Smackdown Live #963
Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live, episode #963, was broadcast from the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri on February 6th 2018. We’re on the Road to WrestleMania and also the slightly shorter road to Fastlane, coming later this month. Tonight’s main event was between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens to determine the number one contender for AJ Styles’ championship belt.
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And here’s my recap of last night’s Monday Night Raw.
Promo: Shane McMahon has some **** to say.
Shane O’Mac set the scene by bitching about tonight’s main event. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, as far as he’s concerned, don’t deserve ****. He brought Daniel Bryan out to direct some complaints his way. Bryan, who’s competing with AJ Styles for the worst haircut on the Blue Brand and also perhaps all of WWE, has great difficulty staying in character. He’s a happy heel, which is generally a terrible thing. Still, he got a bit more into it when Shane started going at him on a deeply personal level, so that’s good.
AJ Styles interrupted the shenanigans. He doesn’t think Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn deserve **** either. So he told his bosses to basically stop arguing like little girls and just let the wrestlers get on with it. Which certainly echoed how most fans feel about the situation, but also made the entire segment completely pointless.
Singles Match: Charlotte Flair vs. Liv Morgan
The general progression here was Charlotte beating the brakes off Morgan while fending off predictable distractions from the ringside Riott Squad. Occasionally Morgan would find a rest hold to hide in for a while. But her biggest talent at this stage is making better wrestlers look good, which is mostly what she did.
Eventually, the referee did his job and ejected the Riott Squad from ringside, allowing Charlotte to slap on the Figure-Eight for the victory. It was highly predictable and Morgan isn’t a great worker, but Charlotte was able to carry things well enough.
Result: Charlotte wins via submission.
Rating: [usr 2]
Tag-Team Match: The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Two Jobbers
It was a squash to put over Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.
For what it’s worth, I like the Bludgeon Brothers. I’m not entirely sold on Rowan, though I do enjoy his beard, but Luke Harper is a major, underused talent and these two deserve a push just so he can show that off. They’re also a lot better served not having to prop up Bray Wyatt’s haunted hick outdoorsman shtick.
Result: The Bludgeon Brothers win via pinfall.
Rating: [usr 1]
Promo: The Usos are going to/have been to/think about prison.
Am I the only one who remembers the not-too-distant past when these two performed in multicolored tassels? This “Day One Ish” gimmick is absolutely ******* embarrassing.
The SmackDown Live Top 10 List
So, this list was apparently voted on by the SmackDown Live roster. I have no idea what the point of it is, but there we go. The list:
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. AJ Styles
United States Championship Match: Bobby Roode (c) vs. Rusev (w/ Aiden English)
Bobby Roode’s entrance remains glorious.
Also glorious: Rusev’s trapezius development.
I liked this match. Felt old-school. We got some good old chain wrestling to start, which we don’t get nearly enough of these days. It occurred to me at some point that Aiden English and Rusev are a bit like Captain America before and after the Super Soldier serum. It also occurred to me that these two, Rusev and Roode, are kind of throwback characters anyway: the clean-cut All-Canadian and the mucky invading foreigner. This kind of match suits them both.
The final sequence was pretty cool. Rusev kept attempting The Accolade until Roode eventually reversed it into the Glorious DDT. Nice way of not underselling Rusev’s finisher by having Roode escape it easily.
Result: Bobby Roode retains the US Championship via pinfall.
Rating: [usr 3]
Randy Orton hit the ring after the match and hit everyone with RKOs emanating from some undetermined location.
Tag-Team Match: Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable vs. The Ascension
It was pretty much a squash to sell the traditional athletic style of Benjamin and Gable. It had some impressively physical spots but didn’t get nearly enough time for me not to forget about it almost immediately.
What were we talking about again?
Oh, Chad Gable remains insanely impressive. I hope he gets something worthwhile to do soon.
Result: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin win via pinfall.
Rating: [usr 1]
Singles Match: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
That was a fantastic match. Well, at least until it wasn’t.
The story here was of two guys who are ostensibly “friends” but that have years of hatred and rivalry beneath the surface. We got about two minutes of a respectful wrestling match and then 15-or-so of all-out war. Which is exactly as it should be. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are two of the most talented workers on any roster, and they should always be given maximal time to tell a story.
And tell a story they did. The reason it was so great is that the wrestling did the storytelling. There was no need for dopey asides or skits. Until AJ Styles, at ringside, interfered for an unsatisfying disqualification ending.
Daniel Bryan turned up to declare that at Fastlane, all three men will compete in a triple-threat match for the belt. The crowd weren’t so sure about that decision, and neither was I.
Result: Kevin Owens wins via disqualification.
Rating: [usr 3.5]
What did we learn?
- Shane McMahon’s management disputes with Daniel Bryan continue to be profoundly uninteresting. Whenever the crowd chants “Rusev Day!” halfway through a segment, that’s usually a good sign that enthusiasm is lacking.
- Every day should be Rusev Day. In fact, in my house, every day is.
- The inevitable Bludgeon Brothers vs. Usos feud should be fun.
- Chad Gable is the most underused talent on the roster.
- The greatest thing WWE ever did was start bringing in overseas talent without changing them too much. That’s how we can get matches like that main event, with years of history propping them up.
- … and then we get bullshit WWE-style stuff, like the whole thing devolving into a way for Daniel Bryan to get a managerial one-up over Shane. Dumb.
It was an okay show; nothing special, but probably a bit better than the ratings would suggest. A lot of the action was in service of an angle, but we’re in PPV build-up mode, so that’s to be expected. The United States Championship match was enjoyable, and the main event was predictably excellent until it shot itself in the dick. There’s a lot of stuff in place (including that nebulous Top 10 list that the entire roster has been tweeting about) that makes Fastlane seem like a pretty exciting prospect.
I’ll be back in the morning for a recap of 205 Live, and tomorrow night for a recap of NXT. See you then.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.