Liam Hoofe reviews this week’s WWE SmackDown Live…
Like Raw, this week’s SmackDown started with a McMahon in the ring. Shane was out to address his team’s defeat at Survivor Series and from a storyline perspective, to move everything forward following the show. Shane cuts a fairly standard promo where, instead of really seeming bothered by the loss, he expressed his pride in his brand’s performance on the show and claims that SmackDown is the best brand. It’s slightly odd that he takes this approach, considering the whole idea of Survivor Series was to prove who was the better show, and SmackDown lost, but whatever. Shane calls out Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn and runs them down. Owens and Zayn, as usual, were great here and Zayn has improved so much as a character since his heel turn. Shane is about to fire the duo when Daniel Bryan’s music hits.
Bryan says Shane is well within his rights to fire the duo, but he has a better idea. He puts the duo in a match with The New Day and announcing that it will be a lumberjack match, with every member of the Smackdown roster surrounding the ring. Shane approves. I like the fact that they are playing up the whole SmackDown roster having it in for Zayn and Owen. This could give us some nice potential storylines, either that, or the duo could switch brands eventually. Either way, it’s good to see Zayn and Owens being given more attention now Survivor Series is up.
So in my review of Raw yesterday, I mentioned that the WWE has no imagination when it comes to building tag team feuds, here is another case in point. The first match of the night was Shelton Benjamin Vs Jey Uso, which is a direct follow up on Jimmy Vs Chad Gable from last week. Firstly, this was Benjamin’s first solo match back in the WWE and can I just point out how disappointed I was to not hear ‘Ain’t no stoppin’ me now!’ when he came out. The two have a nice chemistry in the ring and the match was a nice little warmer. Benjamin picks up the victory, while Gable and Jimmy Uso have a little brawl on the outside. (Match Rating: ***) Next week, we will likely get their non-tile match before the teams end up facing each other at Clash of Champions.
Next, we get a little backstage segment where Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are trying to convince superstars to help them out. First, they approach Baron Corbin, who tells them to find someone weaker, and then they approach Bobby Roode, who tells them that he will get revenge for their attack during the match at Survivor Series. It’s also interesting to note that Baron Corbin basically insulted Roode in this segment- expect these two to begin feuding properly over the next week or so.
In the next shot, Naomi is sitting backstage having her makeup done when all of a sudden, she is ambushed by Ruby Riot, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan. Becky Lynch tries to help Naomi and then finds herself being given an ass whooping. It looks as though the WWE is going for a full NXT invasion angle in the women’s division. It’s a nice way to inject some new talent into both locker rooms and create an exciting new storyline for them. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for stables, and I do love a good invasion angle, so this has my interest. The women on Raw look to have a ringleader in Paige, so it will be interesting to see if these three get one, or whether they will be linked with the Raw group. Carmella would be the obvious pick, it would also give her some protection when she eventually cashes in her briefcase.
There’s a little bit backstage where Shane confronts Bryan and tells him that booking the main event was genius, though, a hint of sarcasm was definitely detected. Shane decides he needs to leave Bryan in charge for the night, so he just packs his little backpack and leaves the show. It weirdly amuses me that Shane takes a little backpack to Smackdown with him- what does he possibly have in there? A packed lunch? Anyway, I’m quite enjoying this slow tease of a rift between Bryan and Shane, here’s hoping it leads somewhere interesting.
Out next, making their long-anticipated debut, was the Bludgeon Brothers, facing off against The Hype Bros. The match was a basic squash match, and to be fair, it did a good job of making Harper and Rowan look strong. They picked up the win in a matter of minutes, hitting a crucifix powerbomb for the victory. (Match Rating: **) My problem with this gimmick is that it lacks any real definition. It’s just two big guys, with hoods, carrying hammers around and talking nonsense. I really don’t know why they couldn’t have just come back as Harper and Rowan. Who knows, though, stranger things have gotten over in the WWE. It will be interesting to see whether they make any sort of impact in next week’s Fashion Files segment as well, as that was rumoured to be the initial plans for the duo
AJ Styles is out next to address his defeat to Brock Lesnar. AJ talks about how everyone has praised him since Sunday night and says that if Brock wants a rematch, then the Universal champion needs to remember that Rocky won in the sequel. Nice work from AJ, who is then interrupted by Jinder Mahal. Jinder talks his usual rubbish and claims that if he had faced Brock, he would have won and been called ‘The Beast Master’. Kudos to AJ for calling him stupid for that, it was a terrible, terrible line. Jinder announces that he will be facing AJ at Clash of Champions, and The Singh Brothers then attack AJ. The champ deals with that pair, while Jinder pulls angry faces on the titantron. AJ was awesome in this segment, and Jinder was Jinder. It’s interesting, now he doesn’t have the belt, he seems so out of place in the main event scene once again. Hopefully, he is dealt with at Clash of Champions and he can move his way back down the card.
Sami and Kevin continue to quest for help backstage and bump into Aiden English and Rusev who are practising their singing. Sami and Zayn ask them for help and praise their singing abilities, we don’t hear a response.
Natalya Vs Charlotte Flair for the Women’s title. Natalya is wasting no-time cashing in her rematch clause and I’ve no problem with that- these two are capable of great things in the ring together. The pair go at it straight away and the match-up is going great. Natalya locks Flair in a sharpshooter at one point, but the champ reaches the ropes, she then nearly keeps her down with a powerbomb, but Flair kicks out at a very, very late 2 count. Good stuff all around, and then, of course, the NXT divas interrupt. Ruby Riot, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan attack both Charlotte and Natalya and leave them lying, further leaving their stamp on Tuesday nights. Good stuff all around, good match and a nice continuation of the NXT Angle (Match Rating: ***)
Backstage after the match, Daniel Bryan is questioned over the NXT invasion and he simply says ‘no comment’. This was an interesting little aside, and having Bryan on board with this angle could be a cool little twist and play nicely into the Shane/Bryan tensions. I’m probably getting my hopes up too much, though, and it will never be mentioned again knowing the WWE.
Finally, the main event of the night: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn Vs The New Day in a lumberjack match. The in-ring work here was good fun and the lumberjacks did a great job of continuing the ‘SmackDown Vs Owens and Zayn’ storyline, with everyone refusing to attack The New Day. Towards the end of the bout, though, inevitably, everything broke into chaos and everyone started brawling on the outside. It’s a lumberjack match, what did you expect? During the chaos, Sami manages to roll up Kofi for the cheap victory, and then Owens, rather comically, ran away from the ring. Nice character moment there. (Match Rating: ***)
The match also served another purpose it would seem, establishing feuds for the coming month. Rusev and English look set to do battle with The New Day, while Corbin and Roode looked to be going at each other, which, combined with Corbin’s comment earlier in the night, means we can expect a match between those two at Clash of Champions.
To close the show, we see Owens backstage begging Bryan not to fire him. Bryan says okay, and gives Owens a match next week against Randy Orton.
Verdict: This week’s edition of Smackdown was an enjoyable show. The debut of the NXT women was a nice follow up from last night’s Raw and the show set up plenty of angles for the coming month. The in-ring stuff was fairly decent, and it was a nice move away from Survivor Series. Using the Lumberjack bout to set up several feuds was an efficient, if not slightly lazy way of moving things forward, but it was good fun nonetheless. Overall, a solid, not spectacular edition of SmackDown Live.
What did you think of SmackDown Live this week? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter @liamhoofe
Photo credit: wwe.com