Last week’s SmackDown saw a surprising United States Championship switch, where Alberto Del Rio recaptured the gold, and the rematch (yes, again) was set for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view this coming Sunday. However, I’m surprised there wasn’t any other title matches considering how hot potato things were getting. Coming into this week’s show, I’m not too excited as the other things that have been announced are yet another edition of MizTV as well as a “one versus all” style main event where Roman runs the gauntlet against The League of Nations in what I assume is a handicap match. As I’m going to repeat to myself constantly, at least we got Mauro to guide us through whatever the heck happens on SD.
Pretty sure we got a newly updated intro again with Social Outcasts added in as well as Neville getting a good chunk of time.
Chris Jericho kicks off the show, too bad I can’t shut off my TV. To be fair, at least we’re getting a ‘different’ star on SmackDown, as it’s not like it’s happening all the time. After 14 months, he’s back on the blue brand. He goes on to pimp out the stipulation of this year’s Royal Rumble and implies that this is happening because HE’S back. Recap of the “biggest” Highlight Reel in WWE history where The Wyatts stood tall over The League of Nations, Roman Reigns as well as Brock Lesnar. Roman may be the world champ, Brock may be Brock, but Jericho is the “savior” of the WWE and he will win the Royal Rum–it’s the New Day. Huge pop for the “not in my house” handwave from Big E. New Day are still mourning over poor deceased Francesca. “Making A Murderer” references to absolutely no reaction. This is not good. Jericho can turn his life around, apparently, as the New Day give a moment of silence yet Jericho interrupts. Stupid 12 year old insults are thrown around, etc. More Rudy, Tooty, Booty BS and New Day enter the ring. Jericho, ONCE AGAIN, SOMEHOW books a match and says they already are scheduled for the match so therefore he isn’t “beating them up”. That was terrible, in case you didn’t realize. The true highlight of this segment was the kid repping his “RAW is Y2J” sign at a SmackDown taping.
Dolph’s face is painted like The Usos’ are. It’s explained that since they’ve teamed in India, they’re bonded and are teaming up here. At least there’s an explanation for this mix-matched team. Dolph’s an “honorary” member of the brotherhood; even confirmed by The Rock on Instagram. Yay. This also serves as a prelude to the WWE Tag Team Championship match at the Royal Rumble.
This was much better than expected. No problems with this opening match. There were some absolutely insane bumps you’d expect to be taken at the PPV, not a SmackDown episode. Ziggler mid-air dropkicking Kofi, Ziggler bouncing face first off the apron onto steel steps, Big E hip-tossing one of the Usos over the ropes onto the edge of the apron…these guys brought out a lot of fun work to put on a show. This was one of Ziggler’s better performances in a long time to boot. He has awesome chemistry with The Usos and it shows. Speaking of such, the match ended when a triple superkick was hit on Xavier for the win. Another reason why Mauro is so great is the fact that he kept commentary balanced during the match. It felt right, with Mauro calling 90% of the action with clever segways into match commentary utilizing background info on the wrestlers; the perfect commentating formula really. A really fun preview to Usos/New Day that overdelivered, as well as Ziggler individually over-performing as well. Big E was the most fun to watch just to note. Little things such as stepping on Ziggler’s arm while tagging out is much appreciated.
The annual “by the numbers” video plays.
Yay! I’m happy. Daily dose of Becky is here. My shirt is shipping, by the way. After the tremendous carry job of Tamina on RAW (plus amazing promo), goodness knows what can come out of a match vs. the athletic and proven above-average Foxy.
Charlotte and Ric Flair are on commentary.
Really good WWE Divas TV match. Becky was amazing and is only getting better. Alicia always sells well because she’s lanky. Although it was still really short, the back and forth action was captivating and the definitive bump of the match was once again PPV worthy. Becky took a Northern Lights Suplex on the outside. My lord just picture that. Although she didn’t no-sell it, it got glanced over as a mini-injury/rushed through because of TV time which sucks, but other than that the match was great. Becky reversed Fox’s attempted bodyslam momentum to turn it into a winning Dis-arm-her. Charlotte on commentary was eh, Flair was eh with his GOAT hyperboles. The camera needs to stop panning to Charlotte every 20 seconds. I found myself putting my hands up of potential anger because I wanted to see the good ongoing match. Solid build that continues with the best diva in WWE doing her thing. Becky works TV so well.
It’s time for the IC title version of MizTV with Ambrose and Owens ahead of their Last Man Standing match on Sunday. Ambrose interrupts whilst Miz runs down Last Man Standing rules everyone already knows. There’s a power struggle between the two, as Ambrose cuts a serious promo whilst Miz tries to regain control. Ambrose threatens Miz with violence, and Ambrose implies that he can do MizTV better than Miz can (the crowd agrees). Miz is sick of being interrupted and disrespected. This is now DeanTV.
Biggest reaction of the night: “YES” chants for Ambrose taking over. Dean compares a Last Man Standing match to amusement park things. He plans on taking KO on as many rides as possible. He plots out the ride he’s most looking forward to taking him on. Ambrose is going to snap KO in half on the apron. “Kevin Owens kind of looks like a bear”, he says, then proceeds to call the next plot-point the Bear Trap. He’s going to trap his paws in the corner and will smash him into the corner. His favorite is up next. The Memory Lane ride (in case you didn’t realize…) the announce table. Ambrose is busting at the seams of the thought at getting his hands on Owens. He’s going to bring things full circle and will put Kevin through the announce table; then being the last man standing. Perfect timing for Owens to interrupt. This plan means nothing to Owens, as he’s more of a zoo enthusiest himself. Dean may be insane, but Kevin is obsessed with the IC belt. That title is his, and he will stop at nothing to get it back on Sunday.
Ambrose’s insanity is going to be his downfall. He won’t know when the fight will be over, because Kevin Owens will knock him unconscious and will once again be the Intercontinental Champion. Just as Ambrose calls out Kevin to come down to the ring, Miz attacks from behind, venting his frustration and then Kevin comes in. Vintage Owens to pick up the remains. A 2 vs. 1 is teased but Owens gives Miz a pop-up powerbomb, but Dean Ambrose counters after violent shakes and screams. Owens escapes Dirty Deeds to cap off the segment. More solid build. Dean gives Dirty Deeds to Miz as the two staredown while Ambrose counts Miz down from 1-10. I like that continuity.
As the Ryback vs. Bray Wyatt match graphic was about to fade-out, Bray interrupts it anyways. Thank goodness for no words. Just a “we’re here” and that’s it. Good.
Nothing terrible, yet another fairly short match. Wyatts were booked strong and Ryback got some offense in. Lots of urinagi’s from Wyatt throughout the match, including one on the apron to try and keep the big guy down. A meathook as well as a spinebuster were hit but to no avail. When the ref was turned an intricate multi-person chain move occured where Braun smashed Ryback into the steel steps, and then a Sister Abigail was hit when he got back inside. Nothing much to it besides some competitive near-falls with The Wyatts going over yet again. Bray was good post-match, with one of his best ‘promos’ (blabbering ringside as they exit) in a long while. He said The Wyatts took out Brock and Roman on RAW, and are going to wipe out everyone else come Rumble time. The Apocalypse is now. They are more than just men.
This has been a mini-feud for a few weeks, as this is also a tune-up for the Rumble for both men as put over by boxed-in vignettes on TV and commentary. This was smartly and briskly worked — a short TV match done right. A fast paced crash course while the guys still sold their minor injuries. I loved how both of them were extremely aggressive pre-Rumble with Titus’s chops echoing throughout the arena and Stardust managing to smash Titus into a barricade. Eventually after some fast back and forth offense, Stardust had to give in after taking a Clash of the Titus from his top rope position. Some nice undercard near-squash length stuff to watch if you even want to.
Renee Young is with Kalisto. In Mexico, Alberto Del Rio is “up there” with the likes of Mil Mascaras, Rey Mysterio & Eddie Guerrero. He’s someone to look up to, but also in the sense that he’s bigger and stronger. Kalisto has been David his entire life and is used to fighting Goliaths. He’s beat Del Rio twice. He knows that this Sunday, he’s going to beat Alberto Del Rio a third—Del Rio appears! Both tense up after Del Rio waves his fist after a little man degrade. As far as the US title goes, Kalisto is nothing but a small fella! The rest of L.O.N. appear and the four hold him back and push him around — then a Brogue Kick is hit. “Nice work lads.” Really effective use of the heels prior to their main event which makes Kalisto an even bigger underdog after the title loss. Some of the best backstage booking, and booking of League of Nations yet.
Reigns cuts a promo before the match. On Monday night, Vince gave him #1 in the Rumble. Reigns had no clue that was coming (yes, irony). He’s trying to stack the odds like he does every single week. He’s walking in as champ, and he’s sure walking out as champ. He’s not crazy; he believes in the big fight. When he takes on 29 others in the Rumble for his title, that is the biggest fight. His chances look a lot better vs. The League of Nations tonight, he’s fired up and ready to go~! Not a bad promo by any means. Quick and to the point with good execution.
This was like…a 5 minute match, maybe even less; until the cursed SmackDown DQ bell rang. Roman fended off the numbers game that was haunting him during the match as he retaliated against Rusev, but he got dragged into the corner and the four pounced on the tired champ as said DQ bell rang.
Rusev hits his kip-up kick and was about to lock in the Acolade when The Usos make the save. It’s still 3 vs. 4 however, as The Usos get kicked. Superman to Rusev, spear to Sheamus. Just when you thought Reigns survived the hell, The Wyatts are out. Roman sold the punishment of having to fend off more enemies as well as simply looking fatigued, really well. Braun and Erick get punched, Luke is thrown out, but Strowman faced Reigns as he gets chucked over to the outside. Superkick and a spinning kick from Harper/Rowan to KO Reigns on the outside. Strowman hits a half-rotation slam on Reigns, and Harper/Rowan slide Reigns into Bray’s arms for a final pre-Rumble Sister Abigail. The Wyatts stand tall yet again to end the overall (and SmackDown) Royal Rumble Go-Home show.
Overall, this managed to beat out the terrible RAW this week, which wasn’t hard. We got some bright spots in the constant commentary of Mauro Ranello, the surprisingly good opener, Becky Lynch continuing to shine, DeanTV being a success in building to the IC title Last Man Standing match, Stardust/Titus being good for a minuscule match, and some good booking of heels. Not the best TV ever, but the best SmackDown of the year so far — I’m more sold on the Rumble than ever. Come at me, Sunday.