KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 1/2: Styles vs. Sami Zayn, The Usos vs. Benjamin & Gable for tag titles, Aiden vs. Xavier in U.S. Title tournament

By Wade Keller, editor

WWE Smackdown Live logo - new July 2016 (c)

JANUARY 2, 2018

Announcers: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves

NOTE: Send questions and comments about this show to and we might answer it on the post-Smackdown taping of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast on Podcast One tonight.


-A video package aired on Shane McMahon, Daniel Bryan, A.J. Styles, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens.

-The announcers hyped Styles vs. Sami and The Usos defending against Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable.

-Styles made his ring entrance. The announcers discussed how Shane’s issues with Sami and KO affect Styles. Graves wondered who will be gunning for Styles as they approach the Royal Rumble. Styles spoke about his New Year’s Resolutions. He said some probably have resolved to go all the way in the Men’s Royal Rumble match. He said he has resolved to take his WWE Title all the way to WrestleMania. He said his second New Year’s Resolution is to beat Sami tonight. He said the question is whether the same man who allowed Sami to be in KO’s corner would allow KO to be in Sami’s corner. He said that man offered to come out to the ring and tell everyone his decision tonight. After a pause, Daniel Bryan’s music played.

Bryan came out to “Yes!” chants. Byron said there is concern in the locker room that Bryan is showing favoritism to KO and Sami. Graves said that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the case, though. As soon as Styles got to the ring, Shane McMahon’s music played. Bryan looked deflated a bit. Shane pounded his heart with his fist and slapped hands on his way to the ring. He asked, “What’s up, Orlando?” He got a pop. They chanted “Shane-o-Mac.” He said he appreciated the love. Then came a “Daniel Bryan” chant. Shane said he had the best of intentions last week when he asked the referee to eject Sami in the Styles vs. KO match. He said they’d much rather have a match decided by competitors’ ability rather than distractions and interference. He said his presence, though, may have contributed to Styles’s defeat. He apologized to him. Styles fist-bumped him.

Shane said for several months he has been accused of having a personal vendetta against Sami and KO. He said he knows Bryan feels that way. He said Bryan seems to have a genuine kinship with both Sami and KO. Some boos. “Because why on Earth would you let Sami Zayn come down to ringside last week,” he said. “That’s still baffling to me.” He said a lot of people have been asking whether he’s turning the “Yes Movement” into the “Yep Movement.” As Bryan began to respond, Shane interrupted him and asked him to allow him to finish. He said he doesn’t think he’ll stop KO from being at ringside tonight, so therefore in the spirit of competition he’ll be at ringside himself for the main event. Some cheers. Bryan said that wasn’t exactly what he was thinking, but since he declared himself to be at ringside, “we might as well have Kevin Owens out here too.” Some boos. Bryan said if he and KO are going to be out there, then he might as well, too. Lots of cheers. Shane said they’re going start 2018 off with a bang.

-The announcers reacted. Graves wondered what could possibly go wrong. Byron said this could be one of the most combustible main events on Smackdown in a long time. Phillips said Styles seems to be dreading what could come later. Then they discussed the U.S. Title tournament and showed the brackets.

(Keller’s Analysis: This was a somewhat long-winded way to set up the chaos that could ensue in the main event, but it does add some dimensions to what could happen with the Styles vs. Sami main event.) [c]

-WWE Fact: Smackdown had the most social media activity last week compared to all other TV shows.

(1) THE USOS vs. CHAD GABLE & SHELTON BENJAMIN – Smackdown Tag Team Title match

The Usos did some mic work on their way to the ring. Byron said there was a lot of testosterone and energy in this match. Then formal ring introductions took place. Shelton took a shot at the Usos on the ring apron as soon as the bell rang and then took it to the other Uso including a toss off the top rope. Gable then landed a top rope moonsault and scored an early near fall. They cut to an early break. [c]

They stayed with the action on split screen. Shelton and Gable worked over Uso’s leg. Gable and Uso each tagged out when they came back from the break. Fast-paced action led to Uso armdragging Gable over the top rope and then diving onto him at ringside. Then they went for a stereo dive, but Shelton grabbed one of their legs and threw him into the barricade at ringside. Shelton kneed a charging Uso and then Gable hit their finisher for the apparent win. Graves said Gable & Benjamin just shocked the WWE Universe.

WINNERS: Gable & Benjamin in 7:00 to (apparently) capture the Smackdown Tag Team Titles.

(Keller’s Analysis: That was sudden… but not so fast.)

-A second ref came out and pointed out that Gable wasn’t the legal man in the match. The Usos made their case. The crowd began to boo. The original ref told the ring announcer, “My mistake.” He said both men in the ring were not legal, so he is restarting the match. Gable and Benjamin protested as they cut to a break.

(Keller’s Analysis: Because if there’s one thing clearly established in the world, it’s that there are instant replays in professional wrestling.) [c]

The match continued. The Usos jumped on Benjamin and Gable as they continued to protest the referee’s decision. When Gable went for a leap off the top rope, Uso kicked him out of mid-air, then the Usos double-superkicked Benjamin. Then they landed a top rope splash for the win. Saxton wondered what this could do to the confidence of Gable and Benjamin. Gable begged the referee to restart the match one more time, which was pretty funny.

WINNERS: The Usos to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships in 13:00 total.

-They showed KO and Sami were strutting backstage. Renee Young approached them and asked about everyone at ringside in the main event. She asked if it will affect the outcome. KO asked what’s different this time? He said he had an omelet for breakfast this morning whereas last week he had it sunny side up. “That’s different,” he said. He said last week they were in Chicago and this week they’re in Orlando, so that’s different. He said what won’t be different is last week he beat Styles, and tonight Sami will beat Styles. (That seems a little different, actually. Different winner.) Sami said Shane has the audacity to accuse Bryan of having favoritism toward them when in reality all he’s doing is being a good general manager. Sami called them the “Seven show” instead of the “Kevin & Sami Show” at first before correcting himself. KO said Sami will beat the WWE Champion tonight. Sami threw in some “Yep’s” as KO talked.

-Graves plugged the Riott Squad in a six-woman tag match up later in the show. Phillips plugged Breezango vs. The Bludgeon Brothers next. [c]

(2) BREEZANGO (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) vs. THE BLUDGEON BROTHERS

Graves said he doubts Breezango even remember what happened last week on Smackdown when the Bludgeon Brothers destroyed them. They showed a clip of the Ascension suggesting a rematch last week, but they cut away to show the Bludgeon Brothers jump-starting the match with an attack on Breezango. The referee tried to restore order. The Ascension charged to the ring. The Bludgeon Brothers dispatched of them in a few seconds and then stood tall gazing at the hard camera like well-behaved sports entertainers following instructions on how to make good TV.

WINNERS: No match.

-Big E and Kofi quizzed a blindfolded Xavier Woods on what gift they got him for 2018. Xavier asked if it’s a DVD boxed set of “Golden Girls” or new equipment for his YouTube Channel “Up Up Down Down” or a plate of pancakes that says “2018 covered in whipped cream with a candle on top.” It was that. Big E said he can clearly see through the blindfold. Xavier took off the blindfold and said when he becomes U.S. Champion, they all become U.S. Champions. They gyrated and laughed. Big E asked Xavier to blow out the candle and make a wish. As he was about to, in walked Rusev and Aiden English. English said he wishes for every single day to be Rusev Day. Rusev said New Day were acting like “little children” stuffing their face in fluffy pancakes and blowing out candles and making wishes. He blew out the candle. Xavier was appalled. [c]

-Mojo Rawley cut a brief promo saying he’d send Zack Ryder back to the past after he beat him.

(3) AIDEN ENGLISH (w/Rusev) vs. XAVIER WOODS (w/Big E, Kofi Kingston) – U.S. Title Tournament match

Rusev sang (poorly) a poem dedicated to English before the match. The crowd loved it. Graves said it was magic. New Day came out and poured cereal onto the face of kids in the crowd. Fans chanted “We Want Pancakes!” What has WWE done now? When Rusev charged at Xavier at ringside early, Xavier turned and saw him, so Rusev stopped in his tracks and said he was just kidding and wouldn’t do anything. English then threw Xavier into the ringside stairs. Then he threw him into the ring and scored a two count. Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers were shown watching backstage. Aiden sang joyfully as he had Xavier in a side headlock. With both men down after kicking each other, the crowd chanted “New… Day rocks!” Xavier got up and got the better of English with some chops. English came back with a kick. Xavier lifted English and gave him a lumbar check for a near fall. English came back and set up a top rope move that caused Graves to laugh and say he was going to kill Xavier. Xavier backdropped out of it and then leaped off the top rope with a flying elbow for a three count. Xavier faces Jinder in the semi-finals as a result. They showed Jinder and the Singh Brothers reacting with smiles backstage. Then Xavier devoured pancakes at ringside. Graves said that was disgusting. Byron said to enjoy the moment.

WINNER: Xavier in 6:00 to advance in the tournament.

(Keller’s Analysis: There’s something about New Day’s demeanor overall that undercuts any sense of gravity to anything they’re involved with. It’s just a vaudeville show with them. English felt more serious than they did, although this entire segment just felt like low-stakes frivolous “fun and games” to bring smiles to people’s faces. It is what it is.)

-Backstage Natalya, Carmella, Lana, and Tamina stood in single-file line next to each other to talk about their six-woman tag match up next. Natalya took the lead on the promo and said before there was a Riott Squad, there was a Welcoming Committee. Carmella said in 2017 they let Riott Squad have their fun, but the party is now over. Lana said Riott Squad has shown their hand. Tamina said that was foolish. Natalya said tonight the Welcoming Committee are going to show the Riott Squad that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but there is no substitution for the real thing.

(Keller’s Analysis: How are fans supposed to be invested in this match when there’s no reason to root for anyone?) [c]

-They showed the exterior of the Amway Center.

-They showed Karl Malone at ringside standing and receiving some cheers.

(4) NATALYA & CARMELLA & TAMINA (w/Lana) vs. THE RIOTT SQUAD (Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan)

Natalya went for an early Sharpshooter, but Morgan escaped and rolled to ringside. They cut to an early commercial break. [c]

They stayed with the action on a split screen. Tamina tagged in against Logan after the break and took out all three opponents. She landed a Samoan Drop on Logan. Tamina climbed to the top, but Morgan shoved her off the top rope. Logan kneed Tamina in the back of the neck and then scored a three count. Saxton said the Riott Squad have growing momentum.

WINNERS: Riott Squad in 6:00.

-Afterward Riott said she’s sure everyone in Orlando believes in magic. She said magic isn’t real, it’s just like each and every one of them, phony. She said day in and day out, they pretend they are happy as they make their way through their dreary lives when deep down they’re all miserable. She said they all need a strong dose of reality, so take a good look because they are real and their destruction is real and their success is real. In a shock of shocks, she announced that all three of them would be entering the Royal Rumble match. She was interrupted by Charlotte.

Charlotte walked out onto the stage and looked every bit the champion. She spun around and let out a “wooo!” She congratulated the Riott Squad on their win and said Riott gave quite a speech. She said she is a dreamer who believes in the power and magic of her dreams. “Find something you’re passionate about and your world can change,” she said. She said actions have consequences, so she wanted to introduce someone who wants to teach them a lesson. Out came Naomi to her music. She danced for a minute. Then out came Becky Lynch next to a nice pop. They charged to the ring and cleared the ring of Riott Squad with a few moves. The Riott Squad retreated, yelling and complaining the whole way. [c]

-They went to the announcers on camera who addressed John Cena entering himself into the Royal Rumble. Phillips said it’s shaping up as the greatest Rumble ever. They plugged the free trial for WWE Network.

-A soundbite aired with Baron Corbin saying if there was ever a fight designed for him, it is the Rumble. He said it’s “every Superstar for himself” and he cannot wait. He added that he can’t wait to main event WrestleMania.

-Styles’s ring entrance took place. Then Bryan came out to his music. Then Shane made his ring entrance. [c]

-Sami’s ring entrance took place. He was accompanied by KO. The announcers commented on a video recap of the ending of last week’s main event.

(5) A.J. STYLES vs. SAMI ZAYN (w/Kevin Owens) – Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan at ringside

Styles went after Sami as the bell rang and took early control. Sami rolled to ringside to recover. Styles went after him, but KO yelled at him. Shane told KO to back up. Bryan ran in between all of them and tried to get everyone to calm down. Styles threw Sami back into the ring, then shot Owens a look. Sami kicked Styles as he re-entered the ring and took over control. He landed a fisherman’s buster and scored a quick two count. [c]

Lots of back and forth action including a Blue Thunder Bomb by Sami and a Calf Crusher by Styles. Sami avoided a top rope move. Styles went to roll up Sami, but the ref got in the way and jumped to the floor to avoid getting hit. Styles then rolled up Sami for a visual three count. Owens delayed the ref. When the ref got back in the ring, the ref began counting, but only got to two before Sami finally kicked out. Shane yelled at KO. Styles complained to the ref. Meanwhile at ringside, Shane shoved KO. Graves called him “Commissioner Hothead.” Shane stepped onto the ring apron and ordered the ref to eject KO. Bryan said if Shane is throwing out KO, “why don’t you leave with him?” Shane gave Bryan a quizzical look. The crowd chanted “Yes! Yes!” Styles knocked KO off the ring apron, but then Sami gave Styles a Helluva Kick and scored the three count. Graves said for the second week in a row chalk up an assist to the hot-headed commissioner.

WINNER: Sami in 13:00.

(Keller’s Analysis: Pretty predictable finish.)

-Afterward Styles told Bryan and Shane to “stop bickering like children.” He said he’s WWE Champion and he wants to come out there and “entertain people without someone else getting involved.” He asked for a two-on-one handicapped match. Bryan then booked Styles defending his title against both Sami and KO. Styles looked at Bryan as if to say, “That’s not what I meant.” Saxton said he can’t believe that. Bryan led a “Yes!” chant as Byron asked how this is okay. He said Styles wasn’t serious when he said that and said Bryan is showing favoritism.

(Keller’s Analysis: If fans were capable of siding against Bryan, this would seem like the decision that would do it, but instead I think they feel either torn or disengaged because this doesn’t seem like something a level-headed Bryan would naturally do. This was the most overtly biased decision Bryan made in favor of KO and Sami, and it affects the integrity of the status of the WWE Title.)

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 12/26: Styles vs. Owens in Chicago, Daniel Bryan addresses recent controversies

2 Comments on KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 1/2: Styles vs. Sami Zayn, The Usos vs. Benjamin & Gable for tag titles, Aiden vs. Xavier in U.S. Title tournament

  1. THANK YOU! I have felt that way with The New Day since they hosted Wrestlemania. (auto correct wanted to fix this to Beatlemania- when will McMahon enter THAT lexicon!)

  2. It is going to be tough getting Daniel Bryan over as a heel. Often times it seems like the WWE creative team has no idea that the fans like or dislike a particular wrestler or angle. I have no idea how they are so tone deaf, but fans want to cheer for Bryan.

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