Live from Newark, New Jersey this is Smackdown Live for episode #956. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please check out my WWE News updates Monday to Friday exclusively on TJRWrestling for all the relevant WWE news and my thoughts on everything going on. Thanks Melo Man for the banner up top.
There was a quick video to start the show highlighting the controversial ending to the Zayn/Owens win over Nakamura/Orton at Clash of Champions because of the referees Bryan and McMahon having issues.
Let’s Hear from Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon
Daniel Bryan, the Smackdown General Manager, made his entrance to start the show with the crowd chanting “yes” for him. The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton were shown welcoming us to the show.
Bryan said what they mentioned on Raw by noting that on Sunday, January 28, WWE will present the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match. Bryan said it will be huge, awesome and a turning point in WWE history.
Bryan spoke about how we have a great show in tonight’s main event as Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Jinder Mahal face off against Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles. Shane McMahon’s music hit to interrupt.
Shane McMahon, the Commissioner of Smackdown, made his way down to the ring with Bryan. Shane said hello to Bryan and asked Newark what is up, which drew cheers.
Shane talked about the women’s Royal Rumble on January 28 being great, but Shane said let’s talk about Clash of Champions from this past Sunday. Shane said they were both special guest referees and he’s been thinking about this because everything was happening the right way when Randy Orton hit Sami Zayn with the most beautiful RKO he has ever seen. Shane went down to count one, count two and almost three, but it didn’t happen because Bryan tripped to land on Shane and break the count. Shane said he could have counted to 50. Bryan said it was an accident and Shane said he knows that now, but he didn’t know it then. Shane said that later, Zayn got a rollup on Bryan for a two count and Shane said that what went through his head is when Owens injured Vince McMahon and Zayn cost Shane at Hell in a Cell. Shane also mentioned Sami and Kevin screwing Smackdown at Survivor Series. That’s why Shane’s hand stayed at two. Shane continued talking about how Daniel Bryan made a quick count shortly after that when Sami Zayn pinned Randy Orton. Shane asked Bryan what was going through his head.
Bryan said he did what he did to protect Shane from himself. Fans chanted “thank you Daniel” for it. Shane said that he didn’t need protection from Bryan, so Bryan told him that he does. Bryan said he knows Shane loves Smackdown live, but his passion can turn Shane into a hothead. Bryan said that he wanted to protect their idea. Bryan said he believed in the shared vision they had of the “Land of Opportunity” for everybody, not just people that Shane likes. Bryan said that Shane may not like them, but Shane threatened their livelihood that they promised to everybody.
Shane spoke about how he knows Bryan has empathy for Owens and Zayn. Shane told Bryan to be very careful because as soon as Owens and Zayn are done playing him, they will stab Bryan in the back. Shane told Bryan not to show favoritism towards them because it will bite Bryan in the rear.
Bryan replied to that by asking Shane if he was saying that Bryan shouldn’t have done what he did because of what was best for business. Bryan said he fought against those words in the past (think 2013-14) and that he believed in Shane. Bryan told Shane if he wants to fire somebody, he should fire Daniel because Bryan doesn’t want to see Shane-O-Mac turn into Mr. McMahon. Shane responded to that with a stunned look on his face. Fans started a “who’s your daddy” chant. That was funny.
Shane told Bryan that he respects him implicitly, he trusts him and said good luck with the show tonight. They shook hands. Shane walked out of the ring while Bryan was left to ponder that in the ring.
Analysis: It took about 13 minutes to get through all of it, but they made their points well. They spent a lot of time summarizing things we already saw. Fans wanted to hear from both men after what happened at Clash of Champions, so it was smart to start with them. The key part of that promo was Bryan telling Shane that he didn’t want to see Shane become like his father Vince McMahon, who is the most well-known heel authority figure in wrestling history. It still feels like Bryan or Shane is turning heel and Shane is more likely because of how popular Bryan is. Perhaps it will be around the Royal Rumble next month.
Six-man tag later. Usos vs. Gable/Benjamin is next.
There was a video telling us the Bella Twins Youtube channel has over 1 million subscribers with Tom Phillips telling us to check it out. No. I have good taste.
The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
This is not for The Usos’ Tag Team Titles.
The Usos are now faces while Gable/Benjamin are now heels or at least that’s how they have been acting of late. Jey sent Gable sternum first into the turnbuckle. Jey nailed a back elbow that sent Gable out of the ring for a commercial. The action continued with the commercial on USA Network, but not here in Canada.
Back from break, Jimmy was isolated from his brother as Benjamin got a kick to the gut, but Jimmy got a rollup. Jimmy nailed an enziguri kick to knock down Benjamin. Jey got the hot tag against Gable with a leaping clothesline. Jey nailed Gable with a Samoan Drop. Jey nailed the running butt splash on Gable in the corner. Benjamin got sent to the floor, but he nailed Jimmy wit ha knee to the face. Gable rollup on Jey for a two count. Jey crushed Gable wit ha superkick. When Jey went up top, Benjamin went after him. Jey knocked Benjamin down. Jey with a splash off the top, Gable blocked it and got a cradle for two. Gable with a rolling German Suplex on Jimmy. Gable with a rolling German Suplex on Jey. Benjamin tagged in, held up Jey in position and Gable nailed a clothesline off the top into the Powerbomb pin with Benjamin covering for the win after eight minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
Analysis: *** That was pretty good for the time given. The outcome didn’t surprise me because we all know WWE loves booking champions to lose non-title matches. I don’t mind that all because I like Gable and Benjamin as a team that should win the titles at some point to give them some credibility as a team. Gable was impressive with the rolling Germans like he did at Clash of Champions. If they got another five minutes it could have been a classic match, but it was still very enjoyable for the time given.
Later: Dolph Ziggler’s US Championship celebration. Charlotte Flair was shown walking backstage in her peacock robe attire because she’s up next.
Charlotte Flair, the Smackdown Women’s Champion, walked out in her ring gear and peacock robe along with the title around her waist.
A clip aired of Raw showing Stephanie McMahon’s speech from Raw announcing the first women’s Royal Rumble match. The video showed various highlights of women’s matches in the last few years. It took about three minutes.
Charlotte said she was standing in the ring with goosebumps after watching that video. Charlotte said she loved carrying that title. Charlotte was excited talking about the women from Raw and Smackdown being a part of the women’s Royal Rumble match. Charlotte said there is nothing they can’t do. Charlotte thanked the fans for helping them for going to their socials, chanting in the arenas and showed passion for what they do, which is why management listened. Charlotte congratulated the fans and the women in the Smackdown division. Charlotte said that whoever wins that Royal Rumble match, she will be waiting to defend her championship at WrestleMania.
Analysis: I doubt it’s somebody from Smackdown that wins. I’ll pick Asuka or perhaps Ronda Rousey if she is a part of the Royal Rumble.
Naomi made her glow entrance. Naomi congratulated Charlotte on her title defense. Naomi said she’s the first woman on the Smackdown roster to declare that she is entering the women’s Royal Rumble. Graves: “Naomi just made history.” Naomi said she will see queen Charlotte at WrestleMania.
Analysis: Enough with the make history stuff, please. We get it. People need to stop saying it every show all the time and we don’t need Graves saying it too. Also, why does Naomi have to declare for a spot in the Royal Rumble? It’s not like they have a lot of people.
The Riott Squad trio made their entrance. Naomi called them “chicken-heads” and the fans chanted it. Naomi suggested two of those women step into the ring, so they can have a rumble. That led to a commercial.
Analysis: Holla holla tag team match Teddy Long special playa. Serious question: Does Vince McMahon get tired of booking matches this way nearly every show nearly every week for like two decades? It’s so repetitive. Fans are sick of it. It would be the nice if the creative team had different ideas.
Charlotte Flair & Naomi vs. Sarah Logan & Ruby Riott (w/Liv Morgan)
It’s no surprise that Liv isn’t in the match since she's not that good in the ring. Morgan took control over Charlotte by going after her left knee. Riott kicked away at Charlotte’s leg. When Charlotte broke free, Riott kicked her in the leg to keep her down. Logan tagged in work over Charlotte’s leg. Elbow strikes from Logan to Charlotte’s left leg. Naomi got the tag and fired away on Logan with punches to the head and a kick to the head. Another kick to the head by Naomi followed by an enziguri kick off the middle rope, but Riott broke up the pin. Charlotte nailed a boot to the face of Riott. Logan with a headbutt to Naomi. Morgan on the apron, Logan missed an attack, hit Morgan by mistake and Naomi nailed the Rear View aka Flying Ass attack for the pinfall win after four minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Charlotte Flair & Naomi
Analysis: * Boring match that was an easy win for the faces. There wasn’t a point where the heels looked like they might win. The Riott Squad is way behind Raw’s Absolution group in terms of performance. Paige’s presence helps Absolution, but these girls seems a step slow.
The New Day trio were backstage dressed in Christmas gear with pancakes and presents. Big E fed a guy pancakes. Kofi Kingston had a New Day holiday shirt. Rusev and Aiden English showed up in costumes with English having a carrot nose for his snowman outfit, but then he threw it down. Rusev said he had what people really want, a “Happy Rusev Day” shirt. The fans cheered. Rusev Claus said everybody is on the naughty list except for Aiden. English sang “O Rusev Day” and they challenged New Day to a contest and they will be their next conquest. Rusev slammed a pancake to the ground and stomped on it. Big E yelled about how they flapped the wrong jack. Big E said they have a fight.
Analysis: The fans were solidly behind Rusev/English at Clash of Champions and they are still behind them. They will probably be faces soon.
Still to come: Six man tag main event. Up next is Dolph Ziggler.
Dolph Ziggler’s US Title Celebration
Dolph Ziggler made his entrance. His music started to play, then it stopped it and he walked out to no music. Ziggler was wearing a black suit with a white shirt.
Ziggler: “I told you so. I…told…you…so!” Ziggler said anybody wondering why Ziggler is in the US Title match, it’s because of this and he held the title in the air. Ziggler said that people think him being in the US Title match was out of nowhere is for people who haven’t been paying attention for the last 12 years. Ziggler said that some guys might come out there and say they are the biggest, baddest or charismatic, but not him because he’s just the best. Ziggler said that no one can do what he can do in the ring. Ziggler pointed out that this is the start of his second United States Championship reign. Ziggler set up a video.
A video aired showing Ziggler winning his first US Title at Capitol Punishment in June 2011 when he beat Kofi Kingston with a sleeper to win the title. Ziggler’s second US Title win was this past Sunday at Clash of Champions.
Ziggler said if you think that’s it, he is just getting started. Ziggler pointed out that he’s also a 5-time Intercontinental Champion and told people to take a look.
They showed Ziggler’s IC Title reigns: August 2010, SummerSlam 2014, Raw on September 2014, TLC in December 2014 and No Mercy 2016 with his career on the line.
Ziggler said he’s not even done and pointed out that he won Money in the Bank, cashed in successfully and became the World Heavyweight Champion. Ziggler pointed out that it happened right down the road.
A clip was shown from Money in the Bank in June 2012 with Ziggler holding the Money in the Bank briefcase. They showed Ziggler on April 2013 cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase on Alberto Del Rio to become World Heavyweight Champion. They ignored his other World Heavyweight Championship reign because it was forgettable.
Ziggler said he is one of the most successful WWE superstars in history and he’s proved it to himself and the rest of the world. Ziggler said year after year he goes unappreciated. Ziggler said the fans are not worthy of his presence. Ziggler said we don’t deserve him. Ziggler looked at the US Title. Ziggler said if you want something to remember him by, so he put the title in the ring, threw the microphone down and he walked away without the title. After Ziggler went to the back, the camera zoomed in on the title.
Analysis: That was an interesting segment. I thought Ziggler did very well to get his point across that he’s had a very successful career in WWE with all those titles wins. Any time you win a title and rub it in the people’s faces, they are going to hate you even more. The part about leaving the title in the ring and looking like he quit is something that will get people wondering where this is headed. Ziggler hasn’t quit the company or anything like that, but the fact that anybody would think that makes it unique to me. I’m hoping there’s some good angle for it.
Daniel Bryan was in the office on the phone saying something was interesting. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn showed up with a champagne to thank Bryan. Zayn said that Bryan did the right thing for them and their fans. Bryan said he did it for all of Smackdown and gave them back the champagne because he doesn’t drink. Owens said that they knew that Bryan didn’t like Orton with Zayn mentioning that Orton made life difficult for Bryan in 2013. Owens said with them having their jobs there, they got the last laugh against Shane McMahon. Bryan told them they are delusional. Bryan told them if they don’t wipe the smiles off their faces then he might fire them himself. Zayn and Owens left.
Analysis: The heel duo of Zayn and Owens remain a highlight of Smackdown. Bryan not wanting to deal with them fits what his character is all about in doing the right thing.
The New Day were shown backstage walking to the ring for their match with Big E tossing some pancakes around again.
A commercial aired for free agent John Cena returning to Raw next Monday on Christmas.
The New Day made their entrance. Rusev and English made their entrance. They tossed some Rusev Day shirts into the crowd.
All five men were in costumes with English as Frosty the Snowman, Rusev as Rusev Claus, Xavier Woods as a reindeer, Kofi Kingston as a Gingerbread Man and Big E was just in a green/red Christmas outfit.
Rusev & Aiden English vs. The New Day’s Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods (w/Big E)
The crowd chanted “Rusev Day” early on. Kingston used his speed to avoid the attack of the others because he’s the fast Gingerbread Man. Rusev tried chasing Kingston. English went after Kingston and Kingston nailed a dropkick. Kingston dumped Rusev out of the ring. Fans chanted “Ru-sev Day” to the tune of the New Day chants. Kingston and Woods tossed some t-shirts into the crowd. There was also some grey underwear that said “Happy Rusev Day” on them. Rusev put the underwear on the inside of his coat, which was pretty funny. Show went to break there.
The show returned with Kingston isolated form Woods. Fans chanted “we want pancakes” so Big E tossed some pancakes into the crowd. Rusev nailed Kingston with a clothesline. Fans chanted “hey, we want some pancakes.” Kingston started his comeback with a DDT off the ropes. Woods tagged in against English with two forearms and a dropkick to the back while English was against the ropes. English sent Woods into the corner and English hit a slam into a spinebuster for two with Kingston breaking it up. Rusev threw Kingston out of the ring. English cleared off the announce table. Rusev put the pancakes on the announce table. English put whip cream on the pancakes. Rusev put a cherry on them. The ref apparently was not counting because it was a long time. Kingston jumped off the top with a trust fall dive onto Rusev. Double team flapjack by Kingston and Woods sent English face first into the pancakes with the whip cream. Back in the ring, Woods with a kick to the face. Woods hit an elbow drop off the top onto English for the pinfall win after about 11 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The New Day
Analysis: ** It was fine for a comedy match. The ref Charles Robinson didn’t count while the guys were outside the ring for about two minutes, but when they’re having a joke match I find it pointless to complain about little things like that. The bit with the pancakes and whip cream was funny with English selling it well. Crowd was into the match too, so that’s good.
The announcers plugged Total Divas with the same clip of The Miz and Maryse at a restaurant that was on Raw. It airs on Wednesday on E at 9pmET/8pmCT.
Analysis: Ratings for Total Divas are down this year, so they are trying to push it more.
AJ Styles, Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura were shown chatting backstage because their tag match is next.
Hideo Itami made his 205 Live debut after Smackdown.
The intros took place for the main event with Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura and the WWE Champion AJ Styles entering in that order.
When Jinder Mahal entered, the announcers tried really hard to praise Mahal. Graves said that Jinder put on a “career defining performance” and claimed that Jinder put on a superstar performance. Saxton said that Mahal could be Superstar of the Year. That’s laughable, but I guess in kayfabe land they believe it.
Analysis: It’s painful when the announcers are directed to push a narrative that the fans don’t believe in like that, but that’s what WWE does.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn made their entrances. All of the entrances took about six minutes.
Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura & AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn & Jinder Mahal
There was brawling to start the match. Orton hit Mahal with a back suplex onto the announce table that didn’t break it. Orton wanted a RKO, but Mahal pushed off and Orton got a clothesline. Zayn and Nakamura exchanged armbars. Nakamura pulled some Zayn chest hairs. Nakamura nailed a knee drop on Zayn. Styles tagged in with a headscissors takedown on Zayn. Orton in with a suplex that sent Zayn ribs first into the top rope. Mahal tagged in with a back elbow for Orton followed by a knee drop. Owens stomped away on Orton as the show went to break.
Analysis: Nobody was on the floor when they went to a break there. What a crazy plot twist!
Back from break, Orton missed a shoulder tackle because Orton moved, so Owens hit the ring post. Styles tagged in with a clothesline on Owens. When Styles ran the ropes, Mahal pulled them down and Styles bumped to the floor. Back in the ring, Owens with a senton splash on Styles for two. Mahal got his turn to work on Styles. Tornado DDT by Styles on Mahal. Hot tag Nakamura against Zayn with a jumping kick to the head. Nakamura kick to the back of Owens’ head. Nakamura nailed Zayn with knee strikes to the shoulder. Fans chanted for Nakamura as Nakamura nailed a knee lift for a two count. Spin kick by Nakamura got a two count. Nakamura took down Zayn with an armbar submission, so Owens broke it up with a senton splash. Orton dumped Owens out to the floor. Mahal DDT on Orton. Styles with a Pele Kick to Mahal. Styles jumped over the top with a forearm to Owens. Nakamura set up for the finish, but Samir Singh grabbed Nakamura and the ref saw it, so the ref ejected the Singh Brothers from ringside. Orton hit a RKO on Mahal. Samir and Sunil tried get into the ring, so Orton hit the draping DDT on both of the Sing Brothers. Styles with a Phenomenal Forearm on Owens with Orton actually pushing Styles into Owens. Nakamura hit Zayn with the Kinshasa knee strike leading to the pinfall win. The match went 16 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura & AJ Styles
Analysis: ***1/4 Good tag match that was very predictable and basic. There wasn’t a point in the match where I thought the heels were going to win, so that’s what kept it from being considered an even better match. I liked the spot with Styles hitting the forearm off the top while Orton pushed him to give him some more momentum when Styles connected on Owens. It was a simple tag match to put over the faces so that Nakamura and Orton could get revenge after they lost on Sunday.
The trio of Nakamura, Styles and Orton celebrated in the ring while Nakamura’s music played. Styles even did the Nakamura rope pose at one point. Replays aired of the finish.
The victors celebrated some more while Phillips said Happy Holidays to the WWE Universe and that ended it.
Three Stars of the Show
- The Usos
- Shinsuke Nakamura
6 out of 10
Last week: 5.5
2017 Average: 6.62
Average Post Brand Split (July 26, 2016): 6.56 - Raw is at 5.88
Last 5 Weeks: 4.5, 5.5, 6, 5.5, 7.5
2017 High: 8.5 (April 11, August 1)
2017 Low: 4 (August 29)
It gets a 6 out of 10.
Four matches that were all tag matches. It felt very repetitive by the end of the night with four straight matches building to hot tags. Please try to be more creative, WWE.
Good opening promo with Shane and Daniel as the problems between them continue to grow slowly. Ziggler’s promo was interesting too because of where things may be headed with him.
Since it’s the holiday season, it’s fair to say they just mailed it in this week just like on Raw. No major angles. Just get through the show. Next week should be similar too. They will push Royal Rumble angles more once we get to January.
That’s all for now. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs.
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