We are less than two weeks away from the Royal Rumble and the official start to the road to WrestleMania. What did WWE SmackDown have in store for us this week?
In short, this was the U.S. championship show. Originally slated to feature two semi finals matches, SmackDown this week ended up having a surprise finals match-up main event the broadcast and a new champion crowned.
If you were following along on social media, there were a lot of critics of this week's SmackDown. Were they on to something or just being the stereotypical complaining wrestling fan?
Read on to see if we agreed with them. Here are five thoughts on this week's SmackDown Live.
1. They Tried Too Hard To Recreate Magic
Mojo Rawley recently got a lot of attention when he filmed himself via his cell phone and cut a great promo on Zack Ryder. In fact, it was one of the best wrestling promos in months.
WWE evidently wanted to recreate that magic, but you can't do it by scripting bad promos and forcing people to film themselves on their phones. It's awkward. Really awkward. But that' just what they did on SmackDown this week. Baron Corbin was featured in a backstage segment (via his cell phone), and later we got a slideshow of every SmackDown woman who is in the Royal Rumble filming themselves on their cell phones talking about why they would win. And then Randy Orton. And Shinsuke Nakamura.
It was as bad as it sounds. Sometimes you just have to let things stand on their own. It was pretty clear where the idea came from, but these incarnations did not have the same magic.
2. The U.S. Title Tournament - Wasting Woods
Xavier Woods inexplicably lost to Jinder Mahal in a U.S. title tournament semi finals match. This match actually opened the show this week, and the New Day cut a patriotic-inspired promo before the match because of course they did. Xavier was wrestling Jinder Mahal after all.
After a good two year run, it's pretty clear the time has come for a New Day break-up. The comedy segments are getting a little forced, they aren't as hilarious as they once were, and all of these guys could benefit from something new.
How great would it have been if Woods went on to win the U.S. title and feuded with his former New Day partners? Alas, that was not to be, as Mahal defeated Woods clean and will move on to the finals of the tournament.
3. The U.S. Title Tournament - A Glorious Era on the Horizon?
In the other semi final bout, Bobby Roode went over Mojo Rawley clean. He was attacked immediately afterward by the Singh brothers, an attempt to weaken Jinder's competition one week before the finals. Mahal came out and got on the microphone to declare he would put a glorious end to Roode on his way to the U.S. championship.
Bobby got on the microphone and challenged Mahal to do the match this week, but Jinder denied and said they would do the match when he decides and on his time. Wait, didn't WWE schedule the finals?
This brought out Daniel Bryan, who declared that indeed, the match would be held this week.
4. Light on Stars This Week
This week's show, which received a lot of criticism if you were following along on Twitter, had a surprising lack of stars. At least in front of the live crowd.
WWE Champion AJ Styles wasn't there (backstage video), Shinsuke Nakamura wasn't there (backstage video), Randy Orton wasn't there (backstage video), Kevin Owens wasn't there, and Sami Zayn wasn't there.
It definitely felt like WWE was on cruise control, with this being the "U.S. Title Show," basically treading water until we get to RAW 25 next week and then the Royal Rumble six days later.
If you're wondering, just like all others, that Shinsuke cell phone video was bad. Real bad.
5. Surprise: A New U.S. Champion Was Crowned This Week
Roode and Mahal ended up main eventing the show, and Mahal was on offense for most of the match. He stuck to the plan of working over Roode's injured ribs from the attack earlier in the show as the announcers wondered if it was a good idea for Roode to advocate for the match to be held this week.
Then, out of nowhere, Roode was about to receive the Khallas, but he reversed it into the Glorious DDT for the pinfall and the championship victory.
Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan watched the match from ringside and presented Roode with the belt following the match. In case you're wondering, there was no animosity shown between Shane and Bryan on the show this week.
#SDLive Commissioner @shanemcmahon and #SDLive General Manager @WWEDanielBryan's gazes are FIXED on this match! Will they be crowning @REALBobbyRoode or @JinderMahal as the new #USChampion? pic.twitter.com/MCXcfNMhDX— WWE (@WWE) January 17, 2018
Other Thoughts on the Show:
Yes, Jey Uso was on the broadcast. Yes, Jimmy did everything he could to remind you he was Jimmy. They got attacked by Gable and Benjamin.
Randy Orton's cell phone video was like everyone's dad on Snapchat.
They announced Trish Stratus is coming back.
Break-up the New Day now. Did I say that earlier?
There was a six-woman tag team match between the Riott Squad and Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Naomi. It was won by the Riott Squad.
Liv Morgan is awesome.