On paper this looked like more evidence that Smackdown has more Network Specials than matches that belong on Network Specials, but I’m a happy cynic so let’s find out if it’s at least better than Battleground.
Kickoff: Mojo Rawley vs. Zack Ryder
Apparently this feud has been great on Twitter, as if following Smackdown, Raw, NXT etc. wasn’t enough. I don’t care about Mojo or his famous NFL mates and the fan love for Ryder evaporated after he lost the IC Title to The Miz. Hype Bros. achieved nothing as a duo but at least now they’ve split up Mojo isn’t wearing bright green tights anymore. They start heated and heavy with Ryder showing anger for the first time in a while but Mojo’s big so a spinebuster shut him up. Mojo has turned bad and according to WWE logic, is now interesting as he barges Ryder into the guard-rail as we go to break. Mojo chinlocks Ryder and has the sense to talk smack to him while in the hold. He asks him about his Killer Instinct which causes Ryder to ULTRA COMBO with multiple Broski Boots but Mojo gets his foot on the rope. Ryder loses his focus, gets chop-blocked and Mojo wins via Running Forearm Smash.
Winner: Mojo Rawley (Mojo has good facial expressions so a personality change along with normal coloured tights isn’t the worst thing in the world as it’ll mean no more skits with him talking to kids. Obviously it’s too soon to assume but maybe we’ll look back at this when he’s challenging for the title at Clash Of Champions 2018 and go ”oh yeah, remember when Mojo used to team with whatshisname?” As for Ryder? 2011 was a long time ago.
Sam Roberts: ”Remember where you were when The Rockers split up? Now you’ll remember where you were when Mojo and Ryder split up!” Sam, you’ve turned into the hole.
Highlight of Kickoff: Natalya asking Charlotte if she got one last cry with the title before she loses it.
Baron Corbin vs. Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler (U.S. Title)
Ziggler still has the no music entrance, which they forgot about on last week’s Smackdown which shows how much WWE are paying attention to him. I thought the Ziggler vs. Roode feud was over and done with and I’m not thrilled with Corbin being shoe-horned into this to extend it. Roode and Ziggler decide to double-team the lone wolf to start and he gets clotheslined over that one guard-rail. They block each other’s finish and Ziggler gets a near-fall from a sunset flip. Bit soon for near-falls isn’t it? Must have been a hell of a Sunset Flip. Roode takes a breather outside so Corbin clotheslines him down. We’re reminded Corbin won the title in aThree Way at Hell In A Cell from AJ Styles…who was then able to win the World Title now the Cursed Title was removed from him. Corbin methodically (slowly) works over Roode, stopping to smash Ziggler against the guard-rail. Corbin gets two from a Sidewalk Slam as Ziggler shows up in the match. Graves says ”Ziggler may be the greatest in-ring performer of all-time” as Ziggler gets stomped to fuck by Baron. I hate commentators and wrestlers talking about stuff like performance, match quality and star ratings. They’re supposed to be focused on winning matches and winning titles, not marking out over Meltzer’s ratings. Corbin gets hurled to the ring-post but he busts out his Ode To Boss Man and runs back in and knocks down Ziggler again. Roode uses his opportunity to nail a Blockbuster for two. I like that that’s Buff Bagwell’s contribution to wrestling. Ziggler and Roode go at it with the Fameasser nearly getting two but Corbin interrupts. Corbin removes his shirt (to big boos) and gives both men running splashes in the corner that every big guy in wrestling seems to do nowadays. Deep Six on Roode gets a very close two and some of the crowd booed the kick-out. Giant BOBBY ROODE chants as he’s the only one with a salvageable career. Roode on top blocks Ziggler so Corbin can powerbomb Ziggler as Roode gets superplexed. Corbin can’t get a pin-fall on either man. Corbin charges Ziggler but he presses R1 at the right time and dodges it so Corbin brains himself on the ring post (then ruins his push by talking about concussions) which lets Ziggler and Roode exchange moves for near-falls. Ziggler tries to superkick Roode who is shit-canning Corbin but Ziggler gets dumped onto the turnbuckle, Roode nails the Glorious DDT on Ziggler and removes Corbin again to pin Ziggler…for a near-fall. Crowd was biting on all of that. Corbin slams Roode outside and looks to finish with the End Of Days but Ziggler hits the Zig-Zag on Baron mid-move to win the title.
Winner and new U.S. Champ Dolph Ziggler (Once the match got the contractually-obligated triple threat spots out the way, the closing sequence was hot and the finish was cool. Ziggler as champ doesn’t fill me with glee but credit to them for having a fun match.)
Shane and Bryan talk exposition. ”I AM THE REF AND SO ARE YOU, LET’S COUNT PINS AND SHIT.”
Baron bitches and throws a trash can, hopefully not hitting Stephanie McMahon.
The Usos vs. Rusev & Aiden English vs. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable vs. The New Day (Smackdown Tag Team Titles)
Rusev & English talk in the ring and RUSEV DAY is very over. Let’s hope it transfers to the team as Aiden’s 12 Rusev Days Of Christmas song receives a bigger reaction than Aiden. The Usos do their own version with ”LOCKED DOWN” for every day. Match starts with a member of all four teams starting in the ring, so fuck doing play-by-play. Everyone joins in for a brawl before someone starts making GIFs and sending them to MMA guys on Twitter. Big E hurls Kofi into Benjamin & Gable, Usos dives onto Rusev Day, Benjamin busts out the Spiderman Exploder off the top. New Day start the Unicorn Stampede so I can take a rest to catch up typing the action. Rusev knocks everyone down as the crowd chants for his day and he’s the clear favourite in this match. Gable & Benjamin hit Kofi with a double-team off the top and we go back to having members of all teams in. I don’t remember the last time that was a thing. Aiden shouts RUSEV DAYYYY during a chinlock and crowd doesn’t react. He’s the Opie in this Anthony team. Kofi gets a big back body drop as he’s approaching nearly ten years with WWE. Gable goes for a pin right in front of Rusev who kicks him and Gable replies with ”yeah fair enough.” Shelton gets shitcanned and lands on Jimmy Uso who was lying around outside.
That had to suck. Gable gets kicked by Jimmy in a funny bit where he’s bitching at Aiden, then Kofi flattens Aiden’s rib-cage with a brutal looking double stomp. Everyone gets the hot tag in a bizarre moment that’s hard for the crowd to react. This match is weird. Big E and Jey go at it until Usos start throwing superkicks on everybody because you can’t hit ***+ without superkicks. Gable applies a Texas Cloverleaf while Shelton blocks everyone from interfering. Aiden manages to take him out and a slam from Aiden gets the biggest pop so far. Rusev locks in the Accolade on Gable as the crowd shits themselves but New Day interrupt to BOOOOS. Rusev with a schoolboy on Big E and a superkick to more kick outs and crowd pops. Rusev locks the Accolade on Big E but Gable murders Rusev with a German…
…then murders English…
…and then murders Big E.
Alright alright, we get it you crazy shit. He tries it on The Usos but they give him superkicks and a top rope splash to retain.
Winners and still Smackdown Tag Champs: The Usos (There was absolutely no flow to this when it was all four men in at the same time and hopefully they don’t repeat this idea. The crowd love for Rusev Day was nice and Gable’s German Suplexes were brutal but it was impossible for the match to get any flow or story when there’s bodies and MOVEZ everywhere. I’m OK with WWE being full of indie wrestlers and them busting their arses but that doesn’t mean the bad aspects of indie wrestling have be on TV too.)
Charlotte vs. Natalya (Smackdown Women’s Title, Lumber
This feud started like all their other previous feuds, with constant references to their famous relatives as Natalya is apparently only allowed to mention Bret Hart and her cats when she’s on the mic. But Natalya kept on being a prick and interfering in Charlotte’s matches, resulting in the crowd booing the hell out of her and a very decent match and title change on the Smackdown before Survivor Series that was far better than Charlotte vs. Bliss. So I figured this feud was over (like Ziggler vs. Roode) especially with The Riott Squad showing up. Ruby Riott (the goth one), Sarah Logan (the country one) and Liv Morgan (the blond one) and the other members of the female division make their entrances first and now the crowd has been reminded of the cool new members, Natalya gets fuck-all pop. Or maybe it was this sign that distracted people:
Natalya is the first to fall outside so the returning Naomi (who I hadn’t noticed had been gone) kicks her and throws her back in. Charlotte lands outside so half the roster beats her up. Natalya shouts ”DO YOU LIKE CHARLOTTE??” and the crowd doesn’t respond. Her ”YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY” gets boos though. Charlotte fails to fall outside on a clothesline so Natalya kicks her out. Charlotte gets clobbered by the Lumberjacks (who aren’t called Lumberjills for some reason) so Natalya keeps her outside. Further silence for Natalya’s yelling as the commentators bring up The Hart Foundation because Natalya can’t do anything on her own merit. Graves gets bored and starts talking about being Pope. Charlotte unleashes her weird-looking chops with one arm dangling. Charlotte gets dumped from the top and some more things happen until both women ends up outside and Naomi decides to even the odds by diving outside onto everybody. OK. Natalya gets the Sharpshooter (HER FAMOUS RELATIVE) but Charlotte drags herself to the ropes so the Lumberjacks drag her outside and beat her up. Carmella tries to cash in but all the Lumberjacks brawl in the ring and outside and it’s all a mess. Charlotte decides to moonsault onto everybody because MOVEZ. Back inside, Charlotte counters a Sharpshooter (HER FAMOUS RELATVIE) to a Figure Eight for the tap-out.
Winner and still Smackdown Women’s Champion: Charlotte (This was pure filler to get the Riott Squad on the card, who then blended in with the rest of the female roster after running riot(t) the last few weeks so this was a giant waste of everyone’s time for a feud that was done two months ago.)
Post-match Natalya cries and tells us she’s given everyone some of the best women’s matches they’ve ever seen. Oh shit she’s turning into Ziggler. Except Ziggler has a title now so she’s Worse Than Ziggler. Natalya turns her back on the WWE and weeps, so she’s stealing Ric Flair’s shtick as well as Bret’s.
The Singh Bros. talk backstage and blahblah here’s another fan-sign.
WWE Network pats itself on the back for a great year. I enjoy Table For 3, Story Time and 24. Ride Along was better when it wasn’t trying to force incredibly fake OH NO WE TOOK A WRONG TURN HURRRR moments and was more about the wrestlers discussing life and music choices.
Breezango vs. Bludgeon Brothers
Breezango’s skits were amusing and different enough to be briefly the highlight of the All The Baddies Are Foreign period of Smackdown 2017, but it’s definitely time for actual in-ring action as the jokes are running thin now. Not sounding like a kill-joy here, the Twin Peaks skit was one of the highlights of the year for me but the newer Saw/Pulp Fiction skits were more Bad YouTube than good. Breezango are game to start but both Bros. clobber them on the outside. They double-team Breeze then double-powerbomb Fandango and the T-Gimmick finishes it.
Winners: Bludgeon Brothers (It’s a shame after all those daft skits and getting the most attention they’ve had in years, Breezango are jobber fodder. Woo woo woo.)
The Bros. shout shite afterwards and Graves is like ”well if that doesn’t scare you, nothing will!!”
Owens and Zayn are asked what they’ll do if they lose and they’re fired. ”We’ll join Cody and make a shit-load more than we’re making now” isn’t said. But is somehow heard.
Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn (Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan as referees, if Zayn & Owens lose they’re fucked)
This has the benefit of a long-running storyline that DIDN’T end when Survivor Series season kicked in, with Owens feuding with Shane and winning HIAC due to Zayn re-joining his friend. Owens and Zayn complained about not being part of Team Smackdown and Shane was ready to fire them after they interfered in the main event, which caused Bryan to think Shane’s personal vendetta was getting in the way of running Smackdown so they’re BOTH guest refs tonight. I’m more interested in the finish and story than the match because it’s Orton. Zayn starts off with Orton and his new haircut as both refs give each other stares and try to not get in each other’s way. Shane immediately chastises Zayn and Owens for being in the ropes while Bryan hangs back so they’re at least sticking to their characters. Lots of mild action to start while Zayn and Owens shout at both refs. Orton is worked over for a while until he gets a sloppy front suplex on Zayn. Owens cuts him off so he can’t tag Nakamura and squishes him a back senton. Zayn and Owens further work over Orton with chinlocks as this match is the easiest to type tonight. Nakamura gets the hot tag to mild reaction and kicks Owen’s head off. Crowd isn’t reacting much, they know the finish and the refs are the important bits. Nakamura locks in a Triangle Lock on Owens as Owens’ shoulders are down so the refs bicker about it being a pin or a submission. Owens superkicks Nakamura (that the cameras miss) and Zayn delivers the Blue Thunder Bomb for two. Orton crotches Zayn on the top rope and Bryan shouts at him as ”that ain’t legal.” WHAT. Everyone starts brawling outside and the refs are OK with it until the Announce Tables come into play and Shane exposes himself as a hypocrite by trying to stop it. Owens ignores him and splashes Nakamura through one of them. But you know it’s wrestling when tables are a DQ but announce tables are OK. So the match continues, Zayn gets planted with the Elevated DDT and RKO. Owens pushes Bryan onto Shane to break the count and Shane is pissed at Bryan. Crowd comes alive as they know the important stuff is happening. Orton gives Owens a RKO in the kerfuffle and Zayn & Orton go through small packages reversals until Zayn has Orton down for three…but Shane stops at two. Crowd boos the fuck out of Shane who tries to justify it as Bryan cut his count off so it’s all fair but Bryan’s ready to square go. Shane turns his back, Zayn counters a RKO into a schoolboy and Bryan fast-counts before Shane can turn around and stop him.
Winners and Not Fucked: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens (There was a lot of slow, nothing happening action for the first fifteen minutes but I’ll allow it as Stuff Happened near the end. I’ll take slow action with a story over movez for no reason. Crowd went BANANA for the ending which was well executed but if you’re looking for balls-out action, this was not the match for you.)
Hype for Mixed Match Challenge. I’m good with Raw, Smackdown, NXT and Network Specials every two weeks thanks. Oh wait it’s live? Fuck yeah, botches for everyone!
AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal (Smackdown World Title)
I was at Manchester when AJ won the title and it was easily the best match Jinder has had as champ. However, this feels like an unnecessary rematch cheapened by Jinder barely appearing on Smackdown while he’s been on a cancelled-show filled tour of India. AJ had the advantage for the first few minutes of the match until Jinder power ups and bounces him off the ring ropes. Crowd’s so thrilled you can hear people shout STEROIDS at Jinder. Jinder hurls AJ around ringside and Styles flies like only he can. Jinder wanders around slowly while AJ sells as the beautiful HD cameras highlight all of Jinder’s acne and deflated tits.
Jinder bounces AJ off the announce table and locks in a body scissors. Jinder’s a great bad guy in the sense that he’s dull and unexciting in-ring in the generation of MUH WORKRATE and I LIKE BAD GUYS AS LONG AS THEY’RE COOL BAD GUYS THAT DO FLIPS so everybody can hate him for right or wrong reasons. If only WWE had bothered to keep on treating him as a threat on TV so the end of this match wouldn’t be in any doubt. After more stretches, AJ tries the springboard but Jinder shoves him off. Gutbuster gets two as Graves says ”you have to appreciate the growth of Jinder.” Well someone important backstage did. AJ drops Jinder with an Electric Chair Drop and a neckbreaker for two. Jinder escapes a Styles Clash attempt and sends AJ skywards with a press slam. Styles gets a two count from a Northern Lights Suplex and I guess we’re technically in the hot ending stretch but the crowd is mute. Jinder blocks a diving elbow and NAILS RYBACK’S FINISHER for two.
Ryback’s been quite vocal about accusing Jinder of steroids these past few months so that made me smile. And Graves talks about Jinder’s ”growth” again, possibly while winking and smiling at himself for getting that shit past the producers. Jinder blocks a Tornado DDT and kicks AJ for another near-fall and further crowd indifference. This match has gone long and the crowd refuses to believe Jinder’s winning. AJ counters a Cobra Clutch off the top and lands the Springboard 450. The Singh Bros. try to grab Jinder outside but Jinder murders both of them. Jinder evades the Springboard Elbow and hoofs AJ in the back of the head, plants AJ with the Cobra Clutch Slam…for two. Crowd’s into it now. Jinder goes for the Styles Clash and the crowd boos as he may kill AJ but Styles rolls through with the Calf Crusher for the submission win.
Winner and still Smackdown Champion: AJ Styles (Crowd didn’t react as no-one thought Jinder would win after appearing on TV this past month less than Colin Delaney. And he didn’t win, so fuck him. Match was ehhhhh.)
Well I watched the Kickoff so let’s do the full Director’s Cut and watch Talking Smack too. Sam Roberts is hosting with Renee Young, joy of joys. Owens and Zayn celebrate maniacally with champagne, Charlotte cries AGAIN and nothing else of note occurs apart from Charlotte referring to Natalya’s dad as Bret, which I’m sure a lot of people who don’t know any better would assume watching WWE TV.
Highlights: Mojo’s new theme, the finish to U.S. Title match, Gable’s Germans and the Daniel Bryan/Shane McMahon stuff. Match of night was probably Ziggler vs. Roode vs. Corbin (scarily enough) so if you missed this Network Special then don’t worry about it, the guys in charge of chyron missed it too.