Live from Bakersfield, California, this is Smackdown Live for episode #964. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.
Smackdown started with Dolph Ziggler making his entrance to no music. After he stood on the stage, his music hit and he walked down to the ring. Ziggler faces Baron Corbin with the winner getting into the WWE Championship match at Fastlane.
The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton welcomed us to the show.
A clip aired from last week where Daniel Bryan announced AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens at Fastlane for the WWE Title. Later in the week, Shane McMahon said it's going to be a Fatal 4-Way with the winner of Ziggler vs. Corbin being added to the match. Ziggler paced around the ring.
Analysis: Congrats to Smackdown for showing actual video highlights from last week instead of Raw, which showed images because apparently somebody in WWE thought that was smart. It was not.
Baron Corbin's music hit, but he did not walk out. Corbin's music started up again and it stopped for a second time.
There was a shot of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn beating up Corbin backstage with punches. Shaky camera alert! When Corbin got back up, Zayn and Owens beat him down again. Zayn and Owens tossed Corbin into some cart. Owens said "one down, one more to go."
Owens and Zayn entered the arena with the fans booing them. Zayn walked into the crowd while Owens went down the center aisle. Ziggler went after Zayn in the crowd, but Owens went over there to help Zayn. There was a nearly scary moment as a little girl stepped in front of Ziggler, but he was able to avoid her. Zayn whipped Owens into a trash can. Owens and Zayn dumped Ziggler over the barricade at ringside. Ziggler tried to fight back, but Owens sent Ziggler into the ring post. Owens held up Ziggler and Zayn nailed Ziggler with the Helluva Kick to knock him down.
When Zayn and Owens got to the top of the ramp, Corbin stumbled out there and Owens and Zayn beat up Corbin. Owens tossed Corbin into the railing by the side of the stage. Officials came out to break it up. It took these people five minutes to stop the cheap attack. Owens and Zayn left as the show went to break nine minutes into it.
Analysis: The story is that Owens and Zayn didn't want anybody else added to their Fastlane match, so they took matters into their own hands. What doesn't make sense is why nobody else on Smackdown made any attempt to try to stop them from attacking Corbin or Ziggler until it was about five minutes into this attack. The lack of consistency is annoying because sometimes when people brawl they are broken up right away and in cases like this, nobody did anything to stop them for five minutes. The attack from Owens and Zayn was good as an opening segment in terms of wanting to keep people tuned in for more. At least it was something different instead of the show opening promo.
A commercial aired for Elimination Chamber featuring the 7-man Chamber match.
Replays aired of Zayn and Owens attacking Corbin and Ziggler to prevent them from having their match.
The Riott Squad trio of Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan entered together with Logan scheduled for a match.
Charlotte Flair, the Smackdown Women's Champion, made her entrance to a nice ovation. When Charlotte got into the ring, Becky Lynch entered to watch her back since she is Charlotte's best friend. Naomi also made her entrance to be in Charlotte's corner.
Charlotte Flair (w/Becky Lynch & Naomi) vs. Sarah Logan (w/Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan)
This is not for Charlotte's Smackdown Women's Title.
Logan was in control with three waistlock takedowns. Charlotte took control with a front facelock and then she tossed Logan across the ring followed by a kick to the face that sent Logan out of the ring. That led to a commercial break.
Back from break, Charlotte was in control briefly until Logan nailed a chop and Charlotte nailed her with six chops including a final chop to the arm. Logan avoided a move and hit Charlotte with a shoulder tackle to the back for two. Logan stomped on Charlotte to keep her down. Logan hit a sloppy butterfly suplex that got no height. It was more like a throw across the ring. Logan pulled on Charlotte's arm for a submission to keep her down. Charlotte nailed a rising knee and then Logan came back with a double knee attack for two. Logan stomped on Charlotte to keep her down. Logan nailed Charlotte with forearms. Logan slapped on an armbar with fans chanting for Charlotte, but Logan nailed a clothesline for two. Charlotte with a kick, followed by a chop and Charlotte missed a kick near the ropes. Logan with a back suplex for a two count. Good nearfall. Charlotte with a forearm and Logan came back with a move where she sent Charlotte into the turnbuckle. Charlotte hit a backbreaker and sent Logan into the turnbuckle followed by the Natural Selection for the pinfall win after 10 minutes. Logan looked like she was spiked when she took the move, but she got up fine. It was a good sell by Logan.
Winner by pinfall: Charlotte Flair
Analysis: *3/4 The match was average since Logan has this awkwardness about it. Morgan's style is unorthodox, but it looks like it hurts when she does her strikes, so that’s good. Charlotte sold the attack well leading to the predictable comeback win. It’s nice to see the champ win a non-title match, which is understandable since the story was the Charlotte has beat Morgan and Logan to set up the showdown with Riott. Logan sold the Natural Selection almost like she was about to do a headstand off it and then down she went.
Post match, Charlotte Flair celebrated with Lynch and Naomi in the ring. Charlotte went over the announcers to say one more woman left, which is a reference to Ruby Riott.
Analysis: I assume the plan is for Charlotte to face Ruby at Fastlane.
Daniel Bryan, Smackdown's GM, was in his office on his phone (like how he is booked every week to be on his phone). Shane McMahon walked up to him to recap what Owens and Zayn did. McMahon said that Corbin and Ziggler said they are still going to get their opportunity tonight. Corbin will face Owens and Ziggler will face Zayn. If either man wins then Fastlane becomes a Fatal 4-Way or a Fatal 5-Way. Shane added that if Owens or Zayn gets involved in either of the matches then they are out of the title match at Fastlane. Shane left with Bryan looking like he was fine with all of that.
Analysis: They love multi-man matches so much. Raw just had a five way. The previous Raw had a triple threat main event. Fastlane may be a five way. They also set up two heel vs. heel matches for later in the show. I guess it makes sense in the storyline, but it's all very confusing in the big picture.
There was a video about Black History Month.
Kevin Owens made his entrance looking serious. Baron Corbin entered for the match as well. The first of two heel vs. heel matches on this show. Replays aired of Owens and Zayn beating up Corbin earlier in the night.
Kevin Owens vs. Baron Corbin
If Corbin wins, he will be added to the WWE Title match at Fastlane.
Corbin was holding his ribs to sell the attack from earlier. They exchanged punches. Owens bailed to the floor. Corbin followed him with a knee to the ribs. Back in the ring, Owens stomped away on Corbin’s ribs. Owens went to the middle ropes and Corbin decked him with a punch leading to Owens going to the floor again. Corbin sent Owens into the barricade ribs first and then face first. Owens sent Corbin shoulder first into the ring post and then he rolled Corbin back into the ring. Owens punched in the ribs with Graves saying that what happened to Corbin earlier may have been the worst beating of his life. That’s a little much. Owens nailed a kick to the ribs and a cannonball attack in the corner for a two count.
Back from break, Corbin whipped Owens into the barricade. Corbin charged at Owens, but Owens moved and Corbin went crashing into the steel steps. Sami Zayn was watching on a TV backstage. Owens hit a senton back splash for a two count. Owens grabbed a chinlock. Corbin came back with a Chokeslam into a backbreaker that drew a bit of a reaction. Corbin with punches, Owens sent him out of the ring and Corbin did his run out of the ring and go back in spot leading to a clothesline that Owens sold with a flip bump. That got a two count. Corbin missed a corner charge by hitting the steel post and Owens got a two count out of it. Owens went up top, but Corbin stopped him and Owens charged leading to a Deep Six Slam by Corbin for a two count. Owens hit a superkick, Corbin avoided a clothesline and Corbin hit the End of Days slam for the pinfall win after 11 minutes. The fans cheered the win.
Winner by pinfall: Baron Corbin
Analysis: **3/4 Good effort by both guys by having a physical match where they showed a lot of intensity to try to get the win. It was weird seeing Corbin working as a face in the match that was coming back from everything Owens was dishing out. The last few minutes were really good with Owens coming close to winning a few times, but Corbin had a lot left and finished him off with the End of Days. It’s been a while since Corbin was booked with some positive momentum. It’s also possible that this angle will lead to Corbin turning face since his heel run wasn’t going that well, so maybe a change is what would be best for him. I don’t know if that’s the plan right now.
There was a shot of Sami Zayn looking upset watching the match in the locker room.
The win means that Corbin will be added to the WWE Title match at Fastlane. Corbin was cheered by some fans as the ref raised his hand.
Bobby Roode’s US Title open challenge is up next.
Let’s Hear From Bobby Roode and Others
Bobby Roode, the US Champion, made his glorious entrance to a good reaction from the crowd. There was a clip from last week with Randy Orton hitting Roode and others with the RKO.
Roode did a promo in the ring. Roode said he wanted to be the greatest United States Champion in history. Roode said in order for him to do that, he has to steal a tradition from John Cena. Roode talked about how Cena defended this title against everyone and anyone, so it gives him great pride and respect that the United States Open Challenge will continue. Roode said the open challenge is for anybody in the locker room, but he hopes the man that accepts his challenge meets him face to face rather than hitting him with a RKO out of nowhere. Fans chanted “RKO” and Randy Orton’s music hit.
Randy Orton made his entrance in his gear with Phillips noting the US Title is a title that has eluded Orton in his career. Orton got in Roode’s face as they looked ready to start a match.
Jinder Mahal’s music hit to interrupt. Mahal, along with Sunil Singh, did a promo on the stage saying the WWE Universe respects Orton, but the Smackdown Live roster doesn’t respect him since they only voted Orton #9 on the Smackdown Top 10. Mahal pointed out that Orton was a 13-time World Champion, first ballot Hall of Famer, the legacy, the evolution and the face of WWE, but only #9 voted by his own peers. Mahal stood on the apron noting that he beat Orton for the WWE Championship and added that he respects Orton. Fans chanted “RKO” to interrupt Mahal. Mahal told Orton that the rest of the Smackdown roster thinks that Orton has peaked.
Orton grabbed a microphone. Orton said he doesn’t give a damn about any top ten list and he never will. Mahal got in the ring. Mahal pointed out Orton was 16 years in the WWE and only #9 while Roode was six months in WWE and he was #5. Mahal said Orton devoted his life to perfect his craft and he’s beaten by an arrogant newcomer. Fans chanted “RKO” again. Mahal said he respects Orton, but he has it in good authority that Roode fancies himself as a future legend killer.
Roode said Jinder had some pretty big words for a man that couldn’t even make the top ten. Roode said Jinder didn’t make the list because nobody there respects him. Roode told Orton he has nothing but respect for him for everything he has done in the ring. Roode added that Orton is only #9 because everybody there, including Roode, are sick and tired of being attacked out of nowhere.
Orton said “are you talking about when I do this?” and hit a RKO on Singh. Mahal took control from there with The Khallas on Roode and The Khallas on Orton. Mahal stood tall as the fans booed him. Mahal’s music hit to end it.
Analysis: The segment was good with Jinder delivering one of his better promos as a heel that pissed off Orton and Roode with what he said. What Mahal said was true in some ways. Mahal even said he respected Orton, but the key is the way he said it and the fans don’t believe him since he’s the heel. Clearly defined roles are important. Anyway, it looks like this will set up a triple threat match for the US Title although I think that’s a bad idea considering there’s already a multi-man match for the WWE Title. For whatever reason, WWE sure loves multi-man matches these days. I don’t mind Orton competing for the US Title after so many years in main events. John Cena did it, so Orton doing it makes sense. As for the Top 10 List, the whole thing seemed useless and Orton saying he doesn’t care about it shows how little it matters.
The announcers talked about Ronda Rousey signing her official Monday Night Raw contract at the Elimination Chamber PPV on February 25.
The New Day trio of Xavier Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston entered the ring. There was a table with a lot of pancakes on a table. Kingston pointed out that today is Fat Tuesday aka Pancake Tuesday and he did his “baby” yell. Woods said in order to celebrate their most favorite holiday, Big E is going to destroy the record by eating 113 pancakes in 8 minutes. Big E said he felt good. Kingston asked the fans if they want to see Big E break this record. There was a pancake counter on the screen and Big E stuffed his face with them. It was going slowly. They were interrupted by Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin.
Gable said when he was training for the Olympics this is exactly what he envisioned himself being a part of it and sarcastically said this is awesome. Benjamin said what they have done for pancakes is astronomical. Benjamin suggested that New Day should open their own version of IHOP as Chad and Shelton got into the ring. Benjamin told them to leave the Smackdown Tag Team division to some serious competitors.
Woods asked them if they are saying that Kofi, Big E and himself are not serious competitors? Woods reminded them that they set the record for longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions. Woods asked them who wants to see Chad and Shelton as champions (leading to the "who" chants), then they said “nobody” at once. Gable said they have a serious side. Gable tossed a pancake to the mat. Benjamin tossed a pancake in the air and said “I flapped his jack.” Big E grabbed one of the trays of pancakes: “Don’t you touch our cakes.” Gable said they had news for them: “Nobody likes pancakes.” The crowd booed and Benjamin said from now on they are eating waffles. They tossed Big E’s tray down. Kofi and Xavier held Big E back. A ref got in between them to set up a match.
Analysis: That was pretty silly in a bad way. I understand wanting to infuse some comedy into the show occasionally, but that was not one of the funnier New Day segments. I like both teams, so putting them in a match is fine with me.
The match started during the break.
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs. The New Day – Big E & Kofi Kingston (w/Xavier Woods)
Kingston nailed the double boots to the face and Benjamin came back with a knee to Kingston’s face for a two count. Gable tagged in to work on Kingston’s left arm. When Kingston broke free, Gable nailed a rolling kick for a two count. That was sweet. Kingston broke free briefly, Benjamin went for a suplex, Kingston slipped out and Gable pulled Big E off the apron to prevent the tag. Benjamin decked Woods with a punch while on the floor. Kingston nailed a jumping double foot stomp on Benjamin. Big E hot tag against Benjamin with two overhead belly to belly suplex, the side belly to belly and the running splash. That’s the usual hot tag offense from Big E. Gable sent Big E into the corner and then nailed a German Suplex. That was great. Gable tagged out, but Woods distracted the ref, so the ref prevented the tag. Kingston dropkick sent Gable out of the ring. Big E picked up Gable on his shoulder and Kingston jumped off the middle ropes to complete the Midnight Hour double team move for the pinfall win. It went about five minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The New Day
Analysis: **1/4 Good stuff for the time given. I liked the twist in the match with the face New Day team distracting the referee to prevent the ref from seeing the tag. It was Woods’ way of getting revenge after Benjamin hitting him with a cheap punch. These teams could have a great match if they got more time and maybe that’s where this rivalry is going since The Usos may be facing another team in the Bludgeon Brothers.
It’s Ziggler vs. Zayn up next.
Dolph Ziggler was shown walking backstage. Renee Young showed up to interview him. Ziggler said he’s been more selective in picking his spots and finding opportunities. Ziggler said he loves this and it’s about doing what he was put on this planet to do – perform in that ring. Ziggler said that nobody will outshine him, which is why Sami and Kevin attacked him like the cowards they are. Ziggler said the reason he is back is for one thing only, the one thing that has eluded him his entire career: “I want to main event WrestleMania and I’ll be damned if I don’t walk in there as WWE Champion.”
Analysis: Very good promo from Ziggler. I don’t think he’s going to main event WrestleMania, but it’s the kind of thing every wrestler should say with less than two months to go until that show. Ziggler speaks with a lot of passion, so it’s easy to like him. I could see him turning back into a face with this storyline.
A video aired telling us it was 54 days until WrestleMania. It’s 53 days as of today.
The Usos, Smackdown’s Tag Team Champions, did a promo talking about how great they are as a tag team. Some of their words appeared on the screen because that’s a new thing WWE has been doing in the last few months. They spoke about how there is nothing that can break this bond. As the promo ended, The Bludgeon Brothers hit a screen with their hammers (it was like a projection screen rather than a TV) and then they were shown standing backstage looking serious.
Analysis: The Usos vs. Bludgeon Brothers makes sense as the next title feud although The Bludgeon Brothers have yet to beat credible teams since their return a few months ago.
Sami Zayn was backstage in the gorilla position ready to enter the arena. Kevin Owens walked up to him saying that Zayn can’t lose and don’t let him down. Zayn said there is no we in this championship match – it’s every man for himself. Zayn’s music hit and he made his entrance.
Dolph Ziggler’s entrance saw him walk out to no music and then as he appeared on the ramp, his music started up and he walked down to the ring.
Next week on Smackdown: Charlotte Flair, Naomi & Becky Lynch vs. Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan.
Analysis: That's fine. I think Riott will pin one fo the faces to set up Charlotte vs. Riott at Fastlane.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sami Zayn
If Ziggler wins he’ll be added to the WWE Title match at Fastlane.
The first few minutes saw Zayn do the cheap tactic of grabbing the ropes constantly to prevent Ziggler from attacking him. Owens was shown watching on a TV backstage. Ziggler had enough of it and punched Zayn followed by a neckbreaker. Zayn bailed to the floor to create some space. Zayn took control with a slingshot that sent Ziggler throat first into the middle ropes. Zayn drove Ziggler back first into the turnbuckle. Zayn went for a move off the ropes, but Ziggler countered with a dropkick to send Zayn out of the ring.
The show returned with Zayn in control with a headlock. Zayn nailed a clothesline. Ziggler nailed a leaping DDT, so both guys were down selling it. Ziggler went for a Fameasser, Zayn got out of it and Ziggler hit the Fameasser for a two count. The crowd was behind Ziggler for it. They battled on the turnbuckle and Zayn hit an Exploder Suplex off the top rope. That was a sweet move. It’s a risky move also, but they nailed it perfectly. Both guys were down after the move, so Zayn was unable to cover after hitting such a big move. Zayn avoided a dropkick, caught Ziggler and hit a slingshot into the steel post. Zayn went for the Helluva Kick, but Ziggler moved and Ziggler hit the Zig Zag…for two as Zayn got his shoulder up. That was a great nearfall. Fans chanted “this is awesome” for them. Zayn avoided a superkick attempt and sent Ziggler shoulder first into the steel post. Zayn sent Ziggler into the steel post again. Owens looked like he was happy while watching the match. Zayn wanted a Blue Thunder Bomb, but Ziggler fought out of it and got a rollup where he sat on top. Zayn nailed an Exploder Suplex that sent Ziggler into the turnbuckle. Zayn set up for a Helluva Kick, but Ziggler countered with a Superkick. Ziggler covered for the pinfall win after 16 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Dolph Ziggler
Analysis: ***1/2 That was a really good match that was given a lot of time with several spots that were believable as finishing moments in the match. Going into it, the Ziggler win was considered obvious, but it was booked in such a way that a Zayn win was believable as the match went on. The best spot in the match was the Exploder Suplex off the top rope. It’s similar to doing a superplex, but it’s so rare to see an Exploder off the top that it really stood out. I like how aggressive Zayn was in hitting big moves like that as well as sending Ziggler into the steel post two times in a row. It felt like more of a fight instead of two guys just hitting a bunch of moves. The finish was very good with Zayn setting up for the Helluva Kick only for Ziggler to counter with a Superkick. They set it up so that the first guy that got their signature kick in was going to get the win and that’s what happened.
The win by Ziggler means that the WWE Title match at Fastlane will be: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler in a Fatal 5-Way match.
Ziggler celebrated the win by standing on the announce table while the fans cheered for him. Smackdown went off the air that way.
Analysis: I think the 5-Way match will be good. My problem is they are relying on multi-man matches way too often. If they change it to a 5-Way Elimination match that would make it even better, btu I doubt that happens since there's the 7-Man Elimination Chamber match two weeks earlier.
They say the only way you can “main event” WrestleMania is by winning the Royal Rumble. Or maybe you can win a 7-Man Elimination Chamber because six men aren't enough. Or maybe a 5-Way at Fastlane. My head hurts. I like the wrestlers on the WWE roster. However, too many multi-person matches makes them less special every time you do them. It gets more people on the show and tells different stories (odds are against champ retaining yadda yadda we know), but 1 on 1 matches are what is best.
As far as a winner goes at Fastlane, I think AJ Styles will retain his WWE Title. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t keep it because Styles vs. Nakamura at WrestleMania is the right way to go.
Three Stars of the Show
1. Dolph Ziggler
2. Sami Zayn
3. (tie) Baron Corbin
3. (tie) Kevin Owens
6 out of 10
Last week: 6.5
2018 Average: 5.71
Last 5 Weeks: 6.5, 5.5, 7.5, 5.5, 4.5
It gets a 6 out of 10.
This was just an average show or maybe slightly above average because of the strength of the main event. I’m not too thrilled about WWE relying on multi-man matches too much, but Ziggler and Corbin each looked great in picking up big wins. Both guys needed that. Ziggler vs. Zayn was one of the best TV matches of the year. It’s also going to be interesting to see if Ziggler is back in the face role and if Corbin will be a face going forward as well.
There was no sign of AJ Styles or Shinsuke Nakamura on this show. Both men were missed.
— WWE (@WWE) February 14, 2018
The next Smackdown PPV is Fastlane on March 11 with only one match announced so far.
WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin
That’s all for now. Go Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs.
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