Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn Interrupted Shinsuke Nakamura
I have been fairly critical of Nakamura's mic skills since his arrival on SmackDown Live last year, if only because the material he is being given to work with is horrendous. Thankfully, he did well for himself here and cut his best promo on the main roster to date. He didn't speak for too long before being interrupted by Owens and Zayn, and they too played their roles well, along with Styles. This successfully set up the night's tag team main event.
Rusev def. Zack Ryder, Kofi Kingston and Jinder Mahal in a United States Championship No. 1 Contender's Fatal 4-Way Match
Considering this consisted of four wrestlers who aren't feuding at the moment (with the possible exception of Mahal and The New Day), this was a fun Fatal 4-Way. You had to figure Rusev was winning because the other three didn't have much of a chance, but I enjoyed the in-ring action, nevertheless. I'm glad they aren't waiting until Fastlane to hold the match, though I truly believe both Bobby Roode and Rusev would benefit from a double turn if this turns into a real program.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos Addressed the Audience
The Usos are firing on all cylinders right now and I love their promos, but for the love of God, can WWE please stop with the stupid and unnecessary graphics? I did not need to see jail bars come across the screen every time they said "Lockdown!" Plus, why is almost every word of every backstage promo getting subtitles? It's extremely distracting. Anyway, The Usos crossing paths with The Bludgeon Brothers as they were walking away seems to indicate that will be the next program over the SmackDown Tag Team Championship.
The Bludgeon Brothers def. Local Athletes
Every Bludgeon Brothers squash match is essentially the same, but that isn't technically a bad thing. Their dominant offense is always a treat to watch, especially when they're facing two scrubs who are much smaller than they are. As previously noted, The Usos vs. Bludgeon Brothers appears to be the direction we're headed in for the tag titles. If their 2014 feud was any indication, their series of matches this time around should be a blast.
The Riott Squad Attacked SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair
Charlotte didn't say much about Ronda Rousey's Royal Rumble appearance before she was interrupted and subsequently attacked by The Riott Squad, but it was smart of WWE to plant the seeds for that money matchup just in case. If Rousey will compete in a one-on-one affair at WrestleMania, she should face Charlotte in my opinion. At any rate, it's tough to take The Riott Squad seriously with all the 50/50 booking they've endured lately, but the tease of Carmella cashing in her briefcase once they laid out Charlotte was very well done. I actually bought into the possibility of Carmella capturing the championship, but this merely served as a reminder to viewers that the contract is still in play.
Baron Corbin def. Tye Dillinger
Dillinger taking on either Zayn or Owens would have made total sense given they cost him his spot in the 2018 Royal Rumble match, but I guess because they were already busy in the main event, Dillinger was instead put in a match with Corbin. He's another guy with absolutely zero momentum these days, so while the matchup was fine for what it was, I'm not sure what purpose it was supposed to serve other than acting as filler.
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin def. Breezango
It would have been cool to see Gable and Benjamin become SmackDown Tag Team Champions at the Royal Rumble, but at least they aren't being forgotten about entirely despite their loss. Breezango are comedic relief and should not be beating credible tandems such as Gable and Benjamin, so the result was what it needed to be. Unfortunately, the crowd sat on their hands for all of this and barely reacted to anything they did.
WWE Champion AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura def. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
This should have been an above-average main event with exceptional wrestling. Sadly, this largely revolved around the tension teased between Owens and Zayn going into their WWE Championship No. 1 Contender's match next week. Where was this tension before the Royal Rumble? The hints at dissension are incredibly rushed and therefore killed my interest in this match, even though they were probably preserving Zayn for the Mixed Match Challenge immediately afterward.
Raw delivered a better show than usual on Monday night on the heels of the Rumble and attempted to start anew. With SmackDown, it's the same old, same old. The program isn't unbearable to watch, but virtually nothing is peaking my interest. The Styles vs. Owens and Zayn feud continuing doesn't give me much hope the show will improve any time soon, though I will commend Creative for not making the authority figures the focal point of SmackDown yet again this week.
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