Liam Hoofe reviews this week’s edition of SmackDown…
Following the events of Clash of Champions, SmackDown Live kicks off this week with Daniel Bryan out to open the show. Bryan hypes up the Women’s Royal Rumble and then announces that Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles will take on the team of Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in tonight’s main event.
Shane comes out during Bryan’s promo to address what happened on Sunday night. Shane explains that after Bryan had fallen on him and broken the count on Sami, Shane’s emotions took control for a moment and when Sami rolled up Orton and he couldn’t bring himself to count the three. Bryan tells Shane that he needs to stop his emotions getting the better off him and that he made the fast count to save Shane from himself. He says that he doesn’t want Shane to turn into Vince. Shane continues to justify his actions but Bryan tells him that he was putting people’s livelihoods at stake. Bryan says the two of them shared a vision and if Shane doesn’t see that anymore, then he can fire Bryan. Shane says he respects Bryan and wishes him luck with the show tonight before leaving the ring. As opening segment between authority figures go, this one was fairly enjoyable. My issue with this whole thing has been how muddled it has become but surely there is no way we are expected to see Shane as the face in this situation now? I’m just going to go forward under that assumption now and see where this goes. This was an okay opening segment on the whole.
The Usos are out after the break for a non-title match with Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable. This was a really solid piece of tag team action and it was nice to watch a good match during a time of year when the company normally get a bit slack. The offence here was pretty hard-hitting from both teams and the finish was really nicely executed. These two teams have a great chemistry and I’m happy to watch them feuding going forward. I wish Gable hadn’t taken the pinfall at Clash of Champions but the duo has been still made to look like a legitimate threat to the champions. (Match Rating: *** 1/2)
Charlotte is out next to talk about how proud she is of the women’s division. She says it will be an honour to defend her title at WrestleMania. Naomi comes out to congratulate and talks about winning the rumble before The Riott Squad is out next to interrupt. Naomi runs them down and challenges them to a tag match against her and Charlotte.
Sarah Logan and Ruby Riott step up to the challenge and we have our next match. The bout is pretty quick but it’s a solid performance from all four women. Sarah Logan, in particular, looked pretty strong here and it’s a shame that The Riott Squad are already being booked to lose matches. While they are still promising, they lack the same intensity that has made Absolution so prominent on the Raw roster. Naomi picked up the victory for her and Charlotte with the pin on Logan. (Match Rating: ** 1/2)
We see Rusev and Aiden English dressed up backstage with The New Day in a silly but amusing segment. Rusev is dressed as Father Christmas and Aiden English is a snowman. The two teams are having a match later in the night. Rusev does some singing and is dressed as Santa- what’s not to like here?
Dolph Ziggler’s US title celebration is next. Ziggler comes into the ring and replays title victories from his whole career, including his Money in the Bank victory and subsequent World Heavyweight Title win. Ziggler says he has proven himself to be one of the greatest in-ring performers year after year and yet he still doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves from fans. He says he is going to leave the fans something to remember him by and leaves the US title belt in the middle of the ring before walking out. Many have been speculating that this is Ziggler leaving the company, I think it is just going to be the debut of the new US title belt on SmackDown, the one that the company accidentally advertised last month. It could be Ziggler’s swan song, but I can’t see it.
Either way, this was a really good segment and it’s one that has managed to get fans talking during a time of year when the company normally just hits us with novelty matches and humdrum storylines. Ziggler’s victory was a divisive move on Sunday night but this was a nice segment to kick off his reign as champion.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are backstage to thank Daniel Bryan for their victory on Sunday night. Bryan is not too pleased with the team gloating and he tells them that if they don’t calm down, he might have to fire them himself.
The New Day Vs Aiden English and Rusev is next. Both teams are dressed in Christmas outfits and it looks as though we are going to get our first Christmas comedy bout of the year. Surprisingly, though, this was actually fairly entertaining. Both teams here are great in the ring and the crowd were actually really into this bout. Rusev is immensely over right now and seeing him and Rusev decorate some pancakes outside the ring was one of my favourite moments of the night. The New Day picked up the victory here but this match was a very rare beast indeed – a WWE comedy bout that was actually amusing to watch (Match Rating: ***).
The night’s main event – Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles Vs Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn is next. This was a really solid main event, one that featured plenty of back and forth action and some good spots throughout. The finish was really nice pulled off, with all 3 men teaming up to finish off Sami Zayn. Shinsuke picked up the pinfall after the Kinshasa. While not a lot of note happened this was a fun main event, with a good ending. Shinsuke picking up the victory is hopefully the start of a rumble push for the former NXT champ. Was I the only one expecting an Orton heel turn at the end? That celebration seemed to last forever. (Match Rating: *** 1/2)
Final Verdict: Overall, this was a really enjoyable edition of SmackDown. All the matches delivered in the ring, the Ziggler segment has created plenty of questions, and even the comedy match was amusing. After a weak PPV on Sunday, it’s nice to be reminded that SmackDown does know how to put on a fun show.
Did you enjoy this week’s SmackDown? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter @liamhoofe