By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Les Vegas, Nevada at T-Mobile Arena
The show opened with a video package that hyped the WrestleMania rematch between Charlotte and Asuka, and Daniel Bryan taking on Mustafa Ali. In the arena, the announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton chimed in as Daniel Bryan made his entrance. Bryan grabbed a microphone and stood mid ring before his match. He said that last week he called all of the people sheep, and the first thing he wanted to do is apologize. Bryan then said that sheep don’t deserve to be compared to idiots, because they don’t go around spoiling the earth. He then said they were more like parasites, in that they take and take and give nothing in return. Especially in Las Vegas. He called them fickle.
Bryan accused the crowd of living vicariously through the old Daniel Bryan’s success, and reminded him that the old Daniel Bryan is dead, and the yes movement is dead. He then said the people have parasitically attached themselves to someone new, and now reside on the couch in the house that AJ Styles built. He said the people can’t do anything about the fact that he is the WWE Champion, and at TLC, they would have no choice but to recognize him as the New Daniel Bryan. The crowd booed, and Bryan wondered if they don’t believe him?
Bryan then questioned whether the crowd is delusional, or just purposely pulling the wool over their eyes. He said his friend once said that idiocy is the deliberate cultivation of ignorance, and that perfectly describes Las Vegas. Mustafa Ali then interrupted. Bryan invited him into the ring and called him the heart of 205 Live and a phenomenal performer. He told him they didn’t have to have their match, because the crowd doesn’t deserve it. He said he sees a lot of himself in Ali, and told him that the crowd was too xenophobic and obsessed with their own consumption.
Ali responded that he wasn’t sure what happened to the old Daniel Bryan wouldn’t have run from a fight. He called Bryan inspiration to many of the men who make up 205 Live, and asked what happened to the guy that he used to look up to. Bryan took it in and changed the subject, asking what kind of car Ali drives. He responded that he drives an SUV. Bryan told him he was a tiny little man, and questioned why he would need an SUV. Ali responded that he has a wife and a family, and Bryan just slapped him across the face several times. Ali recovered and sent Bryan to the floor, and then hit a somersault plancha from the top rope…[c]
My Take: That was a great segment. Bryan is really coming into his own as a character at this point, and Ali was quickly made into a foil just by being a family man in the face of this lunatic busybody who wants to arrest everyone without a composting toilet.
1. Daniel Bryan vs. Mustafa Ali: Bryan exerted control with some punishing strikes and holds. Bryan then setup for a surfboard and pulled on Ali’s nose. He then gloated to the crowd before landing kicks to the chest. Ali popped up and hit some kicks of his own, prompting Bryan to roll to the outside. Ali attempted to follow with a springboard splash, but Bryan shifted out of the way and he landed hard on the floor…[c]
Bryan applied the Yes Lock during the break and Ali barely reached the ropes as the show returned. Ali also managed to hit a Spanish Fly during the break, but wasn’t able to capitalize. Bryan placed Ali in a tree of woe to hit some kicks and a baseball slide. He then attempted to hit a back suplex from the top rope, but Ali slipped out and Bryan crashed and burned. Bryan then missed a dropkick in the corner, and Ali responded with a tornado DDT. Ali then climbed to the top for the 054, but Bryan avoided it and rolled out of the ring. He then pulled Ali’s legs through the ropes and slammed them into the ring posts. In the ring, Bryan hit a chop block and applied the heel hook for a tapout victory.
Daniel Bryan defeated Mustafa Ali in 10:34
The announce team plugged Styles vs. Bryan for TLC. The camera then cut to the stage, where Bryan stomped on Ali’s head, and reapplied the heel hook for further punishment. He then celebrated to get under the skin of the crowd. We got some WWE Network plugs, and then New Day made their entrance in the arena wearing their rap battle outfits…[c]
My Take: An enjoyable match, but Ali didn’t really get enough offense in for it to be a really special encounter. Bryan’s character continues to shine, and the post match attack really fired up the crowd. We’ll see if AJ gives us the intense return promo later that casts him as the everyman hero needed to counter the elitist Bryan character.
Kofi welcomed the crowd to the second ever Smackdown Rap Battle. They introduced the Usos and The Bar, and said they would have a Triple Threat Match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships on Sunday. Big E introduced The Bar as first. The Bar did some annoying Vanilla Ice remix that they got lost in the middle of. Ice Ice Sheamy was their big hook. New Day rated them as trash.
The Usos then got their shot. They talked about how they got cheated out of the last Rap Battle. They called the New Day Ninja Turtles, and The Bar Bebop and Rocksteady. They clowned on Sheamus for his hair grease, and introduced the crowd to Mr. Turnbuckle, which is how to knockout Cesaro’s teeth with no knuckles. Jimmy called himself the Iron Man for working 10 years with no injuries, and said they would bring the kryptonite for Cesaro’s Superman. They then worked their way into the Uso Penitentiary catchphrase. The Bar then attacked and laid them out. The segment ended with Cesaro and Sheamus celebrating with their titles.
Backstage in a pre-tape, Asuka said she used to think no one was ready for her, but at WrestleMania she made one mistake and it cost her against Charlotte. She said tonight she wouldn’t made any mistakes, and she would show that she isn’t prepared for Asuka. The announce team then plugged Jeff Hardy and Rusev vs. Samoa Joe and Nakamura for later…[c]
My Take: The rap battle was a huge step down from the first one, but it was still worth a chuckle at times. The Bar were the butt of the joke throughout, which is fine, but I don’t think the jokes were as strong as they may have looked on paper. Asuka’s backstage promo was a nice improvement from her live promos. They should use pre-tapes whenever possible with her.
Out in the ring, Miz demanded Shane McMahon come out to the ring to listen to what he has to say. He eventually begged and got down on a knee. He said this was about more than wrestling, it was about life choices. He claimed it was more important than he could possibly know. Shane finally made his entrance.
Shane said hello to the crowd and asked Miz what was wrong with him. Miz said that they could be so good together if he’d just give it a chance. He asked if they could tag one more time, and if they lose it could be over, but if they win they could be the greatest of all time. Shane was confused, and Miz said it was about so much more than just wrestling. Shane asked for an explanation, but Miz danced around it and just invited a referee and opponents to the ring. Shane wanted none of it, but the “Vegas Boys” ended up attacking Shane from behind.
2. Shane McMahon and The Miz vs. The Vegas Boys: Shane fought back, throwing strikes and sending one of the men out of the ring. He quickly beat down the other and applied the worst triangle choke in history to get the tap out victory.
Shane McMahon and The Miz defeated The Vegas Boys at 1:09.
After the match, Shane looked pissed off while Miz was all smiles and held up the trophy. Charlotte and Asuka was plugged for later…[c]
My Take: Another nonsense segment between Miz and Shane. I’m hoping the payoff is still Shane going heel, but we’ll see what plays out.
Paige was shown being furious backstage, both at the referee and the Vegas Boys, who were told she has both sanctioned and offered to pay them $5000 each for the match. She admonished the referee and tore up the contracts the wrestlers presented to her.
In the arena, Randy Orton made his entrance, while his Chairs Match with Rey Mysterio was plugged for Sunday. Orton said there was nothing quite like a solid steel chair. They are built for comfort, but they are also useful for making statements and sending messages. He then rolled footage of him destroying Rey Mysterio from a few weeks ago. He said he thinks he can do better, and rolled more footage of him throwing Mysterio into the ring steps with a chair around his head.
Orton was puzzled by Rey Mysterio knowing he’s in a chairs match with him, and being ok with it? He claimed Rey must think he’s going to get his revenge, but once a victim, always a victim for guys like Mysterio. He said a lot of guys on Sunday will be worried about TLC, but Mysterio just needs to worry about R…K….Mysterio hit Orton in the back with a chair. He then hit him a few more times for good measure, and followed up with a 619. Orton then retreated up onto the stage while Mysterio celebrated in the ring.
Backstage, Becky Lynch walked into Kayla Braxton. She was asked if she has an advantage on Sunday with Charlotte and Asuka competing tonight. She said she has to road test her head and her face against some of the toughest competition in WWE in the most dangerous type of match, so no, it’s no advantage. She said she’d be observing her opponents at ringside tonight, and on Sunday she would remind everyone of how much chaos can happen when The Man comes around…[c]
My Take: A fairly paint by numbers effort for Orton and Mysterio, but that doesn’t make it bad. Mysterio needed to get a few whacks in on Orton after being beaten down several weeks in a row. Lynch was excellent backstage, as usual. She’s coming across very confident and in tune with her character these days.
Jeff Hardy and Rusev made their entrances, followed by Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe. Before the match, Carmella and Truth had a dance break.
3. Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe vs. Rusev and Jeff Hardy: Shinsuke used the dance break as an opportunity to take a free kick on Jeff Hardy. Joe then tagged in, and he and Hardy spilled to ringside, where Joe sent into the ring barricade…[c]
The heel team cut off the ring and kept Hardy grounded. Joe hit a back elbow and a head kick in the corner, and then tagged in Nakamura. Rusev barked at Hardy to get up, but Hardy drive a knee into his ribs and covered for a two count. Joe re-entered the match and applied a hold, but Hardy escaped and hit a whisper in the wind out of the corner. Hardy then made the hot tag to Rusev, who hit a huge lariat on Nakamura, followed by knees to the ribs and a fallaway slam. Rusev hit several kicks on Nakamura and covered, but Joe broke it up.
Hardy entered and hit a twist of fate on Rusev, and then jumped and splashed him after he rolled to the outside. In the ring, Rusev went for an accolade, but Nakamura slipped out. He then went for a Kinshasa, but ran into a Machka kick instead. Rusev covered for the win.
Rusev and Jeff Hardy defeated Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura at 8:01
After the match, Shane McMahon told Miz backstage that he crossed a line putting those local wrestlers and referee up to having that match. Miz refused to apologize, saying he only wanted to inspire Shane, and knew his superior McMahon instincts would kick in. He said he really does think they could be a great team, and offered him a handshake. Shane refused and walked away, after which Miz looked heartbroken.
My Take: Another competent match, but these feuds still feel like they are in their infancy, so I’m not sure if this really accomplished much in creating tension for Sunday. I would have rather seen angles for each feud, but perhaps they are just time constrained on this show.
Backstage, AJ Styles was asked about the New Daniel Bryan. He said he thinks this isn’t very new at all, it’s just the real Daniel Bryan. AJ wants more than anyone to beat up Daniel Bryan, but he knows if he does he won’t be able to compete on Sunday. He then said that he would be more aggressive and relentless than ever in regaining his WWE Championship on Sunday.
In the arena, Asuka made her entrance…[c]
My Take: Less fire than I expected from AJ. He seemed like he was trying to remain cool and collected, but it came across a little uninspired in the process.
4. Asuka vs. Charlotte: Asuka avoided a big boot, and then picked the ankle of Charlotte into an Ankle Lock. Charlotte manage to used raw strength to power out of the situation into a back suplex. Asuka then avoided a backfist and hit a German Suplex. She then went for a hip attack, but Charlotte moved and hit a big boot as she was in the ropes. Charlotte went for a moonsault next, but Asuka avoided it and flipped her into an Asuka Lock attempt. Charlotte was able to escape, but was quickly pulled back into the hold. Charlotte scrambled and reached the ropes…[c]
Asuka applied an abdominal stretch, but Charlotte spun out after a brief time. Asuka quickly transitioned into a Fujiwara Armbar, but Charlotte was able to turn over and pick up Asuka into a sit out powerbomb for a near fall. Charlotte slapped Asuka and told her she will never beat her. Asuka pulled a double leg, but Charlotte quickly maneuvered into position for a figure four. Asuka turned things over after a moment, but grabbed at her knee after the hold was released.
Charlotte continued to attack the knee with strikes and holds. She sold frustration at being unable to put Asuka away. She then pulled Asuka to the corner and slammed her leg into the post while jawing with Becky. Asuka got a second win and rolled up Charlotte on a figure four attempt for a near fall. She then hit several kicks. Charlotte attempted a spear, but Asuka caught her with a codebreaker for a good near fall.
Asuka hit more kicks and elbows, and even some Kawada soccer kicks. She hit the ropes, but Asuka caught her with a spear for a near fall. Charlotte went for another spear, but Asuka got her feet up. Charlotte stayed on her feet and went for a figure four, but Asuka flipped it into an Asuka Lock. Charlotte flailed for the ropes, and both women ended up tumbling out of the floor. Once there, Charlotte grabbed a Kendo stick and wore it out on Asuka, causing a DQ.
The match ended in an apparent No Contest at 12:54
After the bell, Charlotte hit Becky with a kendo stick to the knee. She then hit Asuka a few more times. Becky then attacked from behind, and send Charlotte into the ring steps. She then grabbed the Kendo Stick and hit Charlotte and Asuka several times. Asuka stirred and ended up sending Becky over the announce table. She then grabbed the Kendo Stick and beat both Charlotte and Becky over the back. She stood tall over both women on top of the announce table to close the show.
My Take: An unsatisfying finish to another wise very good match. I didn’t expect a clean finish here, so I guess I can’t be too disappointed, but a match with that kind of effort put forth certainly deserved one. Asuka standing tall to close the show made a lot of sense to me, as she’s the character that needed the most nurturing and rehabilitation heading into this match. TLC on Sunday looks like it has a high potential to produce great matches on the Smackdown side of the equation, even if some of the feuds feel like they could have used a little more time in the oven. Smackdown was better than Raw once again this week, even as Raw improved slightly from it’s recent doldrums.