The final television before a PPV traditionally has produced some of the most memorable WWE television episodes in company history. With WWE Clash of Champions on the horizon this Sunday, did WWE produce something of note on Tuesday night?
With the RAW brand already preparing for January's Royal Rumble, one of the four biggest shows of the year, SmackDown has kind of had the feeling of late that the Clash is just a speed bump on the way to the real show. Though the build to a couple of the matches has been done well, it seems like this show should have happened weeks ago. Television has been a demonstration in treading water, giving us slightly different versions of the same match now for weeks.
In ring wise, this was a show full of a lot of what we have already seen in recent months. But outside of the matches, we did get some memorable segments and some storyline adjustments that should influence the SmackDown direction for the next several weeks.
Here are five big things we learned from this week's edition of WWE SmackDown Live.
1. The Riott Squad Got Their Comeuppance
After running over the women's division since their debut, the Riott Squad of Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan were sent running on Tuesday night.
Ruby wrestled Charlotte, with Morgan and Logan at ringside while Natalya was on guest commentary. After Natalya got involved and clotheslined Charlotte, giving her the victory via DQ, is when the real action began.
The Squad started out by destroying Charlotte on the outside with the steel ring steps, but they were quickly interrupted by Naomi making the save. Naomi took out the whole team until they hightailed it up the ramp. At that point, all three members of Riott Squad were attacked by Tamina, Lana, and Carmella.
2. The U.S. Title Picture Didn't Change Much
Tell me if you've seen this one before. With a triple threat match between champion Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, and Bobby Roode on the horizon, we got a singles match involving two of them with the other one doing guest commentary.
Yes, it seems like we've been getting a version of this match every week since, oh, 1917. But really, it hasn't been that long. Just a couple of months. But really, the Clash better be the end of this.
In the end, Roode (who was on commentary) decided to get involved. He jumped in the ring, gave Ziggler a Glorious DDT, and Ziggler won via DQ.
3. The Yep Movement
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn continue to be hilarious since their reunion. This week, the duo opened the show with Daniel Bryan's classic "Yes! Yes! Yes!' t-shirt on, modified to read "Yup! Yup! Yup!" They passed out leaflets backstage advertising the fact that they need to get rid of Shane McMahon, who has created an environment of tyranny on SmackDown Live.
Owen's declared, "There's no doubt, Shane McMahon is the worst McMahon of them all" later in the show. He spoke of how Shane handcuffed him last week, made himself the special referee at Clash of Champions, and made the stipulation of them being fired if they lose at the Clash. He said Shane is a "madman on a rage bender" who failed to defend his family's honor.
Then, harkening back to one of Daniel Bryan's most famous moments, Owens declared it was time to fill the ring and "occupy SmackDown." He called out people from the back to join him...but there was nobody, at first. Then came Daniel Bryan, who joined them in the ring.
Bryan said the Yes Movement was always about the fans, not him, and that's where he is different from them. He went on to declare that Owens and Zayn will get a fair fight at Clash of Champions, and he is going to ensure that by making himself the second guest referee at the PPV.
4. AJ Didn't Fall For The Trick
Early in the show, AJ Styles was in the ring talking about his upcoming match with Jinder Mahal at Clash of Champions. He was interuppted by the Singth brothers, who proceeded to abandon their allegiance to Mahal.
After listing off why they no longer wanted to work for Mahal, Styles showed social media pictures of the duo still at Jinder's side at the live events in India over the weekend. He told them that they both suck, and when Mahal came down the ramp, proceeded to beat them senseless and toss that to the outside.
Mahal and Styles had a face-off as the show went to commercial. Will Mahal be given another chance as champion, or will Sunday be his last hurrah at the top of the card?
5. A Main Event With Some Time
Kevin Owens and Shinsuke Nakamura, once a match many never though they would see in WWE (though they wrestled in ROH), has now happened more than once over the last couple of months. And we aren't complaining!
These two were given nearly fifteen minutes to close out the show and they produced a really good television match. It wasn't as good or as exciting as what you might see in a featured PPV spot, but it was solid and a good way to close out the show.
In the end, Daniel Bryan ended up getting involved after the referee was knocked out. Bryan had been doing guest commentary, and he pulled off the refs' shirt and put it on himself. In an effort to prove he could do a good, neutral job at Clash of Champions, he ended up counting the pinfall following a Pop-up Powerbomb from Owens to Nakamura. He also refused to signal for a DQ after Zayn and Orton got involved.
"The bottom line is, we are the absolute BEST, not just on #SDLive, but in the entire @WWE! YEP! YEP! YEP! YEP! YEP!" - @FightOwensFight #WWEClash @SamiZayn @WWEDanielBryan @RandyOrton @ShinsukeN pic.twitter.com/s2fFx2fjlL— WWE (@WWE) December 13, 2017
It's fairly obvious that Bryan/Shane is going to be the big story coming out of the PPV on Sunday, and it should tell us a lot about where WWE's direction on television will be heading over the next couple of months. Look for a conflicted ending among the now two referees in the main event (guessing that Styles/Mahal will not close the show, despite it being the title match).