By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Uncasville, Connecticut at Mohegan Sun Arena
New Day opened the show with their typical entrance. They made their entrance while the broadcast team of Tim Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton made their introductions. Woods asked to be serious for a moment, and said the past few months have been a roller coaster. Big E mentioned them being together for almost 5 years, and the crowd going from New Day Sucks to New Day Rocks. There was a bit of a confused chant as the crowd couldn’t decide on what to say. Woods said it has been one hell of an experience, and they wanted to say thank you.
Big E then said that they’ve discussed all the obstacles put in Kofi’s way, and they have been considering walking away. Woods said the hardest part for him and Big E has been watching how poorly Kofi has been treated, and not just recently, but for all 11 years. He said Kofi lives in the power of positivity, and he doesn’t understand the word quit. Woods then said that they aren’t going to leave without getting answers, and proceeded to call out Vince McMahon. He said they had no problem waiting in the middle of the ring until he shows up.
Vince then made his entrance and looked rather amused. Vince started to speak, but was immediately interrupted by Daniel Bryan. He told Vince not to spend another moment placating the fragile egos of the New Day, and to let them quit. Bryan said Vince created them, and he could create another one by bringing up 3 NXT guys and having them throw waffles into the crowd. Bryan said Kofi is a B+ player, and that his instincts about Kofi Kingston have been right the entire time. He told Vince not to listen to Woods or Big E, or the parasites in the crowd, and to trust his instincts.
Woods told Bryan that he had become everything he hated, and that he was a hypocrite. Vince intervened and said that none of them were going to quit. They didn’t have a quitting bone in their body, with all that power of positivity. He told Kofi that he would always be a B+ player to him, but the question left to answer is whether his friends were better than being a B+ Tag Team. Vince got a bit manic at this point and started dancing around and making noises. He said if they can win a tag team gauntlet match, Kofi was in at WrestleMania. He told Kofi that he wouldn’t get any more opportunities on his own, so he might as well go backstage and have a soda. Bryan stood on the stage in disbelief.
Backstage, Becky Lynch was interviewed. She questioned what Charlotte brought to the table for their match, after Charlotte brought the title and she brought the people. Charlotte’s music hit in the arena, and Becky stopped talking.
Charlotte said she was about to show the crowd how deserving she was….[c]
My Take: Vince was all over the place for that promo. It was his weakest performance since getting involved in this Kofi and Bryan situation. The New Day was quite good, but I have to question the logic here. Why not have that great moment to close the show last week be the one to send Kofi to Mania, if this was the plan? I understand wanting to involve Woods and Big E in the drama, but this is feeling as bit overbooked. Becky and Charlotte desperately need some new promo material. Watching them try to go out and wring blood from a stone for the last few weeks has been painful.
Asuka made her entrance following the break. This is apparently a title match? Ring announcements were made.
1. Asuka vs. Charlotte for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: They worked grappling and reversals early, so this one is likely going to go for a stretch of time. Charlotte attempted a handspring reversal after Asuka missed a clothesline, but Asuka was ready and landed a kick to the ribs. Charlotte rolled to ringside…[c]
During the break, Charlotte got the majority of the offense. She hit a back suplex for a near fall, and then hit a fallaway slam. Asuka applied an abdominal stretch and rolled up Charlotte for two. Charlotte talked trash and began targeting Asuka’s left knee. Asuka reversed a spear into a Codebreaker type maneuver. She then sold her leg, but still fought through it to hit a hip atack and a german suplex. She then hit a running single leg dropkick for a near fall.
Asuka hit some kicks to the kidneys, but Charlotte avoided a follow up hip attack and hit a big boot. She then covered for a near fall. Charlotte went up top for her Moonsault, but Asuka avoided it and pulled her into the Asuka lock. Charlotte rolled back and turned in into a pinfall attempt, so Asuka had to break…[c]
Charlotte landed some chops, but could not get Asuka locked into the Figure Eight. On the last attempt, Charlotte was shoved off into the middle turnbuckle. Asuka then followed up with a head kick and covered for a near fall. Asuka climbed to the top, but Charlotte met her there and hit a Spanish Fly for a near fall. Charlotte sold frustration. Charlotte climbed into the mount position and landed some forearms. Asuka then pulled her into an Arm Triangle, but Charlotte powered her out and landed a powerbomb for a close near fall.
Charlotte attempted a Figure Eight, and Asuka tried to reverse into the Asuka lock, but Charlotte broke free and finally applied the Figure Eight for the win.
Charlotte defeated Asuka to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship at 17:33
After the match, Charlotte celebrated her victory. Asuka looked on dejected. The announce team speculated about what this means for the Main Event of WrestleMania. Kurt Angle made his entrance as Charlotte walked towards the back. Charlotte gave Kurt a nasty look for interrupting her moment.
My Take: That match was great. Charlotte and Asuka both delivered tremendous efforts. What this means for the WrestleMania Main Event is anyone’s guess, but I’ll assume it becomes winner take all. If so, the decision to have Becky Lynch lose to Asuka as the Royal Rumble becomes even more puzzling.
AJ Styles was interviewed backstage and asked about being Kurt Angle’s final opponent. He said he was honored, and felt privileged to be a part of his career. He said he wasn’t taking this match lightly, and he was going to bring his best game. AJ said Kurt may have laid the foundation, but this is the house AJ Styles built. He then made his ring entrance.
2. AJ Styles vs. Kurt Angle: They tied up, and Kurt caught AJ with a German Suplex. He then went for the Angle Slam, but AJ avoided it. Styles then applied the Calf Crusher. Angle looked close to submitting, but he eventually reversed and got Styles into an Ankle Lock. Styles was able to reverse out after a moment, but both men were damaged. As Styles sold the Ankle Lock, Randy Orton surprised him with an RKO.
The match ended in a No Contest at 2:33
Angle got to his feet and hit Orton with an Angle Slam. He and Styles embraced. The announce team threw to a video promo from Rey Mysterio and Dominick, and Rey said he was motivated to defeat Samoa Joe for his family. The Miz made his entrance in a suit…[c]
My Take: That was a good use of Angle, despite being a bit too short. They got the home run spots out of the way early, and Kurt was able to get out before he got too fatigued.
Miz opened and said that Shane had lit a fire in him he didn’t even know existed, and he can’t do anything but imagine himself ripping him limb by limb at WrestleMania. He said Shane has brought emotion out of him that he had never experienced in his 13 year career. He said he wants to showcase everything he can do to Shane McMahon by decimating him up close and personal with the crowd, just like Shane did to him and his father. He challenged him to a Falls Count Anywhere Match. Shane then made his entrance flanked by security and some of the Smackdown roster. Sanity, Shelton Benjamin, and the Colons made their entrance.
Shane demanded Greg Hamilton give him a proper introduction with conviction. He then told Miz that the security was there for his benefit, and to protect Miz from Shane. He then threw up an image of Shane roughing up Shane’s father, and said he has watched what he did a Fastlane over and over again. He said every time he watched it, he felt better about himself. He spoke about paralyzing his father with fear when he grabbed him by the face, and it called the feeling it gave him euphoric. He said he has a thirst for that feeling now, and so the stipulation was accepted. He said his only regret looking up at the picture was that he didn’t do more harm to his father for his greatest “Miztake”, and that was impregnating his mother.
Miz lost it and destroyed the security detail. He then kicked Shelton Benjamin in the face, and tossed Primo into the ring steps. Miz then got swarmed by Sanity. They tossed him into the ring barricade, but Miz fought back and got the better of all three Sanity members in a brawl that went into the crowd behind the timekeeper’s table.
Footage was shown of New Day members Woods and Big E being put in a Tag Team Gauntlet match for tonight. Charlotte’s title win was also shown. Another video recap of Raw’s Moment of Bliss segment was shown. New Day then made their entrance…[c]
My Take: The Falls Count Anywhere stipulation is a nice addition to this match, which likely would have been a brawl anyway. Now they at least have the excuse to plan some fun spots around the arena and work to Shane’s strengths as a stunt brawler.
Backstage, The Iconics recapped some if the nights events, but said the biggest news was that they would be competing for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships, and that this is the first WrestleMania to be Iconic. In the arena, Gallows and Anderson made their entrance.
Tag Team Gauntlet Match 1 – New Day vs. Gallows and Anderson: Woods started hot and hit a dropkick. Woods made quick work of Anderson, and Big E cleared Gallows. They hit Up Up Down Down for a quick victory.
New Day defeated Gallows and Anderson at :55
Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev made their ring entrance. Becky Lynch and others were shown standing with Kofi cheering on New Day in the back.
Tag Team Gauntlet Match 2 – New Day vs. Nakamura and Rusev: Woods hit a headscissors takedown, but missed a follow up splash in the corner. Rusev tagged in and he tossed Woods from the ring and jawed at the crowd…[c]
My Take: Gallows and Anderson are clearly on their way out of the company, right?
Rusev and Nakamura controlled Woods during the break, and continued to cut him off from a tag by grounding him with holds. He eventually broke free and made a tag, and Big E came in hit overhead suplexes on both Rusev and Nakamura. Rusev tagged in and he and Nakamura hit a Suplex and Knee Strike double team move. Woods broke up the pinfall.
Nakamura charged up for Kinshasa in the ring, but Big E avoided it and tagged in Woods. They hit Up Up Down Down for the win.
New Day defeated Nakamura and Rusev at 9:16 total gauntlet time
The Bar made their entrance for the next match…[c]
My Take: Some fun spots in there, but they haven’t gotten the crowd completely invested into this yet. I assume the next opponents will ratchet up the pressure.
Tag Team Gauntlet Match 3 – New Day vs. The Bar: The match was joined in progress. Big E is being isolated by The Bar. Cesaro hit a Swing followed by a Sharpshooter. They continued to assault Big E’s knee and backed him into their corner. He tried to punch his way out, but Sheamus grabbed a single leg takedown. Big E was able to eventually clear The Bar from the ring, but had to crawl to his corner to make the tag.
Woods entered and hit knee and a kick to Cesaro’s back to send him out of the ring. He then sent Sheamus out, and dove on both of them. Woods then tossed Cesaro into the ring and climbed to the top for a Leg Drop. Sheamus broke up the pin…[c]
Sheamus climbed to the top turnbuckle and Big E avoided him. He then hit Sheamus with a powerbomb, and tagged in Woods. Cesaro tagged in and hit Woods coming off the top with an uppercut for a near fall. Sheamus hit Woods with a knee and tagged in. They set up for their double team White Noise, but Big E pulled Cesaro out to the floor. Woods rolled up Sheamus for the victory.
New Day defeated The Bar at 24:11 Total Gauntlet Time
After the match, The Bar hit a double powerbomb on Big E through a table.
The Usos then made their way out to the ring. Woods helped get Big E off the able. The Usos jawed at them. Jey grabbed a microphone and said that they fought wars against New Day, and that Kofi deserved his title opportunity. Jimmy said he’s earned their respect, and the respect of the fans and the locker room. They then forfeited the match.
New Day defeated The Usos by Forfeit.
Daniel Bryan was shown backstage tossing around furniture….[c]
My Take: Nice to see the The Usos avoid the trap of being mindless automatons and forfeit. It makes sense given their past with the New Day and the mutual respect they developed.
At 32:08, Daniel Bryan and Rowan made their entrances as the final boss of the gauntlet. The brawl started immediately.
Tag Team Gauntlet Match 5 – New Day vs. Rowan and Bryan: Rowan and Bryan destroyed both Woods and Big E on the outside. Bryan and Big E started the actual match once it started, and Bryan immediately applied a half crab on Big E’s damaged knee. The hold was broken by Woods springboarding into a dropkick. Woods then hit a dive to the outside on Rowan. Big E hit a Uranage as Bryan ran at him, and then hit the Big Ending. Rowan broke up the pinfall, and then knocked Woods off the apron into the barricade.
Rowan tagged in and hit a side slam for a near fall. Woods hit a big DDT on the outside on Bryan. Rowan then cleared the announce table and ended up getting clotheslined over it by Big E. E then tipped the desk over on him. Rowan and Bryan couldn’t answer the count, and New Day won a countout victory.
New Day defeated Bryan and Rowan at 38:11 Total Gauntlet Time
After the match, Kofi Kingston ran down and celebrated his entry into the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. Backstage, Kayla Braxton interviewed Vince McMahon. He confirmed that Kofi is going to Wrestlemania. He said the question is whether or not a B+ Player can defeated Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania. The babyface locker room then came out and congratulated Kofi, while Bryan held onto his title at ringside.
My Take: Functionally, I don’t see how this is any different than just allowing him to win his own opportunity last week. Then you have two weeks to really ratchet up the personal nature of the feud between Bryan and Kofi. Now that you have one final show, I am left to wonder whether they may not have left enough time. The same applies to what they did earlier in the show upending the Women’s Championship feud once again with yet another added wrinkle. Next week will have to deliver to very hot shows in order to really propel my excitement for WrestleMania.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...