Hello, Cagesiders! You’ve got a substitute reviewer for this show — and one who doesn’t watch SmackDown very often at that. With that said, it was refreshing for me to go into a show with no expectations. Let’s see how this show went down.
The one story that I have paid attention to on SmackDown Live is the one featuring Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens.
You know, I titled this review before the show even began. “The Land of Fairness.” Because that’s what the show was about, wasn’t it? That’s the whole point of this Clash of Champions pay-per-view (PPV).
So why the hell is Styles vs. Mahal main eventing? I know nothing about their feud, but I sure as hell do about the former. From what I understand, the feud getting the large majority of SmackDown’s focus has been the Super Friends of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn driving Shane McMahon to extremely petty behavior.
They really made KO and Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton undercard match. They made their biggest storyline an undercard match. You know, I want to drop 2,000 words on you guys about the ridiculousness of having to protect your top belt by doing this sort of drivel, but that’s another article for another time.
Would you believe me if I told you that I’ve not watched a Mahal match since he won the WWE Championship? That’s probably a me thing; when I considered how my favorite wrestlers are faring and watching Mahal get hot-shotted to a major championship didn’t sit well with me. With that perspective in mind, I was fairly impressed by the match once it got going.
They told a rudimentary story with AJ Styles’ ribs and Mahal had some creative ways to attack them. It fit well with Mahal’s power moves, too. Mahal’s goons got involved at some point, but Styles did what Faces that Run Places do in the end — he overcame and won with a Calf Crusher.
I think Styles’ selling in this match was particularly phenomenal. It really helped the story that commentary was pitching as well, so let’s give them credit too. Still…this brand has Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, New Day, the Usos, Rusev – can we move to a challenger who can tell better stories, please? As long as Mahal’s a main eventer, I can stand to skip SmackDown Live as a viewer.
Yep Movement rolls on
This was a marvelous example of why predictable outcomes aren’t a bad thing.
And to be blunt? This wasn’t the most entertaining match in terms of wrestling. But this feud’s never been about the wrestling, has it? If it were, Shane McMahon would never have considered firing Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
And yet here we are. Anger and pettiness have forced us into an ugly match with uglier intentions. This match was all about the story.
At first, McMahon and Bryan had issues communicating. They were trying to count the same falls. KO and Zayn mocked McMahon early on. McMahon was arguably sluggish with a count and quick to try to pull them apart on rope breaks. They felt threatened by McMahon, and started appealing to Bryan early and often.
And then the crack started to form in SmackDown’s management. After some brawling and action outside the ring – including a Frog Splash through a table by Owens – Orton hit an RKO on Zayn. McMahon went to count the pin fall, but Bryan was knocked into him by Owens who was sliding into the ring.
And instead of just keep with the count – or starting over, heavens forbid – Shane McMahon blamed his general manager and started shouting in his face. Bryan was completely chagrined, holding his head in his hands for a mistake that wasn’t even in his control.
But then Shane’s McMahon streak kicked in. What do you do when you aren’t getting your way? You force people to do what you want.
Sami Zayn went for a cover on Randy Orton and McMahon intentionally stopped the count on 2. Bryan gaped at him in disbelief, shocked that McMahon would so blatantly abuse his power, and looked to set things right.
Oooooh, boy. These two went forehead to forehead, too – the ultimate sign of a beef in WWE. Zayn got a roll up pin on Orton and Bryan quick-counted before Shane could stop him. Zayn and Owens’ jobs are safe and secure this Christmas.
This would be a good time to mention that Shane tried to talk Bryan out of being a ref earlier in the show. I was REALLY intrigued by that; it showed McMahon’s true colors before the match even began. Shane didn’t trust Bryan or he wouldn’t have yelled at him. I’ll be really intrigued to see where this goes on Tuesday.
And can I also say that I LOVE Bryan’s virtue? This man is unshakeable. He actually processes things and does his best for everyone involved. He may be the only competent General Manager in WWE history.
This match was weird.
Not saying it was particularly bad, either. I’m just saying it was weird. Earlier in the night, the Lumberjacks all started shouting at each other backstage. There’s clearly a lot of animosity and teaming up going on – as evidenced by the Riott Squad all standing together and Lana and Tamina staying together. Carmella eventually joined them.
With that said, this match was just a miasma of interference. Every single lumberjack was trying to influence this match in some sort of way and none of it was ever really explained. The only thing I knew was that Naomi got screwed over by Natalya at some point, so at least that made sense.
In the end, when things were happening in the ring, this match felt pretty cool. Charlotte ended up winning with her Figure Eight Leg Lock. I’m guessing that tonight was more about drawing battle lines than anything else; still, I wasn’t exactly as impressed here as I was with certain segments of the show.
There was apparently a big promo by Nattie after the match as well but my stream was giving me issues. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that promo in particular, Cageside!
Best of the Rest
Mojo Rawley def. Zach Ryder – You know, I saw the promo that Rawley cut on Twitter this week. He was fantastic there and he was great tonight as well. I dig the annoying new music, the entrance that features a football lineman’s 3-point stance, and keeping the bright colors. Tonight’s match was about having a “killer instinct;” in the end, Rawley took out Ryder’s knee to pick up the win. Rawley’s an amazing talker. If WWE does right by him, they might have something on their hands here.
…So y’know. Expect these two to continue fighting until WrestleMania or for Rawley to start taking with Mahal or something.
Dolph Ziggler wins the United States Championship - Despite not knowing anything about this match or how it got put together, this was really fun! Has Roode been getting over this well on SmackDown or was it just a one night thing? The fake finish on the Glorious DDT was phenomenal and Corbin’s really great in this sort of match. That End of Days into a ZigZag spot fOreVER and ever and ever please. Great opening match!
The Usos def. Rusev Day, New Day, American Alpha 2.0 – “Byron, when’s your birthday? CANCELLED – RUSEV DAY!”
That’s your daily reminder that Corey Graves is the only thing holding this world together. The intros to this match were the most insanely entertaining thing to me; we’ve got Aiden English working as Rusev’s bard singing about Rusev Day, New Day’s dropping pancakes on kids’ faces, the Usos are just shouting “LOCKED DOWN!” over and over…this is amazing.
Anyway! The match! I really enjoyed how this match wasn’t like the usual multiple-teamed tag match setup. All four teams were in the match at the same time which led to some fantastic, fast-paced ring work. They had a great spot early where Big E was helping slingshot Kofi into some dropkicks and Rusev MACHKA’d the hell out of Kofi’s face. Loved that.
And y’all, these Rusev Day chants were out of control. I only vaguely knew about Rusev Day; has it been like this for a while? They should have won!
Late in the match, English hit a powerbomb on Kofi when he went for a springboard. That was nuts! They teased a Rusev Day miracle late, but eventually the Usos locked it down and walked away with their titles.
This tag division is NUTS, man! I want to mention Gable real quick – this dude’s a killer. He’s gonna be a singles star at some point. HE HIT A DEADLIFT GERMAN ON BIG FLIPPIN’ E!
Bludgeon Brothers def. Breezango – The Bludgeon Brothers remind me of something out of Castlevania in the 90s. Not sure if that’s good or bad. And these dudes sounded like Team Rocket at the end, man. Really not sure about their repackaging. With that said, they’re both very solid wrestlers; hopefully this match was meant to give Breezango some character progression as well.
Perhaps going into a PPV with no expectations — other than expecting the main storyline to go on last, but that’s beside the point — is a good thing. I thought this was a very fun show that deserves a high grade. I was particularly impressed by the tag team match; the crowd was extremely loud for that match as well.
Why not, right? This show happened on Rusev Day — can I in good conscious give any show on Rusev day any less?
Your turn, Cageside.