By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Indianapolis, Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The show opened from Indianapolis with the announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton welcoming us to the show. They announced that we’d see a version of the Kevin Owens show with Charlotte and Becky, and the Kofi Kingston gauntlet match. The Miz then made his entrance and headed out to the ring.
Miz grabbed a mic and threw to a video package about Shane McMahon’s new personality. It recapped his betrayal of The Miz and his follow up promo from last week. After the video, Miz said he’d been laser focused for 10 years on the way to WrestleMania. He questioned at what cost? He said aside from his wife and daughter, he had sacrificed every relationship and taken every shortcut to get his place on the show at WrestleMania. He said it was all to prove to one man that he could be proud of him, and that was his Dad.
As cheesy as it sounds, all he ever wanted was his Dad to be about to stand in the ring and say he was proud of them, and Shane game him that. Miz said people warned him about Shane when they were first becoming a tag team, because he was different behind the scenes, but he didn’t listen. And then Shane attacked me in front of my 68 year old father, and then put his hands on his Dad. He called Shane a vile and disgusting human being, and said he was rotten to the core just like his father.
Miz said he wasn’t born best in the world, he was born the worst. He told Vince and Shane they might own the company, but they don’t own him, and they don’t own Kofi either. Miz said he wasn’t born rich, he was born in Cleveland destined to flip burgers and struggle through life. Miz said he didn’t take that as a prophecy, he picked himself up and he made himself into the most must see WWE Champion in WWE history.
He then went on to say that he wasn’t given love by his father, he had to earn it. He wasn’t given respect in the WWE, he’s had to earn it. He called himself a success story and something that he could be proud of. He told Shane that he has earned something, and that’s an ass whipping from him at WrestleMania. Miz walked off, and that prompted Sasha and Bayley to make their entrances…[c]
My Take: I enjoyed that promo from The Miz, and I think he made a better case for his current character here than Shane did last week. I’m still left feeling that both men might be slightly miscast, but Miz did a nice job establishing himself as a grinder who has had to scratch and claw for all of his accomplishments.
The Iconics made their entrance and had microphones. Billie made a show of welcoming Sasha and Bayley to Smackdown Live. Peyton said they looked small and afraid in their ring, and that they had been ducking them by staying on their home brand. Peyton said they went back to NXT before coming to Smackdown because they wanted to make themselves feel important. They said they had to face the best team in the WWE Womens Tag Team Division in unfamiliar territory, after getting run off by Nia Jax and Tamina. Billie said they would show them what it takes to be the best, and it will be Iconic.
1. The Iconics vs. The Boss and Hug Connection: Fairly slow going early on, Billie and Peyton talking trash, but getting outwrestled in the process. The match was interrupted a few minutes in by a Lacey Evans entrance loop. The Iconics made a blind tag in the process, and Bayley got caught with a shot by Peyton from the apron. She then covered in the ring for a near fall…[c]
The Iconics cut off Bayley during the break, but she caught Bayley with a facebuster and made a hot tag to Sasha. Peyton tagged in and ate a Meteora, but Billie broke up the pinfall. Peyton then rolled her up for a near fall. There were some clumsy moments on the apron, and Bayley ran over to help, but she got leveled. Peyton then rolled up Sasha and got an assisted pin from Bayley that the referee missed for the surprise win.
The Iconics defeated The Boss and Hug Connection at 8:33
Backstage, Kayla Braxton interviewed Rey Mysterio, who announced he would be facing Samoa Joe for the US Championship at WrestleMania. He brought out his son Dominick, who was about a foot taller than him. Dominick said Joe was a bully, and his Dad would do what he does best at WrestleMania by taking down a bully and bringing home a championship, Kevin Owens made his entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: The early going in that match was pretty good, but there were quite a few clumsy moments at the end as they worked towards the finish. I’m guessing the Iconics get added for WrestleMania, but these two teams didn’t show off much in terms of chemistry here. Seeing Dominick again on WWE TV was a trip. He looks like he could throw his Dad like a football.
The announce team ran down some WrestleMania information. In the ring, KO welcomed everyone to the new and improved KO Show. He showed off some new graphics and a tie. He mentioned the gauntlet match and said that KofiMania was alive and well. He said he would be watching the gauntlet match very closely. That brought him to his guests, who he said had the hottest feud in WWE. He first brought out Becky, followed by Charlotte. Becky got a big reaction from the crowd, and Charlotte got booed heavily.
Becky chants started as both women sat down. Kevin said that friendships can sometimes go wrong, and no one can get under your skin like your former best friend. Owens had some cue cards, and read off some of the things that Ronda said about both of them. He then read off that Charlotte had said Becky’s 15 minutes are up, and that Becky had nicknamed Charlotte “Shoehorn”. Owens ended by saying that people are tired listening to them talk, and they want to see them fight. Charlotte said she would beat the holy hell out of Becky. Owens left the ring before telling Becky to responde, which she did by punching Charlotte in the face.
Both women brawled in the ring and out around the ringside area. Both women ended up striking indy wrestlers during the melee, which Corey said they’d be fined for. Not many significant shots landed during the melee.
They cut backstage, where Kayla Braxton interviewed AJ Styles. He was asked about Randy Orton and how he thinks he’s prepared to beat him. Styles said Orton is as agile as men half his size. Styles called him great, but the difference between them is that Randy was a first round draft pick, and he was a walk on. Styles recalled Orton saying the house was built before he got there, and that gives Randy a home field advantage, but he’s not coming to WrestleMania to build, he wants to tear the house down…[c]
My Take: That KO Show segment missed the mark. KO was humorous and affable in nature, but they keep putting these two women in a position to fail, and this was another case of that. Keeping them apart from Ronda is a mistake, and it feels like they are involved in separate stories at this point. Seeing the two of them have another inconclusive walking brawl did absolutely nothing for me. KO acknowledging the fact that they likely have nothing new to say feels like an inside joke about how poorly this feud has been executed.
Daniel Bryan was in the ring with Erick Rowan. Bryan said the word injustice repeatedly. He called Kofi Kingston being in the gauntlet match an injustice, because Kofi doesn’t deserve the opportunity. Bryan said he knows better than anyone what it’s like to be held down, and that’s not what happened to Kofi Kingston. He said Kofi was chosen to replace Mustafa Ali, and was handpicked from the tag division to get an opportunity he didn’t deserve.
He said despite fighting valiantly in the gauntlet match and Elimination Chamber, he lost both times and didn’t earn anything. Bryan reiterated that he was a B+ player, and that he belong with Booty-O’s and Pancakes and all the other crap that nobody needs to buy. Bryan said B+ might be good enough for most people, but it’s not good enough for him, and it doesn’t change the fact that Kofi has lost as every opportunity that he’s been given. This brought out New Day, who gave Kofi some encouragement as he made his way to the ring. Kofi got big chants.
After Kofi, The Bar made their entrance…[c]
My Take: Bryan delivered a strong promo. He didn’t say anything that was explicitly untrue, but he was a complete asshole about it, and it worked. Kofi got a major chant when he made his entrance, so I’d say it was effective.
Gauntlet Match 1 – Sheamus vs. Kofi Kingston: We saw some jockeying and mat wrestling early on. Big E and Xavier were shown watching backstage, and they are barred from ringside. Kofi hit a nice looking hip toss. Sheamus rolled out to the floor to recover, and Kofi splashed him out on the floor. Sheamus turned things around with a knee to the ribs, and then hit his signature clubbing blows to the chest. Cesaro managed to sneak in an uppercut while Sheamus distracted the ref, and Sheamus covered for a near fall. Sheamus continued the abuse with a axe handle smash…[c]
Kofi came back with a series of clotheslines, and then hit a boom drop. He pointed at the WrestleMania sign and went for Trouble in Paradise, but Sheamus avoided it. Kofi went for a splash off the top and got a near fall. Sheamus then rolled out to the apron, and caught Kofi’s arm. He pulled Kofi into the ropes, and then hit an Irish Curse Backbreaker for a near fall.
Sheamus applied a cloverleaf, but Kofi reversed into a rollup for another near fall. Sheamus then hit a rising knee and got another two count. He then set up for the Brogue Kick, but Kofi avoided it and hit Trouble In Paradise for the win.
Kofi Kingston defeated Sheamus at 12:48
Gauntlet Match 2 – Cesaro vs. Kofi Kingston: Cesaro attacked Kofi from behind and hit a gutwrench suplex for a near fall. He then applied a leg submission, but Kofi was able to shove him off after a moment. Kofi landed a few punches and got to the top rope for a splash, but Cesaro caught him and hit a backbreaker for a near fall…[c]
Both men traded offense during the break, with no one gaining a clear advantage. Cesaro hit another backbreaker and then the Cesaro swing. He then quickly transitioned into another cloverleaf submission. He then pulled Kofi into a suplex for another near fall. He then went for a Boston Crab, and transitioned into a Liontamer. Kofi broke free, but was pulled into position for a Neutralizer. Kofi avoided it and hit an SOS for the win.
Kofi Kingston defeated Cesaro at 6:56
Gauntlet Match 3 – Erick Rowan vs. Kofi Kingston: Rowan hit a huge clothesline and then tossed Kofi out of the ring. He followed and hit a lariat out on the floor. Rowan then grabbed a chair and hit Kofi over the back. The ref disqualified him.
Rowan was disqualified at 2:47
After the DQ, Rowan applied a bearhug, and ran Kofi into the ringpost. He then threw him into the timekeepers area. He then hit his claw slam through the announce table at ringside. It still had the monitors on it, which didn’t help Kofi’s back. Rowan then left as Samoa Joe’s music played…[c]
My Take: Some good drama thus far. It’s hard to imagine Randy and Joe taking clean losses here, so we’ll see what happens. Kofi has the crowd behind him, and the attack from Rowan sets him up for overcoming some big odds here.
Gauntlet Match 4 – Samoa Joe vs. Kofi Kingston: The match was joined in progress. Joe landed strikes at will. He grabbed Kofi and turned his head up towards the WrestleMania sign before punching him in the face. Kofi fired back with some punches and kicks, but it was short lived. Joe his a splash and a enziguri in the corner. A moment later, he hit a huge lariat that turned Kofi inside out. He then applied a sleeper, but Kofi countered with a jawbreaker. Kofi ran at him in the corner, but Joe hit a Uranage for a near fall.
Kofi managed to grab a double leg takedown, but Joe avoided the follow up attack and got chopped in the corner. Joe went for a muscle buster, but Kofi slipped out and rolled up Joe for the win.
Kofi Kingston defeated Samoa Joe at 9:33
After the match, Joe sold shock and ran at Kofi to apply the Coquina Clutch. Kofi appeared to be out as trainers and refs pulled Joe away. Randy Orton made his ring entrance…[c]
My Take: A bit surprised Joe got pinned clean, but it was the right move to tell Kofi’s story here. Orton being the final obstacle feels like a video game boss situation taken to life based on their history.
Gauntlet Match 5 – Randy Orton vs Kofi Kingston: The match was joined on the outside of the ring in progress. Randy told the crowd that he wasn’t their guy, and that he was stupid. So they went there right away. Kofi reversed an irish whip and sent Orton into the ring steps. Orton recovered and tossed Kofi back into the ring. He stomped on Kofi and applied a chin lock. The crowd got a bit listless, but Kofi eventually fought to his feet and broke free with some strikes. Kofi went for a dropkick, but Orton swatted it out of the air.
Randy pulled Kofi to his feet and tossed him into the corner. He then hit some mounted punches before getting shoved off. Orton went for an RKO, but Kofi avoided it and hit Trouble in Paradise. Orton managed to roll to the outside before Kofi could make a cover…[c]
Orton landed heavy punches on Kofi, who was seated on the top rope. Orton climbed to the top for a superplex, but Kofi broke free and hit a splash. Orton reversed the pinfall by rolling over and got a near fall. He then pulled Kofi over to the ropes for a draping DDT. Orton then fired up for an RKO, but Kofi avoided it and rolled him up and held his shoulders down for a victory.
Kofi Kingston defeated Randy Orton at 11:32
After the match, Big E and Woods ran down and celebrated while Kofi pointed at the WrestleMania sign. There’s still 5 minutes left on the show, so buckle up. On cue, Mr. McMahon made his entrance with a microphone. Vince congratulated Kofi, and told him he was going to WrestleMania, as long as he could defeat this one last opponent. He told Big E and Woods that they must leave the premises, or he would forfeit his opportunity. Daniel Bryan then made his entrance for an apparent 6th match.
Gauntlet Match 6 – Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan: Bryan hit some kicks early on, but Kofi fired back and the crowd lit up. Bryan placed Kofi in a tree of woe as the announce team all talked about unfair this was, even Graves. Bryan hit a huge back suplex from the top rope and covered for a near fall. Bryan then pulled Kofi into the Lebell Lock, but Kofi got to the bottom rope and broke it up. Bryan then went for repeated kicks, but Kofi avoided the last one and went for an SOS, but landed awkwardly into the pinfall and got a two count. Bryan hit several running kicks in the corner, but Kofi surprised him with a roll up near fall on the third one. Kofi went for a splash, but Bryan avoided it and stomped on Kofi’s head. Bryan fired up for the Flying Knee and hit it, and got the three count victory.
Daniel Bryan defeated Kofi Kingston at 4:39
After the match, Big E and Xavier ran down and were fired up. Bryan walked to the back with his championship as the crowd booes.
My Take: I had my suspicions that Vince McMahon was going to alter the deal, based on him emphasizing that people need to carefully listen to his words last week. I didn’t expect Bryan to come out and go Empire Strikes back at the end of the show, and I am left to question what more they can have Kofi do to earn his shot at WrestleMania? Does another McMahon have to step in and attempt to overrule Vince? I think we’re basically out of opportunities to have arduous physical gauntlets sell people on Kofi.