Liam Hoofe reviews this week’s episode of WWE SmackDown…
We see a little package of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn walking around handing out flyers to promote the ‘occupy SmackDown’ movement before the show begins.
What is this? The WWE champion in the ring to begin an episode of SmackDown!? Where is Shane McMahon, the biggest and brightest star on the whole roster? AJ Styles is out to open the show for the first time in what feels like an eternity and he wants to address Jinder Mahal. AJ talks about how Jinder will do anything to get his title back when The Singh Brothers come to the ring. They say that normally they would be introducing Jinder but after his actions last week, they want nothing to do with him.
AJ says he feels bad for the duo, and he invites them to the ring for a hug. The brothers say they want to be on AJ side at Clash of Champions and that Jinder is a disgrace to India. AJ asks them why they were supporting Jinder in India this weekend, and pulls up some photos of the live event. He shakes one of their hands when Jinder makes his way to the ring.
AJ says he’s not interested in whatever nonsense they’re trying to pull and headbutts one of the brothers, and then takes out the other. Jinder stands on the outside and mouths off at AJ. This wasn’t a bad opening segment and it was nice to see the champion opening the show, for once. The title is still struggling to feel prestigious but I’m sure that will be remedied once Jinder is out of the scene for good.
Charlotte Vs Ruby Riott is the night’s first match in what is the latter’s solo in-ring debut, Natalya is also at ringside for commentary. The match itself is fairly routine and obviously, the presence of Natalya and The Riott Squad soon sees it fall into chaos. Charlotte ends up getting hit by Natalya on the outside for the DQ (Match Rating: **) Post-match, in scenes basically copied and pasted from last night’s Raw, The Riott Squad beat down the champ, only for the rest of the roster to arrive and beat down the Riott Squad. Naomi got in there first, somehow getting the whole group to run away scared before the rest of the roster attack them from behind on the ramp. This was oddly booked, as Naomi beating them down on her own didn’t exactly make the group look very strong. Absolution has looked strong on Raw, while The Riott Squad doesn’t carry the same kind of threat on SmackDown, it would seem.
Bryan is backstage on the phone to Shane, when Kevin and Sami invite him to join their ‘occupy SmackDown’ match later in the night.
Baron Corbin is out to face Dolph Ziggler next, and Bobby Roode is on commentary, in what looks to be tonight’s special gimmick. The two fight briefly before Roode gets involved and causes a DQ finish. (Match Rating: N/A) Well, this was what it was, I’ve not that much interest in the feud, but the match should be fine on Sunday.
We see a video telling us that there is a special edition of The Fashion Files available on YouTube right now (I’ve not watched it yet) and we find out The Bludgeon Brothers will face The Fashion Police at Clash of Champions.
The Bludgeon Brothers are out to face two jobbers, one of which is former WWE superstar Colin Delaney, who in his time away from the ring has gone all Brian Kendrick on us and replaced his five-year-old face, with a man face complete with a beard. The Bludgeon Brothers do the same match they’ve done for the last few weeks and win with the crucifix powerbomb. (Match Rating: *1/2)
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are out next wearing their ‘Yep’ T-shirts. The men enter their ring and are channelling in their inner D-Bry. They reference Bryan’s iconic ‘Yes Movement’ and say they hope the ring is reinforced because it’s time to occupy SmackDown., They run down the McMahons for being corrupt and invite the SmackDown locker room out to join them. A few moments of silence pass and out comes Daniel Bryan himself. Bryan asks what they are doing, and says they are nothing like him. He does say, however, that to make sure everything runs smoothly on Sunday, he will be the second referee in their match against Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton. Kevin and Sami are delighted as the segment ends and Owens stands on the ropes chanting ‘YEP, YEP, YEP’, and the crowd join in. Nice touch adding to Bryan to the match, though, I do feel like the face/heel situation is becoming a little muddled here as, in my opinion, Shane actually seems to be behaving like a bit of a dick.
The Usos are up against Aiden English and Rusev next. Rusev and English start in the ring and English begins his twelve days of Rusev song. This week he manages to get a little further before The Usos come down to the ring. The New Day are at ringside for commentary and then Gable and Benjamin join the mix and cut a promo before the bout gets started.
The match itself is enjoyable but very short, and The New Day are pretty hilarious on commentary. Of all the matches involving champions tonight, this one is clearly the best and there is no outside interruption from the commentary booth, though it is not given enough time. English and Rusev pick up the victory after a superkick (Match Rating:**1/2) which probably means The Usos are definitely winning on Sunday.
We see AJ being interviewed backstage and Jinder comes in and manages to lay him out cold with one punch, which, to be fair, is quite impressive.
Randy and Shinsuke are out next for the night’s main event. The two cut a small promo about their match on Sunday before Daniel Bryan completes the night’s gimmick and joins the match on commentary. Shinsuke Vs Kevin is this week’s main event. The two put on a solid, not spectacular bout, which of course, features plenty of shenanigans involving Randy and Sami. The ref is knocked cold at one point, and Daniel Bryan gets himself into the ring as referee. Following a distraction, Owens hits the pop-up powerbomb for the victory. (Match Rating: ***) The night ends with Owen and Sami walking up the ramp chanting ‘Yep’. The match was fine, but it was marred by distractions. This angle has plenty of possible outcomes on Sunday night, even if the whole thing is slightly muddled.
Verdict: WWE really needs to work on their go-home shows. The whole night was just a series of screwy finishes, and didn’t really do much to build excitement for Clash of Champions. The opening segment was good, and the main event was okay, but the rest was just tedious.
You can talk wrestling with Liam Hoofe on Twitter here @liamhoofe