This week on Smackdown Live, WWE Champion AJ Styles competes in two singles matches against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Can Sami and Kevin get a victory over the champion before their showdown at the Royal Rumble in a handicap match? Plus much more as Smackdown Live heads towards the Royal Rumble!
World Wrestling Entertainment presents Smackdown Live
From: Washington, DC
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn make their way down to the ring to kickoff the program. Owens tells the fans it is time to pay attention because they are the future of WWE. They aren’t the parade of legends like there was on RAW last night. Owens wants the fans to cheer for their next co-WWE Champions. They introduce each other as such and are met with jeers. Owens says the Yep Movement is all about overcoming all the odds. Owens recalls Shane McMahon putting them in a handicap match, but Shane’s vendetta backfired. Owens considers themselves as the best competitors on Smackdown Live. Zayn chimes in and says they are going to beat AJ Styles and take the WWE Championship. After they win the title they are going to hurt Styles. They repeat Yep over and over until WWE Champion AJ Styles makes his way out.
Styles doesn’t think he heard them correctly. AJ says “nope” to everything Zayn and Owens just said in their promo. AJ tells them they have been annoying people for months with their Yep Movement. Owens doesn’t care because Styles is going to hear it everywhere he goes when they win at the Royal Rumble. Styles tells them they aren’t just wrestling anyone, but rather against someone who is phenomenal. AJ is going to make sure they are never co-WWE Champions. Owens and Zayn knew exactly what Styles was going to do when he came out here because Styles is predictable. Owens thinks Styles sounds ignorant by saying he’s going to win at the Royal Rumble. Zayn notes that ignorance got Styles into this situation to begin with. They show footage from three weeks ago when AJ suggested a handicap match and got it. They mention that AJ tried to backtrack as soon as he got the match. Two weeks ago, Styles said he’d beat Owens and Zayn in singles matches separately in the same night. Owens wonders if AJ will try to weasel his way out of the idea.
Smackdown General Manager Daniel Bryan makes his way out to address the situation. Bryan puts over Owens and Zayn as being two of the best to ever wrestle in a WWE ring. Bryan has all the faith in AJ to win a handicap match. Styles doesn’t know if Bryan is working along with Owens and Zayn. Styles prevents Bryan from making the two singles matches for tonight and accepts the offer for tonight.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan meets with Shane McMahon. Shane doesn’t agree with Bryan putting AJ Styles in two singles matches. Bryan defends himself saying he wasn’t going to do that out there. Bryan wonders if Shane is questioning AJ’s ability to defend himself. Shane responds saying that’s not whose ability he is questioning. If this doesn’t lead to Bryan vs. Shane, then I don’t know the point of all of this.
Opening Contest: Smackdown Live Tag Team Champion Jey Uso vs. Chad Gable: Gabel showcases his amateur wrestling ability by taking Uso down to the mat several times and keeps control. Gable has back control and delivers several forearm strikes. Uso sends Gable to the floor and punches Gable back to the floor. We go to a split screen commercial. Jey kicks Gable and attempts a slam but Gable counters by sending Uso shoulder first into the ring post. Gable focuses his attack on the left shoulder with knee drops. Gable sends Uso shoulder first into the top turnbuckle and taunts the crowd. Gable hits a northern lights suplex for a two count as the program returns. Gable goes to the top but misses a moonsault landing on his feet. Uso kicks Gable off the apron. Uso attempts a suicide dive but Gable delivers a strike. Gable is hip tossed over the top to the floor. Jey takes Gable out with a suicide dive to the floor and holds his shoulder in pain. Jey goes to the top rope but Gable rolls out of the way. Uso drives Gable down to the mat with a Samoan Drop. Gable catches Jey in the corner and attempted a German but can’t hit it. Gable delivers a rolling kick and hits a rolling German suplex for the win. (**1/2. That was a solid opener to the match and Gable showcased his skills rather well here. I think Gable and Benjamin need to win the tag titles this Sunday at the Rumble.)
Backstage, Renee Young interviews Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura says he will put his knee into everyones face in order to outlast everyone. Baron Corbin comes over and says that Nakamura is all show. Corbin doesn’t care about the fans because they don’t pay his bills. Corbin is going to add to his resume when he wins the Royal Rumble. Corbin asks what Nakamura has done in WWE. Nakamura wants to rumble with Corbin tonight.
Tye Dillinger talks about the 2018 Royal Rumble and he officially enters himself in the match. This is kind of bizarre since Dillinger hasn’t done anything since his debut at the 2017 Royal Rumble.
Second Contest. Naomi vs. Liv Morgan: Naomi kicks Morgan out of the corner slides across the ring to slap Morgan. Morgan gets a backslide on Naomi for a two count. Morgan avoids a clothesline and several kicks but Naomi drops Morgan with a knee to the face. Morgan sends Naomi face first into the middle turnbuckle. Morgan springboards off the middle rope to double stomp Naomi ion the canvas for a two count. Liv keeps Naomi on the mat with a chin lock using Naomi’s own arms to choke her. Several women make their way down to the ringside area to watch the match. Naomi drops Morgan with a kick from the apron and wins the match with a slingshot sunset flip. (*. They didn’t get a lot of time to do much of anything. Naomi showed some good agility, though.) After the match, all the ladies at ringside brawl with Becky Lynch eliminating a few girls to the floor. Carmella and Natalya send Morgan to the floor. Natalya drops Carmella and then bails to the floor. Lynch tries to toss Naomi to the floor and then taunts her friend. Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair comes out and says she loves what she’s seeing. Charlotte says that friendships and alliances don’t matter in the Royal Rumble. She wishes everyone good luck, especially the winner.
Third Contest: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin: Corbin shoves Nakamura in the corner before backing away. Corbin controls the left arm for a few moments but Nakamura counters with a hammerlock. Nakamura taunts Corbin and delivers a knee strike followed by a knee drop. Nakamura chokes Corbin in the corner causing Corbin to roll to the floor. Nakamura gets sent into the apron but gets back in the ring and wants Corbin to get in the ring. Corbin decides he doesn’t want to anymore. Nakamura goes to the floor and gets met with a throat thrust. Corbin sends Nakamura throat first into the turnbuckle rods. We go to commercial…
Corbin keeps control of Nakamura with a chin lock on the mat. Nakamura gets met with a knee strike but Nakamura fights back with strikes. Nakamura comes off the ropes with a big boot. Nakamura works over Corbin with kicks to the chest. Nakamura kicks Corbin into the corner and delivers a running knee in the corner. Corbin is laid over the top rope and is met with another knee strike. Corbin avoids a suplex with an elbow strike. Nakamura hits a front slam to drive Corbin down to the mat. Corbin counters a knee strike with Deep Six but Nakamura kicks out at two! Nakamura boots Corbin in the corner but misses a strike. Corbin slides out and then back in to nail Nakamura with a lariat for a near fall. Nakamura counters the End of Days with a cross arm breaker! Corbin nearly pins Nakamura. Nakamura drops Corbin with a kick and goes for a knee strike but Randy Orton comes out of nowhere and hits an RKO! That causes a disqualification. Corbin tries to attack Orton and he gets met with an RKO, as well. (**3/4. It’s actually a rather solid match and one of the better performances I’ve seen from Corbin. I’m hoping Corbin has figured out his routine. They worked well here and there were a few believable near falls that had me thinking Corbin was going to win. They did some good camera work to make sure that Orton came literally out of nowhere for the finish. It was a nicely done match/segment, I thought.)
Prior to the next match, the New Day announce they will be in the Royal Rumble match. Bobby Roode comes out and cuts a promo about being happy to debut in Washington as the new WWE United States Champion. He also believes his reign as champion will be glorious.
Fourth Contest: WWE United States Champion Bobby Roode, Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston vs. Jinder Mahal, Aiden English & Rusev: Rusev and Kofi start the match with Rusev nearly winning the match following a jump kick. English gets tagged in and double teams Kofi in the corner to keep control of the match. English jabs Kofi into the corner and tags in Mahal drives his knee into the back of Kofi and tags in Rusev. Rusev puts a bear hug on Kofi. Rusev hits a running spear in the corner and knocks Xavier off the apron. Rusev misses a back splash and Kofi hits a running bulldog out of the corner. Roode gets tagged in and clotheslines English several times. Roode drops English with a neck breaker and knocks Mahal off the apron. Roode comes off the middle rope with a blockbuster onto English. Roode plants Mahal with a spine buster but gets kicked by Rusev. Kofi comes off the top to strike Rusev down. Kofi takes Mahal and Rusev out with a dive to the floor. Xavier kicks English from the apron leading to a spine buster from Roode. Woods hits a top rope elbow drop and pins English. (**. A rather quick match, but it’s the right outcome. Rusev got a good face reaction and I hope he is able to turn face sooner rather than later. I don’t know why they don’t listen to crowd reactions. It shouldn’t be this hard. Mahal did virtually nothing in the match and has fallen down the card rather drastically since his world title reign.)
Shane McMahon comes out before the next match and bans Sami Zayn from ringside. He says if Zayn goes anywhere near ringside then Zayn will be fired on the spot. The same will happen to Owens when Zayn wrestles.
Fifth Contest: WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens: Styles hammers away on Owens in the corner but Owens fights back only to run into a dropkick. Styles sends Owens into the corner but misses a splash. Owens clotheslines Styles and misses a cannonball splash in the corner. Owens is hobbling on his left leg. Styles kicks the leg and quickly locks in the Calf Crusher to get a quick submission. (NR. That wasn’t even a match, guys.)
Main Event: WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn: Zayn quickly gets into the ring and hammers away on Styles with a flurry of right hands. Zayn goes over and checks on Owens. Zayn continues to pummel Styles with right hands in the corner. The match hasn’t officially started while Owens struggles to make his way backstage. Zayn stomps away on Styles in the corner to weaken the champion. Zayn pulls Styles to the floor and sends AJ into the ring steps. Zayn continues to pummel Styles with strikes as we go to commercial.
Zayn continues to work over Styles with strikes as the bell finally sounds to make the match official. Styles fights back with strikes but Zayn sends Styles chest first into the corner for a one count. Medical staff has come out to help out Owens. Zayn clotheslines Styles for a two count. Zayn has a chin lock on Styles to keep control of the match. Zayn knee lifts Styles but Styles comes back with a flurry of strikes followed by a clothesline and a forearm to a seated Zayn. Styles clotheslines Zayn in the corner and sends Sami over the top to the floor in front of Owens. Styles takes Zayn out with a slingshot forearm. Styles rolls Zayn into the ring and kicks Owens on the floor. We go to commercial.
Zayn has control working over Styles with forearm strikes and taunts the crowd. Styles punches out of a chin lock and backs Zayn into a corner with strikes. Zayn stops AJ with an elbow in the corner but AJ stops Zayn on the middle rope. Styles sets Zayn up on the top turnbuckle managing to hit a hurricanrana. They still haven’t gotten Owens on a stretcher. Styles and Zayn trade strikes in the middle of the ring. Styles drops Zayn neck first over his knee for a two count. Styles tries for a Styles Clash but Zayn breaks free. Zayn plants Styles with a tornado DDT out of the corner. Zayn runs into a boot in the corner. Styles ducks a clothesline and nails Zayn with the Pele Kick for a two count. Zayn elbows Styles to avoid a go-behind. Zayn nearly pins Styles after a Michinoku Driver! Zayn slaps Styles on the top turnbuckle and goes for a superplex. Styles is able to slip free and drops Zayn face first over the top turnbuckle. Styles goes for the Styles Clash, but Zayn wiggles free and goes to the floor. Styles gets to the apron and drops Zayn with a sliding knee. Styles rolls Zayn into the ring and tips over the stretcher that Owens was on. Styles rolls into the ring and is met with a running kick in the corner. Zayn drives Styles down with the Blue Thunder Bomb for the win. (***. The first half of the match was rather slow and uninteresting as they used a lot of rest holds to fill time. However, the second half of the match was pretty good and made for a good finish. Like I’ve said before, I wouldn’t mind seeing AJ/Zayn compete in a series of matches. The victory also castes doubt in whether or not Styles can retain the title. It’s also effective in giving Zayn a win to add to his credibility.)
A far better edition of Smackdown Live this week compared to last week. They added some last minute promotion for the big matches this Sunday. They had several good TV matches that made for an easy watch, too. If you had told me that Smackdown Live would be better than RAW 25 this week, I wouldn’t have believed you. A good rebound episode from last week and a solid go-home show for the pay per view.
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.