The Last Train to Philadelphia – Smackdown Live, 205 Live & MMC Recap and Reaction – January 23, 2017

We’re less than a week away from the Royal Rumble, hopefully where things start to make a little more sense again and we understand what the game plan is on the road to Wrestlemania.  For tonight, the Nation’s capital gets an added dose of spray tan as the superstars of WWE come to Washington DC.  #WWWYKI.

Smackdown Live

AJ vs The World

The big story running throughout the past several months it feels like on Smackdown has been the disconnect between Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan.  While this started out as potentially compelling, and could still turn it around as Daniel Bryan is now the third favorite in several sports lines to win the Royal Rumble, it has dragged on for way too long.  This has long been a problem I’ve voiced about the way WWE does creative outside of the Royal Rumble-Wrestlemania push.  They come up with an idea and beat it into the ground, stretching things that could be a month long into a four month program and inevitably taking interest out of the payoff when it finally does come around.

This was actually an effective use of ring psychology, if nothing else.  AJ quickly defeats Kevin Owens, who misses on a corner cannonball and appears to hurt his ankle/foot area.  AJ applies the Calf Crusher and even after the tap doesn’t break the hold because he wants to do lingering damage he can exploit to retain on Sunday.  Sami was at ringside and quickly comes to KO’s aid.  Their match was a little bit longer, but AJ’s continued focus on KO inevitably costs him the second of his two matches as he eats a Blue Thunderbomb and the pinfall to drop the second match to Sami Zayn.

It helps with the plausibility that AJ can retain on Sunday by having the injury weaken the tandem of KO and Zayn, something they all too often fail to do with Brock Lesnar when he gets put in these multi-man matches (save for eating announce tables at the hands of Braun Strowman).

There was more uncomfortable bickering between Daniel Bryan and Shane, but that’s to be expected.  We’ll see how it plays out.

The Rest of the Show

  • Shinsuke Nakamura def. Baron Corbin via DQ when Randy Orton hits an RKO Outta Nowhere on “WWE’s resident artist”.  The match was pretty good, and the close got a nice pop.  As much as I expect a Shinsuke Rumble victory this weekend, I’d be ok if we were on a road to Nak-Orton at Wrestlemania.
  • Chad Gable def. Jey Uso.  I’m a supporter of Chad Gable’s in ring abilities, so this one was a good one to watch just for the technical display.  It probably doesn’t bode to well for Gable and Shaylton Beyanjamin on Sunday.
  • Women, Women Everywhere: Liv Morgan lost a singles match against Naomi, then the rest of the women’s division was out for an “every woman for herself” display going into the women’s rumble match.  (Please let Becky Lynch get the win.)
  • The New Day and Bobby Roode def. Jinder Mahal and Rusev Day in a 6-Man Tag Match.  Sometimes I wonder why they don’t just use all three members of The New Day in these sorts of scenarios, even if I relish every opportunity to see Bobby Roode’s glorious entrance.  Decent match.

Overall:  I mean, nothing really changed, but the RKO Outta Nowhere was fun and unexpected.  The potential for the ankle injury to cost the friends the WHC match and lead to a rift between them has potential, but the more I think about it the more it feels like they’re recycling Owens-Jericho’s storyline from last year and just using Sami in place of Y2J.  B.  Matches were all fairly good, so a B for the “B Show”.

Mixed-Match Challenge

Asuka and The Miz defeated Carmella and Big E.  You didn’t honestly think Miz or Asuka would be out of this in the first round did you?  Just playing off storyline, I could see Asuka and Miz in the final against Strowman and Bliss to set up both of those title matches for Wrestlemania.  They sort of abandoned that whole “you tried to murder me with a garbage truck” thing when Miz left to film The Marine 6.  Hell, I’d take Strowman in a 1 on 3 handicapped match against the entire Miztourage for the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania.  He’d win either way.

205 Live

This is Awesome

So while the big news during Smackdown was that Daniel Bryan would be kicking off 205 Live, all he did was make an announcement that a 205 Live General Manager would be named next week, and if you’re on Twitter, some of the roster members have made some pretty great claims to the spot (of particular interest is Drew Gulak’s ongoing political character now that the Zo Train is derailed).

What is awesome is not that.  That doesn’t really change anything, instead we got to see Cedric Alexander in a match against someone other than a Zo Train member.

Cedric Alexander def. Mustafa Ali in a terrific match.  I’ve pushed forever for Ali to get used in big openings like this, and he did not disappoint, even in a loss.  All signs would point to Alexander ending up with the belt, and let’s be real, he was going to get it from Enzo at Royal Rumble anyway.  Now that even Steven Seagal couldn’t save the Zo Train, it opens up so many opportunities for them to go back to what made 205 Live really great from the get go, and that is just well booked matches between any number of these highly skilled professional athletes.  Keep Ali at the top of the list, I’ll watch these guys wrestle any time.

In your other two matches, Hideo Itami def. Jack Gallagher again.  I hate that Kendrick got hurt, because at least then you’ve got variations in this feud and not just these two back and forth forever.  Meanwhile, Gran Metalik, Kalisto & Lince Dorado picked up a 6-man tag victory over Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari and TJP.  TJP threw another tantrum.  #PleasePushTonyNese #8ReasonsToPushTonyNese