By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Toledo, Ohio at Huntington Center
The show opened with a graphic in memory of Pedro Morales. Footage from the end of Raw aired with the shakeup of the Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey. As Vince announced Charlotte as Becky’s replacement in the video package, she made her entrance in the arena. Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton joined on commentary. Charlotte said since Day 1 she told us that this (pointing to the WrestleMania sign) was her destiny. She said her heart breaks for Becky…but it doesn’t.
Charlotte said she thought she taught Becky better than to get suspended, but here we are. Just like before Survivor Series, when she got hurt attacking Raw, Charlotte was chosen to go to battle so the myth of the man could continue. Charlotte told the crowd that they know that she is the backbone of the division, and that she is a winner. She mentioned that people think Mr. McMahon chose her because she is his favorite, but that was untrue, because he made a smart business decision. The crowd got noisy booing her, and Charlotte shouted them down by chanting what at them.
Charlotte reiterated that Mr. McMahon chose her because the WrestleMania main event is the most important match of the year, and you don’t risk that on a flash in the pan like Becky Lynch. She said WrestleMania would end just like all other PPV’s that she’s main evented, with people standing on their feet chanting this is awesome. She then dedicated her WrestleMania victory to her best friend Becky Lynch. She then threatened Ronda Rousey, stating she had a front row ticket to her match with Ruby Riott at Elimination Chamber. She promised she wouldn’t interfere, but hinted that there was a possibility she might have a new WrestleMania opponent. She then walked to the back.
The announce team plugged the Women’s Tag Team Championships being decided at Elimination Chamber. Carmella then made her entrance, followed by Naomi…[c]
My Take: Charlotte is much better in a heel role, and it shows in promos like this. She did a great job keeping the crowd under control while delivering her lines convincingly. This storyline in a mess, but Charlotte and Becky have given good individual performances despite the shotgun creative approach.
A member of New Day will replace Mustafa Ali in the Elimination Chamber match, and they were talking backstage about who it would bee. Fire and Desire and The Iconics made their entrance during the break. A video aired for each team expressing their desire to become the first WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. Like last night, the losing team in this match starts in the Elimination Chamber on Sunday.
1. Fire and Desire vs. The Iconics vs. Carmella & Naomi: Carmella and Naomi started out against Sonya. Carmella got off to a hot start, and made a tag to Naomi. She tagged in and hit splits leg drop for two count. Carmella tagged back in, and Sonya mocked her with a moonsault. She then hit Sonya with a headscissors. Naomi tagged herself as Mandy got in the match. She immediately tried to tag the Iconics, who fled off the apron. She then ran away around the outside of the ring, but Naomi caught her with splash from inside to outside…[c]
During the break, Mandy and Sonya took control and cut off Carmella on their half of the ring. Carmella broke free of a waist lock, then collided with Sonya when they both attempted a body block. Carmella dragged Sonya over to her corner, but Mandy ran in and knocked Naomi from the apron. It didn’t help much, however, as both Naomi and Mandy got tagged in 20 seconds later. Naomi hit a big splash and a springboard kick from the middle rope. Sonya tried to interfere, but Carmella kicked her off the apron. Naomi hit a split legged moonsault on Mandy and got the win. The Iconics never entered the match.
Carmella and Naomi defeated Fire and Desire and the Iconics at 8:36
After the match, The Iconics attacked Carmella and Naomi during their celebration, and tossed them both shoulder first into the ring post. The announcers then went through the process of how the Elimination Chamber match works. Brief promos were shown from the Raw women’s teams. Bayley said Sasha will be there, and the match means more to them than anyone. Tamina and Naomi said no one would be able to walk out when they win. Logan and Morgan said people would see a different side of the Riott Squad on Sunday.
In the arena, The Miz and Shane made their entrances for McMizTV (still a terrible name). Up next, the Usos join them…[c]
My Take: That was a better match than last week, and it’s hard not to notice that the match improved immediately when The Iconics weren’t tasked with carrying any of the ring work. Fire and Desire starting the match is a good call, as they need a chance to stand out against two people that will sell for them in Sasha and Bayley. The promos and segments giving the women a chance to state their motivation was good. It would be nice if those kinds of production touches appeared more regularly on Raw and Smackdown.
The announce team recapped Mustafa Ali’s story of the past few weeks, and then threw to a pre-taped promo from him. He said that he can be put down, but he will never stay down. In the ring, Miz and Shane introduced the show. Miz said The Usos sent a strong message last week, and it was received. Miz said he was doing a photo shoot for his TV Show Miz and Mrs, and Shane was off filming an episode of NCIS LA.
Shane welcomed The Usos to the ring. They made their entrance and got a strong reaction. Shane offered them a seat, but they insisted on standing. The crowd gave the Usos a chant. The Usos said they see a wannabe tag team in the ring that want to be the Usos. Shane said they weren’t trying to be The Usos, but they were the best team in the world. They asked Shane if they rode together, worked out together, ate together, or bathe together (awkward twin humor).
They then did a Tag Team Test, where they asked each other a bunch of question about their favorite color, food, etc. Miz got offended and did the same test, but fed Shane all the answers. They worked in a joke about Miz’s favorite food being quiche. Miz asked if they needed to talk about Mandy Rose, and things got heated. Shane said he would hit Jimmy so hard his twin would feel it, and then Jey slapped the mic out of Miz’s hand.
Shane and Miz put up the belts in the Usos’s face, and Shane said those were all that mattered. The Usos hit dual superkicks on both Miz and Shane, and then walked to the back. After the segment, the announce team threw to WWE’s video for Black History Month, focusing on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech…[c]
My Take: That segment was a little too cute for me. I know it’s hard to avoid some humor with Miz, who is a goof by nature, but they leaned into it a little too hard here for my taste. I think we’ll see an entertaining match between these two teams on Sunday, but they missed an opportunity here to have the Usos really target the weaknesses of Shane and Miz as a team.
Daniel Bryan made his entrance and said he knows there’s a lot of people here that want him to lose his WWE Championship Sunday at Elimination Chamber. He then said the truth is, the crowd is lying to themselves, because they are fickle and they need someone like the new Daniel Bryan to tell them how to lead their pathetic lives. Bryan said he did not want to participate in the Elimination Chamber match, because it is painful, horrible, and will likely shorten his career.
He then said he needed to sacrifice, because it is necessary for him to stay…..New Day interrupted. For some reason, Big E was holding a giant tube of meat over his shoulder. First they teased Big E, then Woods, but eventually Kofi seemed to step forward…[c]
My Take: It would appear that this Gauntlet will take up the entire second hour. Hopefully we don’t get 20 minutes of Randy Orton chinlocks.
Guantlet Match Part 1 – Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan: Bryan took Kofi grappled to start the match, working through an impressive mat sequence that ended by Bryan applying a bow and arrow like submission. Kofi escaped into a pinfall attempt for a two count. Bryan escaped to the outside, and re-entered after collecting himself. Woods screamed “Y’all must’ve forgot, Kofi can go!” from the outside, after he reversed out of a Bryan grapple attempt and used a wrist control to manipulate him.
Bryan used a kick to escape, and then hit a knee lift. He then went back to work on the ground, this time applying a surfboard. Both men got back to their feet, where Kofi hit a flying back elbow and covered for a 2 count. Bryan tried to send Kofi to the floor, but he skinned the cat. Kofi then sent Bryan to the floor, and then hit a big splash onto him out on the floor…[c]
During the break, Bryan launched Kofi into the ring stairs and took control. He tied up Kofi in the ropes, and then hit a running dropkick into his spine. Bryan then attempted to suplex Kofi back into the ring from the apron, but he broke free with a headbutt. Kofi then sent Bryan into the turnbuckle, followed by both of them trading strikes. Bryan then dropped Kofi on the top rope and he remained draped there. Bryan the hit a knee drop onto Kofi that dumped him over the rope back into the ring. He then covered for a near fall.
Bryan then took to the top rope and went for a top rope headbutt, but Kofi moved out of the way. Kofi then fired up and hit a series of dropkicks and a Boom Drop. He then followed with a somersault senton for a near fall. He then hit a cross body from the second rope for another two count. Bryan then recovered and caught Kofi running into the corner with a drop toe hold. He then set Kofi in a tree of woe, and hit some kicks and a baseball slide before covering for another near fall. Bryan place Kofi on the top for back suplex, but Kofi turned around mid flight and landed on Bryan somewhat awkwardly…[c]
During the break, Bryan hit a butterfly suplex into an arm bar. Kofi fought the arm bar, and Bryan was never able to get it cinched in. Bryan and Kofi exchanged chops, before Bryan gounded him with headbutts and several kicks. Bryan covered, but Kofi kicked out….barely. Both men traded a series of falls, but nothing came of it. Bryan then dragged Kofi down to the ground and applied the Lebell Lock, but Kofi had enough strength to reach the ropes.
Bryan used a baseball slide to kick Kofi to the floor, and then hit a flying knee from the apron. He then climbed to the top rope, and jumped up with a flying nothing into a dropkick. As Bryan sold his head and the ref was distracted, Rowan grabbed and tripped up Kofi. Big E and Woods responded, but were ejected when they got caught. Bryan tried to surprise Kofi with a roll up, but Kofi avoided it. He then ran at Kofi in the corner, who countered with a kick. Rowan interfered again and tossed Kofi into the timekeepers area.
The referee put it together this time and ejected Rowan. Bryan complained, but then ran after Kofi and tossed him back in the ring. He set up for a Flying Knee, but Kofi caught him with Trouble in Paradise and pinned him for a surprise victory.
Kofi Kingston defeated Daniel Bryan at 26:31
Jeff Hardy then immediately began making his entrance…[c]
My Take: That match was well put together and a ton of fun to watch. You had to figure interference would get involved with everyone at ringside, but I think the way it played out made the surprise finish even better. Kofi getting a win here doesn’t much impact Bryan, and he needed a credibility boost heading into the chamber, where he could have easily been an afterthought.
Gauntlet Match Part 2 – Kofi Kingston vs. Jeff Hardy: The match was joined in progress. Both men were on the outside. Kofi attempted to hit Hardy with a splash jumping over the ring steps, but Hardy avoided it and returned the favor with a flying clothesline. Hardy then threw Kofi into the ring and went for a Swanton Bomb, but nobody was home. Hardy went for his Hardy at the Rest dropkick in the corner, but Kofi escaped that as well. Both men climbed to the top and brawled, leading to Kofi knocking Hardy into the ring and landing a cross body.
Hardy turned around the pinfall, but Kofi kicked out. Hardy then recovered and went for a Twist of Fate, but Kofi countered into an SOS and got the pinfall.
Kofi Kingston defeated Jeff Hardy at ~7:44
After the match, Samoa Joe made his entrance…[c]
My Take: Another surprise win for Kofi, but it comes at the expense of Hardy, who didn’t really have the credibility to give up. This was a good match, despite the brevity.
Gauntlet Match Part 3 – Kofi Kingston vs. Samoa Joe: Joe jumped Kofi from the get go, and hit a solid Enziguri in the corner. He then covered for a near fall, but Kofi sold it like death. Joe then pulled Kofi into an abdominal stretch, and then clotheslined Kofi into oblivion. He then applied a chinlock. Kofi escaped and Joe rolled out to the floor. He went to pull Kofi to the outside, but got surprised by Kofi diving over the ropes with double knees.
Both men beat the ten count, and then Joe hit a huge lariat for a near fall. Joe continued with the abuse, and Kofi continued to persevere. Kofi ended up on the apron, and he attempted a springboard, and Joe shoved him out to the floor. Kofi struggled and beat the ten count, but Joe quickly applied a neck crank. Kofi escaped, and Joe missed a lariat. Kofi hit a flying clothesline for a two count. Joe caught Kofi coming off the ropes and applied a sleeper hold, but Kofi used the ropes and reversed into a pinfall for another victory.
Kofi Kingston defeated Samoa Joe at ~9:44
After the match, Joe assaulted Kofi with a nasty Uranage. He then pulled Kofi out to the floor and applied a Coquina Clutch. AJ Styles made his entrance and broke up the choke. He asked Kofi if he was alright…[c]
My Take: I’ll be damned, Kofi is really getting the one night contender treatment. I wonder if this was intended for Mustafa Ali, or if he would have had a different path? I guess we’ll never know.
Styles assured Kofi that he didn’t have to do this, but Kofi got in his face in frustration, saying he’s waited too long for this. Kofi pie faced AJ, but Styles responded with a punch and a kick.
Gauntlet Match Part 4 – Kofi Kingston vs. AJ Styles: Styles hit a backbreaker and tossed Kofi hard into the ring post chest first. Styles covered but Kofi kicked out. Kofi continued to put up a fight, but Styles buckled his knee with a hard kick. That was followed by a snap suplex for another near fall. Kofi got a burst of energy and pulled Styles into a couple of pinning predicaments, but Styles wasn’t fatigued enough to get caught.
Styles then hit a rough looking backbreaker. Styles went out to the apron, but Kofi took his leg out and followed him out there. Kofi hit some kicks, and then took a charge at Styles, who moved out of the way as Kofi crashed knees first into the ring post. Kofi managed to break the ten count, and Styles quickly picked him up and tossed him into the corner. He then set him on the top rope for a head scissors, but Kofi didn’t follow and AJ crashed and burned. Kofi hit a splash onto AJ’s back, but AJ kicked out.
AJ then quickly applied the calf crusher, and was eliminated as he crossed over the 60 minute mark in the match.
AJ Styles defeated Kofi Kingston at 8:21
After the match, Orton’s music hit and he hit an RKO from behind Styles, who got caught with his pants down.
Gauntlet Match Part 5 – AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton: After the RKO, Orton covered and got the win.
Randy Orton defeated Styles in :05
The show was short on time, so it went off the air immediately.
My Take: That gauntlet match was a lot of fun. I enjoyed Kofi getting another credible run like this, even though it probably wasn’t meant for him. When they wrote it down. Overall, they did a decent job of hitting all the major points in selling Elimination Chamber, and they have a couple of launching points for the Fastlane and WrestleMania builds.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Jake Barnett co-hosting the Boom and Dot Net Weekly combo show. Jason and Jake discuss Becky Lynch announcing her pregnancy, Alberto Del Rio being accused of sexual assault, WWE's IC Title tournament, Mike Tyson appearing at AEW Double Or Nothing, Undertaker's Last Ride documentary, AEW Dynamite and NXT TV thoughts, and more...