By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Aired live from Dayton, Ohio at Nutter Center
Tom Phillips welcomed us to the show. He is joined by Corey Graves and Byron Saxton. Shane McMahon made his entrance in the arena. Video was shown of his betrayal on Sunday, when he attacked the Miz and put his hands on his Dad. The announce team said The Miz is at home recovering from the brutal attack.
The crowd booed as Shane stood in the ring with his ridiculous “Best in the World” trophy. He stayed silent and then asked Greg Hamilton to come in the ring and make an announcement for him. He was then announced as the Best in the World Shane McMahon. He then grabbed Hamilton by the tie and demanded he say it like he meant it. The second one also didn’t meet his expectations, so he roughed him up again and made him do it a third time.
Shane said he’s been asked why he did what he did. He said that he’s sick of it, quite frankly. Shane said he wasn’t talking about just The Miz, he was talking about the fans, the people in the back, thousands of WWE employees and other that wanted to use him to get ahead in life. He said his entire life people have been trying to rub up against him in order to get promotions and advantages in life. They want more money and stock options, and it’s always about what he can do for him. And that all stopped Sunday when he beat the hell out of The Miz in his own hometown.
He went on to say that he’s not the best in the world because of a trophy or the Tag Team Championships, he was the best because he was born that way. He then said the last thing The Miz and his Dad’s big potato face saw was his eyes closing as he passed out. Shane said it felt good, and it lit a spark in him that is never going to go away. He demanded The Miz to listen up, and it wasn’t a request because he works for him. He told The Miz that he enjoyed beating his ass so much, that he wanted to do it all over again at the grandest stage of them all. He said to him, it was going to feel awesome. Shane then walked to the back.
Follow up on Kofi Kingston and Becky Lynch was plugged for later. Aleister Black then made his entrance…[c]
My Take: Shane didn’t convince me here. I could be in the minority, but I think he and the Miz are miscast here. Maybe they have bigger plans in play that we can see from here, but I kept waiting for Shane to kick up the intensity of the promo at some point, and it just never happened. He was unnecessarily mean to Greg Hamilton, but it kind of peaked there.
1. The Hardy’s, Ricochet and Aleister Black vs. The Bar, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Rusev: The action started out slowly, with Black and The Hardy’s getting a brief early advantage on Cesaro. The heels turned things around when Jeff Hardy tagged in. They cut off the ring and worked in numerous rapid tags to keep him grounded. Rusev and Sheamus did most of the damage using holds and power strikes. Hardy bought himself enough time for a tag to Ricochet by hitting Rusev with a Jawbreaker.
Ricochet entered and hit a head scissors and a dropkick. He then knocked Nakamura off the apron, but that allowed Rusev enough time to interrupt his springboard and send him crashing to the floor…[c]
During the commercial break, Ricochet got the same treatment Jeff Hardy got earlier in the match, The ring got cut off, and he took abuse from all four heels. Rusev knocked Matt Hardy from the apron to prevent a tag. Ricochet sent Sheamus to the floor with a back drop over the ropes. Cesaro saved the tag initially, but eventually Ricochet broke free and Matt Hardy tagged in. The Hardy’s hit Poetry in Motion on Cesaro, followed by a Side Effect from Matt.
Things broke down in a big way as signature offense exploded in chaos all over the ring. Hardy put Cesaro down with a Twist of Fate, and hit a Swanton, but the heels broke up the pin. All 8 men got into a huge brawl in the middle of the ring. The New Day then hit the ring and the bell rang on a no contest.
The match ended in an apparent no contest at 9:12
New Day wrecked shop on the heels. They sent Sheamus into the steps, and Cesaro into the barricade. Big E choked Rusev with a boot, and Woods hit both Nakamura with a Shining Wizard. Kofi hit Rusev with Trouble in Paradise.
Backstage, The Usos talked some trash about the rest of the Tag Division. They put the division on blast and said anybody that runs up will get done up. Welcome to the Uso Penitentiary. Back in the arena, Randy Orton made his entrance…[c]
My Take: The show is pushing a nice pace tonight. They aren’t wasting a lot of time, and you can feel that they have more content than usual on tap to get through. The non-finish to set up The New Day made sense, even if the other babyfaces had to mysteriously disappear and not take offense to the interruption.
Orton said this is the house that AJ Styles built, right? Well, in 2002 he was working in high school gyms for $10 a night. In 2004, he was in bingo halls while Orton was becoming the youngest ever WWE Champion. In 2005 he was down in Florida getting a tan with Dixie Carter while he was wrestling the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Orton said the house was built long before AJ Styles got there, and Smackdown was the house that he built.
This brought AJ Styles out from the back. He told Orton that for someone that looks down in the indies, he sure followed his career pretty closely. Styles said he’s proud of where he came from. He said he’s been told his entire career that guys like Orton were built for WWE, but that’s because guys like Orton wouldn’t have survived there. He mocked Orton’s pose and called the RKO an knock off Diamond Cutter.
Orton said it was funny that Styles claims he and his indie buddies never ripped anybody off. He then did the Too Sweet gesture. Styles told Orton to look around backstage, he’s surrounded by them. He said every one of them earned their place in the WWE, and they didn’t just run to Dad and ask for a job. He said Orton had a lot of help along the way from guys like Triple H, Ric Flair and Batista.
Orton responded that he had accomplished more by 24 than Styles or his buddies will ever achieve. He then listed a series of his accomplishments, and said he didn’t need help to do it. Styles listed off Evolution, Legacy, Rated RKO and the Wyatt Family, and said Orton has had a lot of babysitters. Orton cut Styles off and said as long as Styles wants to rent a room in his house, he’s the landlord, and rent has come due you son of a bitch.
Styles then told Orton that if he wanted the rent, he could come and take it. He then pointed to the Wrestlemania sign. Orton smirked and walked away.
Asuka made her entrance…[c]
My Take: That was a big time promo segment, and best we’ve seen this week post Fastlane. I’m interested to see how they ratchet up the pressure on this from here, as it seemed like they burned through a lot of ammunition on this opening salvo. That said, it was a lot of quality shots taken by both men, and it immediately vaulted this match into feeling like a major event.
The announce team ran down the current WrestleMania card, as Sonya Deville made her entrance with Mandy Rose. Some footage was shown from Fastlane where Sonya accidentally cost Mandy the match with her apron antics.
2. Sonya Deville vs. Asuka: We got some mat wrestling early on, and Sonya grabbed the ropes as Asuka nearly grabbed an ankle lock. Both women traded some kicks to the chest, with Asuka getting the better of it. Asuka went for a dropkick from the top, but Sonya avoided it and hit a spear for a near fall.
Asuka recovered and hit a series of strikes, and Sonya got sent to the outside. Mandy ended up eating a baseball slide out to the floor. Mandy pulled the ring skirt as she tried to get to her feet, and it caused Sonya to trip. Asuka hit a kick and then applied the Asuka Lock for the win.
Asuka defeated Mandy Rose at 5:33
After the match, Sonya was heartbroken as Mandy didn’t pretend what happened was an accident. Backstage, the Iconics said Mandy and Sonya were always in each other’s way, and were not Iconic. They then called out Sasha and Bayley for ducking them, and said their path to WrestleMania went through them…[c]
My Take: They are trying way too hard with this apron slipping nonsense. Just have them accidentally hit one another. This doesn’t need to be this complicated. Asuka is put in an even worse position by having to sit and wait for this story to develop and having to work around these clumsy finishes.
Becky Lynch had made her entrance before the previous commercial, and video was introduced of her path to WrestleMania and Ronda’s Raw Promo.
Becky said it felt good to walk down the ramp with her town on her own two feet. She had a little fun with recent events by talking about being suspended, unsuspended, suspended again, and then finally got her back into WrestleMania match. Becky said she got Ronda Rousey so wound up she did her bidding for her. She said it was hard to play mind games on someone with no brain, but she did it. She said she would repay her at WrestleMania by taking her title and ripping her arm off. She didn’t care who she had to beat at WrestleMania, whether it was Ronnie or the Golden Girl.
Charlotte then made her entrance and said while Becky was working hard to keep herself out of the match at WrestleMania, she was doing all the work. She said it was one thing to be hot for 6 months, but she had been hot for 4 years. She claimed that she was the chosen one because she has carried the division for years, and she would show everyone what that meant when she made The Man and Ronda Rousey relevant again by making them bow to the queen at WrestleMania. She then called herself Ms. WrestleMania.
Becky then told her to shut her plastic face. She said Charlotte has had the division by the throat for four years and never did a damn thing with it. She’s been on top for six months and they are in the Main Event of WrestleMania. She then said the division doesn’t need a Queen, probably never did, because what it really needed was The Man. She the dropped the mic and they had a staredown.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan and Erick Rowan walked out of Vince McMahon’s office. Kayla Braxton asked them what it was about. After initially refusing to talk, he eventually said it was about Kofi Kingston. He then said Mr. McMahon put him in a Tag Team match with Rowan against Mustafa Ali and Kevin Owens…[c]
My Take: Hilarious that Becky’s revised game plan was to make Ronda so angry that she lobbied on her behalf to get her back in the match, turned heel, and then apparently still gave enough of a shit to interfere on her behalf at Fastlane. Bulletproof. That being said, I liked the promos from both women. They are good foils for each other, as Charlotte is utterly ridiculous and Becky needs that to have her character make any sense whatsoever.
3. Samoa Joe and Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio and R-Truth: Andrade and Truth started, but went to a stalemate early before both men made tags. Joe and Rey traded offense, with Joe getting the better of it and sending Rey out ot the floor…[c]
Joe applied an arm submission, and Truth eventually broke it up. Andrade tagged in and hit some vertical suplexes. Rey recovered and hit a code red before crawling for a tag. Zelina tried to stop him, but Carmella pulled her free and made an assist. R-Truth tagged in and hit some of John Cena’s offense on Andrade. He set up for an Attitude Adjustment, but Andrade grabbed the rope and made a tag.
Truth made a tag to Mysterio, and the match broke down. Rey tripped both heels on the ropes and hit a 619 to both of them. He then hit a top rope splash on Andrade, but Joe broke it up with a Senton. Joe pulled up Rey for a Powerbomb, but Rey reversed into a pinfall attempt and got the surprise victory.
Rey Mysterio and R-Truth defeated Samoa Joe and Andrade at 7:32
After the match, Joe lost it and hit a Uranage on both R-Truth and Andrade. He then stared down Rey on the ramp. We then got a video about Alexa Bliss being announced as the WrestleMania host. In the arena, Kevin Owens made his entrance…[c]
My Take: The US Title match seems to be going in a different direction than I thought for WrestleMania. Maybe we’re getting John Cena vs. Kurt Angle? I think we may see these four men involved in another US Title match at WrestleMania, perhaps with a stipulation.
Mustafa Ali made his entrance, followed by Daniel Bryan and Rowan.
4. Daniel Bryan and Rowan vs. Mustafa Ali and Kevin Owens: Rowan used his power to toss around Kevin Owens early. Owens fired back with an enziguri and tagged in Mustafa Ali. Rowan didn’t seem to mind, and quicky smashed Ali with a shoulder tackle. Daniel Bryan then tagged in and worked over Ali and sent him to the floor…[c]
Rowan continued the assault on Mustafa Ali. He then tagged in Bryan, who hit a butterfly suplex from the top for a near fall. He then applied the Lebell Lock, and Ali reach the ropes with his foot after a struggle. Bryan taunted the crowd while chopping away at Ali. Bryan sent Ali off the ropes, and ended up telegraphing a backdrop and eating a drop kick. Ali then hit Bryan with a backstabber. Rowan interfered to break up a pin. Owens then got involved, and Rowan ended up tossing him into the barricade on the outside.
Rowan blind tagged himself into the match on the inside, and Rowan ended up hitting his Claw Slam for the win.
Daniel Bryan and Rowan defeated Kevin Owens and Mustafa Ali at 10:13
After the match, Vince McMahon’s music hit and he walked past Bryan and Rowan. He’s set to present a WrestleMania opportunity to Kofi Kingston next…[c]
My Take: A solid match, and a much needed TV win for Bryan and Rowan, who have been on the losing end of things on Smackdown for weeks. Owens was a bit of a non-factor here, which is discouraging, but he might factor into the final segment upcoming. Ali continues to shine when given the opportunity, even in defeat.
Vince opened up and said he was there tonight to give people what they want, and that’s give Kofi Kingston an opportunity to compete for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. He then showed a video package of Fastlane and the bait and switch that Vince played on Kofi. Vince played on the semantics and said that he never promised Kofi would be in the match, he just said that he would make one. He gave Kofi an opportunity and he failed, and called it a teachable moment.
This brought out The New Day, who all had microphones. There was a loud Kofi chant. Big E said they weren’t in a mood for Vince to teach them a damn thing. Woods said they have played by the rules, never complained or bucked the system, and flew halfway around the world to India, and he still treats them like garbage. Big E then said Kofi has been in the company for 11 years and he deserves better. Vince articulated that nobody deserves anything, not even him.
Big E said this is bigger than Vince’s ego, to which Vince said there is nothing justifiably bigger than his ego. Woods then said that Kofi earned his shot by beating champions, and never got his opportunity. Vince said that he wishes he was championship material, but he wasn’t. He called him a phenomenal athlete, and a worthy representative of the product, but said he just wasn’t championship material. He quoted Daniel Bryan from earlier in the night, and said he was just B+ player. He said someday Kofi will enter the hall of fame, but it will be as a member of the New Day.
He reminded Kofi that at his age, he was part of a team with two younger men that did the heavy lifting, and he had no problem with that. He said that Kofi just wasn’t ready for championship opportunity, because if he was, it would have happened already. Kofi held back his teammates and told them not to get themselves fired. He said he has never complained about missing time at home, or being overlooked, because he has led a blessed life despite all of his struggles. He knows Vince has never allowed anyone like him to compete for the WWE Championship, but he wasn’t demanding a shot, he just wanted to know what he had to do to prove to Vince that he deserved one.
Randy Orton’s music then hit, followed by Samoa Joe, The Bar, and Rowan. Vince said if he can beat all those men in a gauntlet match next week, he could go to WrestleMania. The show closed with a wild brawl between New Day and the gauntlet competitors, with New Day emerging victorious.
My Take: A Wild close to the show, with a strong promo and a big hook for next week’s show. I’m not convinced going back to the gauntlet format so quickly is the right move, but it certainly will make for an entertaining edition of Smackdown. This was overall a very solid show, and an improvement upon Raw from last night.