By David Dodgson (@DodgeeWriter)
Hot off the back of Clash of Champions, there are questions to be answered. Most of those will no doubt centre around Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan and their shocking displays of biased refereeing at the PPV. There will also be eyes on the women’s division as they react to the Royal Rumble announcement. My eyes will be on the breakout star of last Sunday, Rusev. He and Aiden English were super over with the CoC crowd, and I hope for more Rusev Day!
Daniel Bryan Promo
Not Shane then but Daniel Bryan to kick things off – a good start! He briefly mentions the women’s Royal Rumble before announcing tonight’s main event, a mash up of the main events from the PPV as Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Jinder Mahal will take on Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, and AJ Styles.
Shane O’Mac then makes his entrance. He recounts the moment when he was counting the pin fall on Sami Zayn after an RKO and Daniel Bryan fell on him. He explains that he later let his emotions get the better of him, refusing to make a three count in Zayn’s favour due to all that has transpired between the McMahon family and Owens/Zayn over the last few months. He asks why Bryan then made a fast count to give Owens and Zayn the victory (as the crowd chant “thank you Bryan!”)
The Smackdown GM’s reasoning is simple – he did it to protect the integrity of SD Live, the land of ‘opportunity’. Shane warns him that Owens and Zayn will turn on him eventually, but Bryan warns him not to turn into Mr McMahon. In reply, Shane calmly states he trusts and respects Bryan and wishes him luck for the show.
Is it just me or does Shane come off as the bigger heel in this whole angle? It seems the intrigue is set to continue on this one… I am still just about interested enough to see where it goes.
The Usos v. Gable & Benjamin
Both these teams were impressive in the match of the night at Clash of Champions so let’s see what they can do here. The pace definitely starts off slower than the chaotic entertainment at the PPV. An ad break soon interrupts the action, and we come back to a hot tag for the Usos. They clear their opponents out of the ring, but as Jimmy Uso goes for a dive through the ropes, Benjamin clocks him with a kick. Jey nearly gets the win after a superkick but Benjamin prevents him from completing the top rope splash. Gabel and Benjamin then perform their Steiner Brothers style finisher to pick up an impressive win. Winners: Gable & Benjamin
A surprisingly clean win as this rivalry looks set to continue with a title match no doubt soon to follow. The end was fast-paced and exciting, but the match overall was hurt by the timing of the ad break, which made it seem like a 3-minute squash rather than a proper match.
After a recap of the announcement on RAW of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble, Charlotte hypes up the event and praises the fans for their support. She adds that she will be awaiting the winner at Wrestlemania. Naomi comes out to announce her entry in the Rumble, but is soon interrupted by the Riott Squad. Naomi (unfortunately) stays on the mic though, gets a ‘chicken head’ chant going against the heels (anyone care to explain?) and challenges them to a tag match.
Charlotte & Naomi v. Ruby Riot & Sarah Logan
Back from the break, this match is underway with Liv Morgan on the outside. Riot and Logan are working over the champ, focusing on her knee. She manages to make a tag to Naomi, who unleashes on Logan and gets a near fall broken up by Riot. Charlotte takes the punk rock princess out with a big boot. Morgan attempts a distraction but ends up getting accidentally hit by Logan. One rear-view later and the faces get the win. Winners: Charlotte & Naomi
Is the Riott Squad’s push over? They went down all to easily here with one hot tag to Naomi enough to bring about the win. Naomi is not one of my favourites – an over-the-top entrance contradicted by a bland character. She is poor on the mic and her moves, while athletic, are far from smooth. I would rather see Ruby Riot get the win. Punk Rock over Rave any time for me!
Dolph Ziggler Celebration
The irrelevant Dolph Ziggler comes out to his non-entrance entrance and again says his past achievements were enough alone for him to be put in the US title match last Sunday. He plays clips showing his previous US title win in 2011, his five Intercontinental Championship wins, and his Money in the Bank cash in. No 2017 clips in there Dolph. He shouts a lot about being under-appreciated before dropping the belt on the mat and walking away.
Not sure what that was about… Not sure I care to be honest. Any Dolph Ziggler angle in the past few months has been lacking spark and this seems no different.
The New Day v. Rusev & Aiden English
This match was set up in a weird backstage segment with the New Day dressed up as a reindeer, an elf, and a gingerbread man (?) dishing out pancakes until they were confronted by Rusev Claus and Snowden English (I hope Rusev embracing the comedy does not become Rusev acting like a clown every week). The New Day serve up pancakes during their entrance while Rusev (whose music does not match his costume at all) hands out Rusev Day shirts from his Santa’s Sack (I want one!)
As if the costumes were not silly enough, the match starts with Kofi ‘Gingerbread’ Kingston constantly sliding out of the ring. The New Day then start tossing t-shorts to the crowd before holding up a pair of boxer shorts with ‘Rusev Day’ written on them. Yeah… for once, I don’t mind the ad break.
Back to the action, some actual wrestling takes place for a few moments before Rusev and English lay Xavier Woods out at ringside. They look like they want to set up an announce table spot, but place the New Day’s pancakes there instead. After loading them up with cream and a cherry on top, Aiden English then somehow spends about a minute trying and failing to plant Woods’ face in it. Surprise, surprise, his face ends up in the cream and one elbow drop later he gets pinned. Winners: The New Day
Why do WWE insist on these themed/costumed tag matches? Everyone comes out of it looking stupid, especially the losing duo. It was not as bad for Rusev and English as Gallows and Anderson losing the Halloween match on RAW a couple of months ago but a shame that Sunday’s big Rusev moment gets followed up like this.
Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, & AJ Styles v. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, & Jinder Mahal
As if we needed a sign that this week’s show was about treading water more than anything else, this is it – a lazy mashing together of two matches we have just seen with little apparent reason for the joining of forces or the bout itself. The match almost immediately becomes a brawl with the babyfaces laying out the heels at ringside. They stay in control over the early portion of the match, beating Sami Zayn and Jinder Mahal down until KO gets into the match and reclaims the momentum.
The heels then take their time in putting the beat down on Orton and Styles until the customary hot tag to Nakamura, who livens the crowd up briefly as he kicks and strikes Sami Zayn. A triangle lock gets broken up by a KO senton with every competitor then hitting the ring to hit a signature move. Nakamura then lines up Kinshasa but gets hit from behind by the Singhs. For some reason, the ref does not disqualify them opting to throw them out instead. They attempt to come back in but get a double DDT from Orton, who also takes out Mahal with an RKO. Not quite done, the Viper gives Styles an extra shove mid-air to make sure his Phenomenal Forearm hit Owens. Nakamura then finally hits his finisher on Zayn to give us all a warm Christmas feeling to end the show. Winners: Orton, Nakamura, & Styles
That felt more like a Tribute to the Troops match than a Smackdown main event. Oh, wait, it was a Tribute to the Troops match last week and with some of the same spots as well… Let’s just dub this one a main non-event.
If you are going to miss one Smackdown episode this year, make it this one. No fall out of note from Clash of Champions beyond a slightly tense exchange between Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan. No notable reaction to the women’s Royal Rumble announcement other than making the mistake of giving Naomi a microphone. No sense in anything Dolph Ziggler said or did. No heels coming out on top either (unless we are counting Gable & Benjamin as heels now). And a nonsense Christmas ‘comedy’ match. All of that added up to an episode that was about as welcome as reheated brussel sprouts the day after Christmas. I hope I will enjoy next week’s show more as I eat my reheated brussel sprouts the day after Christmas.