SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
DECEMBER 26, 2017
CHICAGO, ILL. AT ALLSTATE ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves
-Phillips introduced the show as the camera panned the crowd. Daniel Bryan made his ring entrance. The announcers plugged A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens. Bryan stood in the ring as fans chanted his name. He said it’s great to be back in Chicago. Crowd pop. He said one of the most shocking moments of the year took place last week. He threw to a clip of Dolph Ziggler apparently relinquishing his U.S. Title belt last week. Bryan said he’s reached out to Ziggler, but unfortunately he hasn’t responded so he believes that means he has voluntarily given up the title. He said Ziggler is “undoubtedly one of the all-time greats,” but they need to move forward. He announced a tournament to crown a new U.S. Champion. Light cheers. He said the tournament starts tonight. More cheers. When he announced Bobby Roode, he was interrupted by Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin.
Gable asked what he’s going to do about the tag team division. The crowd chanted “Rusev Day!” Bryan asked if they didn’t just receive a tag team title opportunity two weeks ago? Gable asked if it was fair. Shelton said they never got their one-on-one match against the Usos, and instead Bryan decided to add other teams. They asked why the New Day and Rusev & Aiden English were in the match. Big pop for Rusev and another “Rusev Day!” chant. Benjamin said they beat the Usos last week 1-2-3, proving that if it had been just them at the Clash, they’d be the new champs by now. They entered the ring and confronted Bryan. They were interrupted by English warming up his vocal cords.
Rusev and English walked onto the stage. Rusev wore the “Happy Rusev Day” t-shirt. English sang about their case for a tag team title shot. Gable said it’s Boxing Day. Boos. Rusev said it’s Rusev Day. New Day then interrupted. Kofi Kingston tossed pancakes to the crowd. Graves told Byron could go get some and they’d be fine without him. Fans chanted “New… Day Rocks!” Bryan looked on somewhat incredulous of the scene. Xavier Woods said it’s time for a True/False Challenge. Big E called Shelton “Old Jason Jordan,” then apologized. “My bad,” Big E said. Kofi said Gable & Jordan got pinned at the Clash. Big E said the “oddly charismatic” team of Rusev Day and Aiden English got pinned last week. Big E said therefore they deserve the title shot. New Day entered the ring and did hip gyrations with Bryan joining in. Rusev interrupted and said nobody wants to see their spinning hips. Another “Rusev Day!” chant broke out. Rusev asked Bryan if he’d make up his mind or maybe he needs to “ask your mommy, Shane McMahon.” The crowd oohed. Bryan said he can make this decision on his own. He said they are all talented and all have good points, so he’d have a Triple Threat match and the winners would face the Usos for the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships. “And that match happens right now!” He called for the referee.
(1) CHAD GABLE & SHELTON BENJAMIN vs. AIDEN ENGLISH & RUSEV vs. NEW DAY (Xavier Woods & Big E w/Kofi Kingston) – No. 1 contendership match
The Usos came out next to their music just before the bell rang to start the match and joined the announcers on commentary. They started with Gable vs. Xavier vs. Aiden. The crowd chanted, “We Want Rusev!” Big E, Rusev, and Shelton stared each other down at ringside. Big E collided with the other two. Xavier clotheslined English over the top rope, then did a flip dive onto all of them at ringside. He banged on the announce desk in celebration. Gable German suplexed Big E as he was German suplexing English, then scored a two count on Big E. When Rusev tagged in, the crowd cheered. When English and Gable took over on Big E, a “C.M. Punk” chant broke out. Big E hot-tagged Xavier who went to work on the other two rapid-fire. English eventually hot-tagged Rusev, and the crowd cheered as he worked over Woods and Gable with kicks. He took Shelton down, too, when he charged in. He played to the crowd who cheered for him. Rusev signaled for a dive through the ropes, but Gable caught him with a knee and then German suplexed him.
Big E scored a near fall on Gable after a backstabber. The Usos said they need to sharpen their game after watching these three battle it out. Shelton caught Woods with a knee as he flew off the top rope, and then Gable landed a moonsault for a believable near fall. Nice sequence. Gable and Benjamin went for a double suplex on English, but Rusev ran in and powerbombed them off the top rope. It wasn’t the cleanest, but it worked. English then frog splashed Gable for a believable near fall. Uso said, “That looks real familiar.” English then tagged in Rusev and stomped away at Gable. Woods schoolboyed Rusev for a near fall. Rusev kicked him and dropped him. Rusev dragged Woods on top of Gable and then stomped both of them and applied a double super accolade. Benjamin kicked Rusev in the head to break it up. The crowd booed and was deflated. Shelton then tagged in officially and went after Big E, who also tagged in. Big E speared Shelton off the ring apron onto the floor. Back in the ring Big E lowered his straps and set up a Big Ending. Shelton elbowed out of it. Big E climbed to the second rope, but Shelton gave him a high knee. Gable tagged in. Shelton lifted Big E and then Gable gave him a top rope clothesline and scored the three count.
WINNERS: Gable & Benjamin in 16:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match. The crowd was really into Rusev & English, but with the Usos babyfaces, and Gable & Shelton heels, this finish made sense. It was good to see a little personality with Gable and Shelton. There’s still something missing with Shelton where he seems to hold back in emitting actual strong emotions.)
-Backstage Shane McMahon said Daniel Bryan said something last week that upset him, the more he thought about it. Bryan asked what that was. Shane said it was when he said he was turning into Mr. McMahon. Shane said his dad isn’t the easiest to get along with and he realizes that. He said it’s important they stay focused on certain things. He said Vince’s management style can be ruthless, cold, and calculating and he can be a mean SOB, but he deserves his due. He said he has turned Sports Entertainment into what it is today. He said at the end of the day, he’s his father. Bryan said he understands that and isn’t trying to undermine what he has accomplished. He said the way he throws his weight around lately is reminiscent of his dad. Shane said Bryan is doing the same thing with the U.S. Title. He asked why wouldn’t he just make Baron Corbin vs. Bobby Roode rather than create a tournament. Bryan said it is the land of opportunity and he wanted to give opportunity to other Superstars. Shane said he gets where he’s coming from. Shane switched to questioning presenting A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens. He questioned whether KO deserves that opportunity, even though it is a non-title match. Shane said perception is reality and he wants to make sure people aren’t showing favoritism towards those guys. He said people are saying Bryan is being perceived as playing favorites. Bryan said Styles and Owens was one of the most vicious, heated rivalries of 2017 and he thought it’d be a great way to end the year. Shane paused and said, “Okay.” They had an awkward tense stare for over five seconds before they cut away.
(Keller’s Analysis: Shane looked like he had been up all night or was really sick or something. He just looked “spent.” He was stumbling over his lines and it was just awkward and uncomfortable. The verbiage made him look foolish as the whole “argument” felt manufactured, and he had nothing to say of substance after Bryan’s comebacks. I get they want to forward the Shane-Bryan dynamic, but it feels forced and Shane’s performance was just “off” in a way I’ve never seen before.)
-They showed The Ascension telling Breezango backstage they got them a gift for Christmas. Fandango hoped it was “those sexy astronaut suits.” Instead, Ascension said it was the “gift of redemption,” a rematch with the Bludgeon Brothers. They encouraged them to “get ’em!” Fandango was dejected and said he really wanted those sexy astronaut suits. Breeze was sad, too.
(2) BREEZANGO & TYLER BREEZE vs. THE BLUDGEON BROTHERS
The Bludgeon Brothers dominated. Erick Rowan lifted the shoulders of Breeze at the count of two in order to deliver more offense, but the Ascension ran out and yanked Breezango out of the ring for their own good.
WINNERS: Bludgeon Brothers via DQ in 2:00.
-Graves plugged Styles vs, Owens (w/Sami).
-They showed Naomi backstage getting ready for her match.
-Backstage, the Ascension rubbed the shoulders of Breeze and Fandango,. The Ascension said the Bludgeon Brothers crossed a line against their best friends, so Breezango are challenging them to a rematch next week. Breezango didn’t like that, but Ascension assured them it was a good idea.
-The announcers threw to Stephanie McMahon’s Women’s Royal Rumble Announcement on Raw along with Tweets by the women afterward.
(3) RUBY RIOTT (w/Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan) vs. NAOMI
In a pre-match soundbite, Riott said at the Royal Rumble, she’ll be the last one standing. She said Naomi will be the first one she eliminates, but why wait because “tonight, the glow has got to go.” Oh, clever! Except NOBODY TALKS LIKE THAT. Riott attacked Naomi aggressively at the start. Naomi came back with a springboard kick for an early two count. Liv Morgan distracted Naomi from the ring apron. Then Sarah Logan distracted Naomi. Naomi knocked them both off the ring apron, but Riott then surprised Naomi with her Riott Kick for the win.
WINNER: Riott in 1:30.
-The Riott Squad triple-teamed Naomi after the match, so Charlotte ran out and made the save. She clotheslined Logan at ringside, but ended up falling to the “pack mentality,” as Graves officially put it several times. They dumped Charlotte to the floor and then gloated. Natalya, Lana, Tamina, and Carmella marched to the ring together. Graves said for once the Riott Squad is outnumbered. They entered the ring and the Riott Squad talked a big game, but then backed out. The four women went after Riott Squad at ringside, so Riott Squad fled to the back.
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s how you book heels. They are cocky and follow through when they have the numbers, but talk big and back away when they don’t. The only problem here is, the four women who came out to oppose them are also all heels. So this is a situation where the Riott Squad don’t benefit from the basic Booking 101 strategy of having sympathetic characters fans admire to play off of.)
-Renee Young interviewed A.J. Styles backstage. She asked about capping off a great year against Owens. The crowd loudly chanted “A.J. Styles” as they watched on the big screen. Styles said he will take care of business, and he doesn’t care whether what Shane says is true about Bryan. He said he is the favorite and his opponent is always the underdog. He said he started the year as WWE Champion and he’s ending the year as WWE Champion. He said in Smackdown, “the Land of Opportunity,” you have to make the most of your opportunities. He said if Owens is going to beat him, he’ll have to outwork him and outsmart him and out hustle him. He said it didn’t happen in 2017 and it won’t start tonight. He said 2018 is no different than 2017, Smackdown will still be “the House that A.J. Styles Built.”
-Phillips thanked the WWE Universe for surpassing 20 million subscribers on YouTube, more than the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and UFC combined.
-Bobby Roode made his ring entrance. Then Corbin.
(4) BOBBY ROODE vs. BARON CORBIN – U.S. Title Tournament match
Graves said this match should be for the U.S. Title. When Byron said Corbin always is complaining, Graves told him to go tell Corbin that (as if Byron fearing the consequences of doing so makes it any less true). Graves said Corbin has had a streak of bad luck. Saxton said it’s bad decisions. Graves said he’s getting bad luck out of the way early in his career. Late in the match, the action spilled to ringside. Corbin countered a Glorious DDT with a Deep Six for a believable near fall. The crowd chanted “Bobby! Bobby!” Corbin set up a superplex. Roode punched out of it and headbutted Corbin twice to send Corbin to the mat. Roode sold the impact of the headbutts on himself, which was a nice touch. He then leaped at Corbin, but Corbin caught him and set up a move, but Roode rolled through and scored a leverage three count. Corbin was fuming afterward.
WINNER: Roode in 11:00 to advance. [c]
(5) JINDER MAHAL (w/The Singh Brothers) vs. TYE DILLINGER – U.S. Title Tournament match
The Singh Brothers introduced Jinder Mahal. Phillips said people have been wondering what was next for Jinder after losing the WWE Title, and it appears he is setting his sights on the U.S. Championship. Graves said if he were to conquer the U.S. Title as well, he’d be a hero in India. Saxton said winning this U.S. Title would be a way to rub it in the face of those whom he feels unfairly discriminate against him. Phillips said he’d join a list of Sgt. Slaughter, Ric Flair, and Booker T on a list of U.S. Champions. Graves said Mahal would make a fine representative of the U.S. Title. A soundbite aired with Dillinger during his ring entrance. He smiled and said he’s not going to let this moment slip through his fingers again. He said there are eight men in this tournament, but the only number that matters is “10.” He flashed his fingers and smiled like he was in a toothpaste commercial. Graves said Tye is delusional and thinks he’s perfect. He said he’s a sociopath. They cut to a break a few minutes in, but stayed with the action on a split screen during which Jinder methodically dominated. [c]
Tye eventually made a comeback, but Jinder took control again and landed a gut-buster and scored a near fall. Jinder bled from his lower lip. Tye surprised Jinder with a DDT for a near fall. Tye mounted Jinder, but Jinder slipped free and clipped his knee. He then hit the Khallas for the win.
WINNER: Mahal in 9:00 to advance.
(Keller’s Analysis: Tye’s promo was awful. There’s nothing to his act, and the finger-flicking thing is beyond stale. Jinder landing in the U.S. Title tournament is a good way to repurpose him.)
-Graves plugged Hideo Itami vs. Jack Gallagher would be on 205 Live next.
-Dasha Fuentes interviewed KO and Sami backstage. KO was shaking up a bottle of Champaign. He said it’s a special bottle because it’s the bottle Bryan wouldn’t accept from them last week. Owens and Sami said they knew why. KO said there’s a certain someone who shuffles his feet and has a lot of money and wants everyone to know it. He said this certain person has a vendetta against him. He said that was then, this is now, and he’ll be fine because he has a guardian angel by his side. He said Bryan believes in them, and that’s why he didn’t accept the Champaign last week, because he knew they’d need it this week. KO said Dasha and nobody from Chicago is invited to their celebration. He said it’d be a private party. Sami said, “Yep.”
-Renee Young interviewed Randy Orton backstage. She said his team lost last week to Owens & Sami at the Clash, but got redemption in winning the six man tag match later. Orton stopped her and said there’s not a lot to say right now other than he’s been dealing with other people’s issues and not his. He said the past is the past and he looking forward now. He said all he is concerning himself with is how to throw 29 others over the top rope. He said he was officially entering the Royal Rumble, and he predicted he’d win for the third time in his career. In walked Shinsuke Nakamura walked in and said it’s a good idea. “Let’s Rumble!”
-Styles’s ring entrance took place. [c]
(6) A.J. STYLES vs. KEVIN OWENS (w/Sami Zayn)
Styles dropkicked Owens as the bell rang 42 minutes into the second hour. Styles went for an early calf crusher. Sami pounded on the mat and called for a break when Owens grabbed the bottom rope. KO bailed out to ringside to regroup. Styles went after them. He knocked Owens down with a kick to his leg and then yelled at Sami. Owens kicked Styles and knocked him out of the ring. He landed with a thud. Owens went after him with a running X chop to the throat. He settled into his obligatory mid-match chinlock. They cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, Owens had reapplied the chinlock after some activity during the break. When Styles went for a Styles Clash, Owens blocked it, but Styles came back with Pelé kick. When Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, Owens caught him and turned it into a gut buster. Then he hit a quick turning swing elbow for a near fall. Styles gave Owens a turning powerbomb off of his shoulders for a near fall. Styles slingshot himself over the top rope onto Sami when he came to KO’d aid at ringside. When Owens went after Styles, Styles reversed him into the ringpost. Styles then set up a forearm, but Sami stepped onto the ring apron to distract him. Owens then superkicked Styles for a near fall. The crowd popped for the kickout. Shane walked out and ordered Sami to the back. Shane was largely booed. The ref signaled for Sami to be ejected, and then the crowd cheered. Styles rolled up Owens for a visual three count, but the ref was tending to Sami. Owens then rolled up Styles and scored a three count. Shane stood with his hands on his head realizing his attempt to balance the playing field backfired. Sami made a sarcastic “oops” gesture and ran back to ringside to celebrate with Owens. Graves said it was a great way to end 2017. As Styles walked to the back, he turned and glared at Shane. Shane apologized. Graves said the commissioner’s hot-headed nature backfired.
WINNER: Owens in 16:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match. Solid ending to the show with a little extra controversy with Shane and Bryan, and a good win for Owens and Sami to gloat about.)
Send questions and comments about this show RIGHT NOW to firstname.lastname@example.org and we might answer it on the post-Smackdown taping of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast on Podcast One!