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The SmackDown Live Review – January 2nd, 2018

First SmackDown Live of 2018 and the Blue brand is beginning the year under strange auspices. Dolph Ziggler relinquished the United States Championship, a tournament was set to determine the new Champion. Every woman on the roster wants to be in the Royal Rumble match to be in the spotlight at Wrestlemania 34. AJ Styles is stuck in the middle of the feud between the Yep Movement, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan. Meanwhile, The Usos seems to be unbreakable as every contender are falling in front of the doors of their Penitentiary. After losing his match against Kevin Owens last week, WWE Champion AJ Styles is squaring off with Sami Zayn tonight. Will the victory again depend on Shane and Daniel’s “frostiness”? 

Welcome to the most must-see Vulture Hound weekly review in history; welcome to… The SmackDown Review brought to you this week by “Doctor Frenchy” Steph (on Bradley’s and my behalf, happy Blue Year!)

Styles opened the show wishing us a Happy New Year from the House That AJ Styles Built. He talked about Superstars having New Year’s Resolutions for the men’s Royal Rumble match and how he has some New Year’s Resolutions of his own, like main event WrestleMania 34 as the Champion and leave with the title around his waist. His other resolution was to defeat Sami Zayn tonight. Styles then offered Daniel Bryan to come explain why he allowed Sami Zayn to be at ringside last week and tell him if Owens will be at ringside tonight. The General Manager made his way to the ring, under a huge pop, quickly followed by Commissioner Shane McMahon.

Shane said he had the best intentions when he came out during last week’s main event because he did have a serious beef with Sami and Kevin and he thought Bryan had something more. Shane asked Bryan why he let Shane come to ringside last week. But before Bryan was able to answer, Shane asked Bryan if he was turning the Yes! Movement into the Yep! Movement? Bryan was interrupted again by Shane saying in the spirit of fairness and competition, he will be at ringside for tonight’s main event. Bryan replied he will and Owens too. Shane said it looks like they’re starting 2018 off with a bang. Bryan shook hands with AJ and then Shane before leaving.

HERE ARE THE OTHER THINGS THAT HAPPENED:

Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable defeated The Usos to become the new SmackDown Tag Team Champions BUT as the pin was not made on the legal twin, the match was restarted and The Usos defeated Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin to become Champions again.

The first match was really good, awesome teamwork from Gable and Benjamin who absolutely earned the right to become Champions. But the celebration was shortened by the fact Benjamin made the pin on the wrong twin, the referee recognized his mistake and so restarted the match. The second part of the match was in favour of the twins who unlocked again Gable and Benjamin in their Penitentiary. For sure, Gable and Benjamin are meant to become Champions, the question now is when?

– Backstage, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens confirmed to Renee Young they didn’t care about having everyone at ringside because AJ Styles will lose tonight.

The Bludgeon Brothers destroyed Breezango again but Viktor and Konnor, The Ascension, made a surprise arrival to stop the massacre and taunt Harper and Rowan. Konnor and Viktor were destroyed too…

– Backstage Kofi Kingston and Big E had a surprise for Xavier Woods as he was preparing to face Aiden English tonight. Woods talked about how they will all three become WWE United States Champion tonight and was about to blow out the candles on a “2018” pancakes pile but Rusev did instead, stealing Woods’ wish. At the same time, Mojo Rawley confirmed he would defeat Zack Ryder next week.

Xavier Woods defeated Aiden English in a United States Championship Tournament match. English wanted to sing, Rusev did about how English will become the next United States Champion. Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers were watching backstage as the winner of this match was set to face Mahal in the following round. Good match, Woods like English are getting better and better every week. Woods kicked out of a powerbomb from English, then countered a super Facebuster. Supported by his teammates, Woods nailed his big elbow to advance in the tournament. May we think Rusev also wanted English to be out, as he stole Woods’ wish?

– Carmella, Lana, Tamina Snuka and Natalya were now confirmed for the Royal Rumble match. But when it was time to go to the ring, Liv Morgan, Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan defeated Carmella, Tamina Snuka and Natalya. The Riott Squad was impressive. Special mention to Sarah Logan who gave the win to her team, after Ruby distracted the referee, with a big knee to the back of Tamina’s neck.

– After the match, The Riott Squad stood tall in the middle of the ring as Ruby grabbed the mic. She claimed magic isn’t real, it’s phoney, because all 3 are real, their destruction is real, their success is real. Ruby announced that herself, Liv and Logan will be joining her in the women’s Royal Rumble match. Charlotte Flair interrupted Riot to claim she’s a dreamer and a passionate. And with her, actions had consequences. Here came Naomi to help her give the Squad a lesson. Becky Lynch followed. Big brawl at ringside and then in the ring. Flair hit a running big boot on Logan while Becky hit the Bexploder on Ruby and Liv.

– Baron Corbin also confirmed he would be apart of the Royal Rumble match.

Sami Zayn defeated AJ Styles as Kevin Owens, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were at ringside. Like last week, Shane cost Styles the match when he argued with Owens and Bryan decided to eject both of them from ringside. Zayn vs. Styles for me was made to be a great match. And it was, interferences aside. Styles was in control right in the match as Owens was trash talking from ringside. Zayn used a cheap shot to gain a short momentum. After a dropkick from Styles, Sami rushed to the floor, Owens checked on him but Styles followed, Shane followed and Bryan followed.

The situation could have broken out, but not. And of course, Zayn regained momentum thanks to the distraction. Styles fought back, hit a nice Gutbuster and a neckbreaker while Owens was yelling at the referee. Zayn countered the Styles Clash into a Blue Thunder Bomb, charged the Helluva Kick but Styles countered and caught him in the Calf Crusher. Zayn grabbed the bottom rope (Owens nearly had a heart attack watching his friend suffering). Styles unleashed the Pele kick, the forearm, the springboard but missed The Phenomenal Forearm, bumping the referee out at the same time.

Owens took care of the referee, as Styles was rolling up Sami, by preventing him from entering the ring for the count. When he was allowed to come back in, Zayn kicked out. Shane and Owens argued while Styles was arguing with the referee. Big mess at ringside, Shane wanted the referee to eject Owens from ringside. But Bryan grabbed the mic to say if Shane was ejecting Owens then maybe Shane should leave too. Owens got on the apron, AJ knocked him off with a forearm. Sami then took advantage of the chaos to nail a Helluva Kick for the win.

After the match, Sami and Owens celebrated to the ramp while AJ took the mic to tell Shane and Daniel to stop bickering like children (oh yes…). AJ said he’s the WWE Champion and he wants to come entertain without others getting involved. He asked the Bosses to make him a Handicap Match against Owens and Sami. But Bryan overbid on his proposition by making a Handicap match, but for the Title and at the Royal Rumble. AJ was in shock, Sami and Kevin were happy and did the “Yep!” chant, while Daniel Bryan was on top of the announce table for a “Yes!” chant. Sami and Owens celebrate with a “yep!” chant. Before the show went off the air, Byron Saxton claimed AJ was just joking when he asked for a handicap match…

If I love the feud between Owens, Zayn, Shane and Daniel Bryan, I have a serious problem with it too. They’re pulling aside how good the matches Styles, Zayn and Owens have been providing over the last few weeks. The War of the “Elites” is completely shadowing the wrestling side of it. Okay for a Handicap match, but two men can’t share a title so Zayn and Owens can’t win the match at Royal Rumble. A Triple Threat match would have been way more interesting. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin defeated The Usos many times but they’re not Champions yet. The Riott Squad is strong, Becky Lynch too. SmackDown Live is like skating on the spot, not really going anywhere. Where is The Land of Opportunity? For the moment we haven’t found it back yet…

All pics and screencaps courtesy of WWE.com