Tonight on Smackdown, the tournament to crown a new WWE United States Champion continues, Smackdown Tag Team Champions the Usos defend against Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin and WWE Champion AJ Styles takes on Sami Zayn in a non-title match. All this and more!
World Wrestling Entertainment presents Smackdown
From: Orlando, FL
WWE Champion AJ Styles kicks off the first Smackdown of 2018 coming to the ring for a promo. Styles welcomes everyone to the house that he built. Styles says that it’s a new year which means new year resolutions are made. Styles has made resolutions himself which include making it to WrestleMania as champion and leaving the show with the title in the main event. His second resolution is to beat Sami Zayn tonight. AJ wonders if Daniel Bryan will allow Kevin Owens to be in Zayn’s corner tonight. Here comes Daniel Bryan to share his thoughts on the subject…
Well, before Bryan can even say a word, Shane McMahon also makes his way down to the ring to partake in the segment. Shane shakes hands with both men before talking. Shane claims that he had the best intentions last week. He thinks that everyone would agree that we’d rather see a straight-up match instead of interference. Shane publicly apologizes to Styles for last week. Styles fist pumps Shane to show acceptance. Shane brings up the alleged personal vendetta against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Shane thinks that Daniel Bryan has a likeness for Owens and Zayn. Shane is still baffled by Daniel allowing Zayn to be at ringside. Shane asks Daniel if he’s turning the “Yes” movement into the “Yep” movement. Shane says he’ll be at ringside for the match tonight. Daniel chimes in and says that Kevin Owens might as well be at ringside as well for the singles match. Hell, Daniel Bryan is going to be at ringside, too.
Before the Smackdown Tag Team Championship match, the Usos cut a promo putting themselves over. They highlight their accomplishments as they reach the ring. They seemingly were about to get ready for the match but then realized the ring introductions hadn’t actually taken place yet so both teams got back in the ring for that part.
Opening Contest: Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Usos vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin: Benjamin and Jimmy kick off the tag match with Benjamin knocking Jey off the apron. Benjamin takes Jimmy off the top with an overhead belly to belly suplex. Gable comes off the top with a moonsault for a near fall as we get in screen commercials. Gable keeps working over Jimmy by wrenching on his left knee under the middle rope before delivering a dragon screw leg whip. Gable goes for a cover but Jimmy easily kicks out. Benjamin tags back in doing the same knee work that Gable had done in the corner. Benjamin runs the ropes and runs into the injured knee. Benjamin looks for a submission with a half Boston crab but Jimmy isn’t going to tap out. Benjamin prevents Jimmy from tagging out and tags in Gable to keep control of the right leg. Jimmy kicks his way out but Gable still prevents him from tagging out. Benjamin tags back in and they double team Jimmy with a few strikes and a leaping knee strike. Gable goes back to the legwork on the mat. Jimmy again kicks out of the hold and manages to nail Gable with a spinning kick.
Jey gets the tag as does Benjamin. Jey sends Benjamin to the floor and hits a dive over the top rope. Gable gets tossed to the floor and Jey hits the same dive on Gable. Usos go for a double dive on Gable, but Benjamin pulls Jey out and sends him into the railing. Benjamin nails Jimmy with a knee strike on the apron and they hit a powerbomb/top rope neck breaker leading to a pinfall! Oh wait a minute, a second referee comes out and tells the original referee that Gable wasn’t the legal man to make the cover. Thus, this title match is going to continue! Gable and Benjamin are pissed as we got to a regular commercial break.
They are still complaining until the Usos knock them off the apron. Jey superkicks Benjamin and follows up with a Samoan Drop. Jey attempts a butt splash but Gable pulls Benjamin to the floor. Gable knocks Jimmy down on the floor. Benjamin gets a two count in the ring and drives Jey down with a spine buster. Gable comes off the top and is super kicked by Jimmy. Joey superkicks Benjamin and the Usos hit a double superkick on Benjamin. Jey comes off the top and splashes Benjamin for the win. (***. A fine start to the show and I thought the fake title switch was nicely done. I’d imagine these guys will meet at the Royal Rumble. I like Gable & Benjamin, but I don’t think they are the guys to dethrone the Usos.) After the match, Gable is on the floor begging the referee for another shot it appears but that’s not happening.
Backstage, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are walking when Renee Young interviews them. Owens asks what is different this week compared to last week. Owens gives us some differences but says that tonight will not be different. Zayn will defeat AJ Styles tonight. Zayn is offended that Shane McMahon would suggest that Daniel Bryan has favoritism towards them. Bryan is just a good General Manager. Sami botches his own name. He said it’s the “Seven and” before correcting himself. They are just confident about winning tonight.
Second Contest: Tyler Breeze & Fandango vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan: Harper and Rowan attack Breeze and Fandango during a highlight video promoting the rematch. Breeze and Fandango roll to the floor when the Ascension run down. They are easily taken care of, as well. Harper and Rowan drive Victor down with a double team slam. So, that wasn’t a match.
Backstage, Big E and Kofi Kingston have presents for Xavier Woods. Xavier is blindfolded preparing for his match tonight. He guesses that they have cupcakes with candles. He’s about to blow the candles when we see Rusev and Aiden English. English wishes that every day is Rusev Day. English says that will happen when he moves on in the WWE United States Championship tournament. Rusev blows out the candles and walks off. Xavier is mad that he stole his wish.
Backstage, Mojo Rawley cuts a promo saying that Zack Ryder will be in the past after he beats him next week. He mocks Zack’s catchphrase.
Prior to the next match, Rusev sings to hype up Aiden’s upcoming match against Xavier.
Third Contest: Aiden English vs. Xavier Woods in a WWE United States Championship Tournament Match: Aiden counters a wheelbarrow bulldog attempt but can’t avoid a forearm strike that gets Xavier a near fall. Xavier misses a slingshot dive to the floor but still kicks Aiden. Rusev backs off on the floor and Aiden drops Xavier face first onto the ring steps. Backstage, Jinder Mahal is watching the action with the Singh Brothers. Xavier gets out of a headlock with an arm drag and superkicks Aiden. Aiden kicks Xavier but Xavier hits a backbreaker after having Aiden in a Torture Rack position for a two count. They trade roll-ups until Aiden hits a sit out Death Valley Driver for a two count. English has Woods on the top rope and appears to try for a piledriver. Woods counters with a backdrop off the middle rope. Woods hits a top rope elbow drop for the win. (**. They hit a few impactful moves and I didn’t feel that it was here for too long.) After the match, Xavier celebrates with pancakes as Jinder Mahal continued to watch on a TV backstage.
Backstage, Carmella, Natalya, Lana, and Tamina are interviewed. Natalya says they are feeling pretty good and says there was a Welcoming Committee before there was a Riot Squad. Carmella says their fun is over with now. Lana thinks the Squad has shown their hand and Tamina believes that was a mistake. Natalya says there is no substitute for the real thing.
Fourth Contest: Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan vs. Natalya, Carmella & Tamina: Morgan and Natalya start off the match. Natalya gets out of a head scissors and is slapped by Liv. Morgan gets out of a head scissors and plays to the crowd. Liv avoids one clothesline but a discus clothesline finds the mark. Natalya tries for the Sharpshooter but Morgan escapes to the floor. Liv decks Natalya upon her return to the match and tags in Riott. Natalya drives Riott into her corner and tags in Carmella. Carmella taunts Riott before hitting a head scissors and dropkick. Carmella hits Logan on the apron and Riott delivers an STO before tagging out to Logan. Logan has kept Carmella on the mat with a headlock for several moments. Carmella breaks free with a jawbreaker but Logan prevents a tag out. Carmella manages to tag in Tamina, who cleans house with clotheslines and superkicks. Tamina gets a good pop playing to the crowd and plants Logan with a Samoan Drop. Tamina decides to head to the top rope. Morgan knocks Tamina off the top as Riott distracted the referee. Logan wins the match with a cartwheel knee to the head. (*1/4. Uh, that was kind of a lame finish. At least this was kept short.)
After the match, Riott has a microphone and says that everyone in Orlando probably believes in magic. She ruins their dreams saying that magic isn’t real and says it is like everyone in the arena, it’s phony. Riott thinks they are all miserable and pretend to be happy. She says everything about them is real and they announce their entries into the Royal Rumble match. She gets cut off by Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair. She disagrees with Riott and says that she is a dreamer. She believes in the magic of her dreams. She wants to give Riott a dose of reality. She introduces someone that wants to teach them a lesson. Here comes Naomi. Oh wait, there’s more. There’s another person that wants them to pay for their actions. The fans want Becky Lynch and they get their wish. This leads to all six women brawling around ringside and in the ring. Charlotte, Naomi, and Becky stand tall to end the segment.
Backstage, Baron Corbin announces he’s in the Royal Rumble match and he can’t wait to main event WrestleMania.
Main Event: WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn in a non-title match: Styles wastes no time knocking Zayn down with right hands and rams Zayn face first into a top turnbuckle. Styles continues with a snap suplex for a two count. The referee distracts Styles allowing Zayn to work over Styles with strikes. Styles fights back with chops but Zayn connects with a backdrop for a two count. They exchange strikes with Zayn getting the better of it by driving Styles face first down to the mat. Styles nails Zayn with a dropkick causing Zayn to roll to the floor. Styles quickly follows and confronts Owens. Shane and Bryan come over as well to add drama to a simple rollout of the ring. Styles tries to get in the ring but Zayn kicks him and hits a fisherman buster for a two count as we go to commercial.
Styles fights out of a headlock and drops Zayn with a clothesline after several strikes. Styles follows up with a forearm. Styles splashes Zayn in the corner followed by a gutbuster but Zayn kicks out at two. Styles has Zayn on his shoulders but Zayn breaks free and goes to the apron. Zayn drops Styles throat first over the top rope and goes to the top rope. Styles recovers to crotch Zayn and puts Zayn on shoulders to deliver a neck breaker over his knee for a two count. Styles signals for the Styles Clash, but Zayn blocks it. Zayn plants Styles with the Blue Thunder Bomb but only manages a near fall on the cover attempt. Styles avoids a running boot and puts the Calf Crusher on Zayn! Styles rolls to the middle of the ring and Zayn is screaming in agony. Zayn makes a final push and reaches the bottom rope. They trade a few forearm strikes until Styles nails Zayn with the Pele Kick. Zayn backdrops Styles to the apron, but Styles forearms Zayn and goes for the forearm but Zayn moves. The referee gets knocked to the floor and Styles has a cover on Zayn. Owens prevented the referee from getting back into the ring and the referee is pissed at Owens. Shane McMahon is fed up and shoves Owens. The referee ejects Owens from ringside and Bryan suggests McMahon leave as well. Zayn hits the Helluva Kick and pins Styles after Styles had knocked Owens off the apron! (***. It was a good match, but this constant bickering between Shane and Bryan isn’t all that entertaining and it’s rather predictable. I can see Shane making Owens and Zayn wrestle for a number one contenders match to get some level of revenge.)
AJ Styles grabs a microphone and tells Bryan to stop bickering with Shane like children. Styles wants to wrestle Owens and Zayn in a handicap match. Bryan announces that Styles will defend the WWE Championship against both Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn at the Royal Rumble. Bryan is thrilled about that. Is that a heel turn by Daniel Bryan?
Smackdown was considerably better than RAW this week. Sure, there was some filler, but the main stuff delivered. The show started strong with the tag title match, the US Title Tournament match as decent, and the main event was productive. I’ll give Smackdown a thumbs up this week.
What did you think of Smackdown?
Thanks for reading.
31-year old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Longtime fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Vikings. Avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on the old school wrestling.