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WWE SmackDown Live recap & reactions (Jan. 23, 2018): Last stop before the Rumble


WWE SmackDown Live returned last night (Jan. 23) from the Verizon Center Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. You can find all the results in the live blog here.

Back to Back

To build to the WWE title handicap match this Sunday, AJ Styles competed in two matches back to back against his challengers this weekend. The first match was against Kevin Owens and the second against Sami Zayn.

This was set up in the opening segment. AJ said he’d take the match because he assumed that Daniel Bryan was just going to make it anyway. Daniel denied that to Shane McMahon, but we’ll never know. To add his own touch, Shane made sure to note that if either got involved in the other’s match, they’d be fired.

The first match was short, with Kevin Owens missing a cannonball in the corner and hurting his leg. Styles immediately targeted the injury with a Calf Crusher, to which Owens tapped to without hesitation. However, AJ wouldn’t release the hold. He insisted on doing damage to both Sami and KO earlier and now he was holding true to his word. Sami attacked the Phenomenal One during this and got some good hits in before their match started.

The match between Zayn and Styles was much longer and an enjoyable one. Styles would get distracted with Owens on the outside, laying some kicks to the already injured Kevin. It was a smart strategy by the champ. If he can make sure that Kevin isn’t 100% on Sunday, it gives him a much better chance to retain his title. However, tonight these diversions cost him as Sami Zayn hit the Helluva Kick and a Blue Thunder Bomb for the win when AJ was returning to the ring after getting some licks in on Owens.

The story behind the back to back matches was solid. An Owens injury adds an extra layer of interest to the two on one match at the Rumble and it gives Styles a target.

However, the overall story still isn’t hitting. The more I think about it, I think it’s the actions of Daniel Bryan that really started to derail this story. Shane McMahon may have been unfair to Owens and Zayn, but that was set up for months. He had understandable reason to target both men. But Daniel Bryan starting to play favorites and book our heroes in matches that are downright unfair never made sense. That’s when this all started to go downhill. (The fact it’s been stagnant for about a month surely doesn’t help either.)

Maybe we’ll soon get an explanation for Bryan’s actions and it will all make sense in retrospect, but that doesn’t help our enjoyment watching it as it happens.

Beware the Viper

Raw 25 may have forgotten about Randy Orton, but the Viper made sure the blue brand remembers.

His attack occurred during a match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin, a match that is one of Nakamura’s better main roster matches. The Lone Wolf gave Nak a challenge, but it looked like the Rockstar was going to nail his Kinshasa knee for the win.

Bam! RKO out of nowhere! And the crowd went wild!

This was just a fun segment that popped the crowd and helps tease the possibility of revenge during the 30-man Rumble on Sunday.

All the Rest:

Tag Preview

Chad Gable picked up a win over Jey Uso five days prior to their 2 out of 3 falls match at the Royal Rumble. It may have been a match solely for momentum, but these two are good wrestlers and it was an entertaining match up. (That Chad Gable is something.) It was a match meant to get us excited to see more from these men in Sunday’s match and they accomplished that here.

Every Woman For Herself

Naomi beat Liv Morgan one on one last night in a bout. Liv didn’t look too bad here with Naomi as her partner. Post match, this devolved into a segment where much of the division fought each other. When Becky Lynch and Naomi were left standing in the middle of the ring, the Lass Kicker tossed Naomi over the top rope to show that it’s every woman for herself on Sunday. The champion Charlotte came out afterwards to applaud Lynch’s attitude.

It was a typical go home segment for the Rumble.

Dance, New Day, Dance

The New Day and Bobby Roode defeated Jinder Mahal and Rusev Day when Xavier Woods delivered a top rope elbow and picked up the pin on Aiden English. It was a short, fun tag match. The highlight was the New Day dancing to Roode’s music, especially Wood’s using his trombone as guitar during it. But then again, the New Day reacting to anyone’s entrance music is a good pro wrestling thing.

Not an eventful go home show but there were some fun bits.

Grade: B-

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