By David Dodgson (@DodgeeWriter)
Survivor Series is behind us and Smackdown came out second best. The champions shone, especially Baron Corbin, and even AJ Styles looked strong in defeat. The elimination matches did not go to plan, however, with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn playing a hand in Team Blue’s defeat. What fall out can we expect tonight?
We might get the answer to that quite quickly as Shane O’Mac kicks off the show. He claims even in defeat, Smackdown had a strong showing and proved its worth as a brand. He praises the entire roster. The entire roster? Of course not, as he calls out KO and Zayn. The best buddies are completely unapologetic and blame Shane for not including them on the team. The Commissioner accuses them of disrespecting him, the SD Live roster, and the fans, to which Zayn smarmily replies ‘check!’
Shane makes it sound like he is about to fire them, which makes KO claim that he and Zayn are the two top stars in WWE today and can beat anyone on any night. Shane calls them delusional and gets as far as “You’re…” before Daniel Bryan interrupts. After cutting Sami Zayn off with a shout of ‘shut up!’ he announces a match – KO and Sami Zayn v. The New Day in a lumberjack match with the entire roster at ringside (except Randy Orton who was apparently sent home because he was so out of control with rage).
A strong opening segment. The announced match would have made more sense if KO and Sami’s jobs were on the line though. As it is, Daniel Bryan has let them off the hook from getting fired. One other small issue – they are different shows of course, but on RAW we had commissioner Stephanie McMahon telling GM Kurt Angle he has no authority to make matches but 24 hours later, we have the Smackdown GM cutting off the Commissioner to make a match… WWE logic!
Shelton Benjamin v. Jey Uso
Last week was Chad Gable v. Jimmy so, of course, we have the other half of each team clashing this week. The Usos, fresh off their Survivor Series show stealer, get a huge pop from the crowd. Both guys exchange hard strikes early on with Benjamin climbing the ropes to deliver a wicked kick to Jey Uso as we go into the commercial break. Later in the match, Jey goes for a suicide dive but Gable jumps up on the apron. That leads to a brawl between him and Jimmy which briefly distracts Jey. Benjamin scores a near fall with a roll up but then nearly gets pinned after a superkick. Jey then misses a top rope splash, Gable buying his partner time with another distraction, and Benjamin lands his Pay Dirt finisher to pick up the victory. Winner: Shelton Benjamin
Plenty of drama towards the end of the match with a quick exchange of near falls. Benjamin getting the win was the right call to add heat to the tag title picture. It will be interesting to see how the build continues to their next title match.
NXT Women’s Invasion Part 2
Last night’s RAW saw Paige return and bring Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose of NXT with her as they beat down the women’s division. Smackdown follow suit as Ruby Riot shows up with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan in tow. They jump Naomi. Becky Lynch tries to make the save but ends up getting an even worse beatdown, finishing with the new trio viciously slamming a door onto her.
Great to see more call-ups from NXT – not Peyton Royce as many were expecting but interesting to see Ruby Riot and Liv Morgan turn heel. Both women were good performers but lacking a certain spark in NXT. Perhaps this is what they have been missing. And that door slam spot was brutal!
The Hype Bros v. The Bludgeon Brothers
After weeks of vignettes, we finally see the Bludgeon Brothers in action. Luke Harper immediately takes out Zack Ryder at ringside leaving Mojo Rawley to fend for himself. He does not last long as Harper and Rowan pummel him with big kicks and finish him off with a double powerbomb. Winners: The Bludgeon Brothers
A very impressive showing from the returning duo – a shame that all the Hype Bros got to do was lay down. What has happened to their teased split/heel turn? It seems clear that this will be a slow monster build with the Bludgeon Brothers steamrolling over teams until they got their title shot.
AJ Styles Promo
As the Phenomenal One comes out, the announcers really heap on the praise for his performance against Brock Lesnar. They play a video of Paul Heyman comparing him to the likes of Shawn Michaels and generally putting him over in the biggest possible way. The crowd show their appreciation as well with the champ unable to start his promo for the first couple of minutes due to the ovation. AJ takes his turn to put Brock over, vowing to beat him next time. He calls out Jinder Mahal to come and reclaim his championship. Jinder appears on the screen saying he will have his rematch when he wants it, which turns out to be Clash of Champions. The Singh Brothers then jump the champ from behind. He easily fends them off, delivering a Styles Clash to one of the hapless duo in the middle of the ring.
That’s a relief – the title won’t be hot-shotted straight back to Jinder for the India tour. We can expect/hope that AJ successfully defends at the next PPV and then moves onto a new challenger.
Women’s Championship Match: Charlotte (c) v. Natalya
Contractual rematch time! Natalya starts the match aggressively slamming the Queen into the turnbuckle as we go into an ad break. Back to the action, Natalya delivers a huge powerbomb from for a very near fall and then applies the Sharpshooter. Charlotte eventually gets a rope break and then manages to slam Natalya’s head into the corner. She goes for a moonsault but, for what must be the tenth time in the last two weeks, it gets blocked. She then hits a spear and… Ruby Riot, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan come out of the crowd. They go straight for Natalya as a huge ‘NXT!’ chant fills the arena. After taking care of the cat lady, they turn their attention to Charlotte, stalking the ring Shield style. Each new arrival hits a finisher on the champ and they stand tall to close the segment. Winner by DQ: Natalya
That was easy to see coming but it was effectively done. The crowd were hot for the NXT stars – good to see as they didn’t have a known main roster star like Paige with them. Earlier in the night, it was revealed that Daniel Bryan called these three up without Shane’s knowledge. In an interview after the second attack, he intriguingly says he has ‘no comment’ about their actions… The plot thickens.
KO and Sami Zayn Search for Help
Throughout the night, we see KO and Sami Zayn trying to find allies backstage ahead of the lumberjack match. Baron Corbin turns them down as there is nothing in it for him. Bobby Roode then cuts them down to size with an angry tirade, accusing them of ruining the biggest moment of his career to date (never mind the fact that he was eliminated long before KO and Zayn interfered). Later, they try to recruit Rusev and Aiden English, saying they would rather celebrate Rusev Day than Thanksgiving (with a ‘Rusev Day!’ chant from the audience audible). They also remind Rusev how his qualifying match for Survivor Series was cancelled but John Cena was simply invited to the team. We will see if their words have any effect later tonight. They also approach Daniel Bryan, pleading with the GM not to fire them. Bryan simply wishes them good luck…
Lumberjack Match: The New Day v. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
It was earlier established that Shane McMahon fully supported Bryan setting this match and was heading back to his hotel room to watch it from there (hmmm…) The Smackdown roster is out in force (including the Colons and Mike Kanellis, whom we haven’t seen on TV for a while) with the crowd vocally chanting for Nakamura. Xavier Woods joins the ranks of the lumberjacks – he is the only one in a lumberjack shirt. Kofi Kingston is sent to the outside early but does not get thrown back in, much to KO’s disdain. As soon as Sami Zayn exits the ring, he gets beaten up. He tries to run up the ramp, but we then get the sight of ten superstars hoisting him above their heads to carry him back to the ring.
The heels have the upper hand on Kofi Kingston for a while until a hot tag to Big E, who hit Zayn with a series of German Suplexes and a big splash. KO breaks up a pin attempt and the action breaks down as Sami is tossed to the outside. Corbin swings at him but misses and connects with Bobby Roode instead. A brawl breaks out between the two and soon all the lumberjacks are fighting in and around the ring. Meanwhile, Sami Zayn rolls up Kofi Kingston to get a surprise victory. Post-match, Big E goes after Owens but is jumped from behind by Rusev. KO escapes through the crowd leaving Zayn all alone with the New Day. He gets felled by Kofi’s Trouble in Paradise and then the Midnight Hour. Backstage, we see Owens literally beg on his knees for his job. Daniel Bryan says he had no intention of firing him and books him a match for next week against Randy Orton. Winners: KO & Sami Zayn
A lot was packed into that segment – Bobby Roode was positioned as the next challenger for Corbin’s US title and Rusev and Aiden English seem set to clash with the New Day. With Shane out of the arena, I was half-expecting a Daniel Bryan heel turn. However, it seems that will play out more slowly, which is a good choice.
A highly entertaining episode with plenty of storylines advancing and being set up for future weeks. Heat was added to the tag title rivalry, the Bludgeon Brothers made their mark, and Jinder Mahal won’t be getting his title back off AJ Styles immediately (and hopefully not at all). The main talking points for the night have to be the arrival of three new female stars from NXT and the fall-out from KO and Zayn’s actions at Survivor Series. Booking the women to attack backstage first and then at ringside was smart (smarter than RAW doing it the other way around for sure) as it got them a bigger reaction when they went after Charlotte and Natalya. Owens and Zayn live to fight another day with KO, true to form, abandoning his friend when the going got tough. Daniel Bryan is involved in both of these angles somehow, which adds interest to the coming weeks.