By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Jacksonville, Florida at Veteran’s Memorial Arena
The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton hyped up Carmella vs. Charlotte vs. Becky for later. The winner faces Asuka at Royal Rumble. In the arena at concessions, Daniel Bryan was there to take us on a journey. He said the concessions being taken were for their health and well being. He said people eat it by filling a void because they have an emptiness in their life that they fill with garbage. And that’s the same reason they cheer AJ Styles. He grabbed a hotdog from a fan, and threw it in his face after saying that he was going to leave feeling empty after consuming disgusting nitrates. He then threw a soda at a fan for drinking empty calories and sugar that ruining the planet High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Bryan moved on to a merch stand and said there are no Yes Movement shirts because he killed ite, and he doesn’t want to contribute to the waste in the environment. But there are plenty of AJ Styles shirts and gloves, and it will leave these fans just as empty inside, and continue to pollute the earth. Bryan then walked through the crowd into the building from the concourse, and called fans weak and pathetic. He said he was saving the planet and changing the world for the better. He claimed AJ Styles fills the void for 30 seconds, but he would replace Styles and fill that void with something worthwhile and substantial.
Bryan arrived at ringside, and called a fan impotent. He reiterated that he was saving the world one person at a time, but was then jumped by R-Truth. He was thrown into the steps and the barricade, before being pulled apart by a referee…[c]
My Take: That felt like about 5 minutes of material stretched out to an 8 minute promo. Bryan was solid here, as usual, but he got repetitive and didn’t really present anything new here. It was visually memorable, and a nice change of pace from another long winded in ring promo, but the content was lacking slightly.
1. R-Truth vs. Daniel Bryan: Truth hit a hip toss and a dropkick. He then covered for a two count. Bryan fired back with some kicks in the corner, and paint brushed Truth by calling him the problem. Bryan hit some running corner dropkicks, but Truth came out on the third and hit a flying forearm. Truth then hit a jawbreaker and covered for two. Bryan then sidestepped a rush into the corner, and rebounded with a running knee for the win.
Daniel Bryan defeated R-Truth in 4:11
After the match, a replay aired while Bryan walked to the back. Styles intercepted him and jumped him, but they were separated and Bryan escaped off the stage to the back. Rey Mysterio then made his entrance for the next match. He will be teaming with Mustafa Ali against Samoa Joe and Andrade Almas…[c]
My Take: The match didn’t break any new ground, but was competent. Styles attacking Bryan was supposed to be more evidence of the “real” AJ, but he had plenty of motivation to do that regardless. The upcoming tag match should be fun, but this show doesn’t feel very revolutionary in its approach.
2. Samoa Joe and Andrade Almas vs. Rey Mysterio and Mustafa Ali: Joe and Ali started the match, with Joe controlling the early going with his power offense. Mustafa escaped a charge from Joe in the corner and made a tag to Rey. Joe quickly made a tag to Almas. Rey hit a headscissors, but ran into a back elbow from Almas that floored him. He and Joe tried to cut Rey off, but Rey spun out of a wheelbarrow attempt and turned it into a facebuster. Ali tagged in and continued the offense, but Joe made a blind tag, and Ali missed it. Ali tried to splash Almas at ringside, but Joe stepped in and caught him, and slammed him into the announce table at ringside…[c]
Ali threw Almas off the top rope, but got his leg hung up and had to unhook himself. He made a hot tag to Mysterio, who hit a head scissors and a big kick to Almas. Joe entered, but Rey sent him packing with a seated senton. Rey then pulled Almas in for what looked like a surfboard at first, but then became a Canadian Destroyer. Very interesting spot. The match broke down now as Rey hit a 619 on Joe, and all four competitors were in the ring. Ali hit a 450 on Joe and they both cleared from the ring. Almas pulled in Mysterio off a 619 attempt for a jawbreaker, and then a Hammerlock DDT for the win.
Andrade Almas and Samoa Joe defeated Rey Mysterio and Samoa Joe at 12:39
The announce team hyped the Triple Threat between Carmella, Charlotte, and Becky for later. Carmella cut a pre-taped promo where she said everyone was discounting her. She asked if it was because she looked good, or if she liked to have fun. She said it was nice that Charlotte learned how to use a Kendo Stick, and that Becky found a personality, but she was Tag Champion for 130 days and had beaten Charlotte and Asuka twice. She said she would prove she is exactly who she says she is. The Usos were then shown backstage, and said they’d show The Bar the Uso Penitentiary…[c]
My Take: Despite taking the loss, both babyfaces got really shined up at various points in that match. Rey taking the loss doesn’t hurt him much, and Almas needed a win in a big way. Hopefully this means they are taking another look at him and how poorly he’s been treated since his main roster debut. The fact that he’s been almost invisible outside of a few key matches is baffling.
Backstage, Miz approached Shane McMahon and complained about The Usos being given a tag team Championship match. Shane said they were far away from the Tag Team Championship, and Miz said that he was a McMahon and he could just give them a match. Shane said they needed to study and scout their opponents and get ready for their run in the Tag Team Division. He asked if they were on the same page, and Miz said yes. Miz then asked if he had a chance to look at their gear, and Shane said no. Miz said he was thinking about the white leather, but Shane had to take a phone call.
In the arena, Rusev looked somber and blamed Shinsuke Nakamura’s selfishness for Lana’s injury last week. He then said Shinsuke had crossed a line that he couldn’t come back from, and he promised that he would break every bone in his weak body, and that he would crush him. Rusev tried to get very heated and emotional about it, but it didn’t’ quite land correctly.
Backstage, Shinsuke was in the TV Truck and said that it wasn’t his fault, it was Rusev’s. He showed the footage from last week of Lana on his back when Rusev kicked him, causing her to fall. Rusev reacted and said that if Shinsuke wouldn’t come to him, he would come to Shinsuke. Rusev ran to the back and got ambushed. Shinsuke rammed an equipment crate into him multiple times, and then hit a Kinshasa after the refs had initially pulled them apart.
Becky’s pre-taped promo was shown. She said she has to jump through hoops to earn back the title that no one ever beat her for. She said she woke up the industry with her title win, but all of that is ok, because tonight she gets to do whatever she wants. Becky said Asuka knows she’s on borrowed time, and that she was coming for her at the Royal Rumble. The Bar made their entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: Lots of promo work here. Shane and Miz continue to be intriguing, but their relationship feels like it’s been spoonfed at this point. The story is moving very slowly. Rusev and Nakamura working together has shown their shortcomings when it comes to promos. They did their best to make this work with the backstage pre-tape for Shinsuke, but Rusev seemed lost when he had to switch gears and become intense over his anger about his wife. Becky was very good as always, but they run the risk of cooling her off if she continues to repeat similar material while they buy time for WrestleMania. She doesn’t have a character you can park for a few weeks.
The excellent Mean Gene Tribute aired. The Usos then made their ring entrance.
3. The Usos vs. The Bar: If the Usos win this match, they get a title opportunity. Sheamus and Jey started the match. Jey grabbed an arm twist, but Sheamus broke free with a punch to the face. Jey hit a clothesline that sent Sheamus to the floor. He quickly re-entered and ate a dropkick. Sheamus tagged in, and then so did Jimmy Uso. They traded blows, but Cesaro took control with a backbreaker. Jey and Sheamus tagged in, and Jey hot some chops and a big lariat that got a two count. Sheamus distracted the ref, and Cesaro hung Jey on the top rope…[c]
Cesaro hit a running elbow and tagged in Sheamus. Jey tossed Sheamus outside the ring, but he quickly recovered and hit clubbing blows to the chest of Jey. Sheamus lost his grip on Jey, and he made a tag to Jimmy. Cesaro tagged himself in and quickly got caught with a Samoan Drop. He hit a Rikishi Splash in the corner for a near fall. Cesaro rolled out to the floor. Sheamus was tossed out to the same location, and The Usos splashed both members of The Bar on the outside. Jimmy tossed Cesaro back in and hit him with a cross body, but only got a near fall.
Sheamus tagged in a whiffed on a Brogue Kick. Jey made a blind tag and entered to hit a superkick for a near fall [c]. The Bar dominated the commercial break. Jey Uso managed to escape a top rope Celtic Cross attempt, and hit Sheamus with a superkick that sent him to the floor. Cesaro had made a blind tag, and he jumped into another superkick. Jey was about to make a hot tag to Jimmy when Mandy Rose’s music hit. She asked Jimmy he she had left her skimpy gold outfit in his hotel room. Jimmy was distracted enough that Sheamus knocked him off the apron with a kick. Jey then got pinned after a Neutralizer.
The Bar defeated The Usos at 14:18
The Miz then walked out and said that The Bar had beaten all their competition, except one team. He then challenged them to a Championship match on behalf of him and Shane. Cesaro called them a dysfunctional joke, and talked about The Bar dominating both shows and all their opponents. He then said he’d let Sheamus answer, at which point he kicked The Miz in the face. Backstage, Naomi attacked Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. She initially got the better of both of them, but when they turned it around on her, Jimmy walked up and split them up.
Charlotte cut her backstage promo. She called Carmella last year’s hottest thing, and Becky this year’s hottest thing. She then called herself the hottest thing going for years, and said she wasn’t there to prove herself to anyone. She said she was there for her, to claim her Smackdown Women’s Championship. She told everyone to prepare to be humbled by the queen.
My Take: Another mechanically solid tag team much, but we’ve seen these team compete too much for it to feel fresh. We’ve seen some combination of these spots before, but they are always well executed. The Miz challenge was about what I expected, but I have a feeling he and Shane will somehow back their way into a title run. Charlotte was pretty much boilerplate at this point. She’s rarely a bad promo, but she doesn’t really reach the heights that Becky has recently because she doesn’t get out of her comfort zone.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan was asked about his bad night. Bryan said some fat impotent man spilled mustard on his shirt, as well as AJ Styles attacked him unprovoked. He said he was saving the world, and AJ couldn’t understand that. Bryan said if people thought that attack was vicious, it wasn’t even half as vicious as the new Daniel Bryan could be. He said AJ would see how vicious he could get at the Royal Rumble, and he might see it before, because he’s fighting for a cause that’s bigger than anything AJ has ever fought for, and he would be WWE Champion forever.
We got some vignettes from the upcoming NXT Talents. Backstage, Miz told Shane he took his advice and challenged their opponents. Miz gave Shane another rah rah speech about doing for their Dad’s, and Shane bought in. In the arena, Becky Lynch made her entrance. She was followed by Carmella and Charlotte.
4. Charlotte vs. Carmella vs. Becky: All three women took some shots early, but they all ended up on the floor. Becky hit a diving fist off the apron, and then clotheslined Charlotte out on the floor…[c]
Becky slammed Charlotte off the top rope onto Carmella in the ring. Carmella rolled out to the floor to recover, and Becky and Charlotte matched up in the ring. They traded punches and chops until Charlotte hit the ropes, and Becky caught her with a Thesz Press and punches. Carmella entered and hit Becky with a flatliner, and Becky rolled outside. She then applied the Code of Silence on Charlotte, who managed to stand up. Carmella managed to pull into a pinning situation, but only got a two count. They both stood up, and Becky took out Carmella with a dropkick from the top. Charlotte then took down Becky with a clothesline.
Charlotte climbed up top. Becky tried to interrupt her, but got sent back to the mat. Charlotte then hit a moonsault, but couldn’t get a pinfall on either woman [c]. Becky and Charlotte were fighting on the top turnbuckle. Becky looked for a superplex, but Carmella pulled her out and went for a top rope head scissors. Charlotte lifted her up into Powerbomb position, but she was able to reverse and hit the head scissors after all. Carmella then hit a dive onto Becky on the outside. Charlotte attempted another moonsault, but got nothing but the floor.
Becky hit an exploder suplex on Carmella, and then tossed her into the barricade. Becky then tossed Carmella into the ring, but Charlotte Becky off the apron with kick. Carmella went for a rollup on Charlotte but got a two count. Charlotte then went for a Figure Eight, but Carmella sent her out to the apron with a kick. Becky entered and tried to get the disarmer on Carmella, but Charlotte hit a Natural Selection off the top rope.
Carmella went for a pin on Becky, but Charlotte broke it up. Charlotte then set up for a Figure Eight, and was able to apply it this time, but Becky broke it up with a leg drop from the top. Becky then applied the Disarmher on Charlotte, but Carmella hit a superkick. Carmella and Becky jockeyed for position in the ring, and Charlotte hit Becky with a spear. Carmella hit both women with another Superkick, but Becky quickly pulled Carmella into the Disarmher when she approached and tapped her out.
Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte and Carmella at 16:11
After the match, Asuka made a ring entrance and talked trash with Becky in the ring to close the show.
My Take: A highly entertaining match that over delivered in my opinion. The final 5 minutes were excellent and gave all 3 women plausible moments where they could have finished the match. It was my favorite match on this show, and had the most suspense. My only minor quibble would be that the action was a bit sluggish in the early going, and I think my limit on Charlotte moonsaults in a given evening is a hard limit of 1. Overall, this was a solid show, but not revolutionary. Almas getting a win was a welcome change, but the parts of this show that really clicked were already working prior to the announcement of the “big changes”.