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WWE SmackDown Live recap and reactions (Dec. 12, 2017): Referee Drama

WWE SmackDown Live shimmied its way into our lives last night (Dec. 12) from the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. It served as the go home episode for the Clash of Champions pay-per-view (PPV). You can find all the results at the live blog here.

The Second Referee

Many of the stories on SmackDown seem to be spinning their wheels until they get past the pay-per-view. That doesn’t apply to the main story on Tuesday.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn’s rebellion against Shane McMahon, and Bryan’s disagreement of Shane’s methods, has been strong and consistently engaging.

This week, Kevin and Sami took a page out of Bryan’s book and protested Shane (who wasn’t in the building) with an Occupy SmackDown plan as part of their Yep movement. (There were Yep! shirts of course.) They didn’t get people occupying like Daniel Bryan did on that Raw weeks before WrestleMania 30, but they did get Bryan himself.

Once again, the GM made it clear that he doesn’t care for Kevin and Sami. He also made sure to say he supports Shane like Shane supports him. But his actions don’t seem to back that up as he made himself another referee for Sunday’s tag match. If he really trusted Shane to be fair, he wouldn’t do that all. He’s saying one thing, but he’s doing another.

Bryan sat ringside on commentary for the main event match between Kevin Owens and Shinsuke Nakamura (who were accompanied by their tag partners). The match was OK, but you really couldn’t follow it without getting distracted by Byron Saxton’s incessant grilling of Bryan on whether he could be impartial. Normally I like Saxton, but not only was he over the top here, distracting from anything in the ring, but he also played like the heel announcer while Corey slotted into the babyface color analyst. That didn’t make much sense.

After the referee in the match went down due to an inadvertent elbow from KO, Daniel Bryan decided to finish the match as ref himself. Overall, he called it down the middle. Owens won by taking advantage of a distracted Shinsuke, who was focused on Sami and Orton brawling outside the ring.

Saxton aside, this worked. It teased yet another possibility for this Sunday: That it’s Daniel Bryan who won’t be impartial. It was Saxton’s job to get that over, and he was too much with it, but it’s a final wrinkle, adding multiple possibilities regarding the outcome at Clash of Champions. Stories are the most fun when there are many different paths it can travel down. And SmackDown did a good job of layering the different options this Sunday.

Final Stop

The Jinder Mahal title run was underwhelming, but there was always a constant source of entertainment, and that was the Singh Brothers. They consistently did a good job sucking up to him and getting beaten up for him.

The Singhs were the focus of the WWE title story this week and because of that, I found it entertaining. This feud has taken a major backseat to the real story for Clash of Champions, the Owens/Zayn/Shane bit, so it was fine to just watch a quick bit with the Singh Brothers.

The crux of the segment was the Singh Brothers trying to convince Champion AJ Styles that they were done with Jinder after he attacked them weeks back. In fact, they wanted to be in the Phenomenal One’s corner on Sunday. Styles strung them on for awhile before revealing a social media post from the show in India when they were at Mahal’s side, exposing this as a thin scheme.

Styles then attacked both Singh brothers as Jinder watched. Later on backstage, Jinder attacked AJ as the Singhs watched.

It was entertaining enough because the Singh Brothers are fun to watch. I think it would have added more intrigue to the PPV if they actually teased that maybe the Singh Brothers were possibly finished taking all that punishment from Mahal, but it is what it is. This story has just been biding its time until the match so they can move on.

Women’s Division

Charlotte’s match with Ruby Riott last night ended in a DQ when Natalya, who was on commentary, attacked her outside. Following the match, all three members of the Riott Squad attacked Charlotte and placed her in the same precarious position that Naomi was in when they injured her.

However, Naomi made the save, chasing away the Squad. Lana, Tamina, and Carmella also attacked the trio, setting up chaos for this weekend’s lumberjack match.

It really feels that the actual title match is the least important thing here. The Riott Squad’s attempt to take over the division and the different factions forming are the actual focus. However they have to get past Nattie’s rematch prior to actually getting into it. Much like the WWE title match, this feels like a match that needs to happen so they are able to get to the better stuff.

All the rest:

US Title: The triple threat US title feud segment was pretty much the same as last week. This time, Roode interrupted a match between Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin before it could even get off the ground. He delivered two Glorious DDTs and posed in the middle of the ring. Still not sure why Ziggler was added to this match.

Squash: The Bludgeon Brothers beat a couple more local dudes. The highlight was the Ned Flanders-esque scream one of the guys let out when receiving a powerbomb. The Brothers will face Breezango this Sunday in a match that was set up by a Fashion Files that was aired on with Breezango and the not dead Ascension. I didn’t go to the website to watch it before writing this, but it sucks the Fashion Files that actually led to a match didn’t even happen on TV.

Tag Scene: It’s another Rusev Day miracle! Rusev and Aiden English defeated the Usos, carrying huge momentum into this Sunday. New Day and the team of Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable (get a team name, dudes) watched on. With two big wins over the New Day and the Usos, hopefully even if Rusev Day doesn’t claim the tag gold at the PPV, they’re still a legit team for awhile.

Clash of Champions as a whole seems rather underwhelming. The US title, women’s title, and WWE title matches are all less than exciting. For the WWE and women’s title, it feels like they need to a get a rematch out of the way before they move on to bigger and better things. The US title match lost all traction with the sudden addition of Ziggler. Tonight’s episode didn’t do anything to add any excitement to these matches.

The tag match is going to be fun give all the talent that’s loaded in there. The main event scene is the big draw, however, telling a great story that has multiple factors leading to a large unknown.

This was a show that helped the matches that were already good but didn’t do anything for the rest. Given only a couple matches for Clash have excitement surrounding them, much of this episode was spent reminding us of the others.

Grade: C+

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