Smackdown this week would see the fallout unfold of the incredibly emotional announcement of Daniel Bryan being cleared to return to in-ring competition, and what will happen after the subsequent attack the Smackdown General Manager suffered at the hands of Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens. We will also see more build up to the WWE Championship dream match, as well as what will happen with the rest of the Smackdown Live roster on the road to Wrestlemania.
Now a couple of disclaimer’s before we start:
- Shane McMahon is legitimately in hospital at the moment. Having suffered an acute bout of Diverticulitis as well as a Hernia whilst on holiday with family. As you will see later tonight though this WILL NOT affect any potential Wrestlemania plans
- Charlotte Flair is also not on the show tonight, and was also replaced in the Mixed Match Challenge semi-final later in the evening. She had minor dental surgery last week and so is being rested. She will also NOT miss Wrestlemania (there was a video package shown during the show promoting her match with Asuka so it’s definitely still on, do not worry).
NOW THEN… on with the show!!!
The show itself began with a video package showing the Bryan/Owens/Zayn stuff from last week, with Corey Graves telling us that we would hear from Daniel Bryan tonight about if he would be able to fight through his injuries, following last week’s attack.
The first match of the show was supposed to be a tag match pitting the United States Champion Randy Orton & former champion Bobby Roode vs the other man in the triple threat at Wrestlemania; Jinder Mahal, and his loyal servant Sunil Singh. However Sunil came out with his arm in a sling and his neck in a brace, with Jinder saying Sunil was hurt by Orton & Roode last week. Mahal would then introduce his new partner… RUSEV! This got a huge pop from the crowd (and a little jump for joy from me watching), although Sunil would still get physical in the match only to be batted away by both Orton and Roode. After an ad break the animosity between Orton and Bobby Roode was clear to see and this allowed Rusev to take advantage by hitting Orton with a kick, Roode eventually hit Mahal with a Spinebuster but the cover was broken up by Rusev, who then was ready to stop Orton interfering but Randy chose not to help his tag team partner/Wrestlemania opponent. He would eventually tag himself in, and whilst Mahal was ready to attack Orton from behind… Bobby Roode made the save! The alliance was halted when Mahal shoved Roode into the US Champion, something Randy thought Bobby had done on purpose, and so Orton gave his tag team partner an RKO, which then allowed Rusev to hit the Machka Kick and Rusev got the pinfall for his team. YES you heard me, RUSEV GOT A PINFALL WIN!!! Decent match to open the show, Rusev’s added involvement made what had been a dying feud that little bit better it needed to be. Shortly after Jinder and Sunil Singh were seen celebrating the win backstage, and they then ran into both Rusev and his operatic-ally Aiden English. Mahal invited them both to his US title celebration party after Wrestlemania, but Rusev responded by saying he was about to find Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan and ask that he turn the United States championship match at Wrestlemania into a fatal-4-way match (which given he had just pinned the champion would make sense to be fair)! Aiden English then sang to us all that it would be “RUSEVMANIA”! Jinder was furious and ordered Singh to take of his neck brace, he was not happy, but I most definitely will be if this 4-way is made official!!!
Backstage in the locker room area, the men’s Royal Rumble 2018 winner Shinsuke Nakamura (saying that still makes me so happy) was with the WWE Champion & Wrestlemania opponent AJ Styles. Nakamura asked Styles ‘are you ok?’ to which AJ said he didn’t know what he was talking about. Shinsuke explained that as Styles chose not to help him last week, when he was getting attacked by Rusev and English, and wondered if this was because he had lost confidence him beating him at Mania. Styles quickly came back saying that his confidence ‘is never an issue’. Shinsuke said he wanted to ensure both men were at their best at Mania asked him to be in his corner tonight for his match against Shelton Benjamin. AJ decided that he would even the odds, as Chad Gable would be in his tag team partner Shelton Benjamin’s corner and as he didn’t want to risk their match at Wrestlemania being in jeopardy by either man being hurt (ironic considering AJ is carrying a legit minor injury) he agreed. Liked this little segment, they’re going with the mutual respect thing and the fact both men are so desperate for this match to happen, which is very believable, and whenever anything comes across as real it’s always going to be good. So I’m fine with this.
Next we had a match between Becky Lynch and Ruby Riott, who had her Riott Squad of Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan at ringside. We were supposed to be getting a rematch form last week tonight with Charlotte taking on Natalya, but with Charlotte out it was Becky who was voted in to replace her in the Mixed Match Challenge later in the evening. So I imagine this one had its time cut and was likely a last minute thing so the fact it was only a few minutes long… I guess it had to be this way. Anyway Becky won an ok match (considering its short timespan) with a cradle pinfall. Morgan and Logan tried to jump Lynch after the match, but were both tossed over the top rope in a preview of the Women’s Battle Royal to come at Wrestlemania.
Next we saw Daniel Bryan looking less-than-pleased backstage (sporting a new t-shirt by the way, a sure fire sign that he is BACK). He would then make his way to the ring to huge ‘YES’ and ’DANIEL BRYAN’ chants from the crowd. He cut an extremely impassioned promo whilst stood on the rampway the whole time, he said he had been waiting for last week to come for so long and was thankful for the response he got from the fans. They chanted “You still got it,” but he got serious and actually cut them off, saying he ‘had a job to do’. He would go on to say how Smackdown was the land of opportunity, and he was going to give Owens and Zayn just one more. Bryan then announced Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs Shane McMahon and himself at Wrestlemania. The crowd cheered. IT’S OFFICIAL, YES, YES YES!!! Bryan went on by saying the attack on Shane by Owens & Zayn a few weeks back left him in the hospital, but that he has reason to believe that he’ll be ready for Mania (happy days). He then revealed the permutations for the match, that if Zayn and Owens lose then they will remained fired, but if they win, they’ll be reinstated. He continued by saying ‘people wonder why I keep giving them opportunities’, he spoke about their history together as friends (they wrestled against eachother in Ring of Honor many times), and whenever he needed a place to stay that they were there for him (again this seemed very real so it was great). He explained that even though it was part of his job to give opportunities he has a lot of other duties, like ‘attending meetings, doing paperwork and wearing blazers’ (to which the crowd booed heavily). Bryan said that he was sick of all of those things and threw down his blazer! He said he wanted to wrestle and Owens and Zayn tried to take that away from him, but he’s back and WILL fight at Wrestlemania. A very fired-up Bryan then said that there are things he is not supposed to say as a GM and role model and an underdog, but that this was the Daniel Bryan who was ‘fighting for his dreams and wouldn’t take no for an answer’, that ‘this was the Daniel Bryan who will fight Owens and Zayn at Wrestlemania and kick their ass!’ The crowd cheered wildly. This was great. I’ve missed the WRESTLER Daniel Bryan because not only is he incredibly talented in the ring but his mic work is top class. You can tell how much he just loves to wrestle. Truly great stuff here from him; YES, YES, YES!
It was then made official that the United States Championship match at Wrestlemania will now be a fatal-4-way match pitting the champion Randy Orton vs Bobby Roode vs Jinder Mahal (with Sunil Singh) VS RUSEV (with Aiden English)! Brilliant stuff. I was so uninterested I this whole programme before but the inclusion of the ultra-popular Bulgarian Brute and his singing companion will make the crowd very much enthralled by this match at Mania, even if it is on the pre-show.
Next out we had The New Day cut a promo; Kofi spoke of their road to Wrestlemania, and how it was littered with garbage thanks to the “large, smelly, disgusting, sweaty, hairy, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad pieces of trash Bludgeon Brothers”. Xavier Woods picked up saying they made the mistake of leaving The New Day the ability to walk and that they ‘would run through them tonight’ and get back on the road to winning the tag team titles. Harper & Rowan then made their way down to the ring for the match, and took control early on by then attacking Kofi Kingston on the outside. We were only a few minutes in before The Usos came out and attacked the Bludgeon Brothers, causing the referee to call for the bell. A brief brawl concluded with The 3 members of The New Day (Big E included) and Jimmy & Jey Uso standing tall on the aisle of the entrance way staring down the monstrous tandem of Harper and Rowan. All out action here, and it was great fun to see. All very talented guys here so any chance they get to shine is a good watch. Hope we get the Mania 3 way now…
Dolph Ziggler beat Fandango (with Tyler Breeze by his side) in about 2 minutes after. It was fine but… well… it was a 2 minute match… all 3 men will be in the Andre Battle Royal at Mania… great…
We then had official confirmation that it will be The Usos vs The New Day vs Bludgeon Brothers for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships at Wrestlemania. Good news. Match will be a lot of fun. I hope The Usos finally get their long-awaited main card Mania match, and that Bludgeon Brothers are crowned champions at the end… that’s what will be the end-result so may as well embrace it.
And then it was time for the main event of the evening. A sort of dream match really between 2 of the most entertaining in-ring performers the WWE has ever had. The not as nimble a she used to be, but nonetheless still accomplished and very much (G)able in between the ropes; Shelton Benjamin versus the… well… I don’t really need to give any introduction to his opponent Shinsuke Nakamura… it’s pretty obvious how good he is. The commentary team did make reference though to the fact that this was the first match between these two in WWE, but not the first ever (they had previously faced one another during their time in New Japan). The match was pretty good, but really got going towards the end: Chad Gable tried to distract Shinsuke but was pulled off the apron by the on-watching Styles, Benjamin then managed to hit a Northern Lights suplex for a nearfall, he tried his Pay Dirt move but Nakamura countered it into an armbar and eventually led to a triangle choke, Shelton was able to power out and hit an inziguiri, and finally Nakamura came back with a flying knee strike form the top rope and followed it up with Kinshasa and the 1,2,3. WWE Champion AJ Styles clapped the win, with Shinsuke then grabbing the mic and calling him in to the ring. He thanked Styles for being at ringside, but said that he didn’t need his help and that he only wanted to show AJ how he would beat him at Wrestlemania. AJ accused Nakamura of playing games, Shinsuke said he wasn’t, Styles said that it was a dream match for the fans but that it was a dream match for him too, because outside of himself, Nakamura was regarded as the best and Styles would prove HE was the best by defeating him. Then after Nakamura left, Benjamin and Gable came back in and attacked Styles. The beatdown continued until Nakamura ran in to make the save, but eventually AJ was left in a position that allowed Nakamura to set up for the Kinshasa. He then ran towards Styles but stopped just before hitting him, and simply shouted “KNEE-TO-FACE” and mockingly patted him on the head. This was a hilarious end to a great segment for me. Now we have but behind us any injury concerns about AJ I am so ready for this match now. I would like it if they have a proper brawl next week, or at least AJ gets physical with Shinsuke, because he’s been wound up by the King of Strong Style for weeks now. And if anyone is going to act as more of the heel in this one it’s definitely AJ. Although, providing it does indeed end with a ‘KNEE TO FACE’ I’ll be happy whatever happens in the match. But yes, great, great, GREAT stuff.
And that was Smackdown. Raw didn’t do this so well for me this week but this show was a great improvement on how to build up to THE ppv. This show really got me pumped for Mania and advanced a few of the stories very well. And now of course it is OFFICIAL; DANIEL BRYAN IS BACK; YES, YES, YES!!!
Key Points to Take Home
- BLUDGEON BROTHERS!!!
I feel this really did its job well as the penultimate show before Mania. All the stories were advanced, the good matches were made more exciting and those that had little interest in them got an added element to get people interested. The Smackdown side of the Mania card, which was previously BY FAR the lesser side of the card, get a massively needed kick up the backside and now, in my opinion anyway, the Smackdown matches for Wrestlemania look fantastic. AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura; WWE Championship, Charlotte vs Asuka; Women’s Championship, Usos v New Day v Bludgeon Brothers; Tag titles, Orton vs Roode vs Jinder vs RUSEV; US title and OF COURSE: DANIEL BRYAN (making his return to in–ring action in the same venue that he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Wrestlemania 4 years ago) teaming with Shane McMahon in a tag team match against Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn. I don’t know about you, but I think that is one hell of a line up! And that’s just the Smackdown side of things. Exciting times ahead, and I cannot wait!