Happy Birt……Rusev Day to Me – Smackdown and 205 Live – 1/2/2018

Smackdown and 205 Live were in Orlando to kick off the new year, so I pushed Christmas with the family back a week to make sure I could be in attendance.  It also just happened to fall on my birthday, so I had pretty solid seats.  I was this close to Corey Graves, of whom I am a ridiculous fan boy, and managed not to get myself arrested:

Anyway, let’s run through the whole show as it were from this Tuesday night at the Amway Center.

Preshow Matchup: Mojo Rawley def. Zack Ryder with the Bro Punch (I think?  What are they calling that thing now?).  This was not the United States Championship Round One match that I kind of expected to be part of the actual Smackdown broadcast, but there was a promo later from Mojo.  Win this tournament, Zack Daddy.  I’m not supposed to speak for us both but screw it, we at The Dark Match still Woo Woo Woo.

Bickering Like Children

The show kicks off as all Smackdown Live episodes should, being The House That A J Styles Built, with…..AJ Styles.  Unfortunately, AJ Styles is currently trapped in this place where time is a flat circle as the centerpiece of the continued bickering between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, seemingly over Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn but if you buy into a number of rumors it is because DB is getting to wrestle Shane at Mania, even though we didn’t think he’d ever get to lace up in a WWE ring again.  I don’t know, there’s got to be something better for AJ, or maybe he’s the only one capable of running the “guy caught in the middle” promo effectively.  Either way, I’m ok getting to see AJ consistently take on Owens and Sami Zayn….but this one takes a turn for the worse for our Phenomenal Hero.

AJ starts this one calling out Daniel Bryan to explain whether or not he’ll rectify his mistake from last week and actually ban Kevin Owens from ringside for tonight’s match against Sami Zayn.  Bryan barely gets a word in before Shane has to interject himself.  Shane, being the benevolent leader that he is, opts to put himself at ringside across from Kevin Owens for this one so that there’s at least some balance since Daniel Bryan isn’t going to actually keep him from going out there.  Bryan contests that he wasn’t thinking it would go that way, but he might as well be at ringside as well.

Insert Scooby Doo sounds here as we fast forward to the end:

AJ takes on Sami Zayn with Kevin Owens, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan at ringside.  It’s fine, mostly just Shane and Owens bickering from ringside, until the referee gets knocked out of the ring at one point.  AJ would land the forearm on Sami and go for the pin, but Owens prevented the referee from getting back in to count the pinfall, so it was a kick out at two.  Shane would charge to the other side of the ring and push Owens down.  In the chaos, Daniel Bryan ran to the time keepers area to get a microphone as Sami Zayn would sneak in the Helluva Kick and get the pinfall (which I missed because the mess on the outside was so distracting).  The heels escape successfully up the ramp, as AJ Styles takes to another promo, telling his two superiors to quit bickering, that they might as well just avoid the mess since they won’t get it right anyway and just put him in a handicapped match.  Daniel Bryan thinks it is a great idea, so he quickly establishes AJ Styles next title defense for Royal Rumble in a Handicapped Match.  This is where our show ends.

The Stuff in the Middle

  • Bludgeon Brothers destroyed Breezango before the bell even rang, drawing The Ascension from the back (which was nice to see), only to have them destroyed as well.  I’m assuming we are on the road to a 4-on-2 match that the Bludgeon Brothers will probably lose to further establish the bond between the other two teams.
  • The Usos are still the Tag Team Champions.  While I initially got super disappointed to think that “Sheylton Beynjamayin” had won the belts off *whispers*my new favorite tag team*whispers*, it was a swerve, as it was the wrong Uso who ate the pinfall.  I still can’t tell you which one was or wasn’t supposed to be in the ring because I can’t tell them apart either, but it’s not my job to keep it straight.  During the commercial break, The Usos sold the living shit out of their gripe, and when the broadcast was back on they were able to utilize a second referee and instant replay to get the match restarted, eventually getting the win and retaining the titles.
  • Xavier Woods def. Aiden English to move on in the United States Championship tournament.  That isn’t the important part here.  The guy next to me caught the Big E Singlet Pancake.  Since you can’t see it on TV, let me tell you, it’s shaped like male genitalia.  I don’t really remember much of the match because we were laughing so hard about the sweaty balls pancake.
  • The Riott Squad def. Natalya, Carmella and Tamina.  This match wasn’t important either, it was really to set up the ongoing feud between The Riott Squad and The Queen’s Court (trademark applied for).  Charlotte comes out to say she’s got beef, but she knows someone who has more.  The crowd went crazy thinking it was Becky, so the initial reveal of Naomi wasn’t necessarily exciting, but then the Queen continued and The Lass Kicker made her return.  Our three heroes charged and ran off The Riott Squad (who have a significantly better new shirt on WWEShop than the Absolution shirt that looks like Ascension merch, and probably won’t last long considering Paige is rumored to be injured again already).
  • Karl Malone was at ringside.  I didn’t take this photo because he was sitting right behind commentary, but it was a cool moment that deserves to be highlighted:

  • During the post show “Main Event”, AJ teamed up with Nakamura and Roode to take on Jinder, Owens and Sami.  The MVP here was a water bottle that AJ kept throwing at Sami and Sami sold it like The Rock taking a Stunner in the Attitude Era.  it was great.  They seemed to really be having fun.  The crowd launched into a “Water Bottle” chant and AJ got a confused look on his face.  It was great.  The good guys won.  Post match, they got tons of water bottles, with AJ doing the Stone Cold and Bobby Roode calling Malone in to further honor the rattlesnake by cheers-ing with water.  They both did the Glorious taunt as Nakamura ran around like a crazy man at ringside taking selfies with the crowd.  I won’t hold it against AJ that he sort of slid off to the back, he’d already had a long night including a twenty minute match with Zayn.

Overall Reaction:  I enjoyed being there, but on the whole I’m going to have to agree with the general internet wrestling community consensus that Smackdown feels like it is stuck on a loop of late.  They won’t just pull the trigger on wherever they are going with the Shane-DB thing, which is getting tired.  Stop using Breezango as crash dummies, stop serving up The Welcoming Committee to the Riott Squad and just put the people we want to see in the match.  I don’t know, I hate complaining because I sound like everyone else and one of my goals for the year was to be more positive.  It was fine, Raw was better.

I was super excited to be so close to the action for 205 Live.  So let’s see what they brought to the table.

  • TJP def. Akira Tozawa.  This match was pretty damn good, but vaguely confusing.  Tozawa was on top of the world just a few weeks ago it feels like, now he’s dropping matches to Captain Dabbin’ (if you don’t get the reference, I’d recommend you not google it).  I also have to give them credit for pushing on through with a good match while the crowd would not let go of their “we want Neville” chant.  It got to me like the CM Punk chant does, and I actually miss Neville.
  • Gentleman Jack Gallagher was supposed to have a match with Hideo Itami, but instead he beat the hell out of him with the umbrella and a lead pipe he had hidden inside the umbrella before the match officially began, so there was no match here.
  • Cedric Alexander and Golddust def. Drew Gulak and Ariya Daivari.   It wasn’t necessarily a great match, but I’ve got to give the old timer credit as he did a lot of great comedic relief in this one.  Sometimes it is nice to be reminded that it is a show, and that the guys in the ring still enjoy what they are doing day in and day out.  The expected Lumbar Check would pick up the victory.  I’m going to assume they will have to strip the belt off Enzo, since he’s now been pulled from the Mixed Match Challenge due to his illness so there’s no way for him to defend between now and the 26th (which would be the 30 days).

Show as decent.  It wasn’t the full blown 205 Live experience I was hoping my Mom (who accompanied me to the event) would get, and there was no Tony Nese (sad face emoji).

NXT for the week that is: is a best of 2017 compilation, but it does contain some footage from the San Antonio match between Adam Cole and Drew McIntyre for the NXT Championship that wasn’t previously televised and featured HBK as the special guest referee.  You can also vote now for the NXT Year End Awards.  Here’s the info via Cageside Seats.  I’m not as good with Twitter as I like to pretend I am, so I’m leaving it up to them to get the appropriate info to you so you can help me get Nikki Cross voted as Performer of the Year because she damn deserves it.