was tremendous here. It’s kind of sad that some of the things he said that are truthful about how people damage the environment got the most boos, but it’s hardly a surprise fans reacted in that manner and one can only assume that Vince McMahon loved that part of the promo. It’s still insane that WWE botched Bryan’s feel good return story so badly, but he’s off to an amazing start with his new heel persona.
Phillips announced Styles vs. Miz for later in the show…
3. Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy. An Orton pre-tape aired with him talking about how Mysterio should have stayed away. He called Jeff Hardy a cockroach and said he would have to stomp on him one last time. Hardy jumped out to a quick start and they took the fight to ringside where Hardy dumped Orton on the broadcast table heading into a break. [C]
Orton caught Hardy with a hanging DDT. Hardy avoided an RKO. Hardy went up top. Orton cut him off and went for a superplex, but Hardy slipped under him to avoid it. Hardy performed a Twist of Fate. Orton rolled to ringside and Hardy kicked him through the ropes. Hardy slammed Orton onto the broadcast table and then went to the top rope.
Samoa Joe appeared on the big screen from a bar. Joe’s video distracted Hardy long enough for Orton to hit an RKO for the win…
Randy Orton pinned Jeff Hardy in 9:05.
After the match, Joe was back on the big screen and he preached moderation while standing behind the bar. He said the alternative is to have 14 drinks and end up in jail or don’t wake up at all. Joe encouraged everyone to drink responsibly as Hardy was shown watching from the ring… [C]
Powell’s POV: A well worked match in what needs to be their final match as Orton seemed to suggest it was. Hardy and Orton work well together, but the feud has run its course. I assume that’s the plan since both men have moved on to new opponents. Joe’s mind games with Jeff definitely bring back some CM Punk memories. One problem with the Joe vs. Hardy program is that both guys need wins, particularly Joe who has been more bark than bite with his great promos and repeated losses.
Phillips announced that New Day will host a rap battle between the Usos and Sheamus and Cesaro next week. Sigh. He also announced Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka…
Ring entrances for the main event took place. Once Miz and Styles were in the ring, they cut backstage where Braxton asked Bryan why he was still in the building after running away from Styles. Bryan said he does not run, everything he does is done with purpose. He said he was heading out to sit in on commentary… [C]
4. AJ Styles vs. The Miz. Bryan was on commentary. Graves said he was moved by what he said earlier and wondered how he could do better. Bryan said Graves and the people knew what they were doing wrong and they still do it. He said the fans weren’t there for him during his three hours in a hyperbaric chamber each day.
Saxton asked what his daughter will think of him years from now. Bryan went off and said he hopes his daughter kicks thousands of men in the groin if they use plastic water bottles. Bryan lectured Saxton about how much chicken he eats and said he should be ashamed of himself. In the ring, Miz kicked Style off the apron heading into a break. [C]
With Styles at ringside, Bryan offered him a handshake. It was a distraction that allowed Miz to attack Styles from behind. Miz rolled Styles back inside the ring and performed a Skull Crushing Finale for a near fall. Miz went for a figure four. Styles kicked him off and Miz took the weakest shoulder first run into the ring post in pro wrestling history. Bryan tried to pull Styles to ringside, but Styles kicked him. Styles rolled Miz into the Calf Crusher and got the submission win…
AJ Styles defeated The Miz in 13:10.
After the match, Bryan chop blocked Styles and then wrapped his leg around the post. Bryan drove the knee of Styles into the post three times, then ran him head first into another ring post. Bryan slammed Styles’ head onto the broadcast table and rolled him back inside the ring. Bryan chop blocked Styles again and put him in a heel hook. Bryan released the hold and stood up to loud boos. Bryan kicked Styles’s head and then stomped his face again repeatedly. Bryan took a victory lap and then stomped the head of Styles again.
Bryan held his arms out and looked at the booing crowd. Bryan made ring announcer Greg Hamilton introduce him as the WWE Champion and the new Daniel Bryan. He took the mic and asked the fans if they don’t approve. He called them fickle. He said they don’t cheer and called them fickle again. He said they don’t love the new Daniel Bryan and once again called them fickle. Bryan returned to the ring and put Styles in the heel hook again to close the show…
Powell’s POV: Bryan was fantastic on commentary and really in everything he did throughout this show. His rant on Saxton is must hear material and was laugh out loud funny. Bryan is actually too good. It’s hard to imagine the most passionate fans not falling in love with his new persona and cheering for him even though the best thing they could do to show their appreciation for his or any heel’s work is to play along and boo. Hopefully Styles can counter some of this with strong mic work of his own, but it will be interesting to see what happens when Bryan works with a less popular babyface.
Overall, I enjoyed the show. Bryan was definitely the MVP of the night, but I also liked the triple threat, and the issues that developed between Charlotte and Asuka. I will have more to say in my members’ audio review coming up shortly. Check back tomorrow for Jake Barnett’s Smackdown Hit List with his in-person perspective on this show.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Jonny Fairplay discussing WWE Raw’s struggles, All Elite Wrestling, Johnny Impact on Survivor, and Drake Maverick’s gimmick infringement.