Live from Laredo, Texas, this is Smackdown Live for episode #960. 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 to Melo Man for the banner up top.
The show began with The New Day doing their entrance for the fired up crowd in Laredo, Texas. They are there for Xavier Woods’ US Title tournament match. The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton talked about the tournament.
Phillips noted the finals are next week on Smackdown Live instead of at the Royal Rumble.
Analysis: I assume WWE made that change because they want the US Champion and the finalist in the Royal Rumble match. (Editor's Note: It ended up being a lie from WWE anyway!)
Xavier Woods stood behind a podium with USA colors as Kofi Kingston and Big E joined him for a pre-match promo. They said “Modern Day Maharajah” where they rolled the R’s excessively. Woods spoke about the Principle of Pancakes as they tossed pancakes into the crowd. They spoke about how pancakes can bring the world together with Big E doing a Curb Your Enthusiasm reference by saying “pretty, pretty good” in there. Woods said a vote for him as US Champion is a vote for three.
Woods said the best thing come in threes like the red, white and blue. Big E mentioned Home Alone 1, 2 and 3, but not so much three. Woods noted that his opponent despises people in the arena and asked if the fans want that man to be the US Champion, so the fans chanted “no” to that. Woods asked people to lend him their strength so he can defeat Jinder Mahal to become the US Champion.
The Singh Brothers did the introduction for the Modern Day Maharajah, Jinder Mahal. They do a good job of that. Mahal looks more jacked up than ever and has way too much body oil on. Seriously dude, it's too much.
Analysis: It’s nice to see a match start the show. I was excited about that, but then I looked at the clock and it took about eight minutes to start it after the promo. At least it wasn’t a show opening promo to set up a match for later because it’s coming up right away.
US Championship Tournament Semifinals: Jinder Mahal (w/Samir & Sunil Singh) vs. Xavier Woods (w/Kofi Kingston & Big E)
Mahal decked Woods with a standing side kick. Mahal with a back elbow. Woods came back with a dropkick that sent Mahal into the corner. Mahal came back with another elbow and a running fist drop for two.
Back from break, Mahal had Woods in a chinlock. Woods kicked the knee of Mahal to break free, but Mahal nailed a clothesline to stop him. Mahal hit knee drops on Woods. Big E threw pancakes at the Singh Brothers leading to Graves saying New Day should be sent to the back due to “breakfast assault” with the pancakes. The fans chanted “We Want Pancakes” so the food is over more than the talent. Mahal sent Woods ribs first into the top rope. Mahal with a hard whip that sent Woods into the turnbuckle. Forearms to the head by Mahal followed by another chinlock by Mahal. When Woods tried to hit a move, Mahal hit a leaping knee to the face for a two count.
Analysis: That entire sequence was Mahal on offense. It’s not that exciting to watch…or write about.
Back from break, Woods made his comeback with punches and chops, but Mahal stopped him with a chop to the throat. Woods with two running forearms followed by a spinning forearm to the face. Woods connected with an enziguri kick to the head followed by the running knee for a two count. The Singh Brothers were on the apron, so New Day chased them up the ramp. All four guys went to the back. Woods hit a belly to back suplex. Woods went up top for the elbow drop, but Mahal moved out of the way. Mahal sent Woods throat first into the bottom rope. Mahal picked up Woods and hit The Khallas for the pinfall win after 18 minutes. There was a rough landing for Woods on the back of his neck.
Winner by pinfall: Jinder Mahal
Analysis: **1/2 It was a solid match that got a lot of time with Mahal dominating about 90% of it. I don’t think they needed 18 minutes because it was really slow at times and too much stalling with Mahal grabbing chinlocks far too often. If they went about 12 minutes it likely would have been a better match. Woods got a couple of decent nearfalls that the crowd bought into, but I don’t think anybody really believed Woods was going to win this match.
With the win, Mahal moves on to the US Title tournament finals against the winner of Roode vs. Rawley.
A cell phone promo from Baron Corbin was shown saying he’s going to win the Royal Rumble because he was built for the match as the lone wolf and it’s his time to main event WrestleMania.
A six women tag is coming up later.
Promos aired to set up Finn Balor/Sasha Banks vs. Shinsuke Nakamura/Natalya on Mixed Match Challenge on Facebook after Smackdown is over. I’m going to review that in a separate post although it's not on in Canada on Tuesdays (we get it on WWE Network on Thursdays), so not sure when I'll do it.
PLUG TIME: I wrote a huge column for The Comeback looking at some of the greatest WWE Raw moments ever in honor of 25 years of Raw. No Katie Vick, Kevin Federline or hand baby made the list. Crack open a Steveweiser and enjoy.
The announcement of Goldberg for WWE’s Hall of Fame was mentioned with media outlets covering it. Tickets for HOF on sale this Friday.
At the Royal Rumble, AJ Styles defends the WWE Championship against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a 1 on 2 Handicap Match.
AJ Styles was interviewed backstage by Renee Young. Styles said it feels like it’s 3 against 1 and Styles was rambling on, then said “Kami” so he said he’s going to call them Kami from now on. Styles said he’ll do everything in his power to make sure this Yep Movement comes to an end because at the Royal Rumble they are facing the WWE Champion. Styles said that this isn’t the Kami Show, it’s the house that AJ Styles built.
Analysis: I guess “Kami” works as a team name for Sami and Kevin. The joke is that they do the combined name thing for celebrity couples.
Videos aired of women in the Royal Rumble match did cell phone promos: Carmella, Natalya, Tamina, Lana’s accent seems like it is getting worse, Naomi, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan with the most generic promo ever, Liv Morgan and Becky Lynch was last saying she’ll be the last woman standing.
Analysis: I don’t mind seeing the women do quick promos like that. It’s an easy way to give everybody ten seconds to make their case for why they are going to win. It doesn’t take up a lot of time.
Bobby Roode made his glorious entrance for his Semifinals match in the US Title tournament against Mojo Rawley.
Mojo Rawley made his entrance with his generic heel theme song.
US Championship Tournament Semifinals: Bobby Roode vs. Mojo Rawley
Roode worked over Rawley with chops followed by a running back elbow. Rawley came back with a back elbow to the head and a running shoulder tackle that looked impressive. Rawley remained in control with a knee to the gut. Rawley dumped Roode out of the ring. Rawley with a running shoulder tackle that sent Roode into the barricade. The show went to break there.
Back from break, Rawley was in control with an abdominal stretch. When Roode broke free, Rawley decked him with a kick. Rawley trash talked: “Did I crack a rib, Bobby?” It’s a unique way to talk trash. Rawley with another submission working on the ribs. Rawley with a shoulder tackle with Roode up against the turnbuckle. Rawley charged again, but Roode avoided it and Roode sent Rawley into the steel ring post. Roode with a running forearm followed by a clothesline. Corner clothesline from Roode followed by a neckbreaker. Roode hit the Blockbuster neckbreaker off the ropes. Rawley came back by putting Roode on his shoulders and slam him face/stomach first into the mat. Good power by Rawley to get a two count. Rawley sent Roode back first into the turnbuckle a few times. Roode got his feet up to avoid the running forearm and Roode hit a spinebuster. Roode hit the Glorious DDT for the pinfall victory after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Bobby Roode
Analysis: **1/2 It was a decent match with Rawley controlling a lot of it and Roode did a good job with the comeback. Rawley hasn’t had a lot of long matches on television (this was probably the longest), so he may have been out of his element a bit. I thought they could have done a better job of having some believable nearfalls near the end of the match to build up the excitement a bit. Roode winning was no surprise.
With the win, Roode faces Mahal in the finals of the US Title tournament.
Post match, the Singh Brothers went into the ring and attacked Roode with punches and kicks. Jinder Mahal was on the stage. Mahal said next week, he will put a glorious end to the charade of Bobby Roode on his way to becoming the next United States Champion.
Roode had a microphone as some fans chanted “Bobby” for him. Roode said they don’t have to wait until next week and suggested they do this tonight. Fans chanted “yes” for that. Mahal said they’ll do it on his time. Mahal wanted Roode one full week to think about how bad Mahal is going to embarrass him.
Daniel Bryan, Smackdown’s General Manager, showed up on the stage behind Mahal. Bryan said they will have the United States Championship match tonight.
Analysis: It’s amazing how that worked out since nothing was booked for the main event of the show already! Shocking twist! Or not. I assume they wanted to wrap up the tournament in one night to get it out of the way, which is fine with me.
The six-women tag match is up next.
Randy Orton did a cell phone promo about winning the Royal Rumble for the third time. He was in the ring at a live event. Orton winning the Rumble is probably not going to happen.
The women made their entrances for the tag team match with the faces coming out individually: Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Naomi.
The heel Riott Squad trio entered together.
Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch & Naomi vs. Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan
Charlotte worked over Morgan with some chops and she tossed her across the ring leading to Ruby Riott tagging in. Charlotte nailed Riott with a kick to keep her down. Lynch tagged in with a shoulder tackle on Riott and Naomi tagged in with a running clothesline on Riott. Lynch got the tag again and she nailed Riott with a forearm on the floor as the show went to a break.
Back from break, the heels were in control as Morgan hit a slam out of the corner for a two count. Morgan pulled down Lynch by the hair. Logan tagged in with a shoulder tackle. Lynch sent Logan over the top to the floor, so that’s a preview of the Royal Rumble. Logan got back in and Lynch nailed a clothesline. Naomi got the hot tag against Morgan with Naomi nailing a running clothesline followed by a springboard kick. Dropkick by Naomi. Naomi with a kick from the apron and a cross body block off the top for two as Logan made the save. Charlotte with a Spear on Logan. Riott nailed a cheap kick on Naomi (ref never saw it) and Morgan hit a move where she sent Naomi’s face into her knees (like a Codebreaker) for the pinfall win after eight minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan
Analysis: *3/4 It was okay for the time given. The finish was cheap for the heels. You could tell Naomi had to stop herself to be in the right spot for Riott, so that looked a bit off because the timing wasn’t perfect. Logan and Morgan still look really green, but I think it was smart to put Morgan over to try to give her some more credibility. For the last couple of months, Morgan hasn’t been in the ring as much as the other two, so that’s why it works to have Morgan win here. It’s similar to the booking on Raw where Sonya Deville beat Sasha Banks in a singles match.
The Usos, Smackdown’s Tag Team Champions, were interviewed by Dasha Fuentes, who asked them about the 2/3 Falls match at the Royal Rumble. Jimmy said that Gable has been playing rebound since his partner Jason Jordan moved to Raw. Jimmy and Jey claimed that they couldn’t tell the difference between them. Jey said at the Royal Rumble they will know who they are and that led to Gable & Benjamin attacking them from behind. Gable said they know who they are and said “former champions.” Chad and Shelton left as The Usos got back to their feet.
Analysis: Jey Uso was arrested for a DWI after a house show in Hidalgo, Texas, so there were questions about if he was going to be on this show. He was. No word on if he will face punishment from WWE for it, but it might happen after they investigate it some more. Thankfully nobody got hurt. Don’t drink and drive, kids.
The announcers plugged the Mixed Match Challenge, Roode vs. Mahal for later and a preview of the WWE Title match at the Royal Rumble.
A video aired about Styles vs. Owens and Zayn for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble.
Analysis: That’s what they do to fill time when guys aren’t on the show like Owens and Zayn this week.
Shinsuke Nakamura did a cell phone promo about winning the Royal Rumble.
Analysis: I hope he wins. He’s the best choice.
Shane McMahon, Smackdown’s Commissioner, made his entrance. The US Title match is next.
There was a clip of the Fashion Files on WWE.com leading to Rusev and Aiden English facing The Ascension on next week’s Smackdown. The Ascension were reading “Gluten Free” magazine.
Daniel Bryan was at ringside with Shane McMahon sitting by the US Title.
Bobby Roode and Jinder Mahal were already in the ring. Mahal’s buddies The Singh Brothers were banned from ringside.
United States Championship Finals: Jinder Mahal vs. Bobby Roode
Mahal controlled early on by kicking the ribs of Bobby Roode. It led to Roode coming back by sending Mahal out of the ring. Roode went after Mahal, but Mahal drove Roode into the ring apron and sent him into the steel steps. Mahal suplexed Roode ribs first into the top of the barricade.
Back from break, Mahal with a shoulder tackle while Roode was on the apron, which sent Roode into the barricade. Back in the ring, Mahal slapped on the abdominal stretch to continue to wear down Roode. Mahal with a knee to the ribs and dropkick to the back. Mahal nailed Roode with knee drops to the ribs. Mahal with a knee to the face knocked down Roode. Another rest hold by Mahal by pulling on Roode’s arms. Roode nailed a sunset flip for a two count. Mahal came back with a standing side kick for a two count. Roode started his comeback with a clothesline that sent Mahal over the top to the floor. Roode with a running clothesline off the apron on Mahal on the floor. Roode went up top with a cross body block by two, but Mahal rolled through for a two count. First good nearfall of the match. Roode with a knee to the face followed by a splash in the corner. Roode connected with the Blockbuster neckbreaker off the ropes for a two count. Roode and Mahal hit a double clothesline that knocked both of them down. Mahal with a back elbow, but Roode came back with a spinebuster. Mahal got a rollup on Roode for two. Mahal went for The Khallas, but Roode slipped out of it and hit the Glorious DDT for the pinfall win after 16 minutes.
Winner by pinfall and New United States Champion: Bobby Roode
Analysis: *** It was a good match given a lot of time, which is what you want to see in a championship match. Mahal worked over the ribs of Roode for about 90% of the match, so it was a little boring at times, but they built up to Roode’s comeback very well. They had a few nearfall spots in there and I liked the finish because it was a smooth transition with Roode countering The Khallas leading to the Glorious DDT for the pinfall win. I’m not surprised by the Roode win at all. Mahal winning would have been fine with me too.
Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan stood up to applaud Roode on his big win.
Shane and Daniel went into the ring to hand Roode the US Title. Roode posed with the US Title over his head. Roode celebrated with the title to end the show.
Analysis: I’m not sure where Dolph Ziggler fits into this storyline whenever he returns, but he was feuding with Roode in the past. Perhaps it will be next week where Ziggler returns to attack Roode to set up a match between them at the Royal Rumble, which is why WWE rushed to finish this tournament on this show.
I think part of the reason why WWE ended the tournament here is because WWE wants Roode and Mahal in the Royal Rumble match, so that’s why it was moved off the Rumble PPV.
Three Stars of the Show
- Bobby Roode
- Jinder Mahal
- Xavier Woods
5.5 out of 10
Last week: 4.5
2018 Average: 4.83
Last 5 Weeks: 4.5, 4.5, 7.5, 6, 4.5
It gets a 5.5 out of 10.
It was a show about the US Title featuring several long matches, so I thought it was okay. If there were better wrestlers in longer matches like that it would have been a much better show. Sorry Mojo and Jinder, but you’re not exactly AJ and Sami. Over 30 minutes of in-ring time for Jinder Mahal is not that interesting to me.
There was a lack of star power this week since the focus was on the US Title so much. It should be back to normal next week.
— WWE (@WWE) January 3, 2018
The next WWE PPV is the Royal Rumble on January 28 in Philadelphia. Here’s what we know so far.
Men’s Royal Rumble match with 30 competitors – The names announced so far are John Cena, Finn Balor, Randy Orton, Elias, Shinsuke Nakamura, Baron Corbin, Matt Hardy, Bray Wyatt, Rusev, Aiden English, Apollo Crews, Titus O’Neil.
Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Kane vs. Braun Strowman
WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Women’s Royal Rumble match with 30 competitors – The names announced so far are Asuka, Natalya, Ruby Riott, Naomi, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Lana, Tamina, Mickie James, Nia Jax, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Becky Lynch, Dana Brooke, Carmella and Alicia Fox.
Raw Tag Team Championships: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan vs. Sheamus & Cesaro
Smackdown Tag Team Championships 2/3 Falls: The Usos vs. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable
Cruiserweight Championship: Enzo Amore vs. Cedric Alexander
That’s all for now. Go Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs.
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