SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
More Management Feuding…
Recap: The show opened with Shane McMahon in the ring. Shane expressed that while he personally did not feel that Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn deserved another title opportunity, he respected Daniel Bryan and his decision to grant another opportunity to the winner of tonight’s match between the two of them. Despite that early vote of confidence, Shane then stated that on SmackDown, the fans are heard, and that Daniel Bryan wasn’t listening to the fans in granting repeated opportunities to Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. The fans organically began to chant for Rusev Day when Shane mentioned listening to the fans.
Bryan responded that considering the referee’s blown call at Royal Rumble, Shane should be happy that Bryan’s resolution of the mistake included a match where Sami and Kevin were sure to tear each other apart. Shane wasn’t swayed, but did credit Daniel Bryan’s “yes movement” for forever changing the landscape of WWE. He said that the “yep movement” was a cheap imitation designed to manipulate Bryan, and accused Bryan of living vicariously through Owens and Zayn due to his own inability to wrestle.
At that moment, AJ Styles approached the ring. AJ stated that he could deal with the difficulties involved in the wrestling business, but he couldn’t deal with Bryan and Shane’s obsession with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. He lamented that every one of their Owens-Zayn obsessed decisions affected him and his title. He closed by asking Bryan and Shane to “stay out of the way” tonight.
Evaluation: The organic “Rusev Day” chants at the mere mention of listening to fans in determining title shots were a clear indicator of just how over Rusev is right now. WWE badly needs to reposition these guys as faces.
Regarding Bryan and Shane, everything is as confusing as ever. Sometimes Shane seems to be the heel, such as when he made a low blow comment about Bryan living vicariously through Kevin and Sami. Other times, Bryan seems to be written as the heel, repeatedly rewarding Owens and Zayn.
AJ at least did come out of the opening segment strong, rightly angry that he’s constantly collateral damage in this management feud.
Forecast: While the positioning of Bryan and Shane is inconsistent, it’s almost irrelevant as the fans will never boo Bryan. This management feud has been going on for a long time, so hopefully at some point there is a payoff.
At this point, I do predict that Rusev Day will be repositioned as faces. It’s getting to the point where they have no other choice.
The Kevin and Sami Show isn’t Cancelled…
Recap: In a backstage statement, Renee Young asked Kevin Owens if his friendship with Sami Zayn could survive tonight’s match. Kevin answered that if depended whether Sami could handle losing to him.
Late in the match, Sami Zayn got in the face of AJ Styles, who was on commentary. AJ responded by attacking Sami Zayn and then Kevin Owens, causing the match to end in DQ. Daniel Bryan came out and said that due to the “superlative performance” of Sami and Kevin in the match, along with AJ’s interference, the title match at Fastlane would be a Triple Threat.
Evaluation: I figured something like this would happen to get all three in the match yet again. It also creates a situation where they do not have to split up Sami and Kevin just yet. While I’m sure cooperation will break down at some point during the Triple Threat, at least for most of the match they can be working together against AJ. There is also now every incentive for them to cooperate with each other in the weeks leading into Fastlane.
Forecast: Sami and Kevin will stay together, at least through Fastlane next month.
The Debut of the Top 10 List…
Recap: Daniel Bryan debuted the SmackDown Top 10 List that was discussed last week:
10. Tye Dillinger
9. Randy Orton
8. Becky Lynch
7. The Usos
6. The New Day
5. Bobby Roode
3. Shinsuke Nakamura
2. Charlotte Flair
1. A.J. Styles
Evaluation: As I feared last week, the list made no sense.. Naomi was at Number 4, ahead of Randy Orton (Number 9). Tye Dillinger was at Number 10, while Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Rusev weren’t on the list at all. At least Styles was Number 1 and Charlotte Flair Number 2.
It was preposterous that a tweet from Dillinger was later shown on screen indicating he was unhappy with only being ranked Number 10.
At least there was no mention of the list determining future title shots, as had been indicated last week.
Forecast: I predict the list will continue for a few weeks, with the rankings consistently making little sense other than the WWE Champion and SmackDown Women’s Champion sitting at 1 and 2. It will then disappear without explanation. Because WWE seems to love the pun so much, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tye Dillinger is the permanent Number 10.
-Backstage, the New Day accepted questions using #AskTheNewDay. Their first question was about Corey Graves’s fighting prowess, a clear reference this weekend’s Booker T podcast comments. If they’re allowing jokes, the comments must be a work…
-Shinsuke Nakamura stalking A.J. Styles backstage to simply tell him he would beat him at WrestleMania was a great continuation of transitioning Shinsuke’s character away from goofy oddity toward a guy who wants to be champion…
-It appeared that tonight was just another squash match for the Bludgeon Brothers, until the Usos came down the ramp for the following segment and engaged them in a staredown, perhaps foreshadowing a future matchup…
-Not only are Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable stuck in a pointless feud with Breezango and The Ascension, but they’re also the only ones still stuck with the Batman cartoon text animations that debuted last week. At least all the other promos this week (other than Mixed Match Challenge) seemed to drop this gimmick…
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – SMACKDOWN 1/30: Teasing the end of “Kami,” The Smackdown Top Ten, Women’s MITB near cash-in, more