By David Dodgson (@DodgeeWriter)
Days away from Clash of Champions, the final PPV of the WWE year, what lies in store on Smackdown? What build will we see to the title matches and the rest of the card? Who will go into the PPV on a wave of momentum and who will be looking for redemption and a chance to prove themselves? Let’s find out:
AJ Styles Promo
AJ Styles starts the show off to the usual hot reaction. He says he is a fighting champion and does not need assistance to win titles like Jinder does. The Singh Brothers soon come out to their own music and entrance graphics. They recap what their boss did to them on Smackdown two weeks ago. AJ says he feels sorry for them and offers them a hug. The Singhs accept and start to rattle off their grievances against Jinder, stating they want to be in AJ’s corner on Sunday.
Styles, already sarcastically playing along with the ruse, then calls the Singhs out for being in Jinder’s corner at the India Live Show. As Mahal comes out, the champ beats the brothers down. Enraged, Jinder jumps onto the apron and shouts at Styles but it is hard to hear what he is saying over the “Jinder sucks!” chants filling the arena. He retreats with his underlings to the back.
The Singhs were convincing in their attempt to fool Styles, who was over-played the fact that he knew what they were up to. Bringing up the images of the Singhs still accompanying Jinder at live shows was a nice touch, however. The whole segment ran for almost 15 minutes and probably would have been more effective in a shorter time.
Charlotte v. Ruby Riot
Neither woman gets an entrance as we see Charlotte entering the ring and Ruby already there. Why then do we then see four minutes of recaps showing the Riott Squad’s path of destruction in recent weeks? The match finally gets underway with Natalya on commentary and immediately goes to commercials… Charlotte dominates much of the match with the fight eventually spilling to the outside. The champion knocks down Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan but eventually gets clocked by Natalya meaning a DQ for Ruby Riot. The Riott Squad don’t seem to mind though and go after Charlotte. They place her under the ring steps as they did to Naomi a few weeks ago but the Glow girl returns to make the save before any damage is done. As the Riott Squad retreat up the ramp, they get jumped from behind by Tamina, Lana, and Carmella. Winner by DQ: Charlotte
OK, that made no sense. The Riott Squad lost a lot of their heat with Ruby getting dominated in the ring and Naomi scaring them all off to the point where they literally ran away. After establishing themselves by going after anyone who got in their way, why are they now leaving Natalya alone? And why did the only three women on the roster they have not attacked jump them on the ramp? This was lazy booking at its worst, just trying to cram everyone into one angle for one match.
Baron Corbin v. Dolph Ziggler
Bobby Roode is on commentary for this one and I can already see where this is going. After minimal offence from both guys in the ring, Ziggler gets out of the way of a shoulder charge and Corbin smacks into the ring post. Both men stay down like they are near the end of a 60-minute iron man match and Roode comes into the ring to hit both with the Glorious DDT. That’s it. Winner by DQ: Baron Corbin
Scrap what I said about the women’s segment – this was lazy booking at its worst. A repeat of last week just with Roode and Ziggler swopping places. It was neither convincing nor dramatic and did nothing to add heat to one of the coldest matches going into this Sunday’s show.
The Bludgeon Brothers v. More Jobbers
More of the same from Harper and Rowan as they obliterate two jobbers, showcasing their power, strength and dominance. As they powerbomb one jobber, he lets out a high-pitched scream much to Corey Greaves’ delight. We also learn that Breezango have challenged the Bludgeon Brothers to a match at Clash of Champions. Winners: The Bludgeon Brothers
More of the same but still effective. Harper and Rowan looked like monsters and I can’t help but wonder what chance Breezango have this Sunday.
The ‘Yep!’ Movement Occupies Smackdown
Throughout the opening hour, we have seen Owens and Zayn handing out flyers asking people to occupy SD Live and end the tyranny of Shane McMahon (who is not present tonight). In an obvious parody of Daniel Bryan occupying RAW a few years ago, they hit the ring to launch a tirade against the commissioner. They call out people from the back to occupy the rind, and… nobody comes.
That is until Daniel Bryan makes his way down the ramp. KO and Zayn draw parallels with Bryan’s past conflict The Authority, but Bryan cuts them off saying his ‘Yes!’ movement was about the fans not himself. Zayn makes it clear that the ‘Yep!’ movement is just about himself and his best friend. Nevertheless, the Smackdown GM promises to ensure the duo’s match at Clash of Champions will be fair by inserting himself as a second special guest referee.
The plot thickens…. This is a clear move towards turning up the heat on tensions between McMahon and Bryan. Will they reach boiling point on Sunday?
The Usos v. Rusev & Aiden English
Would you believe that the New Day are on commentary for this one? Only the Bludgeon Brothers’ match has not had a guest at the announcer’s table so far tonight! Aiden English continues his ’12 Days of Rusev’ song from last week until The Usos come out and chop him down to size with a scathing promo. Gable & Benjamin interrupt because… why not?
Back from the break, the match has begun with the New Day trying to dish out pancakes to the commentary team and Gable & Benjamin watching from the ramp. Rusev is dominating until a kick to the head from Jey Uso stuns him. Jimmy Uso gets a hot tag and nails English with a superkick for a near fall. Rusev breaks that up with the action then spilling to the outside. As English distracts the ref, the Bulgarian Brute superkicks Jimmy. Aiden English then plants him face first onto the canvas for the 1-2-3. Winners: Rusev & English
Quite a short match with the three additional voices on commentary making it hard to follow. A surprise that Rusev and English were able to pick up a relatively clean win over the champs without interference from either watching team. Such momentum means they probably will not win on Sunday, such is WWE’s way of booking these things.
AJ Styles Interview
AJ starts to talk about how he saw through Jinder’s plan earlier and will beat the odds on Sunday. He gets blasted by Mahal, dropping like a stone off one punch as he is informed he won’t stand a chance at the PPV.
Did we really need that after the opening segment? I would say no, we didn’t.
Kevin Owens v. Shinsuke Nakamura
Orton cuts a promo saying he is not interested in any conflict between Owens, Zayn, and Shane McMahon. He just doesn’t like either KO or Sami and that is all the motivation he needs. Nakamura simply says ‘Yep!’ As KO’s music hits, we are introduced to Daniel Bryan on commentary – did I miss the announcement for ‘International Guest Commentary Day?’
The early stages of the match feature a lot of KO holding Nakamura in a headlock. Shinsuke gets a few hope spots in but Owens stays on top. A blocked senton splash finally allows Nakamura to mount a sustained comeback as he downs KO with his trademark kicks and knee strikes. Owens makes a comeback of his own and ends up accidentally striking the referee who goes down like… well, like a WWE referee. Bryan leaves his commentary position to take the ref’s shirt. In the meantime, Nakamura has Owens covered but by the time the count comes, Owens is able to kick out. Zayn and Orton then clash in the ring and to the outside. As Nakamura lines up Kinshasa, Zayn jumps back onto the apron. The distraction gives KO the opportunity to set up the pop-up powerbomb and he takes it. Winner: Kevin Owens
A lot of the talk on commentary involved Byron Saxton questioning Daniel Bryan’s motives and Corey Greaves defending him. The delayed count for Nakamura only added fuel to that fire, but it seems too obvious to me. WWE generally prefer shock heel turns and I think there is more to this angle than meets the eye. I will tune in on Sunday to find out what.
A strange show tonight. Presentation wise, a lot was done to hype the PPV with the usual mix of promos, interviews, and matches. However, it was a poor show in terms of in-ring action. Most matches were swallowed up by commercial breaks and ended with distractions or DQs. The Corbin-Ziggler-Roode angle was a particular lowlight. The tag team and women’s divisions were a confusing mess with too many players on the field. And there was way too much guest commentary! Only the intrigue of Daniel Bryan’s position got my attention. The Clash of Champions card is shaping up to be a good one but that will be in spite of tonight’s show, not because of it.