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SmackDown Live recap and reactions (Jan. 16, 2018): Impromptu new United States Champion

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WWE SmackDown Live creeped back into our lives last night (Jan. 16) from Laredo Energy Arena in Laredo, Texas. Find all the results at our magnificent live blog here.

New United States Champion

In a match we didn’t expect this week, Bobby Roode won the new United States championship in a match against Jinder Mahal.

The finals of the United States title tournament was originally slated for the Royal Rumble. Then they moved it up to next week. Then, it ended up being last night. Part of me was wondering if we’d learn that somehow it happened last week and Jinder already won.

Here’s how it got there:

They opened the show with a clunker of a match between Xavier Woods and Jinder Mahal. The X Man has been doing great ringwork the last year, but this match did him zero favors. Mahal took 90% of the offense and it never looked like Woods had a real chance. A 90/10 match can work, but this one was three segments long and Xavier’s eventual comeback wasn’t hot enough to make up for the slog that got there.

This being the first match, it pretty much telegraphed the finish of the next tournament semi-final match: Bobby Roode vs. Mojo Rawley. WWE rarely runs heel vs. heel bouts so it was pretty much guaranteed we’d see Bobby go over.

He did get the win, but unlike Woods, the losing Mojo Rawley got a chance to shine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Mojo has been doing fantastic work and this was no different. He employs a precise viciousness in his match and talks trash when his opponent is down. The former footballer worked over the Glorious ribs last night and Roode did a great job selling the beating.

After the match, Bobby was attacked by the Singhs. Jinder walked onto the entrance ramp when Bobby grabbed a microphone and challenged Mahal to fight this week instead of next week.

Mahal wanted to wait. Of course he did. He wasn’t prepared to fight here. But Daniel Bryan came out and made the match for later in the evening.

At least they didn’t make us wait for Roode vs. Mahal because this was the most underwhelming of all the possible outcomes. Mojo and Woods are the fresher, more exciting competitors to choose from. We saw what Mahal had to offer for the better part of 2017. And while Roode hasn’t been with the brand for much time, his long feud with Ziggler took the shine off of him really quickly. He’s charismatic and fans respond to him, but he’s still lacking some character. He’s a robe and a song right now. I’m waiting for heel Roode, which is where he really shines.

The main event match was overall pretty good. Bobby Roode sold his jacked up ribs from his prior match very well. And Mahal was vicious in targeting the injury. Unlike Mahal’s first match, this one had more life to it. The Glorious One won the title when he reversed a Khallas into a Glorious DDT.

A Roode win was the right way to go here. Mid card champion is the perfect spot for him. This was strong character building for him as well as he persevered through two matches and bruised ribs to pick up the W and the championship this week. I stand by my take that heel Roode is the best Roode, but if they’re going to continue with him as a good guy, this was a good way to help build him.

Women’s Action

Guess what the women did this week?? No go ahead, guess! That’s right! A tag match!

This week, the Riott Squad went over Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Charlotte Flair. This match was more exciting than their one against the Welcoming Committee because Lynch, Naomi, and Charlotte are babyfaces. Last time, it was more of a heel vs. heel bout.

Despite that, this was more of the same for the women’s division on SmackDown. Been saying that for what feels like months now.

And that’s it.

No seriously, that was all we had on SmackDown. It was all about the United States championship and that one uneventful women’s segment. The WWE title was represented by an AJ Styles backstage promo and a video package. The only consistently good part of SmackDown, the tag division, was only represented in a backstage bit where Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin attacked the Usos.

I commend an episode for going in a different format. Instead of showing a little bit of everything, they opted to focus on one thing for 75% of the show. That’s different and the change is often successful.

The problem with this episode is the US title tournament lacked excitement these final rounds. The final match up we got wasn’t just predictable but it was underwhelming too. They passed up two more exciting wrestlers in Woods and Rawley for the more obvious and unfortunately less compelling choices.

SmackDown is slumping big time lately. While they focused on one story and advanced it this week, that story took a direction that was rather predictable and lifeless.

But hey, at least we didn’t see Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon slap fighting this week.

Grade: C-

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