This week, just to spice things up a bit, Samoa Joe opens the show to share his thoughts about the Shield. Suffice it to say that he doesn’t really have anything positive to say so Roman Reigns runs down to beat him up only to get jumped by Sheamus and Cesaro. Although Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose run down to try and even the odds, Reigns ends up getting all choked out by Joe. It’s nice to see that it doesn’t take much to make Joe look like a credible threat, meaning he can easily be inserted into top level programs with main eventers and the likes of Reigns, which I guess is fine as I figure his role is to be a bad ass for faces to overcome but is basically bullet proof to losses and such. Maybe, if a bunch of injuries happened, he would get a run with a top belt but, for now, this is a pretty good look for him.
Absolution take on Bayley, Mickie James, and Sasha Banks, scoring the victory after pinning Mickie James. I would have preferred it to be Sasha taking the pin, if only because of the mystique and the stock the WWE has put into her but, hey, winning is winning.
Finn Balor continues what appears to be his slow and steady path towards a feud with the Miz by making short wok of Curtis Axel. Although Bo Dallas and Curtis jumped him beforehand and tried to use their numbers, I think they forget the overwhelming fact that they are Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel so Finn took Curtis out in less than two minutes. Maybe next week he’ll take them both on in a handicap match; it won’t look great for them as a team to lose that much but it’s not as though the WWE has bothered to really make them much of a threat as a team.
Seth Rollins then took on, and defeated, Sheamus, doing something I never fail to be impressed with: getting a good match out of Sheamus. The only real issue I have here is that, despite Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Sheamus, and Cesaro work really well together, this feud really has been going on for something like forever now. I just wish they had spiced it up by slotting Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson into their issues, just to increase the amount of different matches we could see.
So Rich Swann has been a bit of a bad boy this past week and gotten himself arrested, so his opportunity to take on Enzo Amore for the Cruiserweight Championship has been revoked, leading to yet another match between Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, Tony Nese, and Ariya Daivari to see who’ll take on Drew Gulak and go on to face Enzo. Not to be too racist, but the WWE decided to swap one African-American for another and have Cedric get the win after hitting the Lumber Check on Daivari. It’s too bad that they don’t run important matches like this on 205 Live; oh, also, it was another cruiserweight multi-man match that went less than fifteen minutes.
Roman Reigns defends his Intercontinental Championship against Cesaro, which is a hell of a challenger for the belt. Putting these two together was like magic; as great as the hoss battles between Reigns and Braun Strowman were, Cesaro works a far crisper, smoother style accentuated by unbelievable power moves. Reigns matched him blow for blow, with both men dead-lifting each other in a series of counters until Reigns countes the Neutralizer into the Spear and successfully retains the belt. Honestly, Cesaro could really benefit from getting some of the treatment afforded to Samoa Joe to allow him the chance to credibly enter the main event at any time and have a believable chance; instead, no matter how great his efforts or the matches he puts on, it seems like the WWE machine will never capitalise on that skill to give him a serious run at the top of the card.
Absolution pop out again to attack Asuka, only for the remainder of the Raw women’s roster to run down for the save and fend them off. Interesting to see that all it took for the women to set aside their differences was three women talking shit and pinning Mickie James. Afterwards, Samoa Joe choked out Dean Ambrose in a decent enough match; the real story here was that Jason Jordan wanted a shot against Joe, to the point where he got involved in the match in an effort to antagonise Joe. It’s gonna be a bad day for Jordan when he eventually does get that match.
This week’s main event pits Braun Strowman against Kane, with the winner going on to face Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble. Unfortunately, rather than being the usual smash-mouth, giant match, this was a short affair that ended in a double count out after they brawled through the barricade. There was a great moment where both men were down in the ring and Kane did his little zombie sit-up, only for Braun to match him, which out the fear of God into Kane (though that was a bit weird as he has seen the Undertaker do that a hundred times, surely?) Anyway, after the match is thrown out, Braun fights off the Chokeslam and Powerslams Kane through the table; it looks like we’re going to see Braun and Kane face Lesnar because, apparently, that’s a better idea than Finn Balor in today’s messed up WWE landscape.
AJ Styles opens the Blue Brand to hype up his match against Jinder Mahal at Clash of Champions. The Singh Brothers come out to renounce Jinder after he kicked the shit out of them last week; they want to be in AJ’s corner at Clash but AJ’s no fool, he sees through their shit and beats them up while Jinder rants on the TitanTron. I like how AJ and Jinder are being kept apart before their match, but I would still like to see Jinder having matches or getting physically involved in the beat downs and such.
Ruby Riott then made her SmackDown! Live in-ring debut against Charlotte Flair in a non-title match, getting the win after Natalya got involved and caused a disqualification. The rest of the Riott Squad came down to get their licks in, only for the rest of the women to run down and make the save. Eerily similar stuff happening on both women’s rosters this week, which I suppose is inevitable when you bring so many new faces in all at the same time and have them form factions.
Still trying to justify why he deserves his spot in the United States Championship match at Clash of Champions, Dolph Ziggler (now randomly back to having an entrance and music, so I guess his hissy fit is over now?) took on Baron Corbin but didn’t really get a chance to show much because Bobby Roode decided turnabout was fair play and ran down for the disqualification finish. I have to admit, I’m hardly jazzing in my pants about this as it looks like we have two heels and a guy who should really be a heel in a match no one is really going to care too much about because they haven’t properly built the participants up enough. I’m doubly disappointed given that I was hoping that the United States Championship scene would have a bit more life in it by this point (also…where the hell is Mike Kanellis?)
The Bludgeon Brothers defeated some jobbers.
Anyway, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn decide that they should occupy SmackDown! Live the same way that Daniel Bryan occupied Raw back in the day (seems like ages ago now…) They both criticise Bryan for selling out and becoming the very thing that he used to rally against; although Bryan disagrees with that, he decides to join Shane McMahon and be the second guest referee in their match at Clash of Champions. Weird, weird stuff here; is Bryan turning heel? I guess that could work if he take son a Paul Heyman sort of role for Owens and Zayn but that would also work for Shane and, surely, it’d be so much easier if Bryan just kicked Shane in the teeth and stayed as a face because, honestly, does anyone want to boo Bryan?
In case it wasn’t blindingly obvious by their random win over the New Day last week, Rusev and Aiden English cemented their claim to the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship match by beating the Usos. Glad to see Rusev winning a match but I seriously doubt their chances at winning the belts so, maybe, it would have been better to involve a real tag team in the title match? Breezango, maybe?
The main event this week saw Kevin Owens take on Shinsuke Nakamura while Daniel Bryan was on commentary. Naturally, this played into the match as, when the referee takes a bump, Bryan jumps in wearing the white and black shirt to take over. Although Randy Orton tried to even the odds by attacking Sami Zayn, Zayn was still able to distract Nakamura enough for Owens to plant him with the Pop-Up Powerbomb and get the win.
Kick-Off Match: Zack Ryder vs. Mojo Rawley
I’m still wondering who thought that splitting up one of the few tag teams on SmackDown! Live was a good idea. The tag team division in the WWE is pretty dire these days and losing this team in favour of slapping together Rusev and Aiden English seems like a poor trade-off. Also, I fully understand Mojo’s frustration and motivation as he’s done literally nothing all year since winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale but I think it may have benefitted both guys to have turned heel and try to reignite their careers because, honestly, if Ryder wins here what is he really going to go on to do or will it be like the never-ending feud between Big Cass and Enzo Amore? Anyway, if they really want to do something with Mojo he needs to win and I’d like to see what he can do so I’ll pick Mojo Rawley for the win here.
The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Breezango
So, despite it being blatantly obvious once the “BB” thing started showing up in the Fashion Files and the Bludgeon Brothers made their big debut, this is apparently the end result of all of Fandango and Tyler Breeze’s numerous, amusing backstage segments all these months. Yet, Breezango have barely had any matches in all that time so, while I believe that they are good friends, I don’t really believe in their chances here. It’s a shame as I would have loved to see them get more involved in the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship scene but their skits have helped to, apparently, turn the Ascension face so, hopefully, they get a bit of match time out of this at some point. Oh, but yeah, the Bludgeon Brothers are winning this.
WWE SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs. Rusev and Aiden English
Damn, I didn’t even realise that Shelton and Chad were in this match. Or…did I know but forget? Whatever. It’s telling that two of the four teams in this match are just two guys tagging together rather than an actual team like Breezango, the Ascension, the Hype Bros, or the Bludgeon Brothers. Why not have the Bludgeon Brothers take on and destroy the New Day to give them an air of credibility and legitimacy while Breezango get the title shot? Also, it seems like the Usos are faces now? Or, at least, tweeners, and that Chad and Shelton are tweenering their way towards being heels? Because of that, and because I am bored of the Usos and want to see something different and some kind of pay off, I’m picking Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable to win this.
WWE United States Championship Triple Threat Match: Baron Corbin (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler
God, this match! Given how amazingly lacklustre the WWE has been about this feud and each of these men in their own way, with only Roode looking somewhat credible despite being weighed down by being a face when he should really be a heel. I’m not impressed, though, because I like all three men and want them all to do well but this is not where I expected any of them to be at this point. I thought we’d see Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura fighting over the WWE Championship while Mike Kanellis and Chad Gable fought for the United States Championship. Also, I’m a little scared that the WWE will just throw a dart at a name for a winner here so, to play it safe and allow for a better build up to a more meaningful match, I’m going to pick Baron Corbin to retain.
WWE SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Lumberjill Match: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Natalya
So, given how they’ve been causing all kinds of havoc since debuting, I’m guessing the entire reason that this has been made a lumber…*shudder*…jill match is so that they can get involved in some way. Natalya’s been playing both sides but no one is convinced by that, surely, because she did such a terrible job of trying to pull it off so I reckon the Riott Squad will cause a disqualification, meaning Charlotte Flair will retain, and beat the shit out of everyone to set themselves up as next in line for a shot. I’d say that, in the chaos, Carmella will cash in her briefcase but it doesn’t loo like that’s ever going to happen at this point and I’m tired of predicting it.
WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Jinder Mahal
Well, this came out of nowhere; I figured that Mahal would keep hold of the belt until the Indian tour was over with, at least. Instead, he lost the belt, lost out on the big match against Brock Lesnar, and hasn’t really been featured on television in ages. As I said, while I like that some atmosphere has been built up by separating these two, I’d still like to see Mahal in matches beating jobbers or, at least, attacking AJ backstage, after matches, before matches, anything that makes him seem like an aggressive son of a bitch. It’s been more about mind games and making AJ wait instead, which is fine, but Mahal needs all the help he can get to solidify his main event status. I do wonder what he’ll do once this is over, though, and how far down the card he will fall because, make no mistake, AJ Styles will retain the belt here.