The WWE SmackDown brand presented what ended up being one of the best PPVs of the year on Sunday at Clash of Champions.
Following what looks to have been the final match in the singles feud between AJ Styles and Jinder Mahal, would Styles have a new contender revealed this week? And what about about that whole women's Royal Rumble that was announced during RAW? What are the implications on the SmackDown brand?
The road to the Royal Rumble has begun. What did we learn on this week's edition of WWE SmackDown Live?
1. The Slow Build Continues
We got the expected face-off between Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan to start the show following their heat at Clash of Champions.
McMahon explained why he refused to count the pin for Owens and Zayn, citing all of his bad history with the two men.
Bryan explained his actions, saying that he was trying to save McMahon from himself, which is why he executed the fast count to end the match. After McMahon mentioned doing what is in the best interest of business, Bryan wondered if Shane is turning into Vince.
They played up more and more heat between the two, with Bryan saying he joined SmackDown to work together toward a new vision. Bryan told Shane that if he isn't still on board with that plan, he should fire him. McMahon ended the segment telling Bryan he's still on board and he trusts him and to "have a good show."
Shane walked off looking a little bewildered, as Bryan looked the same way in the ring.
2. More of this Please
Following the Usos' successful defense of the tag team titles at Clash of Champions, the duo faced Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin in a non-title match on Smackdown, and it was very, very good.
They played up the fact that Gable and Benjamin almost had the titles won at Clash of Champions, and if these two aren't future champions, someone has lost their sanity. The match ended with Gable hitting his awesome rolling German suplex, followed by the pair hitting a modified Doomsday Device for the clean pin over the tag team champs.
I'm sure we're due for a title match between these two at Royal Rumble, and I won't be complaining one bit. Following a victory by Benjamin and Gable, I'd love to see them face off in a two out of three falls match for the titles in the future to settle the score.
3. Naomi Wants A Shot
Charlotte came out to talked about the announcement on RAW of the women's Royal Rumble. She gave the fans credit for making this moment happen, mentioning all of their social media posts and reactions for the women's revolution.
Naomi came out, announced that she's going to be in the Rumble, and said that she's going to win and challenge Charlotte for the belt at WrestleMania. That would be a great match, but I doubt that's where they are going to end up going with this.
They were interrupted by the Riott Squad, which ended up giving us Charlotte and Naomi vs. Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan. Charlotte and Naomi were victorious (Logan took the pinfall), making this the second straight week that Riott Squad has been bested.
4. Dolph Is Hanging Them Up?
48 hours after winning the U.S. title at Clash of Champions, Dolph Ziggler came out to celebrate his victory.
They ran through a list of his former championship accomplishments as Dolph explained that nobody should have surprised that he won. They showed his past U.S., Intercontinental, and World title victories.
Dolph screamed at the crowd that they don't deserve him, and he told them that if they want a memorable moment, he has one last one for them. Ziggler then proceeded to lay the belt down in the middle of the ring and walk off in silence.
So the story is Ziggler has quit the company? They have to be going somewhere else with this. There's been rumors that Dolph was set to leave the company in the near future, but it would be truly mind-boggling to have the guy go over both Baron Corbin and Bobby Roode, only to walk away just two days later.
It means Roode should have went over at Clash of Champions.
4.5. Rusev as Santa Claus is Fantastic
Okay, so I have more than five points this week. But how could I NOT mention this? Tremendous!
5. This Is Starting To Get Repetitive
The main event was classic WWE booking. They put together two of the matches from the night prior (Styles vs. Mahal; Nakamura and Orton vs. Owens and Zayn) to give us one big six man tag team match.
While I'm sure there were some in the crowd that dug this match, it just reeked of lazy booking to me. As we transition to the Royal Rumble, I'm ready for something new, not a version of matches we've already been subject to for several weeks.
The last four weeks have featured:
- 12/19 (SmackDown): AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn
- 12/17 (Clash): AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal
- 12/17 (Clash): Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura
- 12/12 (SmackDown): Kevin Owens vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
- 12/5 (SmackDown): Randy Orton vs. Sami Zayn
- 11/28 (SmackDown): Randy Orton vs. Kevin Owens
- 11/28 (SmackDown): AJ Styles vs. Singhs (with Mahal involvement)
So, no, you weren't imagining it if you've felt like you've been watching this match for weeks now.
Hopefully we move on to something new and fresh next week, because this has really started to get repetitive. I'm guessing we're going to get Orton vs. Styles at Rumble because I don't see another direction to go with a realistic challenger. Zayn doesn't seem to be in the world title picture and they recently did Owens vs. Styles. I thought the Orton turn might come at the conclusion of this week's main event, but Orton, Styles, and Nakamura all just celebrated in harmony to end the show.