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WWE SmackDown Live recap & reactions (Mar. 27, 2018): Mind Games

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WWE SmackDown Live returned to us last night (Mar. 27) from the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can find all the results at the best live blog in the history of the world here.

Spotlight

Overall, I’ve been enjoying the WWE title bits on SmackDown when watching. They’re not much. Just subtle mind games. But enjoyable enough.

But then I realized this week that when I think about the WrestleMania card, this match never pops into my head. It’s a dream match. It’s even billed as such. But I keep forgetting that this match is even on the card, let alone it being one of the bouts I’m looking forward to the most. And I think that is because it hasn’t been getting the spotlight on SmackDown. They’ve been opening matches or backstage segments. With poor positioning on the card and little fire behind it, it’s become almost an afterthought.

That was remedied somewhat tonight as this story received the main event spot. Nakamura faced Shelton Benjamin in the main event. He asked AJ Styles to be in his corner to make sure Chad Gable doesn’t get involved.

Nak got the win over Benjamin in a good TV match. Benjamin looked solid, but it was booked in a way where Shinsuke definitely was the superior between the two this week. As it should be. Nakamura is in the WWE title match and should look good.

Post match, Nakamura told Styles that he never needed him. He just wanted AJ to get a close look at what his future held for him. This fired up the WWE Champion, who is tired of his challenger’s mind games. The Phenomenal One wants this match because he wants to prove he is the best by beating the only other guy who can claim that title.

Shinsuke laughed and told the champ that he’s too emotional and because of that, he’s at a disadvantage.

Benjamin and Gable attacked Styles after the segment and Nakamura fended them off. Then he feigned a Kinshasa to AJ but pulled up short as the mind games continued.

This did a pretty good job highlighting this as a top match. It is a WWE title match that’s billed as a dream match so it should be. Shinsuke’s mind games have been very entertaining. And AJ’s reactions are the perfect response, showing us that Nakamura is getting in his head.

Speaking of Nak, his English has really come along. I know he came to America already speaking English rather well, but comparing his NXT promos to his current ones, there’s a noticeable improvement.

While tonight spotlighted the title match, they need to do it again next week to continue to frame this as the big match it is.


Bryan Hates Cardigans

Daniel Bryan came out this week and almost timidly said that he was going to give Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens one more opportunity. If they can defeat Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon at WrestleMania, they get reinstated to SmackDown.

He explained that he helped Sami and Kevin all this time because they helped him in the past. He spoke about how they fought together in the past. Then, DBry shifted directions to talk about how he hates the things that come with being a GM, such as the paperwork, the meetings, and the cardigans. That dude HATES cardigans.

But now he’s Daniel Bryan the wrestler and that guy is going to make Kevin and Sami pay for what they’ve done. They tried to take his dream away from him. And because of that, he’s going to kick their asses at WrestleMania.

This was overall good, much of that because of the fire Bryan delivered with his promo. (Remember when the take was that Bryan was only an average promo?) But there felt like a disconnect from last week.

We left Bryan brutalized last week and he came out almost timid. And the first thing he said was “I’m going to give them another opportunity” which didn’t make any sense. These men beat the hell out of him so badly he needed to be stretchered out and the first thing he does is give them another opportunity?

The promo took some odd turns too. It went from Bryan quietly giving Kevin and Sami another match, to talking about how he hates being a GM, to how he’s going to kick ass at WrestleMania. And while the end point was where it needed to land, it felt all over the place at times.

It’s entirely possible that Shane was supposed to be part of this segment this week and they had to change plans. His hospital trip looks legit and they have to work around that. Hell, I was surprised they even advertised Shane for the match given how serious diverticulitis can be.

The stipulation was a bit surprising as it almost sets up Daniel Bryan to lose his return match. Sure, Sami and KO can both go back to Raw, but given that they just came from there in the last Shake Up, it feels a bit soon. But that’ll just leave some question to a match whose outcome had no question prior to this.


Rusev Day!

The show opened with a tag match between Bobby Roode & Randy Orton and Rusev & Jinder Mahal. It was the first thirty minutes of the show.

I’ve warmed up to this feud a bit. It’s not to the point that I’m really into it. But I dislike it less now that they’re not talking about that damned list. And that Rusev is there.

I’ve been appreciating Jinder’s heeling as of late, and he fits the upper midcard rather well. Putting over an injured Sunil Singh as a tiger was great as was yelling at him later to take the phony neck brace off. Teaming with Rusev was a nice call back to when they teamed up on Raw a year back.

Randy and Roode continue to show their issues with each other. In fact, their issues led to Orton delivering an RKO to his own tag partner. Then Rusev hit a Machka kick on the Viper to pick up the win.

It was quite surprising to see Rusev pick up a pin at first. But that was to place him in the US title match, making it a fatal 4-way. That’s great to see. The man certainly deserves to do more than the “Creative has nothing for you” Andre battle royal. He was too hot this year for that.


New Day Returns

The New Day returned as a unit this week for the first time since Fastlane to face the Bludgeon Brothers. Prior, they cut a promo on the team that took them out. It was a standard New Day promo, mainly silly with some glimmers of serious. As personal preference, I was hoping for more of a serious promo given the Bludgeon Brothers brutalized them at Fastlane. New Day can do serious. In fact, they’re great at it. It felt like that would have been more fitting here.

The match didn’t have a finish as the Usos eventually attacked the Bludgeons. But the New Day and Usos couldn’t stay on the same page and as soon as they cleared the ring, they started arguing with each other. This allowed Harper and Rowan to reclaim the squared circle with hammers in hand.

This week, we learned that the Bludgeon Brothers can be neutralized if the Usos and New Day work together. But when they don’t, Harper and Rowan are unstoppable. This will be interesting when it comes to their triple threat match.


Other Happenings:

Straight Fire

Becky Lynch defeated Ruby Riott despite the Riott Squad’s attempts to affect the match. She even fended off the attempted beatdown from the Squad post match. Given how they’ve built the Riott Squad to be rather effective, this was probably the most impressive Straight Fire has looked in awhile. Looks like they’re heating her up (pun partially intended because Lynch) for the Women’s Battle Royal. Take that uterus home, Bex!

Fandango’s Folly

Dolph Ziggler defeated Tyler Breeze in a match of Andre battle royal participants. Fandango actively worked against his partner. He jumped on the apron to move his hips and that just distracted Breeze. Then Dango did laps around the ring, which also distracted his partner, allowing Ziggler to deliver a Zig Zag for the win. C’mon, Dango.

Women’s title

The Women’s title match got the video package treatment tonight as Charlotte was out this week.


Pretty decent show tonight.

Grade: B-

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