This week on Smackdown Live, a number one contender to the WWE United States Championship is determined. WWE Champion AJ Styles teams up with Shinsuke Nakamura to take on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
World Wrestling Entertainment presents Smackdown Live
From: Philadelphia, PA
The 2018 Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura kicks off the show making his way down to the ring to cut a promo. Nakamura mentions that he delivered a knee to the face of guys like Sami Zayn, John Cena and Roman Reigns. The same thing will happen at WrestleMania to WWE Champion AJ Styles. He will be the new WWE Champion. Nakamura points to the WrestleMania sign and that brings out Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
Owens wants the fans to cheer for Nakamura since he won the Royal Rumble. Owens says that Nakamura can point at the sign and say he’s going to beat AJ Styles. However, Owens claims they were screwed over at the Royal Rumble. They should be the first ever co-WWE Champions. Stills from the Rumble are shown which shows Owens wasn’t the legal man and Styles pinned him to retain the title. Owens thinks they were screwed because Shane McMahon has a vendetta against them. Sami Zayn says a referee has one job, to protect the integrity of a match by any cost. Zayn believes that Owens passion is what cost them the match. AJ Styles pinned the wrong man. Owens tells Nakamura that he won’t wrestle Styles at Mania but rather it will be them. Zayn leads a Yep chant. Nakamura calls them losers while Styles is a winner. Here comes the WWE Champion, AJ Styles.
Styles says that the title match at WrestleMania will be between himself and Nakamura. Styles wants to team with Nakamura and battle the team of Owens and Zayn tonight. Owens and Zayn back away following that challenge. They return to the ring after talking on the floor. They say no anyway and get punched off the apron.
Backstage, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens meet up with Daniel Bryan to talk. Bryan tells them that they will wrestle Styles and Nakamura tonight. Zayn and Owens can’t believe this. Bryan says that the referees decision is final. That’s is bizarre since WWE has done angles where they continue matches despite a referee decision. Owens wants Bryan to make it right and they deserve better. They deserve another shot at the WWE Championship. Bryan says that they will get another opportunity at the championship. Zayn is happy and hugs Bryan. Bryan says next week that the winner of a match between Kevin Owens against Sami Zayn will wrestle AJ Styles at Fastlane. Owens knew it was coming and didn’t want to hear it.
Opening Contest: Jinder Mahal vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Rusev vs. Zack Ryder in a number one contenders match for the WWE United States Championship: Ryder and Rusev brawl while Mahal works over Kingston in the corner. Mahal misses a clothesline on Kingston and gets a rollup for a near fall. Kofi gets another two count with a rollup. Mahal stops Kofi with a knee strike. Ryder dumps Mahal to the floor and hammers away on Rusev. Bobby Roode is on commentary while Big E is throwing pancakes at the commentators. Rusev works over Ryder with strikes in the corner. Rusev continues to stomp away on Ryder in the corner. Mahal is working over Kingston, too. Kofi takes Rusev out with a dropkick and Ryder clotheslines Mahal. Kofi kicks Ryder but Ryder counters a suplex with a neckbreaker for a two count. Mahal works over Ryder with strikes. Ryder drives Mahal face first onto the mat and clotheslines Mahal over the top to the floor. Ryder dropkicks Mahal on the floor and seems to slip off the ropes hitting his back on the apron. Kofi takes both Ryder and Mahal out with a dive over the top to the outside. Rusev is in the ring and he wants to do a dive. Rusev gets tripped by Singh on the floor and Aiden English shoves Singh into New Day causing the pancakes to spill. That leads to an argument. The referee tosses everyone to the backstage area. We go to commercial.
Rusev goes to the floor and sends Ryder into the guard railing shoulder first before rolling him into the ring for a near fall. Ryder hammers away on Rusev in the corner while Kofi is busy with Mahal and delivers a dropkick. Rusev works over Kofi while Mahal knocks Ryder off the apron to the floor. Rusev and Mahal work together to take Kingston over with a double vertical suplex. Mahal comes off the ropes to deliver a knee drop and Rusev hits an elbow drop on Kofi. Mahal has Kofi on the floor and continues to hammer away on him. Kofi avoids the ring steps but Mahal is able to send Kofi shoulder first into the ring steps anyway. Mahal sends Rusev face first into the ring post. Mahal covers Ryder in the ring for a two count. Mahal nails Ryder with several knee drops. Mahal turns his attention to Rusev delivering more right hands. Rusev ducks a clothesline and kicks Mahal a couple of times. Rusev splashes Mahal in the corner but Jinder escapes to the floor. Ryder hits a missile dropkick on Rusev followed by a forearm strike. Ryder hits Rusev with a boot to the face. Mahal does the same to Ryder for a two count. Kofi comes off the top to hit an axe handle on Mahal followed by a leg drop. Kingston hits the SOS on Ryder but Mahal breaks up the cover. Jinder takes Kingston out with a clothesline and Rusev sends Mahal to the floor. Rusev puts Kofi onto Ryder and wanted the Accolade but Mahal makes the save hitting a knee strike on Rusev.
Mahal attempts a cobra clutch slam but Rusev rolls out. Ryder hit the Rough Ryder on Mahal. Rusev kicks Ryder and counters a rollup by Kofi managing to get the Accolade locked in and Kofi is forced to submit. (**1/2. Mahal really knows how to bring a match down, doesn’t he? The action was average for the most part, but they made the right decision in putting Rusev over. The fans want to cheer him, though. I could see a double turn happening at some point.) After the match, Roode sits up from the commentary table and stares down Rusev. They will wrestle next week.
Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Usos cut a promo saying they are going to put everyone on notice next. They had some funny graphics emphasizing the words the Usos used.
Backstage, Fandango and Tyler Breeze are talking with the Ascension. They are answering Twitter questions. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin enter the room and they wonder if Fashion Files is even a thing. Gable says that they are embarrassing the tag division. Breeze wonders if it’s more embarrassing than losing at the Rumble twice to the Usos. Benjamin challenges them to a tag match and they tip over the table with computers on it for the Twitter questions. Fandango “that’s my moms computer, man.”
Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Usos make their way down to the ring for a promo segment. They want to hear some love from the fans. They talk about winning that the Royal Rumble winning two straight falls. They have been dominating the tag division since they’ve gotten to Smackdown. They mention each tag team they have beaten and a prison cell graphic appears on the screen. Which is hilarious since Jey Uso had a recent DUI arrest. Their day one represents the struggle. Every struggle makes you stronger. They believe they are the best tag team in the WWE. So, that was just a matter of them showing their confidence. Oh wait, here comes Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. That stops the Usos in their tracks. Usos remain at ringside during their entrance and stare them down. There isn’t any interaction. I’m figuring they will be feuding soon.
Second Contest: Luke Harper & Erick Rowan vs. Jack & Joe Doe: I have no idea who the jobbers are this week, but as you can imagine they get destroyed here. Harper and Rowan win the match following a double spinebuster. Their squash matches have been enjoyable.
Smackdown General Manager revealed that their will be a top ten list for Smackdown Live. The vote will be based by the Smackdown roster. Himself and Shane McMahon will not be allowed votes. Wrestlers can not vote for themselves.
Backstage, Shane McMahon is on the phone talking to someone. Tye Dillinger enters the scene and says that the Royal Rumble opportunity was taken from him. Baron Corbin enters the segment and talks about how Daniel Bryan is handing out more opportunities to Zayn and Owens. Corbin thinks that Shane must have changed his last name. Dillinger says he’s still here unlike the Money In The Bank briefcase. Shane makes them compete in a singles match tonight.
Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte is interviewed in the ring regarding the first women’s Royal Rumble. It was the first time in her career that she wished she wasn’t a champion. Instead, she was wanting to be in the ring to compete against the legends. She talks about the moment that broke the internet. She was in the ring with Alexa Bliss, Asuka and then Ronda Rousey. She is walking into WrestleMania as the Smackdown Women’s Champion and says the question is who will be standing across from her. That brings out…
The Riott Squad consisting of Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan to join the segment. Riott doesn’t care about Asuka and Rousey. She says that Charlotte’s ego is as big as her fathers. Riott thinks it is usual for Charlotte to think she can handpick her opponents. Riott calls Charlotte arrogant and unoriginal. There is only one Ruby Riott. She calls Charlotte a cheap knockoff of her father. Riott tells Charlotte that she won’t make it to WrestleMania. Charlotte woos in Ruby’s face. Charlotte fights off the Riott Squad and they all bail to the floor. They get back into the ring and they pummel Charlotte down to the mat. Riott nails Charlotte with a kick to the head. Sarah Logan delivers an awkward looking handstand knee strike. Liv Morgan double stomps Charlotte as well. Charlotte gets pulled to the middle of the ring and is picked up. Riott connects with the Riot Kick and stands over the fallen champion.
Carmella runs down with her Money In The Bank briefcase! Carmella kicks Charlotte and wants to cash in the briefcase! Carmella misses a dropkick and knocks the referee to the floor on accident! Carmella demands the referee to get up, but he’s not going to get up. Charlotte is getting up in the corner and Carmella bails to the floor grabbing her briefcase. She decides against cashing it in.
Backstage, WWE Champion AJ Styles is talking to Shinsuke Nakamura about their tag team match. Nakamura tells Styles several times that he’s going to beat Styles at WrestleMania. Nakamura tells AJ he’s messing with him and wants AJ to listen to him tonight.
Backstage, Carmella is interviewed and says that she didn’t suffer any bad luck but rather it went exactly how she wanted it to. She is the most dangerous woman and didn’t want to cash in with a broken nail anyway.
Third Contest: Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger: Dillinger works over Corbin on the floor sending Corbin into the guard railing and leaps off the steps to forearm Corbin. Corbin stops Dillinger with a knee strike in the corner and follows up with right hands on the mat. Corbin sends Dillinger hard into the corner followed by a clothesline. Corbin sends Dillinger over the top to the floor and plays to the crowd as we go to a split screen commercial. Corbin sends Dillinger into the guard railing to keep control of the match. Corbin also sends Dillinger face first onto the announcers table. Corbin misses an attack in the corner but slides back into the ring and clotheslines Dillinger for a two count. Corbin keeps control of Dillinger on the mat with a chin lock as we return from commercial. Corbin avoids a double boot in the corner but misses a clothesline and ends up spearing the post. Dillinger gets a second wind and hammers away on Corbin with strikes. Dillinger avoids a knee strike and drops Corbin with a boot to the face. Dillinger connects with a clothesline and a headbutt. Dillinger exposes his knee but Corbin breaks free hitting a clothesline to the back of Dillinger’s head. Corbin plants Dillinger with a chokeslam backbreaker. Corbin finishes Dillinger off with the End of Days. (*1/4. I had very little interest in this match since Dillinger hasn’t been presented on television as being a factor into anything for quite a bit of time now. This was just a matter of getting Corbin momentum.)
Backstage, Rusev and Aiden English cut a promo about Rusev’s title match next week against WWE United States Champion Bobby Roode. Rusev promises victory. We also hear from Bobby Roode who says his schedule fills up very quickly and spells out glorious on a calendar.
Backstage, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are sitting in silence. Zayn says there is good news in that one of them will be getting a championship match. Sami thinks it is a shame to go against each other. Owens just replies Yep. They mention each others failures as a way to show some tension between the two. Owens tells Zayn that he won’t fail… tonight. Owens leaves while Zayn is confused.
Fourth Contest: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs. Tyler Breeze & Fandango: Benjamin and Fandango start the match with Benjamin nailing Breeze with a knee strike to knock him off the apron. Fandango works over Benjamin with strikes against the ropes. Fandango is met with a spinebuster from Benjamin. Shelton keeps control of Fandango as we see the Ascension watching on a TV backstage. Gable tags in and delivers a knee strike to the midsection of Fandango. Gable focuses his attack on the left arm of Fandango. Fandango hits a wheelbarrow bulldog on Gable for a two count. Gable slides to the floor and yanks Breeze off the apron dropping Tyler face first over the apron. Fandango avoids a somersault kick delivering a backbreaker. Gable hits a rolling kick on a second attempt for a two count. Fandango nearly pins Gable with a rollup. Breeze gets tagged in and kicks Gable. Benjamin enters and is met with a kick, too. Breeze misses a clothesline on Gable and Benjamin tags in. Gable and Fandango go over the top to the floor. Benjamin counters a hurricanrana attempt by Breeze and holds Breeze in a powerbomb position to allow Gable to hit a top rope neckbreaker for the win. (*1/2. I feel bad for Breeze and Fandango. They were able to get over with the crowd and they are always used to put over other teams and thus have lost all of their steam. Perhaps it’s an example of a comedy team not having the ability to last as a draw. This was again an example of getting guys back on track after a PPV loss.)
Main Event: WWE Champion AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn: We don’t entrances and instead they are already in the ring, which I like. Owens and Styles start the match with both men trading go-behinds. Owens trips AJ but Styles hits a kip up hurricanrana and Zayn tags in. Nakamura also tags into the match. They trade wrist locks and Nakamura taunts Zayn before delivering a knee drop. Styles tags into the contest and works over Zayn with strikes. Zayn runs the ropes and is met with a dropkick from Styles. Styles prevents Zayn from tagging out and Nakamura enters to keep control. Zayn backs Nakamura into his corner and tags in Owens who stomps away on Nakamura. Zayn delivers a cheap shot while the referee was distracted. Owens continues to work over Nakamura with strikes and kicks to keep him on the mat. Zayn tags himself back in and works over Nakamura in the corner with more right hands and kicks. Owens gets tagged back in as well and strikes Nakamura down to the mat. Nakamura drops Owens with a forearm strike and follows up with several knee strikes. Nakamura has a chokehold on Owens and has to send Zayn to the floor. Owens clotheslines Nakamura to get control of the match. Owens wants to tag in Zayn, but Zayn is on the floor. Owens yells out if Zayn is his partner or not. Owens is quite frustrated as he gets a two count on Nakamura. Owens wants Zayn to get back in the corner and Nakamura knocks Owens to the floor. Zayn and Owens argue on the floor. Zayn reminds Owens that he is always there. Zayn tells Owens to take care of it and walks off. “See how well you do without your guardian angel” as we go to commercial.
Zayn remains at the top of the aisle way as Owens has a sleeper hold on Styles. Styles avoids a back suplex and decks Owens with a clothesline and a running forearm smash. AJ clotheslines Owens in the corner and drops Owens face first onto the mat. Styles goes for the cover but Zayn runs back into the ring and breaks up the cover. Owens tags in Zayn and Sami pummels AJ with right hands on the mat. Zayn backdrops Styles for a two count. Owens wants to be tagged in but Zayn says he has it under control. Zayn lets go of a hold and tags in Owens out of frustration. Owens hits a senton splash for a two count. Owens slaps Zayn on the chest to tag in his partner. Owens shoves AJ down and taunts Zayn about having it. Zayn slaps Owens on the chest and tells him to get it done. They are arguing in the corner. Styles sends Owens into Zayn leading to a two count with a rollup. Owens drops Styles with a clothesline. Zayn is pissed by that and decides to walk off. Owens can’t believe it and asks what Zayn is doing. Styles forearms Owens but Owens stops Styles with a gut buster and a middle rope elbow drop for a two count. Owens punches Nakamura off the apron and attempts the pop up powerbomb, but Styles counters with a Pele Kick. Nakamura tags in and kicks Owens several times. Nakamura splashes Owens in the corner and lays Owens over the top rope to deliver a knee strike. Nakamura goes to the corner but Owens bails to the floor only to be tossed back in by Styles. Nakamura kicks Owens again followed by a running knee strike for the win. (**1/2. Well, this appears to be the implosion of the Owens/Zayn friendship that lasted all of three months. The match was okay, but the main focus was the issues between Zayn and Owens, which was effectively done.)
Backstage, Sami Zayn says this isn’t the end of their friendship. This is all about opportunity. Zayn says that this is his time to be champion. After next week he will be known as the guy who beat Kevin Owens and after Fastlane he will be known as the WWE Champion.
Nothing too much going on here this week for Smackdown Live as it felt like a week used to setup for a bigger show next week. There were a couple of average matches, but that was about it. I liked that Carmella teased cashing in as I had forgotten about her briefcase deal. It is good to remind fans sometimes when it’s been so long. I’m not looking forward to Zayn/Owens next week just because that match has been done to death and it’s just repetitive at this point.
Thanks for reading.